While business may be front and centre when you’re in Abu Dhabi for the grind, play time is possible with a nifty bit of scheduling and preparation. Amy Pritchett, a travel blogger for Wegoplaces, tells HuffPost UK that: “a bit of research before setting off goes a long way to identifying the best things to do and how to prioritise it.”
Time is of the essence, so it helps when you’re in a place that’s well-connected and is practically designed for you to see as much or as little as you can fit in.
When visiting the UAE capital, here are the places deserving of a spot on that to-do list.
Stretching along the waterfront in a sweeping curve for eight kilometres is the Corniche, where people go for a walk or to lounge under a beach umbrella on pristine sand. The beachfront has Blue Flag status (which attests to its environmental credentials), and it’s the perfect spot for people-watching. There is easy parking, restaurants for a scenic lunch, and you can also hire a bike if you want to combine some cardio with your sightseeing.
World Trade Centre Mall
Most of Abu Dhabi’s shopping is mall-based. While Yas Mall on Yas Island is for more languorous luxury shopping, it’s also further away and therefore harder to squeeze in as a pit-stop between meetings. Apart from having great shopping, World Trade Centre Mall is right in the centre of activity, and is the newest mall on the block.
Setting off from the Eastern Mangroves jetty, this eco-friendly company offers kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding and sailing across one of the quieter parts of the city. Most tours take about 90 minutes to two hours, so it’s for those who have a bit of time to spare.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Open from 9am until 10pm, this is a great one to squeeze in if you find yourself with a free half an hour. There are free guided tours, and it’s a beauty of a building: 82 marble domes, the world’s largest carpet (yes, really) and chandeliers that are so enormous and sparkly you’ll need to wear sunglasses (not really). It also has an extremely impressive library with 50,000 volumes of rare books and manuscripts.
Souq Al Qattara
Located in Al Ain, the historic Souq Al Qattara runs between October to May, and was part of a renovation to improve some of the city’s traditional places. It’s a wonderful and authentic insight into old Abu Dhabi, and thriving place for local artisans and Arabian handmade crafts. You can buy dates, pottery, coffee – even falconry equipment – and if you’re lucky, you may even see Bedouin dance performed.
Eat and drink
Nolu has two locations and regularly pops up on best eats lists – it was Time Out’s best café for three years in a row - for its superb execution of Californian style food mixed with Afghani flavours. With freshly baked bread, perfectly-cooked organic eggs and garlic and jalapeño dumplings, it’s a great stop for breakfast or lunch.
The setting is everything at Skylite, which is Abu Dhabi’s most well-known rooftop bar favoured by residents. The interior is dramatic to say the least, with a sweeping latticed roof, and it overlooks the waterfront. Located on the 9th floor of the Yas Viceroy hotel, the drinks are swish, the service is slick, and the bill is steep.
BBQ Al Qasr
Voted consistently as one of Abu Dhabi’s most romantic restaurants, that shouldn’t put you off visiting on a business trip. Aside from the gut-buster of a menu, it also means knocking off a must-see, as it’s located in Emirates Palace, the most opulent hotel in the city and is jaw-dropping in scale. One to save for expense accounts.
This 100% gluten-free kitchen is a top spot for breakfast and has a ton of wheat-free dishes from waffles to muffins. They even serve dishes such as Emirati eggs and Foul Mudammas – the latter is a staple in Egyptian households and is cooked fava beans with garlic and lemon. If you’re there for lunch, order legayamat, a UAE favourite, which is fried cardamom and saffron-infused dough mixed with date syrup and sesame.
Discover more of Abu Dhabi at our 360 experience: abudhabi360tour.com.