The vibrant UAE capital has something for everyone, from historic and cultural hubs as well as serene mangrove forests to stunning beaches and theme parks for family fun
Embracing Abu Dhabi's coastline are some of the world's most spectacular beaches, with blue waters as far as the eye can see. Lucky beachgoers can sometimes spot dolphins in the distance. Away from the coast, dotted across the emirate are a host of cultural attractions: beautiful mosques stand as beacons of the country's roots while UNESCO World Heritage sites tell the story of the emirate's past. The lush mangrove forests give visitors a glimpse into this delicate ecosystem while its award-winning theme parks make adventure and family fun easy to find in the capital.
It is clear that Abu Dhabi has plenty and more to fill over a week's worth of your time. But if you have just two days to explore the vibrant UAE capital, we've covered the emirate's greatest hits to help you make the most of your time.
After a hearty breakfast to keep you fueled for the packed day ahead, head to Saadiyat Island to visit the Louvre's first international outpost. The stunning Louvre Abu Dhabi narrates an inspiring tale about the passage of time with a collection of over 600 masterpieces. An inspiring curation of works, these works explore the ideas and issues that have defined humanity from the beginning of time. The museum also hosts temporary exhibitions every season, which shed light on different world cultures and artistic eras.
If you wish to keep exploring Abu Dhabi's rich arts and culture scene, Manarat Al Saadiyat is located a short distance away from the Louvre Abu Dhabi. The creative space offers a year-round programme of curated exhibitions, film screenings, performances and workshops to keep the artistic community engaged.
For your next stop, it's time to journey back in time to learn more about Abu Dhabi's fascinating story, which is best told at Qasr Al Hosn. A national monument, it is the oldest and most significant building in the UAE capital, home to the emirate's first permanent structure: a watchtower. It was built in the 1790s as a fortress for the community and under its commanding presence, the locals thrived.
Over the centuries, Qasr Al Hosn served many roles, transforming from the meeting place of the National Consultative Council to the home of the ruling family. Following more than a decade of conservation and restoration work, the landmark reopened to the public in 2018 as a museum documenting the emirate’s history. Today, the site offers a range of cultural activities and workshops, while also hosting a performing arts programme that celebrates Emirati music, poetry and dance.
After an inspirational experience, slow down the pace in the afternoon with a visit to Al Ain Oasis. Nestled in the heart of Abu Dhabi’s garden city, this 1,200-hectare expanse is a sight to behold. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, home to over 147,000 date palms of up to 100 varieties and fruit trees. The oasis is fed by a 3,000-year-old irrigation channel, traditionally known as the falaj system, which highlights ancient agricultural practices in the region. Al Ain Oasis is best explored by taking a stroll beneath the thick canopy of trees and meandering down the pathways that have borne witness to centuries of history.
No visit to Abu Dhabi is complete without a trip to Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, which is a proud emblem of the nation's cultural diversity. Unlike most mosques, which are strictly for Muslims only, it welcomes visitors of all faiths. Equivalent in size to five football pitches, this vast and beautiful building is wrought of marble, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals and ceramics, and boasts the world’s largest hand-knotted carpet.
After learning the story of Abu Dhabi's past, narrated by its historic and cultural gems, spend your second day in the emirate exploring its modern, entertaining attractions. Yas Island is where all the fun is at. With three theme parks to choose from, visitors of all interests are catered to.
Popular among thrill seekers, Ferrari World Abu Dhabi offers an exciting world of adrenaline-pumping adventures under its iconic red roof. Take on the world's fastest roller coaster, which reaches speeds from zero to 240 kilometres per hour in just 4.9 seconds. Or shoot upwards through the roof at a heart-pounding speed of 102 kilometres per hour to the highest point on Yas Island at 64 metres with Turbo Track. The park also offers a variety of lighter experiences for younger guests, guaranteeing a fun day out for the entire family.
Also on Yas Island, Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi offers the perfect way to cool off from the summer heat. Park-goers have an extensive choice with over 40 rides, slides and attractions, including the largest surfable sheet wave and the first and only 5D water adventure in the region.
Then, at Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi (the world’s first-ever Warner Bros. branded indoor theme park), guests can meet their favourite superheroes and cartoon characters, all under one roof, as they explore the park. Spread across six immersive zones – Cartoon Junction, Dynamite Gulch, Bedrock, Gotham City, Metropolis and Warner Bros. Plaza – the park is home to Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman, Tom and Jerry, Scooby-Doo, The Flintstones and more.
However, if you like your adventures in nature, Abu Dhabi's serene mangroves offer the chance to get in sync with the natural environment. Jubail Mangrove Park spans over one million square metres. A meandering boardwalk runs through the heart of the park, giving visitors a glimpse into the abundant marine life living in the crystal waters. With a guided tour, you can learn more about the mangroves and its role in maintaining biodiversity in the region.
Another key landmark is the stunning Qasr Al Watan, which is part of the UAE’s Presidential Palace complex. Here, you can embark on an enriching journey that takes you back to the nation’s inspiring past. Inside the palace, visitors will discover what makes the local culture special through a series of exhibits, which offer a rare insight into Emirati governance. And within the stunning library, a collection of more than 50,000 books and manuscripts dating back several centuries awaits.
Where to stay
With a selection of 17 unique properties in Abu Dhabi, Rotana caters to every type of traveller in the UAE capital. For business travellers, the centrally located properties will help you combine business and leisure, offering a comfortable stay with a range of facilities for your convenience. Those seeking a relaxing getaway will also find the sprawling island resorts on Saadiyat Island and Yas Island ideal for a memorable stay.
To book your hotel in Abu Dhabi visit: rotana.com