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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 24 March 2019

24 hours in Abu Dhabi: What to see, where to go and eating out

It's surprising just how much you can pack in during a day in the UAE's capital

Inside Qasr Al Watan's great hall. Chris Whiteoak / The National
Inside Qasr Al Watan's great hall. Chris Whiteoak / The National

It's almost impossible to see everything Abu Dhabi has to offer in just one day, but you can make a good start.

Whether you're planning a day trip from one of the other emirates, enjoying a leisurely stopover or just taking a day out of your busy schedule to enjoy the city, it's surprising what you can get done in 24 hours.

We've put together a full day's itinerary, taking in the city's culture, heritage, natural beauty and of course, ensuring plenty of pit stops to indulge and refuel along the way.

Here is how to spend 24 hours in Abu Dhabi:

9am: Breakfast

With a day of big exploring ahead of you, breakfast is an important first stop. Head to Tashas Cafe at Al Bateen, and, weather permitting, grab a table outside overlooking the Marina — it’s a beautiful, relaxed setting to kick-start the day. Tashas breakfast menu is extensive, but we recommend ordering the Hummus Toastie and a flat white.

10am: Visit the Presidential Palace

Take the short 10-minute taxi ride from Al Bateen over to Al Ras Al Akhdar, where you’ll find Abu Dhabi’s Presidential Palace. There you can step inside Qasr Al Watan, or ‘palace of the nation’, to discover the exclusive world of a royal court. From stunning, traditional architecture to precious manuscripts and sculptures, Qasr Al Watan is Abu Dhabi’s newest cultural attraction and makes the ideal first stop for a day of discovering the UAE capital’s cultural heritage.

11.30am: Explore Qasr Al Hosn

Hidden among Abu Dhabi’s glistening sky scrapers you’ll find Qasr Al Hosn — the capital’s oldest building and an important part of its heritage. Just a short taxi ride along the Corniche from Al Ras Al Akhdar, Qasr Al Hosn is in the heart of Downtown Abu Dhabi. Fresh from a ten-year renovation project, this fort dates back to 1760 and once housed the ruling family. Now, it acts as a cultural hub and a perfect example of how the emirate seamlessly blends its history and its progression.

1pm: A lunchtime visit to Mina Fish Market

Al Mina Fish market. Victor Besa / The National 
Al Mina Fish market. Victor Besa / The National 

At the other end of the Corniche you’ll find Mina Zayed Port, Abu Dhabi’s buzzing commercial port. Among the traditional wooden dhows and reams of local tradesmen, this spot is home to a number of specialised souks — from carpets and plants, to fruit and veg. The highlight though is Mina Fish Market, where the early-morning fisherman are busy preparing their catch of the day. The market itself is filled with stallholders selling the freshest fish, fronted by a number of small restaurants and cafes where you can sample the seafood at extremely affordable prices, while getting a sense for one of the emirate’s oldest trades.

2pm: Stroll on the beach

Successful hatching of the first hawksbill turtle nest on Saadiyat beach. courtesy TDIC
Successful hatching of the first hawksbill turtle nest on Saadiyat beach. courtesy TDIC

Full on fresh seafood, take the 15-minute taxi ride out to Saadiyat Island. There, head to Saadiyat Beach and enjoy nature at its best. Pay the Dh25 entry fee and enjoy a quick stroll along the white sands, as the waves of the Arabian Gulf lap at your feet, seeing if you can spot any Hawksbill turtles as you go.

2.30pm: Discover Louvre Abu Dhabi

Wipe the sand from your feet and hop across to the jewel in Saadiyat’s crown, Louvre Abu Dhabi. Opened in 2017, this sprawling museum and gallery features art from the Middle East and around the world, with artefacts from Ancient Egypt and South East Asia nestled between works from the likes of Monet, Paul Gauguin and Piet Mondrian. Perhaps most impressive though is the building itself. Designed by Jean Nouvel, its intricate domed roof and tranquil waterways are works of art in themselves, and are a must see for any visitors to Abu Dhabi.

5pm: Marvel at Sheikh Zayed Mosque

Abu Dhabi is growing as a tourist destination faster than any other city in the Middle East, according to the Mastercard index. Christopher Pike / The National
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque is a must-visit. Christopher Pike / The National

No day exploring Abu Dhabi would be complete without taking in the beauty of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. From Saadiyat, take the 30-minute taxi to the mosque, which sits proudly at the gateway to the city. The impressive structure is one of the largest mosques in the world, and houses the world’s largest carpet and chandelier. Arrive at the Mosque at 5pm to take advantage of the free daily tour, which will allow you to learn more about the building’s history as well as enjoy the glistening sunset.

7pm: Relax and refuel with dinner at the Venetian Village

Barfly. Courtesy of Barfly *** Local Caption *** Barfly_Bar_counter.jpg
Barfly by Buddah-Bar. Courtesy of Barfly

Just five minutes from the Sheikh Zayed Mosque is Abu Dhabi's Venetian Village. Here, you'll find a relaxed, vibrant atmosphere and plenty of places to grab some food and refuel after a busy day's exploring. Located at the Ritz-Carlton Grand Canal, the Venetian Village is home to six restaurants, but if you fancy treating yourself, we recommend heading to Barfly by Buddha-Bar. Kick back in one of the restaurant's waterside cabanas and enjoy one of its famous sushi platters.

9pm until late: Soak up the atmosphere at Yas Island

A handout photo of Iris Yas Island (Courtesy: Iris Yas Island) *** Local Caption *** al23no-f1-iris.jpg
Iris Yas Island overlooks the Marina and F1 track (Courtesy: Iris Yas Island)

Take the 20-minute taxi to Yas Island. Take in the bright red canopy of Ferrari World as you pass by on your way to Yas Marina. There, head to Iris Yas Island where you can settle down for the evening on its impressive terrace, which offers 180 degree views of the superyacht-filled Marina, and more importantly, the adjacent Formula 1 Track, where if you’re lucky, you might catch a glimpse of some of the cars as the whizz round — or if not, you’ll certainly hear them. Iris stays open until 3am, with a DJ and live music creating a chilled out vibe into the early hours.

Updated: March 12, 2019 03:47 PM

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