There is plenty to pack in a 48-hour trip to Dubai, but if you're looking for the best of the best, we've offered the perfect mix of culture, entertainment and shopping for visitors of all ages
While its roots are firmly planted in its profound traditions, Dubai's ambitious vision for the future is boundless. This soul-stirring juxtaposition means that visitors have so much to explore, from immersive cultural experiences to world-class entertainment. Its dramatic topography too adds another dimension to these experiences, with endless desert dunes and sandy beaches fringing a bustling metropolis on both ends.
A mere 48 hours can hardly suffice; but if that's all the time you have, our handy guide will help you make the most of your time in dazzling Dubai.
From the skies to the depths of the ocean
The bustling neighbourhood of Downtown Dubai is a great place to begin your journey of discovery in Dubai. To beat the queues and enjoy uninterrupted views and photo opportunities from the emirate's highest vantage point, head to Burj Khalifa. Here, you can ride one of the world's fastest elevators to the observation decks on level 124 and 125 or the At The Top Sky deck on level 148.
After you've had your fill of the views from the skies, head back down to ground level and prepare for a deep dive into the depths of the ocean at Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. A sure treat if you have little ones accompanying you, the aquarium houses some of the finest marine specimens and offers insight into the magnificent creatures that inhabit the seas. From penguins who amuse with their adorable antics to King Croc, the 40-year old Australian native who measures over five metres in length and weighs a whopping 750 kilograms, there's plenty to delight.
With both attractions accessible from The Dubai Mall, it makes perfect sense to spend the rest of your day perusing some of the world's best brands and shopping for the season's best buys. As the largest mall in the world, you're sure to find something for everyone.
However, if it's souvenirs you're after, head to Global Village (open from October to April every year). One of the city's best loved winter attractions, this multicultural fair is a one-stop shop for entertainment, shopping, attractions and more, this multicultural fair promises surprises and celebrations at every turn. With the very best of the world represented – this time across 27 pavilions – there is plenty to discover across its many stalls.
From the past to the future
The labyrinthine alleyways of Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood are a great starting point to immerse yourself in the local culture. Visiting these quaint quarters feels like stepping back in time, as the city's skyscrapers are replaced by traditional structures fashioned out of stone, rustic courtyards and wind towers.
Peppered throughout the district are museums, art galleries and kiosks that showcase traditions practised in the days gone by. One such venue is the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) which hosts regular workshops that allow visitors to learn more about the nation’s pearl diving and fishing past, allowing them to gain a deeper appreciation for the local way of life. In the vicinity, you will also find The Dubai Museum and the Coffee Museum, both of which offer insight into the region's traditions.
A few steps away is the abra station, where you can hop aboard a traditional wooden dhow for a ride across Dubai Creek before venturing into the emirate's famed souks. The city's traditional shopping district, here you will find markets selling spices, tea blends, perfumes, utensils, souvenirs, carpets and all manner of trinkets. The adjoining Gold Souk is equally mesmerising, whether you're looking to make a shiny purchase or not!
With inspiring insight into the nation's past, it's now time to journey into the future. One of Dubai's newest landmarks – also one of the most beautiful buildings on the planet – the Museum of the Future houses a series of exhibits and offers experiences that give visitors a glimpse into the future.
But it's not all about the quirky gadgets, robotic falcons and self-driving cars; the displays are curated to take visitors on a journey to 2071, where they can inhabit the skies, discover new worlds in outer space, witness the wonders of nature, explore a unique library of flora and fauna specimens, revive their senses and see the world through new perspectives. It all makes for an educational and entertaining afternoon.
Then, before the sun sets, make your way into the desert by booking a safari with one of the many tour operators in Dubai. The experience gives you a glimpse of what life was like in the desert decades ago and highlights how the Bedouin tribes thrived despite the unforgiving conditions.
More to explore
With so much to discover, rest assured you'll enjoy a packed 48 hours in the emirate. But for those with a little more time at hand, these venues are sure to wow:
Art lovers will enjoy browsing through the art galleries and studios in Al Quoz's Alserkal Avenue, while the digital art galleries, Theatre of Digital Art and Infinity des Lumières are equally mesmerising
For more of those Insta-worthy shots, head to Dubai Miracle Garden for its extravagant floral displays, the Museum of Illusions for quirky pictures or The View at the Palm for uninterrupted panoramas of the world's biggest man-made island.
Visitors seeking more animal encounters will love The Green Planet, which mirrors the environment of a tropical rainforest, complete with animals, and the Dubai Safari Park, which is home to around 3,000 unique animals.
Where to stay
Rotana offers a choice of more than a dozen properties in Dubai. Dotted across the emirate in various neighbourhoods, each property offers easy access to the city's popular trade and leisure hubs. To learn more Rotana properties in Dubai, visit rotana.com.