Abu Dhabi is only about an hour’s drive south of Dubai, but the city feels decidedly different from its more famous neighbor. Everything seems calmer, classier, more grown-up.
By far the wealthiest of the Emirates, Abu Dhabi isn’t afraid to show off its wealth. This is clearly visible immediately after entering the Emirate area as run-down buildings and a somewhat messy desert give way to perfectly manicured lawns and flower arrangements, tree-lined promenades and sunny parks.
Although Abu Dhabi feels more suited for human inhabitation, there are actually very few people walking on the immaculately clean streets. It’s perfectly possible to stroll around for miles on the beautiful Corniche without running into anyone. It’s sort of like a glamorous ghost town!
Emirates Palace is the city’s best luxury hotel and also one of the biggest sights. The front gardens alone offer enough activities for a full day. Hotel guests can also take advantage of a private beach as well as world-class dining and pampering. For non-guests, the public beach is only steps away too.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
Probably the most famous of Abu Dhabi’s sights, this incomprehensibly massive mosque is a true marvel. You could spend days wandering the grounds of the mosque, admiring the intricate tiles or relaxing by a fountain. The mosque is also impressive on the inside, though somewhat artificial and stagey – it doesn’t really feel like an actual place of worship, and in fact the main hall very rarely is anything but a den of tourists. Still, definitely worth a visit.