Do you have a layover or only one day to spend in Abu Dhabi? If you have 24 hours in Abu Dhabi or less, I have put together the perfect itinerary to make the most of your short visit. My one day in Abu Dhabi itinerary includes the best things to do, what to wear, how to get around and other travel tips.
1 Day in Abu Dhabi Itinerary
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1) Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
If there is one must see attraction in Abu Dhabi it is the beautiful Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. The sparkling marble white façade is as awe-inspiring as the interiors, with the intricately designed flower patterns, magnificent chandeliers and exquisite windows. You can visit the mosque in about an hour but you can easily stay longer especially if you take one of the free guided tours. (See related post Tips for Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque for practical tips.)
Hours: 9 am to 10 pm Saturday-Thursday; 4:30 p.m. to 10 pm on Fridays. Visiting hours are different during the month of Ramadan so make sure to check the official website if visiting during that time.
2) Louvre Abu Dhabi
For those that enjoy art, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a must see. The Louvre Abu Dhabi which opened in November 2017 exhibits art from all over the world. In addition to indoors the museum also has an outdoor component as well. You will need to spend at least 2-3 hours but you can easily spend longer if you have the time.
Hours: 10am to 8pm on Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and from 10am to 10pm on Thursdays and Fridays. Closed on Mondays.
Cost: Regular admission is 63 AED for adults but there is reduced pricing for young people and free for children. Here is the link to the official website for more information.
3) Emirates Palace
Even if you cannot afford to stay at this super luxurious hotel, the Emirates Palace is worth a visit. The hotel is famous for its ornate design with walls and ceiling painted in real gold. It is free to visit the public areas but if you are willing to splurge you can try its famous Palace Cappuccino which is sprinkled in real 23 karat gold flakes or enjoy afternoon tea (reservations recommended).
4) Observation Deck at 300
Observation Deck at 300 is located on the 74th floor of Tower 2, Jumeirah at Etihad Towers and is the highest observation deck in Abu Dhabi with 360-degree views of the city. There are tables if you want to enjoy a light meal or beverage or afternoon tea. The best time to visit is before sunset for beautiful views but this is the busiest time. If you visit in the morning or middle of the day, it is not too busy. Check the weather forecast beforehand to make sure it is a clear day.
Hours: 10:00 – 19:00 | Afternoon Tea: 14:00 – 18:00
Cost: The entrance fee is AED 95 which includes a credit voucher of AED 55 for food or drinks. (Tip: You can get a discount if you purchase your admission ticket in advance here.) Jumeirah at Etihad Towers hotel guests receive free entry. The price per person for afternoon tea is AED 250.
5) Qasr Al Watan (Presidential Palace)
Unfortunately we did not visit Qasr Al Watan because it was closed while we were there but this is on our list for our next visit. Qasr Al Watan is part of the Presidential Palace compound and only recently opened to the public in March, 2019. We have seen photos and it looks very ornate and beautiful. According to our research the best time to visit Qasr Al Watan is about 1-2 hour before the nightly Palace in Motion light and sound show.
Hours: 10:00am – 8:00pm daily. Last entry is 1 hour before closing. Make sure to check the website before your visit for closures which may occur with little or no notice.
Cost: Adults AED 60, Junior AED30
Best Time to Visit Abu Dhabi
The worst time to visit Abu Dhabi is during the summer (June to September) as it is very hot and humid. The best time of the year to visit Abu Dhabi is November to April when the temperature is more moderate. October and May can still be too hot for some people but are more tolerable than visiting in the summer. You can use weatherbase.com to look up average temperatures by month to get an idea of what the weather will be like during your visit.
If you are visiting Abu Dhabi during the holy month of Ramadan (April 23 – May 23, 2020 but dates vary each year) there are a few things you have to keep in mind. Visitors during Ramadan must refrain from drinking (this includes drinking water), eating and smoking in public places between sunrise and sunset. Many restaurants are closed at this time but hotel restaurants should be open. Also, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is not open on Fridays and has reduced hours the rest of the week during Ramadan.
What to Wear in Abu Dhabi
As the UAE is a Muslim country you might have some concerns about what to wear in Abu Dhabi. Tourists are not expected to wear traditional attire or be covered up from head to toe (rules vary if visiting mosques of course) but it is recommended to wear conservative attire.
Abu Dhabi is not as conservative as other parts of the UAE and is used to tourists so it won’t be a huge issue if you are not especially when sticking to tourist areas. However I like to be respectful when traveling so I recommend not wearing anything tight or too revealing and cover shoulders and knees. (I wore a short sleeve top and below the knee skirt which I found to be both weather and culturally appropriate.) It is acceptable to wear swimwear and shorts at beaches and hotel pools. If visiting in the winter you might need a sweater or light jacket.
If visiting during Ramadan, it is recommended to dress very conservatively.
Abu Dhabi Travel Tips
• Abu Dhabi is not very walkable as many of the attractions are spread out plus it gets very hot in the summer. The cheapest way to get around is the bus and there is no metro. We recommend taking taxis as they are more convenient, plentiful and pretty affordable. We also used Uber but fares are more expensive that taxis.
• If you want to avoid figuring out how to get around you can also sign up for a Abu Dhabi Big Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour.
• If you want to save money, Klook offers discounts on admission fees to many Abu Dhabi’s popular attractions.
Getting to Abu Dhabi from Dubai
Many tourists visit Abu Dhabi for a day or less when staying in Dubai. If you are staying for Dubai for a few days, it is easy to visit Abu Dhabi and see most of the major attractions in a day or less.
The cheapest way to visit from Dubai is to take the bus but it will take at least twice as long as driving.
Abu Dhabi is approximately a 60-90 minute drive from Dubai and you can either rent a car, take a taxi (approximate cost is $55-70 USD one way according to rome2rio) or take a day tour.
Below are a few day tours from Dubai to Abu Dhabi if you don’t want to worry about getting around:
For those that have visited Abu Dhabi what are your top things to do in a day?