For certain cities you need 4 weeks to explore, others require just 1 week and then there are some where a day or two will just do. Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates, is one of those cities where all you need is no more than 48 hours to explore around. I’ve been to Abu Dhabi a total of 7 times now, either for leisure purposes or work-related, so I pretty much know my way around.
People often compare Abu Dhabi with its neighbouring and more popular city of the UAE, Dubai(which is about a 50-minute drive from Abu Dhabi), but actually it’s like comparing apples with oranges: Even though they’re both fruits, they taste differently. It all depends on what you’re looking for. Dubai is very touristy, crowded and has more activities, but if you’re looking for more relaxation, and less crowds, then Abu Dhabi is the place to be.
Abu Dhabi is great for a layover (before you continue your trip to southeast Asia, like Malaysia or Singapore) or a day trip, if you’re already visiting Dubai(which in my opinion has more to offer in terms of sights, activities and entertainment – Oh and is less conservative!).
With that being said, here are my 7 things to do in Abu Dhabi in 48 hours.
(FYI – The UAE has a desert-like climate so the best time to visit Abu Dhabi without breaking out in sweat is between late September and early May)
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is not only one of the most visited mosques in the world, but also Abu Dhabi’s most iconic landmarks. I’ve seen a few mosques around the globe, but I have to say that this one must be the most beautiful in the world.
The mosque has been built with a lot of detail, which you can see from its beautiful architectural and interior design. The materials for the design(interior and exterior) were sourced from many different countries like Germany, India, Italy and even New Zealand.
The mosque is really breathtaking. Just remember when visiting, to wear respectful and conservative clothing (meaning: cover your body and hair!). You can also choose to bring an abaya(traditional clothing for women) if you have one, but you can get them at the mosque as well.
- Emirates Palace
If you’ve seen Sex and the City 2, then you know how huge and maybe even over-the-top Emirates Palace is. This 5-star luxury hotel is not only the second most expensive hotel ever built(after Singapore’s Marina Bay Sands), but is also yet another Abu Dhabi landmark/pride to show the world all the luxury it has to offer.
This hotel seriously has anything you can imagine and probably even beyond. Remember when Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda each had their own butler? Yeah, even that is real! This hotel is completely dripped in gold and marble built suites. It was actually SATC2 that made me want to visit Abu Dhabi years ago when the movie came out. So the very first time I visited Abu Dhabi I was impressed with Emirates Palace, but after the 2nd and 3rd time, it was just another luxury hotel and in my opinion I’ve seen nicer ones. Still it’s great to see if you’re visiting Abu Dhabi for the first time.
There are quite a few interesting shopping malls in Abu Dhabi, where you basically can find anything you need: From groceries and clothes, to beauty products and electronics. I’ve visited most of the popular shopping malls like: Abu Dhabi Mall, Dalma Mall, Marina Mall and Yas Mall.
Just like Dubai, Abu Dhabi has similar shops, which are mostly American and European retail and food chains like Dunkin’ Donuts, Baskin Robbins, Popeyes, Sephora, Victoria’s Secret, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Michael Kors, but also H&M and Zara etc.
- Get some beach time
I’m a beach girl so whenever I find myself in a warmer climate I have to explore some of the beaches in the area. And Abu Dhabi has some nice beaches(mostly man made) and beach clubs. The popular ones are: Yas Beach, Saadiyat Beach/Beach club and Corniche beach.
- Dinner and drinks at YAS Viceroy
Abu Dhabi has quite a few iconic and stunning luxury hotels and I have to say that YAS Viceroy is definitely one of them. Not only the architectural design of the hotel is a work of art, but inside the hotel there are great choices in restaurants and even clubs/bars. I’ve had a 2-night stay here before and it was just amazing. Like with most hotels in the UAE you don’t have to be a guest in order to enjoy a nice brunch, lunch or dinner at one of their restaurants. What’s interesting about YAS Viceroy is that it’s situated on YAS Island right across the Formula 1 race track and the marina, so you can enjoy your dinner and drinks with a view of yachts and cars(especially during the F1 season if you’re fan!). I’m not a fan of F1, but the view is great!
- High Tea or Lunch at Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Another stunning hotel that’s worth seeing (if not for the architectural design alone) is Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, which is situated across the Corniche beach/marina, close to Marina Mall and Emirates Palace.
I also got the chance to stay 2-nights at this 5-star luxury hotel and I have to say that the food there was just amazing!!! If you ever get a chance, just go for a visit, have brunch, lunch or high tea at the Observation Deck on the 74th floor at 300 meters, where you get to enjoy a great view of Abu Dhabi’s (decent)skyline.
- Desert Safari
I would say that one of the most exciting and maybe even thrilling activity to do in Abu Dhabi would be a desert safari. This might seem a lot, but a desert safari only takes 5-hours, so it’s easy to include it in a 48-hour itinerary(it usually starts at 4pm and ends at 9pm). With a desert safari you get to dune bash in the hot desert, take photos with camels(while the drivers deflate the tires of the 4×4), maybe even spot a gazelle(which I did!!!) belly dance(very touristy!), have sisha and a BBQ dinner.
And those were my things to do/see in Abu Dhabi in 48 hours. Have you been to Abu Dhabi before? How long did you stay and how did you spend your time? Let me know in the comment section below. XO – Jey.