Those who don’t know much about the UAE wouldn’t expect all of this from a Gulf country in the Middle East. Those who do know about Abu Dhabi will be aware that the Emirate is known for its luxuries, its hotels, and its vast art collections. It has both a Louvre Museum and one of the most iconic hotels in the world in the shape of Emirates Palace.
All image credits: Mizra Al Hosani
In light of this, I’m sharing my favourite places in Abu Dhabi that most tourists overlook on their trips here.
Abu Dhabi: the food, the desert, and luxury shopping all in one place
If you’re a sushi lover like me, you absolutely must try out one of Abu Dhabi’s best sushi restaurants – Sushina. Located in World Trade Centre Mall, their sushi rolls are some of the best I’ve tried! They’re incredibly creative with their approach to sushi and incorporate local Emirati flavours into their dishes. The restaurant’s design is also a mix of Arabic and Japanese, making it one of the most unique restaurants found in Abu Dhabi – a true hidden gem!
2. The Smoking Doll
There’s another restaurant that my friends will happily drive all the way from Dubai to eat at on the weekends – The Smoking Doll. This restaurant fuses Japanese and Thai cuisine under one roof. The prices too are reasonable considering the beautiful views available of the city, Emirates Palace, and the blue waters beneath.
3. Saadiyat Island
Yes, the Gulf region does have beautiful and serene sandy beaches! Granted, it’s not what most people expect when they think of Abu Dhabi but the turquoise water and white sand on offer is hard to beat. Saadiyat Island is just a 10-minute drive from central Abu Dhabi and worth it every time I go. I like to call it the Hamptons of Abu Dhabi – seems fitting, right?
4. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi
Located on Saadiyat Island, the Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi is definitely one of my favourite resorts in the UAE. It’s luxurious but, at the same time, extremely family-friendly and relaxing. I ‘staycation’ here regularly because it’s the perfect comfortable getaway – without having to travel too far at all.
5. Afternoon tea at The St. Regis
The St. Regis afternoon tea is the perfect spot for sipping hot artisan tea and gossiping with my friend. It’s always an impeccable experience. The staff are incredibly friendly, professional, and real tea connoisseurs. The selection of pastries and desserts in the afternoon tea package is also delectable!
6. Liwa Desert
Like many Emiratis and UAE residents, I love to get out into the desert on a day trip. It provides the perfect change of scenery from the hustle and bustle of city life in the urban jungle. It’s also a reminder of how far the country has come in less than half a century. Take a 4×4 or ATV out on the sand dunes of the Liwa Desert for an adrenalin-fuelled afternoon. If you’re lucky, you may even spot some wild camels!
7. Yas Mall
I simply have to include where to shop in my list of favourite spots in Abu Dhabi. The best mall here is Yas Mall. It has absolutely everything you could want in a luxury shopping centre – the best restaurants, the best shops (no matter what your budget is), one of the largest play areas for kids, and Ferrari World is directly connected to it! The architecture of the mall is also exceptional, keeping the massive building manageable for visitors.
Abu Dhabi hosts a myriad of opportunities for every visitor. It has some fantastic restaurants showcasing global cuisine as well as malls that cater for every shopping need. In addition, you’ll find tranquillity on Saadiyat Island and its golden beaches. If you’re in search of even more open space, then Liwa Desert is a playground for travellers and the perfect place for an Emirati adventure.