How to Make the Most of 24 Hours in Abu Dhabi

Thinking of heading to Abu Dhabi? Do it.

Often overshadowed by it’s big sister Dubai, Abu Dhabi is the capital city of the seven states – a hidden gem brimming with ancient tradition and soaring skyscrapers.

How to make the most of 24 hours in Abu Dhabi

We recently spent 24 hours exploring the modern marvel and we’re already itching to go back.

So if like us, you happen to find yourself in the wealthy Emirate for a short stay, we’ve put together this guide to help you make the most out of your trip.

Things to Know Before You Go

Best described as a conservative cosmopolitan, Abu Dhabi is nowhere near as strict as you may have thought. Like anywhere that you visit, it’s important to respect a country’s culture and customs.

How to make the most of 24 hours in Abu Dhabi

Here’s a few things to keep in mind if you’re planning a trip to Abu Dhabi.

  • The UAE’S official currency is the Emirati dirham, but almost all hotels and restaurants will accept credit and debit cards.
  • Tourists aren’t expected to wear traditional clothing but you should be aware of dress codes in certain areas such as shopping malls and places of worship. It’s advised but not compulsory to dress modestly and you can’t go wrong in long and loose clothing (this will also help to keep you cool.) It’s absolutely fine to wear swimsuits, shorts etc by the swimming pool or at the beach.
  • Abu Dhabi receives sunshine all year round, but the summer months can get ridiculously hot and humid. The heat is most bearable between October – May, but this time of year does of course attract most tourists. It’s also worth noting when the holy month of Ramadan starts and ends, as tourists are not allowed to eat or drink in public during the daytime to respect those who are fasting. Many restaurants and attractions change their working hours during the period of Ramadan.
  • It’s illegal to consume alcohol outside of hotels and intimacy between couples should be reduced to a minimum whilst out in public to avoid any unwanted attention.

What To Do

Here’s what’s not to be missed during your 24 hours in Abu Dhabi.

SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Visiting the largest mosque in the UAE is an absolute must when visiting Abu Dhabi.

The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an architectural marvel and you’ll find yourself picking up your jaw from the floor as you stroll around this stunning place of worship.

Predominantly white in colour, the mosque has been built using mainly marble as well as gold and other precious stones. It can hold an incredible 40,000 worshippers and features the world’s largest hand woven carpet as well as gold plated chandeliers.

Regardless of your religious beliefs, you will be blown away by it’s beauty.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi

Travel Tip: Visiting times are Sunday – Thursday from 09:00AM – 22:00PM (closed for tourists on Friday mornings during prayer time.) Visitors must dress modestly; men cannot wear shorts and women are only allowed their hands, feet and face to be on show. You will be provided with suitable clothing before you enter the mosque.

AFTERNOON TEA AT EMIRATES PALACE

How to make the most of 24 hours in Abu Dhabi

Don’t miss your opportunity to visit Emirates Palace, one of the most luxurious and lavish hotels in the world.

Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi

Emirates Palace is an iconic landmark in Abu Dhabi

We indulged in the Royal Afternoon Tea Affair in the hotel’s elegant tea lounge, Le Cafe.

We were served a selection of sandwiches, freshly baked scones, cakes and tartlets and our favourite – warm chocolate fondant.

We have tried afternoon tea all around the world, but never before have we had 23K gold flakes on our cappuccino – we really did feel like Royalty.

Afternoon Tea at Emirates Palace Abu Dhabi

From the moment you enter the palace you’ll be overwhelmed by it’s outlandish interior, the hotel is decorated from head to toe with gold leaf and quite literally ‘glows.’

If afternoon tea isn’t your thing, you can take a guided tour of the Palace where you’ll learn about the history of the hotel and get to see some of the Palace’s most expensive suites.

ETIHAD TOWERS

Etihad Towers in Abu Dhabi

Modern, sophisticated and luxurious – the Etihad Towers are a modern reflection of how far Abu Dhabi has come in recent years.

If the towers look familiar to you, you’ve probably seen the famous scene from Fast and Furious 7 when a car is ‘crashed’ through three of the towers.

After you’ve finished marvelling at the towers from the outside, you can visit the country’s highest vantage point at Observation Deck at 300 for unbeatable views across Abu Dhabi and it’s surrounding islands.

We were happy a few floors lower and decided to grab a drink at Ray’s Bar on Level 62 so we could check out the incredible view with a cocktail in hand.

ABU DHABI MALL

Abu Dhabi Mall

The UAE is a shopper’s paradise and you can’t leave Abu Dhabi without treating yourself to something nice.

Abu Dhabi Mall is directly connected to our hotel, Beach Rotana, and so we couldn’t resist taking a peek into it’s maze of shops. If you’re a shopaholic like me, you’ll enjoy wandering around this plush mall lined with big name brands.

Abu Dhabi mall is one of the country’s oldest shopping malls and we particularly enjoyed the more local-feel to this mall, with nuts, traditional sweets and ouds on offer as well as the big name brands.

Where To Stay

Beach Rotana

If you’re looking for a slice of luxury and a great base during your stay in Abu Dhabi, you won’t be disappointed with Beach Rotana.

This 5-star city resort is perfectly located right in the heart of Abu Dhabi – and location is key when time is precious.

Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi

Check-in was a breeze and we instantly fell in love with the lobby’s high ceilings and lavish decor. We stayed in a premium room with a private balcony offering spectacular views of Abu Dhabi’s skyline.

Our room was bright and spacious, and had absolutely everything ready on our arrival, from cakes and pastries to dressing gowns and body lotions – a lovely touch after a long flight.

Beach Rotana Abu Dhabi

Beach Rotana’s tropical gardens, gym, private beach and infinity pool are just a handful of the hotel’s 5-star amenities. We found it difficult to tear ourselves away from the awesome cocktail selection at the swim-up bar.

The hotel’s perfect location enables you not only to get out and explore the city, but also offers a relaxing retreat to escape the heat. The staff were incredibly friendly and really did go out of their way to ensure that we had a fantastic stay.

You can read a full review of our stay at Beach Rotana here.

Where To Eat

FINZ

Finz seafood restaurant Abu Dhabi

Calling all seafood lovers – you cannot leave Abu Dhabi without checking out Finz; the most scenic spot in Abu Dhabi to indulge in fresh fish and seafood.

Finz seafood restaurant Abu Dhabi

Finz is perched on the waters edge with stunning views across the shore

Recently relaunched, the restaurant feels modern and stylish. The menu offers a vast selection of seafood dishes with influences from North Africa, including a number of shareable dishes.

The seafood at Finz was some of the best we’ve ever eaten, and paired with the stunning view – it’s easy to see how it’s gained the reputation of being one of the best restaurants in Abu Dhabi.

Got More Time?

Unfortunately we were limited to just 24 hours in Abu Dhabi, but if you’re lucky enough to enjoy a longer stay, here’s a few more experiences you may want to add to your list.

  • Yas Island
  • Desert Safari
  • Heritage Village
  • Saadiyat Island
  • Qasr Al Sarab

It’s no wonder that Abu Dhabi attracts millions of visitors every year, and although it’s trying to catch up with Dubai, we enjoyed the fact that it was more peaceful than it’s bustling neighbour.

Whether you’re making the most of your layover, or taking the 90 minute drive from Dubai – be sure to visit Abu Dhabi during your next trip to the UAE.

The accommodation and food mentioned in this post were provided in exchange for an honest review. As always, all opinions are our own.

Click here to check out our full review of Beach Rotana.

What’s your favourite thing to do in Abu Dhabi?

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27 Comments

  1. 10th October 2017 / 1:42 pm

    OMG Rosie, your article has left me with a bad case of FOMO! To be totally honest, visiting the middle east isn’t on my top of places. It’s not like I have 0 interest in ever going, but I won’t be making efforts to go there anytime soon. Yet, your post has wowed me so much! What LUXURY!! From the amazing hotel you stayed at to the freaking gold afternoon tea affair?! Just wow. Amazing 24 hrs you two had 😉

  2. 10th October 2017 / 1:18 am

    Did you just stay 24 hours? You covered a lot!!! And the cappuccino was an eye-catcher! For 24 hours, you had a fancy stay in the fancy hotel and you have seen all those magnificent skyscrapers and architecture. I bet 24 hours wasn’t enough at all. My husband frequented Abu Dhabi and Dubai for business trips but he hasn’t told me about these. Thanks!

  3. 9th October 2017 / 11:41 pm

    I love all your photos! Well, 24 hours is too short to visit this stunning place but thanks to your informative tips. This is helpful for travellers who plan to have a short trip to this place.

  4. 9th October 2017 / 11:16 am

    Yes indeed most of the times Abu Dhabi is overshadowed by the glitter of Dubai. But Abu Dhabi is a wonderful destination in its own right. It is a delightful blend of tradition and contemporary and even futuristic mores. The Grand Mosque is really exquisite and is a white wonder that dazzles in the sands of the desert city.

  5. Miranda
    9th October 2017 / 6:08 am

    Addressing Ramadan and restaurants adjusting their working hours is so important! Some people may forget about that. I am surprised that they are understanding about tourists & clothing, but I do agree, it’s important to be respectful of a culture!

  6. 9th October 2017 / 4:52 am

    I’m really intrigued by your food pictures, it all looks so good! An the cappuccinos! YUM. Abu Dhabi is up there on my to do list. Especially for the skyscrapers.

  7. Erika (@etoile_d_hiver)
    9th October 2017 / 1:29 am

    Hey! Thanks for sharing this … I used to transit in Abu Dhabi when I fly from Paris to Jakarta. I never went out from the airport … after reading this article I am thinking to spend a day there …. thanks again

  8. 7th October 2017 / 12:11 pm

    This place seems so awesome. Definitely at the top of my bucket list. Love the architecture and afternoon tea.

  9. 7th October 2017 / 8:45 am

    That Mosque, I’ve seen it being visited by a few bloggers now and every time I’m totally green with envy. I love your outfit too – the compulsory garb for the mosque. Also a big fan of the deserts and snacks you got with your tea and golden coffee. Are gold flakes even edible?

  10. 6th October 2017 / 6:27 pm

    I have stopped here only as a transit from London to Australia but I wondered what it would be like to stay for a couple of days. After looking at your photos and reading your post, I am even more keen to stop there next time in transit even for a night. I would love to do the Desert Safari and the Heritage Village.

  11. 6th October 2017 / 12:01 pm

    I’ve wanted to visit Abu Dhabi for SO long — mostly to see the Sheikh Zayed Mosque! The city looks so photogenic! And my husband would totally die over the afternoon tea set up!

  12. 5th October 2017 / 3:15 am

    Awesome post. The mosque looks impressive, I dont know why but Ive always felt lazy to travel to the middle east, but it seems Im missing amazing views

  13. 5th October 2017 / 1:55 am

    Wow!!! The photos of that mosque are absolutely stunning. And the tea at Emirates Palace looked delicious too. Maybe I should add Abu Dhabi to my travel bucket list!

  14. 4th October 2017 / 4:58 am

    I like Abu Dhabi. It’s a lot more quiter then Dubai. You have given a very nice detailed review of the city. I haven’t been to Sheikh Zayed mosque yet but it’s on my list.

  15. Tatum
    4th October 2017 / 12:50 am

    I’ve only been to Dubai but a lot of the things you mention not to forget applies to both! Wow, that Grand Mosque is exactly that, GRAND! When I head back over to the Middle East Abu Dhabi is definitely on my list!

  16. 4th October 2017 / 12:08 am

    What a beautiful post! I must admit, I’m a HUGE Fast and the Furious fan, so of course the Towers are what I associate most with Abu Dhabi. 🙂
    I am going to be in SEA next year and might need to make a quick stop in Abu Dhabi. That Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is absolutely exquisite!

  17. 3rd October 2017 / 4:40 pm

    Abu Dhabi looks simply stunning, the mosque looks gorgeous and the palace is beautiful! i would love to visit and explore this area of the world.

  18. 3rd October 2017 / 10:16 am

    What attracts me the most to visiting Abu Dhabi is the architecture. Very unique and vibrant. I’ve been to Dubai and maybe I’ll make the trip to Abu Dhabi one day!

  19. 3rd October 2017 / 7:05 am

    When I’m think in Abu Dhabi one word always came to my mind: expensive! This looks so lavish! I didn’t know Emirates Palace was open to the public, Medium Oriente cities are a paradise for architecture lovers. You should do a post how to visit Abu Dhabi on a budget if it is possible.

  20. 3rd October 2017 / 2:06 am

    I definitely agree that Abu Dhabi is overshadowed by Dubai as its been always on my list as a 2nd place to visit in UAE. But if you only have 24 hours I would choose Abu Dhabi as Dubai is so big you won’t feel the atmosphere there in only one day. I really would love to visit The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque! Its one of the most wonderful place Ive ever seen ( on photos so far obviously 🙂 ) and the skyline looks great too! Love your photos!

  21. 3rd October 2017 / 12:37 am

    The tips on how to best respect their culture are super helpful and important! Everything looks so beautiful, grand, and full of character! Beach Rotana looks like the perfect place to stay for a trip here. Great post!

  22. 3rd October 2017 / 12:25 am

    Abu Dhabi looks like straight from 1001 nights. I am so in love with your picutres of the mosque… pure art! In case I ll have a longer layover in Abu Dhabi, I ll definitely use your guide.

  23. 1st October 2017 / 6:58 pm

    Your photo are absolutely amazing. I will definitely have to see that iconic mosque, the architecture in the looks beyond beautiful. Abu Dabi will undoubtedly be UAE’s next tourist destination with so much to offer.

  24. 30th September 2017 / 2:12 pm

    I was thinking Abu Dhabi seems like a repressive place, but I enjoyed Iran, and there are no bars there, let alone a swim-up bar.

  25. Followingtherivera
    29th September 2017 / 5:23 pm

    You really made the most of your trip to Abu Dhabi! Actually this interests me more than Dubai, just for that incredible mosque. The afternoon tea looks wonderful, and hello, gold flakes on your cappuccino?! I’d like to visit for myself now, thanks for sharing.

  26. 29th September 2017 / 6:03 am

    Wow, your pictures are gorgeous! I would love to see Abu Dahbi. The architecture is stunning, and the food looks so delicious! I think I would be nervous about not breaking any cultural customs, but you tips put me at ease there. Maybe someday I will go! It looks so beautiful!

  27. 28th September 2017 / 2:20 pm

    The Mosque is real beauty, the chandeliers, the whiteness all around is gorgeous. I didn’t know Emirates Palace is open for tour as well, I would love to see the glowing hotel!! Lastly loved the idea of goldflakes in coffee, that’s unique – how much did it cost??

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