Considering that most of the city of Dubai was built in the last 50 years, the city has become home to record-breaking constructions and known worldwide as a glitzy and glamorous playground for the elite millionaires that you see in high end establishments or that you see spending their cash in world famous casino resorts around the world. Whilst gambling venues are banned, people can still experience the virtual side of it when they visit 777 casino or the excitement of camel racing and enormous shopping malls that coexist with souks and sand.
While there are hotels that are dripping in luxury, stunning skyscrapers that seem to defy gravity, and Instagram-worthy scenery everywhere you look, Dubai has a lot more to offer. Surrounded by crystal clear waters and vast empty desert, visiting Dubai means getting to know a city that contains a lot more than meets the eye.
The Tallest, the Biggest, the Most Glamorous
There are several must-visit places in Dubai, and most of them are record-breaking modern constructions of enormous magnitude.
The Burj Khalifa
The tallest skyscraper in the world has to be a must-visit for anyone headed to Dubai. There are several things to do inside the Burj Khalifa, and thanks to the interactive display as you head through the building you can learn all about the history of this record-breaking construction. Visit the observation deck for unbeatable views, or visit The Lounge, which is the highest lounge in the world.
The Dubai Fountain
One of the biggest choreographed fountains in the world, the Dubai Fountain sits at the base of the Burj Khalifa and right next door to the Dubai Mall. From sunset to 11pm, the 150ft jets of water dance to music in the 3-acre fountain. You can watch from one of the many restaurants or use the floating platform to get even closer to the action.
The Dubai Mall
As the largest shopping mall in the world, The Dubai Mall is home to 1,200 of the world's best stores and 150 restaurants too. The Dubai Mall attracts more than 100 million visitors every year, which is more than New York and Los Angeles combined – but it fits them all in to the 1 million square metres of floors space comfortably. A must-see for shoppers as well as those who love architecture, the Dubai Mall is a wonder of construction with an enviable location.
The Palm Jumeriah is one of the largest manmade islands in the world, with a unique palm shape. The ‘branches' are the home of some well-known, high-end hotels and the access to these is easy thanks to the monorail that runs down the trunk and connects to the city-wide tram network. Best seen from the sky, the Palm Jumeriah is a manufactured marvel.
As the only mosque in Dubai that allows non-Muslims to enter, it is the perfect place to learn about the religion and culture of the UAE. Visitors are only permitted to enter for a tour, but the guides are knowledgeable and open to answering questions. Tours take place every morning at 10am except on Fridays. Tourists can enjoy the grounds too, as the mosque is built in a traditional Fatimid style using beautiful white stone and is one of the most photographed religious buildings in the world.
Camel racing is a sport that has had cultural significance in Dubai since the 7th Century, and the Al Marmoom camel races are an excellent glimpse into the tradition. Camels run round the course while trainers and owners watch from the stands, and all commentary is in Arabic. According to Islamic law, gambling in Dubai is illegal so you won't find bookmakers at the track, but you can still use online casinos from your hotel room.
Dubai Spice Souk
This sprawling spice market is awash with smells, sights, and sounds. Here you can buy saffron, dried limes and traditional Arabic spice mixes, as well as other wares like lanterns and souvenirs. For a real taste of Dubai life as a native, the souk is the place to go, and the Spice Souk might be a little more ‘touristy' than others thanks to the proximity to some of the bigger hotels and location in the Palm Jumeriah.
On the outskirts of Dubai is a huge entertainment centre full of rides, attractions, and concerts that attracts visitors of all ages. Live shows and parades demonstrate a global feel, while the authentic Arabian bazaars sell handicrafts and souvenirs. There are more than 50 rides and attractions here, and it is real treat for families in the winter months.
Brick-crazy kids will love visiting Legoland, and in Dubai the scale of the park is simply mind-blowing. 60 million Legos were used to construct the park, and it is the perfect destination for people with children aged between 2 and 12. Choose from more than 60 interactive rides and make a weekend of it by staying at the themed Legoland hotel.
The world's largest waterpark must be high on the ‘must-visit' list for families. With long lazy rivers, adrenaline-pumping flumes and slides, and huge swathes of ‘kids-only' areas, this is a perfect day out for the adventurous family. And as if that weren't enough, there is also an opportunity to get up close and personal with some sea life, like stingrays and dolphins.
More than Meets the Eye in Dubai
For a holiday destination that really gives you everything, Dubai is a must-visit. With opportunities for balloon flights, camel rides, skydiving, bungee jumping, relaxing, dining, shopping and more, the glamorous Dubai has so much to offer whatever type of holiday you are looking for.