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Dynamic Abu Dhabi: Captivating culture and contemporary cuisine await you in the United Arab Emirates

Visitors to Abu Dhabi will find a world of cultural, historical and culinary delights to explore — there’s no shortage of ways to view the United Arab Emirates’ capital. | By Paul Oswell | March 1, 2023

Abu Dhabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), is one of the Middle East's most dynamic destinations. With world-class cultural offerings, inspiring sightseeing options, a full menu of adventurous activities and culinary traditions, there's no end to the historic landmarks, new flavors and exciting adventures to discover. Here are some of our ideas for a truly memorable Abu Dhabi vacation:

  • Captivating culture: Elaborately decorated mosques and opulent palaces await, alongside outposts of world-famous art institutions

  • Eclectic Emirati cuisine: Dive into the invigorating flavors of the UAE’s gastronomic traditions, with a wealth of traditional and contemporary dining options

  • Exciting activities: View the city from every angle — from the desert sands, a hot air balloon, mangrove lagoons or a towering observation deck

Culture and attractions

The first port of call for any sightseeing tour of Abu Dhabi should be the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. It is the largest mosque in the country, and features dramatically lit columns and chandeliers, which frame the spectacular 7,000-capacity main prayer room. Join a free cultural tour to learn about the mosque’s incredible history, mission and architecture.

Louvre Abu Dhabi is the city’s iteration of Paris’ Louvre museum and is the cornerstone of the Saadiyat Island cultural district. The stunning contemporary space showcases artwork from its French counterpart, as well as loaned works, including celebrated pieces by Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh.

Another private tour well worth taking is one of Qasr Al Watan palace, a landmark offering a unique glimpse into Emirati heritage. Visitors can bask in the regal public gardens, wonder at the majestic tile work in the Great Hall and delight in the regular evening light and sound show, Palace in Motion.

Conveniently located on the central Corniche beach with easy access to Avenue at Etihad Towers — a boutique high-end retail destination — and fascinating sightseeing, Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers is the perfect location from which to comfortably explore different corners of this fascinating destination. Your concierge can arrange a private car to nearby Yas Island, Jubail Island, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi city center and the Grand Canal area.

Mouthwatering and Michelin-starred cuisine

As a global hub, Abu Dhabi boasts international restaurants with Michelin stars, including 99 Sushi (Japanese), Hakkasan (Cantonese) and Talea (Italian). However, you’ll also want to experience menus that are more authentic to the United Arab Emirates during your stay.

Emirati cuisine is rich in aromatic spices, with fresh seafood and succulent lamb a firm favorite for local gourmands. Meylas on Al Muneera Island started as a food truck and is now a beachside haven for foodies, serving delicious chbaab pancakes, and harees, a coarsely-ground seasoned wheat porridge with ghee-baked veal.

For a truly local experience, book a private cabin at Al Mrzab on Airport Road. Offering Emirati and Kuwaiti dishes such as murabyan (rice and shrimp), salty fish hamsa (a type of scramble), fresh lamb majbous (a spicy broth) and mixed mutaban, potato wedges filled with spiced meat.

For the best of all worlds, head to Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers. Go on a culinary journey at the property’s 12 restaurants and bars, and sample Lebanese dishes at Li Beirut, high-end tapas at José by Pizarro or a mixture of traditional and contemporary Italian fare at Sole. Ray’s Grill is the property’s signature steakhouse on the 63rd floor, with sweeping views of the city skyline and dazzling Arabian Gulf.


An evening desert safari blends romance and adventure, and a private high-end tour includes all the comforts you could want. Sit back as your driver cruises through the dunes in a tricked-out four-wheel drive to a secluded spot for a gourmet barbecue and belly dancing show. Camel rides and quad bike sessions are optional extras.

Kayaking through Mangrove Lagoon National Park is a popular diversion, but you can also opt for a private boat tour led by licensed and ecologically responsible tour operators as you spot turtles, flamingos and dolphins.

Explore the captivating region from the vantage point of a hot air balloon ride. Take in the glorious colors of sunrise as a live violist provides the soundtrack, and you enjoy a tasty breakfast and expert-led show of falconry.

No matter how you experience Abu Dhabi, the views don’t come any better than at the towering Observation Deck at 300 at Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers. An oasis in the clouds offering afternoon tea, mocktails and light fare, it’s located on the 74th floor of the hotel — putting guests at an elevation 984 feet (300 meters) above the city center. The highest vantage point in Abu Dhabi, the tower provides 360-degree views of the city that will stay with you long after your return home.

Paul Oswell is an award-winning travel writer, and has been reporting from all seven continents for over twenty years. He is based in New Orleans and is the author of “The Bucket List North America: 1,000 Adventures Big and Small.”

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Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers

Marvel at spectacular city and Gulf views from your room above Abu Dhabi. Our modern hotel is within 10 minutes of the Presidential Palace and features a 74th floor observation deck, 12 award-winning restaurants and bars, and a full spa with 13 treatment rooms. We offer over 10,000 sq. ft. of event space, three outdoor pools, and a private beach.

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