While Dubai has plenty to offer on its own, the nation’s capital, Abu Dhabi, offers a great day of sightseeing, beach access, and culinary delight for visitors of all kinds. The 150 km drive is quickest by car or taxi, but buses run between the two cities on an hourly basis for about 25 dirhams each way.
First stop: The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Located at the entrance to Abu Dhabi City Island, The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque stands as a testament to the UAE and to the legacy of Islamic culture and history. Completed in 2007, its design is inspired by the great Islamic civilizations of the world, featuring magnificent craftsmanship throughout. From Swarovski-decked chandeliers to mother of pearl inlay, quality and splendor are ubiquitous at The Grand Mosque, which visitors are free to admire at their own pace. Alternatively, the visitor center offers complimentary live, guided tours that elaborate on the mosque’s history, architecture and vision. For those who wish to attend prayer services, The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open for worship on Friday mornings and on the first days of Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.
Second Stop: Beach
Abu Dhabi’s main beach spot is the Corniche: eight kilometers of perfect white sand, lined by restaurants, bike and running paths, family spaces, and luscious gardens. Entry to the public beach is free, while the access to the family and singles sections have a minimal charge of 10 dirhams per day.
For those looking for open water and natural waves, check out Saadiyat Public Beach next to the Park Hyatt on Saadiyat Island. This stunning retreat features a white sandy shoreline, eco-friendly water sports, a beach cafe, weekly yoga classes, and fabulous sunset views.
Many of Abu Dhabi’s luxury hotels offer day passes to visitors interested in more exclusive beach access. The Fairmont Bab Al Bahr, Beach Rotana, Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi, Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan, Shangri-La Hotel, Al Raha beach, and St. Regis Saadiyat Island offer some of the best lounge options in the city for prices ranging from 125-800 dirhams.
Third Stop: Dinner
Much like Dubai, Abu Dhabi offers menus for the global palate. Indian, Korean, Lebanese, Saudi, Moroccan, French, and Armenian cuisines are just a sample of what the city serves, and luckily, it has options for every budget.
At the top of the list, the award-winning Zuma presents Japanese delicacies with experimental flare. The restaurant’s Izakaya roots inspire exceptional small-plate creations and signature dishes made for sharing. Voted 77th best in the world, chef Rainer Becker’s eye-catching restaurant makes for a perfect conclusion to a day in this global city.
For more regional flavor, the elegant Abd El Wahab serves excellent Lebanese food at The Collection on Saadiyat Island. The extensive menu features appetizers such as balila, makdous, and chicory salad, as well as main course items from the grill that include shish taouk, kafta kheshkhash, and mixed grill.
Adventurous eaters also have plenty of spots to choose from in Abu Dhabi. For a late night snack, head to the back corner of the fruit market at the Mina (port) for some “Chips Oman.” Served out of a small, brightly lit cafeteria, these hot-off-the-stove paratha wraps are filled with spicy potato chips, melted cheese and hot sauce! At midnight, the place is at its busiest serving Emiratis, taxi drivers, construction workers alike with this local comfort food paired with a cup of chai karak.