Dubai has more to offer than skyscrapers, malls, and beaches, so be ready for a wider choice of activities than you might first imagine as a newcomer to the city. From must-sees such as the soaring Burj Khalifa and Burj Al-Arab to cruises on Dubai Creek and desert sports adventures, here are our top must-dos for first-time visitors.
Take a Hop-On-Hop-Off-Bus or City Tour
Dubai’s sights are widely dispersed, so they can be difficult to cover without car rental, planning, and long walks in the sun. With a hop-on-hop-off-bus tour, you can check off sites including the Burj Al-Arab and jump off to explore as you wish. Alternatively, take a group or private city tour that whisks you around the landmarks in the comfort of an air-conditioned minivan or coach.
Admire the Views from the Burj Khalifa
Dubai’s Burj Khalifa is the world’s highest tower, so a must-visit for newbies. Choose a tour that includes a visit to this soaring skyscraper or prebook entry to go independently. Ride the high-speed elevators to the At the Top or higher observation levels, and marvel at the 360-degree views.
Experience the Desert
A journey into the desert is almost obligatory for Dubai newcomers. Book a tour and head into the sands for a full lineup of desert activities, from dune bashing, camel riding, and sand boarding to dinner and shows at a Bedouin-style camp.
Cruise the Coast or Dubai Creek
Dubai’s skyline is truly Instagram-worthy, so be sure to see it in full wide-screen mode from the water. Options include a RIB or yacht trip along the tower-lined coast or a Dubai Creek dinner cruise to sail by old Dubai’s minarets, bridges, and wind towers aboard a traditional Arabian dhow boat.
Dive into Aquaventure Waterpark
If you have children with you, don’t miss a day at Aquaventure, the Middle East’s biggest water park. Plunge down Poseidon’s Revenge, brave water coasters, enjoy the kids’ Splashers zone, and enjoy included entry to the Lost Chambers Aquarium at the Atlantis hotel.
Delve into Old Dubai
Take a break from new Dubai’s skyscrapers to discover old Dubai, whose scented souks, museums, and historical buildings are best explored with a guide who’ll share their stories. Many tours showcase Al Fahidi—sometimes called Al Bastakiya—a charming quarter of shady lanes, courtyards, and 19th-century wind-tower houses built for Persian pearl merchants.