Both Abu Dhabi and Dubai are very popular destinations for travellers from all over the globe.
The convenient location of these cities means that many will cross through the UAE on their way to another country. Many will stopover in Abu Dhabi while travelling to various other final destinations.
Others may have Dubai as their final destination and whilst holidaying here, some may wish to drive to Abu Dhabi for a day to experience what the capital has to offer in comparison.
For those living in Dubai or Abu Dhabi, perhaps some family or friends are visiting and you want to know how to get the most out of Abu Dhabi in a 1 day or a 24-hour trip.
If you’re wondering which city your should visit or live in, check out our Abu Dhabi v Dubai guide!
The city is very easy to navigate regardless of where you are in Abu Dhabi. Your next destination in the city will likely be no more than 20 minutes away.
This makes it a great city to get around and experience in 24 hours!
This guide aims to help anyone interested in planning 1 day in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi one day
If you manage your time correctly, there is an excellent mix of things one can experience in 1 day in Abu Dhabi. The biggest issue will be sticking to timing. Many of the suggestions below are great fun and are places you could spend half a day or even a full day doing.
But, you only have 1 day in Abu Dhabi, so you must be strict with managing your time!
First up, breakfast. If you are staying in a hotel, enjoy the breakfast option included in your booking.
Those staying in a self-catering setting, if you are trying to save money and eat at home we recommend a visit to Waitrose, Spinnys or Carrefour to buy some bread, cereal, eggs or anything else you’re feeling.
If you want something similar to UK/Ireland, a visit to Waitrose or M&S is your best option.
La Brioche offers a great breakfast deal if you want to eat out with family and/or friends. Diners can choose from a number of eggs Benedict variations, omelette options or sweet dishes like pancakes or French toast.
Once you have chosen your dish from these options, you can also select a hot tea or coffee to accompany your meal.
The deal includes a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice as well as beginning your meal with a selection of warm bread with pots of butter, jams, marmalades and honey to accompany.
The bread, tea/coffee, orange juice and main meal cost 65 AED, the equivalent of around £14 or €16.
There are also many options for breakfast deliveries. These can be ordered off the Talabat mobile app.
When preparing to visit this waterpark, normal swimwear is acceptable and can be worn under your clothes or packed and you can get changed in the changing rooms or toilets.
For more information on what to wear when visiting Abu Dhabi click here.
It’s a good idea to bring a towel if you have one, but if not, they should be able to supply one for you.
For anyone with sensitive eyes or contacts etc., pack your goggles as most of the slides will involve some underwater action or water splashing into your face at the very least.
Wear or pack your sliders and/or flip-flops and don’t forget your sunglasses, hat and plenty of waterproof suncream!
Conveniently, there are ample cubbies at the bottom or close to the beginning of each slide/activity where visitors can leave their sliders/flip-flops, sunglasses and hat while they go on each slide.
This waterpark offers countless slides and experiences and is one for people of every age. As you are strapped for time if it’s a busy day, we definitely recommend buying a fast pass in the park as this will reduce the time spent queuing for slides!
Some of the most hair-raising slides include:
Hamlool’s Humps, this slide takes a lot of climbing to get to the top, but once you are there, you will feel airborne as you fly down a steep drop followed by three large humps.
Jebel Drop, situated right beside Hamlool’s Humps, is a water slide with a view. You won’t get much time to enjoy this, however as you are launched down a monstrous drop.
Slithers Slides will be a favourite among groups and families. Take a single or double ring and make your way to one of the six different slither slides.
Each offers riders something a little different, be it speed, bumps, spins, turns or flashing lights and all slides end with the ring being propelled from one of the snakeheads and into the pool underneath.
The Liwa Loop is not for the faint-hearted. For this slide, you will enter into a tube where you will stand with your arms and legs crossed before the floor opens beneath and you plummet down a vertical fall before looping through to the bottom of the slide. This is one for the thrill-seekers!
Another favourite, SEBAG. Six lanes, one winner! Riders can race down this slide on mats, pick up speed with a good start and fly over the hump to be the first to the finish.
In addition to the slides, there are lots of experiences in this waterpark like the lazy river, wave pool and one of the best children’s water park areas around.
There are ample options to enjoy some food and drink before heading back to the water. Chubby’s Kitchen, Dana’s Diner and Salma’s Snack Shack are options for larger meals while coffee and snacks can be enjoyed at Gahwat Nasser and ice-creams and drinks at Skinny’s Frozen Treats.
As Ferrari World is next on the agenda, get your combo ticket here. This includes day access to Waterworld and Ferrari World
We suggest capping your time here at 2 – 3 hours max before drying off and getting changed for your next visit.
While you could easily spend the full day here, you have other places to visit during your 1 day in Abu Dhabi. Next, let’s head to Ferrari World.
For anyone spending 1 day in Abu Dhabi, Ferrari World should be high on your schedule.
Named after one of the fastest car manufacturers in Formula 1, the park is filled with thrilling rides in a Ferrari-themed paradise.
This theme park offers a great mix of rides, activities, merchandise and food that proves popular among people of every age!
Again, as you are clock-watching, it’s highly recommended that visitors purchase fast passes to get around the park sufficiently!
The first roller coaster that deserves mention is Formula Rossa. Remaining true to the Ferrari theme, Formula Rossa is the fastest rollercoaster in the world!
Inside, riders will enter the train before putting on a seatbelt, followed by a larger restraint and a pair of goggles, which are mandatory to protect the eyes when riding at such high speeds.
The train will leave and stop just outside at the Formula 1 traffic lights, where you will wait for lights out before being launched forward, feeling a surge of 4.8Gs.
The train blasts to a speed of 240 km/h in just 4.9 seconds.
Next, the Flying Aces. This thrilling roller coaster contains the highest loop in the world.
The military biplane-themed ride begins with a 53-degree incline followed by an immediate plummet once you reach the top.
Followed by twists and turns and the world’s highest loop, this coaster is sure to get your heart racing!
Third on the rollercoaster list is the Turbo Track. While this is a very short ride in terms of time, the lingering thrill is anything but.
Riders enter the train three across and back-to-back.
This coaster shoots you up through the roof, where it will appear that you will run out of track, followed by a zero-gravity fall back down in reverse.
Other roller coasters worth mentioning include Fiorano GT Challenge, Turbo Tower and Flying Wings.
The Junior Grand Prix is a similar concept for younger guests, allowing children to race around a circuit in scaled-down F1 cars.
In addition to the exciting roller coasters and experiences, Ferrari World also offers funfair games, Formula 1 merchandise, soft play areas for children and an ‘Italy section’ where you will be transported to the streets of Italy.
As you are probably pretty hungry by now, it’s a good idea to eat at one of the below establishments before leaving. The service is quick and there are plenty of choices.
This park offers several dining options including Mamma Rossela, a favourite among many where guests can enjoy Italian pizza, pasta and salads, Il Podio, offering Arabic, Indian and Western grills and the Officers Food Quarters, serve burgers, pizzas and sandwiches.
If you’re looking for a quick coffee and pastry or some delicious house-made gelato should visit Espresso Rossa.
Ferrari World hosts a number of shows and events throughout the year, including mini-golf, Santa’s grotto, gingerbread workshops and much more.
Make sure to book your combo ticket for Ferrari World and Waterworld here.
If you have managed your time really well and would prefer to eat outside of the theme park, as you are in Yas, you could pop down to Yas Bay and choose from one of the many fantastic food options along the Bay, including Asia Asia, Cafe Del Mar, Lock Stock & Barrel or Central.
If you are looking for a bit of entertainment while you eat, Central is a good choice. Offering burgers, beats and bowling, this hangout is trendy among residents and tourists alike.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
It should now be approximately 2 pm and it is time to head to one of the most spectacular buildings in the Middle East, The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque.
High on every visitor’s agenda, Sheikh Zayed Mosque is a no-brainer destination when it comes to spending 1 day in Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi’s grand mosque is one of the largest in the world and is an architectural masterpiece that combines Islamic architecture and designs beautifully.
Named after the Founder Father of the UAE, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the mosque was built to create a cultural haven to welcome and inspire people from all backgrounds.
Each visitor marvels over the 100-metre-tall building that is as awe-inspiring on the inside as it is on the outside.
The mosque is free to visit and is open to non-worshipping visitors from 9 am – 10 pm Saturday – Thursday and between 9 am – 12 pm on Friday. These hours change slightly throughout the holy month of Ramadan.
Each visitor can access a digital guide and an e-manual. A guided tour is also possible and is supplied for free.
When visiting the mosque, ensure your clothing is deemed appropriate within the culture and religion of the UAE.
Both men and women must be fully covered from the neck down, meaning no t-shirts or shorts are permitted within the mosque.
Women must also cover their hair. If you are eager to keep your mosque visit completely free, ensure that you have the correct clothing.
The safest option is an abaya for women and a kandora for men.
To discover more about the mosque dress code and where you can find the appropriate clothing, check out our what to wear in Abu Dhabi guide.
If you would like to get an amazing private tour of the mosque, book here.
Next, one of the most exciting activities you can do during your 1 day in Abu Dhabi is the famous UAE desert safari!
Take a journey into the vast UAE sand pit, where guests can visit some of the most stunning desert views. The first stop is usually a camel farm. These well-adjusted desert dwellers have been around since before recorded history!
Next, guests can usually drive 2-4 seater sand buggies around a designated area of the desert. This is generally at an additional charge however; we certainly recommend doing this.
Take turns to ride around with family or friends or, if there are enough of you, you can have a race!
Usually, there will be a few market-type stalls or shops around the camel and buggy area. Here you can purchase things like traditional scarves and other clothing.
Similar to spending time in a traditional Arabian market or souk, the salespeople may be eager to put these items on you in an attempt to get you to purchase. Don’t be afraid to tell them you are not interested in purchasing!
Next, it’s off into the 4WD for some thrilling dune bashing. Make sure to hold on tight as you’ll be driven up and down the mountainous sand dunes on the way towards the desert camp.
There is nothing quite as thrilling as desert bashing on one of these safari experiences.
You may be able to stop for a break from the exhilarating bashing to walk up some dunes and get some beautiful sunset pictures with your party.
The campsite areas are very traditional, with makeshift stalls and tents around a large stage.
Guests will be treated to a seated BBQ buffet dinner whilst enjoying a show, usually some dancing and music.
There will also be some camels and buggies or quads around the site, which visitors can take advantage of at a small extra cost.
Then you will either be driven back to an agreed location or, if you are staying the night, you will be shown to your tent where you can sleep under the desert stars.
If you do stay the night, you will also be treated to breakfast the following morning before being driven back to an agreed location.
You can choose from a number of great safari choices here.
There are several alternative options for your 1 day in Abu Dhabi. If you prefer to experience an afternoon/evening of drinking and happen to be visiting on a weekend, then a brunch is highly recommended! Or, if you are looking for a relaxing 1 day in Abu Dhabi, a beach club is a great option.
You can not come to the UAE and not experience a brunch! Very different to the civilised breakfast/lunch concept in most of Europe, an Abu Dhabi or Dubai brunch is a set package where visitors receive unlimited food and drinks over a set number of hours.
Bear in mind that brunch options are generally only available on a Saturday, so if your 1 day in Abu Dhabi doesn’t fall on a Saturday, you’ll have to come back for another visit!
Usually, there are a few options in each establishment; a soft drink package, a house drinks package and a fancier ‘bubbly’ package. In general, the house drinks package should suffice. This usually includes beers, spirits and wines.
The usual time for an Abu Dhabi brunch is 12 pm/1 pm – 4 pm/5 pm, but there are also some evening brunches where you could do 5 pm – 8/9 pm. Brunches are great for several reasons but this earlier timing is a good call if you are travelling or don’t want to be too hungover the following day.
There are unlimited brunch options across Abu Dhabi, but we have narrowed it down to a few options to schedule into your 4 days in Abu Dhabi.
Option 1 – Asia Asia
Better known for their sister branch in Dubai, Asia Asia has come to Abu Dhabi and is in the beautiful setting of Yas Bay. The Asia Asia ‘Spice Route’ Brunch takes place every Saturday from 2 pm – 5pm.
The brunch consists of a delicious 4-course menu and unlimited drinks. Packages start at AED250 (approx £55) for the soft drinks option.
The menu consists of Pan Asian cuisine with options such as sushi platters, Thai curries, tempura, skewers, Wagu steak and teriyaki salmon.
Option 2 – B.I.G Brunch in Garage
Garage is a very popular restaurant in the W Hotel overlooking the Yas Marina Formula 1 Circuit. Their B.I.G Brunch takes place from 1 pm – 4 pm every Saturday.
This is the more traditional Abu Dhabi brunch format where guests can help themselves to an unlimited buffet. There are five culinary hubs, eleven drinks taps, loads of bites, a Mezze spread and Asian flavours.
The B.I.G Brunch packages start at AED 275 (just under £60 or €70) for the soft drinks option.
Option 3 – Buddha-Bar Beach Abu Dhabi
Located inside the St. Regis Saadiyat Island Hotel, Buddha-Bar Beach is one of the pricier options, but we can assure you it is worth it!
Their Nikkei Brunch takes place every Saturday from 7 pm – 10 pm. The dishes offer flavours of Japan and Peru with a specially created menu with over twenty creative dishes!
The Nikkei Brunch starts at AED 375 (£80 or €95) for the soft drinks package.
If you feel like staying out for the night, many brunch options also offer a post-brunch offering, such as unlimited drinks for a further 3 hours for a set price.
Many beach clubs also offer brunch deals. So if you are interested in experiencing a beach club day and a brunch in one, you can check out places like:
- Saadiyat Beach Club
- Cafe Del Mar
If there is one thing Abu Dhabi offers in abundance, it is beach clubs.
Due to its prime location, situated along the Arabian Gulf, the UAE capital boasts endless places to enjoy the sun, sea and sand.
The concept of beach clubs is not widely available in all parts of the world; however, they are a big part of UAE living.
Generally, beach clubs comprise of a pool, beach (& sea) and at least one restaurant. Some beach clubs include a host of other facilities.
If you are deciding what to wear to some of the best beach clubs in Abu Dhabi, be sure to check out our what to wear in Abu Dhabi post for some guidance and inspiration.
There are endless options for beach clubs in the UAE capital, so we have narrowed it down to a few of our favourites. If you want to find more, you can find a list of the best beach clubs in Abu Dhabi here.
Some of our top picks for your 1 day in Abu Dhabi:
- Saadiyat Beach Club
Saadiyat Island is one of the most beautiful locations in Abu Dhabi. Saadiyat Island hosts the only natural beach in Abu Dhabi.
For this reason, Saadiyat is home to one of the most pristine white-sand beaches and turquoise waters and is the only place to enjoy sea waves.
Saadiyat Beach Club oozes luxury and exclusivity and earns its spot on the list of best beach clubs in Abu Dhabi. This club is the perfect location for daytime relaxation and sunset vibes.
Visitors will appreciate the club’s facilities, views and top hospitality.
For anyone looking to enjoy a piece of heaven for the day, there are a few options for day passes. Check their website or ring ahead for these prices.
Visitors should not overlook the additional spa access. The Spa facilities in this beach club are outstanding.
There are also a number of happenings in Saadiyat Beach Club throughout the week, so depending on which day you visit, there may be some great deals and entertainment.
Saadiyat Beach Club, Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi, saadiyatbeachclub.ae (02 656 3500)
- Zaya Nurai
Nurai Island is a piece of paradise like nowhere else. The island has been named ‘the Maldives of the UAE’ and for a good reason!
Boasting shimmering turquoise water and tropical flora, the boutique private island is a 15-minute boat ride from Abu Dhabi. There was no way this gem would not make the best beach club in Abu Dhabi list!
While on the more expensive side, a visit to this paradise is once-in-a-lifetime. Day passes are priced high but visitors get a large portion of the pass price back in food and drink credit once there.
This price also includes pool and beach access as well as the boat transfer to and from the island.
Nurai Island also hosts a weekly Saturday brunch from 12.30 pm – 4pm.
On a side note, those who can afford to stay in the stunning accommodation should take full advantage!
Book a stay in Nurai Island here.
Nurai Island, Abu Dhabi, (02 506 6222)
- Al Maya Island
Another island requiring boat transfer, Al Maya Island, offers a sanctuary away from city life. The Island can be reached in 10 minutes by boat.
Any destination that requires access by boat deserves a spot on the best beach clubs in Abu Dhabi!
This island overlooks sea views and facilities include a soft sandy beach, horizon swimming pool, jacuzzi and kid’s pool.
Guests can enjoy wakeboarding, kitesurfing, banana boat rides and kayaking.
It has to be said that the day passes are great value for such an adventure. These passes also include boat transfer and a certain amount is also redeemable on food and drink.
Al Maya Island Resort, almayauae.com (02 667 7777).
Finally, if you have any spare time left in your 1 day in Abu Dhabi, visiting one of the shopping malls is well worth considering.
Shopping Malls are a popular pastime for UAE locals and residents. With many shopping malls hosting endless activities in addition to retail shops, they are a great place to escape the desert heat.
If you are someone who likes to browse, people watch and explore, any number of shopping malls within the city will be for you!
All Abu Dhabi malls are free to enter and most include free parking. Each mall offers something a little different, be that in terms of interior design, the type of shops, restaurants, the general theme and feeling within the mall.
Two of the most popular malls in Abu Dhabi include the Galleria and Yas Mall.
The Galleria is an excellent addition to your 1 day in Abu Dhabi as the feel and design of this modern mall are amazing.
There is an immaculate and prosperous feel to this mall and the shops and restaurants reflect this.
The Apple Store within the mall holds regular free seminars, everything from how to take the best photos on an iPhone to kids workshops.
For those with a taste for luxury goods, one side of the mall boasts shops like Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Burberry, Cartier, Bvlgari, Christian Louboutin, Coach, Dior, Fendi, Gucci, Jimmy Choo and many more.
Enjoy window shopping along the endless lanes of the height of luxury fashion.
On the ground floor of this side of the mall, visitors can also step outside and enjoy the spectacular waterfront view of Abu Dhabi.
Take a short walk along the water and watch as visitors have a meal in one of the lovely restaurants with outdoor seating or marvel at the Apple Stores architecture with stunning water features.
On the other side of the mall, all the well-loved shops such as H&M, Zara, Bershka, Stradivarius and a large Virgin Megastore.
Here is somewhere people are known to spend much of their time exploring the many exciting products in this megastore, with no need to buy the product in the end.
Another shop with a lot of potential for free amusement, is Decathlon. This sport and fitness shop has everything from tents to bicycles to weight machines to basketball nets.
Take a stroll around this store and why not try out some sports equipment or clothing.
The Galleria comprises hundreds of shops, plenty of restaurants and cafes and a large Vox cinema.
Yas Mall is another very popular mall among Abu Dhabi residents; while the mall isn’t as modern and fresh as the Galleria, the location and reputation have helped with its continued popularity over the years.
To discover more about what Yas Mall offers, check out our 12 great things to do on Yas Island guide.
That is more than enough to fill 1 day in Abu Dhabi. Whether you are just passing through, on a day trip or amusing friends or family, there is a lot one can pack into 1 day in Abu Dhabi!
Disclosure: We only recommend experiences or products that we have personally used or that have been highly recommended by others. If you get anything we have mentioned through the referral links, we may get a small commission with no extra cost for you.