ABU DHABI (Reuters Life!) - Visitors looking for a mix of futuristic flair, up and coming development and historic charm might enjoy spending some time in Abu Dhabi, capital of the United Arab Emirates.
Abu Dhabi is the largest and wealthiest of the UAE’s seven emirates and has most of the country’s oil reserves. While it’s not nearly as cosmopolitan as Dubai, the emirate can be more liveable. As the weather heats up in the summer, the best time to visit is October until April.
Reuters correspondents with local knowledge help visitors get the most out of a short visit to the Gulf capital, where — like other Muslim countries — the weekend starts on Thursday.
5 p.m. Visit Yas Island (www.yasisland.ae/). Spend some time taking photos of the flash boats at the Yas Marina as well as exploring Yas Hotel, a futuristic building that sits next to the Formula 1 track for Abu Dhabi's Grand Prix.
6 p.m. Grab a quick bite at one of the restaurants in the hotel. Try the sweet and sour chicken at Noodle Box, a contemporary Asian restaurant that boasts an outside terrace facing the track.
7 p.m. Attend a live concert at the Yas Arena, which has hosted past performances by Stevie Wonder, Thirty Seconds to Mars and Eric Clapton. Purchase tickets ahead of time online through www.timeouttickets.com, www.boxofficeme.com, www.thinkflash.ae or www.virginmegastore.me
9:30 p.m. Go to Skylite lounge back at Yas Island Hotel and knock back a mojito on the rooftop. You can also get some great views of the marina. Dress is smart casual.
10 a.m. After breakfast, soak up some morning sun by visiting Al Raha Beach (www.alrahabeach.com/), a popular public beach located close to the city center. For the ladies-only beach head to the West Corniche Road, leading to the Abu Dhabi Ladies Club.
Noon For lunch, try UAE’s nationwide chain, Automatic Restaurant, in the Al Markaziyah area. The Lebanese restaurant offers some of the best shawarmas, shish tawouk, which is a traditional Arabic shish kebab, and hummus in town.
1 p.m. Relax in Khalifa Park, a half a million square meter area with a museum, a 3,200 seat amphitheatre, sports area, water features, a monorail, and a number of fountains, sculptures, theme parks and restaurants. Take a ride on the Ferris wheel, appreciate the sculptures and take a ride on the train at Falcon Station.
3 p.m. Go to the famous Emirates Palace where world leaders come for conferences. Have afternoon tea in the main lobby. Not only does the menu offer some of the most delicate sandwiches, but the signature cappuccino is topped with gold flakes. If you feel like something sweet, try the green apple juice. Watch tourists in groups take photos of the lobby.
4:30 p.m. Walk around the hotel and admire the gilt and marble pillars, as well as the crystal chandeliers. Visit the Saadiyat Island Cultural District Exhibition, located off to the side of the lobby, to learn about the culture of Abu Dhabi. The project on the island, to be completed in 2020, is expected to be Abu Dhabi’s cultural center. Also, take pictures of the gold ATM located near the Harp player.
5:30 p.m. After a filling afternoon snack, get some exercise and some great views by talking a walk along the Corniche. Take photos of the Arabian Gulf and admire the far-reaching skyscrapers and construction sites in the distance.
7 p.m. Have dinner at Wasabi at the Al Diar Mina hotel, one of the best Japanese restaurants in town. Try the shrimp spring rolls on a bed of fried rice or the sushi combo boats ideal for sharing.
10 a.m. After breakfast at your hotel, take a tour of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the third largest mosque in the world, which can accommodate up to 40,000 worshippers. Once you enter the mosque, women will be given an abaya to cover up. Take a photo of one of the largest chandeliers in the world under the main dome in the prayer hall and visit the grave of the Sheikh Zayed just outside the side entrance. Don’t forget to take off your shoes before you enter the main prayer room.
11:30 a.m. Visit Heritage Village, a group of traditional buildings and a small museum that aims to educate visitors about the life of the Bedouin people. Take an opportunity to buy spices, perfumes and fragrant soap.
Noon. Have lunch at Sevilo’s in the Millennium Hotel. Voted one of the top 10 restaurants in Abu Dhabi, the Italian restaurant has adventurous items like the ostrich salad as well as classics like oven-fresh pizza. The restaurant also has a great view of the Capital Gardens.
1:30 p.m. Head indoors to Madinat Zayed Shopping Center to avoid the heat. The mall has a small selection of known brands like Nine West and G2000, but the majority of stores include jewelry, perfume and pashmina shops and stalls. Nearby is the Gold Souk, where tourists can pick from a selection of jewelry and watches.
4 p.m. Explore the area around the center, which includes Star of Market Bookshop and a mix of other stores along Al Falah Street.
Reporting by Catherine Ngai; Editing by Paul Casciato