What to do in Abu Dhabi

There is no shortage of options for what to do in Abu Dhabi - for a small island, its packed with stuff for everyone.

And to top it off, there is something to fit every budget from the highest of high end, to the back street bargain.

Here's our overview for those who live here long term, options of what to do in Abu Dhabi on weekends and week nights to keep yourself entertained.

If you have family visiting, then check out our Abu Dhabi Top 10 list of things to do, to give them a fun filled holiday in your home city.

Restaurants Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi has an excellent and ever increasing variety of restaurants (e.g. Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Indian, Japanese, Korean, Mexican, Moroccan, and Thai) that will suit the most discerning palate.  

The Entertainer voucher book is an excellent purchase if you enjoy eating out. It contains 2 for 1 deals at every venue imaginable and can pay for itself in as little as one or two meals!

The Friday Brunch

Starting at 12pm and finishing at 4pm on a Friday, the Friday Brunch, is everyones favourite UAE experience. It's offered by selected hotel restaurants in both Abu and Dubai and prices vary greatly depending on venue, fare and whether or not complimentary alcoholic drink(s) are included. Check out our favourites here.

Remember that alcohol is only served in licensed restaurants that are associated with hotels, selected clubs and associations (e.g. golf clubs) and some government owned establishments and that the legal drinking age in the UAE is 21 years and residents can only legally partake in alcohol after obtaining an alcohol license

Ladies Nights

As a woman in Abu Dhabi you can drink for free every night of the week at the various Ladies Nights (free selected drink for ladies). See our Ladies Nights for a venue listings.

The Cinema

Whether it’s an afternoon matinee with the family or an evening out with ‘dinner and a movie,’ going to the cinema is one of the most popular forms of entertainment in the UAE – second only to ‘going to the mall’.  Most of the newer cinemas are multi-screen mega complexes (similar to the AMC or Cineplex chains in Canada) screening the latest Arabic, Asian, Bollywood, and Hollywood films. The UAE’s only IMAX cinema is located in the Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai.

Comedy Nights

For comedy in Abu Dhabi The Laughter Factory (Tues nights at the Crowne Plaza, Abu Dhabi) is well established - and probably the best - of the UAE’s stand-up comedy clubs.

Cultural Activities (Music/Art/Theatre/Museums)

Abu Dhabi is planning to become the cultural centre of the UAE with big and bold projects underway (the Saadiyat Project - Louvre and Guggenheim, opening 2015).

The Abu Dhabi Art Exhibition is held in November and the Emirates palace regularly hosts fantastic events in the world of art. Check out www.artsabudhabi.ae for up-coming gallery shows.

The new Manarat Al Saadiyat is a multi-purpose venue housing lecture theatres, three galleries, an auditorium and acts as a visitors centre to the Saadiyat Project.

There are four independent art galleries of note – Ghaf Art Gallery, Qibab Art Gallery, Acento Gallery and Salwa Zeidan Gallery.

Abu Dhabi Arts Festival is the UAE’s premier classical arts event and takes place in March and April each rear.

There are plenty of interesting places to visit for a cultural and heritage experience and to get a glimpse of pre-Oil Arabic life. 
  • Heritage Village (near Marina Mall) 026814455. Visit the past at this venue where the Bedouin life has been recreated.
  • Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (near Zayed Sports City) – 026215300. Currently being improved, this venue hopes to become the foremost cultural visitor attraction in Abu Dhabi.
  • Al Maqtaa Fort (near Maqtaa Bridge). 200 year old fort build to fend of bandits.
  • Bateen Dhow Shipyard (near Intercontinental Hotel). Busy boat yard that is in active use today.
  • Emirates National Auto Museum (45km south of Abu Dhabi). Home to almost 200 cars of all kinds it’s a great museum for a car enthusiast.
  • Petroleum Exhibition (Corniche) 024446900. This Exhibition shows the growth from a desert oasis to an impressive cosmopolitan city.
  • Qasr Al Hosn (Al Nasr St) 026215300. The Old Fort or the White Fort is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi and the plan is to house a museum.
  • Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (near Mussafah Bridge) 800555. One of the largest and most opulent mosques in the world.
  • Women’s Handicraft Centre (Al Karahmah St) 025621918. Museum run by the Abu Dhabi Women’s Association as a showcase for local art and crafts.
  • Museum and Aquarium, Khalifa Park. Great for young children, with a gentle intereactive ride through the history of Abu Dhabi, followed by a walk round the lovely huge aquarium.

Sport and Leisure Activities

Abu Dhabi and Dubai, play host to a number of world-class sporting events that are sure to please any sport enthusiast.  These include the Abu Dhabi Formula One, Dubai Desert Classic (PGA tournament) and the Dubai Ladies Masters (LPGA tournament), the Dubai World Cup (the world’s richest horse race and the biggest social event of the year), the Dubai Men’s and Women’s Open (tennis championships), the Dubai Marathon, the Dubai Show Jumping Championship (world’s richest show jumping competition), and the Dubai Rugby 7s (perhaps the largest party of the year).  

Abu Dhabi currently plays host to the Abu Dhabi F1 Grad Prix, the Abu Dhabi Golf Championship (PGA European Tour), the Red Bull Air Race (the world’s fastest race), and the U.I.M. F1 World Powerboat Racing Championship.  The final event on the sporting calendar is the UAE Desert Challenge, a FIA affiliated cross-country car rally from Abu Dhabi to Dubai. 

All of these events are extremely accessible and affordable - a luxury that does not exist in many parts of the world.   

Adventure Seekers

  • Ferarri World
  • Yas Waterworld
  • Khalifa Park and the Splash Park

Beach / Health and Fitness Clubs

There are a number of beach / health and fitness clubs in Abu Dhabi, all with excellent gym facilities, pools, private beaches, steam rooms, sauna, Jacuzzi, tennis and squash courts and offering a variety of lessons (e.g. swimming, tennis) and classes (e.g. pilates, yoga).

Joining a club is a great way to settle into Abu Dhabi life, giving you something to do on weekends and a great way to increase you social network.

Annual memberships prices between beach clubs are varied.


The UAE is known as the best Golfing destination in the Gulf with excellent year round facilities and many important tournaments being held. Courses are either fully grassed or brown sand courses or a mixture of the d\two. Abu Dhabi is home to a variety of local and international tournaments held on an annual or monthly basis.

Snorkelling/Scuba Diving

The UAE offers some of the best diving/snorkelling in the world for all tastes and levels of expertise.  Wreck divers will revel in what the west coast of the country has to offer – over thirty wrecks in relatively shallow (and warm) waters.  While the east coast does offer some wrecks, it is the destination for those divers/snorkellers seeking tropical marine life.  In addition to hard and soft corals and a multitude of exotic fish (e.g. golden cardinal fish, parrot fish, clownfish, jawfish, soldier fish), it is not uncommon for divers/snorkellers to see moray eels, reef sharks, rays, barracuda and sea turtles. 

Scuba diving in the Musandam is geared toward more adventurous and experienced divers. There are many excellent diving centres and clubs that will help you make the most of the UAE’s wonderful diving/snorkelling opportunities.     

Outside of Abu Dhabi Emirate

There is a plethora of things to see and do beyond the city limits of Abu Dhabi that make for wonderful ‘getaway’ weekends and holidays.  

Often referred to as the “cultural capital’ of the UAE, the city of Sharjah is an ideal weekend destination for culture and art buffs.  

Dubai is only an hour up the motorway and is a brimming with attractions, cultural events, shopping malls, sporting events, the world’s tallest building and more.

The small town of Hatta is a popular weekend getaway spot.  Hatta boasts what is arguably the best Heritage Village in the UAE (complete with a restored watchtower) and a visit here is highly recommended.  Nineteen kilometres and a half-day excursion outside of Hatta are the Hatta Pools, a series of pools and waterfalls that nature has carved out of the rocks. The pools are a popular place for picnics and a trip to the pools is worth it for the spectacular scenery.  

Other popular weekend getaway destinations in the UAE are the AL Ain/Burami Oasis (on the UAE/Oman border), and the Liwa Oasis (on the edge of the Empty Quarter) for its magnificent sand dunes.  A visit to Sheikh Hamad bin Hamdan Al Nahyan’s (the ‘Rainbow Sheikh’) Car Museum on the way to Liwa (near Hmeem) is a must for car enthusiasts.     

Neighbouring Oman is a popular destination and an easy half-day/one-day drive from Abu Dhabi as is the Emirate of Fugairah. Competitive hotel packages can be found on groupon and cobone.  

Other popular and affordable weekend breaks include Qatar, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, India, Sri Lanka, the Seychelles, and the Maldives.

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