Are you looking for the ultimate Abu Dhabi Itinerary? Then look no further! As ex Abu Dhabi residents we know the city pretty well and developed this itinerary over the course of our many visitors to the city! In this itinerary we cover everything from cultural attractions, best beaches, most beautiful places as well as rounding up where to stay and the best ways to get around the city!
How To Get Around Abu Dhabi
Getting Taxis in Abu Dhabi
The most common way to get around Abu Dhabi is via taxis! Taxis in Abu Dhabi are plentiful and relatively cheap and is the way I would recommend getting around during your Abu Dhabi itinerary! Taxis here are metered and make sure they switch on the meter at the start of the journey!
As with many places in the Middle East, the amount of construction in the city means that the roads are constantly changing! I always pre load my destination onto google maps to show the driver and know some nearby by landmarks just in case they haven’t heard of your destinations! Having said that this itinerary covers only the main sights of the city so should pose any problems to the city’s taxi drivers!
To order a taxi you can call600 53 53 53 or use the Abu Dhabi taxi app – TransAD! However most hotels and tourist attractions will have a waiting line of taxis for tourists!
If you would prefer to use an App based taxi service then you should use Careem (the Middle East version of Uber) and you can order ones with a car seat if you are travelling with littles but this service is limited and takes time so I always bring my own with me!
For getting to and from the airport during your stay you can either get one of the regular taxis or organise a private transfer!
Should I Hire a Car in Abu Dhabi
I personally would not recommend hiring a car in Abu Dhabi especially if you are not a confident driver or used to very busy and fast roads!
The Middle East and Abu Dhabi and Dubai in particular can be an intimidating place to drive around! The itinerary outlined below is easy to do with taxis however is also to do with by hiring your own vehicle – especially if you want to cross the border into neighbouring emirate Dubai and don’t want to be reliant on tours to do this!
Vehicles in Abu Dhabi are left hand drive and you should make sure that you have the correct documentation in either English or Arabic in order to hire a car!
If you are looking to rent a car in Abu Dhabi then we normally use Thrifty because of the variety of pick up and drop off locations in the city!
Public Transport in Abu Dhabi
There are public transport options in Abu Dhabi but I would not recommend this for the general Abu Dhabi tourist! However you need a transport card and the buses are more unreliable and can get crowded! I personally would advise avoiding public transport and opting for a taxi instead!
Getting Around Abu Dhabi with kids
Abu Dhabi has a rule that all children under 4 must be restrained in proper car seats! The only taxi service that offers car seats is Careen but this needs to be pre ordered!
Where to Stay in Abu Dhabi
There is not one right place to stay in Abu Dhabi and I would say it depends on what kind of stay you are looking for as to what area to pick to stay in!
I have an in-depth guide on where to stay in Abu Dhabi here but below is a quick overview!
The main places I would consider are
- Yas Island – perfect for those who want to use the Yas Island facilities such as Ferrari World, Warner Brothers World and Yas Water World! There is also a public beach on Yas Island that the island hotels all share! This is also the end of Abu Dhabi closest to Dubai
- Saadiyat Island – full of luxury resorts and my favourite beach spot in the whole of the city!
- Abu Dhabi Corniche –Closest to the Central Business District of Abu Dhabi! This is close to the Corniche beach, Marina Mall and Emirates Palace and Ethihad Towers!
Click here for our full Abu Dhabi Where to Stay Guide!
Ultimate Abu Dhabi Itinerary
Note About this Abu Dhabi Itinerary: This Abu Dhabi can be done in any order, the order listed below is just an example! If you have less time than that outline then I would recommend just picking your favourite days from this itinerary!
In this itinerary, we recommend the best places to eat in Abu Dhabi as well include all of the main Abu Dhabi attractions for you to see!
Day One – Experiencing culture in Abu Dhabi (The Louvre, Souks and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque)
The first day of this Abu Dhabi itinerary is all about getting cultural! But first, we recommend heading to Saadiyat Island for breakfast (if you hotel rate does not include breakfast)!
Our favourite place to have breakfast on Saadiyat Island is The Circle Cafe! This place does great hearty breakfasts and at weekends they offer a great value for money bottomless breakfast!
Once you have finished breakfast we recommend heading to one of the most beautiful places in Abu Dhabi the newly open Louvre Abu Dhabi!
Abu Dhabi is quickly developing as one of the most important cultural centre for museums in the Middle East with the Louvre being one of many museums which are in the pipeline for the city (others include a branch of the Guggenheim and the first national museum of the UAE – The Sheikh Zayed National Museum)! The collection at the Louvre Abu Dhabi is largely art based but split into galleries to chart the progression of humanity! If you are travelling with children there is also a children’s gallery however the rest of the museum is more inaccessible for younger audiences!
If you need to stop on your visit or decide to have lunch at the Louvre, there is also a great museum cafe which is split into 50:50 table service and self service! It is worth a stop in my opinion as it is in a great position overlooking the water!
But perhaps my favourite thing about the Louvre Abu Dhabi is the building itself! Designed by the starchitect Jean Nouvel, who coincidentally designed one of my other favourite museum buildings in the Gulf – the National Museum of Qatar (you can read more about it in this post). This place is truly an instagrammers dream!
The museum is open every day (except Monday) from 10am!
This place, especially if there are cruise ships in the port, can get busy so I would recommend booking your tickets in advance!
Once you have finished at the Louvre take the car or jump in a taxi to the World Trade Centre Mall (aka WTC)! Now there are lots of malls in Abu Dhabi and I must admit that this wouldn’t be my favourite except for the fact it has the beautiful WTC Souq!
There isn’t a historic souq in Abu Dhabi but this is one of a couple of modern takes not the souq! So while the one half to the World Trade Centre Mall is just a modern mall the other half is done as a traditional Emirati Souq! It is a great place to go Souvenir Shopping while in Abu Dhabi!
For your afternoon/ early evening you will be heading to the top Abu Dhabi Bucket List item – The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (full guide to visiting here)! This is literally my favourite place in Abu Dhabi and if you can only visit one place in Abu Dhabi then for me it has to be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque!
The late afternoon and early evening really is one of the best times to see the Mosque as it looks spectacular in the Golden Hour! And by visiting at this time you get to see the Mosque both during the day and at the nighttime!
The Mosque is the largest Mosque in the UAE and will take a couple of hours to get around especially if you want to go on one of the guided tours! These tours do not require advance booking and are free however it is best to check the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque website for times!
Please remember when visiting that this is a holy place and the dress code here is enforced! Men and women must be covered on their arms to their wrists and their legs to their ankles! Women who visit must also have their head and hair covered when they are in the Mosque complex! You could either take a pashmina with you to cover your head yourself or there is a free abaya rental (an abaya is the traditional Gulf National dress – a floor length robe with long sleeves and head scarf)! so you can enter if your attire does not fit the Abu Dhabi dress code!
If you are travelling on a Friday (The Islamic Holy Day) or during Ramadan please be sure to check the Mosque website for up to date opening information!
We also have a Dubai Dress Code Guide here!
Once you have finished at the Mosque jump in the taxi and head across the inlet to Souk Qarat al Beryi just over the water from the Mosque! Again this is not a historic souq but a recreation that is worth a visit! Again this is a fabulous place to do souvenir shopping! However my favourite thing to do here is to have dinner!
One of my favourite restaurants in Abu Dhabi is here! And El Wahab serves traditional Middle Eastern cuisine and is exceptionally tasty! Be sure to get a table out on the terrace as it has great views of the Mosque over the water!
If you only have one day in Abu Dhabi I would recommend choosing this one!
Day Two – Yas Island
Day Two of Your Ultimate Abu Dhabi Itinerary will be spent entirely on Yas Island! Yas Island is in Abu Dhabi but is about a 25 minute drive from the Corniche! It is a great place to stay when you staying in Abu Dhabi but if you are not staying on the island it is worth dedicating a whole day of your itinerary to Yas Island!
Yas Island is home to a host of Abu Dhabi Theme Parks! They are:
- Warner Brothers World
- Yas Waterworld
- Ferrari World
If you re looking to do your Abu Dhabi Itinerary with Kids then Warner Brothers World is probably the theme parks for you! This is also a great place to go if you are travelling to Abu Dhabi in Summer as the whole theme park is indoors and completely air conditioned!
There are several worlds that may appeal to those travelling to Abu Dhabi with kids such as
- Bedrock – The Flintsones section
- Metropolis – Superman World
- Gotham City – Batman themed
- Cartoon Junction – where you can meet the famous Warner Brothers cartoon characters such as Bugs Bunny
- Dynamite Gulch
- Warner Brothers Plaza
This is a great theme park if you are travelling with a mix of ages as the cartoon world appeals to those with young children while the superheroes will appeal to the older audience!
Depending on the time of year you are travelling another choice for travelling to Abu Dhabi with a family is Yas Waterworld! The Yas Waterworld is great for a variety of ages as even if you are travelling to Abu Dhabi with toddlers or babies there are splash areas that they can use!
If you are travelling with older children or as adults then Ferrari World might be worth considering! This isn’t the most traditional of theme parks as there aren’t tons of rides here however the ones they have are BIG! This is definitely a place for adrenaline junkies!
Once you have had your fill of fun at the theme parks head to the mall connected to Ferrari World – Yas Mall! This is my favourite of all the malls in Abu Dhabi and there are great variety of restaurants! My daughter loves the chain restaurant Giraffe which is at the mall and has great children’s menu! However, if you can then I would recommend eating on the terrace closest to Ferrari World were there is a fountain show! It isn’t as spectucular as the fountain show in front of the Burj Khalifa however it is still nice to watch!
Day Three – The Corniche Area
Today we are starting the day with one of the most spectacular views in Abu Dhabi bu going up the Observation Deck at Jumeriah at Etihad Towers! The Observation Deck at Etihad Towers is on the 74th Floor and offers the best view of the Abu Dhabi skyline and is a truly specatacular view!
One you have finished at the Towers then head along the Abu Dhabi Corniche! The Abu Dhabi Corniche is over an 8km stretch along which are public beaches, outdoor gyms and a wealth of food and beverage outlets! Depending on what you feel like you can either just stroll the Corniche or you can make use of the facilities or just go for a stroll – dependent on the time of year of course!
Once you have finished head for pretty much the most luxurious things that you can do in Abu Dhabi – have afternoon tea at the Emirates Palace Hotel! The Emirates palace is one of the most luxurious hotels in Abu Dhabi! It is one of the most ornately decorated hotels that you will ever set foot in adorned with gold, marbles and pearls and the afternoon tea is a great way to experience it! While there if you are feeling flush you could also try the famous Emirates Palace Gold Cappuccino! A Cappuccino dusted with real gold!
Day Four – Escape to a Private Island
When you are looking for the best beaches in the UAE, the competition is usually Dubai Vs Abu Dhabi but for me Abu Dhabi has the superior beaches! For this reason you need to dedicate at least one day in your Abu Dhabi itinerary to enjoy the beaches!
For a full list of the best beaches in Abu Dhabi click here!
Our favourite place to have a beach day in Abu Dhabi is to head to the private island of Zaya Nurai! You head to Saadiyat Island and then take a short 15 minute speed boat transfer to the island which feels more like the Maldives than the UAE!
You need to book your beach day in advance as numbers are limited to keep the exclusivity of the island!
If you don’t fancy the private island experience then our other favourite place to go to the beach is at the Saadiyat Beach Club! Here they have beautiful stretch of beach, last time we were there we spotted dolphins in the water, a beautiful infinity pool that is perfectly heated and a kids area!
Note: This place is expensive but weekdays are cheaper! Also if you are staying in Abu Dhabi for 5-7 days you may want to consider buying the entertainer app as there are lots of 2for1 deals including (when we last checked) the Saadiyat Beach Club!
5 Days in Abu Dhabi Itinerary – Desert Safari and the best Day Trips from Abu Dhabi
If you are doing a 5 days in Abu Dhabi Itinerary this is your last day and there is still lots of choice for what you can see!
Now I personally don’t think any visiting to the Middle East is complete without a trip into the desert! Now even if you have hired a car for your trip to Abu Dhabi I wouldn’t recommend taking it to the desert yourself! Driving in the desert particularly on sand dunes is exceptionally difficult and even after five years living in the Middle East is not something that I personally feel comfortable doing which is why I always advise anyone to do an excursion to visit the desert from Abu Dhabi!
There are lots of different types of excursions to take to the desert such as:
- Morning Safari with Camel Ride
- Evening Safari with Dinner Under the Stars
- Dune Drive, Camel Ride, Sand Surfing and BBQ!
However if you don’t fancy spending time in the desert but would like to do a day trip you could consider
- Heading to Dubai! The drive from Abu Dhabi to Dubai is about 1.5-2 hours! A highlight of visiting Dubai is of course seeing the incredible Burj Khalifa – the world’s tallest building! Or if you are travelling with children or toddlers to Dubai the aquarium is a must! If you want to consider splitting your itinerary between Dubai and Abu Dhabi then you may want to consider checking out this post!
- If you want to visit Dubai but don’t want to go into the city another great day trip is to head to the Dubai Abu Dhabi border and enjoying the Dubai Park Resorts Theme Parks! They have a Bollywood themed park, a Legoland, a Legoland water park and Motiongate – a film based park – our full Motiongate review is here!
- Another slightly closer alternative is Al Ain which is famous for its zoo and it’s moutanins! This can be done on a guided excursion also!
Day 6 – other Best Things to do in Abu Dhabi
Start the day by getting up early and heading out to the Abu Dhabi Mangroves! One of the things that surprised me most about Abu Dhabi was how green it was in comparison to other Middle Eastern cities such as Dubai and Doha!
Abu Dhabi has extensive mangroves and is home to the Mangrove National Park in Abu Dhabi! This is one of my favourite places to go in Abu Dhabi as you can get away from the hustle and the bustle of the city and feel like you are truly in nature – which is difficult in the Middle East! And in my opinion one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi is explore the mangroves by water!
One of the best ways to see the mangroves is to rent a kayak and explore them! However if you are travelling to Abu Dhabi with toddlers or babies – like we did – you should consider renting a donut boat which are a much easier option with small children! These go at a very leisurely pace and are a great way to explore!
We recommend going early if you like us love wildlife and are interested in seeing the birdlife of Abu Dhabi! However if you don’t fancy an early start you can head there for lunch and maybe grab a pizza from Carluccio’s and take that on board with you!
You can prebook your Mangrove excursion here or you can simply turn up on the day!
For your afternoon at the mornings exercise we recommend having a relax at your hotel pool or beach!
However if you are in Abu Dhabi on Friday you may want to consider having a decadent UAE boozy brunch!
7 Days in Abu Dhabi Itinerary – The Newest Abu Dhabi Cultural Attractions
If you are looking to do seven days in Abu Dhabi this will be your final day (though you may pick a different selection of days if you like)!
Today we are starting the day at one of the newest tourist attractions in Abu Dhabi – Qasr Al Hosn! Qasr Al Hosn is the oldest and most significant building in Abu Dhabi! The building does back to 1790s and was the city’s first permanent structure – a watchtower! The purpose of this fort and watchtower was to watch over the coastal trade that was imperative to the development of the city!
Today Qasr Al Hosn is a museum and celebrates the development of Abu Dhabi from its Pearling History to the city it has become today!
Once you have finished at Qasr Al Hosn you are going to head to an even newer cultural attraction – the Abu Dhabi Presidential Palace – Qasr Al Watan which only opened at the start of 2019! This is another glistening white building like Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque! The Palace is still a working governmental building and although described as a palace the building is actually just offices! Since the start of 2019 visitors can explore the beautiful gardens, the library and the Qasr Al Watan Main building! This is a true architectural gem in Abu Dhabi!
Although open every day be sure to check the website in advance as they may close the building for diplomatic events!
Also if doing this Abu Dhabi Itinerary with Kids, you may want to consider replacing this item with perhaps something else on Yas Island as there isn’t much that will hold children attention!
Once you have finished here hop in a taxi over to one of the newer islands of Abu Dhabi – Al Maryah Island which is home to some of the cities more expensive hotels (the Rosewood and the Four Seasons) and a very up market mall!
Although, unless you are feeling flush this probably isn’t somewhere you will be wanting to do your shopping it is a great place to go for an early dinner! Many of the restaurants here have terraces on the waterfront and it is a great place to watch the sunset over the Abu Dhabi sunset!
There are lots of great restaurants here but our favourite is Bentleys (I recommend trying the burger – it is one of the best I have ever had!)!
FAQS About Abu Dhabi
Have you been to Abu Dhabi? What were you favourite things to do in Abu Dhabi? Let us know in the comments!