Encompassing a sprawling archipelago nestled amid the Persian Gulf’s vast turquoise expanses, Abu Dhabi is a glimmering jewel of a metropolis. In this capital, the largest city of the United Arab Emirates, the old and new gracefully coexist, with centuries-old historical monuments standing proudly alongside gleaming modern skyscrapers. Additionally, Abu Dhabi’s status as a bastion of wealth and culture beckons to travelers the globe over, as do its breathtaking natural surroundings. In short, the city offers a plethora of attractions sure to tickle any traveler’s fancy.
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Undoubtedly Abu Dhabi’s premier tourist attraction, the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque takes traditional Islamic architecture to a whole new level. 82-white-marble domes, nearly 1,100-exterior columns and seven 24K gold-plated Swarovski crystal chandeliers adorn this remarkably stunning edifice. Free of charge to all guests and open seven days a week, the Grand Mosque offers insightful one-hour tours wherein visitors learn firsthand about the history, religion, and culture behind this breathtaking structure. It is not to be missed.
© Artur Malinowski
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2. Mangrove National Park
Covering approximately seven square miles of pristine mangrove forests along with salt flats and marshes, Mangrove National Park is only a stone’s throw from downtown Abu Dhabi but feels a world away. Guests will not only be enchanted by the park’s namesake foliage, but also by the delightful menagerie of species residing therein. Western reef herons and greater flamingos make their home among the trees, while sea turtles, dolphins and plenty of colorful tropical fish swim about beneath the waves, much to visitors’ delight. Recreational activities such as kayaking, snorkeling and scuba diving have become increasingly popular, allowing vacationers more opportunities to immerse themselves in unparalleled natural splendor. It must not be overlooked.
© R. Panoramas
3. Qasr al-Hosn
Nestled amid downtown Abu Dhabi’s sea of gleaming skyscrapers, the magnificent coral and sea stone fortress of Qasr al-Hosn harkens back to a bygone era. Just a 14-minute drive west of the Louvre, this eighteenth-century fort and royal palace is the city’s oldest surviving structure and a testament to its rich heritage. In addition to exploring the historic edifice, visitors can stop by the House of Artisans to enjoy demonstrations of local weaving and embroidery techniques by local craftspeople. It is well worth the trip.
© Janos Korom
4. Louvre Abu Dhabi
An 18-minute drive northwest of Yas Marina Circuit and Ferrari World, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a sight to behold inside and out. With its elegant 590-foot dome, this branch of the legendary Paris museum showcases a diverse collection of exhibits, ranging from ancient Egyptian sculptures and Chinese pottery to contemporary abstract paintings. In addition to its permanent displays, the Louvre Abu Dhabi hosts four temporary exhibitions annually and also features a children’s museum. Children ages six to 12 and their families can partake in a variety of interactive art workshops for a hands-on learning experience. It is definitely a must-see.
© Robert Haandrikman
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5. Yas Marina Circuit and Ferrari World
Travelers with a need for speed will find thrills galore at the Yas Marina racing circuit and adjacent Ferrari World amusement park, located just a nineteen-minute drive east of the Grand Mosque. When the 3.45-mile circuit is not hosting such prestigious events as Formula 1’s season-ending Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each November, visitors can hit the track in a go-kart or an F1-style Formula Yas 3000 race car. Meanwhile, Ferrari World boasts the world’s fastest roller coaster, Formula Rossa, which accelerates guests from zero to 150 mph in just under five seconds. These two attractions are sure to deliver the adrenaline rush of a lifetime.
© Jitesh Jagadish