Dubai, the grand, glittering, glamourous gem of the United Arab Emirates, is a city that seldom ceases to amaze. From its futuristic skyscrapers to its traditional little souks, the Emirate of Dubai offers a dizzying blend of the old and the new. Whether you’re an adrenaline hungry thrill-seeker, a humble culture enthusiast,, Dubai has that little something for just about everybody.

This city is rightfully known for its opulence BUT it is not just about towering buildings and luxury malls and it actually offers a plethora of activities that cater to all kinds of travellers. From desert safaris to peaceful beaches, Dubai is a playground for those who love to explore. And the best part? You don’t always need to break the bank to enjoy what Dubai has to offer.

In this insider guide, we will dive into the best things to do in Dubai, covering must-see attractions, free activities, and some nocturnal fun. Whether you’re planning a short visit or a long stay, this list will help you make the most of your time in this vibrant city.

The Broke Backpacker is supported by you. Clicking through our links may earn us a small affiliate commission, and that's what allows us to keep producing free content 🙂 Learn more.

How to Get to Dubai

Before we get into the rundown of things to do in Dubai, let’s first take a moment to look at how to get there! The good news is that being slap bang in the middle of the world, Dubai is an incredibly well connected transit hub and handles daily flights from all over Europe and Asia and even a few directly from Australia. 

As such you can fly to Dubai as a break in its own right or use it as layover en route someplace. Alternatively you can fly into Abu Dhabi and then get the train to Dubai meaning you get to cram 2 Emirates into one trip! Either way you can find cheap flight tickets on Mytickets.ae no matter where you are flying from or too.

The TOP Things to do in Dubai

1. Burj Khalifa

Standing at an impressive 828 metres, the Burj Khalifa is the tallest building in the world and THE iconic symbol of Dubai’s ambition, innovation and deep pockets. Visitors to The Burj can take an elevator to the 148th floor to enjoy breathtaking (and kinda disorientating) views of the city and beyond. The experience also includes interactive displays and a lounge area where you can savour the panorama.

Getting to the Burj Khalifa is pretty easy as it’s located in Downtown Dubai. The nearest metro station is the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Station, and from there, it’s a short walk through the Dubai Mall. Entry fees vary, but tickets for the ‘At the Top’ experience start at AED 149. Booking in advance is recommended to avoid long queues.

2. The Dubai Mall

Dubai Mall

Adjacent to the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall is more than just a shopping destination – it’s a true symbol of Dubai. Home to over 1,200 shops, an indoor ice rink, an aquarium(!), and even a virtual reality park, it’s a mall where you can easily spend an entire day even if you lack the budget for a Louis Vuitton splurge.  Be sure not to miss the Dubai Fountain show outside the mall, which is a spectacular display of water, music, and light.

The Dubai Mall is conveniently accessible via the Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall Metro Station. Entry to the mall is free of course, but individual attractions inside may have their own fees. For example, tickets to the Dubai Aquarium start at AED 100. Do plan your visit to catch the fountain show in the evening for an unforgettable experience.

3. Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah is the world’s largest artificial island and a bit of a marvel of modern engineering and luxury. This palm-shaped island is home to upscale hotels, beaches, and residential villas. One of the must-visit spots here is Atlantis The Palm, where you can enjoy the Aquaventure Waterpark and The Lost Chambers Aquarium.

To reach Palm Jumeirah, you can take a taxi or better still, use the monorail that connects the mainland to the island. The monorail ride itself offers absolutely great views of the island (especially at sunset) and the Arabian Gulf. While you can explore the island for free, attractions like Aquaventure Waterpark have entry fees starting from AED 269.

4. Dubai Marina

The Marina

Dubai Marina is a busy waterfront area known for its skyscrapers, restaurants, and the Marina Walk. You can take a leisurely stroll along the water, dine at one of the many eateries, or even take a boat tour to see the stunning skyline from the sea. The Marina is especially beautiful at night when the buildings light up and the beautiful and bold of Duba come out to play.

The Dubai Marina can be reached via the Dubai Metro’s Red Line, stopping at either the Dubai Marina or Jumeirah Lakes Towers stations. Walking along the Marina is free, but activities like boat tours or dining will cost. It’s a perfect place to relax and enjoy the modern side of Dubai.

5. Dubai Creek

Dubai Creek

For a taste of Dubai’s often overlooked history we suggest you head down to Dubai Creek, the heart of the city’s traditional trading port. Here, you can take an abra (a traditional wooden boat) ride for just AED 1, which offers a rather unique perspective of the city. On either side of the Creek, you’ll find bustling souks like the Gold Souk and the Spice Market.

The best way to get to Dubai Creek is by taxi or the metro, with Al Ras and Al Ghubaiba being the closest stations. The abra rides are incredibly affordable, and wandering through the souks is free unless you decide to make a purchase. It’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Small Pack Problems? 😉

Wanna know how to pack like a pro? Well for a start you need the right gear….

These are packing cubes for the globetrotters and compression sacks for the real adventurers – these babies are a traveller’s best kept secret. They organise yo’ packing and minimise volume too so you can pack MORE.

Or, y’know… you can stick to just chucking it all in your backpack…

Get Yours Here Read Our Review

The Best FREE Things to do in Dubai

6. Jumeirah Beach

dubai Jumeirah Beach

Jumeirah Beach is amongst the most popular public beaches in Dubai. Offering stunning views of the iconic Burj Al Arab, the beach is perfect for a day of sunbathing, swimming, or simply relaxing by the sea. With its white sands and crystal-clear waters, it’s a favourite spot for both locals and tourists.

Getting to Jumeirah Beach is straightforward, with plenty of parking available and the nearby Jumeirah Beach Hotel serving as a landmark for navigational purposes. Entry to the beach is free, making it an excellent choice for budget-conscious travellers. Remember to bring your own beach essentials as rental services can be pricey.

7. Dubai Fountain Show

dubai fountain

This one is so impressive we have mentioned it twice! The Dubai Fountain (situated at the base of the Burj Khalifa) is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system. It features daily performances set to a variety of music, from classical to contemporary Arabic and world music. The fountain shoots water jets as high as 150 metres, creating a seriously impressive display.

The Dubai Fountain shows are free to watch and take place every 30 minutes in the evenings from 6 PM to 11 PM, and during the day at 1 PM and 1:30 PM (except on Fridays, when the afternoon shows are at 1:30 PM and 2 PM). The best viewing spots are along the Waterfront Promenade outside the Dubai Mall.

8. Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood

Dubai Al Fahidi neighborhood
Photo: Dennis Sylvester Hurd (Flickr)

Another great free thing to do in Dubai is to step back in time with a visit to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, also known as Al Bastakiya. This  old area offers a glimpse into Dubai’s forgotten past with its narrow lanes, wind towers, and traditional Arabic stone buildings. It’s a very peaceful place to explore, with numerous art galleries, museums, and cultural exhibits.

You can reach Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood by taking the metro to Al Fahidi Station or a taxi. Entry to the area is free, and you can spend hours wandering through its charming streets. Don’t miss the Dubai Museum located in the Al Fahidi Fort, which charges a nominal fee of AED 3 for adults.

9. Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary

dubai wildlife sanctuary Ras Al Khor

Nature lovers should consider a visit to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. This wetland reserve is home to thousands of migrating birds, including the famous pretty, pink flamingos. It’s a highly unique place to enjoy bird watching and escape the hustle and bustle of the city.

The sanctuary is located just a short drive from Downtown Dubai, and there is no entry fee! Viewing hides are strategically placed around the wetlands, providing excellent opportunities to observe the birds. It’s best to visit during the winter months when the bird population is at its peak.

10. Dubai Water Canal

Dubai water canal

The Dubai Water Canal is a stunning, man-made waterway that snakes right through the city, offering along its way some beautiful walking paths, some great cycling tracks, and  of course some scenic views. The canal is illuminated at night, making it a very popular spot for evening strolls and a spot of photography.

Accessible via multiple points in the city, the canal is free to explore. You can start your walk from Business Bay or Jumeirah. The promenade is lined with cafes and rest spots, so you can take your time and enjoy the vibrant surroundings.

Is This the Best Backpack EVER???
Aether Backpack

We’ve tested countless backpacks over the years, but there’s one that has always been the best and remains the best buy for adventurers: the broke backpacker-approved Osprey Aether and Ariel series.

Want more deetz on why these packs are so damn perfect? Then read our comprehensive review for the inside scoop!

View on Osprey View on REI

Fun Things to do in Dubai AT NIGHT

11. Global Village

Dubai global village nightlife

The Global Village is a seasonal attraction that combines cultures from around the world in one place. With pavilions representing more than 70 countries, it offers shopping, dining, and entertainment options from all over the world. It’s especially lively at night with performances, shows, and even some fireworks. This is a great spot to find an Irish Pub and treat yourself to a proper pint.

Located on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road, Global Village is best reached by car, taxi or on foot if you happen to be nearby. Entry fees range from free to AED 15 per person, making it a very affordable evening out. The village operates from October to April, so be sure to plan your visit accordingly.

12. Dubai Marina Yacht Club

Dubai Marina

To truly experience the luxury of Dubai, try and take a night out down at the Dubai Marina Yacht Club. Even if you’re not a yacht owner (what you DON’T own a Yacht?!) , you can still dine at one of the club’s restaurants all of which offer stunning views of the Marina and its glittering skyline. It’s a great spot for a romantic dinner or for a special night out amongst the sort of people who own Yachts.

The Yacht Club is located in Dubai Marina and can be accessed by the metro or by taxi. While entry to the marina itself is free, dining prices vary depending on the restaurant. It’s advisable to make a reservation, especially on weekends.

13. Desert Safari and BBQ Dinner

Desert Dubai

A desert safari is an absolutely and truly quintessential Dubai experience that takes tabellers out of the city and into the sand. Evening tours typically include some dune bashing, camel rides, sandboarding, and a delicious BBQ dinner under the stars.

Desert safaris can be booked through various tour operators, and prices generally start from AED 150 per person. Tours usually include hotel pick-up and drop-off, making it convenient to join. The best time to go is in the late afternoon to catch the sunset over the dunes and it is worth booking well in advance as numbers can be limited.

Travel with peace of mind. Travel WITH a security belt.
Active Roots Security Belt

Stash your cash safely with this money belt. It will keep your valuables safely concealed, no matter where you go.

It looks exactly like a normal belt except for a SECRET interior pocket perfectly designed to hide a wad of cash, a passport photocopy or anything else you may wish to hide. Never get caught with your pants down again! (Unless you want to…)

Hide Yo’ Money!

14. Dubai Opera

Dubai opera

For a touch of high culture, why not spend an evening at the Dubai Opera?! This truly stunning venue hosts a variety of performances, from opera and ballet to concerts and theatre. The architecture of the building itself, designed to resemble a dhow, is more than worth the visit.

Located in Downtown Dubai, near to the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Opera is easily accessible by metro or taxi. Ticket prices do vary depending on the performance, but there are often seats to suit different budgets. Check the schedule in advance to see what’s on during your visit.

15. La Mer

Dubai la mer beach

‘La Mer’ is basically a beachfront area that comes alive at night. It features a variety of restaurants, cafes, shops, and assorted entertainment options. The beach is illuminated, and there are often events and activities happening, making it a lively spot for an evening out even if you are only there to soak up the ambience.

La Mer is located in the Jumeirah 1 area and can be reached by either  car or taxi. Entry is free, but in order to make the most of it you should budget for dining and any activities you plan to do. It’s a great place to unwind and enjoy the seaside views and lively ambiance.

FAQ’s About the Best Things to do in Dubai

Don’t forget your travel insurance for Dubai

ALWAYS sort out your backpacker insurance before your trip. There’s plenty to choose from in that department, but a good place to start is Safety Wing.

They offer month-to-month payments, no lock-in contracts, and require absolutely no itineraries: that’s the exact kind of insurance long-term travellers and digital nomads need.

SafetyWing is cheap, easy, and admin-free: just sign up lickety-split so you can get back to it!

Click the button below to learn more about SafetyWing’s setup or read our insider review for the full tasty scoop.

Final Thoughts

Perhaps more than anything else, Dubai is a city of contrasts where futuristic innovation meets rich tradition and where humility walks side by side with high opulence. As such there are things to do in Dubai for everybody.

Whether you intend on scaling the heights of the Burj Khalifa, exploring the historic souks of Dubai Creek, or enjoying a night out in the desert, there is something here in Dubai for every type of traveller. 

Did you find this guide useful? Or maybe we overlooked your favourite Dubai attraction? Either way let us know in the comments below!

Looking for more info on travelling to Dubai?

Made it this far?
You get 15% OFF to book a place to stay!
Offer valid exclusively for Broke Backpackers 😉