Abra in Dubai Creek

Travelers often believe that most of the things to do in Dubai revolve around luxury and skyscrapers, Travelers visit Dubai for its posh ambiance and surround, but Dubai manages to shock everyone with its surprise element. Dubai undoubtedly holds prominence in unique outlandish architecture, glitzy high rise buildings, malls, and hotels, but there’s more to Dubai than just world-class urbanism and elegant lifestyle. Dubai shows its hidden wonders and captures your attention with history, heritage, and great local cuisine. Amid the revolutionary urban transformation of the city, Dubai has managed to preserve its ethnicity in its historical sites of old Dubai. Keeping its past alive through these pastoral sites, the other side of Dubai is a memorable journey you will remember than your sophisticated trips in Dubai. With a myriad of things to do in Old Dubai where the city’s heritage is strongly fused in its segment and elements, a tour of these precious sights is something you would not be keen on missing on your trip. For a completely different Dubai experience, check out these places on your trip.

Things to Do in Old Dubai

1. Traditional Abra in Dubai Creek

Traditional abra

The Dubai creek separates the old and the new sites in Dubai and sails down the creek gives you a clear picture of the city’s contrasting vistas. A breezy and invigorating cruise on traditional wooden boats on Dubai creek is a great way to start your journey to Dubai’s past era. Operating since the days when Dubai creek served as the fishing and pearling area, this leisure trip is a top attraction among tourists and the perfect way to view staggering contrasts of Dubai city skyline.

2. Spice Souk in Dubai

Spice Souk in Dubai

Obviously, shopping will be on any traveler’s wish list visiting Dubai as the city canvasses shopping through its extravagant range of lavish shopping malls. For an authentic traditional shopping experience away from the glitzy malls filled with squandering branded merchandise, take a walk around the lanes of Dubai Souks in Old Dubai and get the essence of local shopping. A buzzing atmosphere with spurts of colorful fabrics, endless displays of gold, enticing aromas of spices and perfume will keep you captive in specific lanes wanting to explore deeper realms of these Souks. The myriad of merchandise excels right from the originality to its quality. If you are finding things to do in Dubai with kids, these souks are favored, because the little ones love the blingy-bling and exuberance. The souks most popular to visit are the Gold Souks, Perfume Souks, Spice Souks, and Textile Souks. Wander around this charming marketplace and get the feel of the local way of trading, mingle with the locals here and try out some authentic Arabian cuisines.

3. Bastakiya District

Bastakiya District

The essence of Dubai’s origin is best observed in the Al Bastakia Quarters. An old segment of traditionally made Arabic houses with specially designed ventilation known as wind towers, the Al Bastakia Quarters takes you through its narrow alleys and sand toned structures to the time way back when Dubai was a simple pearl and fishing villages. Veiled by Dubai’s enigmatic modern transformation, the Al Bastakia Quarters preserves the Bedouin era and gives you an insight into the lifestyle of locals during the past at well maintained picturesque heritage sites which are now a part of UNESCO sites.

4. Dinner at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre

dinner at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre

The Al Bastakiya Quarters reflects the early years of Dubai and moreover embraces its original art and cuisine scene. Home to primitive Arabic houses of merchants, certain sectors and labyrinth lanes have been remodeled into art galleries and cafes. A great breather from the bustle of chaotic Dubai city rushes, this segment of Old Dubai exudes tranquillity while respecting the artistic side of Dubai. A walk through the winding narrow lanes lets you experience the genuineness of Dubai. Join in for a cultural lunch or dinner at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding – a great way to relish Arabic cuisine amid Arabian settings and people. Visit the XVA Gallery and cafe, Majlis Gallery and peek into the fusion of Middle Eastern traditional and contemporary art scenes, combine it with a trip to Arabian Tea House Cafe or Bastakia Nights for flavoursome Emirati food specialities and local treats set in the surrounds of shaded cool courtyard donned in Arabian decor, green shrubs and wall climbers.

5. Inside Dubai Museum

Inside Dubai museum

Housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai Museum is perhaps the best way to dig deeper into a real encounter with Dubai’s past. An excellent way to learn about Dubai’s historic and cultural influences, Dubai Museum is a house of fascinating collections from ancient times when Dubai was a small fishing village. The Museum showcases life-size dioramas and exhibits that recreate the lifestyle of locals before Dubai moved towards becoming one of the world’s most innovative metropolitan.

6. Dubai Heritage Village

Dubai Heritage Village

A short stroll from the Bur Dubai abra station takes you to a well preserved Arabian village cocooned away from the domineering iconic soaring structures of modern Dubai. As you step into this village, you will seemingly forget all about Dubai’s glitzy appearance. The Dubai Heritage and Diving village is set at the Al Shindagha Historical neighborhood and takes you on a journey when Dubai thrived as a humble creekside village specializing in fishing and pearling. Showcasing the bygone era culture, the village features a range of traditional houses, a souk and historic and handicraft exhibits along with food stalls offering delectable Emirati food.

7. Grand Mosque Dubai

Grand Mosque Dubai

Dubai’s leading place of worship, the Grand Mosque is an impressive restoration of its original version. The biggest mosque in Dubai is simple and undertone compared to other mosques, has plain hues with Quranic inscriptions and intricate carvings. The main attraction is the city’s tallest minaret that soars above the rest of its domes and minarets, towering over Bur Dubai and the creek making it a grand sight to visit.

Know More about Old Dubai

What to Eat in Old Dubai

Go to old Dubai to unearth some of the hidden secret recipes of the Arabian history. When visiting the area don’t forget to stop at the Qwaider Al Nabusi for a lip-smacking falafel. Dubai, a place where organically grown food is scarce, it’s hard to believe that the old area of Dubai is so full of astounding delicacies. Enjoy the delicious lamb and cheese combination called ‘Mansaf’ here that takes you back to the ancient era when spices were used to the minimal and the taste was brought in by low heat cooking. When in the old Dubai, you just can’t finish your trip to gastronomy without having the taste of ‘Kunafa’- a Palestinian dessert with cheese. Yes, you read right, it is a dessert coated with cheese coated noodles, fried in sugar syrup, an eventful evening for any foodie is a given in old Dubai.

Where to Stay in Old Dubai

Old Dubai is a favorite for backpackers. People coming to Dubai on a budget love it as it allows them to stay at cheaper rates than the urban areas of the city such as Sheikh Zayed Road, Dubai Marina and more. Not only does it offer accommodation at a cheaper rate, but it also allows you the best connectivity across the city. Yes, the metro is the cheapest way to communicate and old Dubai is well connected with the same.

Travel Tips for Old Dubai Travelers

    • When traveling to Dubai dress up modestly. Although the city has the best of the world attractions, it is still quite conservative when compared to western countries.
    • Don’t be rude. The city is extremely welcoming to tourists but you also need to remember, Arabs have zero tolerance towards abusive behavior
    • Public displays of affection must be avoided. Unlike many other countries, where it is okay to show public display of affection, UAE takes serious offense in this and it is not recommended if you’re looking for a hassle-free stay.
    • The best time to visit the city is between October to April, not just because it is the time when the city hosts some exciting festival but also because the weather is pleasant.
    • Please always be courteous to ask permission before you take any pictures. It is not taken in good regard if you take the pictures of locals, especially women without their consent.
    • Respect the public rules and regulations if you’re traveling there during the month of Ramadan. It is best to avoid travel during the holy month.
    • When you plan your itinerary, have a couple of days reserved for Old Dubai. Travelers often make the mistake of leaving only a couple of hours to explore this side of the city. So, plan wisely, know how to apply for Dubai Visa online, and make wonderful memories.

Old Dubai Vs New Dubai

Every city has an old and new city and there’s a stark difference between the two. Dubai too is no different, here’s an explores comparison.

  • New Dubai has the best in the world food joints, and serve you almost every known cuisine of the world. old Dubai, on the other hand, beckons you for the authentic dishes made in the traditional Arabian style.
  • While new Dubai is a place where the best of world malls and theme parks keep tourists engaged, the old Dubai is the perfect place to experience the diversity of local people and their vibrancy.
  • Most of the traditional souqs are found in old Dubai while the new Dubai speaks volumes about the best of the world brands.
  • Dubai is the result of world-class engineering executed in a flawless manner. Old Dubai is the living embodiment of the roots on which the new Dubai is created.


Q1. What is Old Dubai?

It is Dubai’s historic area and dates to the early 20th century. It is renowned for its conventional construction, lively souks (markets), and historical sites.

Q2. Name some key attractions in Old Dubai.

  • The Dubai Creek
  • The Dubai Museum
  • The Gold Souk & the Spice Souk
  • The Bastakiya Quarter

Q3. What is an ideal time to explore Old Dubai?

During the cooler months of November to April

Q4. How to get to Old Dubai?

  • By Dubai Metro
  • By Bus
  • Taxi
  • Self Drive

Q5. What are some must-try foods in Old Dubai?

Some must-try foods in Old Dubai include shawarma, falafel, kunafa, and baklava.


An incredible juxtaposition of sophistication and simplicity comfortably bonded into a remarkable city, the contrasting two worlds of Dubai fascinates visitors who not only like to experience the chic life of Dubai but gain cultural insight of the city as well. On your Dubai trip, you can enjoy a lavish urban getaway or a rich cultural experience or the best of both worlds at your convenience.

Aanchal is a writer by profession and an avid foodie. She loves travelling, exploring and adding cherished experiences to the book of life.

  • 10 thoughts on “Best Things to Do in Old Dubai – Perfect Guide
    1. Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

      I would love to see the Grand Mosque in Old Dubai. But is it open for non-Muslims?

    2. Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

      I would love to ride the abra on the Dubai Creek? Can you give an idea about the rates for the abra ride?

    3. Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

      The souks in Dubai seem really interesting. Is shopping at the souks affordable?

      • Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

        Shopping in the souks of Dubai is more affordable than shopping at the malls. Moreover, you can bargain here before buying something. This applies even at the gold souk.

    4. Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

      While visiting Old Dubai, should I go for a paid tour or explore the place myself?

      • Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

        While both are good options, a heritage tour with the experts at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding will give you the chance to know about the history and culture of Dubai in detail.

    5. Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

      I have been to Dubai several times but never visited Old Dubai. But this article compels me to visit the place during my next visit.

      • Avatar for Aanchal Iyer

        Do visit and let us know about your experiences. Old Dubai will give you a glimpse of how Dubai looked and felt 4-5 decades ago.

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