Thirty years ago, Dubai was just a tiny golf course surrounded by miles of desert sand.
But now, it’s one of the most cutting-edge cities in the world, known for its towering skyscrapers, man-made islands, and over-the-top experiences.
And it shows no sign of slowing down.
Over the next 20 years, Dubai plans to create more luxurious buildings, more golden-sand beaches, and more parks and amenities for tourists and locals to enjoy.
Is Dubai Worth Visiting?
Dubai is a city that truly offers everything. It’s a thriving metropolitan city with tons of amenities, including some of the world’s best shopping. With sunny beaches, a diverse and vibrant history and culture, delicious food, racing, and wonderful weather, Dubai should be on any traveler’s bucket list.
Whether you’re here for shopping or a relaxing beach holiday, Dubai has plenty to offer in terms of fun and entertainment.
Here are 9 reasons why you should plan your next vacation to the City of Gold.
Its Spectacular Skyline
When you think of Dubai, you likely picture massive skyscrapers and high-rises of all shapes and sizes.
And you’d be right – Dubai’s impressive skyline is one of the city’s most prominent features.
Of course, you can’t miss the Burj Khalifa.
Standing 2,722-feet tall (that’s over half a mile), it’s the tallest building in the world.
There are a total of 163 floors, although nine of them are strictly used for maintenance.
For the best view, head to the observation deck on the 148th floor.
On a clear day, you can see 95 miles away to Iran.
Outside of the building is the Dubai Fountain, a $217 million art fixture that puts on the largest choreographed water show.
It’s the Shopping Capital of the World
Dubai is a shopper’s paradise.
There are dozens of shopping malls to choose from, including the 2nd largest mall in the world – the Dubai Mall.
Covering over 5.4 million square feet and featuring more than 1,2000 shops, you’ll have no problem finding a new outfit or souvenir to take back home.
In addition to the shops, the mall has an aquarium, VR park, 22-screen cinema, and a haunted house.
For a more authentic shopping experience, you can head to one of the local markets or souks.
Buy a necklace or ring in the Gold Souk, pick out a few aromatics at the Spice Souk, or shop for silk blankets or sari fabrics at the Textile Souk.
Haggling is common and expected, so make sure to brush up on your bargaining skills before you go.
As a tourist, you can take advantage of tax-free shopping.
Although you’re saving 5% of the VAT costs, keep in mind that many things in Dubai are marked up because of the import fees.
Therefore, the cost savings might not be that big.
Its Sun-Soaked Beaches
With nearly 1,000 miles of coastline, Dubai is the perfect destination for a lazy beach day.
Although many beaches are private, there are a handful of public beaches that anyone can visit.
JBR (Jumeirah Beach Residences) Open beach is the biggest beach near the city.
The sand is powdery soft and impeccably clean, and the waters are calm and safe for swimming.
There are also numerous restaurants, cafes, and facilities nearby, so you can easily grab a snack or extra sun lotion if needed.
For a more upscale beach day, head to La Mer.
Lined by palm trees, this beach has cabanas, sun loungers, and beach clubs where you can spend the day.
If things get too warm, you can always dip your toes in the ocean or cool off at the on-site water park.
If you’re into water sports, then Kite Beach is your best option.
Located on Umm Suqueim Beach, this area is extremely popular for kayaking, kite surfing, and paddleboarding.
There is a beach club nearby, although most people just grab a bite to eat at one of the food trucks parked near the shores.
Its Diverse Culture
As soon as you step foot in the city, you’ll notice that Dubai is an incredibly diverse destination.
Expats from around 200 different countries make up around 80% to 90% of the population, making Dubai a multicultural hot pot of races, religions, and ethnicities.
The largest number of expats come from India and Pakistan (28% of the city).
However, it’s common to see Europeans, Americans, and Canadians here as well.
Westerners make up roughly 5% of the Dubai expat community.
Compared to other Middle Eastern countries, the UAE is relatively liberal, which is one of the main reasons for the high number of expats.
In addition to the warm weather, leisure facilities, and tax-free income, it’s easy to see why Dubai attracts many types of people.
This diversity is reflected everywhere you look.
From the abundance of international restaurants to the global performances of opera, theater, or live music, it’s easy to forget that you’re located in the Middle East.
However, the UAE is still an Islamic country, so travelers should abide by local laws and customs.
It’s in the Arabian Desert
It’s hard to believe, but Dubai is located directly within the Arabian Desert.
However, you’ll need to venture a bit outside of the city if you want to see sandy slopes and rolling dunes.
The best way to experience the desert is on a safari tour.
Your guide will take you out into the middle of the desert, where there’s nothing but miles of sand stretching as far as the eye can see.
Most tours come with a dune bashing session, so you can feel the thrill of racing down the sides of the red ridges.
The desert is ideal for other types of outdoor recreational activities as well, especially on Big Red.
This is one of the largest sand dunes in the area, so it’s the perfect spot for quad biking and dune buggy driving.
Sandboarding, hot air ballooning, and camel riding are also possible in the surrounding area.
If you want to escape the city for the night, you can also book accommodation in the desert.
Stay in one of the authentic Bedouin camps where you can sleep soundly underneath a sky full of stars.
Its Heart-Racing Activities
Although it may not have the diverse landscape of other cities, Dubai is still an excellent place to go if you want to participate in recreational activities.
In the Arabian desert, you can go sandboarding, quad biking, or even camel riding.
However, you don’t have to leave the city if you’re seeking a thrilling adventure.
Because of its prime location on the Persian Gulf, Dubia is known for water sports.
You can go kayaking, swimming, wakeboarding, boating, deep-sea fishing, and even water jetpacking! Many of Dubai’s beaches have rental shops where you can rent equipment or book tours.
You can even go skiing in the middle of the desert! Ski Dubai is an indoor ski resort with a 279-foot tall “mountain.” It has five different ski slopes for beginners and intermediate skiers and an indoor black diamond run for experts.
Dubai is also home to the world’s longest zipline and the world’s longest urban zipline.
At the Xline Dubai, you can soar through the sky over the Dubai Marina and past the towering skyscrapers, making this one of the most unique recreational activities in the city.
However, that view is easily topped by skydiving over the iconic Palm Islands.
But if free-falling over 120 miles towards the ocean is too scary, you can also try indoor skydiving at one of the two arenas in the city.
It’s Culinary Scene
You can find almost every type of food from almost every nation in Dubai.
As one of the most multicultural cities in the world, you’ll be spoiled for choice when it comes to restaurants.
You can wake up with a traditional Bedouin breakfast, grab fresh sushi for lunch, then treat yourself to a gourmet French dinner in the evening.
Whatever you’re craving – Dubai has it.
Although Dubai is a city of luxury, you won’t have to break the bank to eat well.
The street food scene here is impressive, with food truck areas, fresh produce markets, and tons of casual eateries.
Of course, if you want to spend several hundred dollars on dinner, you can easily do that too.
Although Emeriti cuisine is heavily influenced by other cultures, there are still a few national dishes you should try during your visit.
Luqaimats are sticky doughnut-like pastries that are smothered in a sweet date sauce and covered in sesame seeds.
Kabsa (or Majboos) is a mixed riced dice with chicken, vegetables, and strong, aromatic spices.
For something unique, try camel.
Although it’s usually eaten on special occasions, you can find restaurants serving up camel burgers, stews, and biryani.
Camel milk can also be found in cafes (it’s even flavored with chocolate or pistachio like other types of milk).
One of the best ways to sample all of Dubai’s delicacies is to attend the annual Dubai Food Festival that takes place in the beginning of the year.
This two-and-a-half-week-long celebration features exclusive restaurant deals, pop-up markets, and street food fairs.
It’s Sunny 350 Days of the Year
If you’re looking for sun and sand, then you’ve come to the right place.
Dubai is warm and sunny practically every day of the year, which attracts many travelers and visitors coming from colder climates.
On the other hand, Dubai does have a hot desert climate, which means it can be scorchingly hot, especially from June to September.
During this time, you can expect temperatures to reach over 106° Fahrenheit each day.
While it will be sunny, it’s unbearable to be outside, so you’ll find most travelers and residents inside enjoying the air-conditioning.
If you’re coming to hit the beach or to explore the desert, then you’ll ideally want to come from October to April.
You might see a rainstorm or two (Dubai only has 5 inches of rain a year), but they are infrequent and only last for a short amount of time.
Its Luxurious Lifestyle
Between the glitzy shopping malls to the billion-dollar architectural sights, Dubai is a luxury destination.
The city is full of wealthy expats and even wealthier travelers, which means facilities and businesses have adapted to keep up with their lavish lifestyles.
If you have the money to spend, then Dubai is your playground.
Enjoy a seafood feast while you dine in an underwater restaurant or charter your own private yacht for a day in the sun.
You can also shop for 24-carat gold at the Gold Souk or indulge in a $300 edible gold leaf ice cream sundae (After all, Dubai’s nickname is “the City of Gold”).
There are numerous high-end hotels and resorts, including the Burj Al Arab.
This “7-star” hotel is home to one of the most expensive hotel rooms in the world (the Royal Suite goes for $18,776 a night).
It features a private beach, helicopter pad, and a shuttle fleet of high-end Rolls Royces.
You can also stay on the Palm Islands at one of the many luxury resorts.
Atlantic, FIVE, Anantara, Sofitel, and One&Only are just a few opulent places where you can relax in Dubai in style
And if you’re thinking about buying property on the island, you can expect to pay anywhere from $300,000 to $25 million per unit.
When is the best time to visit Dubai?
Dubai is generally warm and sunny all year round.
However, the months from June to September are especially hot, making outdoor activities practically impossible.
Most people visit between November and December when the weather is still hot but bearable.
This is also the busiest time of the year, so expect to share the malls and beaches with plenty of other travelers.
How many days should I spend in Dubai?
The amount of time you should spend in Dubai will depend on the number of sights you plan on seeing.
If you’re just here for shopping and fine dining, then three to five days is more than sufficient.
Staying a week or more will give you more time to visit different attractions (and possibly take an excursion out to the desert).
The more time you spend, the better you can appreciate this fascinating city!