Dubai Itinerary - a 24 hour guide to Dubai
Dubai offers multiple options for many travellers and with 24 hours in Dubai, what would you do you with your time? Well, believe me –Dubai has built its reputation by creating tourist industry out of sand. Whether you want to just see what the souks are all about – or excellent the concept of envisioned bling real hand,Dubai can deliver. Millions visit Dubai on a stop over every year, and many return every year to do more. What can you do in 24 hours in Dubai, when you are on a business trip? Each to their own, but we have articulated what we think are must do’s if you have a short time to spend or longer. Include out itineraries whether you have 24 hours in Dubai or even longer.
Dubai is tourist friendly so whether you are flying through from east to west or west to east – get your fix of future Arabia in between the west and the east:
24 hours in Dubai
If you are here for a brief stopover, we recommend the following if you are here for a full day.
- Start your trip in one of Dubai’s oldest areas, Deira and visit the Gold Souk. Even if buying gold is not on your agenda, you must see this place for the sheer volume of precious metal available to buy at bargain prices. The souk is half covered and uncovered so take plenty of water. If you do decide to buy – haggle and don’t be shy! Shops open from10am-10pm with a few closing between1pm-4pm.
- When you’ve had enough of gold, head south towards the Dubai Creek (on foot) and take a left toward a covered long alleyway which has several shops selling the most beautiful smelling spices. This is the Spice Souk and worth strolling in for about 10 mins to see the bags of great quality Indian and Middle Eastern spices. They also sell mixed nuts and other items so might be good gift ideas.
- Just outside the long alleyway of the souk, head to the Dubai Creek to pick up the Dhow or Abra for a ride along the Dubai Creek. These are wooden traditional boats used to transport goods back in the day. Today they are a popular method of ferrying people across the creek for 1 AED per person. The ride is only about 3-5 mins but awesome views. The Abra will stop near the Bur Dubai Textile souk
- The Bur Dubai Textile souk located near Al Fahidi Street is very popular with the Indian, Pakistani and Middle Eastern communities. Many come here for beautiful fabric to stitch into wedding or party clothes. Tailors are also available here to make your designs sometimes in two days or even one day. Shops open from10am-10pm with a few closing between1pm-4pm.
- If you head past the Arabian Court Hotel, you should start seeing some traditional old buildings and come across the Bastakiya behind the Grand Mosque. This is one of Dubai’s oldest areas and building and gives an idea of what architecture was like before the oil discovery. The area is known as the Bastakiya quarter and many art galleries, cafes, shops are opening up to liven the place. It is also worth checking out the Dubai Museum for an insight into the Emirati culture and see small artefacts and short films on how Dubai became what it is today. The museum is not huge – you can cover in an hour and then break for lunch at nearby Basta Art Café, a quaint little relaxing spot in a cute garden, lunch served is nothing wow, just sandwiches and wraps but their fresh juice – especially the mint and lime is divine!
- No trip to Dubaiis complete without visiting one of their glitzy malls and if we had to pick one it would have to be Dubai Mall. Get a taxi from your last point and look forward to some air conditioning downtime or shop time. All the brands are available here along with a cinema, huge kids play areas and the most talked about indoor Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. If you have kids, Dubai Mall will bring you much needed sanity. Don’t forget to visit the adjoining Souk Al Bahar for some lovely ornaments and pashmina, dates and gifts for loved ones.
- After a few hours of strolling in Dubai Mall, take the opportunity to grab an outdoor table at one of the many al fresco restaurants dotted around the Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, and wait for the music and light show to begin. If you like Lebanese food, we recommend Wafi Gourmet for juicy shawarmas, mezze and grills. The fountain show begins at6pm and run every 30 mins, so you should book a table as soon as you arrive at Dubai Mall.
- If you still have any energy left, either head back to your hotel area or stay at Dubai Mall for some shisha available at most Lebanese terraced restaurants, or check out our shisha café guide.
3 days in Dubai
Cover everything in the 24 hr itinerary plus:
- If you have kids with you, or even if you don’t, you can easily spend half to a full day at one of Dubai’s two famous waterparks, Wild Wadi at Jumeirah Beach Hotel or Aquaventure at the Atlantis. The rides are good for kids as well as adults and provide respite in the warm sun. If you are staying at one of these hotels, entry to the waterpark is free and unlimited.
- After a few hours at the waterpark, head to Madinat Jumeirah just down the road from Wild Wadi waterpark (take a taxi if you’re exhausted). This is an Arabian picturesque leisure complex with two lavish hotels, Mina A’Salam and the Al Qasr. Stroll through the souk and get a feel of Arabia (although the price of their goods don’t appear souk-like!) or relax for drinks/lunch/dinner at one of their many cafes and restaurants, most of which are outdoor and have awesome views of the Burj Al Arab.
- If you can manage to get a convenient slot to go up the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, you should probably combine this with your visit to Dubai Mall as these landmarks are all in the same area. You need to visit the ticket desk in the Dubai Mall but bear in mind you may not be offered tickets on the same day. Visiting the Burj Khalifa and taking in the awesome views will easily take an hour minimum. If you haven’t done the Dubai Fountain or Aquarium, you could do these as they are all in the same area.
- After Dubai Mall, the next mall on your to do list should be Mall of the Emirates purely to see and perhaps even experience Ski Dubai, the indoor ski resort. Another activity to get a thumbs up from the kids, you could easily spend a couple of hours here going on the slopes, playing in the snow park or go on a bob sled ride. Snow attire is all provided and included in your entry price.
- For a late afternoon/ evening excursion, don’t leave Dubai without experiencing a desert safari. These are suitable for almost anyone except very young children, expectant mums and those with heart problems. Various tour companies in UAE will have packages to suit you and pick you up at your hotel. Relax and enjoy a 6 hour trip including a thrilling ride, relaxing bbq buffet, watching the sunset, belly dancers and shisha.
- Don’t forget to relax and soak up the sun when you’re in Dubai! Shopping, eating and sightseeing can take up your holiday, but put time aside to experience Dubai’s beaches. Head down to Jumeirah Road and either visit Jumeirah Open Beach for free or for a small fee of 5 AED per person / 20 AED with a car, Jumeirah Beach Park has facilities such as showers, play areas, bbq areas and sun loungers. If you want somewhere a bit more private and exclusive, many hotels along Jumeirah have day passes for their beach and pool and you can also use their changing facilities, prices will start from about 100 AED per person. Enquire at your hotel.
One Week in Dubai
Cover everything in the 24 hours in Dubai and 3 days in Dubai itinerary and then consider the rest
Don’t burn out in the desert – if you have managed to cover our 3 day itinerary in Dubai, we would suggest that you combine some beach time or retail therapy with some of the following:
- If you are stuck for somewhere trendy to eat, we recommend Zuma in DIFC. Brilliant Japanese cuisine and awesome atmosphere. It’s the place where you can head for pre-dinner drinks/dinner and stay on for more drinking and dancing if you have the energy.
- If you’d much rather view the pretty sights of Dubaiwhilst having your dinner, book a 4 course meal on board the Bateux Dubai, a glass dhow travelling along the creek for 2.5 hours. Under fives not permitted on board but enquire first.
- Afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab is the only way to get access to this exclusive hotel. For 395 AED you can enjoy a light meal at Sahn Eddar, the lobby lounge or for stunning views book a table at the Skyview Bar for afternoon tea. Very posh.
- Kids will love the Wonderbus tours, a bus that tours sights on land and sea! It’s a 1.5 tour covering places like Heritage Village, Dubai Creek, Gold Souk, Emirates Towers and more. Alternatively, if you prefer a detailed tour of Dubai, the Big Bus Company provides detailed tours of Dubai and you can also hop on and off during the day and expore sights to your leisure.
- Spend a day in Abu Dhabi, UAE’s capital, less then 2 hours away from Dubai. You can get your hotel to arrange a day trip by hiring your own driver and take you to some of the following landmarks: the Corniche, take a stroll along this newly renovated sea front and a welcome alternative to crowded Jumeirah beach, Emirates Palace for afternoon tea, or take a drive to Yas Island and visit the F1 Grand Prix race track and if you fancy a few white knuckle rides head to Ferrari World. On the way to or from Yas Island, consider visiting the exhibition, Manarat Al Sadiyat on SadiyatIsland, which is an impressive eye opener on Abu Dhabi’s vision for 2030. The site that you must visit in Abu Dhabi is the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The itineraries above cover everything from 24 hours in Dubai to a week in Dubai– and although possible within the week, would require some motivation of steel with some luck with traffic! It’s possible to do it all but you may want to cherry pick to figure out what tickles your fancy versus what’s you consider "meh".
If time is on your side, there really are some great combinations of day trips to get a different balance and perspective – from time in Al Ain to splitting your holiday with some time in Oman and maybe to places like Jordan and Lebanon.Arabia is more than conflict – it’s a rich area of heritage and future. Enjoy your stay.