The very best walking tours in the UAE…

Your step count is important. There is no debate on this. Not only is it a fantastic, low-impact form of exercise proven to unlock countless health benefits – it also allows us to meditate, to catch up on podcasts, leave feature-length voice notes or just, per chance, to daydream. What can make your walks dramatically more exciting though, is a purpose and itinerary – a stroll with a goal with, a wander that’s been pondered, and a hike with a mic drop. These are the best DIY walking tours in the UAE.

A walk back in time to Dubai’s goneby

By Miles Buckeridge

  • Approx time to complete: 4 Hours
  • Don’t Miss: Leqaimat at the Arabian Tea House
  • Effort Level: 2.5
  • Best for: Visiting relatives

Dubai is a city of the future. Its skyline a visual metaphor for Hollywood canvases of Tomorrowland. Here skyscrapers sprout from the sand like desert wildflowers, it’s a churning territory of ceaseless flare and flux, of applied technology, of record-breaking world firsts, built on the sound foundations of a dare-to-dream philosophy. But there are still places where you can snatch glimpses of the past life of this grand, increasingly cybernetic, metropolis. Allow us to take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of old Dubai, we’ll show you some things, that will maybe blow your mind.

al seef dubai

Our expedition begins at the Creekside leisure community of Al Seef, use the Canopy by Hilton as your launch pad for a scenic stroll along the waterfront. Breeze past the modern restaurants and bobbing dhows, and you’ll notice the aesthetic style of the buildings slowly slip from new and shiny to rustic and old-timey. It’s all recently built, but the architectural fashioning deliberately calls back to the storied past of Dubai’s early settlements. You’ll find, amongst the faux-mud-and-stone facades, what looks like the world’s oldest Starbucks, Emirati culinary kingpin Al Fanar, and a Museum of Illusions (entrance is Dhs80 for adults) – a worthwhile brain-befuddling, enfant-entertaining pit stop.

XVA Gallery

Take a few more steps, and you’re in the enchanting embrace of the Al Fahidi Historical District – explore its traditional alleyways, galleries and museums. We recommend refreshments to be taken in the courtyard of the XVA Art Hotel an underrated cultural gem, or the legendary Arabian Tea House. Homages to heritage, these spaces really paint the most poetic sort of whimsy on their walls and across their menus. Al Fahidi Fort houses The Dubai Museum (currently closed for renovation) and, with a birth date of 1787, represents the oldest building in Dubai.

Afterwards, smart sojourners take an abra ride over the Creek (Dhs2) to explore the souk district. Arriving into the Old Souq Marine Station – egress immediately confronts you with stalls and stores offering fragrant spices, glinting gold and assorted flashing, beeping, shrieking trinkets – it’s a genuine safari of the senses. All that promenading got you peckish? Al Bait Al Qadeem is a classic Middle Eastern restaurant within easy snacking distance, get the meat majboos for a fitting locally-inspired curtain close on a day of cultural appreciation.


A walk through the rolling hills of Khorfakkan

By Miles Buckeridge

  • Approx time to complete: 2.5 hours
  • Don’t Miss: The waterfall
  • Effort Level: 3.5
  • Best for: Fresh air

Sharjah might not be top of everyone’s list for weekend exploration, but allow us to expat-splain one of many reasons it should be. Khorfakkan – found along the picturesque eastern coast of the emirate, offers up a collection of attractions that blend culture and nature, alongside a dusting of artisanal farm-to-mouth grandeur. Like many of the UAE’s outdoorsy hot spots, trail-treading (along with biking and horse galloping) is chief amongst the recommended activities but if you’re on a family outing and little feet get too tired you could always head to the beach.


The Rabi Trail is a gentle entry-level hike, which means that a) those pointy ski pole things are entirely optional; b) no sherpas or altitude training is required to participate and most importantly; c) it’s accessible for debutants and children, but most parents will already know they’ll be on the shoulders before the second kilometre. This walk begins at Al Rabi Tower, built in 1914 to watch over Khorfakkan, and takes you through the rugged mountainscape of the Hajjar Mountains. It’s a 5.3km marked trail with a roughly 300 metre ascent which should, excluding snack breaks and tantrums, take you around two-to-three hours. Your end goal is the Al Rabi flag pole – perfect for a quick selfie and making your social media followers feel guilty about their own Sunday morning choices.

If you’ve still got steps to spare, Khorfakkan has plenty more ways to help you spend them scenically. No visit to the Sharjah coastal gem would be complete without completely candid, absolutely not posed, pictures by the waterfall, and nearby amphitheatre. There’s more historical sightseeing available at the Portuguese Fort (a 400-year-old relic from a European invasion), in exploring the vibrant stalls of Souk Sharq, and a visit to the 200-year-old Salem Al Mutawa Mosque. Just a 30 minute drive from the heart of Khorfakkan, the trek-hungry can explore Al Rafisa Dam (which has its own hiking trail), the quaint mountainside village of Najd Al Maqr complete with restored fortress, and Shees Park – with waterfalls and yet more routes for regional rambling. For chews with a view, we recommend snack stops at The View by Wave (located in Al Rabi Tower), street food at the souk or a farewell from the elevated perch of Cloud lounge, at the Al Suhub Rest House (but it’s 600m up in the mountains, so after all that walking, take a car).


A walk that binds together a taste of Asian street food hot spots

By Miles Buckeridge

  • Approx time to complete: 6 hours
  • Don’t Miss: The gym the day after
  • Effort Level: 4.5 (mainly on the digestive system)
  • Best for: Foodies

Balance is important in life, and if your metabolism is stoking a walk-fuelled calorie bonfire, well – you’ve earned the right to a few edible indulgences haven’t you? Sure, by the end, the walk may be more of a waddle, but that’s ok, we’re all in it together. Whilst Dubai has more than its fair share of fancy diners, it’s those accessibly priced, full of flavour, street eats that we’re currently craving. So join us, as we go on an Asian flavours tour into the juicier cuts of Satwa.


The savour safari begins at, where all good stories should, a roundabout. Satwa Roundabout to be precise. And the only way to open your street food account in Satwa is with Dubai institution that is, Ravi Restaurant. Best enjoyed from a Karachi tapas angle – with sharing portions of authentic chicken tikka, kebabs, lamb chops, biryani, daal, and mutton kadai. Freshly baked naan and roti should be subbed in for cutlery.

But you’ll need to peel yourself out of your seat at some point because we’ve got plenty more to see (/eat). Head east along Al Diyafah Street (towards The H Hotel), soaking up the vibrant street life and shop fronts that make Satwa a people watching paradise. Your next stop is Pars Iranian Kitchen for a true taste of traditional Persian dishes. Indulge in their famously fragrant kebabs, delicate mounds of saffron rice, and hearty stews like ghormeh sabzi and gheimeh bademjan.

We’re switching gears now, and exploring another titan of Asian cuisine at the aromatic Filipino Market centred around Al Hudaiba Road. Set your Snack Nav for a visit to Bilaot Restaurant and prepare for an edible TedTalk on the finer points of Pinoy cuisine. There’s a strong range of seafood, sharing platters, street food, and island staples such as adobo, sisig and breaded milkfish. If you’re waving a white flag already, a leche flan here is a respectable way to call it a day, but for those that are brave of heart and led by stomach, we have a special treat for the grand finalé.

Our saga draws to a close with a degustation detour for a choice between two of the region’s most acutely adored sweet treats, Baklava and Kunafa. And when in Satwa, it has to be Firas Sweets (next to AlBaik on Al Diyafah Street). Get a fresh slap of the gooey, crunchy, nut stuff and enjoy it with Arabian coffee. Then head home, because it’s probably well past your bedtime, and you’ve got some treadmill miles to rack up tomorrow.


A walk through the capital’s culture crucible

By Dinesh Ramanathan

  • Approx time to complete: 3 hours
  • Don’t Miss: The roof of the new Zayed National Museum
  • Effort Level: 2.5
  • Best for: Culture vultures

The idea of a cultural walk in the UAE capital would generally take your mind to one place – Saadiyat island. While there are other landmarks carrying a rich historical and cultural footprint, when you’re on foot, you generally want to try and get in the most value for your time – and steps. Descend on stupendous Saadiyat Island, which carries the past, present and undoubtedly the future of Abu Dhabi’s cultural legacy.

Manarat Al Saadiyat is Saadiyat Island’s cultural and community events centre, where visitors converge to attend exhibitions, learn from established names, exchange ideas and more. Begin your walking tour of these culture-drenched streets and discover the home of one of Abu Dhabi’s most-renowned cultural extravaganzas, Abu Dhabi Art, as well as an outdoor events terrace and facilities such as a photography studio, and outdoor events terrace and more. Manarat Al Saadiyat regularly hosts workshops, conferences, classes, productions, and talks, and is one of the capital’s leading visitor centres throughout the year, 15 years since its opening.

Take a tour of the Abu Dhabi iteration of the global musical supremo, that is the Berkelee College of Music. Offering world-class educational experiences through workshops, labs and in-depth information sessions led by world-renowned artists and instructors, the 42,000-square foot education centre is equipped with a recording studio, a multimedia lab, spaces to perform and much more. These spaces host artist from around the world, as well as in-house talent in students.

Since you’re in the area, don’t miss the Bassam Freiha Art Foundation (read more about what makes it an unmissable attraction over on our culture page). Mere steps away, the site showcases minimalist architecture that complements neighbouring cultural landmarks with beautiful sculptures around the building. Make sure to try and catch a glimpse at night.

Zayed National Museum-rendering

Why? Because then you’ll see how far it’s come, and where it’s headed. Construction began in 2019, and the structure even hosts the Introducing Zayed National Museum: The Foundations of Unity, which pays tribute to the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan.

Talk to any tourist, celebrity or art lover visiting this town and they’ll have the Louvre Abu Dhabi on the top of their list of things to do and see while in the UAE capital. France’s largest cultural project abroad, and the largest art museum in the Arabian Peninsula headlines ambitious plans to turn Saadiyat Island into a hub for world-class cultural assets. Right outside, the beautiful, green Louvre Park offers you a spot to take a breather amid your walking tour. This space has hosted popular events and activations in recent months alone, including the Michelin Guide Awards 2023, SALT Camp and more. Fancy seeing the Louvre Abu Dhabi in a whole new light? Take an electric catamaran ride around the structure.


The Corniche Walk

By Dinesh Ramanathan

  • Approx time to complete: 3.5 hours
  • Don’t Miss: Going for a mid-hike dip in the sea
  • Effort Level: 2
  • Best for: Showing off Abu Dhabi to your friends

Abu Dhabi’s stunning Founder’s Memorial is a tribute to the life, legacy and values of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding father of the UAE. Learn, pause to reflect, and enjoy the serenity and placid charm of its Sanctuary Garden, Heritage Garden and Elevated Walkway, as well as the breathtaking central artwork. The Founder’s Memorial is free to visit, although you’ll need to make an advance booking on Drop by from 9am to 10pm daily.

There’s no way you’re taking a walk (or a run, or a jog) on the Abu Dhabi corniche without spotting this beautiful architectural marvel. A complex of five towers whose sight is as breathtaking as the views of the city they offer once you’re on Level 74 of the second tower, the luxurious destination offers you retail, lifestyle and dining destinations once you get there. But take your time admiring the architecture from a distance, with three residential towers, a business tower and the iconic Conrad at Etihad Towers hotel tower dotting the skyline impressively.

While the property is known for its luxurious comfort and incredible residential and dining options, this piece is about what you can enjoy from a distance. Drink in views of architecture that could well remind you of a tale you enjoyed in your childhood, as its hundred-hectare gardens, 114 domes and a golden exterior bring to life the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan’s vision to combine tradition and modernism. Chances are you’ll find yourself mesmerised and walking towards the structure, almost as if you’re in a reverie.

One of the capital’s most visually appealing and culturally relevant landmarks, the Qasr Al Watan, is a majestic site you will spot as you proceed down the Abu Dhabi Corniche on your walking tour. The ‘Palace of the Nation’ is a true icon on the Abu Dhabi skyline, with exquisite design elements that speak volumes about the nation’s cultural history and emphasise Arabian artistry. Note: The ‘Palace of the Nation’ will reopen its doors to the public on October 20…

A walk into the heart of the UAE’s adventure emirate

By Dinesh Ramanathan

  • Approx time to complete: 3 hours
  • Don’t Miss: Picnic on the beach
  • Effort Level: 3.5
  • Best for: Adventure

If you’re in the UAE’s adventure emirate, you’re automatically thinking survival camps, Jebel Jais, rocky terrain and more. You could dabble in numerous activities centered on the mighty Jebel Jais, or just do a stroll of the old town. This time, we’re going to take you on a walking, no, a hiking tour of peaks, caves and more that you can explore in Ras Al Khaimah. Physically demanding, but worth the hike, we think.

Head over to Ras Al Khaimah’s oldest fish market and get introduced to the day’s fresh catch. Haggle for a great deal. Open seven days a week, from noon to 10.30pm. Commonly known as the evening fish market, the market has also undergone several renovations that have included the addition of stalls and counters selling salted a fish, a firm local favourite.

If you’re wondering why there are so many gold markets around, that’s because there are that many customers, and more. Swing by the relatively modest gold souk in the emirate’s old town area, enjoy the fine craftsmanship on offer and possibly walk away with a great bargain and some precious metal.

Assuming your pockets aren’t lined with gold, a short walk away from Mairid lies the Al Hamra Public Beach. Enjoy endless views of the beautiful coastline, and whether you choose to camp on the soft sand or enjoy a picnic, this is a great spot since it isn’t generally crowded. Stroll around, collect seashells on the seashore and enjoy the joys of nature. Fancy a dip? The sea’s the limit.

beach generic

Back in the city, you’ll want to stop at the Pearl Roundabout for a quick photo opp. Surrounded by greens and a useful marker if you’re new to the city, the sculpture comprises two identical oysters showcasing a pearl and is indicative of one of the earliest economic drivers of the country and the region.

Images: What’s On Archive/Getty