Centrally located between east and west, Abu Dhabi is a perfect stopover destination. The capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is a city of incredible culture, year-round sunshine and endless activities. Iconic landmarks and desert landscapes with first class entertainment, white beaches and pristine coastline. We have been lucky enough to visit the city twice and recommend it as an ideal stopover destination to connect with many destinations in Asia, the Indian Ocean or Africa. With a flight time of only 7 hours and five daily flights from London Heathrow with Etihad Airways, Abu Dhabi is even accessible for a weekend break.
TOUR THE CITY
Spend your first day getting to know the city on board the Big Bus Tour for a comprehensive tour of all the major landmarks of the city including:
- Capital Gate; at 160 metre’s high and leaning 18 degrees west, Capital Gate has been named the ‘World’s Furthest Leaning Man Made Tower’. Its incline is more than four times that of the Leaning Tower of Pisa.
- Etihad Towers; a complex of five towers housing the Jumeirah Hotel, a luxury shopping mall and 11 restaurants and bars offering food from around the world, including Italian, Japanese and contemporary Lebanese. The Observation Deck at 300 is located in Tower 2 on the 74th floor and affords sweeping views of Abu Dhabi city and its islands.
- Aldar Headquarters Building; the first circular building of its kind. Located on Al Raha beach, the building itself is an office block but its perfectly round shape make it a remarkable landmark.
The Big Bus also visits Yas Island and Saadiyat Island. Tickets are available at the Big Bus sales desk at Marina Mall and can also be bought online or from most hotels in the city.
Make sure you hop off the bus at the Louvre Abu Dhabi, for culture and history with artworks from throughout the ages. The Louvre is a join collaberation between the city of Abu Dhabi and the French government and is the largest art museum in the Middle East. After the Big Bus tour, hop on board a Yellow Boat Speedboat for a water borne scenic tour. Choose from the Yas tour, the Corniche tour or the Maya tour for the best view of the UAE’s capital.
A highlight of any trip to Abu Dhabi is a visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. One of the largest Mosques in the world and a most beautiful example of Arabian architecture. Constructed of white marble with over a thousand columns, 82 domes, 24–carat gold chandeliers and the world’s largest hand made carpet, the mosque is a highlight of any trip to the city. Open daily with complimentary guided tours are available, the sunset tour is highly recommended. Visitors can access the Mosque from the Big Bus tour.
FOR THE FOODIES
For the foodies, Abu Dhabi has everything to offer from fine Michelin star dining to local street food serving Shawarma’s, Manakeesh, Moutabal and Sambousek. Along with the usual international chain’s such as Hakkasan, Zuma and Asia de Cuba, Abu Dhabi has cuisine from all corners of the earth. Along with some amazing traditional Middle Eastern food, try African, Asian, Caribbean, American, European and good old British pub fare.
For a real treat visit the Emirates Palace and indulge in a Champagne afternoon tea, stunningly presented two-tier assortment of savoury and sweet treats. If you’re more of a coffee lover a must try is the Camelccino, which comes with a perfectly drawn Camel in the frothy milk topping, or for a real spluge try the Emirates Palace Cappuccino topped with real 24 carat gold flakes (edible!). Unless you are a very big eater we would recommend sharing, as we ended up taking half back to the hotel!
On your second day why not try some of the many activities on offer. For families a trip to Yas Island is a must. Visit Warner Bros. World™ with 29 rides, live entertainment and family friendly attractions, or Yas Waterworld to try some of the 40 rides and cool off from the sun. Also located on Yas Island is Ferrari World, the world’s largest indoor theme park. Complete with rides for all ages is a collection of every Ferrari ever produced by the famous car manufacture.
SHOP UNTIL YOU DROP
Abu Dhabi boasts some world class shopping. With a direct link to Ferrari World, the Yas Mall is the new addition to Yas Island and the largest mall in the Abu Dhabi with 370 stores, 60 indoor and outdoor restaurants and a 20 screen cinema. Or visit the Marina Mall including over 400 stores, a revolving restaurant on top of the 100m high observation deck, nine screen cinema, ice rink, bowling alley, Fun City and world dining options. For more high end luxury shopping and designer labels visit the The Galleria on Al Maryah Island or Avenue at Etihad Towers on the Corniche.
For more local Arabic shopping visit the World Trade Centre Souk with spices, fragrances, jewellery and Arabian souvenirs. Also known as the Central Market Souk it is linked to the World Trade Centre Mall. The Souk Qaryat Al Beri’s with it’s venetian architecture is full of local brands. A great way to see the souk is by taking an abra (a traditional wooden boat) around the souk’s many canals. The Carpet Souk not only has exquisite carpets from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Turkey, but also colourful pottery and cushions. Do remember to haggle on the price!
Alternatively, why not leave the city behind for a Desert Safari and spend a night in a desert camp under the night sky and see falconry displays have a henna tattoo or ride the sand dunes in a 4×4 vehicles and try sand boarding, an unforgettable experience. If you time your visit right, you may be able to see some of the worlds best sporting events. The Yas Marina Circuit is home to the Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Having been twice ourselves we can definitely recommend the Marina stand for the view of the Superyachts and the architecturally stunning W hotel (which was the Viceroy when we visited). The circuit is open year round so you can drive the track yourself with an experienced driver or zoom in karts available at Yas Kartzone. Abu Dhabi Golf Club & Resort hosts the annual HSBC Golf Championship at Yas Links, which is the only links course in Arabia. Saadiyat Beach Golf Club and ocean front course designed by Gary Player. Each year, the Mubadala World Tennis Championship is held at the Zayed Sport City’s International Tennis Complex.
STAY A LITTLE LONGER
Abu Dhabi doesn’t have to be a stop over destination. Some amazing beaches make it the perfect destination for a one or two week holiday. Corniche Beach, Abu Dhabi’s main beachfront has been awarded coveted Blue Flag status – the internationally renowned eco-label for beaches and marinas that guarantees clean and safe bathing water. Visitors holidaying at any of Yas Island’s seven hotels have complimentary access to Yas Beach. Non-Yas Island hotel guests can also visit the beach for a small fee.
Saadiyat Island’s beach is environmentally protected due to the nesting of Hawksbill Turtles each year in the spring. The 400-metre public beach is a great spot for a day out to enjoy Saadiyat’s warm waters. The beach is open daily from 8am to sunset for a small fee or for some real glamour, splash out at Saadiyat Beach Club.
Why not stay at the incredible Jumeirah Saadiyat Island, a relaxed island retreat with 400m of private beach, laidback dining and an exclusive Gary Player golf course. Opened in November 2018, this 293 room eco-friendly hotel encourages guests to get around by Bicycle to protect the islands wildlife and the eight restaurants and bars are single use plastic free.
Stay at the Jumeirah Saadiyat Island for 7 nights from £1,095.00 per person flying direct from London Heathrow with Etihad Airways.