A visit to Abu Dhabi means the chance to experience a wealth of cultural attractions and immersive experiences. This means plenty of opportunities for families to broaden their horizons in a way that’s not only great fun, but also leaves a lasting impression.
World-class museums, grand palaces and art galleries, mangrove sanctuaries and vibrant harbourfront markets and more: discover the best things to do in Abu Dhabi for families.
A striking example of contemporary architecture, the Louvre Abu Dhabi is one of the finest museums in the UAE. Exhibitions showcase notable art, artefacts and sculptures spanning human history. Cultures from around the world are on show.
You’ll need at least a morning or afternoon to tour temporary exhibitions and the twelve galleries. Each of them centre around a theme and time period. The curation provides context about how far-flung civilizations and cultures have historically been connected. The 45-minute guided tour, available four times a day, is perfect for kids with limited concentration spans.
Designed by Pritzker-prize-winning architect Jean Nouvel, the museum's exterior is as fascinating as the exhibits within. In the central plaza, steps lead to the sea. Sunlight streams in through the interlaced geometric star design of the layered 7,500-tonne dome creating patterns on the floor. Reminiscent of the feeling of being in an oasis under a canopy of date palms, this is the ‘rain of light’ effect.
There’s a children’s museum with interactive experiences and children’s activity sessions on weekends.
Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island is nearby and offers bright, luxurious rooms with sea-facing terraces and balconies. The protected white sand beach is a popular spot for nesting turtles and humpback dolphins are often spotted in the waters along the coastline. The resort organises daily activities ideal for kids, such as kayaking, basketball, billiards and sand-castle building.
The National Aquarium Abu Dhabi is the largest aquarium in the Middle East. There are nearly 46,000 animals belonging to over 300 species, including sharks, stingrays, corals, turtles, reptiles and birds. The aquarium’s wildlife rescue program rehabilitates and releases animals rescued from abandonment, illegal poaching and trafficking.
Kids will get a real kick out of journeying through 10 zones with sunken wrecks, volcanoes, rainforests, Atlantic caves and Arctic sea ice. They’ll learn about the UAE’s pearl diving heritage, native aquatic species and other marine ecosystems.
You can tour the aquarium in a glass-bottomed boat or get up close with puffins, freshwater rays and sharks.
Home to turtles, herons, flamingoes and crabs, Jubail Mangrove Park is a pleasant change of scenery from Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions. Spread over 1 million square metres, the mangroves here are a crucial link in Abu Dhabi’s biodiversity.
A 2km boardwalk offers three routes through the park. Along the way, stop at viewing platforms and educational nodes, including a floating platform and a viewing tower.
The park has a visitor centre and cafe if you want to grab coffee or a snack. Go during high tide when the park is more picturesque. Kayaking tours of the park are also available. The park is popular with nature photographers and birdwatchers, so it’s best to book online in advance.
A visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is one of the top things to do in Abu Dhabi. A breathtaking example of Islamic architecture, the design combines Andalusian, Ottoman, Fatimid and other influences. The white marble exterior features four minarets, 82 domes and 1096 precious stone-studded columns, surrounded by reflective pools.
Inside, Moroccan artwork adorns the domes. Swarovski crystal-studded chandeliers sparkle above halls and foyers, and the world’s largest handcrafted carpet covers the floor of the main prayer hall. The mosque is open to non-Muslim visitors and is an excellent opportunity to learn about Islamic architecture and culture.
There are free 30-minute guided tours available every hour on the hour from 10 am to 8 pm every day (except Friday afternoons). Both men and women should wear full-length, modest clothing that covers the arms and knees.
Beach Rotana has comfortable and modern rooms, access to a private beach, as well as tennis and squash courts. The central location in the heart of Abu Dhabi makes it an excellent base from which to go sightseeing in the city.
With magnificent domes, elegant arches, intricate gold detailing and sumptuous rooms, Qasr Al Watan, the UAE’s presidential palace, is seriously impressive. A walking tour of the palace offers the chance to learn about the UAE’s formation, founding principles, values and present-day international relations.
Highlights include The Great Hall with its large central dome, intricate mosaic work and mirrored cubes. The Spirit of Collaboration room hosts summits under a 12-tonne, 350,000-crystal chandelier. A guided tour is a good choice for a deep dive into the architecture of the palace.
Those curious about the UAE’s contributions to various fields should stop by the House of Knowledge and Qasr Al Watan Library.
Kids will love Palace In Motion, a light and sound show that takes place outside the palace at 8 pm.
The falcon is an indispensable part of the heritage of desert-roaming Bedouins. The Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital, where thousands of falcons are cared for, is a fun place to learn more about the national bird of the UAE.
On a guided tour, you’ll visit the treatment wards, see falcon pedicures and feather repairs in action. There’s also a museum where you and the kids can learn about the history of falconry. Afterwards, witness falcons taking free flight in the aviary and get a photo with a falcon perched on your arm.
Get up close with young studs and race-bred camels at Al Ain Camel Market.
Thanks to their ability to transport goods and people across the harsh desert terrain, the region’s Bedouin tribes depended on them for survival. They continue to hold great cultural significance. Camel milk and meat are also routinely consumed in the UAE.
Visitors are welcome to walk or drive around the market that is little more than a group of livestock pens. Expect herders to invite you in to take a closer look and photograph the animals with the expectation of tips (bring small bills).
Al Ain Rotana has spacious rooms, a family-friendly pool, spa and fitness centre. It’s a great choice for families exploring the garden city of Al Ain. The resort’s six restaurants and bars offer plenty of options when it comes to dining and nightlife in the otherwise quiet city.
Housed in the traditional mud-brick Bin ʿAti Al-Darmaki House in Al Ain, Al Qattara Arts Centre is worth a visit. It’s home to fantastic art and archaeological exhibitions and cultural events.
The art gallery exhibits the work of artists from the UAE and the region. Art, pottery, calligraphy, handicraft and music classes are held in the studios at the centre.
In Al Qattara Archaeological Basement, you’ll find exhibits dating to the Iron Age. They were found during excavations when the heritage building was being turned into an arts centre.
Rent bicycles and ride the pathways of Al Ain Oasis, part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Al Ain.
Here, sunlight streams in through nearly 147,000 date palm trees and ancient falaj irrigation channels bring water from the mountains to feed the farms. Don’t forget to pick up a free map at the visitor centre.
Spend a morning wandering the many markets at Mina Zayed, Abu Dhabi’s harbour area.
At Al Mina Fruit and Vegetable Souk, browse rows of fresh produce and buy local strawberries, Indian bananas and Pakistani mangoes.
A section of the market is full of shops selling delicious dates, date-filled chocolates, nuts and dried fruits. You can ask to sample these before you buy.
A short walk away, at Al Mina Fish Market, you can buy fresh seafood such as hamour (local variety of grouper) and prawns. It will be cleaned in front of you and you can ask for it to be cooked as you like at one of the canteens.
Looking for a souvenir? Browse the nearby Carpet Souk for colourful patterned carpets and rugs.
Discover more about this beautiful city in our Rough Guides guidebooks. You might also want to see our list of where to stay in Abu Dhabi, or the most romantic holidays in Abu Dhabi. Go on the trip of your dreams with our customisable tailor-made trip itineraries to the United Arab Emirates.
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