24 Hours in Abu Dhabi

Are you planning a trip to the UAE?

While Dubai is likely already on your itinerary, spare some time for Abu Dhabi, the nation’s capital.

Abu Dhabi is just over an hour’s drive from Dubai, (or 15 minutes once the Hyperloop is in place). Whether arriving via Dubai or Abu Dhabi International airports, spend a day, the weekend or longer in the UAE’s stylish cultural hub.

Here’s where to #eat #drink #explore #shop & #stay if you only have 24 hours in Abu Dhabi.




Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Abu Dhabi. UAE.

Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, born in 1918, ruled Abu Dhabi, for 38 years until his death in 2004.

Instrumental in creating the United Arab Emirates, 2018 was the UAE’s Year of Zayed commemorating the centenary of his birth. Known for his vision and tolerance, 2019 follows with the UAE’s Year of Tolerance.

As President of the UAE since its inception in 1971, Sheikh Zayed approved the building of non-Muslim churches and temples and supported women’s education and labour rights. While his views were still traditional, they were far more liberal than his counterparts in nearby nations.

The vision behind the establishment of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was to create an Islamic monument enveloping values of peace, tolerance and diversity.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.

One of the largest mosques in the world, Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is open daily to people of all faiths. Free guided tours (Arabic & English) are scheduled throughout the day. Please follow this link for opening hours and prayer times.

Completed in 2007 costing two billion dirhams (US$545 million), Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is located in the “heart ‘ of Abu Dhabi at the entrance to City Island. The mosque’s distinctive white Macedonian marble façade can be seen from many vantage points around the city.

The four unique minarets stand at 106 metres high combining Arabic Moroccan, Andalusian, Mameluke and Ottoman-era architectural styles.

Surrounding the large central dome of the main prayer hall are eighty-odd domes varying in size.

Be sure to look up while inside the mosque to view the traditional Moroccan artwork on the inside of the domes.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.

In the main prayer hall, you won’t miss the 12-ton chandelier and its replicas weighing 8 tons each. Below your feet is a 5,700 square metre hand made carpet depicting the Islamic medallion.

White and gold palm tree columns create endless corridors and the surrounding reflection pools are a photographer’s dream, especially at night.

Rental cars are inexpensive in the UAE and free parking is available at Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Taxis are also reasonably priced with drivers familiar with the mosque’s entrance. At the bus stop at Bainuna Street/ Adnoq HQ, a short walk from Jumeirah Etihad Towers, take Bus #7 directly to the mosque.

On arrival women and men are separated, taken through security and provided with any cover required to ensure respectful dress. Suitably attired, you’re free to wander Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque at your leisure.


The Corniche

The eight kilometres of Abu Dhabi’s Corniche comprise of kid’s play areas, restaurants, cafés, and plenty of space to relax at the waterfront.

The public beach is free, while an entrance fee of AED 10 (US$2.70) gains access to singles and family beaches.

Abu Dhabi Corniche Beach holds Blue Flag status, the internationally recognised eco-label for beaches and marinas guaranteed clean and safe for swimming. This is a lifeguarded beach and floating fences keep you within 40 metres of the shore.

Pedestrian paths along the Corniche are perfect to get your cardio in and FunRideSports hire push bikes to take full advantage of the cycling paths. With four rental stations along the Corniche, you have easy access to FunRideSports’ mountain bikes, city bikes or the 2-3 person family cycles.

Abu Dhabi’s Corniche offers views of the city skyline, the magnificent Emirates Palace and out to the sparkling waters of the Arabian Gulf.


Louvre Abu Dhabi

The UAE and France joined forces in 2007 to bring a unique museum to Abu Dhabi’s Saadiyat Cultural District. Fast forward ten years to the opening of this awe-inspiring collaboration and they deserve a standing ovation.

Designed by Pritzker Prize-winning French architect, Jean Nouvel, the Louvre Abu Dhabi‘s silver lattice layered dome appears to float above the museum. Weighing 7,500 tonnes (about the weight of the Eiffel Tower) dappled light filters through replicating the effect of layered palm leaves.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.

Built over an ancient Arabian falaj-inspired water system, the building itself is as much reason to visit as the museum inside. Generous loans from Musee du Louvre, Musee d’Orsay, Centre Pompidou and other French museums enhance the permanent and temporary exhibitions.

The wise use of 9,200 square metres of internal space creates a clear path through displays from ancient times to the contemporary era. Natural and engineered lighting are exhibitions in themselves.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is not to be missed by art, history or architecture lovers, in fact, it’s a “must-see” for anyone visiting Abu Dhabi.

Closed Mondays, Louvre Abu Dhabi opens at 10:00 6 days, closing at 20:00 Saturday to Wednesday and 22:00 Thursday and Friday.

Kids under 13 enter free, ages 13 – 22 pay AED 30 (US$8.18) and ages above pay AED 60 (US$16.35). AED 30 also applies to UAE teachers, UAE Military and Auditorium/ Workshop ticket holders.

Save queuing and buy tickets online here.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.


The Founder’s Memorial

Meet the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, Founding Father of the UAE, through art, stories and multi-media experiences at the Founder’s Memorial.

Central to the memorial is the Constellation, a 30 metre high, 3-dimensional portrait of Sheikh Zayed. Made up of geometrical shapes suspended by cables, the Constellation shines in the evening representing the guiding light of Sheikh Zayed’s vision for the UAE.

The memorial includes a welcome centre and heritage garden on 3.3 hectares of public space located where the Corniche meets Emirates Palace.


Emirates Palace

It’s likely you’ve heard of the Kempinski Hotels’ Emirates Palace, a five-star luxury resort in the centre of Abu Dhabi.

Recognised as The World’s Leading Luxury Beach Resort at the World Travel Awards held in Lisbon last year, Emirates Palace is worth a nosey.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.

Keys to Bentley’s, Lamborghinis and Ferraris are handed over for valet parking before guests make their way to the grand lobby passing ATMs dispensing gold bars.

Pop into Le Café for a 24K Gold flaked Palace Cappuccino or reserve a table for Classic High Tea. Feeling extra decadent? Opt for the Royal Tea with more 24K Gold, truffle savouries and a couple of glasses of fizz.

With nine restaurants and four bars, Emirates Palace caters to a wide audience with deep pockets but it’s worth checking out regardless of your budget.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.




Byblos Sur Mer

Winner of last year’s BBC Goodfood Awards Best Middle Eastern Restaurant, Byblos Sur Mer is part of the Intercontinental’s vast restaurant offer.

Separate from the hotel, Byblos Sur Mer overlooks the Marina. Inside on two levels or out on the terrace, share mezze platters before sinking your teeth into juicy grilled meats. Vegetarians have no need to worry, there are plenty of meatless options.

Well priced set menus offer a range of cold and hot mezze, salads, grills and dessert or choose à la carte.

Lebanese wines and fine cocktails complement the menu while out on the terrace eighteen shisha flavours await.

Byblos Sur Mer’s Friday Brunch is incredible value for their banquet-style approach. Beginning at 1 pm, and lasting four hours, a spread of dishes will be delivered to your table. You’ll be tempted to repeat dishes, they’re so delicious but heed this warning – hold back, there’s plenty to come.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.





Better known for dishes like Peking duck with caviar and grilled Wagyu beef with king soy sauce, it’s Hakkasan‘s bar that catches your attention.

The signature cobalt bar is here and, behind it, a row of talented mixologists. Leave it to them or select from the extensive cocktail list’s five categories – Character, Strength & Grace, Bellinis, Fruit Blends and Only at the Palace. Oh, did I mention we’re back at Emirates Palace?

Abu Dhabi. UAE.


Havana Club

While at Emirates Palace, Havana Club’s luxurious, low-lit lounge makes an ideal setting for hand-rolled cigars accompanied by a fine beverage. Havana Club is perfect for a nightcap.




Marina Mall

Generally not in the habit of sending you mall shopping, Marina Mall is on the list for a couple of reasons.

One, the UAE summers are hot so the mall provides air-conditioned comfort on hideously hot days and you could always pop in and buy a Mercedes. Yes, Marina Mall has a Mercedes dealership.

Reason two is Bounce. An uplifting, wall bouncing experience for everyone. Trampoline covered walls and floor, a 40-meter speed slide, a zip line and an 18m free-fall experience satisfy adrenaline junkies of all ages. The minimum age is 3.

Of course, if you’re jonesing for some retail therapy, you’re in the right place at Marina Mall.




Bab Al Qasr

If Emirates Palace isn’t in the budget but you’re in the market for a hotel with local flavour, then take a look at Bab Al Qasr.

Conveniently located opposite Emirates Palace, The Founder’s Memorial and the Corniche, Bab Al Qasr offers traditional Arabic hospitality.

While Bab Al Qasr may not be as posh as the palace across the road, it does have its own private beach and radiates its own glamour. The rooms and suites offer plush comfort at a value price point.

Abu Dhabi. UAE.


For more accommodation options, enter Abu Dhabi in the search option below. You’ll find a wide selection of hotels within your budget in and around the attractions highlighted in this article.

Please note, paraphernalia.co is a Booking.com affiliate. This means by booking through us you’ll still receive the same booking.com competitive rates while we receive a tiny commission to keep paraphernalia.co going.

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