14 historical places to visit in Abu Dhabi for the culture vulture.
As many residents of the capital city will tell you, Abu Dhabi is not lacking when it comes to cultural attractions.
The city and emirate are epi-centres of UAE, Emirati and Bedouin culture with institutions that cover religion, language, history, arts, poetry, animals and more.
But in keeping with its cosmopolitan population, Abu Dhabi also has its fair share of wonderful international cultural attractions to please the eyes of expats and visitors alike.
Here is the ultimate guide to Abu Dhabi’s cultural attractions.
SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE
Arguably the most iconic image of the capital and perhaps the best-known cultural attraction in Abu Dhabi is the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Boasting the largest hand-woven carpet in the world as well as one of the biggest chandeliers, the place of worship opened in December 2007. Free to enter, the Mosque is also a perfect place to watch the sunrise over Abu Dhabi. For more information visit szgmc.gov.ae
QASR AL WATAN
The Presidential Palace gleams on the Corniche and is a must-see Abu Dhabi cultural attraction. Providing some of the most beautiful examples of Islamic architecture, you can explore this majestic building and see the Great Hall, the Library and gardens thanks to daily guided tours. And from 7.30pm, you can be dazzled by the kaleidoscopic Palace In Motion Lightshow. For more information visit qasralwatan.ae
QASR AL HOSN
The beating heart at the centre of Abu Dhabi is its oldest building, Qasr Al Hosn. Known as the White Fort, guests can explore the renovated fort and museum that has been standing in place since 1761. As well as learning about the history of Abu Dhabi, you can also check out the Cultural Foundation which hosts various exhibitions and Abu Dhabi Children’s Library based at the same complex. And if you are in Abu Dhabi in the last week of November, make sure to visit the Al Hosn Festival which showcases everything about UAE culture including food, music, arts and crafts and more. For more information visit qasralhosn.ae
THE FOUNDERS MEMORIAL
Some 1,327 geometric shapes illuminated by 2000 lights make this Abu Dhabi cultural attraction one of the most fascinating in the whole of the UAE. Projecting a 3D image of His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan, the sculptural display is located beside Emirates Palace and visitors can arrange free guided tours. For more information visit thefoundersmemorial.ae
WAHAT AL KARAMA
Meaning the ‘Oasis of Dignity’, Wahat Al Karama honours the sacrifice UAE nationals have made in active service for the country. Consisting of 31 aluminum-clad tablets that are inscribed with quotes and poetry, this Abu Dhabi cultural attraction is a prime place for those looking for a quiet place to reflect. For more information visit wahatalkarama.ae
UAE HERITAGE VILLAGE
This Abu Dhabi cultural attraction provides you with a peek at what Bedouin life was like in the city. Run by the Emirates Heritage Club, the UAE Heritage Village offers displays of traditional Bedouin housing, pottery and weaving workshops and a traditional souk. And when you have finished exploring, you can look across the water to take in the stunning Abu Dhabi skyline. For more information check out visitabudhabi.ae
LOUVRE ABU DHABI
The world-famous arts museum resides in Saadiyat Island’s burgeoning cultural district. An easy Abu Dhabi cultural attraction to spot because of its nest shaped dome, the museum hosts numerous exhibitions throughout the year for culture vultures and aesthetes to admire and enjoy. But art and historical artefacts and not the only things to do at Louvre Abu Dhabi with yoga classes, sunset and sunrise kayaking as well as food and drinks at Le Marta Lounge, are just some of the fantastic activities at the landmark. For more information visit louvreabudhabi.ae
ABU DHABI FALCON HOSPITAL
Leaving the hustle and bustle of the capital, we are heading to Sweihan to see the legendary Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital. A culturally significant animal to Beoudin travellers throughout the centuries, the hospital tends to injured or unwell falcons. Visitors can enjoy a pre-booked two-hour tour of the facility which will provide for close-up encounters with the birds and even an operation. For more information visit falconhospital.com
Heading to Al Ain
AL AIN PALACE MUSEUM
The royal residence of the UAE’s Founding Father, this Abu Dhabi cultural attraction in the heart of Al Ain offers you a glimpse at what life was before the discovery of oil in the country. Having been restored, you can take in the museum that is dedicated to the Al Nayhan family. For more information visit abudhabiculture.ae
QASR AL MUWAIJI
The birthplace of the UAE’s second president His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed al Nayhan, Qasr Al Muwaiji allows visitors to learn about the history of the fortress as well as its role as a host to visiting travellers and the importance of water to its survival and success. For more information visit qasralmuwaiji.ae
FUTURE ABU DHABI CULTURAL ATTRACTIONS
NATURAL HISTORY MUSEUM ABU DHABI
Another museum that will be taking up residence at Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District, the Natural History Museum Abu Dhabi promises to be one of the top Abu Dhabi cultural attractions when it opens in 2025. Highlights will include a 39-foot long Tyrannosaurus rex, ‘Stan’ who is more than 67 million years old as well as numerous significant artefacts, immersive displays and galleries. For more information visit abudhabiculture.ae
ZAYED NATIONAL MUSEUM
Telling the story of the late Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, this Abu Dhabi cultural attraction celebrates the Founding Father of the United Arab Emirates and his achievements. Galleries will educate visitors on education, conservation, the environment, sustainability, heritage and culture. Designed by Lord Norman Foster, the Zayed National Museum will be a public and civic building and a centre of learning and discussion. For more information visit abudhabiculture.ae
GUGGENHEIM ABU DHABI
An exciting development for the art fans of Abu Dhabi, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi will finally open its doors to the public in the year 2025. The Frank Gehry designed Abu Dhabi branch is expected to host 600 pieces of work over 320,000 feet. We are told the design will make it one of Abu Dhabi’s most instantly recognisable cultural attractions. For more information abudhabiculture.ae
The newest announcement for Saadiyat Island’s Cultural District is the superb, immersive teamLAB Phenomena. Known as the home of infinite curiosity, this Abu Dhabi cultural attraction will offer up a stunning array of interactive and memorising art pieces. For more information abudhabiculture.ae
Follow Yalla UAE for more Abu Dhabi cultural attractions to come.