It’s no secret that Dubai is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. With its fascinating culture, luxurious hotels, opulent shopping malls and endless array of activities, there’s something for everyone in this dazzling city.

But what if you only have one day in Dubai? What can you fit into such a short amount of time?

Luckily, you can still fit a lot into 24 hours in this amazing city. I’ve created a list of the top things to see and do in Dubai in just one day.

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One Day in Dubai: Dune bashing in the desert

Needless to say, this itinerary will take you around the city and give you a taste of everything that makes Dubai so great. Whether it’s exploring the Burj Khalifa or simply sipping on a drink at an upscale rooftop bar, there’s something for everyone on this list of things to do in Dubai.

Before I get into our one day Dubai itinerary, let’s take a look at what you need to know before visiting Dubai for a day…

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Why spend one day in Dubai

Obviously, you could spend a lot more time in Dubai (heck I’ve been here for almost 6 years!) but what are some of the reasons you might be wanting to spend one day in Dubai?

Layover: A lot of flights to Singapore, Hong Kong or Australia have a stopover in Dubai and many people like to take a full day to get a taste of the city before they continue on their journey.

Day trip: Those staying in Abu Dhabi or any of the other emirates often take a day trip to Dubai to see the sights. From Abu Dhabi, Dubai is just a 90 minute drive.

Visitors: Having lived in Dubai for so long, I have people coming to visit all the time, so I’m always putting together different itineraries for spending one day in Dubai where I can be the tour guide.

If you’re spending longer than one day in Dubai, check out my 2-day Dubai itinerary or my 7-day Dubai itinerary for even more things to explore.

A little bit about the city

Dubai is one of seven emirates in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and is located just outside the Arabian Gulf in the Middle East. The city itself has become one of the world’s most visited places, attracting guests from all over the globe with its warm climate, luxury shopping and luxurious hotels.

Dubai also has enough outdoor activities to keep you entertained for days on end. You can go snorkeling in the Gulf or visit the desert for a thrilling dune bashing session. And if you’re not wanting to spend much time outside in the heat, you can head to the indoor ski slopes at Ski Dubai in Mall of the Emirates.

Choosing your mode of transport

There are plenty of options for travelling around Dubai on a short trip. You can take taxis, hire a car or even travel via boat if you’re feeling adventurous!

The taxi system is pretty straightforward and much like the rest of the world. Taxis in Dubai are pretty cheap and there’s no shortage of them. Uber is also available in Dubai, but be aware that this service is a little more expensive than a regular taxi (especially if you hire the Uber Chopper!).

Hiring a car is another great option if you’re planning on exploring the desert or checking out some of the city’s sights outside of town. There are lots of companies offering car rental in Dubai, so you should have no problem finding what you need. A lot of visitors who see Dubai as a fancy city to show off in hire Lamborghinis and Ferraris for their visits. Not my kind of thing but it’s definitely an experience!

One Day in Dubai Wooden Abra Boat in Dubai
Photo by Ivan Mateev from Getty Images Signature

The boat system is also a great way to get around Dubai if you’re not in a rush. Whether it’s a water taxi down the canal, an Abra crossing the creek or a speedboat just for the fun of it, you can travel by boat to almost any area of Dubai.

Finally, there’s the option of public transport. The Metro and Tram in Dubai are a fantastic way to get around the city and are the least expensive options. They’re super clean and very safe to travel on alone, day or night. There’s also the Monorail which goes between Dubai Marina down through The Palm as far Atlantis.

Read also: 11 Of The Most Scenic Road Trips From Dubai

What to pack for Dubai

You may have read all sorts of things about what you can and can’t wear in Dubai. What you’ve likely read prior to now is wrong!

When I was first coming to Dubai I read up on how I should dress, especially as a female in this Muslim city. Many of the articles said that shoulders and knees must be covered at all times, and while this may have been the position 10 years ago, it’s not anymore.

For the most part, you can wear your usual warm weather clothing everywhere in Dubai. Bikinis are fine on the beach, you should just put a cover up on as soon as you leave the beach (even if it’s just to go from the beach indoors to your hotel).

Shopping malls are slightly more conservative. You probably shouldn’t wear your ‘bum cheeks hanging out of your tiny shorts’ kind of shorts, but otherwise it’s not very strict on clothing.

If you visit a mosque, you’ll be expected to cover up shoulders and legs as a woman, as well as wear a headscarf.

The most important thing about packing for your trip… Be sure to pack some sunscreen!!

For a full guide on what to pack, check out my Packing List for Dubai post where you can also download a free Dubai packing checklist!

The weather in Dubai

Summers can be a little unbearable in the city, with temperatures averaging 40 degrees Celsius in June and July and rising to 50 degrees in August.

The best time to visit Dubai is during autumn or spring when you’ll have an average daily temperature of 25-30 degrees Celsius.

It rarely rains in Dubai, however once a year they will actually cloudseed to make it rain.

Where to stay

As you’ll be spending one day in Dubai, I imagine you’ll be spending at least one night, if not two. Here are some of my favourite hotels I always recommend to visitors, whatever your budget.

Read also: Can you visit Dubai on a budget

For luxury:

Jumeirah Beach Hotel is an iconic Dubai landmark, shaped like a wave and located on the beautiful Jumeirah Beach. It’s a favourite among families because of it’s location and the waterpark that’s included with the stay.

Zabeel Saray is a beautiful five star hotel located on The Palm. It’s Turkish inspired design is breath-taking and its spa is one of the best in Dubai. If you’re looking for some R&R, Zabeel Saray is the place to stay. You can read my full review of the Zabeel Saray here.

Middle of the road:

Rove Hotels are a new chain of hotels dotted around Dubai in most of the tourist areas. While mid-range pricing, you get a bit more for your money with the Rove Hotels. The hotel located in Dubai Marina is just a 10 minute walk from the beach and offers an outdoor pool.

Edge Creekside has beautiful waterside views, an outdoor pool and fitness centre. It’s one of the more affordable 4 star hotels in Dubai.

Budget friendly:

Greek Sky Hostel is a hostel like no others – I guess you could say it’s a Dubai style hostel. It’s set on a small private beach area, has an outdoor pool, a fitness centre and a spectacular view.

Premier Inn Al Jadaf is three star hotel but while it’s a budget accommodation, you still get to live it up with a pool and fitness centre on site.

One day in Dubai: What to See & Do

TIP: If you plan on doing most of the items on this 7-day Dubai itinerary, you might wish to purchase the Dubai Unlimited Pass or the Go Dubai Explorer Pass to save the pennies!

Early morning

One Day in Dubai Hot air balloon over Dubai desert
Photo by James Mills on Unsplash

Begin your one day in Dubai with an early morning hot air balloon ride over the desert. It’s a truly awe-inspiring experience that you’ll never forget. Whatever company you book with, they’ll pick you up from your hotel and drive you out to the balloon site in the desert. There, you’ll meet your pilot and take to the skies to watch the spectacular sunrise over the city and desert.

After your balloon ride, you’ll travel to a nearly desert camp where you’ll have breakfast, before being dropped back to your hotel for around 9am.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll be needing a quick nap and to freshen up at this stage!

Mid morning

One Day in Dubai Spices at Dubai Spice Souk
Photo by Tupungao from Getty Images

When you’re ready to head out again, it’s time to make your way to Old Dubai.

The old town in Dubai is a historic district that offers plenty of insight into what life was like in the old fishing port before it became the metropolis it is today. There are mosques, souks and ancient fortresses to explore, all of which offer a unique glimpse into the city’s past.

You’ll definitely want to explore the gold souk, textile souk and spice souk and get some souvenirs to bring home. Don’t forget to haggle! It’s all part of the fun of shopping in the Dubai souks.

Just beside the souks, you can catch an Abra (a traditional Arabic wooden boat) across Dubai Creek. It’s a great way to experience Old Dubai and the ride will cost you just AED1 (that’s 20 cent!). On this side of Dubai Creed, you’ll have to visit Sheikh Mohammed Mosque.

Early afternoon

One Day in Dubai Ain Dubai on Bluewaters Island
Image by Jaroslav Zbozinek from Getty Images

After your morning in Dubai Old Town, I recommend you take a trip down to JBR, or Jumeirah Beach Residence. If you’ve ever seen pictures from Dubai, you’ll have seen the iconic row of yellow towers that sit on JBR beach. These are Jumeirah Beach Residences.

The beach itself is lovely to take a dip in. It’s one of Dubai’s free beaches so, depending on the time of year and the time of day you visit, it can sometimes get a little crowded. Parallel to the beach is JBR Walk where you’ll find eateries and shops and stalls selling local goods. It’s a great place to pick up souvenirs.

Follow the bridge across to Bluewaters Island where you can ride the world’s largest observation wheel, Ain Dubai, and have spectacular panoramic views of the Dubai skyline – from the Marina all the way to Downtown Dubai.

Next up is one of my absolute favourite and funnest things on my Dubai itinerary. Stroll across to Dubai Marina and take a ride in a Yellow Boat. This is a speedboat that goes out of the Marina, around The Palm and as far as the Burj Al Arab. You’ll be holding on for dear life but it’s an incredible adrenaline rush bouncing over the waves! You’ll stop to take pictures with the iconic Atlantis Hotel and Burj Al Arab in the background before heading back into the Marina.

Read also: 8 Incredible Dubai Landmarks You Must See

Before you continue with your one day Dubai itinerary, you may want to take a break to have some lunch with a view. I recommend one of the restaurants in Pier 7 which all have fantastic views over the water.

Late afternoon

One Day in Dubai Atlantis Hotel from the monorail
Photo by Der Weg from Pixabay

Next on your Dubai itinerary is to take the monorail from the Marina as far as Atlantis on The Palm. For best views, try to stand at the very front or very back so you have an uninterrupted eyeshot.

The Palm is a manmade island shaped like a palm tree. It has a ‘trunk’ that is the main road which leads through the middle, with ‘branches’ rounding out to make it take the shape of a palm tree. It’s home to the Atlantis Hotel and Aquaventure Waterpark, as well as many luxury apartments, hotels, eateries, shopping malls and beach clubs.

Atlantis The Palm is a luxury hotel situated at the very top of the island and is a great location to stop for photos, even if you don’t go inside to visit the attractions. If you choose to stay at Atlantis The Palm, you’ll have free access to Aquaventure Waterpark, as well as discounts to other activities.

On the way back, stop at Nakheel Mall and visit The Palm Tower. This viewing tower has incredible 360 degree views of the Palm Island from the 52nd floor.

To experience the absolute best view of The Palm, book a tandem Skydive! It’s one of the best skydiving views in the world!


One Day in Dubai: Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountains
Photo by Kasto

As the evening sets in, you’ll make your way to Dubai Mall, the largest mall in the world and home to the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building. If you can make it up to the viewing levels of the Burj Khalifa for sunset, you’ll be in for a surprise! Stop for sundowner drinks at Atmosphere on the 122nd floor before you leave.

At the bottom of the Burj Khalifa are the Dubai fountains. Every evening from 6pm there are incredible fountain shows with the Burj Khalifa lit up in the background. I recommend making a reservation for one of the many restaurants in the area so you have the best view of the fountain show. Some of my favourites are:

After dinner, take a stroll inside Dubai Mall and even do a little shopping. If you have time, Dubai Aquarium is located inside the mall and is a fascinating experience!


One Day in Dubai: Burj Al Arab
Photo by Anna Subbotina

Your day in Dubai is almost over and it’s time to wind down and reminisce on the day you’ve had.

First stop is the Burj Al Arab for some photos with the incredible landmark. You won’t be able to actually get into the hotel without a reservation but you can still get some great close up shots from Kite Beach, The Madinat or Jumeirah Beach. If you wanted to go inside and explore, make a reservation for drinks beforehand.

Last on our one day in Dubai itinerary is drinks at Uptown Bar in Jumeirah Beach Hotel. If you choose to stay at Jumeirah Beach Hotel, then you won’t have far to go after drinks! This rooftop bar on 24th floor of the hotel has spectacular skyline views of Downtown as well as up close views of the Burj Al Arab. It’s the perfect place to relax with some cocktails after a long day of sightseeing.

One day in Dubai: Swap it out

If some of the above don’t appeal to you, here are some other activities you can swap out throughout your day:

Ski Dubai – I know what you’re thinking. Dubai is a sunny destination, how can I go skiing?! Well you can! Ski Dubai is located in Mall of the Emirates and has an indoor ski slope! You can also snowboard, to tobogganing, zipline and even meet the penguins who live there.

One Day in Dubai Dubai Miracle Garden
Photo by Ali Raoufian on Unsplash

Dubai Miracle Garden – The Dubai Miracle Gardens are a must see for nature lovers, with over 150 million flowers in bloom each season. They have a sunflower field, a colourful umbrella tunnel and even a life-size A380 plane covered in 500,000 fresh flowers and living plants!

Dubai Safari Park – For those animal lovers out there, head to Dubai Safari Park to get up close and personal with some of the worlds most exotic animals (3000 in total). There are 78 species of mammals, 50 types of reptiles and 111 types of birds to spot.

Souk Madinat – If you don’t make it to the Dubai Old Town souks, be sure to stop here instead. The Madinat is an Arabian complex consisting of hotels, beaches, eateries and of course the souk. Everything is connected by 3km of waterways and you can catch an Abra to get from one area to the other. It’s a great place to stop for lunch, with views of the Burj Al Arab and the water.

Dubai Frame – the Dubai Frame is located in Zabeel Park. This multi-purpose cultural landmark is the largest picture frame in the world and has panoramic views of the Dubai skyline from above. If you dare, walk across the glass bridge at the very top of the frame!

La Mer – Set on a bustling beachfront, La Mer is full of restaurants, places to shop and watersports. There’s something for everyone at La Mer.

Global Village – depending on the time of year you visit, Global Village is open every year between November and April and offers fun activities, street food, funfairs and markets from all around the world. At the weekends, the nightly show ends with fireworks and it’s a great way to spend an evening in Dubai.

Day trips from Dubai

One Day in Dubai: Dune bashing in the desert
Photo by Lingbeek from Getty Images Signature

If you’re staying in Dubai and are looking to get out of the city for a day to explore the surrounding areas, why not try out one of these day trips from Dubai:

Desert Safari

When you book a desert safari trip, you’ll be picked up from your hotel early afternoon and brought out to the desert (approximately 60-90 minutes from Dubai). There, you’ll experience the adrenaline rushing dune bashing before heading to a local camp for spectacular desert sunset photos, traditional entertainment, barbeque dinner and henna tattoos. I recommend anyone staying in Dubai give this adventure a try.

Abu Dhabi

Just a 90 minute drive from Dubai is the United Arab Emirate’s capital, Abu Dhabi. There are some incredible things to do in Abu Dhabi that you shouldn’t miss out on before leaving the UAE. Visit the spectacular Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre Museum, Emirates Palace and stroll down the Corniche at sunset.


Just an hour and a half’s drive from Dubai is Hatta. While Hatta is still part of Dubai, you’ll be amazed at the difference. There are no skyscrapers, just mountains and water and serenity. Nestled at the bottom of the Hajar Mountains, Hatta offers plenty of opportunities for adventure activities such as kayaking, hiking and mountain biking.


One day in Dubai itinerary Pinterest Pin

One day in Dubai Takeaway

So there you have a one day Dubai itinerary covering many of the must see attractions.

Dubai is a city for everyone and there’s something to suit all interests. It can be overwhelming planning your trip, so to ensure you get the most out of your one day in Dubai by following the above itinerary.

So if you’re someone who has always wanted to go but was intimidated by the size of Dubai, don’t fret. You can see and do a ton in just one day! 

Are you spending one day in Dubai any time soon? Will any of the above activities be on your itinerary?


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