It’s no secret that Dubai is one of the most visited countries in the world. Not only is it a major aviation hub, but it’s also the epicenter of everything glamorous and extravagant. Think of 7-star resorts, colossal shopping arenas, opulent supercars, and architectural marvels. No wonder, Dubai is hailed as a playground for the rich and famous.

Despite this, Dubai still has a lot of hidden treasures. Like a lot.

Of course, the city is home to insanely popular sights like the Burj Khalifa, but you’ll definitely find several lesser-known spots where you can escape those gaggles of overly-hyped-up tourists.

If you’re open to a couple of road trips, you’ll also find heaps of treasures located just a quick drive from the bustling city center. But enough talking! Let’s check out the best hidden gems in Dubai!

Skyscrapers with a row of yachts lining in Dubai Marina
Let’s discover Dubai’s secrets.

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What’s Dubai Like?

Whether your plan is to head up the Burj Khalifa or take a luxury yacht tour, you bet there’s something in Dubai with your name on it!

While there are plenty of secret spots in Dubai (and I do mean plenty!), this city is also famed for its world-famous landmarks. In addition to its skyscrapers, the city is known for its massive Dubai Mall, which provides endless shopping and dining opportunities.

Families will be glad to learn that there are heaps of entertainment on offer, including an ice-skating rink, a cinema complex, and a gaming zone.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a trip to Dubai without a visit to the Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark, which is known as the best waterpark in the Middle East.

And if all that splashing about gives you an appetite, you can always treat yourself to afternoon tea at the Burj Al-Arab Hotel, which stands over 1,000 feet tall. Yes, the dining options in this hotel can be quite pricey but if you can afford to splurge, I promise the decadence is worth it!

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    15 of the Best Hidden Spots in Dubai

    My trip to Dubai proved to be an exceptionally unique experience. Despite the insane heat, I’ll admit that the city completely won me over the very first time that I landed there—the glittering skyscrapers. Majestic dunes. The glamour. But more importantly, the (many) treasures that lie away from that overly-trodden tourist trail!

    Here are 15 of the best ones!

    1. Go Canyoning at the Wadi Shawka Pools

    Wadi Shawka Pools dubai
    Hidden Emerald detected!

    Why don’t we kick off this list of hidden gems in Dubai with one of my favorite spots?

    If you’d like to venture off the beaten track, there’s no doubt that you’ll enjoy this adventure that takes you through some of the best-kept treasures in Arabia.

    The Wadi Shawka pools are located less than 2 hours from Dubai but don’t worry about arranging transportation since the activity does provide pickup. Not only will you enjoy a glimpse of agricultural and desert life, but you’ll also get to indulge in unique experiences like dune bashing and sandboarding.

    Once at Wadi Shawka, you can always go for a dip in the natural pools and hike through the small hill. Oh, and did I mention that a complimentary picnic lunch is included?

    • Rating: 7/10 – Off the Beaten Track
    • Cost: $94
    • Personal Opinion: Well worth the detour for a unique experience.

    2. Kick Back in a Hidden Gem Café

    Dubai may be known for its many lavish restaurants, but did you know that the metropolis also has its fair share of hidden gem cafes?

    One such example (and a personal favorite of mine) is IYKYK which is beautifully hidden right inside a flower studio. Printed on the walls of the café is its cryptic-yet-accurate motto: If you know, you know.

    A cup of coffee and matcha on coffee shop table with a lush garden in the background
    Aesthetically tasty!
    Photo: iykyk.ae

    Even though this place is gradually growing in popularity thanks to social media, it’s still the kind of place that’s mostly frequented by the locals.

    Located in Jumeirah, one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dubai, this café even features a swimming pool. This café is open Monday-Thursday (10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) and 10 a.m. to midnight Friday-Sunday.   

    • Rating: 6/10 – Worth a Deeper Look
    • Cost: $$
    • Personal Opinion: Well worth the detour for a unique experience.

    3. Check out the Dubai Coffee Museum

    Coffee enthusiasts, this one’s for you! There are several hidden gem cafes in Dubai, but if you want to take your coffee experience one step further, be sure to check out the Coffee Museum.

    This museum totally wowed me – and for good reason! For starters, not a lot of tourists seem to know about this place, which is perfect for avoiding the crowds. Boasting traditional Arabian architecture, the museum spans two floors.

    A wooden table with a coffee pots and cups in Dubai Coffee Museum
    Coffee here is not a product, it’s an experience!

    On the first floor, you’ll find exhibits centered around the brewing and roasting styles of multiple countries. You can also admire antique items and ancient coffee memorabilia, including natural stone grinders. Be sure to check out the Majlis room (Arabian living room), which is filled with local artifacts.

    I would also recommend a stop by the onsite Brew Bar, where you can attend a live demonstration using a traditional siphon brewer.

    • Rating: 6/10 – Worth a Deeper Look
    • Cost: The price of a cup of coffee?
    • Personal Opinion: Well worth the detour for a unique experience.

    4. Mosey Around the Historical District

    Speaking of the coffee museum, did you know that it’s actually tucked away in the heritage area of Al Fahidi?

    A long-time favorite of travelers in Dubai (me included), Al Fahidi is easily one of the city’s most underrated places – not to mention one of the oldest!

    A group of tourists discovering Al Fahidi with an arabe guide
    Al Fahidi Historic District in Dubai is one of the oldest neighborhoods in Dubai.

    This historical district is packed with hidden gems, but if you’d like to cover more ground in less time, I can totally vouch for this guided heritage tour.

    Offering a delightful glimpse of how life used to be before those glitzy skyscrapers, this district is home to the last remaining Windtower Houses. Your guide will also provide some handy info about the history and architecture of Dubai Creek. Complimentary Arabic coffee and dates will be served at the end of your tour.

    • Rating: 9/10 – Hidden Gem Alert!
    • Cost: $31
    • Personal Opinion: Definitely don’t skip that one.

    5. Visit the Very First UAE National Park

    Looking for unique things to do in Dubai? How about a visit to the very first national park in the UAE?

    If you ask me, this is easily one of the best places in Dubai. I’m talking desert safaris, rare wildlife, and beautifully preserved areas.

    A group of Arabian Oryx with tourists in UAE national park
    Meeting up with some locals!

    The perfect spot for travelers who want to escape the hustle and bustle of the desert, this activity offers an otherworldly landscape that you can explore from your Range Rover. Keep your eyes peeled for the Arabian Oryx, gazelles, desert monitors, and (if you’re lucky!) even the rare Gordon’s wildcat.

    Best of all, the activity also includes a scrumptious breakfast at the Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa. You’ll also receive a complimentary headscarf to shelter you from the desert sun.

    • Rating: 10/10- Bucket List Essential!
    • Cost: $193
    • Personal Opinion: An epic adventure you’ll write home about!  

    6. Take in Some Culture at Alserkal Avenue

    If you’d like to learn more about Arabic culture or want to enjoy the local art, a trip to Alserkal Avenue should absolutely feature on your list of places to visit in Dubai!

    Self-described as a “forward-thinking arts and culture enterprise,” this Dubai hideaway is made up of 40 warehouses that have been converted into dance studios, art galleries, artisanal cafes, and more.

    A shopping center in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai
    Photo: siska maria eviline (Flickr)

    As the creative hub of the city, this venue also features movie screenings and live performances at its on-site arthouse theatre.

    There’s always something cool happening at Alserkal Avenue, so be sure to check their calendar ahead of time to see if there’s anything you’d like to catch during your stay in Dubai.

    • Rating: 6/10 – Worth a Deeper Look
    • Cost: Free
    • Personal Opinion: Well worth the detour for a unique experience.

    7. Treat yourself to a Candlelight Concert

    If you’re looking for unique things to do in Dubai, trust me when I say this is one experience you really don’t want to miss! And yes, these concerts literally involve thousands of flickering candles on the stage and around the audience.

    For an ideal weekend in Dubai, include the Candlelight Concert in your plans.

    Not only do candlelight concerts provide a multiple sensory experience, but they’re regularly held in some of the most emblematic venues in Dubai, so you’ll definitely be in for a treat! Former venues include the Mall of the Emirates Theatre and even The Palm’s Grand Maximilian Ballroom.

    Be sure to book your tickets ahead of time since they tend to sell out quickly!

    • Rating: 8/10 – Genuine Delight
    • Cost: $42
    • Personal Opinion: An impressive find you’ll tell friends about.
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    8. Go on a Pub Crawl

    I know what you’re thinking. Dubai isn’t exactly known for its boozing culture. But contrary to popular belief, the city does house some excellent pubs and party venues.

    Dubai Pub Crawl Nightlife

    This pub-crawling experience is a great adventure for travelers who want to visit some of the best secret spots in Dubai. It takes place every Friday and Saturday evening. You’ll explore no less than four different bars, so there’s going to be some sightseeing thrown in!

    Best of all, this gives you the perfect chance to make friends while traveling and socialize with the locals and travelers worldwide. Each venue offers A complimentary shot, and you’ll even be chauffeured around on a party bus.  

    • Rating: 7/10 – Friday Night Delights!
    • Cost: $67
    • Personal Opinion: Get ready for a super fun evening!

    9. Explore the East Coast

    If you’d like to venture off the beaten track, you may wish to add this hidden gem to your Dubai itinerary. Leave the city lights behind as you embark on a once-in-a-lifetime experience across the Fujairah East Coast.

     Fujairah East Coast with its sandy beach surrounded by palm trees with rock formations in the background in Dubai
    Take me anywhere coastal!

    You’ll journey through the stunning Hajar Mountains on your way to Fujairah Fort, an ancient fortification that’s perched high on a hill. This place once housed a prison and withstood plenty of attacks over the years.

    You’ll also visit a 15th-century mosque and pass by numerous historical sites and beaches. Hotel pickup from Dubai is provided.

    • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket List Essential!
    • Cost: $110
    • Personal Opinion: An epic adventure you’ll write home about!  
    Hidden Gems in Dubai
    Best HotelBest Budget HotelBest Private Stay
    Al Bahar Hotel & ResortV Hotel FujairahWaterfront aparthotel in Fujairah

    10. Go Off the Beaten Track at an Oasis Camp

    Here’s another fun-filled activity that lends itself super well to travelers who’d like to stray from the regular tourist trail!

    Easily one of my favorite things to do in Dubai, Al Marmoom Oasis Camp Expedition takes you deep within the desert – perfect for uncovering those incredible secret places in the UAE.

    Dubai Al Marmoom and Al Qudra Lakes
    Dubai’s authentic local charm!

    Located just outside Dubai, the beautiful Al Qudra Lake area is a manmade oasis that’s part of the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve.

    I do need to mention that visitors aren’t allowed to swim in the lakes, but rest assured that you can always sit down for a picnic by the water’s edge. Remember to keep your eyes peeled for wildlife and rare birds!

    As the evening settles in, you’ll even enjoy a stargazing session. If you want to prolong the fun, you can always opt for an overnight stay.

    • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket List Essential
    • Cost: $110
    • Personal Opinion: Don’t miss it! A must-visit gem of excellence.
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    11. Marvel at the Iranian Mosque

    Okay, it’s no secret that Dubai houses numerous mosques, all known for their spectacular architecture. If you’d like to escape the usual crowds that flock to the Jumeriah and the Sheikh Zayed Grand mosques, I recommend a visit to this historic hidden gem in Dubai.

    Stunning architecture with blue and beige patterns at the Iranian Mosque, Dubai
    Imam Hussein Mosque flattering the sky!

    Also known as the Imam Hussein Mosque, this absolute treasure of a place is set between Bur Dubai and Dubai Creek.

    If you’re a fan of architecture like me, I have no doubt that you’ll immediately be wowed by the Persian-inspired layout, complete with fine calligraphy and tilework. The building is especially known for its onion dome, engraved with intricate faience tilework.

    Elevate your experience by staying at the nearby Dubai Marine Beach Resort, just a 10-minute walk away.

    • Rating: 8/10 – Genuine Delight
    • Cost: FREE
    • Personal Opinion: An impressive find you’ll tell friends about.

    12. Explore the Abandoned Village of Al Madam

    No list of Dubai hideaways would be complete without mentioning Al Madam, an underrated place located just an hour from the city center.

    Standing in stark contrast to Dubai’s majestic skyline, this abandoned village has quite a bewildering history indeed.

    Buildings buried under the desert sands in Al Madam village, Dubai
    Hidden Gems lurk under the desert!

    Established in the mid-70s, this village once housed a thriving Bedouin community that consisted largely of the Al Ketbi tribe. For some mysterious reason, the residents fled the village by the mid-90s, and over time, the village was buried under the desert sands.

    The abandoned homes still feature their original furnishings and belongings that were left behind. The haunting silence that permeates Al Madam only adds to the mystery of the place.

    • Rating: 7/10 – Hidden Gem Alert
    • Cost: Free
    • Personal Opinion: A unique experience beckons.

    Pro tip: These days, many flights transit out in the middle east offering an opportunity to explore this amazing region where tradition glides into modernity like nowhere else on earth. If you’re just passing by, turn your quick layover in the Middle East into a mini-vacation! Learn the tricks to make your short stay longer and better!

    13. Explore the Sikh Temple’s Ornate Architecture

    Another architectural marvel, I know. But hey, I told you Dubai’s full of them!

    One of the most magical places in Dubai, the Guru Nanak Darbar Sikh Temple stands as one of the biggest temples in the Gulf area.

    Guru Nanak Darbar Temple in Dubai featuring stunning glassy windows and intricate Arabian-style architecture.
    You could stare at this architectural marvel for hours

    Believe me when I say this multistoried temple is indeed quite a sight to behold, with its classic grill work and even a pond that’s been inspired by India’s Golden Temple. Be sure to check out the first-floor prayer hall, which features Murano Chandeliers, Italian marble flooring, and pure gold canopies.

    While the temple was built by the local Sikh community in Dubai, it’s open to all. Visitors are even treated to a free vegetarian meal known as ‘Langar’.

    • Rating: 7/10 – Hidden Gem Alert
    • Cost: Free
    • Personal Opinion: Architecture enthusiasts, rejoice!

    14. Relax on a Hidden Beach

    I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that Dubai is surrounded by some pretty spectacular beaches like White Beach or the ridiculously popular Jumeirah Beach. As awesome as they are, I did learn the hard way that these beaches can get exceptionally packed and noisy, especially during peak season.

    Lounge chairs lining at Jebel Ali Beach, Dubai

    Fret not, though! Contrary to popular belief, there are quite a few secret places in Dubai where you can lounge on the sand and soak up those rays.

    One of my favorite beaches is Al Sufouh which offers plenty of seclusion. You may also wish to check out Jebel Ali Beach, which offers kayaking and kite surfing opportunities. While you’re in this area, I recommend staying at JA Palm Tree Court, which perfectly embodies Dubai’s laid-back yet eclectic atmosphere. Wait till you try it yourself!

    A quick word of caution, though: don’t forget that Dubai is basically a desert, so don’t underestimate the sun and the heat. Be sure to carry plenty of water, sunscreen, and a wide-brimmed hat, and avoid going to the beach at midday.

    • Rating: 10/10 – Bucket List Essential
    • Cost: Free
    • Personal Opinion: Don’t miss it! A must-visit gem of excellence.

    15. Hop on a Boat to Moon Island

    Let’s conclude this list of unique things to do in Dubai with a trip to Moon Island!

    An absolute dream come true for water sports aficionados, Moon Island is especially known for its golden shoreline and gloriously clear waters.

    Yacht interior

    Best of all, the boat ride to this island takes you along the famous Dubai Canal, a gorgeous area fringed by luxury housing, hotels, and shopping centers.

    Some of Moon Island’s most popular activities include jet skiing, boat rides, snorkeling, and beachfront barbecues. Fishing is allowed on the island, but you’ll need to bring your own gear.

    • Rating: 7/10 – Bucket list essential
    • Cost: Depends on the charter fee.
    • Personal Opinion: Watersport aficionados will have a blast with this.

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    Hidden Gems in Dubai FAQs

    Here’s what people usually ask me about Dubai’s hidden gems.

    Final Thoughts on Hidden Gems in Dubai

    I bet by now you’ve realized that Dubai is an absolute smorgasbord of glitz, glamor, and exciting activities!

    Not only will you find an abundance of hidden gems in Dubai, but the city also serves as an excellent jumping point for exploring the (many) natural wonders in the vicinity!

    Whether you’re planning a backpacking trip across Dubai or simply want to see those incredible treasures for yourself, I can assure you that you’ll be in for one heck of an epic trip!

    Still wondering whether to choose Dubai or Qatar, check out our post to decide!

    Looking for more info on travelling to Dubai?
    A taxi in a large street in Dubai with buildings and palm trees
    Get out there and create new memories :))

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