The best things in life are free (or under Dhs100)…

If you clicked on this page, it must be for a reason. Maybe you’re still feeling the pinch after the silly season, or if you want to pop more into savings, then here’s…

An ultimate guide to wallet-friendly experiences in Abu Dhabi

Free things to do

Visit Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque - free things to do in Abu Dhabi

One of Abu Dhabi’s most recognisable landmarks, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a true architectural marvel, showcasing various styles from Islamic civilizations. A symbol of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s vision for tolerance and diversity, this wonder houses the tomb of Sheikh Zayed the founder of the UAE. Walk around, explore, and spend as long as you need to discover and admire the mosque. You can even join one of the free guided tours to understand the mosque’s historical significance, facts, figures, and cultural relevance better. The gleaming white marble and structural grandeur will make you want to take scores of pictures, as you admire art, architecture, culture and creativity. Tickets are free but should be pre-booked online.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Al Rawdah, Abu Dhabi, Sat to Thurs 9am to 10pm, Fri 9am to 12pm and 3pm to 10pm. Tel: (0)2 419 1919. szgmc.gov.ae

Discover the beauty of the Abrahamic Family House

Abrahamic Family House - free things to do in Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi’s Abrahamic Family House is one of the capital’s must-visit mega projects, and it holds places of worship for the three Abrahamic religions. This Saadiyat Island-housed symbol of love, tolerance and peace is open to the public, free of charge. Just make sure you book in advance to secure a spot, so you can experience the three individual sites of worship, a mosque, a church and a synagogue, as well as the peace garden and a Document on Human Fraternity, signed by Pope Francis and Grand Imam Ahmed Al-Tayeb.

Abrahamic Family House, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi. Tues to Sun 10am to 5pm. Tel: (0)2 657 5900. @abrahamicfh

Get your thrills at the Camel Racing at Al Wathba Racetrack

Enjoy horse races? Greyhounds? You’re in Abu Dhabi, and now is the perfect time to take in a good camel race. Al Wathba camel race track in Abu Dhabi will have you witnessing one of the region’s cherished symbols gunning for the win, as crossbred varieties specially groomed to race take to the track. If you thought camels were limited to traversing the desert in their stereotypical relaxed gait, you’re going to be very surprised.

Al Wathba Racetrack, 1st Street, Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi. Thurs to Sat 7am to 11am.

Take a trip to Al Jahili Fort

Fort - things to do in Abu Dhabi

This heritage-infused site was built close to two centuries ago in Al Ain and is one of the largest that has ever been built in the UAE. Initially built to serve as the summer residence of H.H. Sheikh Zayed bin Khalifa Al Nahyan before British forces assumed military use of the tower until 1970. Today, with major rehabilitation completed and the addition of interesting visitor features, Al Jahili Fort represents a fascinating cultural enclave to walking around and explore.

Al Jahili Fort, Castle Park, Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, daily, 9am to 7pm. Tel: (0)3 711 8311.

Discover the Founder’s Memorial

A tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder and first president of the United Arab Emirates, the Founder’s Memorial is in the heart of the city and gives you stunning views of the city’s skyline. Designed on the values of Sheikh Zayed and with strong ties to the nation’s rich heritage, the memorial includes a central artwork known as The Constellation, which is a 3D portrait of Sheikh Zayed. Surrounding the memorial is the beautiful heritage garden, providing a peaceful and tranquil ambiance for visitors.

The Founder’s Memorial, Al Ras Al Akhdar, Abu Dhabi, daily, 9am to 10pm. Tel: (0)2 410 0100. @foundermemorial

Watch some thrilling tennis matches at Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open

mubadala

Welcome the women’s tennis tour’s elite at Zayed Sports City in February 2024, when they descend on the capital for the second edition of Abu Dhabi’s WTA 500 tournament. Last year’s edition saw the participation of some of the top names from the international tour, and regional favourite and two-time Wimbledon finalist Ons Jabeur has already been confirmed for the 2024 edition. Top-tier tennis action, tennis-themed entertainment and family fun are all in the mix at extremely affordable prices, as you can attend the qualifying rounds for free on February 3 and 4, while regular tickets thereafter start from just Dhs25. In even better news, children aged under 12 get to catch the action for free for the first six days of the tournament.

Mubadala Abu Dhabi Open, Zayed Sports City, Abu Dhabi, February 3 to 11 2024, from Dhs25. mubadalaabudhabiopen.com

Take a tour of the breathtakingly beautiful Qasr Al Hosn

Qasr al hosn - things to do in Abu Dhabi

Translated to ‘fortified palace’, or loosely to “castle of beauty”, Abu Dhabi’s Qasr Al Hosn stays true to its name, and is the oldest stone building in the capital. An ideal spot for lens-happy visitors in the capital, Qasr Al Hosn also includes a watch tower that speaks volumes about its history. Built in 1790, this majestic structure taps into Abu Dhabi’s culture and heritage element and has even been described as the “birthplace of Abu Dhabi”. This is one of those sites that has truly stood the test of the region, and the cooler months in the capital are an ideal time to visit.

Qasr Al Hosn, Al Hosn, Abu Dhabi. Sat to Thurs 9am to 8pm, Fri 2pm to 8pm. Tel: (0)2 697 6400. qasralhosn.ae

Immerse yourself in the splendour of the ‘gramtastic Al Wathba Wetland Reserve

flamingo al wathba wetland reserve

Get away from the city lights and find yourself exploring one of the capital’s own photogenic wonders at Al Wathba Wetland Reserve. This awe-inspiring locale, which was once a salt flat, has been developed into lakes that are home to many of Abu Dhabi’s species, most famously the 4,000-odd flamingoes, over 250 species of birds and 37 plant varieties that have travellers and families driving down from far and wide to photograph these relics of a bygone world. The Al Wathba Lakes are designated for protection by law, and also include self-guided walking trails for you to explore. Just make sure you pack for a day of endless outdoor adventures.

Al Wathba Wetland Reserve, Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi. ead.gov.ae

Dhs1 to 25

Take in a screening with the family at Umm Al Emarat Park

umm al emarat park

One of Abu Dhabi’s greenest, family-centric spaces, as well as one of the oldest parks in Abu Dhabi, Umm Al Emarat Park is committed to enhancing visitors’ well being year-round. The space also serves as the ideal weekend day out for families in the capital, and one such attraction is their popular Cinema in the Park experience, with outdoor screenings of beloved big screen cliasscs for the whole family to enjoy for just Dhs5. Popular titles that have previously been played include Shrek, Ratatouille, Frozen and other family favourites. Make a day of it and check out other attractions while you’re there, such as the Shade House, Animal Barn, amphitheatre, Great Lawn, Botanical Garden, Children’s Garden and the Evening Garden.

Cinema in the Park, Umm Al Emarat Park, Mushrif Area, Abu Dhabi, Friday 6pm and 8pm, Dhs5. Tel: (0)2 666 9559. @ummalemaratpark

Enjoy a cultural immersion at Sheikh Zayed Festival

Sheikh Zayed Festival

For a good chunk of the year’s first quarter, Abu Dhabi’s annual Sheikh Zayed Festival in Al Wathba will continue to welcome crowds. This fun family fest comes with a special focus on traditional industries and crafts, regional folk artists and thrills such as Extreme Weekends, a car and motorcycle stunt show, and much more. Foodies also have plenty to enjoy with restaurants, food trucks, exhibits and more. Before you step into their Fun Fair City, glide over the ice rink or indulge in a host of thrilling activities such as karting and paintball.

Sheikh Zayed Festival, Al Wathba, Abu Dhabi. Nov 17 to March 9, Dhs10. Sun to Thu 4pm to 12am, Fri and Sat 4pm to 1am, Dhs10. @zayedfestival

Take a walking tour of the Jubail Mangrove Park

Jubail Mangrove Park

Worlds away from the bustling city life of the capital lies Jubail Mangrove Park, Abu Dhabi’s own hub of beauty and biodiversity in a gorgeous, green setting. If you’re trying to get your little ones better acquainted with the environment, a stroll here will ensure that happens. This unique, self-contained, educational and nature facility is also home to several marine and avian species in the capital. You can take a guided walking tour at the Jubail Mangrove Walk that will take you on a trip through the dense mangrove plantation and are ideal for the whole family, ages five and above.

Jubail Mangrove Park, Jubail island, Abu Dhabi, 7am to 9pm daily, Dhs15 adults, Dhs5 children. jubailisland.ae

Get pedaling at BMX Park on Hudayriyat Island

With a diverse mix of attractions and activities, you’re spoiled for choice on Hudayriyat. Whether you’re looking for water sports, family-centric fun, dining options or glamping, there’s plenty to see and do for all daycationers. Get your thrills at the BMX Park, where you can get pedaling or try stunt biking, with a 30-minute session priced at Dhs25 inclusive of entry and a helmet, you’ll just need to bring your own bike. Need to borrow one? Prices start from Dhs50.

BMX Park, Hudayriyat Island, Abu Dhabi, Mon to Thurs 2pm to 10pm, Fri to Sun 2pm to 11pm, from Dhs25. circuitxuae.com

Dhs26 to 50

Enjoy an art-drenched session at Manarat Al Saadiyat

Manarat Al Saadiyat

If an art attack is what you’re after, Manarat Al Saadiyat is the place you need to go to. With regular art shows and exhibitions showcasing works of local and international artists, as well as annual attractions such as the iconic Abu Dhabi Art Festival, this spot will satiate your cultural fix without you having to shell out a fortune. Aside from the big festival, several cultural events and workshops are conducted regularly, as are cinema screenings for those of you that fancy a session in front of the big screen. Our pick is a drop-in studio, available for both children and adults, where a two-hour session comes with a short induction to either ceramics and sculpture or painting and drawing, followed by unlimited access to the facilities to get creative and produce your very own masterpiece, all for Dhs50.

Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, 10am daily, Dhs50. Tel: (0)2 657 5807. manaratalsaadiyat.ae

Become a petrolhead at Emirates National Auto Museum

Abu Dhabi’s pyramid-shaped Emirates National Auto Museum is an unmissable pit-stop for any car lover and is home to over 200 cars owned by H.H. Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan. The Al Dhafra attraction will have you snapping away before you enter the facility, with a retired aircraft and the world’s largest model SUV at the entrance. Once inside, classic American muscle, rugged off-road machinery and a prized Mercedes rainbow collection await.

Emirates National Auto Museum, Hamim Road, Al Dhafra, Abu Dhabi, 9am to 5pm daily, Dhs50.

Be one with nature at Al Ain Zoo

The largest zoo in the Middle East houses an enormous collection of snakes, reptiles, deer, exotic birds, and much more. You can even feed lions, enjoy a mountain biking experience around the zoo, take part in a lemur walk, or breakfast with their giraffes. If you’re on the lookout for edgier options, you can also go on a cheetah run at the Zoo Amphitheatre. Adding to your unforgettable Al Ain Zoo experience are several restaurants, cafes and shops to unwind after a day of memory-making.

Al Ain Zoo, Nahyan the First St, Abu Dhabi, 9am to 6pm daily, Dhs31 adults, Dhs10 children. @alainzoouae

Take a walk on the wild side at Emirates Park Zoo

emirates park zoo

This fam-tastic animal experience has something for the whole family. With an entry ticket for just Dhs40, you’ll be able to live out your own version of Animal Planet surrounded by 1,400 animals, including hippos, reptiles, flamingos and more. If you fancy feeding the animals, (for an additional fee) there’s an array of experiences, from lions to giraffes.

Emirates Park Zoo, Al Bahyah, Abu Dhabi. Sun to Wed 9am to 8pm, Thu to Sat 9am to 9pm, Dhs40. @emiratesparkzoo

Dhs51 to 100

Glide over the ice at Zayed Sports City

Step into your skates and glide over the ice at one of the city’s most celebrated recreational spots, the Zayed Sports City ice skating rink. You can opt for either public skating sessions, or if you’re new to the game, learn to skate with the Zayed Sports Academy. Once you’re comfortable on the ice, pick between sports like figure skating, ice hockey or ringette. They also hold ladies-only sessions every Friday for those of you looking to take to the ice with your gal pals.

Zayed Sports City, Airport Road, Abu Dhabi, from Dhs55. Tel: (0)2 403 4200. @zayedsportscity

Catch the Letters of Light exhibit at Louvre Abu Dhabi

Louvre Abu Dhabi cosmos

If you haven’t had the opportunity to catch this exhibit in the capital yet, you have the first two weeks of January to visit. Featuring some of the oldest texts of the three monotheistic religions, the Letters of Light is held in partnership with the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and France Muséums and will run until January 14, 2024. Explore the five different sections, and uncover sacred writings, their dissemination across different languages and cultures, while encountering some of the most sacred works ever made with precious pigments and illuminated calligraphy. You can check it out with a standard Louvre ticket, priced at Dhs60.

Letters of Light, Louvre Abu Dhabi, Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, Tues to Sun 10am to 6.30pm, Dhs60. @louvreabudhabi

Take a swing on a driving range

Wiggle, set, swing. At the Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, you can practice your golf swing, position, follow through and more as you whack 70 golf balls into oblivion in preparation for whenever you’re set to take to the course. Hone your skills, get some sun, and who knows, there might be a PGA Pro somewhere in you waiting to be discovered.

Abu Dhabi City Golf Club, Mushrif, Abu Dhabi. 5.30am to midnight daily, Dhs60. Tel: (0)2 445 9600. @adcitygolf

B-b-bounce around

Bounce Sharjah

Leave your worries behind and prance around gleefully at Bounce Abu Dhabi, where you can pick from a selection of trampolines, airbags, and adventure challenges to enjoy a session of action entertainment. This freestyle playground features over 3,000 square metres of interconnected indoor trampolines, adventure features, airbags and more. You can pick from activities and attractions such as the slam dunk, dodgeball, their X park, the wall, speed slide and much more.

Bounce Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi Marina Mall, Abu Dhabi. Sun to Thu 10am to 10pm, Fri and Sat 10am to 12pm, Dhs75. bounce.ae

Celebrate African culture at the All Africa Festival

Some of the biggest stars from Africa descend on the capital in February 2024. Global talent including Congolese French singer and songwriter, Maitre Gims; show-stopping Nora Fatehi; and dancehall ace Stonebwoy among others will headline the All Africa Festival (AAF) at Etihad Park. Often hailed as the UAE’s largest celebration of African culture, this music festival promises prime-time entertainment with global hitmakers, fantastic food, and a culturally-immersive experience. You can look forward to pan-African cuisine, art and culture, and the unmistakable vibrance and flair native to the second-largest continent on the planet. Exhibits from UAE-based designers will also be displayed for you to enjoy.

All Africa Festival, Etihad Park, Yas Island, February 2 to 4, 2024, from Dhs87. allafricafestival.com

Enjoy a relaxing cup of afternoon tea at Courtyard by Marriott

If you’ve been reading whatson.ae, you’ll have seen our guide to unmissable afternoon teas. One of our premier picks is the Up and Below afternoon tea selection at the Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Centre, whose high tea serves up delicious canapés, scones, savoury nibbles and unlimited tea and coffee for a steal at Dhs99 for two. Gorgeous views of the capital are complimentary.

Courtyard by Marriott World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi, Mon to Fri 3pm to 6pm, Dhs99 for two. Tel: (0)52 914 1207. @courtyardabudhabi

Lock, load, and open paintball fire

It’s never a bad time to get in on some good, old-fashioned paintball action. Action Park understands you live a busy life, and offers you a few different options to take aim. Obliterate your stresses and feed your adrenaline as you fire away at opponents amid a tactical display across multiple game scenarios. The bronze package is a good place to start, with 100 paintballs, gun, face mask and neck protector included for Dhs59.

Action Park, Last Exit, AUH Bound, E11, 11am to 11pm Sun to Weds, 11am to 1am Thurs to Sat, from Dhs59. actionpark.ae

Kayak around Reem Park

Enjoy aquatic thrills around Reem Park when you rent a kayak and paddle around Reem Island and all its scenic attractions.  You know you’re in for endless fun when you throw on your lifejacket and make your way around the calm waters, enjoying a relaxing day amid the glittering Abu Dhabi skyline. No motor, no chatter, just a good old kayak in the water.

Reem Park, Reem Island, Abu Dhabi. 6am to 11pm daily, from Dhs63. husaak.ae

Images: Supplied