By Soren Rivero
As the city that holds the world’s largest building (Burj Khalifa) and massive shopping malls with their own indoor ski slopes, Dubai is quite the opulent place to visit. Combined with the near-futuristic feel of the city, it can be hard to imagine there’s anything budget-friendly to do here – but believe us, there is!
Here are 11 free things to do in Dubai.
Stroll Through Al Fahidi (Bastakiya)
Al Fahidi is one of Dubai’s more well-known historical districts. The ancient buildings lining the district take visitors back to a time before technology. District officials have done a fantastic job at reviving the ancient buildings, some of which were the shops of pearl merchants. Certain aspects of the district have also been replenished to exaggerate details of how life was back in 15th century Dubai.
One notable attraction to visit in Al Fahidi is the Al Fahidi Fort. Formerly a prison and military fortress, it’s one of the oldest buildings in Dubai and now serves as a museum. Entry is around 3 AED (< $1 USD), so it's also a fairly cheap thing to do in Dubai.
Have a Photoshoot at the Dubai Fountains Display
Ever heard of the “Dancing Fountains of Dubai”? This is it!
The Dubai Fountains Display is the world’s tallest performing fountain that is designated right on Burj Khalifa Lake (which itself spans over 30 acres). One of the easiest ways to see it is by visiting the Dubai Mall. This free place to visit in Dubai is so unique in that the lights perform a choreographed dance to music. Mixed in with bursting LED lights against the neon cityscape, this is one of the best free things to do in Dubai.
Window Shop at the Dubai Mall
Yeah, so maybe shopping isn’t a free thing to do in Dubai. But who says you can’t simply browse?
Browsing the Dubai Mall is like a day trip in itself, as the mall is extremely massive (one of the largest malls in the world). It hosts over 1,000 shops as well as an ice rink, virtual reality park, movie theater, aquarium, an anti-gravity wind tunnel, and more.
Visit the Coffee Museum in Dubai
If you love coffee, this one's for you! The Dubai Coffee Museum is one of the most popular free museums in Dubai, and for good reason – from centuries-old coffee-making tools to the expansive history of coffee flavors and techniques, this place is a coffee lover's dream... with expert baristas, of course.
Creep Into the Abandoned City of Al Madam
Legend has it that back in the 20th century, a village was constructed on a barren strip of desert, 35+ miles away from Dubai. Just a couple of years later, the village was found to be in ruins and plunged into the earth under piles of heavy sand. No one truly knows what happened as there aren’t any survivors from Al Madam who can tell the story. Locals of Dubai who follow the Islamic faith believe that a jinn (supernatural entity) worked in unison with the harsh sands to drive the people away. Still to this day, what happened in Al Madam remains a mystery.
Of course, this ominous happening has drawn in eager visitors to the abandoned city for exploration purposes. Visiting it is free, if you dare to do so!
Relax at a Beach
Dubai has a hot desert climate, so temperatures are usually well above the 90s °F in the summer and only cool down to about 75 °F in the winter. What better way to chill out than by visiting one of the beaches in Dubai?
Let’s make it better: free beaches in Dubai! You can start by visiting La Mer. Located just on the coasts of the Persian Gulf, La Mer has turned into a hip and high fashion entertainment spot over the past few years. JBR Open Beach and Kite Beach are great alternatives to the best beaches in Dubai if you can’t make it to La Mer.
Admire the City
Come night-time, Dubai does a near 360 in its aesthetic pleasure. You can say goodbye to the bright blue skies and scorching heat and instead welcome cascades of neon city lights against a blackened sky. There are tons of places to explore, like Jumeirah Corniche or Burj Park, which is one of the most popular parks in Dubai. Wander around Burj Park and you'll be able to spot iconic attractions like the Burj Khalifah, The Dubai Opera, and more.
Visit the Souks
Souks are Arabic-style marketplaces, or bazaars. They’re typically located on crowded streets with tons of walking traffic. Dubai has a few categories of souks, the most popular being Gold Souks and Perfume Souks. The luxurious goods sold at Gold Souks will reward your eyes with pleasant images, whereas the Perfume Souks will entice you with spiced aromas. Browsing through them is an excellent free thing to do in Dubai. If you know how to bargain, you might even get lucky with some discounted purchases!
Hiking trails in Dubai create the perfect opportunity for travelers to escape the sensory overload that's typically associated with the city's more urban parts.
Wadi Lasal is a hiking trail best suited for those who want a simple walk without risking any exciting views. The trail is around 6 miles, and is fairly flat with some plant life here and there. Hatta is also a good place to hike in Dubai for free, as well as one of the more popular ones. You can enjoy peaceful hikes through its simple trails (on foot or bike) or opt for kayaking in the nearby river that spans over 25 miles long. If you're looking for just a simple stroll, then wander around Quranic Park where you can visit a greenhouse and admire gorgeous Arabic calligraphy.
Walk Around the Dubai Marina
Dubai Marina is an extravagant residential district in Dubai mostly known for its waterside promenade and the JBR beach. There’s plenty to do here, but we recommend settling near the Dubai Marina Walk. There are over five miles of shops, cafes, and restaurants scattered across this waterside promenade. You can stop and shop or simply walk around for some relaxation time. Be sure to visit around sunset for some absolutely stunning views!
Spend the Evening at Al Qudra
About a 30-minute drive away in the middle of a desert is Al Qudra. Within this little gem is a large lake surrounded by lovely plant life. People who visit this place are looking to escape the noisiness of Dubai’s lavish city streets. You’ll see families and friends picnicking, having a barbecue, exercising, or simply just enjoying the fresh air. You can pack some leisure and comfort items to rest with as you watch the sunset during the evening. If you want to extend your relaxation, bring your camping gear and spend the night (no fees)!
Now that you know these free things to do in Dubai, which will you enjoy first?