Dubai, the city of dreams, is a popular pitstop for those traveling between the East and the West. In fact DXB airport is the busiest airport for international travel in the world with over eighty million passengers a year! Most people take advantage of their layover here to see the city. While you could easily do 3 or 4 days in Dubai to really see the city, this one is for those of you who have around 24 hours!
24 Hours in Dubai – Dubai Layover Guide
Enjoy breakfast by the beach.
What better way to start your day than having breakfast by the beach?
A favourite breakfast spot is Eggspectation cafe at The Walk on Jumeirah Beach Residence, known to locals as JBR. This thriving venue has one of the most extensive breakfast menus I’ve seen.
From french toast to pancakes they have a dish for everyone. Eggs Benedict are their speciality, whether it’s the ‘Smoked Salmon Benny’ you go for, or the ‘California Dreamin’ served with sauteed spinach and asparagus, you’re sure to leave with a full stomach ready to start your day in Dubai. They cook your breakfast to order so you can make changes to the dish if required. Prices are average for the area at around 60aed for a dish.
The Smoked Salmon Benny, Eggspectation.
If you don’t like the sound of their menu, there are plenty of other cafes and restaurants to explore. Another great spot a little further down the Walk is La Postreria. Their speciality is desserts, but they do a fab breakfast and lunch too. Their Mediterranean breakfast at 57AED comes with coffee and juice. Request to be seated upstairs on the terrace to be rewarded with stunning sea front views and some great people watching opportunities!
An afternoon of exploring Dubai…
After a leisurely breakfast, it’s time to explore what Dubai has to offer…Dubai really does have something for everyone. Here’s a few suggestions..
Adventure lovers: Head over to Palm Jumeirah to enjoy the exciting rides at Aquaventure waterpark.
For the real thrill seekers head straight to Poseidon’s Revenge. Stepping inside a capsule, fold your arms across your chest and wait for the floor to disappear beneath your feet. Without warning the trapdoor opens sending you plummeting down winding slides until you reach the pool with a splash and a sense of relief that you’re still alive! Take your Go Pro for this one! Another great ride is the ‘Leap of Faith’, an almost vertical slide! Warning. These rides are not for the faint hearted.
For up to date prices and opening hours check out their website.
If you stay at Atlantis hotel your admission to Aquaventure is included!
If you prefer roller coasters over water park rides then head to IMG World of Adventures, a huge indoor theme park. It’s a little far out of the city, but worth the thirty minute drive for those who enjoy roller coasters. It isn’t currently connected to the city by public transport so you do need a car for this one.
To book tickets, find out opening hours and information on getting there, check out their website.
Relaxing at the Beach.
If all you want to do is relax, swim in the sea and enjoy the beach you don’t even have to leave JBR.
Here there’s a great public beach with changing facilities. You can rent a sunlounger for the day, or simply lay your towel on the sand for free! When you get too hot, cool off in the Arabian Gulf (although in the summer months it’s bathwater temperature!)
If you get restless on the beach, don’t worry as there’s plenty of shops and restaurants around the area to explore, plus water sports activities from jet skiing, parasailing and even flyboarding.
Find out more here.
When it opens you could even try out one of Dubai’s latest attractions- the Ain Dubai which is a giant ferris wheel similar to the London Eye (but much bigger of course!) A full rotation is estimated to take 48 minutes.
Ain Eye, Dubai.
Interested in learning more about Dubai’s history and culture.
Dubai isn’t all steel skyscrapers, luxury hotels and fast cars.
If you’re interested in learning more about the religion of Islam, The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding hosts visits of the Grand Jumeirah Mosque every day at 10am other than on a Friday. Costs are currently at a mere 25 dirhams per person. (That’s less than seven dollars!)
I’ve been to this twice and found it incredibly interesting both times. The person running the talk explains aspects of Islam such as the five pillars of Islam, how and why Muslims wash before praying, how they pray and much more. Visitors are encouraged to ask questions they have about the Islam faith, so as to break down barriers and open communication between people of all faiths.
To find out more about the heart and history of Dubai, head out to Dubai Creek.
Don’t miss out on haggling at the gold and spice souks at Deira! You can get here by Dubai Metro- get off at the Al Ras Metro station.
Gold prices here are amongst the best in the world. Be sure to buy from authorised sellers which are regulated for guaranteed quality and authenticity. The souks are perfect places to pick up gifts for family and friends. After you’ve picked up some bargains, take an Abra (traditional boat) across the Creek for the grand price of 1aed to the vibrant textile souks in Bur Dubai.
After picking up colourful scarves and pashminas, call in at Dubai Museum to learn about Dubai’s history of pearl diving. You won’t recognise the old photos of Dubai before its rapid transformation to the modern city it is today.
A ten minute walk from Dubai Museum is the coffee museum which also has a cafe inside,, perfect for coffee addicts like myself! For tea lovers, the neighbouring Arabian Tea House is a must. Here you can choose from over 100 varieties of tea, although the iced moroccan tea is their best seller! They also serve light bites if you’re feeling hungry after all the walking!
Take a minute to watch the sunset.
After your busy afternoon of exploring Dubai, it’s time to sit back and enjoy the sunset. Dubai has some beautiful sunset spots.
My favourite places to watch the sunset in Dubai:
From the beach. We are lucky in Dubai as the sun sets out at sea. JBR beach, Um Suqeim beach and Kite Beach are all free public beaches offering great sunset views. If you go to Kite Beach be sure to check out the SALT stand and try the famous lotus milkshake or ice-cream! It is heavenly!
If you fancy sipping on a martini while watching the sun go down over JBR beach, don’t miss The Hilton’s Pure Sky lounge which has fabulous views overlooking the Arabian gulf. If you’re not an alcohol drinker, the mocktails here are fab too.
Over the Creek offers stunning views of Dubai’s skyline. A great spot is Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. Make your way to Cielo lounge bar for views of Dubai’s skyline over the Creek.
From the Apple store or Joe’s cafe in Dubai Mall. Yes, the outdoor terrace of the Apple store really does have great views of the skyline!
From the Burj Khalifa. Watching the sun setting over the city from the tallest building in the world is definitely a ‘wow’ moment.
If you’re intending on going up the Burj Khalifa, whether its for the sunset or not, I recommend you pre book your tickets online. There are two options. Level 124 & 125 or level 148, 125 & 124. See prices on their official website here:
If you really want to enjoy the views then book a meal at Atmosphere, the world’s tallest restaurant inside the Burj Khalifa!
Once the sun has set, it’s time to make your way to Dubai Mall…
Dubai Mall, the biggest Mall in Dubai truly comes to life at night. Children, locals and tourists all mingle in this microcosm of Dubai City.
Its main attractions include its very own Aquarium. Yes you can watch the sharks, manta rays and groupers all swimming together from inside the Mall.
Maybe you fancy a spot of ice skating? You’re in luck as Dubai Mall is home to its very own ice rink!
However, Dubai Mall’s main star of the show, lies just outside the Mall in the form of the tallest building in the world, the majestic and magnificent Burj Khalifa. If you’re in Dubai, the towering landmark is visible across the city. However to see it up close is a wonderous spectacle and something you must do if you’re visiting Dubai.
At the base of the Burj Khalifa is my personal favourite attraction in Dubai, the Dubai Fountain Show. Every evening at half hourly intervals from 6.30pm until 11.30pm, you’re treated to a magical spectacle of dancing fountains, which sway and twist to various songs. My personal favourite is Michael Jackson’s Thriller!
To make the most of the fountain show, its best to reserve a table at a restaurant so that you can relax and enjoy the show without battling crowds for the best view.
The best restaurants are just over the bridge in Souk al Bahar – a stunning building built in a traditional Arabic style which is home to many fabulous restaurants and some shops too. Call ahead and request a table on the terrace of Italian restaurant Serafina to be granted an up close and personal show of the fountains. This restaurant is licensed and allows you to enjoy a glass of wine or beer with your meal.
For a taste of the Middle East, Lebanese favourite Abd El Wahab serves delectable authentic Lebanese cuisine. Their mezze is to die for. If you’re lucky enough to be seated outside on the front row of the terrace these seats offer some of the best views of the fountain show in the vicinity. It doesn’t serve alcohol, but does serve shisha.
After a delicious meal, you may be ready to retreat to your hotel for some rest. However, Dubai is home to some of the best bars and nightclubs in the world. Not far from Dubai Mall is the wonderful Taj Hotel, a stunningly decorated hotel which houses some fantastic bars. Try Treehouse bar – an outdoor lounge bar with Burj Khalifa views for handcrafted cocktails and some of the best shisha in the city, followed by a fun night at Billionaire Mansion! Be sure you dress to impress as strict dress codes operate.
Practicalities for traveling to Dubai:
Whether you need to apply for a visa in advance or not depends on your nationality. Check regulations prior to travelling at ivisa.com.
Getting in and around Dubai:
If you’re intent on seeing as much of Dubai as possible then I highly recommend getting the ‘Big Bus tour’. It’s a hop on and hop off bus service and they offer three key routes- the ‘City Tour’, the ‘Marina tour’ and the ‘Beach Tour’.
Taxis are widely available and always metred. Make sure you wear your seatbelt as otherwise you might face a fine.
Airport taxis are more expensive than taxis in the rest of the city. There’s a stand with the prices clearly labelled at the taxi pick up point. If you’re female you will be encouraged to use the ladies taxis, spot them by their pink roof. They have women drivers and only accept female passengers.
If you fly into DXB terminal 1 or 3 you can also use the Dubai Metro to access the city.
The Metro is a fantastic way of getting around as you will miss the infamous Dubai traffic. Plus it’s extremely cost effective with most journeys costing under 6 dirhams. However, not all of the city is covered by the Metro so check first.
Where to stay in Dubai:
The Walk, JBR:
If you like being within walking distance of the beach and Dubai Marina then JBR is a great location.
The Sofitel Hotel: This 5* Sofitel hotel brings French elegance to Dubai in a prime position on JBR. Its famous infinity pool overlooking the Arabian gulf is definitely instagram worthy.
Bustling Downtown by Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa is one of Dubai’s most popular spots.
The Taj Hotel: Opulent and ornate, with an Indian influence, this hotel is ideal for couples and those who enjoy luxury. With its stunning decor, this really gives an impressive first impression. It is home to some fantastic bars, restaurants and even a nightclub.
Rove hotel: If you prefer cool and laid back rather than luxury, then the Rove hotel is a great pick at great value. They have a few hotels around the city, but this one is right in the heart of Downtown! It even offers late check out times of 2pm for those wanting to relax and make the most of their stay in Dubai. Upgrade to a luxury room for Burj Khalifa views.
The Palm Jumeirah:
If you’re after a relaxing retreat away from the city the Palm is the place to be…
Jumeirah Zabeel Saray: This palatial hotel, complete with its own private beach is a perfect pick for those who enjoy the Middle Eastern opulence. Relax in a Turkish Hammam at the onsite Talise Ottoman Spa.
Atlantis: This iconic building is perfect for families, this hotel grants you with free access to the Aquaventure waterpark! Home to a wide variety of restaurants such as Gordon Ramsey’s Bread Street Kitchen and the world famous Nobu, shops and even an Aquarium it has plenty to keep all the family occupied.
Close to DXB Airport:
If you have an early flight, you may prefer to stay by the airport.
Le Meridian hotel & Conference Centre is just minutes from DXB airport so you don’t have to worry about being late to check in! Unlike the typical sterile, bland airport hotels, this one is almost like a mini resort.
If you’re there on a Friday its famous Hive brunch- a four hour eating and drinking extravaganza at Warehouse restaurant, followed by the afterparty is legendary!
Dress codes in Dubai
On the beaches you’re free to wear bikinis, burkinis and anything in between. Topless or nude bathing is illegal and not tolerated. As soon as you;re off the beach, put some clothes on.
In the Malls modesty rules apply and although people do flout them, this is disrespectful and inappropriate for the local culture. Ensure shoulders and knees are covered.
Click here to see some outfits ideas for travel in conservative countries.
On the streets: Walking around Dubai in general follow the same rules as the Dubai Mall dress code.
In bars and nightclubs: They expect you to dress to impress. Often national dress (locals clothing) is not allowed. Rules are stringent and door men and women will stop people from coming in who they feel are not glamorous enough. For ladies many clubs require that you wear heels! Flat shoes are not allowed. Check the dress codes of the website of the venue you are attending beforehand, but expect it to be much more strict than anywhere in Europe for example.
With so much to do in so little time, 24 hours will fly by. The good thing is that there will be plenty left for you to do on your next stopover in Dubai, so make sure you come back!
Author profile: Dubai Dreamer. Originally from the UK, she has lived and worked in Dubai for over two years. Travelling is her main passion and since being nineteen she has enjoyed inter-railing through Europe, travelling on a round the world trip for six months and backpacking her way from Brazil to Colombia. Since moving to Dubai she has enjoyed exploring the Middle East, such as Jordan and Lebanon, and has some exciting travel plans for the year ahead. Solo, independent, travel is her favourite way to get around. She blogs on www.gettingthedreamlife.com about her travel experiences (the good, the bad and the ugly!) and her Dubai lifestyle.