Going to Abu Dhabi? Use this guide to help plan your itinerary so you don’t miss any of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE!
Where is Abu Dhabi?
Abu Dhabi is the capital of UAE (United Arab Emirates). It is located near Saudi Arabia on the Persian Gulf.
Top 5 Things To Do In Abu Dhabi
Many people dream of visiting Dubai. You can stand on top of the tallest building in the world, shop in a giant mall with the world’s top luxury brands, and see one of the world’s newest, most modern cities. But maybe not as many people think about Abu Dhabi.
If you’re planning a trip to Dubai, I highly recommend to take at least an extra day or two to visit nearby Abu Dhabi, the capital of UAE. If you’re wondering what Abu Dhabi has to offer, here are the top 5 best things to do in Abu Dhabi.
Read More: Best Things To Do in Dubai
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi is the largest mosque in the country and one of the largest mosques in the world. The mosque can accommodate over 41,000 worshippers and visitors.
The mosque is a spectacular display of Islamic architecture. It incorporates multiple styles from different Muslim countries like Turkey, Morocco, Pakistan, Egypt and more all in one stunning mosque.
It is named after a former president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed, who commissioned the mosque.
Visiting the mosque is one of the absolute best things to do in Abu Dhabi. Even if you’re only staying in Dubai, it’s worth it to take a day trip to Abu Dhabi to see the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque because it’s the largest and grandest mosque in the country.
Do you need tickets to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi?
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque is FREE to visit, but you need to make a reservation and choose a specific time slot. You can make a reservation on the mosque’s official website:
Is there a dress code for the Sheikh Zayed Mosque?
Yes, there is a fairly strict dress code that you need to follow if you want to visit the mosque.
Women need to wear long sleeves (wrists covered) with a high neck (chest completely covered), and long skirt (ankles covered). You can also wear very loose pants instead of a skirt (no jeans or form-fitting pants). Women also must have a scarf to cover their heads.
Men need to wear long pants (no shorts). Short sleeve shirts are okay, but no sleeveless shirts.
If you do not meet the dress code, you will be given a loose dress to wear (pictured above).
When is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque open for visitors?
Visiting hours are from 9 AM to 10 PM every day except Friday.
On Friday mornings the mosque is closed for worship and reopens from 4:30 PM to 10 PM.
Can you take pictures inside the Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi?
Yes, you are allowed to take pictures inside and outside the mosque.
Read More: Visiting the Hasan II Mosque in Morocco
Is there a guided tour of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque?
You are not required to visit the mosque with a guided tour, and you are allowed explore the mosque freely on your own. However, if you would like more information, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque offers free guided tours a few times per day. The tour lasts approximately 45-60 minutes. Check the mosque’s official website for daily tour times:
Oasis of Dignity at the the Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Even though visiting the mosque is one of the most popular things to do in Abu Dhabi, most people who visit the mosque completely skip the memorial right across the street. We had this entire view totally to ourselves.
If you love photography, the Oasis of Dignity has one of the absolute best views of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
How To Get There:
From the mosque, you can just walk across the street (there is a bridge over the fairly busy highway) or there is a shuttle from the mosque to the memorial.
How long does it take to visit the Sheikh Zayed Mosque?
Plan for around 1.5 hours to visit the mosque, and another 30-45 minutes if you want to visit the Oasis of Dignity.
2. Etihad Towers Observation Deck at 300
The best panoramic view of Abu Dhabi is from the Etihad Towers Observation Deck. It is the tallest observation deck in Abu Dhabi.
One of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi is have afternoon tea at the Etihad Towers Observation Deck with amazing views 300 meters above Abu Dhabi!!
You can see all the main attractions in Abu Dhabi from the Etihad Towers Observation Deck.
Here is the UAE Presidential Palace, as seen from the Observation Deck.
And here is a view of the Emirates Palace Hotel.
There are also many other interesting views of Abu Dhabi from the Etihad Towers Observation Deck. These are massive, private beachfront lots waiting to be developed with mansions right on the beach.
3. Qasr Al Watan — UAE Presidential Palace
One of the newest things to do in Abu Dhabi is visit the Presidential Palace. The palace was completed in 2017 and opened for visitors in March 2019.
The Presidential Palace is the formal offices of the President, the Vice President, and Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi. Visiting the palace offers a glimpse at the daily workings of a royal court.
The palace is a masterpiece of Arabian architecture. It feels like a modern-day Versailles.
How to Get Tickets for the UAE Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi:
You can buy your tickets online in advance to avoid waiting in line at the palace. You can either print the ticket and bring it with you, or just show the ticket on your phone. Tickets can be purchased from the palace’s official website:
What are the visiting hours for the UAE Presidential Palace?
The palace is open every day from 11:00 AM to 9:00 PM. At night there is a light show projected onto the facade of the palace.
Is there a dress code for the UAE Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi?
There is no specific dress code mentioned. However in Abu Dhabi is always better to err on the side of modesty. For women, it’s a good idea to have your knees and shoulders covered with no cleavage showing. For men, pants are better than shorts.
Can you take pictures inside the UAE Presidential Palace?
Yes, photography is allowed and encouraged inside the palace.
In the palace you can see the official meeting rooms for the UAE Cabinet and the Federal Supreme Council.
The massive chandelier is designed to absorb ambient sounds in the room. It had to be assembled inside the room because it is so huge!
Notice the gold Kleenex box and trash can at every seat!
Another super interesting room in the palace is the Presidential Gifts room. Here you can see a collection of gifts given to the United Arab Emirates from governments all over the world.
Is there a guided tour of the UAE Presidential Palace in Abu Dhabi?
You are not required to take a guided tour of the Palace. You are free to visit and explore the palace on your own.
However, if you would like to take a guided tour of the palace, you can purchase an extra ticket in additional to your general entry ticket.
Group tours in English are provided multiple times per day. Tours start in the main palace and last approximately 1 hour. You need to reserve for a specific time slot. The tickets are about $8 USD.
If you sign up for a tour, be sure to give yourself plenty of time to get there. When you arrive at the palace, you will check in at the visitor’s center, go through security, and then take a shuttle to the palace.
Plan for at least 30 minutes to get to the palace (where the tours start) from the visitor’s center.
After visiting the inside of the palace, you can explore the gardens and fountains outside.
How long does it take to visit the UAE Presidential Palace?
Plan for at least 2-3 hours to explore the palace, gardens, and fountains outside.
4. Emirates Palace
Another one of the unique things to do in Abu Dhabi is visit the Emirates Palace.
The Emirates Palace is a lavish 5-star hotel in Abu Dhabi.
Almost the entire interior is gold!
There are even real palm trees inside the hotel.
Tips for Visiting the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi:
You’re allowed to visit the main areas of the hotel even if you are not staying there. However I read one review from a year ago that said they did not allow visitors on the weekends. We visited on a Tuesday, so I can’t confirm. When we were there we saw tour buses full of tourists just visiting the hotel.
If you’re worried about being denied entry, there are many restaurants inside the hotel. You can make a lunch or dinner reservation for the restaurant online just to be safe.
Plan for about 45 minutes to see the main areas of the hotel.
Shorts are not allowed inside the hotel. Men need to be wearing pants. Women should be dressed modestly.
5. Louvre Abu Dhabi
One of the most popular things to do in Abu Dhabi is visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi is a museum in cooperation with the Louvre Museum in Paris, France. It is the only other branch of the Louvre in the world. The Louvre Museum in Paris loans artwork and exhibitions to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The artwork in the Louvre Abu Dhabi focuses on bridging the gap between Eastern and Western art.
The museum is closed on Mondays. You can buy tickets online. Plan for at least 2 hours to visit the museum.
Abu Dhabi Hotels
If you are looking for the best hotel in Abu Dhabi, I highly recommend the Rosewood Abu Dhabi. In a country known for lavish hotels and over-the-top luxury, Rosewood Abu Dhabi stands out above the rest.
The hotel’s attention to detail sets them apart from any other hotel I have ever stayed at. When we checked into our room, our pillowcases were embroidered with our initials, and they had placed photos of us around the room to make us feel right at home. On our last day they even wrapped up the pillowcases for us to take home as a souvenir of our unforgettable trip.
The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. They answered all our questions about all the most popular things to do in Abu Dhabi and we were even able to purchase and print tickets right from the front desk or concierge.
How amazing is this view of Abu Dhabi from our room???
I highly, highly recommend the club lounge at the Rosewood Abu Dhabi. Club Level rooms come with access to the lounge which offers a private breakfast, daily afternoon tea and happy hour.
The breakfast buffet offers a wide variety of options. Ordering off the menu is also included.
There are snacks and drinks available all throughout the day. The food is amazing and changes daily. We ate here every day in Abu Dhabi!