An Emirate Playground: The Best of Abu Dhabi

The Emirate of Abu Dhabi might not garner as much international attention as its popular neighbour Dubai, but visitors are sure to be pleasantly surprised by the luxury and charm of this ever-growing city. With a host of new developments, now is the perfect time to visit Abu Dhabi as the city’s current incarnation blends old world Arabia with modern day metropolis to create a truly unique international destination.

old traditions in a new world
Abu DhabiKerem Tapani / Foter / CC BY-ND

The original city is situated on a what is now a rather crowded end of an island, with newer developments extending to another 200 islands as well as the mainland. With a host of luxury accommodation options, fantastic shopping, cultural activities and world-class restaurants, Abu Dhabi is the perfect place for a glamorous holiday. Here’s our pick of the highlights you should check out on a visit to the Emirate playground:

Accommodation in Abu Dhabi

Sheraton Abu Dhabi

Located on the Corniche (Abu Dhabi’s famed coastal road), the Sheraton Abu Dhabi is a five star resort tucked away in one of the most picturesque parts of the city. Bordered by the lush gardens and elaborate fountains of the Corniche, the hotel boasts 272 stunning guests rooms, unparalleled ocean views and endless amenities including meeting facilities, cultural activities, restaurants and bars.

Emirates Palace

This opulent resort is both sprawling and stunning. The hotel opens onto a 1.3km long private beach and offers guests the chance to indulge in some of that over-the-top luxury that the Emirates are known for. Complete with a vending machine doling out gold bars, the hotel is popular with royalty, oligarchs and high-rolling tourists. As the walk from the East wing to the West is roughly 1,000m, guests have ample opportunity to explore the lavish grounds as they return from dinner or take a romantic stroll through this palatial hotel.

Restaurants in Abu Dhabi

The One Restaurant

Known as one of the city’s most popular expat haunts, The One Restaurant occupies the first floor of a local high-end furniture showroom called The One on Khalidiyah Street. With a range of culinary treats from gluten-free baked goods to foodie favourites like macadamia nut-crusted hammour and falafel with orange and basil hummus, the food is original and delicious.

Lebanese Flower

While takeaway restaurants might not seem consistent with Abu Dhabi’s glamorous reputation, Lebanese Flower is always packed – for good reason. It’s typical for cars to block both street entrances of this popular restaurant and honk for service while inside guests regularly have to wait in line for a seat. Waiters here are always busy running back and forth between the vehicles outside and the tables inside, delivering mouth-watering food like garlic-scented lamb shawarmas, mixed grill platters and delicious salads.

Activities in Abu Dhabi

Yas Marina Circuit

For thrill seekers with deep pockets, you can experience F1 racing like the professionals at this once in a lifetime venue. Suit up in fire-retardant getup and leather driving gloves and slide into the driver’s seat of a $1.5 million race car. Reaching speeds of up to 300 kph on the closed course, the track designer by Hermann Tilke is both fast and furious.

Mangrove Kayaking

Abu Dhabi is making a concerted effort to develop eco-friendly tourism and private tour operators now offer 90 minute group kayak tours of the city’s hidden mangrove forests. Many visitors might not be aware that in the midst of the burgeoning mega-city, there are meandering channels, luscious lagoons and a surprisingly robust wilderness under the cover of a very green canopy.

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