Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates cruises

The UAE’s capital is a dynamic city to explore. An almost Miami-like mix of salt-white sand and reflective skyscrapers, Abu Dhabi offers world-class museums, innovative Middle Eastern cuisine, and an enviable shopping scene.

Abu Dhabi port guide

Capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi takes its name from the Arabian Gazelle that once roamed here, long before the discovery of oil kick-started the area’s metamorphosis. Today, Abu Dhabi is a futuristic metropolis populated by glass skyscrapers and fringed by soft, sandy beaches. From a destination billed previously as ‘one to watch,’ Abu Dhabi is now officially ‘one to experience.’ Abu Dhabi City occupies its own island, and it’s here that visitors arriving by sea step ashore.

Top landmarks and sights in Abu Dhabi

Probably the most well-known landmark in Abu Dhabi, many would argue that no visit to this enchanting city is complete without seeing the Sheikh Zayed Mosque. One of the largest mosques in the world, here discover exquisite elements of Islamic architecture and design including 82 white marble domes, more than 1,000 columns embedded with precious stones, and gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers.

The Abu Dhabi skyline is another spectacle to behold, boasting a labyrinth of skyscrapers designed by some of the brightest architectural minds. The Etihad Towers comprise five of these buildings, and in tower 2, you’ll find the Observation Deck at 300, from which you can gaze out over an outstanding view of the city below.

To learn a little more about Abu Dhabi history, perhaps visit Qasr Al Hosn. The oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi, it was originally built in the late 1700s as a fort to protect the growing settlement and oversee the coastal trade routes. Since then, it has served as a home for the Royal Family, a seat of government, and a national archive. It was transformed into a museum in 2018.

Further out, Al Ain is about two hours’ drive from Abu Dhabi City, located at the foot of Jebel Hafeet – the second highest peak in the UAE. Known as the Oasis City, attractions in Al Ain include Al Jahili Fort, built in 1891, the National Museum, and Al Ain Palace Museum, all of which showcase traditional Arabian architectural styles.

Things to do in Abu Dhabi

Downtown, in the Saadiyat Island Cultural District, you’ll find galleries including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and Guggenheim. These two remarkable museums not only house interesting art and artefacts, but they are utterly striking architecturally too.

Ferrari World is the ultimate attraction for car fans and adrenaline-seekers. Here you’ll find the world’s fastest rollercoaster and the world’s highest loop ride, as well as more than 40 other record-breaking experiences. You’ll also have the opportunity to learn more about the world of Italian supercars, and the legends who race them.

Those looking for more of a glimpse into local culture, the UAE Heritage Village offers a generous insight. It’s essentially a time capsule, where you’ll have the chance to experience traditional desert life. Browse an old-style souk (market), and wander along the paths of a desert camp to learn more about Abu Dhabi’s history. Watch craftsmen at their metalwork, weaving fabric, blowing glass, and making pottery, and perhaps even have a go yourself.

Outside the main city, you could head to the Mangrove National Park, keeping an eye out for native turtles, flamingos, and herons as you venture into the forest and salt marshes. Or you could drive out to Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, which is about an hour away from the city center. In the museum here, learn about how falcons have been used to hunt small animals in the UAE, or enjoy an opportunity to handle one of the birds, under guided supervision.

Eating and drinking in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi offers a wide range of culinary experiences. You could choose anything from a street vendor or a food court in a shopping mall, to a traditional restaurant or luxury hotel.

Naturally, the majority of cuisine in Abu Dhabi has Middle Eastern influences, with the earthy yet fragrant flavors of the Lebanon being a particular favorite. Goat, lamb, and fish all feature strongly on menus, as do rice and various breads. A platter of Mezze, comprising side dishes such as vegetables and salads, is usually served with your meal, for the table to share. Dates are often served with dinner also.

Desserts are sweet and syrupy, and a traditional Arabic coffee – Kahwa – is also commonly served at the end of a meal. Tea is another option, which can be supplemented with saffron, cardamom, or mint. Alcoholic drinks are reserved for hotel bars and restaurants.

Shopping in Abu Dhabi

Wander along colorful and aromatic traditional souks or browse ultra-modern malls for the latest tech. Shopping in this part of the world generally happens at either end of the past-to-future scale. Tourists often visit Abu Dhabi specifically to shop because prices here tend to favor those in the West. The Marina Mall, in the Breakwater district, and the Abu Dhabi Mall are two of the largest. Here, even if the allure of shopping doesn’t appeal, the chance to go inside and escape the sun can be a welcome respite.

The city’s souks provide an enticing opportunity to scout authentic keepsakes and gifts for loved ones at home. Cash is King here and haggling down prices is expected. Be patient, look closely, and perhaps find yourself a one-of-a-kind piece of jewelry, an intricately woven carpet, or an antique with a fascinating story.

Getting around: Abu Dhabi transport

The city of Abu Dhabi is spread over a considerable area and taxis are the easiest way to get around. You’ll also find a pick-up and drop-off bicycle service, as well as e-scooters readily available to hire all over the city. Local and intercity buses are another option however these are a more time-consuming mode of transport in Abu Dhabi.

Abu Dhabi port facilities

The cruise port in Abu Dhabi is Port Zayed, around three miles from the city center. The cruise terminal itself was established in 2015, and today offers visitors plenty of restaurants, retail shops, and duty-free shops. Other services include restrooms and baggage storage.

Top tips for Abu Dhabi


The currency used in Abu Dhabi, and throughout the United Arab Emirates, is the Emirati Dirham (AED or Dhs). One dirham is made up of 100 fils, and at the time of writing one dirham is around 25p in GBP. Cards are widely accepted throughout Abu Dhabi however it can be useful to carry cash, especially if you’ll be shopping at local markets or dining at street food vendors.


While tipping is not expected, it is widely practised across the UAE. You can expect high-end restaurants to add a 10% service charge to your bill, as well as a tourism levy of 6%. These charges are sometimes included and explained in the menu. If you experienced particularly good service, it is quite common to leave an additional tip on top of these charges.


Abu Dhabi, like other regions in the Middle East, is known to be warm year-round. The coldest months are December, January, and February, when the average temperature is between 18 and 21 degrees Celsius. The hottest months are June, July, August, and September, when the average temperature is between 33 and 36 degrees Celsius. January, February, and March see the most rain.