Offbeat places in Dubai: discover 10 spots beyond a tourist perspective

Lalla Baryala

Dubai is undoubtedly one of the most fashionable tourist destinations, whether for business travellers, couples looking for a unique honeymoon or intrepid bloggers. Dining on extravagant yachts, shopping at the most lavish shopping centres or living extreme experiences, such as desert safaris, are options available to very few.

Dubai’s offer is not limited to gigantic hotels, supertall skyscrapers, sandy beaches and alluring deserts. It also allows you to soak in its history, partake in fun family plans, get lost in quiet places, breathe fresh air and enjoy music and art. We’ve picked a few of the more offbeat places in Dubai for every moment of the day for those seeking experiences that the typical guidebooks miss.

Offbeat places to visit during the day

1. Public parks

Dubai Parks are some of the city’s under-the-radar attractions. Whether you want to spread out a blanket for a picnic, spend a day outside with the family or just walk and enjoy nature, Dubai public parks offer great leisure options for residents and tourists.

The two public parks that you should not miss during your visit to Dubai are:

2. Palm Jumeirah from a different perspective

The Palm Jumeirah is a gigantic artificial archipelago (visible from space) comprising a set of artificial islands that form a palm tree. It has a three-mile-long trunk, 17 branches and a semicircle around it that acts as a breakwater.

Home to luxury villas, 5-star hotels, aquatic parks and wildlife encounters, some fascinating things you can’t miss at The Palm are swimming with dolphins and sharks, savouring a delicious brunch at Nobu Matsuhisa’s restaurant in Atlantis The Palm or practising water sports. However, if you want to take in this daring human work in all its splendour, the best option is to do so by helicopter or even skydiving at 120 mph for an extra adrenaline rush. Not only will you see The Palm, but you’ll also discover the Dubai Marina and the paradisiacal waters of the Arabian Gulf from above.

3. A childhood dream

Dubai has the whole family covered with fun plans and places for parents, children and anyone else that wants to join. Amongst its attractions, you’ll find a huge range of amusement parks.

Dubai Parks and Resorts. Enjoy 3 theme parks and one water park: Motiongate Dubai, Bollywood Parks Dubai, Legoland Dubai and Legoland Water Park.

Aquaventure Waterpark. Aquaventure Waterpark. A water park located at the Atlantis Hotel, at the end of The Palm Jumeirah, had no choice but to offer an unprecedented experience. Visitors will find next generation water attractions, such as daring slides that propel with water instead of sliding, zip-lines across the park or clear tubes that go through aquariums with sharks and rays..

4. Sandboarding in the desert

If something is not lacking in Dubai, it’s the desert: kilometres and kilometres of sand where you can enjoy not only camel tours and safaris with luxury cars, but also one-of-a-kind sports. Think sandboarding or surfboarding, where you slalom down a sand dune that can be up to 1,000 feet tall.

Offbeat places in the afternoon

5. Dubai Creek

While some tourists may avoid it for its infamous past, the old town of Dubai, on the Dubai Creek, is one of its diamonds in the rough, kept alive by the memory of modern skyscrapers and shopping centres. Entering its tangled alleys with its souks, 18th-century fort (the oldest preserved building) and ancient port where spice merchants and pearl fishermen docked on their way to India, visitors can enjoy the historical essence of the city.

Souks are one of the most traditional places in the Middle East. Making a clever purchase (up to 30% lower than the normal price) depends on mastering a series of techniques. It is important to be patient when dealing with the insistence of sellers and to invest the time needed to search and compare. Remember to carry cash (for better discounts), not show a special interest in what you want to buy and prioritise small stores (not street vendors).

You can’t leave Dubai downtown without having visited the Dubai Museum, where you can explore the city’s history from its beginnings to today. In the inner courtyard of the museum you’ll find antique boats and the traditional Emirati house in addition to different exhibitions.

6. City Walk

As explained in another post, Dubai is the luxury shopping hub par excellence, as it has some of the world’s most opulent shopping centres. However, there is life beyond the Dubai Mall. The City Walk contains an ever-expanding universe of leisure. Here you’ll find regional and international signature boutiques to lighten your wallet, street art from world-famous artists, a broad gastronomic offer, natural encounters with more than 3,000 plants and animals including snakes, birds and even sloths. Lastly, the little ones will love the 18,000m² fully-state-of-the-art Hub Zero virtual videogame experience.

City Walk Dubai

7. Ski Dubai

As you know by now, in Dubai everything is possible — even skiing in a city that doesn’t drop below 19 degrees during the year. The Mall of the Emirates offers that possibility with one of the largest indoor ski resorts in the world (22,500 square meters). It has five slopes, ski lifts and a large ice slide. You can use skis, snowboards, zip lines, sleds and there is even an area inhabited by penguins.

Offbeat places at night

8. Water canal

This waterway runs from Dubai Creek through the old town to Business Bay, before emptying into the Persian Gulf. What most catches the eye is a spectacular mechanical waterfall that can be seen from the promenade. Here, water is pumped from the top of the Sheikh Zayed bridge, where it converges with the Canal, and which is illuminated at night and stops when a ship passes by. You can’t leave Dubai without taking a ferry, or abra (traditional boats of Dubai), across the water with family, friends or couples for unbeatable views of the city.

9. Dubai Opera

Located in the heart of the city, the Dubai Opera is an unforgettable experience that is no less impressive than the Sydney Opera House. Its surprising shape is inspired by a dhow, a traditional sailing boat. There you can enjoy a wide range of cultural shows of all kinds and for all audiences, including ballets, rock or jazz concerts or theatrical productions such as “The Barber of Seville”, by Rossini, “The Pearl Fishers”, by Bizet, or the hit musicals “Les Miserables”, “Beauty and the Beast” or “Harry Potter”. Lastly, it has a garden and a luxury restaurant on its roof where you can enjoy a drink overlooking the entire city.

Dubai Opera

10. Top-notch rooftops

One of the most delicious pleasures in Dubai is having a drink overlooking the spectacular skyscrapers. There are several buildings with exclusive roofs where you can taste the most select appetisers, signature food, live music and even a swimming pool to bathe while enjoying the rest. Some examples are the Level 43 Sky Lounge, located in the middle of the financial district amid the skyscrapers and featuring a 360 degree view of the city, the roof of the Hilton Dubai The Walk or the Address Dubai Marina. And if you want to see Dubai from a distance, the Melia Hotel is the choice for you.

Visit the best offbeat places in Dubai with Empirance

Empirance concierge services are designed for individuals and businesses wanting to have exclusive access to offbeat places in Dubai, with VIP benefits such as entry with no queues, tickets to sold-out events, preferential seats and much more.

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