Top things to see and do at Al Seef historic district in Old Dubai
Now that the weather is cooler, the sandstone neighbourhood has come to life…
If you were looking out for an opportunity to discover Al Seef Dubai – the bustling waterfront promenade in Old Dubai, this is the season.
Al Seef runs a stretch of 1.8 kilometres along the iconic Dubai Creek and is packed with plenty of shopping opportunities, cafes and restaurants, and entertainment spots. The neighbourhood combines both a modern design with heritage making it one of Dubai’s most popular spots to visit for both residents and tourists.
The district comes to life with a number of festivals during the cooler months. Highlights include the Dubai Shopping Festival, activities during the Holy Month of Ramadan, the festive season and more. Even if you don’t visit during this time, the destination is always buzzing with plenty of top things to see and do.
Friendly tip: It may be too sunny to visit during the day, but visit at sunset as this is when you can truly enjoy the historical destination at its very best.
Things to do
Museum of Illusions
For a spot of puzzled laughs with loved ones and for some unique images for the ‘Gram, head on over to the Museum of Illusions. The small, family-friendly museum is a space offering various optical illusions, brain teasers and puzzles to keep you entertained. There are 80 exhibits to check out, a vortex tunnel, and a playroom.
Need a hand taking the photographs? The helpful staff are there to help. Tickets cost Dhs80 for adults, Dhs60 for children ages five to 15 and under-fives can enter for free. Families can pick the group ticket and pay Dhs225 for two adults and two children, or Dhs320 for five adults or kids.
Building 17, Heritage area, Al Seef, Dubai, Mon to Thur 10am to 10pm, Fri to Sun 10am to 11pm. Tel: (0)4 357 3999. museumofillusions.ae
Go perfume shopping at Oud and Sandal
If there’s one thing you will walk home with after your tour of Al Seef, it’s the dreamy smell of spices and incense filling the air. If you want to go on a learning experience about perfume, take a walk through the boutiques selling authentic fragrances. Make sure you visit Oud and Sandal which has a library of fragrances, from long-lasting oils and perfumes to aromatic herbs. The shelves are stacked to the ceiling with just about every scent imaginable. Head here if you’re looking for a quality gift, or if you want to change your signature scent.
Take an abra ride to Deira
No visit to Dubai is complete for any resident or visitor unless they’ve done this activity. No, it isn’t a visit to At The Top at Burj Khalifa, nor is it a shopping spree at one of the world’s biggest mall, or skiing indoors at Ski Dubai. It’s an abra ride across Dubai Creek.
For centuries, these wooden boats have served as water taxis across the Creek, and it’s still an amazing trip. This timeless boat journey connects Bur Dubai’s station to the Deira souks in an extremely scenic route. To learn about the importance of Dubai Creek, visit this link here.
Where to eat and drink
Wokyo Noodle Bar
If you have a hankering for ramen, make a beeline over to Wokyo where you can enjoy an Asian vibe in the heart of Old Dubai. The staff here are all smiles and everyone from the chefs to the waiters add to the authentic vibe of the restaurant. Chefs bustle in the kitchen which will intrigue you as you watch behind the glass and waiters cheerfully greet you in Japanese. The noodle bar is known for its Sapporo-style ramen with a broth that is slow-cooked for 10 hours and poured over a wok sizzling with fresh vegetables and authentic ramen noodles. Other side dishes you need to try include chicken gyoza and homemade spring rolls. The restaurant is also vegan-friendly and does a Sapporo-style vegan ramen.
If you’ve come across the unique-looking Seattle-based coffeehouse chain in Dubai on Instagram, that’s the Al Seef venue. Located on the picturesque Dubai Creek, it offers up a unique design swaying away from the atmosphere of the numerous other branches located in the UAE. To fit in with the historic neighbourhood, this branch boasts Arabic architecture complete with wooden furnishing. Don’t be surprised if you find a queue. Since it’s winter, pick a seat outdoors and enjoy the sounds of the dhows cruising by.
For dinner, choose to stay in the theme of the location and enjoy Emirati flavours at Al Fanar. On the menu is a selection of fresh seafood from grilled prawns, kingfish biryani, fish machboos, grilled seabream, and more. The restaurant even does all-day breakfast with a selection of popular dishes like shahshooka, keema, and even breakfast trays which can feed two people.
Where to stay
Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, Curio Collection by Hilton
If you want to soak in the roots of Dubai, book a stay at the Al Seef Heritage Hotel, Curio Collection by Hilton. The hotel overlooks the iconic Dubai Creek – an integral part of the city’s history. The hotel is spread across 10 bayts (traditional Arabian homes) and combines traditional and contemporary designs. From the doors and windows to the antiques dotted throughout the room. Think old-style telephones, vintage radios, heritage design tiles, photo frames of Old Dubai and more. Pick from either a Dubai Creek view or the Souq view, and spend your evenings soaking in the sights from your room.
For breakfast, make your way to Sabaa restaurant, where a delicious buffet breakfast spread awaits. Pick from continental, Arabic and healthy options. Remember, if your bayt is too far from the restaurant, you can call reception who will send a buggy over.
Prices for a King Heritage Room (with a king bed for two people) start from Dhs450 per night.