Dubai, the largest city in the UAE, consummate conglomerate, tourism hotspot and seat of global business – it’s a city that captures everyone’s imagination. But suppose you don’t have a great deal of time to spend in Dubai to enjoy this mega-glamourous city. Suppose you have one day in Dubai, and at that, one day in transit. How do you enjoy the city, its skyscrapers such as the Burj Khalifa and its many sights and attractions? Well, you need some help there and that’s where we come in. Let us guide you on how to make your one day in Dubai count and count hard.


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Dubai Skyscrapers

Here’s how to spend one day in Dubai


The Metro Tour

One of the least expensive ways to check out Dubai is via the city’s Red Line Metro, which sits conveniently just outside the airport. You can purchase the normal or VIP ticket, with the VIP ticket giving you access to the first carriage with glass ceilings. Spend part of your one day in Dubai enjoying the sights of Dubai all the way to the end of Sheikh Zayed Road and back. Sheikh Zayed Road is lined with most of Dubai’s famous landmarks such as the Burj Khalifa. What better way to spend part of your one day in Dubai?

Tip: Apply for automatic passport scanning at the UAE Smart Gates and avoid queueing up at immigration to save time.

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Dubai Metro

Alternatively, the Big Bus Tour

If you want a more detailed tour and you’re willing to invest 5-6 hours exploring the city, then sign up for the Big Bus Hop-on-Hop-Off tour. You can grab the bus from multiple points including at the airport. You can spend several hours exploring the city, hopping off to shop at Dubai Mall or the Mall of the Emirates and even get to enjoy the Burj Khalifa At The Top experience. Don’t forget to check out the Dubai Aquarium where you can walk underwater and get up close to sharks, manta rays, sting rays and a horde of other exotic marine life. There’s a big bus every 15 minutes and there are many stops all over Dubai. When you’re done exploring a particular attraction, just hop on the next bus with your ticket and move on to the next attraction. You can take as much or as little time to explore Dubai using the big bus option – it’s up to you.

Tip: The big bus tour takes you to old Dubai as well, so you can see the whole of Dubai and explore select attractions for an entire day on the big bus tour.


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Big Bus Dubai

Grab a Taxi Instead

A taxi is the most expensive of Dubai’s transport options, but it’s worth in the sense that you can go where you want to go instead of following a fixed route. Hire a taxi at the airport, tuck away your luggage and browse the city’s highlights. Check out Ski Dubai at the enormous Mall of Emirates. Shop at the Dubai Mall’s famous souks for jewelry and fashion. Enjoy a meal at the Dubai Mall’s food court. Visit the Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Beach Walk. Cross the bridge to the Palm Islands and drive around. Check out old Dubai – visit the souks and markets of Bur Dubai and Deira and bargain for spices, perfumes, carpets and pashmina shawls.

Tip: Keep the meter on and decide on the exact fare estimate beforehand to avoid confusion with the taxi driver.


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Souvenirs in Dubai Market


Things to Do and See

With just one day in Dubai here are the attractions that are simply must-visit and things that are simply must-do.

The Dubai Creek

Cross the Dubai Creek in the abra, the traditional water boat, by paying a mere 1 AED. Visit the small and beautiful Sheikh Mohammed Mosque.

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Abra Dubai


Dubai’s Traditional Souks

Browse the narrow alleyways of Dubai’s souks and get the feel of a city that hasn’t changed a bit in a century. You’ll hear loud haggling, and smell the incredible smell of coffee beans being roasted and the smell of perfumes and spices will hit you long before you step close to a stall. Visit the spice, gold and perfume souks of Deira and Bur Dubai for an authentic Middle Eastern experience. Check out window after window of stalls filled with the most extravagant and expensive 22 and 24-carat gold. Each spice stall has mounds of spices stacked up outside it and the air is filled with the delectable aroma of nutmeg, turmeric, cinnamon and cardamom.


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Dubai Souk

Miracle Garden

It’s very hard to grow greenery in the Middle East, given its dry climate. That’s what makes the Dubai Miracle Garden so very impressive. This garden is filled with about 100 million blooming and colourful flowers that are designed into fabulous sculptures of art.


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Dubai Miracle Garden

Dubai Mall

Touted as the second largest mall in the world, the Dubai Mall has over 1000 retail outlets in 4 fabulously rich looking levels. The largest mall in the world is apparently the Edmonton Mall in Canada. The food court has 800+ eateries, apart from a multiplex called Reel Cinemas with more theatres than you can believe. The Dubai Mall is also home to the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, a definite draw for kids and adults alike.


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Dubai Mall

Dubai Frame

The incredibly beautiful Dubai Frame is recently completed and open to visitors. The Frame is supposed to represent the present, from which one can look into the past and the future. Located in Zabeel Park, the Dubai Frame is 152 meters tall and has a glass-bottomed bridge connecting the two vertical columns which make for a fun and slightly scary observatory.


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Dubai Frame


Dubai Fountains

The world’s largest choreographed fountain system, the Dubai Fountains shoots of jets of water as high as 140 metres, which is about the height of a 45 story building. You’ll see a fabulously choreographed performance every 30 minutes with a different piece of music each time.


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Dubai Fountains


Burj Khalifa

You’ll have to book your tickets in advance to get to the observatory deck on the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa, but it’s so very worth it. The building is simply spectacular – it spirals up, piercing the clouds with its spire that’s hard to see from below. Standing proudly at 829 meters, the Khalifa should be on your list of ‘absolutely not-to-miss’ attractions while in Dubai for a day.


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Burj Khalifa


If you manage to enjoy the above attractions on your day’s outing in Dubai, you’re doing a great job! You’ll love exploring Dubai so much on your stopover or your day’s break that you’ll soon want to spend a longer sojourn in this glam city.


About Neha

A postgraduate in Mass Communications, Neha loves everything about life. Travelling is extremely close to her heart and writing came to her naturally. An avid trekker & explorer, who often takes off some time from her busy life for mountaineering, she loves meeting new people & gets attached to their culture very easily. Her ambition is to explore as many places as she can in her life. She strongly believes in Gandhian principle – “simple living high thinking”.


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  1. Great overview of things to do in Dubai! As a big hub for travel, I’d imagine a quick 1-day layover must be common. It’s hard to choose from your list what I would prioritize! The Burj Khalifa for sure, and the Miracle Garden and spice markets too!

    • Thank you! The one-day layover is quite common in Dubai. The Burj is incredible and I also loved the spice markets. The souk has such an exotic feel to it and the smells take me to faraway places.

  2. What a great article. When I think about how much I did in my three days in Dubai, I wouldn’t ever imagine being able to visit for only a day, but this is a great list of how to actually make it happen. Somehow I actually managed to miss the Dubai Frame and Miracle Gardens when I was there. Maybe they’re new..? I’ll just have to go back someday. Maybe for Dubai 2020.

    • The Frame is new. It opened in Jan this year. The Gardens were opened in 2013. I love Dubai because there is always something new to see. I am sure that by 2020 there will be a whole lot more to add to this list!

  3. I find Hop On – Hop Off buses to be great for sightseeing when you are short with the time. Good to know you can hop on on one in Dubai just at the airport!

  4. We still have Dubai on our bucket list and we haven’t been yet because we wouldn’t have loved to see just another modern metropolis. I’m glad they have saved the traditional souks tho, it’s one of the things we’d enjoy!

  5. I lived in Dubai years ago, but it is amazing how much the city has changed! I have to take a trip to visit the Miracle Garden and go up the top floors of Burj Khalifa.

  6. I love Dubai! I think because it reminds us a bit of the years that we lived in Las Vegas. The dancing fountain show is a must. The Miracle Garden and the Dubai Frame weren’t there the last time we visited Dubai and I’d like to go back.

  7. Great overview and handy as I havent been to the UAE yet. Apart from all the major tourist spots what I have heard about, I never heard of the Dubai Frame. Thats a new one on me and would love to check it out.

    • Glad you enjoyed it. There is always something new to see in Dubai. The Frame opened in Jan this year. Dubai is an interesting place to visit. I hope you get there one day.

  8. Dubai had never been on my radar really but I’m starting to reconsider as I read more about what there is to see, do and most importantly, EAT! Looks like the metro makes it easy to get around, and I’m happy taking buses too and definitely crossing the Dubai Creek on an abra! The traditional souks are what appeal to me the most, I’m not so interested in the shiny luxury buildings, but also like the look of the Miracle Garden. That said, the Dubai Frame is pretty cool looking!

  9. We had one evening, an overnight layover so a friend picked us up and we got to go to the Dubai Mall, the Dubai Fountains and Burj Khalifa. Too bad the Dubai Frame wasn’t there yet!

  10. Tons of things to do in Dubai and people only go shopping. We missed the bus this year too and now its too hot to go. Maybe winters then. Dubai Frame is such a unique concept.

    • Dubai is murder in the summer. I love shopping, but I do very little in Dubai. I can shop at home. I would much rather be out and about enjoying what the country has to offer.


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