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Abu Dhabi shares many similarities with Dubai, but it is less crowded, less frantic and has more of a ‘small town’ feel to it. This is changing rapidly though and the city keeps adding attraction after attraction that draw similar crowds as Dubai.
As with Dubai, more ‘development’ is driven by quick expansion and you need to look extra-hard to find homegrown excellence in food and atmosphere.
Things to do Abu Dhabi – Get Around
Uber and Careem both used to operate in the city until recently, but their futures seem in jeopardy now. Taxis are very cheap though and in many instances parking is either free or available for a small fee. Renting a car is not a bad option and the AC gets you out of the intense summer heat.
The speed limit is vigorously enforced in Abu Dhabi and there are thousands of speed cameras to prove it (and I assume they actually work). There are no road tolls here, unlike in Dubai.
Things to do Abu Dhabi – Sights
This mosque, completed in 2007, is just stunning. The blue water pools, the blue skies and the shining white marble all make for fantastic pictures. The interior can’t match the grand exterior, though.
There is no entry fee and, most of the time, the crowds dissipate nicely at the mosque. The Sheik Zayed Mosque is open until late – I liked my recent visit at night even more.
Try to take appropriate attire, although if you haven’t, there is a rental option at the south entrance.
The Corniche at sunset time is where the city comes to life. It’s a beautiful spot and gets crowded.
The Emirates Palace is an over-the-top luxury hotel that features a striking exterior and lobby. While touristy, the gold bar ATM here is a fun idea.
Things to do Abu Dhabi – Eat & Drink
The bar for quality espresso isn’t set high in Abu Dhabi, so Cerutti isn’t so bad. The atmosphere is somewhat weird and there’s lots of smoking indoors, but the coffee is decent, the staff are friendly and there’s plenty of parking available outside near the Corniche.
I know, I know, it’s a chain, but a small one and it is originally from San Francisco. This Abu Dhabi outlet of the Polynesian themed restaurant at the Beach Rotana Hotel attracts a good crowd and the cocktails are delicious – aren’t they?
This Lebanese eatery near the Holiday Inn Abu Dhabi downtown likely has some of the best inexpensive food in town. It’s not easy to spot, but it’s worth going there if you are hungry.
Circle Cafe is one of those places that is just perfect for a lazy brunch. Fantastic interior design and good food and coffee make this place a winner. It’s hidden inside a small mall in a rather residential neighborhood.
Asia de Cuba is part of the St Regis Hotel and has gorgeous views over the water. Once the Abu Dhabi heat dissipates, this is a great place for a drink or Cuban snack.