There are so many unbelievable things to see and do in Dubai, which is why the city has quickly grown into one of the top tourist destinations in the world. This Middle Eastern hub of business and culture is famous for its towering skyscrapers, ambitious developments, and luxurious accommodations that are second to none.
But for a first-time visitor, Dubai can be a bit intimidating, especially if you’re not sure what neighborhoods and regions to spend your time in. There are quite a few different areas of Dubai that are worth checking out in the middle of the city, on the outskirts of town, and spilling over into the surrounding suburbs.
So as a planning guide to help you craft the perfect trip to this exciting city, here are some of the best places to visit in Dubai for your itinerary.
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The Palm Jumeirah
The famous man-made island of Palm Jumeirah got its name because it’s in the shape of a palm tree that extends out into the gulf. There are medium-rise apartments and pricey villas here that have communal beach access, private beaches, pools, and gardens. This area tends to be calmer than the Jumeirah Beach Residence area and is certainly an interesting place to experience, especially for young couples with families. A big resort here to stay at is The Atlantis.
You’ll know you’ve reached downtown Dubai when you see the tallest building in the world. The Burj Khalifa is downtown, and there are lots of residential apartment towers, high-rise hotels, and office blocks here too. Transportation on the metro is a breeze when you stay downtown, and you’re also close to the Dubai Mall and the older parts of Dubai as well. Just keep in mind that there are no beaches and not much green space downtown.
The Dubai Marina is built around a man-made structure and set back a bit from the Jumeirah Beach Residence. It’s a popular place to live for locals in high-rise apartments, but there are also quite a few hotel towers for short-term stays. The Grosvenor House is a high-end luxury hotel here. This area is easy to get to via metro and offers amazing views.
To experience the rich traditions of the city, head to Old Dubai, which is the former city center. This area encompasses the neighborhoods along the sides of Dubai Creek and includes the popular areas of Deira and Bur Dubai. Foodies love this area because there are so many authentic cuisines represented here, including Arabic, Moroccan, Persian, and Lebanese.
If you’re looking for action, then simply head to Deira and you’ll find it! Deira is located on the eastern side of the creek and an exciting place to walk around and experience the culture of street vendors. Take plenty of time to browse the souks and take a dhow boat ride from Baniyas Road. This is one of the most popular tourist areas in Dubai, so you’ll find all types of people here. Dubai International Airport is located in the southeastern part of Deira. Al Ras, near the mouth of the creek, is where you’ll find all the gold, spices, and fish. Also worth visiting in the area is the Heritage House Museum, and there are lots of great luxury hotels to stay at along the waterfront when you make your way towards Maktoum Bridge. To explore a bit more, hop on a traditional abra to take you around Dubai Creek through the city.
Head to Bur Dubai to learn about Dubai’s history and culture, as this is one of the oldest parts of the city. It’s located on the western side of the creek and is home to the famous Al Fahidi District. The historic quarter is called Bastakiya. This is where you’ll find the Dubai Museum in a former fort house and the Sheikh Saeed House, which is where former rulers used to call home. Today, the residence is open to the public for you to tour and learn about. There are also a couple great parks here to get outside and enjoy the weather. The city’s oldest park, Zabeel Park, is here, as well as some other lovely gardens between the Garhoud and Maktoum bridges. Before you leave this area, pick up some souvenirs from the market stalls that start at the waterfront. But if you’re looking for a sweet deal, head to the neighboring district of Karama, which is known for its bargain shopping.
As the name suggests, this is the city’s media and publishing hub, and it is by the Dubai Marina area. This is a government-built area aimed to boost the city’s media foothold and home to news agencies, publishing companies, and broadcasting facilities. It’s a high-tech, tax-free zone that’s also home to the International Cricket Council. When you visit, look for music concerts, film festivals, and food-tastings at the Dubai Media City Amphitheater.
Jumeirah Lake Towers
Jumeirah translates to “beautiful,” and the buildings that make up this area are certainly that. The low-rise buildings here are a combination of different architectural styles to give the area a quirky vibe. This is an exclusive part of the city with many luxury hotels along the shoreline, and they run all the way down to the marina. The famous hotels here are the Burj Al Arab and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel. Come to this area to experience a resort-style vacation in an exclusive neighborhood along the coast.
Also gloriously beautiful is Jumeirah Beach, which runs along the coast from Dubai Creek. This is where you’ll find luxurious beach clubs and resorts, including the famous Burj Al Arab, which is a hotel built on its own island. Jumeirah Road runs right along the beach and makes for a scenic drive. If you’re traveling with kids, plan to spend a day at the Wild Wadi Waterpark, which is near the beach. Also close by is the Palm Jumeirah and the World residential developments. Jumeirah Beach Residence is a huge residential development with clusters of high-rise apartments, retail outlets, restaurants, and hotels. This area is typically busy, full of energy, and a favorite spot for young professionals.
Arts and culture lovers will enjoy spending time in Al Quoz, which is an up-and-coming artsy area. It’s considered to be a mid-city industrial suburb and warehouse district, which lends itself perfectly to a unique crowd. There are quite a few art spaces here, including the Salsali Private Museum for contemporary art and Carbon 12 Dubai with rotating exhibitions from artists all over the world. Lime Tree Café and Tom & Serg are recommended cafes to check out here.
Sheikh Zayed Road
Greater than any one individual neighborhood, Sheikh Zayed Road stretches parallel to Dubai’s coast and extends for almost the entire length of the city. It was named for a former president of Dubai. On the north end, you’ll find the World Trade Center, lots of skyscrapers, and the tallest building in the world, Burj Khalifa. While up north, make sure to visit the Dubai Mall, and rest assured that the brightly-lit hotels along the road have lots to offer in terms of bars and accommodations. When you reach the southern part of Sheikh Zayed Road going towards Abu Dhabi, you’ll find the Dubailand theme park. There’s great shopping here too at the Mall of the Emirates and Ibn Buttuta.
Al Garhoud, as well as Mirdif, were built on the sides of the Dubai International Airport, so these areas offer easy access to and from transportation. Here you’ll find a calmer residential area with lots of older style villas and shared pools. Prices are more affordable if you stay out here as well. Just keep in mind that you will hear planes flying above occasionally while you’re here. The Aviation club is home to the Irish Village, which is a traditional pub with a huge beer garden that’s fun and friendly.