24 Hours in Abu Dhabi: 6 Free Things to Do

Abu Dhabi represents extravagance and luxury at its finest order, but that doesn’t mean you have to break the bank to enjoy this city. Here are 6 things I did on my recent layover in Abu Dhabi.

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates[Image Credit: juliofcn]

1. Qasr al Hosn Exhibition

Modernized Gulf cities like Abu Dhabi and its sister city Dubai are often criticized for diluting their cultural identity. A visit to this exhibition provides a glimpse into the distant past of Abu Dhabi’s humble beginning as a fishing community.

There are paintings, writings and videos of elders sharing their memoirs of how their lives were like as the capital evolved—firstly through pearling economy, and finally, with the discovery of oil. Qasr al Hosn is a pinch of soul hidden behind the shadow of the ever-growing skyscrapers—certainly well worth the find.

2. Al Ittihad Square

Modernity with a touch of heritage. This square is filled with huge monuments shaped after traditional Arab lamps and teapots. Perfect to fill your Instagram feeds with.

3. The Promenade

When the weather is not too hot, you should absolutely take a leisure stroll along the promenade, with beautiful azure blue coast on one side and the bustling metropolis on the other side. I walked the long stretch from Abu Dhabi Beach through Al Sunil Beach to Corniche Beach. I underestimated the length of time it’d take to finish the stretch, but I would recommend you to spend at least half an hour then take a bus to below attraction.

4. Etihad Towers

At the end of your promenade walk, you’ll come across the iconic view of five towers standing side by side which has become synonymous with Abu Dhabi’s modern ambitions. In here, you will also find some of the most expensive and exclusive boutique shops.

5. Emirates Palace

Nothing huge. Just the world’s second most expensive hotel ever built. Good news is… it’s free to enter, but you have to make sure you’re relatively well-dressed. I spent quite a bit of time walking through this place, admiring the beautiful roofs, stairs and decorations. And of course, chilling at the air-conditioned lobby, much needed in the city’s merciless heat.

6. Sheikh Zayed Mosque

I have saved the best for the last. Sheikh Zayed Mosque is well worth the hype and certainly the most beautiful mosque I’ve seen yet. I love the glistening white pillars with floral motifs, but it’s even more beautiful during the evening as it shines with a hint of blue and orange. Make sure you join the free guided tour as the interior is delicate and gorgeous in its own.

What are your favorite places in Abu Dhabi?

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