Top-Rated Tourist Areas in Dubai

 Glitzy Dubai is the United Arab Emirates' holiday hot spot.

This city of high-rises and shopping malls has transformed itself from a desert outpost to a destination du-jour, where tourists flock for sales bargains, sunshine, and family fun.Dubai is famous for sightseeing attractions such as the Burj Khalifa (the world's tallest building) and shopping malls that come complete with mammoth aquariums and indoor ski slopes. But this city has many cultural highlights and things to do, as well as all the glamorous modern add-ons. Take a wander around the Al Fahidi quarter, and you'll discover the Dubai of old, then cruise along Dubai Creek in a traditional dhow, and you'll soon realize there's more to this city than its flashy veneer. Learn more about the best places to visit with our list of the top attractions in Dubai.

1. See Dubai's Famed Cityscape at Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

Burj Khalifa

Dubai's landmark building and major tourist attraction is the Burj Khalifa, which at 829.8 meters is the tallest building in the world and the most famous of the city's points of interest.

For most visitors, a trip to the observation deck on the 124th floor here is a must-do while in the city. The views across the city skyline from this bird's-eye perspective are simply staggering.

The slick observation deck experience includes a multimedia presentation on both Dubai and the building of the Burj Khalifa (completed in 2010) before a high-speed elevator whizzes you up to the observation deck for those 360-degree views out across the skyscrapers to the desert on one side and the ocean on the other.

Nighttime visits are particularly popular with photographers due to Dubai's famous city-lights panoramas.

Buy your Burj Khalifa "At the Top" Entrance Ticket in advance to avoid long line-ups, especially if you are planning to visit on a weekend.

Back on the ground, wrapping around the Burj Khalifa, are the building's beautifully designed gardens, with winding walkways. There are plenty of water features including the Dubai Fountain, the world's tallest performing fountain, modeled on the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas.

Official site: www.burjkhalifa.ae

2. Sneak in Some Shopping at Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall is the city's premier mall and one of the city's best places to visit for a day of shopping and indoor activities to keep the kids busy. It provides entry to the Burj Khalifa, as well as the Dubai Aquarium.

There is also an ice-skating rink, gaming zone, and cinema complex if you're looking for more entertainment options.

The shopping and eating is endless, and there are nearly always special events such as live music and fashion shows within the mall. The most famous of these are the annual Dubai Shopping Festival in January and February and the Dubai Summer Surprises Festival in July and August.

Location: Doha Road, just off Sheikh Zayed Road

Official site: http://www.thedubaimall.com/ 

3. Discover UAE history at Dubai Museum

Dubai Museum

Dubai Museum

Dubai's excellent museum is housed in the Al-Fahidi Fort, built in 1787 to defend Dubai Creek. The fort's walls are built out of traditional coral-blocks and held together with lime. The upper floor is supported by wooden poles, and the ceiling is constructed from palm fronds, mud, and plaster.

In its history, the fort has served as a residence for the ruling family, a seat of government, garrison, and prison. Restored in 1971 (and again extensively in 1995), it is now the city's premier museum.

The entrance has a fascinating exhibition of old maps of the Emirates and Dubai, showing the mammoth expansion that hit the region after the oil boom.

The courtyard is home to several traditional boats and a palm-leaf house with an Emirati wind-tower.

The right-hand hall features weaponry, and the left-hand hall showcases Emirati musical instruments.

Below the ground floor are display halls with exhibits and dioramas covering various aspects of traditional Emirati life (including pearl fishing and Bedouin desert life), as well as artifacts from the 3,000- to 4,000-year-old graves at Al Qusais archaeological site.

Address: Al-Fahidi Street, Al-Fahidi 


4. Walk through History in Al Fahidi Quarter (Old Dubai)

Bastakia (Old Dubai)

Bastakia (Old Dubai)

The Al Fahidi Quarter (previously known, and sometimes still referred to as the Bastakia neighborhood) was built in the late 19th century to be the home of wealthy Persian merchants who dealt mainly in pearls and textiles and were lured to Dubai because of the tax-free trading and access to Dubai Creek.

Al Fahidi occupies the eastern portion of Bur Dubai along the creek, and the coral and limestone buildings here, many with walls topped with wind-towers, have been excellently preserved.

Wind-towers provided the homes here with an early form of air conditioning - the wind trapped in the towers was funneled down into the houses. Persian merchants likely transplanted this architectural element (common in Iranian coastal houses) from their home country to the Gulf.

Lined with distinct Arabian architecture, the narrow lanes are highly evocative of a bygone, and much slower, age in Dubai's history.

Inside the district, you'll find the Majlis Gallery, with its collection of traditional Arab ceramics and furniture (housed in a wind-tower) and the Al Serkal Cultural Foundation, with a shop, cafĂ©, and rotating art exhibitions (located in one of the historic buildings).


5. View Traditional Architecture at Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House

Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House

Sheikh Saeed Al-Maktoum House

Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum was the Ruler of Dubai from 1921 to 1958 and grandfather to the current ruler. His former residence has been rebuilt and restored as a museum that is a fine example of Arabian architecture.

The original house was built in 1896 by Sheikh Saeed's father, so he could observe shipping activity from the balconies.

It was demolished, but the current house was rebuilt next to the original site, staying true to the original model by incorporating carved teak doors, wooden lattice screens across the windows, and gypsum ventilation screens with floral and geometric designs.

Thirty rooms are built around a central courtyard with wind-tower details on top.

Inside are the exhibits of the Dubai Museum of Historical Photographs and Documents, with many wonderful old photographs of Dubai from the period between 1948 and 1953.

The marine wing of the museum has photos of fishing, pearling, and boat building. Throughout the building there are many letters, maps, coins, and stamps on display showing the development of the Emirate.

Nearby is the Sheikh Obaid bin Thani House, restored with displays of traditional interiors.

Address: Al Khaleej Road, Bur Dubai


6. Delve into Maritime Heritage at Dubai Creek & Al Seef District

Dubai Creek

Dubai Creek

Dubai Creek separates the city into two towns, with Deira to the north and Bur Dubai to the south.

The creek has been an influential element in the city's growth, first attracting settlers here to fish and pearl dive.

Small villages grew up alongside the creek as far back as 4,000 years ago, while the modern era began in the 1830s when the Bani Yas tribe settled in the area.

The Dhow Wharfage is located along Dubai Creek's bank, north of Al-Maktoum Bridge. Still used by small traders from across the Gulf, some of the dhows anchored here are well over 100 years old.

You can visit here, watching cargo being loaded and unloaded on and off the dhows. Dhow workers often invite visitors onto the vessels for a tour, where you can gain insight into the life of these traditional sailors.

Many of the dhows here travel onward to Kuwait, Iran, Oman, India, and down to Africa's horn. This tiny remnant of Dubai's traditional economy is still a bustling and fascinating place to wander around.

On the Bur Dubai side of the creek, rubbing up against the Bastakia neighborhood, the waterfront has been regenerated as the Al Seef district, with a waterfront promenade backed by traditional coral-block and limestone buildings, a floating market, and shops selling crafts. It's a great place for a stroll with excellent water views.

To travel across the creek, you can either take a trip on one of the many dhows that have been restored as tourist cruise boats or take an abra (small wooden ferry) between the ferry points on the creek's Bur Dubai and Deira banks.