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12 Hours In

One day in Dubai may not be much time, but it’s enough to get a taste of everything this city has to offer. This ever-evolving metropolis always has an eye toward the future — what’s bigger, better and faster. But don’t judge a city solely on its glittering skyscrapers and man-made islands, because behind Dubai’s shiny veneer is a culture built on tradition, heritage and history. From traditional souks to sky-high buildings to a burgeoning art scene, to truly understand Dubai, you have to explore its past, present and future. Short on time? Spend your day exploring the best the city has to offer or indulging in a day of relaxation.

View of the city’s skyscrapers from the white sand beach
Sacks full of colorful spices

Day

1

IF YOU WANT TO RELAX
  • Stroll by the Sea.

    Before it gets too hot, wake up and enjoy the lower temperatures with a walk on one of Dubai’s beaches. Admire the glistening Arabian Sea, spot the skyscraping Burj Khalifa and sail-shaped Burj Al Arab and even witness a camel ambling by. After, stop by one of the many cafés or restaurants along the beach for coffee and a bite to eat.  

  • Find Serenity.

    The treatment menu at The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dubai International Financial Centre features massages, facials and body therapies with techniques and ingredients from around the world, but for a true sense of place, opt for a Dubai-inspired treatment, like the Desert Reviver, which includes a hot stone massage followed by a revitalizing cooling balm.   

  • Start at the Sunken Garden.

    Stop by the Sunken Garden for an evening cocktail before heading out for the evening. Take the short walk to the largest mall in the world, Dubai Mall, and marvel at its 1.1 million square feet of retail space, then find a good spot to watch the choreographed water fountain show right outside.  

  • Leave on a High.

    Zoom to the 122nd floor of the towering Burj Khalifa, for dinner at At.mosphere. Opt for the multi-course tasting menu or order a la carte from selections of seafood, pasta and Wagyu beef. Ask for a table by the window, because at 1,450 feet above ground, the views are simply spectacular.  

IF YOU WANT TO EXPLORE
  • Sail Around Palm Jumeirah.

    One of Dubai’s most well-known sights is the Palm Jumeirah, a man-made archipelago that adds 320 miles to the city’s shoreline. Choose your vehicle — speedboat, luxury yacht, catamaran — and glide around the palm-shaped coastline for spectacular views of the Dubai skyline.  

  • Art Walk.

    Regain your land legs by spending a few hours exploring Dubai’s most artistic street. In the industrial district of Al Quoz, Alserkal Avenue is a cluster of art galleries, museums, workshops, cafés and shops. Housed in former warehouses, it may not look like much from the outside, but once you step inside, you’ll be greeted with a vibrant and energetic art scene. If you’re short on time, make sure to stop by the Salsali Private Museum and Carbon 12.  

  • Cross Dubai Creek.

    Now that you’ve had a taste of modern Dubai, it’s time to explore Old Dubai. Hop on an abra, a traditional wooden boat, and cross the creek from Bur Dubai to Deira. Public abras are docked along the creek, but it’s more fun to hire a private one for a leisurely one-hour ride.  

  • A Golden Opportunity.

    When you cross into Deira, head straight to the Gold Souk, a must-see for any visitor. Walk up and down its narrow alleyways and marvel at the more than 100 shops that offer wide selections of gold jewelry: necklaces, rings, bracelets and earrings. Choose from 18-karat gold from Italy or 21-karat gold from India and Singapore. The prices are already fair, but bargaining is expected.