10 of the best things to do in Old Dubai
There are so many things to eat, see and do…
Dubai is often associated with glitz and glamour, but it’s also filled with heritage and history. Old Dubai is bustling with culture and sights, with many things to see and do as well as eat.
If you’re looking to do something different this weekend or have some guests in town, we strongly recommend a trip downtown to see a different beautiful side of Dubai.
Here are 10 of the best things to do in Old Dubai
Spend a morning at XVA Gallery, Hotel & Café
Tucked away in the Al Fahidi Neighborhood, this arty boutique hotel is home to a café and an art gallery. Hidden in the heart of Al Fahidi, formerly known as Al Bastakiya, this historical mazelike area is one of the oldest communities in Dubai. XVA Hotel is home to 15 unique suites and rooms complete with three serene courtyards and wind towers. Their café is a safe haven for veggies and vegans, serving fresh and vibrant dishes which fuse the flavours of the world. Alongside this, visitors can take a moment to marvel at the art on show at the XVA Gallery which hosts an array of diverse exhibitions.
Find your favourite cup of Chai or Karak
Chai and karak truly keep the city going with numerous cafes and spots dedicated to these popular drinks. If you prefer a lighter drink then opt for a cup of chai, with karak chai being a much stronger richer flavour with odes of caramel colours. If you’re a fan of spices and sweetness then we guarantee that these drinks will be up your street, boasting vibrant flavours of ginger, cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. You will be able to find ample establishments serving these drinks at a pocket-friendly price, including Cha Cha Chai, Disco Chai, Zafran Karak Tea, Chai Sutta Cafe, and so many more.
Across Old Dubai including Al Fahidi, Bur Dubai, Al Karama, Satwa and Al Jafliya.
Take a ride on an abra across the Creek
For centuries, these 20-person wooden boats have served as water taxis across the Creek. Take the eight-minute trip and get a peek of Dubai as it was, for a single dirham. It’s a great way to explore both sides of the historic old town from Deira to Bur Dubai. Many locals use the boats to get from point A to point B to avoid traffic but it is a charming experience, especially if you go around sunset.
Al Seef and Deira
Eat shawarma at Al Mallah
Anyone who has spent time in Dubai would have heard of this quintessentially Dubai eatery known for its renowned shawarmas. With multiple locations dotted around the city, you will never be far from a chicken or lamb wrap. Al Mallah has perfected this beautiful combination with fluffy bread, garlic sauce and juicy meat – what more could you want? Prices start from just Dhs9.
Al Mallah, various locations including Al Seef, Satwa and Ibn Battuta, almallahuae.com
Explore the Souks
With both the Spice and Gold souk to explore, you won’t be short of sights and smells. Here you can find almost anything you could imagine, with pashminas, gold jewellery, sandals, perfumes an array of spices and much much more. Make sure you come prepared to haggle for your goods as shopkeepers are tough negotiators. To visit this local marvel, you can access the Souks via the Dhs1 abra, taxi, car and metro – the closest stations are Al Fahidi and Al Ghubaiba Station.
Dubai Spice Souk, Deira, Al Ras, Dubai, Mon to Fri 7.30 am to 9.55pm, Sat and Sun 7.30pm to 11pm. Tel: (0)50 222 3627.
Eat like a local
View this post on Instagram
Old Dubai is bustling with must-eat Middle Eastern experiences on both sides of the Creek. If you have a hankering for Arabic Coffee, you must visit the Coffee Museum where you can try gahwa (Arabic Coffee), before you stop at the Arabian Tea house for a traditional Emirati lunch. One of Dubai’s oldest buildings on the Creek is Bayt Al Wakeel, which specialises in camel meat and other authentic Emirati cuisine. If you are in Bur Dubai or Deira, make sure to stop at Khayma Heritage Restaurant, which has been listed in the Michelin guide. The restaurant utilises farm-fresh ingredients to create an array of Emirati dishes.
Visit the Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding
This non-profit organisation is dedicated to the promotion of Emirati culture, customs, traditions and religious awareness through the vision of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum since 1998. Located in a restored wind tower house in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, the centre offers a range of activities from traditional cultural meals hosted by local Emiratis, as well as guided walking tours. Make sure to book your spot prior to your visit as they do get busy.
Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Centre for Cultural Understanding, Al Mussallah Rd, Al Fahidi, Dubai, Mon to Thur and Sat 8am to 8pm, Fri and Sun 8am to 12pm, Tel: (0)4 353 6666, cultures.ae
Wander around Al Seef
Sat on the Dubai Creek, Al Seef is a blend of modern and traditional design, showcasing the city’s proud heritage. Built-in 2017, Al Seef celebrates Dubai Creek’s humble beginning as a pearl diving base, but now it’s a charming revamped neighbourhood which is home to many shops, cafes and restaurants. The pedestrianised walkway stretches 1.8km along the stretch of The Creek shoreline where you and your loved ones can spend the afternoon. Alongside many local and delish restaurants, Starbucks is a popular hotspot, where many people flock due to its picturesque interiors and exterior terrace. Guests can also watch abras cross the Creek and discover beautiful trinkets in the souk-like shops.
Al Seef, Al Hamriya, Dubai, @alseefdubai
You might also like
Experience Pakistani food at Ravi’s
There are a number of must-not-miss restaurants in Dubai, but if you’re looking for one with no frills – go to the popular dining and cultural experience Ravi Restaurant. It is located in the bustling neighbourhood of Satwa in Old Dubai where you can tuck into traditional Pakistani and Indian food for a pocket-friendly price. Whilst you’re here, you can also check out the Satwa Grand Mosque.
Ravi Restaurant, Al Satwa, open daily from 5am to 2am Tel: (0)4 331 5353, @ravirestaurantuae
Get lost in Al Fahidi historical district
The Al Fahidi district, formerly known as Bastakiya, is one of Dubai’s oldest neighbourhoods. Spend a morning or afternoon wandering through the maze-like alleyways, marvelling at Islamic architecture, street art, and discovering various cafes, museums, and galleries. Visit the coffee, coin, or Dubai museum, which features pearl-diving exhibits highlighting the city’s proud heritage. There was also a former royal residence in this neighbourhood, with Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum’s house now displaying old photographs and documents.