17 things you can do in Dubai for free
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If you have loved ones coming to Dubai over the summer, you probably have a long list of things to do jotted down for them. Your list may include the latest nightlife venues, the best new restaurants and so on, so why not include a couple of free things to do in Dubai to make it a little easier on the pockets.
From checking out an art gallery to going for a drive to the desert, here are some of the best things you can do in Dubai for free.
Here are 17 things you can do in Dubai for free
Visit the biggest library in the Arab world
Mohammed Bin Rashid Library is located in Al Jaddaf its unique and eye-catching structure has been designed to resemble an open book sitting on a rehl (a traditional lectern which holds the Quran.). Inside, there are floors with libraries dedicated to different genres such as history, business, art and more but you will also find conference halls, a children’s play area and even an auditorium. It’s free to visit but you will need to book your desired date and time on the MBRL app.
Explore Museum Hub at Souk Al Marfa
Museum Hub at the waterfront souk and marketplace at Deira Islands will give visitors a glimpse of the pre-millennium lifestyle and the unique heritage of the UAE. Each of the different spaces here is dubbed a ‘museum’, and at the moment there are 50 different spaces to check out. Museum Hub aims to grow even bigger by growing the collection by adding 50 museums by September and 50 more every six months thereafter. Expect to see hand-made portraits of UAE’s leaders, medical stamps from postal offices in the UAE and around the world, authentic artefacts, jewellery, telecommunication devices, books, furniture, toys, unique daggers, hand-made tools, musical instruments, medical instruments, coins, fishing equipment and much more.
Head to Jameel Art Centre
Located in the city’s Jaddaf waterfront neighbourhood, Jameel Art Centre is a free-to-enter art space you can visit if you want a dose of culture. There are several exhibitions you can visit that include installation, art, screenings and more. You can even visit the library to get some reading done or soak in the views of Dubai Creek.
Enjoy beautiful street art…
Some galleries offer up a charge for their exhibitions, but there’s plenty you can scope out for free without even the need to get out of your car. There are several spots around the city where local artists have painted the town (and it’s not just red) from Karama to Satwa, all the way to JBR. Visit this link to check out our round-up of where you can find the coolest street art in Dubai.
There’s also some amazing artwork you can scope out at Dubai’s City Walk – it’s also the perfect opportunity to get some cool Instagram photos.
See some classic cars at Alserkal Avenue
Motorheads, this one is for you. Nostalgia Classic Cars in Alserkal Avenue restore and sell classic cars. Their showroom is also filled with Ferraris, BMWs, Porsches and Mercedes from all over the world – guaranteed to make your jaw drop.
While you’re here, you can check out one of the many art galleries showcasing contemporary art. You can also check out our Alserkal Avenue neighbourhood guide to see what else you can do at this cool district in Al Quoz.
Drive down Sheikh Zayed Road…
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From taking in the beautiful architecture of the Museum of the Future to catching the tip of Burj Khalifa peeking out from the skyline and seeing the Dubai Frame – this concrete jungle is guaranteed to wow you even as you drive past it in a car.
Or, drive out to the desert
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Beautiful skyscrapers line the streets of Dubai, but remember, this city is built in a desert and there’s plenty of it to explore. The closest desert to Dubai is located less than an hour’s drive away in Al Qudra. For more adventure, pack the sandboard for some fun on the dunes. For family time, pack up a picnic basket.
This cool spot is also home to Al Qudra Heart Lakes and Al Qudra Cycle Track. There’s even wildlife you can watch out for. Find it here.
Hit the beach
Speaking of sand, Dubai also has some pretty great beaches you can enjoy for free without the need to pay to get a beach pass.
Pack up the spare clothes, towel and mat and head to options such as The Beach at JBR (a perennial favourite), Kite Beach, Al Sufouh Beach which, though tricky to find will reward you with peaceful waters and beautiful views.
Go for a run
Not keen on getting a gym membership? Running is the next best thing and there are plenty of running tracks available around the city which will make things a bit easier on your feet.
For some sea breeze as you run along, head to Mamzar Beach running track or if you want some greenery, try the pond park in Al Barsha. The great news is that if you get bored, you can always change your track without it having to cost a fil.
Alternatively, you can cycle at various spots in the city…
The UAE is on the path to increasing the number of tracks for cycling and there are several available all over Dubai. The Al Qudra cycle route is almost 230km long and if you’re lucky, you may even catch the local wildlife, including gazelles.
If you want Dubai skyline views as you ride, head to Nad Al Sheba – the cycling path is located near the Meydan racecourse and offers brilliant views of Downtown Dubai and the Burj Khalifa. Parks in Dubai include cycling paths as well such as Al Barsha Park and Mushrif Park. You can even cycle at the 12km cycling track at Dubai Water Canal (see below). Check out our definitive guide to cycling in the UAE.
See the Dubai Canal and waterfall
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Did you know there is a waterfall on Sheikh Zayed Road? That’s right, the bridge that runs over the canal as part of Sheikh Zayed Road has a flowing waterfall cascading from it. The man-made canal opened up in 2016 and is a 3.2km long waterway that extends from the Creek in Old Dubai through Business Bay, before finding its way back to the Arabian Gulf.
The waterfall is made up of 80 water pumps, and it will be sensor based so that it can turn off when boats float by underneath it. For the best view, head here at night to catch the waterfall decked out in coloured lights.
Watch the dancing fountains at Dubai Mall…
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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.
Or, head to the dancing fountain on Palm Jumeirah
The record-breaking Palm Fountain is also a great free show to catch. Plus, you get those beautiful views of the Atlantis the Palm in the background. The two floating platforms cover 14,000 square meters of seawater, towering at 105 meters and lighting up the Dubai skies with 3,000 LED lights. The fountains dance to hit songs from all around the globe in its daily shows from sunset to midnight.
Catch a free laser show at Dubai Festival City
If you want something more than a dancing fountain, check out the Imagine Show at Dubai Festival City. The show has earned two Guinness World Records and includes lasers, light, fire and water to tell remarkable, emotive stories. And it’s absolutely free for you to catch. Find out more information here.
Visit the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
Dubai Mall is home to plenty of stores perfect for those who want to shop and it is also home to the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo.
The 10-million litre tank is located on the ground floor of the mall and is filled with sharks and rays and thousands of other aquatic animals, comprising over 140 species. You can head inside the aquarium for a cost, but the view from outside is equally fascinating.
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Visit Al Seef for some stunning photo ops
Charge up the camera batteries (or your phone) and head to Al Seef in Old Dubai that offers up amazing views of the Dubai Creek, traditional dhows and old architecture. The project has been designed to bring to life the traditional Emirati culture that underpins Dubai’s iconic heritage – so it’s a must-visit.
Visit Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood – the historic district in the city
Want to learn about Dubai’s heritage? Head to Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood and see traditional wind towers constructed from stone, teak, gypsum, palm wood and sandalwood. Each alley, twisting pathway and breezy tower tells a story of a life before the seven emirates.
There’s a range of cultural activities, museums, art galleries, special events and traditional food available here, too. 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. Read more about these museums here.
Images: Getty Images/social