If you’re looking for things to do in Dubai on a layover, you’ve come to the right place. 

Unleash the secret to an electrifying one-day adventure in the City of Gold! Immerse yourself in the enchanting alleys of Old Dubai, ascend to the dizzying heights of the Burj Khalifa, and gaze out at the breathtaking Dubai skyline. Our expert tips and suggestions are your treasure map for your one day in Dubai itinerary. We want to ensure you squeeze every drop of excitement from your brief stay in the Emirates.

Visiting Dubai Old City

Exploring Old Dubai is like walking through a gateway to the past, where the vibrant energy of traditional markets fills the air. Here, amidst the lively bazaars, one can find a world untouched by time, offering a blend of sights, sounds and aromas that leave a lasting impression.

Gold Souk

Shelves of ornate gold bracelets and necklaces on display in a Dubai souk.

The Gold Souk stands at the heart of this historical maze, a bustling market where the tradition of haggling over jewelry transforms shopping into an exciting game. Brimming with gold, silver, and precious stones, this marketplace showcases Dubai’s rich trading legacy, inviting visitors to partake in its golden splendor.

Savor the Spice Souk

Assorted spices and herbs displayed in large, clear containers at a market.

Not far from the gleam of the Gold Souk, the Spice Souk awaits, a sensory treasure trove of fragrances and colors. This market is a paradise for the senses, with stalls piled high with exotic spices, from saffron’s golden threads to cinnamon’s earthy sticks. The vibrant atmosphere, marked by the mingling scents of frankincense, shisha, and locally blended teas, transports visitors to an era of ancient trade and commerce.

Cross the Dubai Creek

A traditional wooden abra boat with a canopy on the calm waters of Dubai Creek.

Crossing Dubai Creek on an Abra, the traditional wooden boat, offers a unique perspective on the city’s history. This simple yet profound experience, costing only one Dirham, connects the present with the past, allowing for a serene moment amidst the bustling city life.

Old Dubai’s culinary scene is a delight, with local dishes like melt-in-your-mouth falafel and irresistibly sweet treats capturing the essence of regional flavors. Nearby, the Jumeirah Mosque and Alserkal Avenue contrast cultural exploration, from the serene beauty of Islamic architecture to the cutting-edge creativity of contemporary art galleries, each calling for a deeper exploration of Old Dubai’s rich cultural fabric.

Exploring La Mer 

Sun loungers line the sandy shore of La Mer Beach with a waterpark in the distance.

La Mer is a vibrant spot combining beach fun with scenic beauty. Wander through its outdoor shopping areas, enjoy the fresh breeze, and choose between unwinding or indulging in seafood at a welcoming café. It’s a place where entertainment, dining, and shopping come together against stunning views, appealing to everyone. The area is further enhanced by its colorful street art and the breathtaking sunsets over the beaches.

Jumeirah Mosque

Close by, the Jumeirah Mosque introduces a touch of tradition to La Mer’s modern ambiance. This blend of the ancient and the contemporary creates a unique atmosphere that’s rare to find elsewhere.

The mix of Jumeirah Mosque’s tradition with La Mer’s contemporary vibe highlights Dubai’s rich heritage and modern allure distinctively.

Discover Madinat Jumeirah & The Jumeirah Area

Madinat Jumeirah's waterfront with traditional architecture under overcast skies.

Building on the distinctive blend of tradition and modernity showcased by the Jumeirah Mosque and La Mer, Dubai offers unique experiences through other remarkable destinations like Madinat Jumeirah and the Jumeirah area. These places further exemplify the city’s ability to harmonize its rich cultural heritage with luxurious contemporary living.

Madinat Jumeirah offers a cultural and luxurious experience, while the Jumeirah area showcases opulent living and leisure by the sea. Here’s what each place has to offer:

Madinat Jumeirah captures the essence of a traditional Arab village with modern luxury, featuring:

  • Elegant hotels for a comfortable stay.
  • A souk with over 75 shops for a variety of shopping experiences.
  • Canals for scenic boat rides.
  • Waterfront dining for meals with a view.
  • A spa for relaxation and pampering.

The Jumeirah Area is known for its luxurious lifestyle, offering:

  • High-end hotels and villas.
  • Beautiful beaches for relaxation and water sports.

Going Up? The Burj Khalifa

The Burj Khalifa towers over palm trees against a clear blue sky.

Ascending the Burj Khalifa is an unparalleled experience, akin to soaring on a magic carpet above Dubai’s glittering skyline. As the world’s tallest building, it boasts some of the fastest elevators, propelling you towards the sky to one of the loftiest observation decks on the planet. 

The view is nothing short of spectacular, offering a 360-degree panorama encompassing the shimmering coastline, the lively dance of the Dubai Fountain, and the vast expanse of the desert that stretches beyond the city’s gleaming edifices. The Burj Khalifa is an architectural marvel and a symbol of Dubai’s sky-high ambitions and luxurious lifestyle, encapsulated in this singular, breathtaking ascent.

Buying your tickets early is important to avoid waiting in long lines or finding out there are no tickets left. This helps make sure you take advantage of this amazing view. Be careful with your phone when you’re taking pictures. The view from the glass walls at the top is clear and stunning, making you feel like you’re on top of the world. If only finding your parked car was as easy as enjoying the view from the Burj Khalifa!

Power Shopping at Dubai Mall

Overhead view of a busy circular atrium in a Dubai shopping mall.

After experiencing the Burj Khalifa’s heights, head to the Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall, right next to the Burj Khalifa. With over 1,000 stores across four huge levels, it’s like a shopping Olympics! Navigating this retail maze can be tricky, but every corner has something new, from fashion to gadgets.

And when hunger strikes, you’re in for a treat with plenty of dining options, whether quick bites in the bustling food hall or fine dining with a view of the dancing Dubai Fountain outside. The Dubai Mall offers more than just shopping; it’s a place of entertainment with an aquarium, ice rink, and a cinema with 22 screens. It’s a must-visit for tourists and residents, providing an unforgettable mix of shopping and entertainment right in the heart of Dubai.

Dubai Fountain

Dubai Fountain show with bustling crowd and lit city skyline.

After your shopping adventure at the Dubai Mall, don’t miss Downtown Dubai’s spectacular Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa LED show. The Dubai Fountain, the world’s tallest performing fountain, comes to life every 30 minutes after sunset until 11:00 PM. It dances to catchy tunes and is a mesmerizing sight.

Around 8 p.m., the Burj Khalifa joins in with its amazing LED light show, and the best part is that it’s free to watch. A crowd gathers to see it, so finding a good spot might be a bit like a game of musical chairs, but it’s totally worth it.

If you want a special experience, you can take an abra ride to watch the show from the water. These nightly shows are a fantastic way to end your day in Dubai and soak in the city’s vibrant atmosphere.

Just remember to keep an eye on your belongings in all the excitement.

Desert Safari

Woman in white walking through vast Dubai desert dunes.

A Dubai Desert Safari is a thrilling trip. You’ll go on a wild ride over the sand dunes in a 4×4, like being on a rollercoaster made by nature. Later, you can enjoy a peaceful camel ride as the sun sets.

You can sit under the stars in the evening and have a traditional Arabic barbecue dinner while watching dancers perform. It feels like you’re far from the city in a completely different place. The safari includes exciting activities like dune bashing, camel riding, and sandboarding. You can choose from morning, evening, or overnight safaris, each offering something special.

This adventure lasts about 6 to 7 hours, so ensure it fits into your day.

Quick Tips 

Aerial view of Dubai's coastline with skyscrapers and a giant Ferris wheel.

Here are a few more excellent tips and honorable mentions offering unique experiences and insights to maximize your time exploring Dubai on a layover.

  1. Utilize the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus: Take advantage of the Hop-On Hop-Off Big Bus Sightseeing Tour to cover major attractions efficiently.
  2. Experience the Water Taxis: Use the abras (water taxis) for a fun and affordable way to cross Dubai Creek and reach the Gold and Spice Souks.
  3. Maximize Savings with the Dubai City Pass: Save on admission fees and enjoy access to multiple attractions with the Dubai City Pass.
  4. Start Early with a Hot Air Balloon Ride: Begin your day with a hot air balloon ride at dawn to witness the breathtaking desert sunrise.
  5. Explore Al Mamzar Beach Park: Visit Al Mamzar Beach Park for a relaxing day on the beach, away from the more crowded tourist spots.
  6. Fantastic View of the Dubai Skyline: Head to the Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Al Mina for a fantastic view of the iconic Dubai skyline.

Enjoy a Dhow Dinner Cruise: End your day with a Dhow Dinner Cruise at Dubai Marina for stunning nighttime views of the waterfront.

Best Places to Stay in Dubai for a Daycation or Layover Refuge

Near Old Dubai City and Dubai Creek

Hampton By Hilton Dubai Al Seef:

  • Location: Conveniently located near the Al Seef area, providing easy access to Old Dubai City and the Dubai Creek.
  • Highlights: This hotel offers a rooftop pool with stunning views of the Dubai skyline, a 24-hour fitness center, and a unique “Hampton Hub” communal area for socializing and relaxing.

Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, Curio Collection By Hilton:

  • Location: This hotel is in the Al Seef area, offering proximity to the Old Dubai City and Dubai Creek.
  • Highlights: The hotel features traditional Emirati architecture, stylish rooms with modern amenities, and various dining options showcasing local and international cuisine. Free transport to the pool, spa, and fitness center at Canopy by Hilton Dubai Al Seef.

Canopy By Hilton Dubai Al Seef:

  • Location: This hotel is near the Al Seef area, which is close to Old Dubai City and Dubai Creek. It offers convenient access to these attractions.
  • Highlights: The hotel boasts a stunning rooftop bar with panoramic views, a central location within the Al Seef district, and a focus on local experiences and cultural immersion.

Dubai Hotels Near Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall

Hilton Garden Inn Dubai Al Mina:

  • Location: This hotel is near Old Dubai City, making it a convenient option for exploring. It is also relatively close to the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall.
  • Highlights: The hotel offers a rooftop swimming pool, a 24-hour fitness center, a free shuttle service to local attractions, and a range of dining options, including an on-site restaurant serving international cuisine.

Say Hello to a Dubai Day Stay on Your Long Layover

Your one-day layover adventure in Dubai promises an unforgettable journey through a blend of history, culture and modern marvels. From the bustling alleys of Old Dubai to the breathtaking heights of the Burj Khalifa and beyond, we’ve unveiled the best of this city within a limited timeframe.

Take advantage of these incredible day stay experiences. Ready to embark on your Dubai daycation? Book with HotelsByDay.com and turn your dream day into a reality today!

Whether you partake in alcohol on your flight or not, there'll be a day use room to rest or recharge in the city you touch down.
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Merideth Sweeney

Former dental hygienist turned budding marketing pro thanks to a fateful masters program internship. When not writing for HotelsByDay, she's busy running a popular squirrel enthusiast website.

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