Page update - Sep 18, 2022
Although the United Arab Emirates are considered one of the most expensive countries in the world, a vacation there is negotiable even in case of money shortage. You can hold entertainment and cultural programs for free.
This page highlights the most interesting free attractions in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
This page was updated in September 2022. And just recently (in October 2021), a new TOP free attraction opened in Dubai. Read about it below.
The Emirate of Dubai is famous for grand projects, and there are many entertainment projects among them. It is simply impossible to fence and charge for an entrance ticket at many of them. Of course, the list of free attractions in Dubai is more than worthy.
The world's largest singing and dancing fountains are located in the heart of Dubai, in the Downtown area. The complex of Dubai fountains occupies an area of 900x330 feet (275x100 meters) in the artificial lake Burj Khalifa.
The height of the jets is up to 500 feet (152 meters), and the pumps simultaneously lift up to 100 tons of water in the air. The light effects of the show are created by 6650 spotlights of different power.
This amazing show of water, light and music can be seen for free from the front of Dubai Mall or from the bridge to the Souk Al Bahar market. We recommend watching the show at least two times - in the daytime and in the evening. And you can watch it the whole evening long, because it is shown every 30 minutes. The repertoire of Dubai Fountains includes several dozen songs.
Read all the important details in our review "The Dubai Fountain".
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This is one of the newest free attractions in the UAE. The Palm Fountains started operating in early October 2020 and were officially opened on October 22.
It was on October 22 that a new Guinness World Record was recorded. The Palm Fountains are the largest in the world. Although this record is quite a "stretch" because the fountains consist of two parts, which are distant from each other. Only one part can be viewed at a time. For this reason, the Palm Fountains are clearly losing to the fountains at the Dubai Mall in terms of spectacle.
The height of the jets of Palm Fountains reaches 345 feet (105 meters). 3000 LED spotlights give the lighting effects. The sound is provided by a powerful Hi-End system.
Palm Fountains are located on The Palm Jumeirah artificial island, between the famous Atlantis The Palm hotel and The Pointe shopping center. It's slightly difficult to get there, but the show is free.
See our page "The Palm Fountains" for more details.
The Aquarium at the Dubai Mall consists of one huge aquarium and many smaller aquariums.
You can view the main huge aquarium for free through a huge plexiglass window right from the mall corridors. You can view smaller aquariums only for money.
The glass itself is an attraction, it is 108 feet (33 meters) long, 28 feet (8.5 meters) high and weighs 245 tons. The glass holds the water of the aquarium with a summary weight of 10 million tons.
Behind the glass is a reproduction of the coral reef of the Persian Gulf with all its inhabitants, including reef sharks and large stingrays. You can watch the feeding of the sea animals also for free at certain hours.
Read all the important details on our page "The Aquarium at the Dubai Mall".
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In this place everyone wants to become invisible, not only children. The largest candy store on our planet is located in the Dubai Mall and of course it is free to visit. 5,000 sorts of candies and chocolates. The world's sweetest 12,000 square feets (1,100 square meters).
There's plenty interesting and amazing to see: the chocolate tree, the record-sized Pic&Mix wall, the huge M&Ms shelfs.
Candylicious is very easy to find, no need for a special trip, no need to walk far. The entrance to the store is right in front of the aquarium glass we mentioned above.
At certain moments you can watch the show "Bake-a-licious" - candy making in front of the customers and free tasting of the prepared candies.
Read all the important and intersting details in our review "Candylicious at Dubai Mall".
Before the oil era, the main source of income for the Emirates (at this old time they weren't united) was pearl hunting. In the UAE it is common to remember the history and honor ancestors.
The waterfall with pearl divers at the Dubai Mall shows the importance of that old era to the Emirati people. And it is a free attraction for tourists.
If you can wait for the time then light from the atrium to fall on the fiberglass figures of the divers, you can see the stunning play of light.
Take a photo in front of the waterfall, and the photo will revive the pleasant memories of Dubai after get back home.
Read all the important details in our review "Waterfall with Pearl Fishers".
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To see 10 tons of gold jewelry within one shopping area is possible only in Dubai, in the Deira district. Just walk around and see the work of local and the world's finest artisans for free.
Don't miss the world record holder, the Najmat Taiba bracelet, which is on public access. But even besides it, there are many interesting things in local stores. For example, earrings are so big that it is unclear how they will stay on your ears. Better to say, how your ears can stay in place with such big earrings. Bracelets are so big that they can successfully serve as fitness weights. And what about the gold dresses!
No one is forced to buy anything, and there is no charge for watching. You can try on the ones you like, also for free (if the shop owner agrees to let you try).
You can read all the important details in our review "The Gold Market".
All these markets are close to the Gold Market in the Deira neighborhood. These markets are not for everybody, but for those who want to dive into oriental culture.
At the Spice Market, you can see the variety of spices used in India, the Middle East and the Gulf Countries.
At the Perfume Market, you can look at the best bakhoor and oud spirits that are only sold in the UAE.
At the Fish Market, you can see almost the entire variety of fauna of the Persian Gulf, and there is no need to pay for a scuba rental and diving instructor. You can also buy and ask to fry your favorite fish.
At the Textile Market, you can see the national Arab clothing, which is much more diverse than it seems to most tourists.
The famous hotel in the shape of a sail - one of the symbols of Dubai cost the emirate a billion dollars. A photo in front of the Burj Al Arab became a must-do for tourists.
But in addition to the photo, you can visit the hotel lobby and look at the decoration of the walls and floor with marble of the expensive varieties and coverage of walls with gold 999. If you look up, you will see a 590 feet (180 meters) high atrium, which is a real architectural miracle.
The hotel lobby visit is free of charge. If you are ready to splurge, you can have a cup of coffee or tea in one of the high-rise restaurants or bars.
Read all the important details in our review "Burj Al-Arab".
You can see the Burj Khalifa skyscraper for free, while getting up to its observation decks is for a fee.
However, there is another show you can see for free. It is a laser show, which has recently been held regularly. There is also a light and pyrotechnic show on New Year's Eve, but it is still a seasonal phenomenon, not about it now.
In 2022, the laser show is 7 minutes long and goes on at 7.45 pm 9.45 pm from Wednesdays to Fridays and 7.45 pm, 8.15 pm, 9.45 pm on Saturday and Sunday.
There is no exact schedule, and the show may be stopped or re-launch at any moment. Not even Emaar, the company that owns the Burj Khalifa, knows in advance. By the way, they have opened an Open Call project, and anyone can suggest ideas for the laser show.
About the Burj Khalifa tower itself, read our detailed review "Burj Khalifa".
Most of the population of the modern UAE is not Arabs at all, but workers from India, Iran, Pakistan, and other countries. We talked about this in detail in the review "Population of the UAE".
In Deira district, on the beach behind the Fish Market, Indians and Pakistanis hold a kind of "Fight Club" - an open competition in their national wrestling Pehlwani (in Pakistani), aka Kushti (in Indian).
It is a legitimate, though unofficial, event. The authorities don't support it, but they don't stop it either. Anyone can watch the competition for free. If you're in good shape, you can take part. But we recommend learning the rules first.
Competitions are held on Fridays. The exact time is not set, but most often in the evening, before sundown. It's convenient to combine watching wrestling with a visit to the Fish Market.
Unfortunately, due to the coronavirus pandemic and the ban on meetings, Pelvani wrestling is not yet held. Maybe in the moment of your visit to Dubai it will re-launch.
The world's tallest Ferris wheel is located in Dubai, on Bluewaters Island, opposite the Dubai Marina area. The height of Ain Dubai is 820 feet (250 meters), the full rotation time is 38 minutes, the capacity is 1,750 passengers at a time. Specialists from 10 countries participated in the creation of Ain Dubai. The steel construction weighs 11,200 tons.
To look at this engineering miracle is completely free, if you come to Bluewaters Island. Just recently, in the summer of 2022, the new F57 bus route to Bluewaters Island is operational. It became cheaper to come there, because before you had to take a cab.
Ain Dubai opened recently on October 21, 2021. It was opened by Sheikh Hamdan, the Crown Prince of Dubai.
If you want to ride then you need to pay. For an adult - 130 dirhams, for a child (3-12 years) - 100 dirhams. Visitors ride inside large enclosed booths, there are 48 such booths on the wheel. So do not be afraid of the wind at high altitude.
Read all the important details on our page "Ain Dubai".
Abu Dhabi is the capital of the United Arab Emirates and there are many sites dedicated to the heritage of the nation and the "father of the nation" Sheikh Zayed. All such sites are free for tourists.
Good news! The main attraction of the Abu Dhabi Emirate is free for everyone. There is no charge to enter Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
However, there are features. Since the mosque is active, you can visit the prayer hall only during a break between namaz (prayer time). It is in the prayer hall where all the most interesting things are located: the carpet of record size, the chandeliers of striking size and beauty, and the fiber optic lighting system of the Kaaba wall.
You can sign up for a guided tour of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, it's also free. The main thing - do not forget about the dress code, improper clothing will not be allowed into the mosque.
Read about all the nuances in our detailed review "Sheikh Zayed Mosque".
The most expensive (in terms of construction costs) hotel in the United Arab Emirates. Staying in Emirates Palace Hotel is expensive, but you can see part of its luxury for free.
The hotel lobby is open to all comers. There you can see the main dome of the building, it is 262 feet (80 meters) high, and the inner surface of the dome is covered with gold 916. The walls and floor are covered with magnificent marble of the best sorts from 13 countries.
You can also take a free stroll in the gardens surrounding the hotel and walk along the famous waterfall staircase.
If you're ready to splurge a bit, then order a coffee with gold shavings Palace Cappuccino for 75 dirhams at Le Cafe. See our review "UAE currency" for the current exchange rate.
For all the detailes read our in-depth review "Emirates Palace".
Abu Dhabi is home to the largest Heritage Village in the UAE, an open-air ethnographic museum. There you can see the life of the Emirati people before the oil era. Admission is free.
The village is divided into several parts. The most notable part shows life in the oasis, where you can see the workings of the falaj irrigation system.
In the Craft zone, you can see the work of master weavers, glassblowers, embossers and see the creation of a real khanjar, a traditional Arab dagger.
Of course, the employees of the village are the actors, who are paid by the Emirate of Abu Dhabi to preserve its heritage and to entertain tourists.
Read about all the nuances in our detailed review "Heritage Village".
A beautifully landscaped promenade in Abu Dhabi. Just over 5 kilometers (3 miles) long, begins at the Hilton Hotel and ends at the Fish Market. Entrance is free and most of the entertainment is free.
If you travel to Abu Dhabi in November, do not miss the F1 Grand Prix. The main Fan Zone with a huge screen is held in the central square of the waterfront Corniche. During national holidays there are parades, fairs, festivals.
The beaches along the waterfront are almost all free, but umbrellas and sunbeds require payment to use. The beaches along the Corniche are considered the best public beaches in Abu Dhabi.
Read about all the nuances in our in-depth review "The Corniche beach and waterfront".
Located on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi, the Yas Marina Circuit hosts the Formula 1 season-ending race.
Of course, the Yas Marina Circuit isn't idle the rest of the time. Other races are held there, and entry is free, most of the time.
If you want to experience the track in person, it's no problem and you can do it for free! To do this you need to sign up for one of the events, and you can ride a bike on the track, try jogging, or take a leisurely walk.
A separate event is held just for women, when yoga classes are still held there.
Read about all the nuances in our in-depth review "Yas Marina".
The memorial is dedicated to Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the UAE. In the center of the memorial is the composition "Constellation". There are 1,327 figures hanging at 1,100 strings that form an image of Sheikh Zayed. It is certainly worth seeing, especially for free.
During the day the composition does not look so impressive, it is better to come after sunset.
Every half hour there are guided tours, and also for free. The tour will talk about the personality and life of Sheikh Zayed.
The memorial is located behind the western edge of the Corniche promenade, which means that you don't have to go there on purpose.
Read our detailed review "Sheikh Zayed Memorial".
The Emirate of Sharjah is the cultural capital of the United Arab Emirates, where they spend a lot of effort and money to develop the arts and preserve the heritage of the nation. It is not surprising that Sharjah has many museums and exhibitions, some of which are free.
The authorities do their best to increase visitor numbers and spend much for the new attractions, some of which are free to visitors. The 0 dirhams entertainment program would be no less interesting than in Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Sharjah's dancing fountains are not as large as Dubai's, but interesting in their own way. The focus is not on the dimensions, but on the light and laser show.
Pumps form a wall of water, and an image is projected onto this wall. Very interesting, unusual, mesmerizing and, most importantly, free.
The latest innovation in the program of Sharjah fountains is the "ebru show", when the process of creating a painting in the technique of ebru is shown on the wall. Some even call this show psychedelic.
The show is most convenient to watch from the waterfront of Majaz, the entrance to the waterfront is free.
Read about all the nuances in our detailed review "Fountains of Sharjah".
The most beautiful mosque in Sharjah is designed in the Ottoman style. It is believed that the prototype was the Blue Mosque of Istanbul.
You can admire the beauty of the Al Noor Mosque from outside for free at any time of the day.
You can get inside with a free guided tour. During the tour, tourists watch the interior of the mosque, hear a lot of interesting information about Islam, taste tea and coffee with dates and local sweets in the end.
The tour takes place only few days a week. You need to know the time in advance, and arrive at the right time.
What time is it and what to see inside? Read our in-depth review "Al Noor Mosque".
Sharjah's main museum. Before the opening of the Louvre branch in Abu Dhabi, it was the largest art exhibit in the UAE. The area of the museum - 1,184,000 square feets (110,000 square meters). It's hard to imagine, it is a must-see place in Sharjah.
There are works by artists from the United Arab Emirates and other countries of the Persian Gulf and Middle East. Some of the works were donated to the museum by Sheikh Sultan Bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, the ruler of Sharjah.
This is the best place to discover modern Arabic art. Especially since the entrance to the museum is free.
Opening hours: 8:00 am to 8:00 pm on all days except Friday, Friday from 4:00 pm to 8:00 pm.
Souq Al-Tarkazi is the main market of the Emirate of Sharjah. The building itself is a tourist attraction. For some people the building looks like a steam locomotive.
Inside, there are more than 600 stores. They sell gold and jewelry, perfume, clothes and shoes, electronics and household appliances, gifts and souvenirs, antiques and carpets, and much more.
No one is obliged to buy anything. You can walk and see the Blue Market for free.
The most interesting things are on the top floor, where you can find themed stores from India, Nepal, Pakistan, Afghanistan.
- Minimal peaks in prices for vacation in the UAE are observed in summer (when it is hot) and during Ramadan (when there are some restrictions). Take a closer look, maybe so you can save money. See our reviews "Weather in the UAE by month" and "Ramadan in the UAE" for details.
Have a nice holiday in the United Arab Emirates, and read our interesting pages about the country (see links of the pages below).
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