5 Must-see neighborhoods in Dubai

Between the sands of the desert and the coast of the Persian Gulf lies the city of Dubai. A magical place where Islamic history and tradition coexist with the modernity reflected in its skyscrapers.

Carlos Bleda

Carlos Bleda

9 min read

5 Must-see neighborhoods in Dubai

Sunrise over downtown Dubai and Burj Khalifa. | ©David Rodrigo

The city of Dubai is one of the most popular tourist destinations in recent years, and with good reason. In the same day you can visit one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world, the Burj Khalifa, go shopping in one of its traditional souks, swim in the waters of the Persian Gulf and choose from a whole host of options the city has to offer. Getting to know its neighbourhoods is one of the essential things to see and do in Dubai. Read on for a tour of the different neighbourhoods and what to see in each and every one of them.

1. Deira neighbourhood

Deira neighbourhood in Dubai| ©Guilhem Vellut
Deira neighbourhood in Dubai| ©Guilhem Vellut

Deira is located north of the estuary that separates Dubai in an area where we find the most historic and traditional neighbourhoods. Crowded and somewhat chaotic, but with great charisma. Nowadays it is a working class neighbourhood, but it has always been the centre of the city's commerce, so there is a lot to see and do in Deira.

New neighbourhoods and shopping centres have gradually stripped it of this 'title' but its streets are still lined with the typical souks that bring together local traders and tourists. It is undoubtedly the most multicultural neighbourhood in the city and an attraction worth visiting. Here is a list of places worth visiting in Deira:

Deira Souks

In Arabic culture, open-air markets are called souks or souqs, the traditional souks so to speak. In the Deira district, the best known is the gold souk. An agglomeration of shops where you can buy and sell jewellery of all kinds at very low prices. A good place to find the perfect gift.

Another option is the spice market. A more traditional market filled with the smells of Morocco, North Africa and Arabia. I recommend you visit these places full of tradition, but be prepared to haggle with the local traders.

The Creek

The estuary that divides Dubai is known as the creek. The city originated around it and today it's a major tourist attraction. You can enjoy the Dubai Marina in a number of ways. You can tour it aboard small boats called Abras or you can walk along its shores. There are also larger boats on the water that double as restaurants where you can enjoy local dishes with a nice view of the creek.

A great option is to book a yacht trip around the Dubai Marina with breakfast or lunch if you do it in the morning or with a barbecue at sunset if you prefer this plan to end the day. Sounds good, doesn't it?

Al Mamzar Park

If the crowds of the souks are too much for you, you can always relax in Al Mamzar Park. It's an area of clean, white beaches with all the amenities you need to enjoy a good swim.

Book a traditional sailboat tour in Dubai

2. Bur Dubai neighbourhood

Al Fahidi Ancient Buildings| ©Rob Oo
Al Fahidi Ancient Buildings| ©Rob Oo

Another of Dubai's historic neighbourhoods that offers a journey into the city's past. In the area around the waterfront you'll find examples of older Dubai and as you move away from the coast you'll discover parks, shopping malls and more recent buildings. Here are my recommendations for what to see in Bur Dubai:

Al Fahidi

This area preserves many of the oldest buildings in the city. It is made up of some 50 buildings that house craft shops, exhibition halls, beautiful courtyards where you can have a coffee, etc. Its labyrinthine streets are an oasis of tranquillity away from the traffic and crowds of other areas of Dubai. Here is a sample of what you can see and do in Al Fahidi.

Al Fahidi Museum

The Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai's oldest structure dating back to the 1800s, is home to the city's museum. A very interesting place to discover how Dubai went from being a fishing village to become the big city it is today.

A really interesting and comprehensive option is to book a guided tour of Dubai that takes you through Al Fahidi and includes a visit to the museum and a boat trip on Dubai Creek. Don't tell me that doesn't sound good.

Meena Bazaar

The streets that comprise Meena Bazaar are full of life. It's home to a souk specialising in textiles and is one of the most recommended areas in Dubai for foodies. There is an endless choice of restaurants of all types and for all budgets.

Zabeel Park

If you move away from the area closest to the coast you will find Zabeel Park. One of the largest green spaces in the city and home to the Dubai Frame Tower. A 150-metre high building whose shape is intended to simulate that of a picture frame and which has a viewing platform with a spectacular panoramic view.

Guided tour of Dubai

3. Jumeirah Quarter

Jumeirah Palm Tree| ©Zicarlo van Aalderen
Jumeirah Palm Tree| ©Zicarlo van Aalderen

Along the beautiful Jumeirah Beach, between the Etihad Museum and the Burj Al Arab Hotel, lies Dubai's most fashionable neighbourhood, Jumeirah. Essentially a sprawling residential area filled with shops, restaurants and excellent white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. Jumeirah is home to several of Dubai's most recognisable symbols around the world - want to know which ones? We'll tell you about them below:

Etihad Museum

This museum houses displays of the contemporary history of the United Arab Emirates and its formation. This may not catch your eye, but I can assure you that the exterior of the Etihad Museum will at least make you get your camera out. The building is located on the site where the 1971 constitution founding the UAE was signed and its design, as well as being a symbol of the country's birth, will delight lovers of ultra-modern architecture.

Jumeirah Mosque

The Jumeirah Mosque is the most important mosque in the city of Dubai, as it is the only mosque in the city that accepts non-Muslim visitors. In fact, it lives up to Dubai's motto of 'open doors, open minds' and is part of a programme that aims to bring Islam to people of all faiths and backgrounds.

It offers guided tours for a small fee that is definitely worth paying. Here is more information about the Jumeirah Mosque and its entrance fees.

Burj Al Arab

Along with the Burj Khalifa, this hotel is undoubtedly the quintessential symbol of Dubai. Built on an artificial island, this structure houses what is said to be the most luxurious hotel in the world. In fact, it is widely believed to be the only 7-star hotel in the world, although the reality is that it has "only" 5 stars.

Even so, it stands head and shoulders above the rest of the hotel complexes and holds the record for being the most expensive hotel on the planet to build. While most people won't be able to afford a night in its luxurious suites, it's certainly worth the trip to photograph this 321-metre-high, ship-sail-shaped landmark.

Jumeirah Palm Tree

Another of Dubai's most famous attractions. This artificial island gets its name from its peculiar shape and, although it is the smallest of the three in the area, it is the most visited. A residential area with a wide variety of hotels, restaurants and shops that can be visited as well as viewed from one of the observation decks located in a tower in the trunk of the palm tree.

At the top of the island is another of the world's most luxurious hotels, the Atlantis, which is sure to ring a bell from a movie.

One of the attractions that Dubai offers to enjoy the Jumeirah Palm is a tandem skydiving activity, an option only suitable for the most daring, but which will undoubtedly be an unforgettable experience.

Book a tour of old and modern Dubai

4. Downtown Dubai neighbourhood

Downtown Dubai| ©Francisco Anzola
Downtown Dubai| ©Francisco Anzola

The most iconic area in Dubai and certainly in the whole of the UAE. The city centre is a place of records, where you can find the tallest building in the world to date, the largest fountain in the world and even the largest shopping mall on the planet.

It is an architectural marvel and a symbol of the power and progress that characterises the city of Dubai, so here is all the information you need to get to the Burj Khalifa.

Burj Khalifa

The views alone are worth buying a ticket for the 124th and 125th floors, which offer nothing less than a panoramic view of the city from 452 metres above, but the Burj Khalifa is not only enjoyable from the heights. Dubai's symbol par excellence:

  • It holds the record for being the tallest structure ever created by mankind, although there are already other projects, one of them in Dubai itself, that threaten its title.
  • At 828 metres, it is engineering history.
  • It was inaugurated in 2010, 6 years after the start of construction work involving some 13,000 workers.
  • Itoffers the most spectacular views of the city from its two observation decks on the 125th and 148th floors. The latter is 555 metres high, making it the highest observation deck on a building in the world.
  • Visiting the Burj Khalifa at night is a highly recommended option.
  • It is a residential and office building that also houses hotels, so if you don't stay there you can only visit the restaurants and observation decks.

The interior of the Burj Khalifa offers other options to enjoy besides the views. You can enjoy a "high altitude" lunch or dinner from one of the restaurants. "The Lounge, located between floors 152, 153 and 154, has the privilege of being the highest restaurant-cafeteria on the planet.

Dubai Mall

At the base of the Burj Khalifa is the largest shopping mall in the world, the Dubai Mall. As you can see, Dubai does everything in a big way. We can say that it is the father of all shopping malls in the world. Within its 111 hectares there are more than 1200 shops, including its own souk where they sell mostly jewellery, more than 150 food outlets and numerous leisure options for the whole family such as an aquarium, a dinosaur skeleton, theme parks, cinemas and an Olympic ice rink.

Dubai Fountain

This is the most spectacular fountain in the world. Also located at the foot of the Burj Khalifa and next to the Dubai Mall, this fountain is set in a 12-hectare artificial lake. Its jets are capable of spraying 83,000 litres of water 140 metres high at a time to delight visitors with one of the best music, light and water shows you will ever see.

Every day from 6 p.m. onwards and every half hour you can enjoy this spectacle. There is a walkway from which to view the jets and there are also boats available for an even closer look.

Book tickets for the Burj Khalifa

5. Dubai Marina Quarter

Dubai Marina Quarter| ©Enrico Strocchi
Dubai Marina Quarter| ©Enrico Strocchi

This relatively modern part of the city is essentially Dubai's marina. The Dubai Marina is one of the largest man-made harbours in the world with its 3km of canal surrounded by towering skyscrapers.

It's a great place to enjoy a sunset stroll along the piers, watch the yachts and boats and be entertained by the dancing fountains. You can also take a cruise around the marina. When the sun goes down, it becomes a very lively place and an ideal place to have a few drinks.

Dubai Marina Beach

The main tourist attraction in this modern neighbourhood is its beach. Known as "The Beach", Dubai Marina Beach is one of the most beautiful beaches in the city, but also the most frequented. To visit it you have several options:

  • Free option: You can enjoy free bathing in the public area on a very well-kept beach, but with one big drawback: they don't let you use umbrellas. A considerable inconvenience considering the high temperatures in Dubai.
  • Paidoption: Things change if we go through the cashier. You'll have access to an equally well-kept area, but you'll be provided with sun loungers, umbrellas and even towels. Just don't expect it to be cheap.
  • Waterfrontoption: booking a yacht tour of the Dubai Marina is a great way to see the Dubai Marina from a different perspective while you relax, sunbathe, take amazing photos or enjoy a good meal - it's all possible in Dubai!

These are the main neighbourhoods and attractions of beautiful Dubai. A city of contrasts where everything is done in a big way and where you can enjoy yourself in a big way. If you want to continue enjoying the city, I share with you this list with the must-see places in and around Dubai and I recommend you to visit them from the Dubai tourist bus so you don't miss any of them.

Book a yacht tour of Dubai Marina