There is no doubt Abu Dhabi landmarks are some of the most iconic buildings in the world. The Emirate, alongside Dubai, is one of the most modern and fastest-growing cities of our time.
The city is constantly under construction of the next best building. A trip to Saadiyat Island provides insight into the sheer scale of the island’s growth and is truly jaw-dropping. Saadiyat is just a small part of the city and is undergoing growth at a scale never seen before.
The engineering and design are carefully balanced, particularly in landmarks prominent in the city’s culture and history.
The growth of the city is part of the vision of the late Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan for economic success in the Emirate.
Considering the city is built in the desert, the architectural achievements are somewhat of a wonder. In this post, we are going to look at the 12 most iconic Abu Dhabi landmarks.
Buildings Of Abu Dhabi
1. Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque
It is influenced by Mughal, Ottoman and Fatimid. Featuring four 107-metre minarets and 83 domes, the building is clad in pure white marble.
With distinctive geometric designs and floral motifs, the architecture encompasses traditional Islamic features in the most beautiful way.
The prayer hall is particularly impressive and can hold up to 7000 worshippers. It features 96 pure marble and gold detailed columns.
The prayer hall is home to the largest handmade carpet in the world and took two years to make! It is also home to the largest chandelier in the world.
The mosque comes to light in the evenings and the illumination can be seen from miles away in a clear sky.
One of the most spiritual times to visit the mosque is during Ramadan. At Iftar, cannons are fired to mark the end of the fast. Make sure to pick up an Abaya or Kandoura to wear and keep as a souvenir.
Location: Sheikh Rashid Bin Saaed St, 5th St
2. The Rixos Marina
It has remarkable similarities to the iconic Atlantis Hotel in Dubai. Featuring two towers with an arch in the centre, joined at the top.
The building is influenced by Arab and Turkish architecture. Spread across 38 floors, the 5-star hotel has 414 rooms, some of which have a sea view.
This particular feature went viral on Instagram with a virtual reality video showing a whale coming to life and swimming through the iconic arch.
Similar to many Abu Dhabi Landmarks around the city, The Rixos Marina is illuminated at night. It can be seen from many vantage points along the Corniche on a clear evening.
Location: Marina Mall Ring Rd – Al Marina – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
3. The Louvre Abu Dhabi
The Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island is a striking museum and yet another architectural wonder of the city. The museum holds many pieces of art and artefacts from across the world.
The building architect Jean Nouvel wanted to create a masterpiece with the aim of capturing the rich cultural heritage of the region.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi features a sprawling dome with geometric patterns allowing the sun to peak through creating angles of light throughout the museum.
Sunbeams create shadows and constantly change light filters. It is one of the most clever and artistic features of the design.
The dome is an impressive 180 metres wide and features 7850 metal stars creating the pattern. It is supported by four pillars which were designed to imitate palm trees.
In fact the sea literally flows through parts of the museum creating a truly mezmerising experience.
Other features encompass Islamic architecture which is often seen in mosques. For example, a series of courtyards and reflective pools create a tranquil environment.
Reflective pools are also a feature within the Grand Mosque. The museum is arranged in a series of interconnecting spaces. Each space has a unique feel with many pieces ranging from contemporary art to prehistoric artefacts.
From the art on display to the architecture, the museum seamlessly blends tradition and modernity.
Featuring interactive displays and personalized audio tours, the experience for visitors is incredible.
The Louvre is considered one of the best things to do in Abu Dhabi and is a must-visit for those with a keen interest in art, design and architecture.
Occasionally, yoga classes are held beneath the dome which is a truly unique way to take in the stunning space.
Location: Saadiyat – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
4. Qasr Al Hosn
Qasr Al Hosn is one of the most culturally significant Abu Dhabi landmarks. It has previously served s a fortress and a royal palace dating back as far as 1793.
It is the oldest building in Abu Dhabi with thick walls made of stone and coral featuring traditional Arabic intricacies in its design with some similarities to the Al Ain museums.
Today, Qasr Al Hosn is used as a cultural centre and has a museum on site perfect for souvenirs. It’s also used as a place of research for archaeology, history and architecture in the region.
The building has two parts. The inner part is the original fortress and has a courtyard with beautiful arched walkways and a fountain. It is a serene and peaceful part of the city.
The other part of Qasr Al Hosn is the outer part which was built in the late 1930’s. Additonal building were added to house Royal Family members.
Needless to say, the design of the palace elements at Qasr Al Hosn has some beautiful Islamic traditions across a number of rooms and halls. Today, visitors can explore the previous residence of the Royal Family.
Quite often the museum houses events and is a fantastic place to visit and get a feel for the culture and history of the region.
Location: Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum St(2nd St) – Al Hisn – W3 – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
5. Qasr Al Watan
Qasr Al Watan is another one of the culturally significant Abu Dhabi landmarks. It finished construction in 2017 and was opened to the public in 2019.
Initially, the palace was used for the president’s official meetings with international leaders and meetings with the UAE’s federal cabinet.
It was opened to the public in 2019 and has quickly become a popular tourist destination for those seeking to learn more about the rich history and culture of the UAE.
The palace was recently named one of the top 20 landmarks in the Middle East by the World Travel Awards.
Qasr Al Watan Architecture
In terms of architecture, the palace is made of white granite with beautiful arches and domes as well as intricate geometric patterns in keeping with Arabic design features. The domes feature delicate gold Arabic script.
Outside the palace is a large courtyard with geometric patterned paving, not to mention reflective pools and detailed arched walkways.
Inside the palace are two wings and a Great Hall that can house up to 1400 guests. The hall has an impressive chandelier and intricately detailed coving, patterned granite floors and every wall have geometric patterns.
There are plenty of other features including a library which is home to an incredible collection of books and manuscripts.
Possibly one of the most recognisable features of Qasr Al Watan is the gold script-like sculpture. Influencers gazing into the distance from within the sculpture have gone viral on Instagram multiple times.
The sculpture was designed by an Emirati named Mattar Bin Lahej and the script reads “Wealth is not money or oil, wealth lies in people and it is worthless if not dedicated to serve the people.”
Qasr Al Watan has an incredible evening light show. Entry to the show is separate from the regular entry.
The show is a projection of lights onto the exterior of the palace and depicts a visual story with lighting and music about Emirati culture and heritage.
It is a fascinating show incorporating the beautiful architecture of the palace making it one of the most interesting Abu Dhabi landmarks to visit at night.
Location: Al Ras Al Akhdar – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
6. Gate Tower Al Reem Island
The Gate Tower on Al Reem Island is the only one of Abu Dhabi landmarks which is a residential building. There are remarkable similarities with Marina Bay Sands Hotel in Singapore.
Gate Tower has an eye-watering 66 floors in each of its three towers which are connected at the top by penthouse apartments.
As the name says, the building looks like a gate with two distinct arches in the centre of the three buildings.
Gate Tower can be seen from miles away, particularly at night when the building lights up, sometimes with displays on special occasions such as Ramadan, Halloween, Diwali, Chinese New Year, Eid, Christmas and so on.
The Gate Tower has hundreds of luxury apartments, gyms, and swimming pools and is connected with Shams Boutik mall providing easy access via a walkway for residents. It is also just yards from a lovely park in Abu Dhabi.
The views from some of the apartments are insane providing a birds eye view of the city.
Location: Al Reem Island – The Gate District – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
7. Aldar HQ
The Aldar HQ building in Abu Dhabi is a stunning circular structure. Being the main real estate developer in the Emirate, it is no surprise that the HQ is one of the unique Abu Dhabi landmarks.
Often compared to a coin it’s an iconic landmark in the Al Raha area of Abu Dhabi often visible from the motorway and nearby Yas Island.
The building features 23 floors, was completed in 2010 and is one of the largest circular buildings in the world.
Circular structures symbolise unity, stability and community in Arabic architecture often seen in the geomtric patterns across many of the iconic buildings in Abu Dhabi..
Aldar HQ features 5000 glass panels and 7000 aluminium mullions giving the building a futuristic feel.
Inside, the atrium features curved walkways and bridges making it an incredible place for employees to work.
The building has won the Best Futuristic Design of 2014 at the Building and Construction Authority Awards. Whilst Aldar HQ is a popular Abu Dhabi landmark, it is not a public building.
In fact, if you stop by for a photo, make sure only to use your phone as anything more official will require a permit.
Location: Al Raha Beach, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
8. Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace is a luxury hotel often confused as being an actual palace in Abu Dhabi. Needless to say, it is one of the most sought-after luxury experiences in the Emirate and recently underwent a rebranded as Emirates Palace Mandarin Oriental, Abu Dhabi.
The building has a mix of Arabic architecture with geometric patterns, elaborate arches intricate gold details, dome structures as well as modern design.
The central lobby where the main dome can be visualised from within is one of the most incredible features of all.
The lobby is overlooked by a multitude of 360-degree gold adorned and intricately designed balconies.
With 394 luxurious rooms and suites, the hotel also offers some of the most incredible fine dining experiences in Abu Dhabi which is Michelin recognised.
Emirates Palace has been known to host many high-profile events including royal weddings and movie shoots.
It is possible to visit Emirates Palace, you do not need to be staying at the hotel. There are some fantastic experiences such as day passes to the beach club and dining at any of the incredible restaurants.
One of the most popular has to be the afternoon tea with the gold leaf cappuchino!
Location: West Corniche Road – Al Ras Al Akhdar – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
9. Al Bahr Towers
Al Bahr Towers are a stunning landmark in Abu Dhabi, known for their innovative architecture and sustainable design.
Unfortunately, Al Bahr Towers are not open to the public however as long as you are only shooting with a phone, you will not need a permit to take a photo from the car park. This is strictly enforced.
The unique design of the towers was one of the first in the sustainability mission of the Emirates.
The unique facade has over 2000 gold-coloured geometric panels which react to the sunlight throughout the day. They close and open depending on the position and intensity of the sun.
The idea behind the design is to remove the need for artificial cooling of the building.
Similar to many of the buildings mentioned above, the geometric feature of the panels is in keeping with Arabic design and it is another landmark which blends tradition with modernity.
Aside from the clever panelling, there are also solar panels, rainwater harvesting and an air ventilation system which naturally cools the building.
The Al Bahr Towers are 25 stories high and home to a number of commercial and government offices. Like so many of the iconic Abu Dhabi landmarks, the towers mark special occasions with colourful evening illumination.
The building was recognised as the Best Futuristic Design award at the 2012 Building and Construction Authority (BCA) Awards in Singapore.
Locally, the buildings are often referred to as ‘pineapples’ since the exterior is very similar to the skin of a pineapple!
Location: F92X+XC4 – Al Saada St W – Al Nahyan – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
10. Etihad Towers
Etihad Towers is the most dominant skyscraper in Abu Dhabi. It is a five-star luxury complex in a prime location along the Corniche.
One of the most iconic features of Conrad Etihad Towers is the Observation Deck at 300, located on the 74th floor. The deck offers breathtaking 360-degree views of the city, including the nearby Emirates Palace.
One of the nicest things to do on the Observation Deck is an afternoon tea with stunning views.
In terms of architecture, there are 5 towers ranging in size from 55 floors to 74 floors. Hence the observation deck is one of the best places to visit.
The buildings are sleek and shimmer in the hot desert sun every day of the week. Not to mention tower one stands out as the tallest in the whole city at 305 metres.
Etihad Towers are most certainly one of the most recognisable Abu Dhabi landmarks making it a popular spot for tourists to stay.
11. The Andaz Hotel
The Andaz Abu Dhabi is a landmark building located in the Capital Center which is the business district of Abu Dhabi. It is also interconnected with the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre.
In terms of architecture, the building is another sleek structure with a glass facade featuring diamond patterns.
The most unique feature of the building is its curved design making it look as though it has a bend in the centre. In fact, it holds a Guinness World Record for being the most slanted building in the world.
Based across 18 floors, the hotel can be seen from many vantage points across the city. With 189 rooms and suites, not to mention great restaurants and luxurious amenities, it’s another 5-star hotel in Abu Dhabi.
The rooftop infinity pool and lounge are a hit with locals for staycations. Not to mention the state-of-the-art fitness centre and incredible dining options including a local favourite, Cyan Brasserie.
Location: Dhabi Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street – 6 Al Multaqa St – Al Rawdah – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates
12. Bab Al Qasr
Last but not least is Bab Al Qasr another hotel on the list of iconic Abu Dhabi landmarks. The name of the building translates to ‘Door of the Palace’.
It stands out from the neighbouring Etihad Towers with its unique rose gold facade and intricately detailed glass windows.
Out of all the modern skyscrapers in Abu Dhabi, Bab Al Qasr encompasses modern Arabic design the best. It is sophisticated Islamic architecture at its finest.
Spread across 37 floors the building is a 5-star luxury experience with a mix of 677 residences and hotel rooms. The interior is plush with comfortable furnishings and traditional decor.
Featuring fine dining restaurants, a private beach and an infinity pool, the hotel prides itself on being an Arabian fairytale.
They describe the experience as respect and honour for the past written in every stone and fabric which is more than evident in every corner of the hotel.
It is in a prime location along the Corniche and the perfect place to stay or visit and marvel at the incredible architecture.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Abu Dhabi?
September is considered a shoulder month, it is still quite hot but tolerable early morning and in the evenings.
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