Burj Khalifa: Dubai runs on superlatives, from the glitziest, biggest malls on earth to the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa. Check out the exhibit on the building’s history, then take the fastest (of course) lift in the world. Hold on to your hat – it only takes a few seconds. It’s not for the faint-hearted but is well worth it, as the views will blow your mind. If you’re a serious photographer, you can even take a tripod with you to capture the endless panoramas towards the beach and over the city. Go at sunset if you can, as you get to see both day and night from the top.
Dubai Creek: After the ultra-modern heights of the Burj, there’s nothing like the contrast of a simple abra ride on Dubai Creek. Take one of these beautiful old roofed boats from Bur Dubai Abra Station on the southern side, and ride across the creek for just one dirham at sunset, as the evening call to prayer is singing out across the mosque minarets.
At the other side, you’ll be met with the aromas of Dubai’s spice souk, the place to buy an incense burner and a handful of frankincense. Make time for a stroll around the old area of Deira while you’re here, with its quirky alleyways and skinny alley cats.
Dubai’s public parks: Parks might not be the first thing you associate with Dubai, but the city boasts some of the most beautiful, tranquil, clean, green parks anywhere. Pay a 5dhs fee to enter a place quite different to other cities’ public spaces, and see Filipino, Pakistani, Indian, Emirati, Arabic and European families barbecuing and playing ball games side by side.
Try Safa Park on Sheikh Zayed Road for a sprawling 150 acres of lawns, waterfalls and hills made for jogging and sports like rounders.
Ravi: One for die-hard curry fans and among Dubai’s longest-serving restaurants, Ravi deserves a place of its own in our top ten. Usually full with diners from all over the world, there are no white tablecloths, wine lists or snooty waiters, just honest Pakistani curry served up by friendly staff.
Favourite dishes include chicken boti, mutton tikka, daal and mutton kebab, and the bread is fresh, fluffy and hot.
Burj Al Arab: The Burj calls itself ‘the world’s only 7-star hotel’ and, whether or not you agree, it’s certainly one of the most iconic buildings in Dubai. Soaring to a height of 321 metres over the coastline of Umm Suqeim, the Burj is designed to resemble a billowing sail.
There are various viewpoints but one of the best is from the public beach next to it, for the ultimate Dubai selfie on the beach, with the Burj in the background. It is one of the most photographed structures in the world, and consistently voted the world’s most luxurious hotel.
Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates: Don’t miss Ski Dubai, a huge ski slope situated in Mall of the Emirates at the Marina end of the city. It’s a bit of a shock to go from the 50°C desert heat to below zero temperatures but you can hire all equipment, clothing and ski lessons you need so you don’t have to pack your skis.
Dubai fountains: Spectacular, exciting and – best of all – free! If you’ve seen the Belaggio fountains in Vegas and thought you’d seen it all, Dubai does it taller, bigger, louder and with an incredible light show at night. The fountains are situated outside the Dubai Mall, surrounded by a lively hub of restaurants with front row views – book ahead to dine on the terrace and see the fountains in all their glory.
Wild Wadi Water Park: Unleash your inner child at this spectacular water park, more like a miniature world of its own, right next to the sea. If you’ve never experienced an ‘aquatic roller coaster’ or a state-of-the-art surf machine, then add this place to your list of things to do in Dubai. You could easily spend days on the whirling Tantrum Alley, and Burj Surj tube slides, while kids will love the splash-tastic water guns and racing slides at the Dhow and Lagoon. Be prepared to get very very wet, over and over again.
Shop ’til you dro: Not for nothing is Dubai frequently called the world’s best shopping destination, and if you like nothing better than indulging in some retail therapy on a weekend away, then get stuck in! Dubai has an incredible selection of malls, including the largest in the world, The Dubai Mall, so much so that it’s hard to choose. If you’re after a bargain or two, head to the Dubai Outlet Mall which offers up to 90% off original prices.
Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo: If shopping in the biggest and best just isn’t enough, The Dubai Mall also hosts the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo. Observe Dubai’s fascinating nocturnal desert animals, come face to face with huge saltwater crocodiles, walk beneath a 48-metre aquarium tunnel…all without getting a drop on you.
For those happy to take the plunge, there’s shark diving and cage snorkelling, plus many other imaginative ways to dive in. Don’t miss the ‘VRZOO’, a simulated virtual reality experience that lets you travel to the jungles of Asia or the African Savannah without taking a step.