According to the World Atlas, Dubai is one of the top most-visited cities in the world. Data from the emirate’s Department of Economic Development indicates Dubai had 15.8 million visitors in 2017.
Dubai’s tourism figures bottomed out during the pandemic. However, Dubai’s tourism is rising, with the emirate logging 4.88 million visitors in 2021. Data from the Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing indicates that hotel apartments in Dubai had record-high occupancy rates of 83% in January 2021.
If you plan to make your way to Dubai this year, here are the top three places tourists (especially first-time) tourists to Dubai must see.
They’re like the Eiffel Tower to Paris, the Leaning Tower of Pisa to Pisa, the Palace of Westminster to London, and the Colosseum to Rome. In a similar fashion, these three destinations are quintessentially Dubai.
If you’re ready, read on.
Who could forget that epic movie scene when the character Ethan Hunt scales the 828-metre-high Burj Khalifa, climbing from the 123rd floor to the 130th floor clad in nothing but aerodynamic clothing, equipped with nothing other than special suction gloves and a glass cutter?
Who could hold back a gasp of alarm as Ethan lost the use of his right glove? Who didn’t choke as he almost fell to his death while cutting glass and, again, as he swung on a line, using his momentum to swoop back into his hotel suite — and missed?
Tom Cruise and company’s scenes from Burj Khalifa are unquestionably some of the most memorable scenes in “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.” It also forever etched Burj Khalifa in people’s minds as a must-see destination in Dubai.
Trivia: The film “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol” was released in December 2011 and became one of the highest-grossing films in the Mission: Impossible franchise. The following year, in 2012, Dubai logged a record-breaking 10 million visitors, a 9.3% increase from the previous year.
Indeed, Burj Khalifa has become an icon, and first-time visitors to Dubai, especially, naturally want to go there.
The Burj Khalifa Experience
Burj Khalifa is a 160-storey tower located in Dubai Downtown. Even if you’re not a Mission: Impossible fan, this building is still worth a visit as it is currently the world’s tallest building.
Naturally, you’d want to experience what it’s like to be peering down the world from the world’s tallest building. If you’d like an unbeatable view of Dubai, head on over to The Lounge at levels 152 to 155. At The Lounge, you can enjoy coffee, tea, wines, and canapes at 585 metres above the ground and a tour at an outdoor terrace.
You can also experience the views from one of the At The Top observation decks on levels 124, 125 and 148. The trip to level 124 includes a ride in a fast double-deck elevator and a public outdoor observation terrace. Level 125 has a spacious public viewing deck with 360-degree views, a green screen for special effects photography, Arabic mashrabiya décor, virtual reality experiences (scaling the outside of the building or parachuting off it), and a special effects skywalk glass floor.
Burj Al Arab
This is one of the world’s most famous buildings. Even if you didn’t know its name, you’ve probably seen its likeness somewhere in a magazine, on a website or in other places both online and offline.
Burj Al Arab is one of the world’s most luxurious hotels, with its 780-square-metre Royal Suite fetching an average price of USD 24,000 per night. It uses some of the world’s rarest eiderdown duvets and has a pillow menu. That’s a thing? Yes, it is, and you can choose from 17 types of pillows from that menu.
In line with its luxury branding, the hotel has opulent interiors lavishly decorated with 24-carat gold-leaf embellishments. The hotel uses more than 30 different types and over 24,000 metres of Statuario marble in walls and flooring, the same type of marble used in some of Michelangelo’s famous sculptures. Additionally, the hotel’s Japanese restaurant has the world’s largest Swarovski crystal ceiling, adorned as it is with 21,000 crystals worth approximately USD 354,000.
Finally, a must-not-miss destination in Burj Al Arab is The Terrace, a 10,000-square-metre platform with a freshwater family pool with a swim-up bar, an adult-only saltwater infinity pool with four Jacuzzis, a beach, a restaurant, and cabanas.
The Burj Al Arab Tour
You can get on a guided group tour, each group composed of up to 12 persons and leaving at 15-minute intervals. The tour will let you take stock of the 18-storey-high atrium and the ultra-luxe Royal Suite. There is also an option to add extras like the Ultimate Gold Cappuccino, an afternoon tea, a glass of champagne at an outdoor venue, or even a meal at one of the hotel’s restaurants.
The Burj Al Arab tour is available from 9:30 in the morning until 8:30 in the evening. You can get the tickets online or from Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
IMAGINE is a spectacular, 360-degree fountain show held daily on Festival Bay at Dubai Festival City. This light, sound and water show launched in 2017 and broke two records in its first year.
Its premiere show, Stardancer, was an 893-square-metre light projection that won IMAGINE the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest water screen projection. A few months later, another IMAGINE show, A Child’s Dream, was launched and transformed the InterContinental Hotel into a digital projection canvas. This won the show the Guinness World Record for the world’s largest permanent projection mapping.
IMAGINE is free to watch. For the best experience, though, find yourself a good vantage point.
Of course, the best place to watch is the bay area of the Dubai Festival City Mall. However, you can avoid the crowd by finding a bay-facing restaurant and catch the show from there.
The show begins at sundown and plays hourly until 11 p.m. Sit it out for a few rotations if you want to catch more than one show.
The Top Three Dubai Sights
If you’re a first-time visitor to Dubai, there are certain sights you must see. They’re just so quintessentially Dubai that you must include them in your list of Dubai sightseeing stops. And at the top of that list goes Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab and Dubai Festival City’s IMAGINE fountain show.