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 for tourists visiting UAE’s capital for the first time.
1 Day in Abu Dhabi Itinerary for Tourists
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Things to do in Abu Dhabi in a Day
Here are the best things to do in Abu Dhabi if you only have a day.
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. There is a strict dress code. (See related post Tips for Visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque with all the information you need to know before you visit.)
Hours: Saturday-Thursday 9 am to 10 pm; Fridays 9:00am to 12:00pm and 3:00 pm. to 10:00 pm. Visiting hours are different during the month of Ramadan.
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.
Hours: 10:00 am – 6.30 pm Tuesday – Thursday, 10am – 8.30pm Friday – Sunday, closed on Mondays. (They recommend booking tickets online in advance)
Cost: Regular admission is 63 AED for adults. Free for anyone under $18. (You can get a small discount if you purchase your admission ticket from Klook here).
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.
If time allows, try the hotel’s signature Palace Cappuccino at Le Café. The cappuccino is sprinkled with real gold (but edible) leaf. You can make reservations for Le Café here.
4) Observation Deck at 300
Observation Deck at 300 is located on the 74th floor of Tower 2, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers (formerly 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. You can also make a reservation for 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: 12:00 pm – 8:00 pm daily
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.) Conrad Abu Dhabi 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 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 1.5-2 hours before the Palace in Motion light and sound show which takes place at 6:30pm in the evening.
Hours: Open 10:00am – 6:15pm (last entry is 5:00pm) and the Palace in Motion Show is 6:30pm.
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 (March 22 – April 21, 2023 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 has different visiting hours 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
• Check visa entry requirements. Citizens of most countries (including the United States) can obtain a free visa upon arrival at Abu Dhabi International Airport but some citizens of all other countries will need to apply for an Abu Dhabi tourist visa, transit visa or visit visa prior to visiting.
• As of 7 November 2022, almost all Covid-19 restrictions in Abu Dhabi have been lifted. Masks or proof of vaccination are no longer required to enter tourist attractions.
• 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. You can also use Uber and Careem ridesharing apps but fares are more expensive that taxis.
• If you want to save money, Klook offers discounts on admission fees to many Abu Dhabi’s popular attractions including the Louvre and Qasr Al Watan.
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 $55-75 USD one way according to rome2rio) or rideshare or book a private transfer. You can also join a small group guided day tour from Dubai.
You can book a one way private transfer between Dubai and Abu Dhabi here.
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?