Dubai probably has the biggest set of recognizable landmarks in the Middle East. And the interesting thing about Dubai is that apart from sand dunes, all its landmarks are man-made.
We lived a few years in Dubai with kids and saw lots of these landmarks under construction. A few years later, when we came back to visit from our new home in Oman, we admired Dubai again with fresh eyes, and again we were amazed at the rate of change and how fast they were built.
Downtown Dubai Landmarks
Let’s begin with the highlight of Dubai, located at the heart of the city in the Dubai Downtown area, Burj Khalifa. Formerly known as Burj Dubai before its inauguration in the year 2010, the Burj Khalifa is, as you might already know, the tallest building in the world, with a total height of 829.8 meters, over half a mile.
Burj Khalifa consists of over 200 stories, out of which 160 are habitable. On the 124th level is the observation deck that you can visit, although a ticket is required (of course!) As you rise to the observation desck of the tallest tower in the world, you get a world-class elevator video show with interesting details about the building and Dubai. Words truly cannot describe how breathtaking the view from the top is, and you can walk around the observation deck to enjoy views of one of the greatest cities in the world.
Amongst the places to visit in Dubai, one that should never be missed is the Dubai fountain. It is a choreographed water fountain located outside the Dubai Mall, with the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa) as its backdrop. It is the highest performing fountain in the world. It comes to life as a musical show every 30 minutes from 6 pm daily. The boardwalk allows tourists to enjoy this great water music and light show in all its glory.
Jumeirah Emirates Towers Hotel
The Jumeirah Emirates Towers hotel soaring high above Dubai’s Financial District is truly an iconic building. Comprising of two equilateral triangles on plan, this landmark structure is home to 400 rooms and suites with 11 world-class restaurants and nightlife venues. The main reason why this building is considered a Dubai Landmark is the fact that when it was built over 20 years ago (official opening was in April 2000) it was the tallest and most modern building in Dubai. Till now the Towers are the third-tallest all-hotel building around the world.
Dubai Water Canal
Dubai water canal is an artificial canal built as part of the preparation for the 2020 Dubai World Expo, with a sidewalk that comprises a shopping centre, hotels, almost 500 restaurants walkways, and cycle paths. It starts from business bay stretching into the Persian Gulf through Safa Park. It’s a lovely spot to enjoy an evening stroll, overlooking great views of the new Dubai and even a waterfall below the metro bridge.
Check the price of Dubai Water Canal Dinner Cruise.
Dubai Landmarks around Bur Dubai
Al Bastakiya Quarter (Old Dubai)
One of the oldest cultural landmarks in Dubai is Al Bastakiya, (also known as Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood) if you thought Dubai was all skyscrapers and modernity, think again. The history of this district is quite interesting, it was built by a group of immigrants from the Bastak region of Persia at the end of the nineteenth century, seeking a better life here in Arabia. Initially it was a small village comprising of 50-60 houses about narrow streets. Nearl a century later, around the year 1980, Dubai municipality decided to demolish some of the historic buildings to construct new office buildings.
The other half of the houses were reserved for foreign workers, and one of them was Rayner Otter, who was carrying out a renovation project in the area. Otter was fascinated by the area and the architecture and started a strong campaign trying to save this area, and wrote a letter to Prince Charles urging him to visit this part of Dubai. Once the Prince visited Dubai, he visited as well the al Fahidi district and was very impressed by the architecture and suggested that the authorities should stop the demolition. Around the year 2000, the Al Fahidi neighborhood was brought back to its original state with its ancient buildings and characteristic houses with wind towers. Here are a few ideas for when you visit bur Dubai to enjoy the true heritage and the culture of the Old Dubai
- Visit Al Fahidi Fort
- A walking tour with a local guide
- XVA Gallery
- The coffee museum
- Dubai Museum
These are some of the things that will make you truly fall in love with the modern yet cultural city of Dubai.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
This center was established to provide tourists with a better insight into the Arabian culture by first hand experience. The building itself is a piece of cultural heritage in the al Fahidi neighborhood. A popular activity is enjoying the traditional Arabic-style breakfast lunch or dinner while sitting on Bedouin-style carpets talking with your host about life in the Emirates. The center works with a motto of “open doors open minds” accepting every question a visitor has.
Its the best place to experience the Middle East in a day.
The Dubai Frame is the world’s largest picture frame situated in Zabeel Park and has surely become one of the prominent Dubai landmarks in no time. As you might’ve understood by now, Dubai is an amalgamation of old and new culture and modernity. This iconic frame honors the humble past residing in old Dubai and the modern and technologically advanced new Dubai. The Dubai frame offers a 360 degree of Dubai. The Dubai Frame is truly an architectural marvel as it provides tourists with a scenic view of most of Dubai’s landmarks. Alongside the breathtaking view of the city, you can also enjoy a charming view of Dubai creek with an aerial view of the abras on water.
The Dubai Creek / Khor Dubai
The Dubai creek is a saltwater creek located between bur Dubai and Deira, emerging in the Persian Gulf. And it was along Dubai creek that the Bani Yas tribe of the Al Maktoum dynasty first settled and established the Al Maktoum dynasty.
There are some remarkable man-made structures along this creek located in Bur Dubai, namely – Deira twin towers, Dubai creek tower, chamber of commerce. On the other side of Dubai Creek is one of the largest parks in Dubai named Dubai creek park.
You can take an abra (water taxi) and enjoy the city of Dubai on both sides with an amazing sunset in view. This boat ride costs you just 1 AED and is the cheapest activity you can perform in Dubai. You can also have a romantic walk along the shore with beautiful bird sounds all around you. You could also walk around the adjoining souks or markets of old Dubai and enjoy the true essence of Arabian shopping with its vivid variety of goods, especially the gold souk, which is one of the famous attractions of Dubai and the ornate gold jewellery there will without a doubt blow your mind. Extending along the Dubai creek is the dhow wharfage that offers an interesting insight into the true sea customs of old Dubai that have still surprisingly survived in this day and age. This wharfage comprises an array of wooden dhows, some of which are over 100 years old. It is a must-visit for every tourist that enjoys the true traditions and cultures of different cities.
Deira Clock Tower
Located in one of the most populated places in Dubai the Deira Clock Tower is a roundabout that over the years has become a popular point of reference. The Deira clock tower was built to symbolize Dubai as it connected main routes for the travelers who used to journey their way through the deserts as no other route offered access transportation around the 1960s.
This clock tower stands tall, surrounded by water fountains, palm trees. It os floodlit by evening. This clock tower is not one of the city’s modern attractions but rather a famous point of modern history and a point of reference.
Located at the end of Jumeirah beach road, the Jumeirah mosque is said to be one of the most loved landmarks in Dubai and is open to all visitors and travelers for guided tours and cultural discussions. It is said to be one of the most engaging cultural experiences in the United Arab Emirates.
It is large enough to hold up to 1,200 worshippers and was built in its entirety using white stone in the medieval Fatimid tradition, two towering minarets, and a large central dome.
Six days a week, guided tours are conducted to educate people about Islam and the Arabian culture. Islamic holidays, rituals, cuisines, and customs are some of the details that this guided tour comprises.
Landmarks around Dubai Marina Area
Dubai Marina Walk
Dubai Marina is a 3 km long artificial canal city on the Persian Gulf shoreline. It’s a popular place where you can go fo a stroll and admire other modern boats or sit in one of the restaurants and watch life go by. You can hop on a boat for a tour around the Marina and enjoy the famous attractions of Dubai, including the Burj al Arab, and the Palm Islands from the sea.
Cayan Tower, also known as the Infinity Tower it is a 75 story skyscraper in Dubai. It is an architectural attraction as it has a twisting design which was achieved by rotating each floor 1.2 degrees around a cylindrical elevator. The rooms of the tower are designed in such a manner that direct sunlight does not affect the homeowners due to the clever design using the titanium-colored metal panels.
JBR The Walk
The walk is a very enjoyable attraction in what could be named as new Dubai. If you enjoy the sea, shopping, and good food, you cannot afford to miss this place as it offers just that. Take a stroll with your loved ones on this beautiful boulevard created in a very European fashion and enjoy this peaceful ambience along with great shopping and amazing food. Something everyone can and should enjoy at least once with their family when visiting Dubai.
The Palm Jumeirah is a man-made island that resembles a stylized palm tree, which was entirely created by reclaiming land from the shallow bay. The Palm Jumeirah is home to some of Dubai’s most luxurious beach resorts, including the world-renowned Atlantis the Palm and many more. If you love food, like us (who doesn’t) this place is filled with mouth-watering dining options.
There are a few fun activities you could perform at the palm namely –
- Sailing around the palm in a yacht or speedboat
- Atlantis hotel with Amazing aquarium and Atlantist Adventure Water Park
It is one of the man-made marvels and a must-visit to complete your Dubai trip.
Burj Al Arab
When speaking about the landmarks in Dubai, we cannot miss the iconic sail-shaped edifice of the Burj al-Arab seven-star hotel. Although the common belief suggests it is the world’s only seven-star hotel, the matter of fact is there is no such thing as a 7-star rating for a hotel. Burj al Arab is formally known as a “five-star deluxe hotel” on the standard rating system.
Sadly, tourists can’t just walk up to the hotel. One can only access it via a private bridge, as the island itself is 280 m offshore. The easiest way in our opinion to visit the grand Burj al Arab is to go for an afternoon tea which is served in the Skyview lounge on the 27th floor. This is definitely one of the most elaborate and wonderful tea experiences you will find in the whole wide world. There is another similar experience that takes place in the Sahn Eddar Restaurant which also offers a luxurious 7-course afternoon tea on the 1st floor. A dress code is compulsory to maintain the royalty of this opulent hotel. The architecture of this hotel is truly magnificent, and visiting it will surely make you feel like royalty.
Iconic Shopping Malls in Dubai
There are several iconic shopping malls in Dubai, but of course, the most prominent and must-visit attraction would without a doubt be the Dubai mall. The largest mall in the world, located in downtown Dubai adjacent to the tallest building in the world. It is a great place for everyone to enjoy, featuring over 1200 retail stores it covers an area of almost 200 football fields. It is the ultimate family entertainment destination that offers several activities for every age group, with The Dubai Aquarium – one of the best aquariums in the world and the Olympic-sized Dubai ice rink, children’s ‘edutainment’ concept Kidzania and a massive indoor cinema complex – keep everyone hooked, and you can end the day with an amazing experience at the water fountain.
Mall of Emirates
The Mall of Emirates was previously the world’s biggest mall and is still famous for catering for multiple entertaining activities under one roof. It is one of the best places to visit for a fun day out. Magic planer, vox cinemas, the theatre of Rhodes, and the all-time favourite indoor Ski Dubai are some of the very famous entertainment activities provided in the mall.
Ski Dubai is one of the most popular attractions amongst tourists. It is the World’s third-largest indoor ski slope and the first of its kind in the middle east. Enjoy a day of skiing whether you are an amateur or a professional, and the best part is, there are penguins. Yes, you heard us right, there are interactive programs with Gentoo and king penguins teaching youngsters and adults about their colonies. A great place to visit with family.
Ibn Battuta Mall
It is a large shopping mall located on Sheikh Zayed Road, and it is the largest themed shopping mall. It could be added to the list of the must-see places in Dubai for architecture and culture enthusiasts. It consists of six courts, each of whose designs is inspired by some of the countries visited by the Moroccan Berber explorer, Ibn Battuta – Andalusian court, Indian court, Persian court, a Chinese court, and the Egyptian court. The designs are very intricate, and people with a keen eye for design and architecture would love this place.
Other Iconic Landmarks in Dubai
Sheikh Zayed Road
The spine of Dubai, connecting all its landmarks is the Sheikh Zayed Road. Even though the Sheikh Zayed road consists of 7 lanes road on either side, it’s so impressive yet so frustrating at times when you get stuck in traffic even with 14 lanes on the road—named after the Ruler of Abu Dhabi and president of the UAE, His Highness Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Sheikh Zayed road starts in Abu Dhabi and ends in Ras al Khaimah. It runs along the heart of Dubai connecting Dubai world trade center, emirates tower, Dubai Marina, and even downtown Dubai, the home of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall. Sheikh Zayed Road is said to be one of the most prominent locations in Dubai and is always bustling due to its close proximity to many business hubs. To truly understand the might of this great city i.e Dubai, we suggest you take a ride along this road and look around the city skyline and absorb the modernity and glory that is Dubai.
Palm Jebel Ali
Palm Jebel Ali, similar to Palm Jumeirah, a part of the palm islands, is a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree and is one of the three palms initially planned by the Dubai government comprising of residential areas and beach resorts. Sadly after the 2008 financial crisis, the work is halted, and we do not know for sure the future plans for this project.
The World Islands
Dubai is truly a land of man-made wonders, one of which could have been the world islands. But due to the financial crisis that hit Dubai really hard the project just like the Palm project couldn’t reach completion.
The world islands were supposed to be another landmark for Dubai comprising of over 300 small islands constructed in the shape of a world map.
Global Village Dubai
It is a phenomenal experience for people of all tastes. A symbol of countries coming together in this era of globalization, the true essence of what Dubai is – Part theme park, part market. Global Village features in 26 pavilions 78 cultures and over 3,500 displays from different countries. You can try here traditional food from different part of the world or buy traditional handicrafts. You can experience different parts of the world and their cultures sitting next to each other in a matter of hours.
This park or village is designed keeping in mind the iconic structures of the world and their local cultures and architectures. From London’s Big Ben to India’s Taj Mahal, you can find cultures and icons of almost every famous city here. We suggest this as a must-see attraction for tourists and is definitely one of the best places in Dubai that everyone from the family truly enjoys.
Dubai Landmarks – Conclusion
We would like to conclude by saying that, Dubai is the ideal spot for every tourist need. Whether it be mouth-watering food from multiple cuisines or jaw-dropping man-made structures or even luxurious and extravagant hotels, Dubai has it all. If in doubt visit Dubai.
Landmarks in Dubai – Pin it for later !!!
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