Abu Dhabi is one of the seven emirates, in fact, it’s the capital of the United Arab Emirates! As the second most populous city (Dubai is the largest), it’s not surprising there are lots of fun things to do in Abu Dhabi.
In this post, you can find a detailed Abu Dhabi itinerary to help you make the most of your time in this beautiful city!
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Abu Dhabi itinerary
Map of the perfect Abu Dhabi 3 day itinerary
On the map, you can find all the places in Abu Dhabi mentioned in this post. I’ve included the accommodation options covered in this Abu Dhabi guide as well.
3 days in Abu Dhabi
- Day 1: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi mangroves, the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
- Day 2: UAE Presidential Palace (Qasr Al Watan), Emirates Palace, Observation Deck at 300, dinner at Villa Toscana.
- Day 3: Yas Island (visit Ferrari World, Yas Waterworld or Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi.
Things to know before traveling to Abu Dhabi
Most likely yes. However, many countries qualify for a visa on arrival, more information can be found on the Emirates official website.
Within all seven emirates, the official currency is the Emirati Dirham (AED). This means you don’t have to exchange money when traveling to several of the emirates belonging to the U.A.E.
Here you can find the current exchange rates, at the time of writing €1 is approximately 4AED and $1 approximately 3,70AED.
The best time to visit Abu Dhabi is between November and April when temperatures are generally quite comfortable and rain is rare (though it does happen from time to time!).
Personally, I’d avoid visiting Abu Dhabi during summer. Located in the desert, temperatures reach 40°C or more on a daily basis between May and October, with July and August being almost unbearable.
While there have been plans to build a metro in Abu Dhabi for years, currently the only public transport available are buses. Buses are modern and a good way to get around Abu Dhabi on a budget.
In order to travel on the buses, you will need a Hafilat Card, which you can buy at several locations in Abu Dhabi, such as the Al Wahda bus terminal and the International Airport. You can charge the card with any desired amount.
Bus rides within the city center are 2AED. Remember to check-in when getting on the bus and check out when alighting. You can plan your Abu Dhabi journey here.
Yes, there is! Besides Uber, there is also Careem, which is the Middle Eastern version of Uber. Keep in mind that due to local regulations Uber and Careem usually cost a little bit more than a regular taxi.
There are regular buses leaving from Al Ghubaiba bus station (in Dubai) to Al Wahda bus station (in Abu Dhabi). Bus E100 takes approximately 2 hours (sometimes a bit longer), the journey costs 25AED.
Best hotels in Abu Dhabi
Less than €100 per night: Centro Al Manhal (by Rotana)
I was very happy with this hotel, we booked it last-minute and got a really good deal. The hotel is quite new and offers beautiful stylish rooms with a modern bathroom. Our room was on the 15th floor and had a great view.
Rooms have air conditioning, comfortable beds, and coffee and tea making facilities. There are a gym, a swimming pool and an onsite restaurant called C.Taste. The staff is very friendly staff and it’s only a 5-minute walk to the Abu Dhabi bus station.
Less than €220 per night: Rosewood Abu Dhabi
This beautiful 5-star property is located on Al Maryah Island and offers luxurious rooms and suites with large comfortable beds (made up with Egyptian cotton sheets), large bathtub and high-tech media center.
Go for a swim in the outdoor pool, relax at the Sense® Spa or enjoy a meal at one of the eight restaurants. Family rooms are available as well, making the Rosewood a great place to stay for those traveling Abu Dhabi with children.
Just over €250 a night: The St. Regis Abu Dhabi
If you’re going to splurge on a hotel in Abu Dhabi, make it the St. Regis! This splendid hotel is located right at Abu Dhabi’s Corniche. All rooms and suites offer a beautiful view of the water and promenade.
Complimentary for every hotel guest is the signature St. Regis Butler Service. The entire staff is very welcoming and you will feel like a VIP throughout your entire stay.
One of the highlights of the hotel is the Nation Riviera Beach Club, which can be accessed via a private, air-conditioned, marble underpass that runs below the Corniche.
Here you find a spacious infinity pool, gardens and a 200-meter private beach. If you are traveling as a family, your kids will love the Treasure Island Children’s Club.
This pirate ship provides tons of fun for children, there are both indoor and outdoor activities (including a pool and water slide) and there is constant supervision, meaning you can relax while your kids enjoy themselves.
What to see in Abu Dhabi: day 1
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Helen from Helen on her Holidays: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is undoubtedly one of the best places in Abu Dhabi. It’s one of the largest mosques anywhere in the world and one of the most beautiful buildings I’ve ever visited.
The central courtyard is a wonder. It’s reputed to be the largest marble mosaic in the world and measures around 17,000 m2. Beautifully intricate floral patterns cover the floors and columns, while each column is topped in gold.
The interior is no less impressive, enormous, gorgeous chandeliers illuminate the huge prayer hall, which can accommodate over 7,000 worshippers. The floor is covered with the world’s largest carpet.
The mosque’s timeless design, topped with 82 domes, makes it seem like it could have been here for hundreds of years, but it was actually only opened in 2007 and is full of technological touches.
Practical information about visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
How to get there: you can easily reach the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque by public transport, bus 54 and 94 run often and take approximately 30 minutes from the Al Wahda bus station.
Opening hours: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open to non-Muslims Saturday to Thursday, and from late afternoon onwards on Friday, except during Ramadan.
How to dress for the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: both men and women are asked to wear loose-fitting conservative clothing (no shorts, short skirts, crop tops, etc). You need to take off your shoes before entering the mosque. If you’re not already dressed appropriately, you’ll be asked to wear clothing provided by the mosque at the entrance.
Cultural tour: to make the most of your visit, I recommend taking the fascinating official cultural tour which runs several times a day and gives an overview of the mosque and an introduction to Emirati culture. Both visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and taking a tour are completely free.
Abu Dhabi Eastern Mangroves
Catrina from 24 Hours Layover: escape the city and the skyscrapers and head to the mangroves forest to experience something really unique and different!
Here you can try your hand at kayaking or stand up paddleboarding (SUP) in the natural mangrove forest. The Eastern Mangroves are home to many species of marine and birdlife, and it is a really beautiful and calm place to spend a couple of hours.
To access the facilities, walk straight through the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel lobby and onto the Eastern Mangroves Promenade. By BOA Steakhouse on the marina, you will find Captain Tony’s kayaking and SUP station.
Don’t worry if you haven’t tried kayaking or SUP before, the instructor will guide you through everything beforehand. Plus, if you don’t feel confident going out into the mangroves alone, you can pay a guide to come with you for an extra 60 dirhams.
Wear swim gear under your clothes and bring a towel. There is a secure area where you can leave your belongings, however, if you want to bring your phone for pictures, make sure you have a waterproof cover, or better still, bring a GoPro or a waterproof bag!
There are some sandbanks where you can stop off and have a rest along the way if you wish. From here you can see the Abu Dhabi skyline in the distance, which looks really stunning.
Practical information about visiting the Eastern Mangroves
How to get there: when following this itinerary the quickest way to reach the Eastern Mangroves is by taking a taxi from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel. This will cost you approximately 20 AED and takes around 10 minutes.
Opening hours: opening times for kayaking and SUP in the mangroves are from 7 am to 7 pm every day.
Prices: a 2-hour paddle boarding rental will cost 120 dirhams ($32) and a 2 hour rental in a double kayak will cost 160 dirhams ($43).
The Louvre Abu Dhabi
Ania from The Travelling Twins: as a former resident of Abu Dhabi, I can say from personal experience the Louvre is one of the Abu Dhabi landmarks you just can’t miss!
If you love the Paris Louvre and could happily spend days on end there browsing those magnificent halls, you will love the Abu Dhabi Louvre as well. The building was designed by Pritzker Prizewinner Jean Nouvel and opened its doors to the public in 2017.
The surroundings are carefully manicured, the entrance is engaging and attractively designed. Although the Abu Dhabi collection is quite small, everything is beautifully set out in a labyrinth of comparatively small galleries.
Each item seems to be presented consciously in a perfect sequence. The Louvre galleries will guide you through the ages and themes of cultural development.
While not to be compared with its bigger brother in Paris, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a great place to visit, especially when in Abu Dhabi with kids. It’s a beautiful and educational place, worthy of a spot on your Abu Dhabi trip itinerary.
Practical information about visiting the Louvre Abu Dhabi
How to get there: if you are following this itinerary, the easiest way to travel from the Eastern Mangroves to the Louvre Abu Dhabi is by taxi. This will cost approximately 30 AED and take around 20 minutes.
Alternatively, you can take bus 26 or 56 from the Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel and get off after three stops to change to bus 94 (departing from Al Sa’adah, Sultan Bin Zayed St). The total journey takes just over an hour and costs a mere 4 AED.
Opening hours: the Louvre Abu Dhabi is open from 10 am to 8 pm from Saturdays to Wednesdays, and from 10 am to 10 pm on Thursdays and Fridays.
Ticket prices: regular tickets cost 63 AED, a youth ticket (between ages 13 and 22) costs 31.5 AED and kids below 13 years old are free.
Abu Dhabi activities: day 2
The Emirates Palace
Raluca from Whisper Wanderlust: the Emirates Palace is one of the most impressive places you can visit in Abu Dhabi. The luxurious hotel is situated right on the seafront and opens to the Persian Gulf.
It is one of the most expensive hotels in the world. If you want to spend a night or more here, you must know that the hotel has about 400 rooms, which cost several hundred dollars to several thousand dollars per night.
However, even if you can’t afford a night here, you can still visit the Emirates Palace for free. The hotel has beautiful interiors, decorated with gold, marble, pearl and chandeliers with Swarovski stones, but also gorgeous fountains and spectacular gardens. The golden central dome is absolutely stunning!
The hotel extends over a length of 1 kilometer and has a lovely private beach where guests can enjoy the white sand and the turquoise water. Moreover, the complex has 14 restaurants with international cuisines from Asia, the Middle East or Europe.
If you want to indulge but don’t want to spend a fortune, opt for a Palace Cappuccino at Le Cafe (served between 7 am and 12:30 am). This signature drink is a beautifully presented cup of coffee sprinkled with actual 23-carat gold flakes! While not a cheap cappuccino (60 AED), you’re paying mostly for the experience as this isn’t something you’re likely to have tasted before.
I’m sure you will enjoy your visit here just as much as I did, so make sure to pay the Emirates Palace a visit during your Abu Dhabi vacation.
Practical information about visiting the Emirates Palace
How to get there: bus 10 and 34 stop near the Emirates Palace.
Opening hours: while the hotel is opened 24 hours a day, it’s best to visit during the day if you aren’t a hotel guest.
The Presidential Palace of the UAE (Qasr Al Watan)
Amanda from Fly Stay Luxe: in March 2019, the President and Ruler of the UAE opened the Qasr Al Watan Wing of the Presidential Palace and the surrounding gardens to the public.
For the first time ever, tourists were allowed a peek inside the palace walls and learn about modern Emirati and Arabian culture.
Many people visiting Abu Dhabi flock to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque to see the spectacular marble-tiled courtyard, white minarets, and gold-laced hallways. However, the Presidential Palace takes this opulence to a whole new level and definitely one of the best places to visit in Abu Dhabi.
Located right near the Emirate Palace Hotel, the Presidential Palace is absolutely enormous and features a jaw-dropping Great Hall (see picture above) finished with the intricate marble tiling and gold trim that is very familiar throughout the UAE.
There is also a series of museum rooms, where you can learn about the different functions of each part of the palace and about the Sheikhs (rulers) from each of the seven Emirates (kingdoms) that make up the United Arab Emirates.
You’ll get to see inside the Qasr Al Watan Library and the Presidential Banquet Hall, where Emirati dinners take place and international diplomats are hosted on a regular basis. There is also an interactive light show held at the palace every evening.
Practical information about visiting the Qasr Al Watan
How to get there: bus 10 and 34 stop near the Presidential Palace.
Opening hours: The Qasr Al Watan is opened daily from 11 am to 10 pm.
Ticket prices: admission is 60 AED for adults and 30 AED for children aged 4-17 years to see the palace and gardens, or 25 AED for adults and 12 AED for children for the gardens only.
However, I highly recommend paying the extra money to see inside the palace itself, as I’ve never seen a more opulent palace in my life!
The Observation Deck at 300
Matilda from The Travel Sisters: the Observation Deck at 300 is a must-do on any Abu Dhabi sightseeing itinerary!
Located on the 74th floor in Tower 2 of Jumeirah at the Etihad Towers, the observation deck is the highest vantage point in Abu Dhabi and offers 360-degree views of the city.
If you visit on a clear day, it is a great place to enjoy panoramic views of the city skyline and Arabian Gulf including major attractions such as the Emirates Palace, the Presidential Palace and more.
Visitors are free to walk around or they can take a seat at one of the available tables and enjoy snacks and beverages from the café. In the afternoon this is also one of the best spots to have afternoon tea. Some of the windows are dirty so make sure to walk around a bit before choosing a table.
Although the observation deck gets crowded in the evening, one of the best times to visit is late afternoon in time to catch the sunset.
Practical information about visiting the Observation Deck at 300
How to get there: from the Emirates Palace it’s only a 20-minute walk to the Observation Deck.
Opening hours: the Observation Deck at 300 is open daily from 10 am until 7 pm.
Ticket prices: the entrance fee is 95 AED which includes a 55 AED credit voucher that can be used for food and beverages. However, if you are staying at the hotel, admission is free.
Dinner at Villa Toscana, St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Disclosure: I was hosted by Villa Toscana at the St. Regis Hotel. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.
We had the most amazing Italian dinner at Villa Toscana. It’s probably the best Italian food I’ve ever had and I’m not saying that lightly. I’ve visited Italy many times and had some excellent food there. But this, this was a whole new level of Italian food…
Dinner started, as any proper Italian dinner does, with antipasti. Very pretty and very yummy antipasti I might add. The antipasti were accompanied by a refreshing Aperol Spritz.
After the antipasti, we moved on to the first course, which included a delicious chickpea soup, bruschetta and several dips (ricotta spinach, white radish, and pesto).
After that, the courses just kept coming, I ate so much that evening… We had burrata, squid, ravioli with a silky smooth cheesy sauce (my favorite!), lamb, sea bass and the prettiest dessert platter.
I couldn’t move a muscle after dinner, everything was absolutely delicious. Plus, the lovely staff treated us like royalty. Definitely a highlight of our trip to Abu Dhabi!
You can find more information about the restaurant and the menu on their website.
Things to see in Abu Dhabi: day 3
Today a visit to Abu Dhabi’s playground, Yas Island, is on the itinerary. On Yas Island you can find not one, but three theme parks:
- Ferrari World
- Yas Waterworld
- Warner Bros World
Practical information about the parks
|Park||Opening hours||Admission price|
|Ferrari World||11 am until 8 pm||295 AED|
|Yas Waterworld||10 am until 7 pm (Fridays and Saturdays)|
10 am until 6 pm (Sunday to Thursday)
|250 AED when purchased online|
|Warner Bros World||10 am until 8 pm||295 AED|
Combination tickets and prices
You can buy a separate ticket to each of the parks, however, if you plan on visiting more than one park, discounts are to be had by buying a combination ticket.
For example, a 1 Day Any 2 Parks ticket includes access to two of the three theme parks on Yas Island for 395 AED. I wouldn’t recommend visiting more than two parks in one day, as there is so much to do in each of them.
The best thing to do, if you have more time available, is to spend another day (or even two) enjoying the thrills of Yas Island. Multi-day tickets include additional perks, like free shuttle bus access and discounted prices compared to individual single-day tickets.
A 2 Day Any 2 Parks ticket costs 435 AED and a 3 Day All 3 Parks ticket will set you back 545 AED. More information can be found here.
How to get to Yas Island
You can easily get to Yas Island by bus, Bus 190 stops here (this bus departs from Al Wahda bus station). Alternatively, there is a free shuttle service that runs to and from the parks from Saadiyat Island (and several locations in Dubai, though strangely not from the city center of Abu Dhabi). Read more about the shuttle services here.
Taxis are another easy way of getting to Yas Island, expect to pay between 70 and 90 AED from downtown and 45 AED from Abu Dhabi airport. You can also easily order an Uber or car via Careem, prices are fairly similar.
Yas Island is about a 30 minutes’ drive from the heart of downtown Abu Dhabi and about 20 minutes from the airport.
Kay from The Awkward Traveller: if you’re looking for a bit of adrenaline during your time in Abu Dhabi, you must visit Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World.
Ferrari World is a fun but not overly large theme park, but whatever it lacks in size, it makes up for in world records! Currently, Ferrari World holds the Guinness Record for the fastest rollercoaster in the world as well as the world’s highest rollercoaster loop.
A large majority of the attractions at Ferrari World revolve around the rollercoasters. But there’s more, you can even drive an actual Ferrari around a racetrack!
And while there are a few main big hitters, there are a number of family-friendly options as well, like go-karts and spinning cups (well, wheels) for younger children.
Ferrari World rounds off its attractions with a mini arcade and multiple driving simulation rides. Off the rides, you can relax with one of the shows or at one of the six restaurants. The park isn’t too big, but comfortable shoes are recommended. And maybe a motion sickness pill or two!
Stuart from Go Eat Do: Yas Waterworld is an expansive waterpark on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island.
As you’d expect when visiting a waterpark in this sunny part of the world, it makes sense to bring sun cream, sunglasses and a hat. Of course, you’ll also need your bathing gear and a towel.
Though if you have forgotten anything, stores within the park sell everything you need. There’s a range of food and drink options too.
This theme park has roller coasters, slides and an opportunity to surf. In total Yas Waterworld has more than 40 different attractions!
There’s a playground geared towards younger visitors, plus adrenalin boosting rides such as Dawwama, a funnel-like slide that begins with a whooshing drop. The park also conveys the historic importance of pearl diving in the region.
Reserve a cabana if you want to upgrade your experience.
Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi
Last but certainly not least, there is Warner Bros World Abu Dhabi. This indoor theme park will instantly transport you into the world of your favorite movie characters.
There are six ‘lands’ in total, each with their own attractions and fun things to do. At the heart of the park is the Warner Bros Plaza which connects all other parts of the park.
There is Bedrock where you can meet the Flintstones and Dynamite Gulch where Coyote and Road Runner are (obviously) running around. At Cartoon Junction Bugs Bunny, Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo can be found and of course, Metropolis is where Superman is doing his thing. Last but not least, you can step into the Joker’s funhouse and meet Batman in Gotham City.
Hop on the Riddler’s Revolution or one of the other 28 exhilarating rides and enjoy live entertainment the entire family will enjoy.
If you are interested in watching any of the shows, pick up a flyer with an overview of the showtimes at the entrance, so you can plan your day accordingly. The Batman-Joker show is especially entertaining.
There are several themed restaurants and you can shop for a fun souvenir at one of the retail stores.
What to do in Abu Dhabi: in conclusion
And that’s a wrap! I hope this Abu Dhabi travel guide has inspired you to plan a visit to this beautiful city. There are so many great Abu Dhabi tourist attractions, you could easily spend more time here than just 3 days.
However, following this itinerary, will ensure you get to experience the Abu Dhabi highlights without feeling rushed. Enjoy your Abu Dhabi holiday!
This post was updated in November 2020.