This article is a generous contribution by Dubai Wikia.
For most visitors, the UAE trip is all about traveling to Dubai. But, did you know that its largest as well as the capital city, Abu Dhabi, too is a magical spot? With the best of both worlds, the best thing is that it lets you build a holiday program with the most active or laid-back experiences. But, if all you have for the city exploration is just two days, the catch is to know how to make the most of this short span of time. Don’t worry; this perfect 48 hours in Abu Dhabi guide will give you some inspiring ideas. It also includes alternatives for both days.
Day 1: See The City’s Must-Sees
Abu Dhabi is a marvelous city with a massive culture and adventure punch. Today, experience it all on a private or a guided tour. Whichever option you choose, make sure that your travel program covers the following attractions.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This sprawling white structure is more than a place of worship; it is one of the UAE’s most stunning architectural delights. It is super tranquil, exceptionally colossal and can easily accommodate up to 40,000 at a time. It is open to both Muslims and non-Muslim means you also get to admire its unrivaled artsy elements and features such as the world’s largest hand-woven carpet, the stunning ever glass works, and the largest of its chandeliers finished in 24k gold, among others.
Observation Deck at 300
It may not be as high or grand as Dubai’s Burj Khalifa. But, it still promises you a premium standpoint to take in the marvelous cityscape and beyond. At a height of over 300 meters, it is located on the 74th level of Jumeirah at Etihad Towers.
This iconic five-star hotel is one of the staple stops on any Abu Dhabi sightseeing tour, thanks to its luxurious comforts and exquisite location along the Arabian Gulf shores.
Qasr Al Hosn
This is one of the region’s ultimate attractions where you can revisit Abu Dhabi’s modest past. After all, it is the city’s oldest heritage site, complete with an Inner Fort and Outer Fort. Its museum has on display some enlightening exhibits whose origin trace back to 6000 BC.
Qasr Al Watan
Get a slice of the Emirati royalty and architectural grandeur by making a stop at Qasr Al Watan. It is a segment of Abu Dhabi Presidential Complex and is complete with some amazing sections to discover here.
Abu Dhabi Corniche
Stretching for over eight kilometers right in the center of Abu Dhabi, the Corniche area and its surroundings are a favorite hangout spot of locals, residents and visitors alike. Come here prepared to spend the evening, with the region packed with children’s play area, spotless pedestrian paths, football and volleyball courts and exclusive tracks for cycling.
Al Qana National Aquarium
Last but most importantly, spare some enough time to discover the region’s newest attraction! A part of Al Qana Project, it is the largest aquarium in the whole of the Middle East. So, you can imagine the diversity and enormity of displays that await you here; you can look forward to see a huge spectrum of fish, rays, sharks, reptiles, mammals, corals etc, in its nine themed zones.
Alternative for Day 1 – Abu Dhabi Mangrove Tour
If you have already seen above sights or simply looking for an alternative way to spend your time in Abu Dhabi, our suggestion is to make you way to Abu Dhabi Mangrove National Park or the recently opened Jubail Mangrove Park. They are not far from the city centre, and give the rare chance to absorb the region’s pristine mangroves and its unequaled biodiversity.
Day 2: Experience Desert Bliss & Spend Rest Of The Day At Yas Island
Begin your second day in Abu Dhabi with an unbeatable escape to the Arabian Desert, which surprisingly is just about 30 minutes’ to 40 minutes’ drive from the city centre. To avoid any hassle, it is highly recommended to consider a fully guided, all inclusive desert safari package. Starting with a hotel pick up, get ready to soak up the glorious desert scenery by the first rays of sunlight! Enjoy dune bash while being seated in a 4X4 vehicle, try camel ride, and add more activities such as quad biking, sand boarding, and dune buggy (as per your choice.) You can further choose to make it more memorable by including a traditional breakfast session in the desert.
As your morning desert safari lasts for not more than 2 hours to 3 hours, you will get ample time to navigate the attractions of Yas Island. For those unversed, this island is one of the absolute havens for fun lovers and thrill enthusiasts of all age groups. Now if you are not sure where to head here, simply take your pick from the below list.
Ferrari World Abu Dhabi
The first of its kind theme park is as a much a place for Ferrari lovers as it is for serious adventurists and racing fans. After all, it is home to the world’s fastest roller coaster ride (Formula Rossa), apart from a wide array of kid-specific and milder rides that make it ideal for all abilities.
Warner Bros Abu Dhabi
This theme park is one of the best attractions for the fans of all-time favorite superheroes and cartoon characters such as Tom and Jerry, Bugs Bunny and Hanna Barbera. Explore some cool rides and attractions scattered across its six lands, which are sure to excite both your kids and kids within you.
CLYMB Abu Dhabi
Get ready to scale new height as you enter this indoor attraction on the island. It has to its credit the largest and widest skydiving flight chamber as well as the tallest indoor climbing wall. It is perfect for both pros and beginners including your kids above three years.
Yas Waterworld Abu Dhabi is the city’s largest water theme park. Developed as a tribute to the celebrated Emirati pearl diving heritage, it boasts of over 40 innovative ride, slides and other attractions, majority of which are first of its kind in the region.
KidZania Abu Dhabi
As mentioned earlier, Yas Island is a destination for all! So, don’t leave your kids from 4 to 16 years old behind on your visit here. Take them to KidZania Abu Dhabi; it is nothing short of a miniature city where your smaller ones can role-play their most preferred adult job in a safe environment while getting paid or rewarded.
Yas Marina Circuit
For racing fans, no Yas Island trip is complete without visiting Yas Marina Circuit. With one of the world’s richest and most advanced Formula F1 race tracks, it is mostly famed as the venue of the prestigious ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix.
Alternative for Day 2 – Louvre Abu Dhabi Museum & Shopping
Don’t like action or adventure; head to Louvre Abu Dhabi at Saadiyat Island; it is the Arabian world’s largest art museum. Not to mention, it is an art lovers’ paradise and a true joy for photography enthusiasts. Wander around its themed sections with both classic permanent and contemporary collections and snaps some cool pictures beneath its colossal yet marvelous dome with perforation which cause the sunlight to sieve in through them. Add to this striking location along water; the museum and its precincts, on the whole, appears like a floating structure.
Know Before You Visit
- Abu Dhabi is about two hours’ drive from Dubai. If you are planning to enter Abu Dhabi from Dubai, take a public bus or pre-book transfers with or without driver. For those looking to drive in the UAE, bring your international driving license.
- Abu Dhabi, as with other parts of the UAE, observes Islam religion. So, make sure that you dress modestly, respect its culture and avoid PDAs as you explore the city.
- Smoking and consuming alcohol in public are a serious offense which can lead to fine payment and even imprisonment.
- Abu Dhabi is sunny year-round even in winter months, so carry your sunglasses, hats and other essentials like sunscreen lotion.
- Take prior permission before you capture pictures of important government buildings and locals, in particular Emirati women.
Whether you are traveling solo or with your friends, family or little ones, Abu Dhabi is a true surprise package that appeases every preference. So be sure to visit this fantastic emirate – there is amusement, adventure, culture, nature and superlative sights all in equal measure.
Also check out this full Dubai Travel Guide: lots of useful travel planning information and what to do in the city.