From films and fitness to fun days out and drinks that won’t cost you a dirham, we’ve rounded up some of the best free activities in Dubai…
1. Watch a free movie
Did you know there are a few places around the city that offer free outdoor movie screenings during the winter months? It’s perfect for a cheap date (especially if you BYO popcorn). Here are three great options:
Rise Dubai Creek Harbour
Reel Cinemas is hosting a free outdoor cinema pop-up at Rise Dubai Creek Harbour every Thursday through the winter. The outdoor cinema will show a variety of films including Inception and La La Land.
Rise, Dubai Creek Harbour, Thursday, 7.30pm onwards, free. More info on website.
West 14th Steakhouse
The outdoor movie night at West 14th Steakhouse on The Palm takes place every Thursday. It’s free entry, with snacks and drinks charged separately. There’s two films on offer – a family-friendly option at 6.30pm, and a classic showing at 8pm.
West 14th, Oceana beach club, Palm Jumeirah, Thursday, 6.30pm and 8pm, free. Tel: (04) 447 7601. More info on website.
Every Sunday from 8.30pm you can head up to the Pyramids Rooftop Gardens at Wafi Mall, sit on one of the giant beanbags and enjoy a free movie under the stars. There’s a different movie every week, including favourites like How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days and I Am Legend.
Wafi Mall, Pyramids Building, Oud Metha, Sunday, 8.30pm onwards, free. Tel: (04) 324 4100. More info on website.
2. Visit a museum
Dubai is full of unique (and at times just plain quirky) museums that you can enter free of charge or for very little. We love the Dubai Coffee Museum in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, where you can admire centuries-old grinders, roasters and pots from all over the world. There’s a Coin Museum in the same area, which is worth a wander even if you’re not a serious numismatist. Or if words are more your thing, you can check out a museum dedicated to the poet Al Oqaili, located in the Al Ras area in Deira – it’s housed in one of the most beautiful heritage houses in Dubai. Of course, there’s also the excellent Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort, which costs just Dhs3 to enter.
3. Wander around an art gallery
Who said Dubai has no culture? You’ll find plenty of it within the walls of the city’s many wonderful (and often free) art galleries. The best place to start is Alserkal Avenue in Al Quoz, which is a hotbed of creative talent. There’s always a plethora of exhibitions, workshops, lectures and screenings – just keep an eye on their website. Another good place for art connoisseurs on a budget is the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, which is home to the lovely Majlis Gallery, as well as the XVA Gallery (which doubles as a boutique hotel).
4. Take an abra ride across the Creek
We’re convinced this is the best cruise in the city, and it costs just Dhs1. The Creek is the historic heart of Dubai, which once divided the city into two areas: Deira and Bur Dubai. Until the construction of Al Maktoum Bridge in 1963 – the first bridge in Dubai – the only way to get from one side to the other was in a rickety little wooden boat called an abra. It’s still undoubtedly the most fun (and affordable) way across.
5. Hit the beach
Unlike the fancy pay-to-enter hotel beaches, they might not offer a Balearic soundtrack or complimentary sunglasses-cleaning, but Dubai still has some pretty great public beaches to enjoy. The Beach at JBR is a perennial favourite – though be sure to get there early to nab the best patch of sand, as it gets really busy. Kite Beach is another goodie, named for the kite surfers that frequent it. But if you want to avoid the crowds, try Al Sufouh (or ‘Black Palace’) Beach – this spot is a bit trickier to find, but you’ll be rewarded with peaceful waters and beautiful views.
6. Watch the dancing fountains
It’s a classic, and for good reason. The Dubai Fountain is the world’s largest choreographed fountain system, performing mesmerizing watery routines to the likes of Whitney Houston, Enrique Iglesias and Celine Dion. The shows take place every half hour in the evenings starting from 6pm to 11pm (and until 11.30pm on weekends). Here’s a little tip: the Apple store in the Dubai Mall has a massive balcony which offers some of the best views of the fountain (don’t worry – no iPhone purchase necessary).
7. Check out the Burj Khalifa light show
After you’ve seen the spectacle that is the dancing fountains, be sure to stick around for the Burj Khalifa light show. Light Up 2018 – the record-breaking choreographed light and laser show using the world’s tallest building as a backdrop – made its debut on New Year’s Eve, and is being repeated until the end of March. You can catch the seven-minute long show at 8pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday, and at 10pm on Thursday and Friday and any public holidays.
8. Have some free fun in the desert
Forget those expensive desert safari packages – you can have your own fun out in the sand. We love the Al Qudra area, which is just a 30-minute drive from the city. You can bring your bike and go for a leisurely cycle around the Al Qudra Cycle Track, or grab a sandboard and carve some dunes. Keep an eye out for the friendly wild oryx and gazelle, too.
9. Go bird-watching for free
Why pay money to visit a zoo when there’s some incredible wildlife right on your doorstep? We are, of course, talking about the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, located at the mouth of Dubai Creek. While more than 20,000 birds of 67 species inhabit the sanctuary, it’s perhaps most famous for its magnificent flock of flamingos. To see them, all you have to do is rock up to one of three viewing hides dotted around the perimeter of the sanctuary. These are open from 9am to 4pm Saturday to Thursday, and entrance is free (there are binoculars available to borrow, too).
10. Join a free yoga class
Finding your zen doesn’t have to be an expensive exercise. Head down to The Beach South Lawn at JBR every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 7am to 8am for a free sunrise yoga class. People of all ages and experience levels are welcome, and you don’t even have to register – all you need to do is bring your yoga mat, a towel, and some water. Oh, and if you don’t have a yoga mat, you can borrow one for free from the Adventure HQ store (just show them your Emirates ID card).
11. Enjoy a free ladies’ day
If you’re lucky enough to be a lady, you can get free access to some of Dubai’s best pools on certain days of the week. For example, every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday from 10am you can head down to Barasti for their Aquarius Ladies’ Days and enjoy free pool access, a free towel, and unlimited Frose, as well as 50 per cent off the food and beverage menu. Click here for more great ladies’ day deals in Dubai.
12. Or a ladies’ night
There are so many ladies’ nights in Dubai that you could quite easily sip your way through the whole week without spending a single dirham. One of our favourites is Miss Independent at Ramusake in the DoubleTree by Hilton at JBR, where on Wednesdays you get unlimited wine from 7pm to midnight. A word of warning – this stylish spot has become so popular that reservations are essential to guarantee entry, and the place often books up several weeks in advance. Click here for loads more ladies’ night deals in Dubai.
13. There’s something for the boys, too
That’s right, the freebies aren’t just for ladies – try heading along to a gents’ night. Qwerty in Media One Hotel offers two free drinks every Monday between 6pm and 8pm, while Grapeskin in City Walk’s La Ville Hotel & Suites offers two free drinks as well as a tasty charcuterie platter every Tuesday from 8pm to 11pm. Not too shabby…
14. Get free stuff on your birthday
Did you know there are a bunch of restaurants, bars and attractions around Dubai that want to treat you on your birthday, with great discounts, deals… and even freebies? For example, you can register your date of birth on the Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark website and get a free day pass to the epic waterpark. Click here for even more brilliant birthday deals in Dubai…
15. Take a free tour of Dubai
It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in Dubai – it’s alway good to brush up on your knowledge of the emirate. Dubai Tourism recently launched two audio tours, “Metro Moments” and “Al Fahidi Architecture Tour”, to help you explore the city – it’s basically like having your own personal tour guide in your pocket. The tours are available on the Voice Map and Pocket Guide apps, which can be downloaded for free.