Free things to do in Abu Dhabi
There’s plenty to see and do in Abu Dhabi, but if you’re visiting this fascinating destination on a budget, there are lots of free options to choose from too. From ancient history to movie nights, Abu Dhabi offers visitors a chance to relax, enjoy the sights, and experience the history and culture of Abu Dhabi – for free.
Peep into the past at the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village
Find out about the rich and complex history of Abu Dhabi at this excellent site. Packed with exhibits charting the daily life of Abu Dhabi’s inhabitants through the ages, it includes genuine Bedouin tents, artisans making beautiful trinkets, spice shops, and museums that are all dedicated to showing you how the people of this region lived through the centuries. Look out for the photography exhibitions, which are particularly interesting. You’ll find the Heritage Village at the Breakwater, at the end of the Corniche.
While you’re at the Corniche…
Why not simply take a stroll along the Corniche in the evening, and don’t forget to take your camera. It’s a chance to see the ever-changing skyline in all its glory, as well as stroll around the parks or take a dip in the sea at the public beach. Watch the sun go down over the Arabian Gulf, and enjoy the cool sea breeze. The Corniche is 8km long, and there are plenty of vendors selling coffee along the way to keep you refreshed.
Visit Qasr Al Hosn Fort
The oldest building in Abu Dhabi dates all the way back to 1773, and is a magnificent fort that serves as an interesting counterpoint to all the modern buildings that surround it. Inside the fort you’ll find a fascinating little museum, a photography exhibition charting the history of the fort, and a natural history section.
Movie Night at The Space
Regular free movie nights are held on the ground floor of the TwoFour54 building, in The Space. Chill out and relax to an evening of movie entertainment, with everything from European art films, Emirati films, and the occasional action adventure flick too.
All the excitement of the Camel Races
Head out of town and you’ll be able to watch the ancient sport of camel racing. These high-speed dashes through the dunes are a favourite with the locals, and passions can run very high for the more prestigious events. For the really big races, head to the Al Wathba Camel Race Track on the Al Ain Road, or the Al Maqam track near Al Ain.
Get out of the city and to an oasis
Set in nearly 3,000 acres, the Al Ain Oasis is a paradise of cool, shady gardens in the heart of the desert. The oasis has been farmed for nearly 3,000 years, and the ancient irrigation system still waters the gardens as it did thousands of years ago. The best time to visit is early in the morning.
The Emirates Palace
This seven-star hotel literally glitters, thanks to the dazzling gold leaf decoration in the foyer. Outside, the gardens are immaculately manicured, and perfect for an evening stroll. Art lovers will head for the Barakat Gallery, which combines collections of classical art alongside modernism that shows the vibrancy and energy of the Abu Dhabi art scene in all its glory.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
This huge mosque is a beautiful space for quiet contemplation, regardless of your faith or beliefs. Surrounded by tranquil pools and exquisite gardens, it’s probably best known for its incredible Swarovski crystal chandeliers. The mosque can welcome more than 40,000 worshipers at a time, making it one of the largest mosques in the world. The best way to see the mosque is to join a guided tour, especially at sunset, when the setting sun glistens through the glass domes.
The National Auto Museum
Get your engine running at the National Auto Museum, a fantastic destination for petrol heads. A huge selection of cars ranging from Ferraris to 1930s Rolls Royces is on display, including a giant Land Rover that’s considerably bigger than the average ‘Landy’. It’s a great day out for children and adults alike.