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30 Free Things to Do in Dubai

The Atlantis Hotel in Dubai from the water. A grand hotel with pink coloured stone and a large keyhole shape in the center of the building

30 Free Things to Do in Dubai

Dubai is arguably the world’s greatest playground for adults. A city of decadence and luxury – from lavish hotels to one-off experiences, crazy attractions to the largest malls on earth. But aside from all the glitz and glam there are tons of free things to do in Dubai too.

A girl looking up at the towering Burj Khalifa from a walkway between two ponds

Free Things to Do in Dubai

There’s a good mix of old and new, culture, architecture, history, and nature. So, if you’re visiting Dubai on a budget, look no further.

30 Free Things to Do in Dubai

1. Burj Khalifa

A building that probably needs no introduction, but here goes anyway. The Burj has been the world’s tallest building for well over a decade. There’s over 160 floors and it stands at a staggering 830m tall. That’s over half a mile high!

Even amongst the towering skyline that is Dubai, the Burj stands head and shoulders above. It’s truly a must-see spectacle once in your life.

The tours to the top of the tower are quite expensive but admiring it from the outside is one of the best Dubai free activities. There are so many places to capture a great photo in and around the downtown area. Why not try some of the classic spots or search for your own unique angle.

Where: Downtown Dubai – It’s hard to miss!

When: Any day / Any time

2. Flamingos at Ras Al Khor

Flamingos wading and feeding in a lake, surrounded by mangroves with the Dubai Skyline in the background

This has got to be one of the best free things you can do in Dubai, no question. It was a huge surprise to us as we’d been to Dubai a couple of times before finding out about this place.

The keen eyed among you might spot a few flamingos around Ras Al Khor Road. But the best way is at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary. They have bird hides equipped with binoculars, so you can get an amazing close-up view of these magnificent pink creatures.

Where: Ras Al Khor Flamingo Sanctuary

When: 6:00am – 6:00pm (Oct-Mar) / 7:30am – 5:30pm (Apr-Sep)

3. JBR Beach

A beach day is always a great idea when you’re looking for a freebie and Dubai is no exception. There are a few beaches around including Kite Beach and Jumeirah beach, but our favorite is JBR Beach.

The water is nice and warm, not to mention super calm – the perfect bathing conditions I’m sure you’ll agree. There are countless restaurants within minutes of the beach for you to recharge afterwards.

Where: Near Dubai Marina

When: Any day / Any time – But mornings and evenings are the best

4. Dubai Marina Walk

A night photo of Dubai Marina. Many skyscrapers surround the water which is filled with docked boats and yachts

The Marina Walk is Dubai’s most popular promenade and offers stunning views of the waterways and surrounding skyscrapers. With over 7km in walkways, it would take most of a day just to walk around all of it.

There are also loads of cafes, retail stores, and entertainment outlets that make this a perfect escape from the busier mall areas.

Where: Dubai Marina

When: Any day / Any time

5. Wings of Mexico

A girl in front of The Wings of Mexico in Dubai with the Burj Khalifa behind

This solid bronze sculpture is the distinctive work of contemporary Mexican sculptor Jorge Marín. Most of you will have seen photos of this already, as it’s easily one of the most Instagrammable spots in the whole of Dubai – and that’s saying something!

With that said, it’s probably best to avoid the busy daytime, unless you like queuing in the heat and want dozens of people in the background of your photo.

Where: Downtown Dubai

When: Any day / Any time – Mornings are quiet if you want an easier photo opportunity

6. Dubai Aquarium

This is one of the best things to do in Dubai for free. The aquarium is home to a large array of marine life, including huge sharks, fish, and rays. While the main exhibition is a paid attraction, you can see some of the largest tanks containing the most impressive animals completely free!

You can walk right up to the tank on the ground floor level and there’s also a great view from the walkway up on the first floor. The walkway can get a bit crowded, which is no surprise given how impressive it is.

Where: Dubai Mall

When: 10:00am – 11:15pm

7. Dubai Fountains

A girl watches the Dubai fountain show at night

The Dubai Fountain is one of the most impressive attractions in the city. Found at the base of the gigantic Burj Khalifa, the fountain show is a grand display of water and lights. Stretching over 900 feet long and jetting to an impressive 500 feet tall, it’s the world’s largest choreographed fountain.

The light show incorporates over 6,000 lights and 50 projectors, creating an impressive scene. There are a variety of shows with music ranging from classical Arabic sounds to contemporary international songs.

Where: Downtown Dubai

When: Performances at 1:00pm / 1:30pm & every 30 minutes from 6:00pm – 11:00pm

8. Burj Al Arab

The sail shaped Burj al Arab hotel in Dubai from the water

One of the most iconic landmarks in Dubai, and a symbol of the world-class luxury that the city has to offer. The unique sail-like structure stands 321m tall on a man-made island, towering over the Persian Gulf.

It’s often been referred to as “the world’s only 7-Star hotel”, although this isn’t an official rating. It’s rumored that a journalist described it as “beyond anything she’d ever seen” and so declared it should earn a 7-Star rating.

But 7-Star or 5-Star, it doesn’t take anything away from the spectacular sight. Sunset is a nice time to visit as the sun is setting over the water to the west.

Where: Jumeirah Street – on the coast

When: Any day / Any time

9. Souk Madinat

A girl looking from a balcony at the Burj al Arab lit p in a blueish color at night

This beautiful marketplace is a modern twist on the traditional Arabian souks. A contemporary but classic looking bazaar with small stalls selling Middle Eastern wares. It’s a great place to wander around window shopping for curios and souvenirs.

There’s also a thriving food and drink scene here with numerous bars, restaurants, and cafés. There are even a few pubs here like Trader Vic’s and Belgian Beer Café.

Where: Jumeirah Street – Near the coast

When: 10:00am – 11:00pm

10. Dubai Mall

The world’s largest mall is a must-visit, even if you’re not a big shopper. We’ve added a few highlights to this list as separate items, but the whole place is endless.

As well as the shops there are food courts, arcades, a movie theater and much more! There’s something for everyone here.

Where: Downtown Dubai

When: 10:00am – 1:00am

11. City Walk

This open-air promenade is the perfect spot to wander around and relax for a few hours.

It’s another of Dubai’s one-stop destinations, filled with popular shops, cafes, restaurants, and night spots. There’s usually something new to do as it hosts a variety of events and live music.

There is also a fountain show every hour from 7pm and a few street art pieces dotted around so keep your eyes peeled.

Where: Near Downtown Dubai

When: 10:00am – 10:00pm (Mon – Fri) / 10:00am – Midnight (Sat – Sun)

12. The Human Waterfall

This indoor water feature is a stunning work of art and a must-stop if you’re heading to the Dubai Mall anyway.

It features a huge 24m-tall, curved waterfall with dozens of men diving in a synchronized pattern. The movement of the water almost gives the illusion that the divers are moving.

It can be viewed from any floor and it’s a great meeting point as it’s so noticeable.

Where: Dubai Mall

When: 10:00am – 1:00am

13. Art Installations & Exhibits

Be on the lookout for the ever-changing exhibitions and installations dotted around Dubai Mall. From Star Wars to giant dinosaurs, the mall has had some impressive pop-up exhibitions over the years and you never know what’s coming next.

Whilst it’s not as good as some of the museums and pop-up exhibitions we’ve seen over the years, it’s well worth stopping by, especially since it’s totally free!

Where: Dubai Mall

When: 10:00am – 1:00am

14. Half Desert Road

A man standing in front of a white car in the desert. The sand is covering the road behind

There’s a fairly famous photo plastered over the internet of this half desert road with the Dubai skyline, large and prominent in the background. There’s just one downside to this, it’s not real!

It’s not possible to see the Dubai skyline from this far away, but that doesn’t take away any of its allure. It’s a really cool and unique spot that you should try to see on your Dubai trip. I mean, where else can you drive 20-30 minutes out of a huge city and be surrounded by dunes and roads covered in sand!

Tip: The very best view is from the air, so if you have a drone, don’t forget to take it with you here.

Also, we love adventure and having fun, but in terms of safety, here’s a few things you should bear in mind:

  • It can get extremely hot – make sure you take plenty of water and avoid midday sun
  • There really is a lot of sand – avoid thicker sand if you don’t have a 4×4 and remember the route you drove so you can retrace if you come to an impasse
  • There’s no phone signal in some areas

We actually saw people who had beached their car in some sand and were having to wait to be towed out. So, remember that sometimes: it’s all fun and games… until it’s not.

Where: 30km east of downtown Dubai

When: Any day / Any time – But it’s better to avoid the harsh sun by going around sunrise or sunset

15. Al Qudra Lake

Perfect for nature lovers, Al Qudra Lake is a man-made lake in the heart of the desert. It’s a fantastic spot to see native wildlife, sandy landscapes, and stunning sunsets.

It’s home to thousands of migratory birds like ducks, swans, geese, and even flamingos.

Where: 50km south of Downtown Dubai

When: Any day / Any time

16. Bluewaters Island

You may have seen the big wheel at Bluewaters Island if you’ve been on or around the Jumeirah beaches. It’s located on an island off the JBR connected by footbridge.

It’s a nice, chilled area with waterfront dining, shopping, and entertainment venues. From mid-December through January, they run an unmissable twice nightly drone show at 7pm and 10pm.

Where: Near Jumeirah Beach

When: Shops: 10:00am – 11:00pm / Food & Drink: 10:00am – Midnight

17. Aquaventure Waterpark on Your Birthday

We’d be very surprised if you hadn’t already heard about the waterpark located in the Atlantis resort on The Palm, but did you know you can get free entry on your birthday? How cool is that?!

This place is one of the highest rated waterparks in the world and it comes as no surprise. There are over 20 slides, multiple river rides, wave pools, a 20-storey drop slide, and even a shark lagoon!

The rides you simply cannot miss in our humble opinions include Tower of Neptune, Tower of Poseidon, Tower of Atlantis, and Leap of Faith.

Aquaventure also features on our Top 10 Adventure Activities in Dubai if you’re looking for more to do!

Where: The Palm

When: 9:45am – 6:00 pm

18. The Pointe at the Palm Jumeirah

The Atlantis Hotel in Dubai at night, lit up, reflecting on the water in front of it

There are many nice areas to spend an evening around Dubai and The Pointe ranks highly. It’s a picturesque dining and nightlife destination full of international cuisine, lively bars, and beautiful views.

Where: The Palm

When: 10:00am – 11:00pm

19. Al Barsha Pond Park

Al Barsha Pond Park is a popular, free entry, public park centrally located in Dubai.

The park has plenty of facilities for everyone to enjoy including jogging or walking paths, several playgrounds, and wide-open green spaces.

It’s the perfect place to visit if you’re looking for a quieter place to walk around or relax.

Where: 10km east of The Palm

When: 8am – 11:00pm (Sun-Thurs) / 8am – 11:30pm (Fri – Sat)

20. Al Karama Street Art

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of street art dotted around Dubai, but it’s quite spread out and hard to see everything. But that’s not the case in the Al Karama district. Here you can find the biggest concentration of the city’s street art in one convenient place.

The art is very diverse, from local Arabic influences, to vibrant, colorful animals, and seascapes. There are a total of 24 large murals, and this number will hopefully increase over time.

Where: Near Dubai Creek

When: Any day / Any time

21. Dubai Festival City Mall – IMAGINE

Blue and purple fountain and lights show at night

We can hear some of the cries from readers now: ‘Please no, not another mall’. But as well as the large shopping area and experiences like a glow in the dark arcade and trampoline park, the highlight is the IMAGINE show in the evening.

Another completely free event that their website describes as “the record-breaking, ever-changing immersive laser, light, water multi-sensory extravaganza”, and if that doesn’t sell it to you, we’re not sure what will!

Where: Dubai Creek

When: Light show: Every 30 minutes from 7:30pm – 10:00pm (Sun – Thurs) / 7:30pm – 11:00pm (Fri – Sat)

22. Grand Mosque

Grand Bur Dubai Masjid is an iconic structure and a spiritual center located in the heart of Dubai.

This is the third iteration of the mosque. The original was built in 1900, but was demolished and rebuilt in 1960, and then again in 1998.

This isn’t a patch on the Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi which we’d highly recommend visiting if you’re heading down that way. It has to be one of the most photogenic buildings in the world.

Where: South side of Dubai Creek

When: 9:00am – 11:30am (Sun – Thurs)

23. Al Fahidi

A girl standing amid sandstone buildings in the old town in Dubai

Take a walk through the fascinating Al Fahidi historical neighbourhood and transport yourself back to a more traditional view of life in the United Arab Emirates.

Before the towering glass and steel – a product of the great oil boom in the country – the region looked very different. Narrow streets between mud and stone walls, scattered with small souks and shops.

Where: Dubai Creek

When: Any day / Any time

24. Coffee Museum

This quaint museum is the perfect spot to learn more about the history and cultural significance of coffee and gain insight into the coffee production process.

You can learn about the many varieties of coffee in the region, how it shaped the culture and its impact on the economy.

Where: Al Fahidi

When: 9:00am – 5:00pm

25. Coins Museum

There’s not too much to say about the Coins Museum, it certainly does what it says on the tin.

It’s housed in a lovely traditional style building and contains coins from many different ages from the UAE and abroad and it’s completely free to enter.

Where: Al Fahidi

When: 8:00am – 3:00pm (Mon – Thurs) / 8am – 11:30am (Fri)

26. Dubai Creek Harbour – Viewing Deck

Get one of the best views in the whole of Dubai here on the viewing deck at the Creek Harbour. And whatever you do, don’t forget to bring the camera!

You have two options for some of the best views and photos. The first, at sunrise, where you’ll find the skyline bathed in sunlight in the soft morning sun. The second, at sunset, where you can see the sun setting behind the city.

Where: Dubai Creek

When: Any day / Any time – Particularly special at sunset

27. La Mer

La Mer is one of the more recent destinations added to Dubai’s impressive repertoire. It’s one of the city’s most popular beach areas with a bay style waterfront.

As well as the public beach you’ll also find live music, street art, beach clubs, dining, and more.

Where: Jumeirah Street – On the coast

When: 10am – Midnight

28. Picture Frame

Get creative and capture some fun shots at the Dubai Frame in Zabeel Park.

We were surprised at just how big the frame is. At 152m tall it’s dwarfed by some of the larger buildings in Dubai but that’s the height of a 50-storey building!

You can actually go up the frame in a panoramic elevator, but it costs around $14, and to be honest, the best view is from the ground.

Where: South of Dubai Creek

When: Any day / Any time

29. Spice Souk

Explore this vibrant marketplace filled with spices, dried fruits, hand-dyed fabrics, gold, tea, and much more.

Take in the energetic colors, enticing aromas, and the bustling energy from the local vendors. If you’re going to buy a souvenir or some gifts, be sure to haggle.

Where: North side of Dubai Creek

When: 7:30am – 10:00pm (Mon – Fri) / 7:30am – 11:00pm (Sat – Sun)

30. Waterfall – Dubai Water Canal

The Dubai Canal is a nice waterway to walk along, the highlight being a waterfall or ‘water curtain’ as it’s sometimes referred to.

If you wait around, you’ll likely see the curtain in action as it appears to part for the boats to come through. We’d recommend coming at night to make the most of the illuminations.

Where: Dubai Canal

When: Any day / Any time – After sunset is the best time to see the lights

Final Thoughts on Free Things to Do in Dubai

That’s a wrap guys! Thank you for reading and we hope you found some useful info here. We’ll be adding more UAE content soon including the very best things to do in Dubai and Abu Dhabi so if you’re planning a trip soon, watch this space.

30 Free Things to Do in Dubai

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