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Dubai's Best Attractions
Must-see places in Dubai
Welcome to the mall metropolis
Dubai's Iconic Shopping Malls
A Guide To The Top Rides and Attractions in Dubai
Thrills and spills
City Guide and Information
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Find out why Dubai is referred to as the city of the future on this walking tour, which features leading architectural icons and world-class attractions.
Start point: Emirates Towers on Sheikh Zayed Road
End point: Dubai Water Canal waterfall
Directions to starting point: The easiest way to get to Downtown Dubai is to use public transport. If you take the Dubai Metro, alight at the Emirates Towers Metro Station on the Red line.
Best time to walk: Afternoon and early evening
Major landmarks: Emirates Towers, Dubai International Financial Centre, Dubai Opera, Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall, Dubai Water Canal
There’s no better place to start a tour of Dubai’s statement architecture than at the foot of what is possibly the city’s first iconic buildings. Designed by architect Hazel Wong, Emirates Towers opened in 2000, almost instantly becoming some of the most recognisable skyscrapers in the world, with glistening, equilateral triangular facades.
Inspired by traditional Islamic themes, Wong aimed to create a perception of constant change with the twin towers’ unique composition and placement. They consist of an office tower and a hotel block, both connected by a central podium – The Boulevard, a leading retail and dining destination in the city. Make a note to return for a culinary experience at the likes of Hakkasan or Al Nafoorah.
Head straight across the roundabout on the main road towards Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) imposing The Gate building. Walk underneath and turn around to capture the perfect photograph looking back at Jumeirah Emirates Towers framed inside The Gate’s central void. Look closer to admire architecture firm Gensler’s genius – a creative reflection of the financial hub’s own ‘open-gate’ policy, The Gate features the use of solid stone and stainless steel along the main arch for longevity while an open steel lattice at the top of the arch symbolises transparency.
Next, weave your way past the casual cafes and cross over to the entrance of Gate Village (Building 3). Here, Wall Street meets industrial grandeur, with high-flying financiers rubbing shoulders with art enthusiasts and foodies – all wrapped up in a stunning contemporary architectural setting. Book in for a swanky lunch at Zuma, Roberto’s or La Petite Maison or pop into art galleries such as Ayyam and Cuadro to browse some of the region’s finest art. During Dubai’s March art season, this quarter comes even more alive with eclectic events drawing in the city’s elite.
For the best views of this futuristic district, head to Luna Sky Bar at Four Seasons Hotel Dubai DIFC. This terrific rooftop lounge presents sweeping vistas of Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai.
It’s now time to see where the city’s cultural elite congregate – Dubai Opera. Exit onto Al Sa’ada Street and head towards the Emirates Towers Metro Station, taking a moment to appreciate the modernist roof design of Dubai Metro’s driverless rail network. Hop off at the Burj Khalifa/The Dubai Mall Metro Station and head towards Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard where you can stroll along wide Parisian-style sidewalks (albeit lined with palm trees) to reach the Dubai Opera.
Designed by Janus Rostock, the iconic dhow-shaped building completes the urban nucleus of Downtown. On the foreshore of The Dubai Fountain with views of the Burj Khalifa, the 2,000-seat Opera hosts a range of Arabic and international performances including Placido Domingo and Les Miserables, and recently opened a rooftop restaurant by signature chef Sean Connolly.
Turn right on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard to reach the record-breaking Burj Khalifa. Designed by Adrian Smith, the world’s tallest tower offers an abstract interpretation of a triple-lobed Hymenocallis flower, native to the region. Opened in 2010, it is three times as high as the Eiffel Tower with more than 160 stories.
There are many great places to sit back and gaze at the 828m high tower including a throng of restaurants on the second floor of Souk Al Bahar (time it to see the iconic dancing Dubai Fountain). Those who want a view of modern Dubai from the world’s tallest building should take a trip to the observation deck, At The Top.
Break for a spot of shopping and a bite to eat at the city’s famed retail and entertainment destination, The Dubai Mall. Welcoming millions of visitors each year, there’s plenty of designer stores to explore here but make sure to stop by Level Shoes, the world's largest shoe district. The gilded space features the latest from the likes of Phillip Lim, Christian Louboutin, Alexander Wang and more.
Put on a pair of skates and twirl around the Olympic-sized ice rink on the ground level of The Dubai Mall, or admire The Waterfall, adorned with fibreglass sculptures of divers next to The Village. Children will also enjoy seeing aquatic animals, including the largest collection of sand tiger sharks, up close at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, tuck into delicious Lebanese cuisine at Al Hallab Restaurant.
Head back to the Burj Khalifa/The Dubai Mall Metro Station and alight at Business Bay to reach the city’s newest attraction, the Dubai Water Canal promenade. Follow the signs to the waterfall from the station where you can start a 6km loop along the canal. Stop for photos along the five pedestrian bridges, each offering fantastic vantage points of the city skyline and boats sailing below.
Make your way back to the waterfall by evening to witness spectacular neon light effects or stop in at the nearby W Lounge for a refreshing beverage as you overlook the canal lit up at night. Or, if you fancy, hop on a ferry from the Canal station and end your evening with a relaxing ride along the waterway.
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Site last updated [22/09/2018]