Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates -- and some would say that it’s the country’s style capital as well. The buildings are gorgeous, the gardens are spectacular, and the public spaces are warm, colorful, and inviting.
From a gorgeous island hotel to a massive mosque to a cozy craft center, here are eight of the most beautiful places to visit in Abu Dhabi.
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
The largest mosque in the United Arab Emirates, this 30-acre complex is as new as it is large -- it was completed in 2007! The gorgeous white stone is so bright and fresh that it’s nearly blinding in the sun, and the gold accents just glow. The mosque’s courtyard, which features a floral design, spans some 180,000 square feet and is the largest marble mosaic in the world.
The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque’s design was influenced by other famously beautiful mosques, including the Abu al-Abbas al-Mursi Mosque in Alexandria, Egypt, and the Badshahi Mosque in Lahore, Pakistan. It showcases styles from Turkey, Morocco, and other countries; the diverse approach to architecture was deliberate and designed to encourage cultural diversity as well.
2. The Villas At Zaya Nurai Island
Just a 15-minute boat ride from the shores of Abu Dhabi, Zaya Nurai Island is a gem. The sand is sparkling white. The water ranges from a deep navy to a light, effervescent turquoise.
The Villas at Zaya Nurai Island hotel is both an opulent display of sumptuous luxury and a cozy, snug retreat, the kind of place where you can curl up and watch the sunset by the ocean -- or head out to enjoy swanky cocktails, gourmet meals, and posh spa treatments.
3. Corniche Road
Corniche Road is part pedestrian walkway, part children’s playground, and part public beach, and it’s all wrapped up in Abu Dhabi’s identity. Locals love it!
Boasting beautiful views of both the water and the city skyline, it’s perfect for after-dinner strolls as well as mid-afternoon romps with the grandkids, picnic in tow. Along the way, you’ll spot gardens, bike paths, coffee shops, and art installations.
4. Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi was inaugurated in 2017 as part of a 30-year agreement between the city and the French government. Like its namesake, it is filled with priceless art. And just like the Louvre in Paris, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is a work of art in and of itself. It’s topped by an enormous silver dome of overlapping geometric lattices.
Inside, the light dances from the dome and bounces off the walls, small shadows flickering across the white stone. Exterior water features mirror the appearance of the nearby sea, as well as pay subtle tribute to the moat that once surrounded the Louvre in Paris. It’s gorgeous, inside and out.
5. Women's Handicraft Centre
This sunny, homey spot is a treasure trove of tradition. This is the spot to go in Abu Dhabi for textiles, embroidery, beautiful woven baskets, silver-thread needlework, and palm-frond art. Light floods the Women’s Handicraft Centre courtyards, and the brightly colored fabrics, materials, threads, and accessories just beg to be photographed (though, as a courtesy to the artists, ask permission before you snap away). It’s also one of the best places in the city to get a little personal body art in the form of elaborate henna tattoos.
6. Qasr Al-Hosn
Qasr al-Hosn -- also known as the White Fort, in reference to the bright white paint that was applied during renovations between 1976 and 1983 -- is the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi.
It was built in 1761 as a watchtower to defend the city’s freshwater well, and it’s since evolved into a beloved city landmark that houses a small city history museum and hosts an annual festival. The building’s understated elegance proves that Abu Dhabi has always built with grace and style.
7. Heritage Village
Surrounded by lush green gardens, the Heritage Village features a reconstruction of a traditional oasis village and provides a unique look at the city’s past.
Visitors can learn more about the area’s traditional crafts and trades, including metalwork, pottery, weaving, and spinning. Be sure to check out the beautifully designed doors that welcome you into the main entrance area.
8. Umm Al Emarat Park
With a recent renovation under its belt, Umm Al Emarat Park is lovelier than ever. One of the oldest and largest public parks in the city, it features a shade house, animal barn, amphitheater, great lawn, botanic garden, children’s garden, and evening garden.
The shade house alone makes the park worth a visit. This iconic structure towers over the park and offers incredible views of the area, plus a chance to see beautiful and unique plants in a moisture-controlled environment where they thrive.