Experience All That Dubai Has to Offer in Just Three Days

There’s nothing subtle about Dubai. It’s a city that’s constantly changing, innovating and planning the next big thing. At its core, Dubai’s true character is to evolve and surprise at lightning speed. And no matter your travel style, there’s something on offer in this glittering seaside city: A trip to Dubai can be centered around family-friendly activities, shopping, food, adventure and even the outdoors — or a mix of it all.

Beneath its futuristic skyline, the new and the happening share space with the vintage and well-loved. And while you could easily spend months in town and still have a to-do list left to tackle, a quick three-day jaunt is just enough to whet your appetite, narrow your choices and make the best of what Dubai has to offer — and there’s a lot.

As always, check for travel restrictions and closures before planning your trip.

Friday: Explore the Seaside Haven of the Palm

aerial palm jumeirah island dubai uae
Spend some time at the Palm Jumeirah island. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start your day with a hearty breakfast at the St. Regis Dubai, the Palm, then hop in the elevator for your first activity of the day. Perched on the 52nd floor of the swanky Palm Tower, The View is a sky-high lounge and terrace that offers jaw-dropping 360-degree views of Palm Jumeirah.

Branching out into the Arabian Gulf, The Palm is home to high-end residential villas with private beach access, lively entertainment strips and top-notch dining options. For now, enjoy the bird’s-eye view and snap a ton of photographs of the city and its many iconic landmarks.

Next, head to the AURA SkyPool Lounge, where you can enjoy dizzying views while soaking up the sun in a 360-degree infinity pool. With a fully serviced lounge and bar serving signature cocktails and tapas-style dishes, it’s an ideal spot for lunch with a view — but dragging yourself away might be a real challenge.

When you are ready to come back to Earth, make your way to Palm West Beach, a magnet for ocean and sand lovers. After your poolside lounging sesh, it’s time to get active — here you’ll find plenty of water sports options at hand. Go kayaking, get on a pedal boat or try a session of stand-up paddling on the warm Gulf waters with Water Adventure Dubai.

Lounging more your speed? With chic cabanas, tropical foliage and rustic rattan furniture, the boho vibes of KoKo Bay are an all-time crowd favorite, or hit up trendy Beirut import February 30, a popular beach bar, lounge and restaurant. Helmed by Chef Reif Othman, the eatery serves up an eclectic mix of globally inspired dishes — think shrimp tempura, Mediterranean-inflected appetizers and a solid pizza menu. Cap the day with a visit to The Pointe to catch a surreal sunset.

After dark, the world’s largest dancing fountain show, The Palm Fountains, springs to life. There are shows every 30 minutes from sunset until midnight, so you won’t have to wait too long for the spectacle. Wrap up your night with a stop farther inland at the Grosvenor House‘s Buddha Bar for a cocktail. If you’re looking to burn off some energy, head to the moody, ultra-trendy Phantom House for drinks, shisha and dancing until the wee hours.

Saturday: Take in Futuristic Fun, Contemporary Art and Glittering Skyscrapers

the skyline from Marasu Marina Night Dubai
Head downtown for non-stop fun. (Photo: Getty Images)

Start your day with a view and a yogurt bowl — or, hey, why not a stack of pancakes? — at Leen’s, then get in line to propel yourself into the unknown at the Museum of the Future. Situated on Sheikh Zayed Road, this calligraphy-clad building with its unusual torus shape is an attention-grabber from the first moment it comes into view.

Inside, you’ll go on an exploratory journey over the museum’s seven levels to learn how new innovations and cutting-edge technology can be harnessed to solve pressing global problems such as climate change and wildlife extinctions.

A stone’s throw away, Dubai International Financial Centre, the hub of power dressers, is also the best place to indulge in the city’s favorite fine-dining restaurants. At the busy and award-winning La Petite Maison (LPM), savor classic French dishes such as Niçoise salad, ratatouille and escargots.

Don’t be fooled by the crisp white tablecloths and silver cutlery — the vibe here is relaxed and fun. Just be sure to save room for dessert: More classics, like tarte aux pommes or crème brûlée, are on offer, and all come in very generous portions.

After lunch, wander around Gate Village for an art fix. This area is home to a number of galleries, including the Dubai outposts of Christie’s and Sotheby’s. Don’t miss a stop at the pioneering Tabari Art Space, and works by emerging Middle Eastern artists at Opera Gallery.

Inspired by all the art — but not satiated yet — grab a cab or stroll 20 minutes to step into the magical world of Infinity des Lumières at Dubai Mall. A one-of-a-kind immersive art experience, this digital-art destination brings the masters to life using the latest technology. Instead of merely admiring an artwork by Vincent van Gogh or Hokusai, you can walk right into one, powered by 130 projectors and 58 speakers.

End your day with a view at At.mosphere, a ritzy spot situated on the 122nd floor of the Burj Khalifa. The food is as extravagant as the setting — think caviar, sous-vide wagyu and seared foie gras — but if you can’t go over-the-top when sitting in the world’s tallest skyscraper, when can you?

Sunday: Embrace the Contrasts of Contemporary Dubai

Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai
Dubai is home to some incredible architecture. (Photo: Getty Images)

The breezy, boho-chic atmosphere of Society will start your day on just the right note — the chic all-day café offers açaí bowls for the health-minded, baklava pancakes for a sweet indulgence or khachapuri and shakshuka if you’re in need of heartier fare.

Next it’s off to the Jumeirah Mosque. Their hugely popular “Open Doors, Open Minds” program gives guests a chance to visit a mosque and listen to engaging hosts explain the many customs and rituals associated with Islam. Get there early to sample traditional Emirati refreshments such as gahwa or Arabic coffee, dates and luqaimat — deep-fried dough balls drenched in sugar syrup.

After a quick cab ride south, go back in time as you explore the ruins at the Jumeirah Archaeological Site. Excavated in 1969 and located amid a collection of low-lying villas in one of the city’s oldest neighborhoods, it’s a rare find in the megapolis.

Excavations date back to the Abbasid era, when the area was an important caravan stop on the trading route stretching from Iraq to Oman. Head to the on-site Arabian Tea House for a relaxed lunch overlooking the ruins. Get your fill of Emirati staples — machboos or saloona, or try the all-day breakfast trays — but be sure to save some room for creamy camel-milk ice cream to cap off your meal.

Cut across the neighborhood right to the other end to Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Built around palm-fringed canals and designed as a traditional Arabian bazaar, the sprawling Moorish structure dotted with barjeels — traditional wind towers — is worth a wander, with its plethora of stores, coffee shops and bars.

Follow your nose to stores selling frankincense, the heady smell of Arabia, or check out a variety of Dubai souvenirs and trinkets. Closer to sunset, hop onto a wooden abra for a leisurely canal cruise. With the iconic Burj Al Arab lending the perfect backdrop, keep your cameras handy.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, follow the secret tunnel to Folly, a playful spot whose eclectic prix fixe menu earned it a Bib Gourmand nod from the Michelin Guide. Expect modern Euro-style fare with nods to Middle Eastern flavors, plus excellent vegetable-forward dishes, including a full vegan tasting menu. Linger over cocktails on the outdoor terrace, where you can watch the city lights sparkling on the water and toast to the end of a wonderful weekend.

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Experience All That Dubai Has to Offer in Just Three Days