Photograph by Terry Carter
Read Caption

A wakeboarder plays in the Persian Gulf with Dubai high-rises as a backdrop.

Photograph by Terry Carter

Dubai Must-Dos

Our experts recommend the top attractions in and around Dubai—with advice on how to get the most out of your visit.

Bastakiya Quarter
Tranquil turn-of-the-20th-century Persian neighborhood on Dubai Creek; labyrinthine lanes; restored courtyard residences with wind towers; art galleries, cafés, tiny museums, and boutique hotels. Tip: “Don’t miss XVA and Ave galleries’ shows of upcoming Arab and Iranian artists.”—Antonia Carver, co-editor, Bidoun magazine.

Burj Al Arab (Arabian Tower)
“Dubai’s own Eiffel Tower: futuristic, iconic, and the quintessential vacation photo op.”—Claire Malcolm, editor, Concierge magazine. Ostentatious “seven-star hotel;” dancing fountains; “underwater” restaurant. Tip: Book ahead for sunset cocktails at Skyview Bar. Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah; tel. 971 4 301 7777.

Desert Safari
“Ride nature’s roller coaster then feast under the stars with shisha and belly dancing.”—Claire England, managing editor, Explorer Publishing based in Dubai. Dune driving, camel riding, sandboarding. Arabian Adventures; tel. 971 4 303 4888.

Dubai Creek
“Grab an abra for a trip down Dubai’s original lifeline where dhows unload cargo beneath sculptured skyscrapers.”—Claire England. Tip: Abras (water taxis) crisscross the creek, leaving when full. Hire one for sunset.

Dubai Museum
“The best way to comprehend Dubai’s meteoric transformation from desert settlement to Arabian megalopolis.”—Sarah Monaghan, author, DK Eyewitness Travel Top 10 Dubai. Evocative quirky dioramas; archaeology, weapons, instruments, costumes inside an old fort. Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai; tel. 971 4 353 1862; fee.

Dubai Suqs
Bargain for gold, spices, perfume, and textiles at atmospheric creekside suqs. Tip: “Offer half what they ask, walk away if they don’t agree; they’ll call you back and drop their prices.”—Claire Turrell, editor, VIVA magazine.

Heritage House & Al Ahmadiya School
“Old-school style and courtyard calm offer shaded respite from Deira bustle.”—Claire Malcolm. Restored merchant’s residence and one of Dubai’s first schools. Al Ahmadiya Street, near Gold Souq, Deira; tel. 971 4 226 0286.

Jumeirah Mosque
“This forward-thinking tour offers an opportunity to understand Islam.”—Sarah Monaghan. Elegant, intricately detailed; only mosque in the country that non-Muslims can enter, enlightening guided visits. Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah; tel. 971 4 226 0286.

Madinat Jumeirah
Contemporary incarnation of mythical old Arabian city; opulent hotels; air-conditioned suq; myriad cafés, bars, restaurants; abras gliding on canals; mesmerizing vistas. Madinat Jumeirah, Jumeirah; tel. 971 4 366 8888.

Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
“A bite-sized introduction to local culture.”—Zoe Rawlins, editor, Visitor Magazine. Elegant old courtyard residence; meet Emiratis at a cultural breakfast. Bastakiya; tel. 971 4 353 6666.

Ski Dubai
“Artificial piste action inside a megamall—only in Dubai!” —Claire Malcolm. Tip: Snow is best and crowds less in the morning. Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Road; tel. 971 4 409 4000; fee.