Abu Dhabi is a major hub for some of the best international airlines and often serves as a temporary stop over point for many passengers on route to a final destination at a beach or resort in Asia or Europe. As a result, many people find themselves with just a single day or two to explore some of the many attractions found in Abu Dhabi, a major city within the United Arab Emirates. We discuss some of the best attractions to visit if you just have one day to see Abu Dhabi.
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates. Despite being the capital of the UAE, Abu Dhabi is fairly spread out. As a result the major attractions in Abu Dhabi are not is close together as they would be in a highly populated city like Dubai (Dubai is approx. 1 hour outside of Abu Dhabi). So if you plan to visit some of these attractions, make sure you have a rental car at your disposal.
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque
The Grand Mosque was created in honor of the late president of the United Arab Emirates, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, who is buried on the grounds beside the mosque. Construction of the Mosque took nearly 20 years (1996 to 2007) and required more than 3,000 workers. It is a massive building which covers over 40 acres. As the largest mosque in the country, it is the primary place of worship for Muslims and can accommodate over 40,000 worshipers at one time.
Admission to the mosque is free. Tours are available daily and last for approx. 60 minutes. Visiting hours are 9am to 10pm daily. The Mosque is closed for tourists on Friday mornings and reopens after 4:30pm. The Grand Mosque is a 20 minute drive from Abu Dhabi international airport.
There is a dress code required at the Grand Mosque. The dress code prohibits shorts and skirts and women are required to wear a headscarf. The dress code is universally applied as it has even impacted celebrities like Selena Gomez who ran into trouble when she displayed her ankles in a picture posted to Instagram while she was visiting the Grand Mosque.
The Yas Viceroy is located within the Yas Marina Circuit which is the venue for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. The Yas Viceroy is the first luxury hotel to be built over an F1 race track. The hotel is composed of two 12 story towers. The first tower is built within the race track and the other tower is built in the marina.
The two towers are linked by a ‘grid shell’ which is 219 meters of glass and steel that covers over the two hotel towers and linked by a bridge that crosses the F1 track. The grid shell features a lighting system with video feeds transmitted over 5,000 diamond shaped, color changing glass panels.
Yas Marina is located on Yas Island which is 30 minutes away from Abu Dhabi. Yas Island itself is worth seeing and includes a theme park, a water park, and one of the world’s largest malls (370 stores and 60 restaurant and cafes). The full Yas Island experience requires at least a day just by itself.
The Observation Deck at 300
The Observation Deck at 300 is located in the Etihad Towers. The Etihad Towers are 5 towers located within the city center of Abu Dhabi. On the 74th floor of Tower 2, the Observation Deck at 300 has an observation deck (300 feet high) which offers amazing views of Abu Dhabi’s city and surrounding islands.
Entrance to the Observation Deck at 300 is free for guests staying at the Jumeirah hotel or for children under four. Visitors not staying at the hotel are charged 75 AED ($20.50 US).
You can also see the Etihad Towers in the Furious 7 movie, which included a scene with the main characters stealing a car and driving it through three of the Etihad Towers.
The Emirates Palace is a luxury hotel that was built as a landmark highlighting Arabian culture. The Palace is located on a private beach which stretches out over half a mile in length. The hotel was designed with 114 domes and over 1,000 chandeliers. The main lobby includes a large patterned dome made out of gold.
The hotel includes 302 rooms and 92 suites. Most of the 92 suites are fully furnished in gold and marble. If your interested in staying at the hotel, a night in one of the basic rooms (a coral room) will cost around $300 a night and the gold furnished suites start at $470 a night (for the Khaleej Suite) and go up to $1,566 a night (for the Palace Pearl Suite).