Dubai has established itself as a premier holiday destination. With golden beaches, fabulous shopping and top class restaurants, you’re guaranteed a fantastic time. For the more active there are numerous water sports and thrill-seekers can indulge in a dune-bashing session in the desert. But Dubai has plenty of other attractions, so look at our top ten unexpected treasures you should be sure to see on a visit to Dubai:
1. Ski Session
Bizarre as it may sound, Dubai offers excellent opportunities for skiing. The city boasts one of the world’s largest indoor resorts at Ski Dubai, opened in 2005 in the Mall of the Emirates. With five runs of varying difficulty, it makes a great day out for all the family if you fancy escaping the heat for a while. Not only is there a black run of an astonishing 400 metres, but also a 90 metre long quarter-pipe for snowboarders.
For the après-ski, there are themed restaurants and cafes. A two hour session costs USD50 for adults and USD42 for children under 13, with a full day pass being USD83 and USD66 respectively. This includes all equipment and clothing hire.
2. Action at the Autodrome
If you’ve ever dreamed of being a racing driver, now’s your chance. At the Dubai Autodrome, you can take a spin round the track in an Audi or Subaru. A full safety briefing is provided before you venture onto the 5.4km track. It costs around AED875 for a 1 hour session. A 1.2km outdoor Kart track is available for ages 7 and upwards, costing from AED110 per 15 minutes.
3. Smooth Skating
The Dubai Ice Rink, located in the Dubai Mall, is a unique opportunity to enjoy some winter fun all year round. The Olympic-sized rink has public skating, classes, ice hockey and the ever-popular disco. Prices start at around AED55 for a two hour slot, including skate hire.
4. Visit a Lost World
For something truly spectacular, visit the Lost World of Atlantis. Located in the Atlantis Hotel on the spectacular Palm Jumeirah, the Lost Chambers Aquarium is packed with underwater tunnels and mazes reimagining this ancient civilisation. Interactive tours offer information about the enchanting myth, the Seven Sages and the opportunity to see a dazzling array of marine life. Prices are around AED100 for adults, AED70 for children.
The hotel is home to the fabulous Dolphin Bay, where you can get up close and personal with these most delightful creatures. It also hosts the exciting Aquaventure water park, packed with thrilling rides. Tickets cost from around AED225 for adults, but there are various packages available offering entry to the Lost World and the hotel’s private beach.
5. Ancient art of the Dhow
Graceful wooden dhows sail around the Dubai Creek, a beautiful contrast to all the contemporary vehicles in the city. Crafted in the traditional manner, these boats are built by hand along the waterfront in Jaddaf. Measured by eye, the teak planks are planed and shaped before a frame is fitted inside, all without plans or sophisticated tools. Wander along Bur Dubai and the South Bank for a unique insight into the astonishing craftsmanship of the boat builders.
6. Scale the heights
Burj Al Arab and Burj Khalifa are the city’s most recognisable landmarks and unquestionably feature on every visitor’s must-see list. But you might be surprised to know that they offer more than just stunning views of the city. Completed in 1999, Burj Al Arab has some of the finest restaurants in the world within its iconic sail-shaped architecture. For something truly different, take afternoon tea at Sahn Eddar. Marble, mosaics and classical music meet traditional delicacies to create a truly memorable experience. From AED 285 per person.
Burj Khalifa, also known as the Shard, is the tallest building in the world at almost 830 metres. An observation deck on the 124th floor, called At The Top, gives jaw-dropping views of the city below. See the Behold Telescope, for both real-time and previously captured images. Admission is AED400, but huge savings can be made by booking online, reducing the cost to AED125.
7. A Wealth of Wildlife
You might be forgiven for thinking Dubai might be somewhat lacking in wildlife, apart from the camels, that is. But a visit to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary will show you there is a wealth of plant and animal life just waiting to be discovered. The centre covers 620 hectares at the head of the Dubai Creek, making it one of the few arid-zone wetland sites. With saline flats, mangroves, lagoons and reed beds, the sanctuary attracts over 270 species of birds including flamingos and storks and is an important stop on the migration pathway.
8. Champagne Brunch
You probably know that alcohol is prohibited except when served in a hotel, so treat yourself to this most indulgent of experiences. Friday is the first day of the Arabic weekend and the holiest day of the week, but for non-Muslims, it’s a chance to revel in a luxurious champagne brunch. In addition to enjoying a few glasses, you can experience the finest food, from steak and prawns to perfect eggs, from a live cooking station in an opulent hotel.
Spectrum on One in the Fairmont, Yalumba at Le Meridien, Al Qasr and Mina A’Salam are just of few of the best. Prices start at around AED400 per person (approx. 65) reaching up to AED650 for unlimited premier champagne.
9. Reach for the sky
Just an hour’s drive out of Dubai will take you away from the hustle and bustle. Take a hot-air balloon ride and enjoy the stunning spectacle of sunrise over the red sands and lush green oases. Many hotels offer packages that include drinks and transport. Prices from around £170 GBP per person.
10. Get global cuisine
Dubai has a vast selection of exquisite restaurants, from classic French to tasty Middle-Eastern and even Russian. However, the city has one or two other surprises. Asado, in the Old Town, is a meat-lovers paradise with an array of steaks served by waiters dressed as gauchos. Soak up the Argentine atmosphere as you enjoy the live band and, on Sundays, tango dancing. If Japanese food is your thing, then a visit to Zuma is definitely in order. An indulgent but trendy treat, their black cod is deservedly famous.
There’s so much to see in Dubai, you’ll never be short of things to do. But if you are looking for something more than camel races, shopping malls and beach hopping, this list should give you a few ideas of some truly unforgettable experiences.