24 Hours in Dubai: Your Perfect One-Day Itinerary

downtown Dubai 24 hours itinerary travel guide

Dubai, world famous for its futuristic architecture, luxury shopping, energetic nightlife scene, over-the-top sights, and cosmopolitan living, is a popular spot for a layover. You could spend months in this city and still not get through all of its attractions, sights, and things to do. However, since you’re pressed for time and only have 24 hours in Dubai, I’ve got you sorted with this awesome 1-day itinerary filled with the best that this city has to offer.

How can you see everything the city has to offer in one day? And when you only have 24 hours to spend in a city like Dubai, it becomes a challenge.

This constantly changing Emirate is home to the world’s largest shopping mall, the tallest building in the world, the world’s largest dancing fountains, the world’s largest water park…

Do not stress: I am here to help… Continue reading to discover a comprehensive guide on how to enjoy the best of Dubai in 24 hours.

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Visit Dubai 24 hours architecture skyline city

How To Make the Most of Dubai in 24 Hours: What To Do

With only 24 hours to explore Dubai, you have to be strategic in how you plan your day, the sights you intend on seeing, and the order in which you decide to do so.

You may just enjoy your time here so much that you contemplate a longer stay or even decide to buy an apartment in Dubai so that you can come and go as you please.

Time is of the essence. Check out this itinerary and travel plan to help you get the most out of your limited but valuable 24 hours in Dubai.

24 hours Dubai Arabian desert hotair balloon

Ok, let’s get going…

Hot air balloon flight in the early morning

Can you think of a better way to explore the emirate than to witness its endless desert dunes and the Dubai skyline in the distance? The silence of the desert, the early morning, and the warm sun will give you a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in all this, because you are in the vibrant city of Dubai.

The hot air balloon flight starts early in the morning, ridiculously early. However, I can guarantee that it’ll be worth the early rise as you witness the sun rise over the Hajar mountains. When you return to earth, you will enjoy a delicious breakfast in the Bedouin camp, the opportunity to get up close to some falcons and a bit of time to admire the spectacular photos captured during your time in the sky.

Fortunately, there are many places in Dubai offering hot air balloon flights. Many of them are ready to pick you up from your place of residence and then bring you back. The package offer also includes breakfast in the desert. Start searching for an affordable offer and book a balloon flight right away.

Explore the historic district of Al Fahidi

How do you like the idea of getting to know Dubai a little more through the history of the city? The historic Al Fahidi district or Bastakia, located in Bur Dubai, offers a glimpse into the pre-oil era of the UAE.

Being one of the oldest districts in the country, it dates back to the 1900s. A walking tour through the winding streets and bustling courtyards of the historic Al Fahidi district will give you a unique look at Dubai’s heritage in one day.

Here, you will also find museums and art galleries. Get the most out of your 24 hours in Dubai and explore other attractions of the city that will take you back to a time when Dubai was not the city of skyscrapers as we know it today.

Be sure to try a snack at the Arabic tea house and visit the Dubai Museum.

Take a ride on an Abra

Don’t miss the Dubai Creek and the opportunity to ride on an Abra for a unique way of viewing the city. This experience simply cannot be left out from this list of what to see in Dubai in 24 hours.

In many ways, old Dubai still exists in this dynamically changing city. One of Dubai’s oldest means of transport, the abra, is the best way to see old parts of Dubai from the water.

Get on one of the motorized wooden boats at the Bur-Dubai-Abra station. Take a 5-minute drive around Dubai Bay, admiring the unique view of the old parts of the city, get off the boat in Deira and immerse yourself in the atmosphere of old Dubai.

Tickets for the Bur-Dubai-Deira route are not sold in advance — you pay the boat driver AED 1 for the trip during boarding. This authentic form of entertainment is also the cheapest way to get from Bur Dubai to Deira.

Desert in Dubai in 24 hours

While in Deira, don’t miss the opportunity to….

Visit the souk markets

Colorful bazaars in Dubai existed before the emirate became the megacity it is today. So if you want to see the best of Dubai in 24 hours, add these vibrant spots to your list.

Most of Dubai’s traditional souks are to be found in Deira. The famous gold market of Deira, the market of spices, perfumes, and textiles are the most sought-after market places.

Do not forget to bargain to get the best deals.

Lunch with a view of the Dubai Canal

One of the newer attractions of the city is the impressive Dubai Water Canal.

This beautiful place, located in Business Bay, is accessible by taxi or metro. Take a walk around this architectural wonder along the embankment during your shot stay in Dubai to enjoy the surroundings. Follow this with a midday meal in one of the cafés on the embankment.

What to do in Dubai in the evening?

Dubai is as beautiful in the evening as it is in the early morning. Following the setting of the sun, the city gets transformed into a kaleidoscope of colour. Here is some ideas on some special entertainment for the evening during your 24 hours in Dubai.

Take a stroll along the Palm Jumeirah promenade

What could be better than an evening walk with a view of both the Dubai skyline on one side and the Persian Gulf on the other?

The Palm Jumeirah embankment stretches for 11 kilometers along the crescent of the island, which is surrounded by the “palm branches” of this artificial island. A quiet walk along this stretch of the embankment will give you a wonderful perspective of this sparkling middle eastern megalopolis.

The boardwalk on the Palm Jumeirah is also filled with numerous food vans, so now may be a good time to grab a bite if you’re feeling a little peckish.

24 hours in Dubai tourism beach desert marina

Meet the sunset at the top of the world

Take a trip from old Dubai to new Dubai and climb to the top of the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa. This will give you the best opportunity to see a breathtaking view of the city that sprawls out below.

The observation deck of the famous tower at the Top Burj Khalifa on the 124th floor, 828 meters high, has floor-to-ceiling glass windows for the perfect view. While here, see if you can spot important landmarks such as Burj al Arab, the Mir Islands, and several skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed Road.

Whether you’re traveling in a group or as a solo traveler in Dubai, a visit to the Burj Khalifa is a must visit.

It is cheaper to book tickets in advance and buy them online on the official At The Top website. Tickets cost AED 159 for adults and AED 124 for children under 12 years old.

No visit to Dubai in 24 hours is complete without doing some shopping. So be sure to…

Visit Dubai Mall

As you are now in the heart of Dubai, how about some retail therapy in one of the world’s largest shopping malls?

Dubai Mall is one of the most popular places to visit in the city and features its very own aquarium and theme park. This shopping paradise encompasses numerous international brands, excellent restaurants, and fantastic tourist attractions.

It will take more than a day to explore this huge shopping mall and everything it has to offer. However, an evening will be sufficient for you to do some quick shopping and to get a feel for what’s on offer.

This mega shopping centre, the second largest mall in the world with the size of 50 football fields, accommodates over 1,200 stores! Within the stores of the Dubai Mall, you’re guaranteed to find something for you and your loved ones: from the latest clothing brands to gadgets and entertainment.

And if you are hungry, visit the restaurants in the Dubai Mall for a plethora of international snacking options.

Once your shopping is done, be sure to visit the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo to marvel at one of the world’s largest suspended aquariums. The Dubai Mall is certainly one of the best places to see during your 24 hours in Dubai.

Have dinner with a beautiful view

If you are not fatigued with beautiful views just yet and are thinking of cool places to visit during your 24-hour stay in Dubai, pay attention to the Dubai Fountain. This local attraction is much loved by both locals and tourists.

Enjoy a delicious meal at one of the many restaurants overlooking the spectacular view. You will find several restaurants on the lake embankment with a magnificent view of the fountain show. This mesmerising dancing fountain, found on Lake Burj Khalifa, is one of the largest choreographic fountain systems in the world.

The shows take place every 30 minutes from 17:45 to 23:30. The fountain, synchronised to the rhythm of popular tracks from around the world, shoots water up to 150 m high and is a delight for the senses.

You can also go for a boat ride on the Dubai Fountain Lake to see the dancing water jets up close. Tickets cost AED 65 and can be purchased on the embankment near the Dubai Mall.

Alternatively, opt to view the city by climbing aboard a Dhow cruise for a two-hours trip on the water to view the bewitching skyline and scenery of Dubai after dark.

24 hour stopover Itinerary Dubai city skyline things to do

Other Frequently Asked Questions 

— What else to do in Dubai?

Do you have the opportunity to stay a little while longer in the UAE? If your stay in Dubai lasts longer than 24 hours you have a host of potential activities and attractions to add to your Dubai to-do list. These include Desert safaris, the Dubai Miracle Garden, Global Village, Jumeirah Mosque, Wild Wadi Water Park, and other thrilling theme parks.

— What entertainment is available for free?

You may be surprised to learn that there is plenty to do in Dubai that don’t cost an arm and a leg. Some of the most popular free activities in Dubai include trips to the arts district, the Coffee Museum, Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, and visits to other numerous parks and beaches.

— What kind of entertainment is best suited for a family visiting Dubai?

When it comes to family activities in Dubai, you have a plethora of options. These include everything from trips to water parks, zoos, and museums to a day at a theme park or the beach.

To get you started, here are a couple of my favourite places to visit in Dubai with kids: IMG Worlds of Adventure, Kite Beach, OliOli, KidZania, Global Village, Atlantis Aquaventure Water Park, Aventura Parks, The Green Planet, and of course LEGOLAND.

— Do you need a visa to visit Dubai?

Citizens of many countries do not require a visa or permit or to be sponsored by a national or resident in the UAE and are able to enter the country visa-free for a period of 30 days.

However, residents of certain countries must arrange for a Dubai visa before arriving in the UAE. It is best to check with your embassy or consulate to receive the most up to date information.

Burj al arab 7 star hotel Dubai in 24 hours

Final thoughts

I hope this guide has given you the perfect introduction to your 24 hours in Dubai stay. It will, no doubt, be a fun, eventful, and tiring day. However, the sights, tastes, memories, and good times will be something that stays with you for a long time.

Of course, the city has much more to offer. Other must-do activities that you can include in your itinerary include a visit to Dubai’s Golden Frame, Atlantis The Palm, and La Mer with entertainment on the beach.

Whatever you decide, I hope you have an amazing time in this lively city. If you need any other travel tips or advice, be sure to reach out and I’ll be more than happy to help you out.

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2 Responses

  1. Gold says:

    TIP: Don’t spend your long Dubai layover sitting at the airport. Even if you only have half a day, you can see some of the city. If you still have to book your flights through Dubai, see if you can squeeze at least one night in Dubai into your itinerary. It will be worth it!

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