Living Large with Just 4 Days in Dubai
Here's my itinerary and must-see sights if you have limited time to visit this opulent city in the United Arab Emirates.
Day 1: Embrace the Excess
Photo from Flickr by George Shahda
- Burj Khalifa: This is the tallest building in the world and lies at the center of popular downtown Dubai. The observation deck on the 124th floor allows you to marvel at the sea of skyscrapers that make up this desert metropolis. Even the elevator ride up is an experience on its own. My tip is to buy tickets in advance online or at the ticket office since they tend to sell out quickly.
- The Dubai Mall (pictured): Spanning 12.1 million square feet, this mall is truly a shopper’s paradise. The mall houses tons of shops, a dedicated shoe district (yes, it’s all that you imagine and more), restaurants, an ice-skating rink and even an aquarium where you can cage snorkel and dive with sharks.
- The Dubai Fountain: This dancing fountain show (think the Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas) is programmed to the tune of songs ranging from traditional Arabic music to Andrea Bocelli. There are afternoon and evening shows with evening shows going off every 30 minutes from 6-11 p.m. My recommendation is to get a reservation for dinner at one of the restaurants at the Dubai Mall or in the surrounding area that has an outside table that faces the fountain and take in the nightly spectacle.
Day 2: ‘Souk’ it all in
Photo from Flickr by Joi Ito
- Gold Souk (pictured) and Spice Souk: Souk is the name given to an Arab market. These two are must-sees on your trip to Dubai. The Gold Souk as its name implies is where you’ll find some dazzling gold jewelry as well as platinum and diamonds. Right next door is the Spice Souk complete with rows of popular Arab spices, herbs and fragrances. The key with all souks in Dubai is to barter – never accept the first price you’re given, but rather put your negotiation skills to the test!
- Souk Madinat: This marketplace is modeled to resemble a traditional Arab Souk and features various shops that sell clothing, souvenirs and home décor. There are also various dining options, many of which are outside facing picturesque man-made canals à la Venice, Italy.
- Pierchic restaurant: If you’re up for a splurge, which let’s face it, this is the city to do it in, this restaurant is a great choice. Walk along an extensive pier above the ocean to arrive at this restaurant at the very end. With glass windows, you can dine accompanied by turquoise water views while taking in Dubai’s iconic hotel, the Burj Al Arab. After your meal, take a stroll along the white sands and get up close to snap pics of this famed, sail-shaped hotel.
Day 3: Ski by Day, Desert Safari by Night
Photo from Flickr by Timo Tervo
- Ski Dubai (pictured): Leave it to Dubai to offer an indoor ski slope. Ski Dubai is located in the Mall of the Emirates and offers visitors the chance to ski and snowboard and features five different runs to choose from. There are also ski lessons for the kids.
- Evening Desert Safari: So let’s face it. You can’t visit Dubai without experiencing the desert and riding on a camel. My recommendation is to do an evening desert safari. This tour departs in the afternoon and gives you plenty of time to ride through the sand dunes (get ready to hold on tight!), stop to take pictures and then hop on a camel for a ride through the desert. The trip then ends with a campfire barbecue dinner complete with a Henna station. Be sure to wear comfortable clothes and pack a light sweater for the night.
Day 4: Day Trip to Abu Dhabi
Photo from Flickr by Andrew Moore
- Sheikh Zayed Mosque (pictured): This is the largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates and an impressive site to behold. Inside you’ll be wowed by the gold, marble and semi-precious stones that make up the elaborate and beautiful decorative designs as well as the stunning carpet.
- Ferrari World: End your trip with a visit to this Ferrari-themed amusement park featuring attractions, shopping and dining options.