Abu Dhabi is the capital of the UAE and a booming tourist metropolis that has an abundance of things to do. Marrying the traditions of the UAE with its modern approach – Abu Dhabi is a must-visit destination. I visited as part of a travel trade fam trip with Etihad Airways, Hyatt Hotels & Resorts and Visit Abu Dhabi Tourist Board.
The History of the UAE and Abu Dhabi is a fascinating story full of surprises with inhabitants dating as far back as 5,500 BC. To understand the journey, visit the Louvre in Abu Dhabi.
What’s Not to Lourve – Abu Dhabi
Lourve Abu Dhabi is the largest art & history museum in the Arabian peninsula and is home to artworks from around the world. It has numerous exhibits, even a Children’s Museum which is ideal for families, particularly with younger children aged 4-10. Adding to the cultural heritage in Abu Dhabi, The Guggenheim Museum – Abu Dhabi is under construction and is expected to open in 2024.
At time of print, standard Louvre Abu Dhabi tickets cost AED 63 (c.€16) for adults and children can visit for free.
A Presidential Palace – Qasr Al Watan
Qasr Al Watan is an awe-inspiring palace built in 2017. It cost c.$490m to build, has hosted foreign leaders of states and celebrates the heritage of UAE, it was opened to the public in 2019. It offers an opportunity to discover the culture, knowledge and history of Abu Dhabi. Qasr Al Watan offers outstanding architecture and craftmanship but also an enriching interactive journey that reflects on Abu Dhabi.
Admittance is Adult AED 65 (c.€17) / Child AED 30 (c.€8) and for an extra AED 20 (c.€5 pp), you can take an architectural craftsmanship tour with a tour guide.
Sheikh Zayed Mosque
Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the world’s largest mosques and an architectural masterpiece that beautifully combines Islamic architecture and design and is known for its iconic pure white marble exterior.
Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the Founding Father of the UAE, had the mosque built in the capital city Abu Dhabi to create a cultural haven that welcomes and inspires people from all backgrounds. The mosque was built to embody Islam’s foremost message of peace and tolerance towards people of all beliefs. The mosque’s welcoming open-door policy encourages visitors from around the world, from families to groups, solo travellers to congregations, to not only witness its beauty but also gain a deeper understanding of the Emirate’s culture of open dialogue.
Standing over 100 metres tall at its highest point, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must-see.
The edifice has 1,096 amethyst-and-jasper-embedded columns, 82 white marble domes, reflective pools, gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers, an iconic prayer hall, and a courtyard featuring one of the largest marble mosaic artworks in the world.
Watch out for the calligraphy encircling the hollows of its domes, etched with verses from the Quran and painted with gold leaf in An-Naskh lettering.
There is no fee to enter Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Visitors are kindly asked to book their visit via the grand mosques’ website. There is a specific dress code as a sign of respect and shoes must be removed at the entry gate. Women are also asked to wear abayas which are provided free of charge.
Thrills for All the Family
Make a splash at the Middle East’s largest water theme park, Yas Island Waterpark or Ferrari World, home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster or visit the new Warner Bros Theme Park. In fact, visit all three!
Then gear up for the ride of your life only here at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi. Home to the world’s fastest rollercoaster, the highest loop ride, the tallest space-frame structure ever built on the planet and over 40 record-breaking attractions, this is the ultimate destination for non-stop, hyper-adrenaline, heart-racing fun! Summer gate rate AED 345 (c. €88). Buying tickets online: Single Day Pass is AED 310 (c.€79 adult) / AED 240 (€61 child).
Warner Bros. World
Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi is the world’s biggest indoor theme park. It has 29+ action-packed rides, family-friendly experiences and world-class entertainment all set in a climate-controlled, award-winning complex. This place has hugely popular characters including Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman to Bugs Bunny, Scooby-Doo and The Flintstones.
Like Ferrari World, summer gate rate AED 345 (c. €88). Buying tickets online: Single Day Pass is AED 310 (c.€79 adult) / AED 240 (€61 child).
Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi
There are over 40 exciting rides, winding slides, and amazing experiences at different thrill levels catering for all ages. Purchasing tickets at the gate will cost you AED 295 (c.€75) or book online for a discounted admittance with adult/child tickets costing AED 270 (€69) / AED 220 (€56). There are Al Waha Cabanas (4-6 guests) which offer VIP service, free towels and an exclusive menu (from AED 349 / c.€89).
Sun, Sand and Splendour
Abu Dhabi beaches are renowned as the best in the region with sandy shores comparable to the Maldives or Caribbean. Soak up the sunshine all year round with a destination guaranteed to be hot and sunny any time of year! Summer average temperatures in June through to August top 40 degrees Celsius while spring and autumn enjoy temperatures in the 30s and even winter months average the mid-20s. While it is incredibly hot, everywhere is air-conditioned and a quick dip in the pool gives instant refreshment.
Mangroves & Jeep Safari
Looking to adventure in nature, try a kayak trip through the mangroves (don’t worry, if you can’t paddle the guides will give you a tow). The mangroves are part-funded by Etihad’s “Green Initiative” to support mangrove conservation projects.
Our group headed out at sunrise to avoid the peak sun. It was still scorching by Irish standards so bring sunscreen, suitable clothing and a change as you will get wet.
Alternatively, buckle up for an Abu Dhabi Desert Safari. Strapped into a reinforced jeep, the driver took the vehicle and occupants through their paces as he drove and dove off sand dunes in this Arabian desert. It was exhilarating and, again, don’t do on a full stomach. The temperatures get so hot, that the engines need rest periods to cool off. Thankfully, the interior is fully air-conditioned so it’s all good.
Mark Your Calendar
Head to the Grand Prix track and relive some of the best moments ever from Formula 1 history. If you are thinking about attending the Grand Prix, it doesn’t get any better than the races in Abu Dhabi, usually in November each year. Etihad is also the main title sponsor of the event.
Remember, the race is only part of the entertainment with previous acts that played at Formula 1 Etihad Airways Abu Dhabi Grand Prix concerts include Prince, Beyoncé, Aerosmith, Kings of Leon and Kanye West.
While Formula One wasn’t on while we were visiting, it comes highly recommended and may be worth remembering when booking a trip.
Top Travel Tips
The roller coasters are crazy-fast – one had a G-Force of 4.8g and went 0 to 240km/h in under 5 seconds (for context, a space shuttle’s g-force during launch & re-entry is 3g). You will likely be a little wibbled after some of the more thrilling rides so don’t go on a full stomach and pace yourself. There were no queues so the only limit on the fun and thrills was how much your body can take (I now know I’m not 21 anymore but it was brilliant). The website has a handy checklist to see which rides have height restrictions etc.
Check before you go as there are certain women-only days in the park (currently, during the summer, Yas-Waterworld has a women-only day on Fridays).
There are various incentive prices for purchasing admission to more than one park. At time of print, there was unlimited 3 Days / 3 Parks is AED 545 (€139) where you can enjoy unlimited access to all Yas Theme Parks (Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld, Warner Bros. World) over three days within 14 days of the first park visit.
Virtually all the places visited required either a COVID vaccination certificate or a “Green” status on the Alhosn app to enter (14 days PCR required when fully vaccinated, 48 hours when unvaccinated) so be mindful of the requirements before you travel.
Like religious and cultural sites across the globe, Abu Dhabi has certain dress requirements when entering certain sites. These are detailed on each website so be mindful to wear suitable attire (particularly when visiting the Presidential Palace and Grand Mosque).