Dubai offers visitors a wealth of attractions, shows, events and sights to enjoy. But if you’re here on a tight budget and are looking for things to do that won’t bust your bank account, there are also plenty of things to do for free. Here’s a selection of some of the best.
Find out about the history of Dubai
A visit to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood is a great opportunity to find out about the history of one of the most complex cities on earth. Explore the twisting, winding alleyways that take you around the base of the fort (which costs Dhs3 to enter and also lets you visit the Dubai Museum). Along the way you’ll discover artisans and craftspeople keeping traditional skills alive.
The fabulous fountains of Burj Khalifa
Every evening (and on Thursday afternoons) the Dubai Fountain puts on a mesmerising display. Illuminated with coloured lights and set to music, the fountain literally ‘dances’, wowing the crowds that gather to see the display every day. Take the metro (red line) and get off at Dubai Mall Station, and then follow the path along the mall. Performances take place every half-hour from 6pm to 11pm.
Head to the beach
Jumeirah Public Beach is open to the public, and is a wide, sandy beach with good facilities and beautifully clear, warm water for swimming or snorkelling. It’s free to enter, but if you do want to splash a little cash then you can rent a kayak and go for a paddle along the shoreline.
Have a laugh at Frankie’s Comedy Cellar
Saturday nights are spent at Frankie’s Italian on JBR, for a great session of stand-up comedy. Entry is free, and you get to see new comedians as well as live music. Other free shows are dotted around Dubai, including Tr!beca Restaurant + Bar's fortnightly comedy night.
The Dubai Aquarium is the largest indoor aquarium in the world, and much of it is free to enter. There is a section where you have to pay to enter, but most of this fabulous display is free, including the giant 33m x 8m acrylic window, which lets you watch the fish glide gently by just inches from you.
Free movies under the stars
Pull up a beanbag, sit back, and enjoy a classic film under the stars every Sunday evening at the Rooftop Gardens, Wafi Pyramids. Showings start at 8:30pm and it’s a great way to meet people and enjoy some first-class entertainment in a relaxed environment, too.
A free workout in the park
If you can’t afford (or don’t like) a session at a gym, why not head to the Al Barsha Pond Park and use their equipment for free? There’s a running track that goes all the way around the edge of the park, and pull-up bars, sit-up benches, and rowing machines to use, so you can get your daily workout in for free.
Spend the evening at the races
Dubai hosts some of the most important international horse racing spectaculars in the world, with the Dubai World Cup one of the premier events of the season. However, on Thursday nights you can see the races for free, with admission to the Meydan Grandstand giving you a great view of all the excitement.
Although the Dubai museum does charge an entry fee, there are several museums around the city that don’t, most of which are clustered around the Al Fahidi Historical District. There are museums dedicated to coins, camels, horses, and even coffee.
The city’s parks
Dubai has plenty of green spaces, and during the winter when the weather is cooler, they provide a tranquil and pleasant spot to relax in. Some do charge an entry fee, but some are free, including the stunning Satwa Park.