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An Abu Dhabi travel guide – skyscrapers, sea views, souks and Yas Island

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Less showy than its little northern cousin Dubai, Abu Dhabi has developed itself as the new chic cosmopolitan hub of the United Arab Emirates.

Sajeev Valappil

My Destination local expert on

Abu Dhabi

It’s hard to believe that only 50 years ago, Abu Dhabi was nothing more than a small fishing village surrounded by a harsh empty desert landscape. Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and the largest emirate, with a total land mass that covers 87% of the country. The T-shaped island of Abu Dhabi is a glittering metropolis that serves the needs and desires of all travelers. Walk its beautiful costal promenades that are beautiful aligned with wavy palm tropical trees or escape the overbearing sun with a visit to some of Abu Dhabi’s affluent shopping malls that give world-renowned shopping Meccas like Oxford Street or Champ-Elysées a run for their money.


The Corniche


Located along the north-western shore of Abu Dhabi, the Corniche is a stunning 9km promenade that offers sublime beachfront views set against the backdrop of the Abu Dhabi’s sparkling architectural beauties. The area is known for its numerous leisure and recreation options and hosts a number of entertainment and sporting events throughout the year.


Tourist Club Area


Named after a long-gone recreation club, the Tourist Club Area is a bustling cosmopolitan district packed with businesses, high-rise apartment complexes and mid-range hotels. It is the home for Abu Dhabi’s shopaholics with plenty of shops and fashion boutiques available, including Abu Dhabi Mall.


Breakwater (Al Marina)


Breakwater (also known as Al Marina) is an impressive man-made island which houses lavish shopping complex, Marina Mall, the cultural Abu Dhabi Theatre and the Heritage Village – a living museum which offers visitors a glimpse at Abu Dhabi’s humble beginnings.


Saadiyat Island


Saadiyat Island has grand plans to become the cultural hub of Abu Dhabi. With the development carried out by the Tourism Development & Investment Company (TDIC), the island will soon house a number of exciting museums and art centers including the Maritime Museum, The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, The Performing Arts Centre, Zayed National Museum and the much-anticipated Louvre Abu Dhabi.


Al Meena


Situated on the north-eastern tip of the island, Al Meena is a thrilling intimate look at the local life of Abu Dhabi with its souks and markets acting as the district’s main attraction. Visiting the fresh food market, the Carpet souk and the Iranian Souk around Port Zayed are a must for all visitors.
Al Mushrif


With its overhanging palm trees providing much welcome shade on the roads, Al Mushrif is the central neighborhood in Abu Dhabi city where Al Mushrif Palace, Al Mushrif Children's Park and the Women's Handicrafts Centre can be located.


South of the Centre


The main attraction on the south side of the island is Sheikh Zayed Mosque – the stunningly beautiful mosque that is the sixth largest mosque in the world. Khalifa Park, locally considered the city’s best park, can also be found here as well as the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) and the Zayed Sports City. More recently, the lush Ritz Carlton Grand Canal opened its doors here.



Yas Island


World renowned as the venue for the Abu Dhabi F1 Grand Prix, Yas Island is one of Abu Dhabi’s best tourist attraction. An impressive man-made island that covers 2500 hectares, the island offers an active nightlife and is home to several luxury high-end hotels, the Yas Links Golf Course and the adrenaline-pumping Ferrari World Theme Park & Yas Water World.


Between The Bridges (Bain Al Jessrain)


Between The Bridges (also known as Bain Al Jessrain) refers to the area between the Musaffah and Maqta bridges and is the glamour district of Abu Dhabi. The area is a shopping paradise for lovers of high-end designer labels and specialty stores, and is also the home to luxury five-star resorts such as the Fairmont and Shangri-La Hotels.