You have just landed at the DXB airport and have a day to spend in the most gorgeous emirate of UAE. Before the next onward flight, you want to make the most of Dubai’s shopping, cuisine, outdoor and architectural marvels. But with the clock running out on 24 and so much to see, how would you plan your one day in Dubai? Quick planning and a brush up on the city’s everyday routine will help you experience the most sought after activities.
Truly, it is very difficult to fit in favourite attractions in 24 hours from such an extensive list. Depending on your actual stopover time in Dubai, we have listed out some highly recommended activities and attractions along with the time needed to have a complete glance at each of them.
If you arrive in Dubai at night, you can book a Morning Desert Safari of three hours and leave rest of the day for doing fun things like shopping or taking a cruise along the Dubai creek.
Get yourself up early for a Hot Air Balloon Flight or a Seaplane flight to get a bird’s eye view of Dubai’s architectural marvels. While you will spend most part of your day on the Balloon Flight, the seaplane flight is just for about 40 minutes. This leaves you time to do other things like shopping, visiting man made islands, Burj Khalifa and relaxing on the Jumeirah beach.
If you are kind of a person who loves delving into the past and present of a city and its culture, the Bastakia Quarter is interesting enough to deserve a visit. Spare at least half of your day as the place proposes excellent opportunities to appreciate Dubai’s bygone era. Wind through the old, narrow lanes, visit the textile souk, ride the traditional abra on the Dubai Creek and check the Dubai museum. The area throws in many surprises compared to the modern binge of Dubai. Book a Big Bus Tour – the easiest and the most relaxing way to explore Dubai.
Book the half-day Big Bus hop-on, hop-off tour followed by an Evening Desert Safari if you want to mix it up.
If you want something different try the helicopter ride, parachute jump/skydiving, or visit Ski Dubai and Wild Wadi Water Park with an afternoon tea at the Burj Al Arab.
To plan your own journey for the 24-hours experience, here’s our list of Dubai tours and attractions. These are highly recommended activities by tourists and cover the best of Dubai in the very little time that you have.
No matter how time-crunched your schedule is, a visit to Dubai is never complete without ‘Desert Safari’. The adrenaline rush through the heady driving in a 4X4 vehicle or a quad bike is an exceptional moment, indescribable in words. To experience the splendour of the Arabian Desert in the minimal time you have, you can book a customized desert safari designed to your timeframe. It includes a camel ride, BBQ, henna tattoo, sand boarding and belly dance performances. You could opt for the Evening Desert Safari or an Overnight Desert Safari before returning to Dubai Airport for the onward flight. Another option for tourists who arrive in Dubai late night and want to rest and check out in the morning is ‘Morning Desert Safari’ as it starts at around 9:00 am and lasts for only 3 hours!
Big Bus Tour:
The Big Bus Tour is the right choice if you want to visit all the famous landmarks of Dubai in an air-conditioned bus with relaxing atmosphere. Featuring two routes, the Day Tour and the Night Tour, the hop-on, hop-off sightseeing tour lets you choose between 24-hour and 48-hour ticket. These two types facilitate you with flexible schedule, with plenty of time to visit the attraction and shop for souvenirs in Dubai. The reason is, tourists of Big Bus tours have the choice of getting on and off at any of the pre-decided bus stops so that they can combine their itinerary for the day with the Big Bus Tour. Moreover, freebies such as free Dhow cruise, free entry to Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s house and free entrance to Dubai museum are included in the tour as well! If you opt for a 2-hour night tour, you will certainly enjoy the illuminated skyscrapers beaming their flashy lights.
Shopping in Dubai:
The list of shopping malls in Dubai is countless right from the humongous malls selling branded goods to the small shops famous for trinkets and souvenirs. Whichever mall you decide to visit, you have to go on a tax free shopping spree in Dubai. If you are a true shopper at heart, then even the whole day wouldn’t seem enough. But set aside at least half of your day for shopping.
Here are the top 5 shopping places to check out:
The Walk at JBR:
The Walk- Jumeirah Beach Residence is a Dubai’s only beach side outdoor shopping boulevard designed to cater to the residents living in the Jumeirah Beach Residence properties. But its 1.7 km stretch of high-end cafes, restaurants and boutiques swept in large number of residents and tourists from other neighborhoods as well. Go for a stroll on ‘The Walk at JBR’ to get all info you want to know about hottest trends in fashion, the latest bar and restaurant openings and the recent celebrity arrivals in Dubai.
Everything about Dubai is absurdly extravagant, right from its 1200 shops to its indoor aquarium and 160 food outlets. They may be beyond anyone’s imagination, but instantly likeable if you are a shoe pinching shopaholic. Every brand has made its presence here but the Gold Souk at the centre of the mall deserves extra stars. If you are tired of shopping, pay a visit to other attractions in the mall like the Dubai Fountain, Burj Khalifa Observatory, Dubai Aquarium and Ice Rink
Deira Gold Souk:
Deira Gold Souk is a hypnotizing place for jewellery lovers with tonnes of gold constantly calling out for a try. One of largest gold markets in the world, you have every imaginable jewellery piece under one roof – from heavy wedding ornaments to light casual diamond wear.
Global Village is a yearly phenomenon that spans over a period from early November to late February when traders from around the world get together to display their goods in Dubailand. Coupled with shopping, tourists are entertained by spectacular performers from a variety of cultures.
Ibn Battuta Mall:
The shopping part of Ibn Battuta Mall is kind of off-track, but it is well worth a visit for its dramatic architecture inspired by Arab traveller Ibn Battuta. The traveller’s adventures have been depicted in the construction with courts named after the regions visited by him during his voyage. The most beautiful of them is the Persia Court characterized by the hand-painted dome.
Old Dubai – Bastakiya:
Bastakiya Quarter in Bur Dubai is the place with which Dubai shares its traditional roots. It’s been declared a conservation area and no vehicles are allowed. Walking tours are arranged regularly in the mornings where a walk down the narrow alleys will give you a peak into the restored buildings. Visit Basta Art Café and the nearby galleries if you are interested in knowing Dubai’s growth graph. Be prepared to reserve half of your day at Bastakiya.
Dubai’s Street Food:
Dubai’s cheap eats are famous not just because they are light on the pocket but also for the fact that the restaurants in Dubai are not affordable to a common man. If you want to taste a hard hitting combination of delicious food at rock bottom prices, head to Jumeirah and Satwa. Restaurants operating for more than 20 years will narrate tales of bygone Dubai as they serve delicious local Arabic, fast food and Asian cuisine.
The Gold Souk has proved to be an antithesis to the saying ‘All that glitters is not gold’. The whole souk glitters with the yellow metal as you are literally magnetized into buying at least some pieces of gold. In fact, some tourists arrive in Dubai just for tax-free shopping of gold and international brands. An hour and two should be reserved for souks.
Jumeirah beach is a must visit attraction for any tourist in Dubai. More than the beach itself, the long strip of five star hotels instantly catches your attention. There are lot of water sports and family activities to do on the beach itself, especially the Kite beach which attracts a lot of Kite surfers. Reserve your evenings for the beach activities.
Dubai Creek Cruise:
Cruising down Dubai Creek is a once in a lifetime experience particularly when it’s on a traditional Dhow in the shadows of the moonlight. If you are travelling as a couple, the cruise sets up a perfect romantic setting amidst the flickering background lights, music and belly dancing and BBQ buffet dinner. The cruise takes approximately 2 hours of sailing in the Dubai Creek.
Ski Dubai, in the Mall of Emirates, creates one of the most captivating contrasts to Dubai’s image as a hot, sunny place. For a first timer, it is an amazing place to ski with mountain-themed wintery settings for beginners and intermediaries. Enjoy snow activities like skiing, snowboarding and tobogganing or just simply play in the snow! Better still, there is the Mall of Emirates to hunt for, after the wonderful snowy experience. Allot at least half a day for this activity. We would not recommend the experience if you have swished down the slopes of Switzerland in its full bloom.
If you are visiting Dubai as a family and have 3-6 hours to spare, then Wild Wadi should be a top priority on your scheme of things. The kids will love the killing waves whilst the adults will time-travel back to their younger days. A perfect place if you are a water baby.
The Observation Deck at Burj Khalifa:
If you feel the creative geniuses behind the world’s tallest building deserve applause, then certainly visit ‘The Observation Deck’ at Burj Khalifa. Built high atop, on 124th floor of the Burj Khalifa, it reveals the most extraordinary views of Dubai city. The entry is through the world’s largest Dubai Mall from where you will ride in one of the world’s fastest elevators to reach the Observation Deck. Reserve at least 45 minutes – hour to enjoy the scenic views.
Man Made Islands:
The Palm Islands can be admired even if you don’t own a property or stay at one of the hotels on the island. It is one of the simply amazing sightseeing points which can be admired in a helicopter or in a seaplane. Picturesque opportunities are in plenty with yacht charter companies that arrange for sailing trips around the Palm and the World islands.
Afternoon Tea at the Burj Al Arab:
Staying in the Burj Al Arab is dream accomplished only by a few. For the others who want to gather memories of a visit to the Burj Al Arab, the idea of an afternoon tea at Sahn Eddar provides an insight to the splendour of the hotel’s interiors. If you can afford, the Majlis Al Bahar on the beach is a more attractive option from where you can marvel at the Burj Al Arab’s true outer beauty.
Hot Air Balloon Flight:
The Hot Air Balloon Flight in Dubai is a renowned activity for taking in the amazing views of Dubai. If you have the extra cash, try to book a ticket to take a trip around Dubai in a hot air balloon, the views are fantastic and unforgettable. That said, only book if you prefer to enjoy the early morning landscape rather than walk and explore by foot, as it will take up at least 6 hours of your day.
If you think, the Hot Air Balloon ride is the only way to experience the pictorial horizon of Dubai, then think again! You can have an exclusive Helicopter or Seaplane 30-minute tour to enjoy Dubai scenic spectacles through a bird eyes view. Capture images of characteristic landmarks like Palm Islands, Burj Al Arab, and Burj Khalifa from unthinkable angles. In less than half an hour, you will have seen Dubai’s true beauty.
First time jumpers are just going to love this! Learn to aviate and enjoy the experience of total freefall from 10,000 feet! As you venture into open air, memorize the bird eye’s view of the Palm Island, Sheikh Zayed Road, the Arabian Sea and Jumeirah Beach. You should be prepared to allot at least 3 hours for parachute jumping and adventure skydiving (and don’t forget to pack a clean set of underwear).