While Dubai steals the tourist spotlight with its record-breaking skyscrapers and futuristic hotels, it also offers museums that showcase traditional Emirati life, architecture, and customs. Here are our picks for the city’s must-see museums.
Dubai’s main museum is located inside old Dubai’s Al Fahidi Fort—a restored, 18th-century fortress with a round tower. Inside, dioramas, exhibits, and photos trace Dubai’s Bedouin roots and meteoric rise from pearl-trading port to futuristic city.
How to Visit: Buy a 1-, 2-, or 5-day hop-on hop-off bus ticket and disembark at the museum stop, or book a tour that covers old Dubai.
Women’s Museum (Bait Al Banat)
Hidden near Dubai’s Gold Souk, this illuminating museum spotlights the history and role of women in Emirati life. View works and photos by female artists, try on a burka, learn about pioneering women of the United Arab Emirates, and more.
How to Visit: Join a culture-themed walking tour around old Dubai.
Coffee lovers will enjoy this museum in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood. Attractions include timelines charting coffee’s history, demos of roasting and brewing in various countries, and fresh coffee for visitors.
How to Visit: Several old Dubai walking tours include museum entry.
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House
Once home to Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum—Dubai’s ruler from 1912 to 1958—this palace turned museum is one of the city’s oldest buildings. Wander the courtyards to admire the wind towers and carved doors, and view the antique artifacts and collections inside.
How to Visit: The house features on many heritage-focused Dubai tours.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
Perhaps more educational hub than museum, this cultural center offers a window into local life and traditions. Activities range from shared Emirati meals in the courtyard to Q and A sessions with local spokespeople, tours, and more.
How to Visit: Choose a tour that calls at the center during time at Dubai’s Al Fahidi quarter.
Heritage and Diving Village
Located in the old Shindagha area, this open-air living-history museum offers re-creations of bygone Dubai life in the form of Bedouin tents, craft making, souks, and a maritime village that harks back to the city’s onetime dominance in the pearl-diving industry.
How to Visit: Make the village a stop on a Dubai hop-on hop-off bus tour.