Mostly known as a conservative cosmopolitan city, Abu Dhabi is the capital of United Arab Emirates. It has a brilliant blue skies, numerous exciting theme parks, spellbinding mosques, even mangroves (!) and a newly opened Louvre! Surely, you are not considering your visit anymore. Read more to see what else is there.
The difference between Dubai and Abu Dhabi is that Abu Dhabi does not have a metro. Shame! You can choose between taxi transportation, which is the most common choice, or buses, which run often enough, but it will take you longer to get from places A to B. Our go-to would be renting a car! You will be most flexible, plus you’d pay at least the same amount to taxis if you were planning to explore this vibrant city combined with old oriental traditions anyways. You can already rent it up from 25 USD and the petrol is super cheap!
Abu Dhabi clearly is home to some of the most stunning hotels we’ve ever stayed at. The range of different types of hotels is just stunning! We always do lots of research before selecting on where to stay and since we were aiming to have the best Mosque views in Abu Dhabi we had found out that the best places to stay are the Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal and Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri.
The Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal:
At the Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal we had an incredibly spacious room with a huge terrace and view of both – the mosque AND the canal. We changed rooms once so that we could enjoy both the views. In the morning, we watched the sun shimmering off Al Maqta Creek, while the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was lit beautifully as the sun retreated for the day. True moments of inspiration.
Inspired by the Italian renaissance the hotel is featuring a beautiful garden, direct beach access and Venetian village which has a few restaurants and cafes within. There are a wealth of dining options onsite, meaning you don’t even need to leave the hotel to eat well (from Asian, to Steak, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean; we also had an exclusive access to the top floor Club Lounge, featuring panoramic views of Al Maqta’a creek and delectable culinary presentations).
One night we decided to check out signature restaurant, Li Jiang, a modern Southeast Asian restaurant with an open kitchen, which whets the appetite for all things spicy, authentic and Oriental. There is an open kitchen, where diners can watch the chefs create homemade dim sum as well as authentic rice and noodle dishes. We had our dessert on an outdoor terrace tucked away in the olive grove with spectacular views of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
The food was amazing and they had a so-called “no-mobile-challenge” thing which offered you a 15 % discount on your bill at the end of your dinning experience if you hadn’t used the mobile during the whole course – supposedly the manager of the restaurant had seen it way too often and felt he has to do something about it! What a great, resourceful way, we think! Also, Tuesdays are ladies night, which means women dressed in red receive a free flow of bubbly.
Overall, we were really impressed with the service we experienced during our time here. They knew us by the names and there was always somebody to help out if we needed anything. And what was most unforgettable was the softness of the linens – made us never want to leave this place, and a breakfast on our terrace with the view of a neighbouring mosque that is in our opinion the most beautiful sight in the city!
Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri:
There is sooo much to love about the Shangri-La Hotel Qaryat Al Beri! First of all the beautiful Mosque, the view at the beaches and around the pool area, the direct access to a little souk and abras (traditional boats) which drove us along a small canal throughout the verdant garden scenery.
Once we came back to the room, we could see the visions of traditional Arabic domes and minarets in the distance. Apart from magnificent views, we have spent our mornings indulging in amazing buffets (morning buffet is on another level), and evenings relaxing by the pool deck with a fragrant shisha. Oh, and one night you should go for a Vietnamese restaurant called Hoi An.
From desert dining to Italian gelaterias, there is a wide range of food to enjoy, with local and international tastes catered for abundantly. Apart from the already mentioned (see above), we would recommend going to Villa Toscana in St. Regis for Italian specialties, Marrakech for Moroccan classics & belly dancers, Li Beirut for Lebanese food, Safina for Mediterranean seafood, Acropolis for Greek food, Asia de Cuba for cocktails & night rhythms and Stratos Bar (in The Royal Meridien) to get a good spin around the city!
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – is the biggest one in the United Arab Emirates and we personally think it is one of the most beautiful buildings we ever got to visit! With its numerous columns and domes, the reflection pools and all of the colorfully ornamented white marble and elements of gold plus the largest carpet in the world you could wander around it forever.
Tips before you go: Visiting times are Saturday-Thursday from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. (can walk through on your own and last entry is 9:30 p.m.). The mosque is closed for tourists on Friday morning, as it’s worship time, but is open for tourism from 4:30 to 11 p.m.
Jumeirah Towers Hotel – go for afternoon tea to the observation deck on the 74th floor in Tower 2, which delivers wonderful panoramic views of Abu Dhabi. You’ll see the marina, the beach and both the Presidential Palace and the Emirates Palace. Ticket to go up costs AED 95 (about 25 USD) with AED 55 redeemable as F&B vouchers.
Louvre – world’s first floating museum opened on November the 11th 2017, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has its name from Parisian one. The exhibition shows a big variety of art from all over the world; we got to see Vincent Van Gogh, Picasso and Leonardo da Vinci. Usually we skip visiting art galleries but this time we’ve been too eager to actually see the rain of light, an architectural artwork that makes light filter through the dome roof like it does in the souks or through leaves of a palm tree. The web-patterned ceiling weighs about 7500 tons, 200-tons more than the Eiffel Tower! Make sure you don’t miss out on this £1 billion art museum in the desert.
Saadiyat Island – some of the prettiest beaches and bluest of waters are to be found here. I’d say this one is not to miss.
Emirates Palace – such a WOW hotel, one of the most expensive buildings in the whole world, made from gold. It also has its own signature coffee – a Camelchinno served with gold leaf sprinkled on the top.
Abu Dhabi Corniche – spend an afternoon relaxing at the Corniche, lounge on the beach, take a dip in the turquoise waters, cycle or walk along Corniche Road, smoke shisha at La Boulanger… Whatever you decide to do, you’ll experience great views of the water and Abu Dhabi skyline that won’t disappoint.
Heritage Village – very educational and depicts life in Abu Dhabi as it transforms from desert to its modern day form with Manhattan-like skyscrapers.
Ferrari World – for adrenaline lovers, the Ferrari World has the fastest roller coaster in the world!
Formula 1 – continue your fast and furious way on the F1 track; it’s not every day you get to circuit an F1 track. Actually, it is just every week. TrainYas by Daman’s Active Life sees the famous Abu Dhabi Grand Prix circuit opened up to the public. You can get active every Tuesday 6pm-10pm on a Yas Marina Circuit (Gate 20) by touring the full 5.5 km track – either running or on a bicycle. Not only is the entry free, but if you don’t have your own set of wheels, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi offers 400 complimentary bikes for public use each week. And you thought there is no such thing as a free ride! 🙂 PS. If you happen to be in Abu Dhabi in November and if you are into formula, you can go watch F1 Grand Prix itself.
Yas Waterpark – when the heat is on, the adrenaline-powered waterslides and surfing attractions at Yas Waterwold will cool you off.
Kayak the mangroves – book a kayak for two hours, take some goodies in a bag and make yourself a picnic on one of the Abu Dhabi’s shorelines. Good for setting your mind off.
All the other facts (weather, tips on saving & what to bring) are pretty much same as in Dubai, so head over here to read more details about it.
PS.: See our video below!
We hope you enjoyed our impressions from the Abu Dhabi trip! Let us know if we missed something!
❥ xx Lara, Uroš