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United Arab Emirates: Abu Dhabi and its highlights

To the point Discover our favourites in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, such as the Sheikh Zayed mosque and the Louvre Abu Dhabi museum.

Abu Dhabi is an excellent option if you’re looking for an luxury destination for your next vacation. This city is full of architectural, cultural and natural treasures. Discover our selection of the best places to visit during your stay in Abu Dhabi.

Organizing your dream trip to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with points is possible with preparation. Take the time to plan this magnificent trip.

welcome to abu dhabi

Abu Dhabi or the "Jewel of Arabia"

The city is an attractive luxury destination for tourists worldwide and is generally quick to visit: one or two days can be enough to discover its main attractions.

Marina Abu Dhabi

Where is Abu Dhabi?

The UAE is located in the north-east of the Arabian Peninsula and comprises seven emirates: Abu Dhabi, the capital and largest emirate; Dubai; Ajman; Sharjah; Fujairah; Ras al Khaimah and Umm al Quwain.

Why go to Abu Dhabi?

Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. It offers a fusion of tradition and modernity. With its majestic heritage buildings, world-class museums such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi, pristine beaches, natural islands and cultural vibrancy, the city promises a unique and diverse experience for every visitor. It would be a shame to leave it out if you’re going to Dubai and vice versa, especially as they’re only an hour and a half’s drive apart.

What's the difference between Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

Dubai is often associated with its dynamism, iconic skyscrapers, gigantic shopping malls and cosmopolitan character. It’s a city that symbolizes modernity and luxury.

Although half the size and density, Abu Dhabi has a more substantial cultural and historical presence, with a tendency to focus more on the traditional and the artistic while also featuring modern elements. Abu Dhabi offers a more balanced perspective between the new and the old.


When is the best time to visit Abu Dhabi?

The best time to visit is between October and April, although the weather is fine all year round. In summer, temperatures approach 50 degrees. We were glad to be there in December, as the temperatures were perfect during the day and a little cooler in the evening.

Abu Dhabi

Who is Sheikh Zayed?

The city pays homage everywhere to Sheikh Zayed, “Father of the Emirates,” the former Emir of Abu Dhabi. This politician was the driving force behind the creation of the UAE federation and the country’s modernization and stability. His son is now his successor, President of the U.A.E. and ruler of Abu Dhabi, the capital of black gold.

Must-see places to visit in Abu Dhabi

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: An architectural masterpiece

When you arrive in Abu Dhabi, shower in Etihad’s Arrivals lounge if you have access, then take your means of transport – rental car, cab, uber or bus – to reach the famous Sheikh Zayed mosque in the morning light. You’ll be impressed by its grandeur and beauty.

The colossal mosque is reminiscent of a fairytale from the Arabian Nights, with its gilding and white marble. The women are kindly asked to put on the local garb, an abaya so they can enter.

Outside, the columns, minarets and domes are awe-inspiring. Enjoy taking photos of the marble reflecting in the water.

Inside, three prayer rooms feature the world’s largest hand-woven carpet and, above all, the world’s most enormous chandelier.

depth view candlesticks and carpets

If you’re driving, driving is easy; some directions may not match up between GPS and signs. The roads are clear, the landscaping immaculate, and the infrastructure new and well laid out.

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The view is even more breathtaking at sunset. Take a seat on the esplanade opposite the mosque. Like many tourists and photographers, we stayed a long time to observe the colour changes on the white marble. You’ll enjoy an unforgettable moment of calm and beauty. Magic.

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sunset on the mosque2

Louvre Abu Dhabi: Iconic museum with a rich collection

Once you’ve completed your morning visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, move on to the Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi. Located in the cultural sector of Saadiyat island by the sea, it has been open since November 11, 2017, beautiful collections are present, and the structure impresses here too.

Look up: you’d think this silver dome was floating in the sky since there’s no visible beam. Shaped like a honeycomb, the dome is made up of stars and is intended as a play of light and shadow for visitors. It also allows better regulation of the temperature felt outdoors.

Adjacent to the Louvre, visit the Zayeh National Museum to discover the history and development of the United Arab Emirates.


museum of the louvre and its silver sky
  • Opening hours: 10 am to 8 pm, Saturday to Wednesday, and 10 am to 10 pm Thursdays and Fridays.
  • Activities:
    • Explore art collections spanning millennia of history.
    • Guided tours available for information on the exhibitions.
    • Art workshops and regular cultural events.
contrast water and silver musée du louvre

Ferrari World Park: For thrill-seekers

Abu Dhabi offers the Ferrari World theme park on Yas Island, declared the best theme park in the UAE. Here you’ll find a host of rides and attractions dedicated to the world of the Italian brand. For thrill-seekers, try the Formula Rossa attraction, one of the world’s largest roller coasters.

  • Opening hours: Generally from 11 am to 8 pm (check with the season).
  • Activities:
    • Roller coasters, including the world’s fastest.
    • Driving simulators for an F1 experience.
    • Live shows and children’s attractions.

Emirates Palace: A luxurious hotel with breathtaking architecture

The Emirates Palace is a luxurious 5-star hotel. People come here to admire its architecture and traditional gardens and enjoy afternoon tea and sweets. Take a break and soak up the royal atmosphere.

  • Times: Variable, depending on visits or activities.
  • Activities:
    • Architectural tour of the palace.
    • Culinary experience in our top-of-the-range restaurants.
    • Luxurious tea lounge offering local specialties.
Palais des Émirats

Desert Safari: A unique desert experience

The desert is vast. You can cross the dunes in a 4×4 for a memorable dune bashing session if your heart’s in the right place, or a romantic camel ride at sunset!

  • Hours: Generally late afternoon to evening.
  • Activities:
    • Camel rides.
    • Sandboarding on the dunes.
    • Traditional dinner under the stars with dancing and music.

Désert Abu Dhabi

Other things to do in Abu Dhabi

There’s no shortage of activities! In just one day there, we’ve focused on the must-sees, but here’s a list of what else can be discovered:

Qasr Al Watan

Abu Dhabi’s presidential palace, Qasr Al Watan, invites visitors to discover the rich heritage of the Emirates in a stunning architectural setting, offering a deep immersion in Arab culture and governance.

Stroll along the Abu Dhabi Corniche coastline

There are playgrounds for children, and the area is ideal for picnics, jogging and cycling. Cool off on the beach or by the fountains by hot wheather Visit the evening work “The Constellation” in an open pavilion. The stars shine in the evening to show the 3D portrait of Sheikh Zayed (open from 9 am to 10 pm).

The corniche leads south to Heritage Village, a recreation of a traditional Bedouin village, and north to Port Zayed, where you can stroll through the Al Mina fish market.

Abu Dhabi Corniche
Abu Dhabi Corniche

Mangrove National Park

Close to downtown Abu Dhabi, it’s one of the city’s green lungs, where you can take a motorboat, kayak or paddleboat ride and spot numerous species, such as herons, flamingos and even dolphins, depending on the season.

Al Hosn Palace

Al Hosn Palace, Abu Dhabi’s oldest building, traces the historical development of the Emirates from its earliest days. Now a museum, it reveals the region’s transition from a fishing village to a global metropolis. It’s a journey through time and a tribute to Emirati heritage.

Yas Waterworld

The Yas Waterworld park in Abu Dhabi offers a water adventure with over 40 exciting attractions; it’s an oasis of fun for all ages, perfect for hot days!

Abu Dhabi Grand Prix 2023

Every year in November, the Formula 1 Grand Prix takes place in Abu Dhabi. It’s a unique experience, as it’s the only Grand Prix to start during the day and finish at night. Nothing beats staying at the W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island.

W Abu Dhabi
W Abu Dhabi

Helicopter, hot-air balloon and seaplane flights in Abu Dhabi

Admire breathtaking panoramas, from modern skylines to desert dunes, for an unforgettable aerial experience over the Emirati capital.

Beaches, surfing, jet skiing, scuba diving

Plan a day off in Abu Dhabi and discover the seabed of the Persian Gulf. Admire the coastline by boat or jet-ski, and take in the city’s emblematic monuments.

Other activities in Abu Dhabi

Restaurants, shopping, markets, exhibitions – you’ll never be bored. Plan your visit with your points to make the most of it. There’s no shortage of activities.

Accommodation in Abu Dhabi

Sometimes it’s hard to find your way around all the hotels out there. We always advise you to check availability in cash and with points to see if it’s worth using your points.

I also refer you to our Ultimate Guide to hotel chains and their loyalty programs to find out which points can be used and how to accumulate them.

Marriott Bonvoy accommodations

Marriott hotels offer a wide range of accommodation options in Abu Dhabi. Earn Marriott Bonvoy points and use them to get your free nights!

Aloft Abu Dhabi is a young and trendy establishment close to the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Center. Ideal for modern travelers looking for a lively atmosphere.

Aloft Abu Dhabi Marriott
Aloft Abu Dhabi Marriott

Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi Downtown is a value-for-money hotel in the heart of downtown, ideal for business travelers and families.

Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi is a luxury hotel with modern architecture and panoramic views of the city. Combining tradition and modernity.

Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi Crédit Marriott
Le Royal Meridien Abu Dhabi Crédit Marriott

Marriott Hotel Al Forsan – Abu Dhabi is nestled near the Al Forsan sports complex, making it the ideal choice for lovers of sports and outdoor activities.

Marriott Hotel Downtown – Abu Dhabi is a modern hotel in the heart of downtown, with luxury facilities and easy access to major attractions.

Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort is a beachfront resort that combines traditional luxury and leisure with a private marina and beach restaurants.

Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort Crédit Marriott
Sheraton Abu Dhabi Hotel & Resort Crédit Marriott

The Abu Dhabi EDITION. elegant and designer, this hotel is known for its unique style, fine cuisine and artistic ambience.

The Abu Dhabi EDITION. Credit Marriott
The Abu Dhabi EDITION. Marriott Credit

The St. Regis Abu Dhabi

A short aside on the St. Regis Abu Dhabi is part of the Marriott Bonvoy program. Located on the Corniche, this is an excellent hotel to stay at in Abu Dhabi. The lobby is magnificent, with staircases that resemble those on the Titanic. With points and Platinum status, you can get a suite overlooking the Persian Gulf.

sapin st regis hall
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi - Réception
stairs and st regis fir
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi - Reception

Every St. Mary’s Hotel St. Regis offers a bottle of champagne for a few hotel guests. All you have to do is ask. We were able to take part in the sandblasting at the bar while a pianist played a beautiful repertoire, including music from Titanic.

The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa is a golfer’s paradise, set amidst a verdant golf course and offering first-class wellness facilities.

W Abu Dhabi – Yas Island: iconic and modern, located in the heart of the Yas Island Formula 1 circuit, with a vibrant ambience and top-of-the-range facilities.

W Abu Dhabi
W Abu Dhabi – Category 5

The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi – Grand Canal: Bordering the majestic Grand Canal, this luxury hotel offers an immersion in Venetian elegance in the heart of Abu Dhabi.

The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal
The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi Grand Canal

Yas Hotel Abu Dhabi is a futuristic hotel known for its impressive architecture, located on Yas Island. It offers direct access to the circuit’s main attractions.

Hilton accommodations

Like Marriott, the Hilton group also has a strong presence in Abu Dhabi, and you can use your Hilton Honors points to book your nights. Here is a list of available hotels:

Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island: Located on vibrant Yas Island, this hotel is ideal for adventure-seekers with direct proximity to the Ferrari World theme park and Yas Waterworld.

Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers: Part of the symbolic Etihad Towers, this establishment offers luxury and refinement with a breathtaking panoramic view of the Corniche.

Royal Etihad Suite with Sea View Bedroom Conrad Credit
Royal Etihad Suite with Sea View Bedroom Conrad Credit

Hilton Abu Dhabi Capital Grand: Boasting impressive architecture, this hotel is located near the city center and offers elegant rooms and modern facilities.

DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Abu Dhabi Yas Island Residences: Ideal for more extended stays, these residences offer the comforts of home with the services of a hotel close to Yas Island’s main attractions.

Hilton Garden Inn Abu Dhabi Mall: For those seeking convenience, this hotel is directly connected to a large shopping mall and offers excellent value for money.

Hampton by Hilton Abu Dhabi Airport: Offering the comfort typical of the Hampton brand, this hotel is ideal for travellers in transit or those needing quick access to the airport.

Bottom line

Anything is possible in the United Arab Emirates. It’s up to you to choose between cultural visits, gastronomy, walks or sports activities!

And why not continue your visit to Dubai, take a cruise, or visit the futuristic city of Masdar?

Sheikh Zayed Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Find all our articles on the Middle East here:

How many days should I allow to visit Abu Dhabi?

Generally, when you choose to go on a tour, you arrive or end your trip in Abu Dhabi. Organized tours will include entry to points of interest such as the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Qasr al Watan Palace, the Louvre Museum and sometimes the Etihad Towers. But of course, other activities can be added according to your interests, as suggested above. It’s generally a good idea to allow at least one or two days to enjoy the city’s attractions.

How do I get to Abu Dhabi with points?

In April 2023, Transport Canada announced an expanded agreement between Canada and the United Arab Emirates to meet the needs of the aviation market. You’ll find flights from Toronto and flights from Montreal with a stopover in Frankfurt. Aeroplan points can be used as Emirates and Etihad as they are partners. According to the Aeroplan flight award chart, it’ll cost 90,000 Aeroplan points per person. To find the best prices on Aeroplan, please refer to our article here.

Getting around Abu Dhabi

Between cab, uber, bus, and rental car, you’ll have no trouble finding a means of transport to get around Abu Dhabi city or to get to Dubai, for example, with the E100 or E101 bus. Cabs are the most expensive option. If you arrive in Dubai with Emirates Airlines and wish to travel to Abu Dhabi, free shuttles are also available six times a day.

If you rent a car, the roads are in excellent condition, and the information is straightforward. Watch out for speed cameras. Despite this, the locals drive fast. You’ll quickly find free parking. Bring your international driving license with you when you rent.

How to dress in Abu Dhabi or Dubai as a woman?

That’s a question I’ve had to ask myself too. Women are advised to wear respectful clothing that covers their shoulders and knees in public places. It would be best if you carried a scarf in your bag; it will always help you. If you’re visiting a mosque, your outfit should not be tight-fitting or see-through, and you should cover your hair and body from head to toe.

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Mother of two young children, pharmacist, travel hacker's wife and frequent traveller, Audrey shares her advices and destinations recommendations on milesopedia.

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