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Stopover In Abu Dhabi: What To Do


Modified: December 28, 2023

by Davina Hintz



Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates, is a vibrant and cosmopolitan city that offers an enticing array of experiences for all types of travelers. Whether you’re stopping over for a few hours or a few days, there is an abundance of things to see and do in this thriving metropolis.


With its rich history, stunning architecture, pristine beaches, and world-class dining and shopping options, Abu Dhabi is a destination that seamlessly blends tradition and modernity. From traditional souks to futuristic skyscrapers, the city is a testament to the UAE’s rapid development and cultural heritage.


One of the key highlights of Abu Dhabi is its commitment to preserving and celebrating its culture and history. You can immerse yourself in the Emirati way of life by visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques, or exploring the cultural district of Saadiyat Island, home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the soon-to-be-opened Guggenheim Abu Dhabi.


For those fascinated by modern architecture, Abu Dhabi does not disappoint. The cityscape is adorned with iconic landmarks like the Etihad Towers and the observation deck at the top of the Burj Khalifa, offering breathtaking views of the city skyline.


If you’re a fan of outdoor activities, Abu Dhabi has plenty to offer. Take a stroll along the Corniche, a picturesque waterfront promenade, or head to the nearby Yas Island, home to the thrilling Ferrari World and the Yas Marina Circuit, where the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix takes place.


Food lovers will find themselves in culinary paradise in Abu Dhabi. The city boasts a vibrant dining scene, with a wide range of international cuisines as well as traditional Emirati dishes. From luxurious fine dining establishments to local street food markets, Abu Dhabi offers a gastronomic journey like no other.


Moreover, Abu Dhabi is also a shopping haven. Indulge in some retail therapy at the luxurious malls, such as The Galleria or Marina Mall, or explore the traditional souks and markets for unique souvenirs and local handicrafts.


For those looking to unwind and relax, Abu Dhabi is home to stunning beaches and world-class resorts. Spend the day lounging by the crystal-clear waters or indulge in a rejuvenating spa treatment.


In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the best things to do and see in Abu Dhabi during a stopover, as well as provide insider tips to make the most of your time in this captivating city. So, whether you’re passing through or planning a longer stay, get ready to be mesmerized by the wonders of Abu Dhabi.


Exploring Culture and History

Abu Dhabi is a city deeply rooted in its cultural heritage, offering numerous opportunities to explore its rich history. One of the must-visit attractions is the majestic Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This iconic landmark is not only a place of worship but also a testament to the artistic and architectural prowess of the Emirati people. Admire the intricate details of the mosque’s design, including its stunning chandeliers and ornate calligraphy.


For art enthusiasts, a visit to the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a must. This world-class museum showcases a diverse collection of art from different civilizations and eras. Marvel at masterpieces by renowned artists, and delve into fascinating exhibitions that bridge the gap between cultures and promote cross-cultural understanding.


To further immerse yourself in Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage, head to the Qasr Al Hosn, the city’s oldest building and a symbol of its history. Explore the restored fort and museum, which offer a glimpse into the region’s past and the ruling family’s journey.


For a glimpse of traditional Emirati life, visit the Heritage Village. Located in the heart of the city, this reconstructed village provides a window into the city’s humble beginnings. Explore traditional houses, watch local artisans at work, and learn about the region’s customs and traditions.


Another cultural gem is the Qasr Al Watan, also known as the Presidential Palace. Step inside this grand palace and marvel at its opulent architecture and lavish interiors. The Palace Library is a must-visit, housing a vast collection of books and manuscripts that reflect the knowledge and wisdom of the Emirati people.


As you wander through the city, you’ll also come across various art installations and sculptures that pay homage to Abu Dhabi’s cultural heritage. These artworks add a touch of creativity and beauty to the city’s landscape.


To truly immerse yourself in the local culture, try participating in traditional activities such as camel racing or falconry. These age-old traditions are deeply ingrained in Emirati culture and offer a unique insight into the history and way of life of the local people.


Abu Dhabi’s commitment to preserving and celebrating its culture and history is evident in the various heritage sites and cultural institutions scattered throughout the city. By exploring these treasures, you will gain a deeper appreciation for the Emirati way of life and the timeless traditions that have shaped Abu Dhabi into the captivating city it is today.


Discovering Modern Architecture

Abu Dhabi is a city that boasts a stunning skyline adorned with modern architectural marvels. From sleek skyscrapers to futuristic structures, the city is a playground for architecture enthusiasts.


One of the most iconic structures in Abu Dhabi is the Etihad Towers. Comprising five gleaming towers, this architectural masterpiece is a symbol of luxury and sophistication. Take a visit to the observation deck on the 74th floor, where you can marvel at panoramic views of the city and the Arabian Gulf.


The Sheikh Khalifa Bridge, also known as the Al Maqta Bridge, is another impressive architectural feat worth exploring. This suspension bridge connects Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland and has become an iconic landmark in the city.


For a truly awe-inspiring experience, make your way to the top of the Burj Khalifa. Located in neighboring Dubai, this towering structure is the tallest building in the world. From the observation deck on the 148th floor, you can witness breathtaking views of the Dubai skyline and beyond.


In Abu Dhabi itself, the Capital Gate Building stands out as an architectural marvel. This leaning tower holds the Guinness World Record for the world’s furthest leaning manmade tower, even surpassing the Leaning Tower of Pisa.


Another architectural gem is the Yas Viceroy Hotel, which is situated on Yas Island. This futuristic hotel is unique in that it is built over a Formula 1 race track, offering a one-of-a-kind experience for guests.


Abu Dhabi is also home to the Masdar City development, a sustainable urban project that showcases cutting-edge green technology and innovative design. This city of the future aims to be a model for sustainable living and has become a hub for renewable energy research and development.


From sleek and modern structures to innovative sustainable developments, Abu Dhabi is a playground for architects and design enthusiasts. The city’s commitment to pushing boundaries and embracing contemporary architecture is evident in its skyline, offering a visual treat for visitors.


Don’t forget to take the time to explore these architectural wonders up close and appreciate the blend of creativity and engineering that has shaped Abu Dhabi into a modern metropolis.


Enjoying Outdoor Activities

Abu Dhabi is a playground for outdoor enthusiasts, offering a wide range of activities to satisfy every adventurer’s cravings. Whether you’re a fan of water sports, desert adventures, or simply exploring the great outdoors, this vibrant city has something for everyone.


For beach lovers, Abu Dhabi’s coastline is lined with pristine beaches and turquoise waters. The Corniche is one of the most popular spots, offering a picturesque waterfront promenade where you can take leisurely walks, go for a jog, or simply relax on the sandy shores. Many of the city’s luxury resorts also have private beach access, where you can indulge in sunbathing, swimming, and beachside dining.


If you’re seeking adrenaline-pumping activities, head to Yas Island, a thrilling entertainment destination. Here, you can visit Ferrari World, an amusement park and home to the world’s fastest roller coaster. Alternatively, try your hand at go-karting or strap on a harness for a zip-lining adventure at Yas Marina Circuit.


For those yearning for a taste of the desert, Abu Dhabi’s surroundings offer endless possibilities. Take a desert safari and experience the thrill of dune bashing as you navigate the golden sand dunes with skilled drivers. You can also try sandboarding, camel riding, or simply enjoy a traditional Bedouin-style dinner under the stars.


Abu Dhabi is also a haven for water sports enthusiasts. From jet skiing and parasailing to paddleboarding and kayaking, there are plenty of options to get your adrenaline pumping in the azure waters of the Arabian Gulf. The city’s numerous marinas offer opportunities for fishing, sailing, and yacht charters, allowing you to explore the coastline and nearby islands.


If you prefer a more leisurely outdoor experience, parks and gardens abound in Abu Dhabi. Visit the lush greenery of Khalifa Park, where you can relax, have a picnic, or explore the park’s many attractions, including a museum and a train ride. Al Ain Oasis is another natural oasis worth visiting, with its verdant palm groves and walking trails.


For nature lovers, the Mangrove National Park is a hidden gem. Embark on a kayaking tour through the mangroves and discover the diverse ecosystem of this protected area. Keep your eyes peeled for native wildlife, including fish, birds, and even turtles.


With its diverse range of outdoor activities, Abu Dhabi offers endless opportunities to explore the natural beauty and adventurous side of the city. So, whether you’re seeking thrills, relaxation, or a closer connection with nature, you’ll find it all in the great outdoors of Abu Dhabi.


Indulging in Culinary Delights

A visit to Abu Dhabi is not complete without experiencing its vibrant and diverse culinary scene. The city boasts a plethora of restaurants, cafes, and street food markets that will tantalize your taste buds and take you on a flavorful journey.


Abu Dhabi offers a wide range of international cuisines, allowing you to sample dishes from around the world. Whether you’re craving Italian, Indian, Japanese, or Lebanese cuisine, you’ll find numerous options to satisfy your cravings. Many of the city’s top-notch restaurants are helmed by world-renowned chefs, ensuring a dining experience of the highest quality.


Don’t miss the opportunity to taste traditional Emirati cuisine. Start with a cup of fragrant Arabic coffee, accompanied by dates, a symbol of hospitality. Local dishes usually feature ingredients like lamb, fish, rice, and saffron. Indulge in delicacies such as the famous Emirati dish called “Machboos,” a spiced rice-based dish with meat or seafood, or try “Luqaimat,” sweet dumplings drizzled with date syrup.


For a unique dining experience, visit the Souk at Qaryat Al Beri. This traditional market offers a variety of dining options where you can savor local specialties amidst the bustling atmosphere. Try haggling at the fish and meat markets, or sample the delectable street food offerings as you immerse yourself in the authentic Emirati culinary culture.


Seafood lovers will rejoice in Abu Dhabi, known for its fresh and flavorsome seafood dishes. Head to the famous Fish Market, where you can choose your own fish or seafood and have it cooked to your preference. From grilled hammour to mouthwatering prawns, the choices are endless.


Abu Dhabi also offers a vibrant street food scene. Visit food trucks and local markets, such as Ripe Market or Food Truck Park, where you can find a variety of international and fusion street food. Indulge in juicy burgers, delectable shawarmas, mouthwatering tacos, and more as you explore the city’s street food culture.


No culinary journey in Abu Dhabi is complete without trying the local desserts. Sample “Umm Ali,” a delicious bread pudding-like dessert, or indulge in “Kunafa,” a sweet cheese pastry soaked in syrup. These treats are the perfect way to end a meal or to enjoy as a sweet afternoon snack.


Abu Dhabi’s culinary scene is ever-evolving, with exciting new restaurants and dining concepts opening regularly. So, whether you’re a food connoisseur or an adventurous eater, Abu Dhabi is sure to delight your palate with its eclectic mix of flavors and gastronomic experiences.


Shopping Experiences

Abu Dhabi is a shopper’s paradise, offering an array of shopping experiences that cater to all tastes and budgets. From luxurious malls to traditional souks, the city has something for every shopping enthusiast.


For a dose of luxury and glitz, head to The Galleria on Al Maryah Island. This upscale shopping destination houses a curated selection of high-end fashion brands, including Chanel, Louis Vuitton, and Gucci. You’ll also find a range of gourmet restaurants and cafes for a well-deserved break from shopping.


Another must-visit mall is Marina Mall, which not only offers a wide range of shopping options but also provides stunning views of the Abu Dhabi Corniche and the Arabian Gulf. Browse through the stores, catch a movie at the cinema, or indulge in delicious meals at the mall’s restaurants.


If you’re looking for a more traditional shopping experience, explore the local souks and markets. The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri is a unique marketplace where you can find local handicrafts, textiles, and spices. Practice your bargaining skills as you shop for souvenirs and immerse yourself in an authentic cultural experience.


The Madinat Zayed Shopping Center is another popular destination for bargain hunters. This bustling mall is known for its gold and jewelry shops, offering a variety of stunning pieces at competitive prices. You can also find traditional Arabian clothing, perfumes, and household items.


Abu Dhabi’s shopping scene goes beyond malls and souks. The city is home to numerous specialty shops and boutiques that cater to every interest. From traditional markets selling spices and local produce to stores specializing in perfumes, carpets, and Arabian oud, you’ll find a treasure trove of unique items to take home.


For those seeking a mix of shopping and entertainment, Yas Mall on Yas Island is the place to be. With over 370 stores, this family-friendly mall offers a diverse range of shops, including international brands, electronics, and fashion. It also features an indoor theme park, a multiplex cinema, and a wide choice of dining options.


Abu Dhabi also hosts various seasonal shopping festivals and events throughout the year. These include the Abu Dhabi Summer Season, Abu Dhabi Shopping Festival, and the Ramadan and Eid Al Fitr markets. During these times, you can enjoy special promotions, discounts, and entertainment programs, making your shopping experience even more exciting.


Whether you’re looking for high-end fashion, unique souvenirs, or local treasures, Abu Dhabi offers an exceptional shopping experience. So, get ready to explore the diverse retail landscape and indulge in some retail therapy during your visit to this vibrant city.


Relaxing and Unwinding

Abu Dhabi provides the perfect atmosphere to relax and unwind, offering a range of options to rejuvenate your mind, body, and soul. Whether you’re seeking tranquility by the beach or indulging in luxurious spa treatments, the city has plenty to offer for your relaxation needs.


Abu Dhabi is home to stunning beaches where you can soak up the sun and listen to the soothing sounds of the waves. Head to Yas Beach or Saadiyat Public Beach to lounge on pristine sands and enjoy the clear turquoise waters of the Arabian Gulf. Bring a picnic, a good book, or simply unwind with a seaside stroll.


If you’re in need of pampering, Abu Dhabi has a plethora of world-class spas and wellness centers. Treat yourself to a soothing massage, rejuvenating facial, or a range of other indulgent treatments. Many hotels and resorts boast luxurious spas that offer a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city.


The city is also known for its traditional hammams, offering a unique wellness experience. Immerse yourself in this ancient cleansing ritual that involves steam, exfoliation, and aromatic oils as you enjoy a deep sense of relaxation and rejuvenation.


For those looking to enhance their well-being in a holistic way, Abu Dhabi offers various yoga and meditation retreats. These serene retreats allow you to connect with your inner self and find peace amidst the city’s vibrant energy. Join a class or participate in a retreat program that focuses on mindfulness, relaxation, and self-discovery.


Take a break from the hustle and bustle of the city by visiting one of Abu Dhabi’s lush parks and gardens. Spend a leisurely afternoon at Al Ain Oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage site, or explore the beautifully manicured gardens at the Emirates Palace. These serene green spaces provide a peaceful environment to recharge and reconnect with nature.


To add a touch of luxury to your relaxation experience, book a stay at one of Abu Dhabi’s renowned resorts. These luxurious establishments offer state-of-the-art amenities, stunning pools, private beach access, and world-class service to ensure a truly indulgent and memorable escape.


Whether you prefer to unwind by the beach, indulge in spa treatments, or immerse yourself in serene natural surroundings, Abu Dhabi has an abundance of options for relaxation and rejuvenation. So, take the time to unwind, let go of stress, and embrace the serenity that the city has to offer.


Insider Tips for a Stopover in Abu Dhabi

Planning a stopover in Abu Dhabi? Here are some insider tips to make the most out of your time in this captivating city:

  1. Make use of the Abu Dhabi Stopover Program: If you have a layover of at least six hours, take advantage of the Abu Dhabi Stopover Program, which offers visa-free entry, complimentary hotel stays, and discounted activities and tours. Check with your airline for more details.
  2. Visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a must-visit attraction in Abu Dhabi. To avoid the crowds, plan to visit early in the morning or late in the afternoon. Remember to dress modestly and respect the mosque’s rules and guidelines.
  3. Take a stroll along the Corniche: The Corniche is a beautiful waterfront promenade that stretches along the coastline of Abu Dhabi. Enjoy a leisurely walk or rent a bike to explore the area and take in the stunning views of the city skyline and the Arabian Gulf.
  4. Try local Emirati cuisine: Don’t miss the opportunity to taste authentic Emirati dishes during your stopover. Visit local restaurants or join a food tour to sample traditional specialties like Machboos (spiced rice with meat or seafood) and Umm Ali (a delicious bread pudding-like dessert).
  5. Explore the cultural district of Saadiyat Island: Saadiyat Island is home to several world-class cultural institutions, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and the upcoming Guggenheim Abu Dhabi. Immerse yourself in art and culture by visiting these iconic museums and exploring the island’s stunning beachfront.
  6. Experience a desert safari: Take a break from the city and venture into the desert for an unforgettable experience. Book a desert safari tour, which typically includes dune bashing, camel riding, a falconry demonstration, and a traditional Arabian dinner under the stars.
  7. Shop at the local souks: Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the traditional souks in Abu Dhabi. The Souk at Qaryat Al Beri and the Madinat Zayed Shopping Center offer a unique shopping experience where you can haggle for local handicrafts, spices, and traditional Arabic merchandise.
  8. Stay hydrated and dress appropriately: Abu Dhabi has a desert climate, which means it can get extremely hot, especially during the summer months. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and dress in loose, lightweight clothing to stay comfortable in the heat.
  9. Plan your visit according to local customs: Abu Dhabi follows Islamic traditions, so it’s important to be respectful of local customs and traditions. Dress modestly, especially when visiting religious sites, and avoid public displays of affection.
  10. Get an Abu Dhabi City Pass: If you want to make the most of your stopover, consider getting an Abu Dhabi City Pass. This pass offers discounted entry to attractions, free transportation, and access to hop-on-hop-off bus tours, allowing you to explore the city at your own pace.

By following these insider tips, you’ll be able to maximize your stopover in Abu Dhabi and create unforgettable memories of this captivating city.



Abu Dhabi offers a captivating blend of culture, history, modernity, and relaxation, making it the perfect stopover destination. Whether you have a few hours or a few days to explore, there is something for everyone in this vibrant city.


Immerse yourself in the rich culture and history by visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, exploring the cultural district of Saadiyat Island, or wandering through the traditional souks. Marvel at the impressive modern architecture, from the iconic Etihad Towers to the leaning Capital Gate Building. Indulge in culinary delights, sampling both international cuisines and traditional Emirati dishes.


For outdoor enthusiasts, Abu Dhabi offers an array of activities, from lounging on pristine beaches to embarking on thrilling desert safaris. Take time to relax and unwind by visiting spas, exploring parks and gardens, or simply enjoying the serene atmosphere.


In Abu Dhabi, you can also shop till you drop, whether it’s in luxurious malls, traditional souks, or specialty markets. Take advantage of the city’s unique stopover programs and insider tips to make the most of your time in Abu Dhabi.


With its commitment to preserving heritage, embracing modernity, and providing top-notch hospitality, Abu Dhabi offers a stopover experience that is sure to leave a lasting impression. So, whether you’re passing through or planning a longer stay, get ready to be captivated by the wonders of Abu Dhabi.