15 amazing things you can do for FREE in Dubai

Dubai is one of my favourite cities in the world - not only because I live here but also because of the glitz and glamour of this city which is so rare, I haven't seen many other cities like it. And although a lot of things here are meant only for the people with bags of cash, there are a bunch of things budget travellers can also look forward to doing. And some of the most amazing experiences are even free!

Here's my list of 15 amazing things in Dubai that can you do, without shelling out a single penny.

#1  Watch the beautifully choreographed musical fountains at Dubai Mall

The fountains play every half an hour during the evening hours (6 pm - 11 pm) and the variety of songs they dance to is very interesting. From Arabic, English, Instrumental music to even Bollywood numbers sometimes, the best part is the backdrop of Burj Khalifa, which sparkles with thousands of lights while the fountains play.

Suggested budget hotel stay near Dubai Mall: Citymax Bur Dubai

#2 Enjoy the brilliance of the largest LED screen in the world (Burj Khalifa)

This started out during the NYE / Shopping Festival in 2015. Thousands of LED screens were placed on the tallest building in the world and a light show would brighten the building up every hour. The show became so popular, attracting thousands of people who would just stand and wait for it, that they decided to continue it. Although there isn't a show every night anymore, there are beautiful displays regularly, marking occasions and festivals.

#3 Marvel at the world’s largest acrylic panel (Dubai Aquarium) that showcases an exotic collection of marine animals, right in the middle of a mall!

There's so much to do in Dubai Downtown, it is a destination in itself. Apart from the LED show at Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountains, here's another superb thing you can do absolutely free of cost at The Dubai Mall. The Dubai Aquarium's acrylic panel that is as high as 3 floors, can be viewed from the outside for free. It is only going inside the aquarium tunnel that is chargeable, or a visit to the Underwater Zoo where they have rare species of aquatic animals.

#4 Stroll around the cultural district of Bastakiya and travel back in time, with narrow streets and old architecture, hidden cafes and art exhibits.

This is one of my favourite places in Old Dubai. It stands in stark contrast to the modern skyscrapers and the dazzling city that Dubai is often known to be. This part of the city takes you back in time, with old Arabian architecture, wind-towered buildings,  and mazes of narrow streets which are lined with hidden gems such as cafes and art exhibits.

Suggested boutique hotel stay in Al Bastakiya: XVA Art Hotel

#5 Enjoy stunning green waters with white sands, as you watch the colourful kite surfers at the Kite Beach in Jumeirah

This is my favourite beach in Dubai. You also have beach volley, beach canteen, trampoline and many other activities to do here.

#6 Stroll amidst some of the tallest skyscrapers in the world at Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina has the world's top six tallest residential and serviced apartment towers. A walk along the marina, with the al fresco cafes and a view of the dhows floating on the water, is a great place to enjoy a lively vibe.

Suggested budget hotel stay in Dubai Marina: Wyndham Dubai Marina

#7 Enjoy a quiet walk on the Dubai Canal promenade

The promenade is 12 km long there are two spots which are the most scenic to walk across. One is the area right under Sheikh Zayed Road, with a beautiful view of the colourful waterfall and the skyscrapers in the backdrop, including that of Burj Khalifa and the twin towers of JW Mariott Marquis hotel, the tallest hotel in the world. The other area which is scenic is the one right under the superbly-lit blue bridge.

Alternatively, you can also choose to take an RTA boat/ ferry over the canal for a minimal cost.

#8 Stroll amidst rows and rows of shiny window displays of gold, at the gold souk

I don't think I have seen such ostentatious and brash display of gold anywhere else. Gold Souk and spice souk are located next to each other, in the old part of the city. A walk through this area is an assault on all the five senses!

Click here to read about how to plan a Budget Dubai trip.

#9 Visit Dubai’s own version of South Beach Miami – The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR)

Enjoy the lively atmosphere, stylish boutiques and al fresco dining or simply walk on the waterfront promenade.

#10 Visit the little city of canals and bridges - Madinat Jumeirah

This hotel is almost like a little city of its own. Very Arabic in its architecture, Madinat Jumeirah's wind-towered buildings, canals with Abras sailing along, the cafes on the waterside, the cute little bridges over the canal and the unparalleled views of Burj Al Arab make this place an absolute must visit!

#11 Explore the French Village at Riverland

Recently opened in Dubai and one of the largest theme parks, Dubai Parks and Resorts houses some of the most exciting and interesting rides which appeal to people of all ages. However, my favourite part of the park is the French Village, located in Riverland. Replicating the quaint countryside setting of French Villages and rightfully capturing the romance of it, Riverland is open to everyone even without a ticket to the Dubai Parks.

#12 Gape at the razzle dazzle of the water, sound & light show at Dubai Festival City

Although it doesn't live up to the high standards set by the musical fountains at Dubai Mall (to be fair, the backdrop of Burj Khalifa cannot be matched!), the water, sound & laser show at Dubai Festival City is interesting multi-media show to watch. A piece of advice - do not stand too close to the fountains or you'll be sprayed with salty water constantly. The colourful lasers projecting on the InterContinental Hotel, the fireballs erupting over the water and the dancing fountains create a story of a ballerina. A show runs every 30 min after sunset, every evening at the waterfront promenade.

#13 Watch a movie under the stars while relaxing on beanbags, at Wafi

Every Sunday evening at 8.30 pm, this Egyptian-themed pyramid shaped mall screens English classics on their rooftop gardens, under the stars, with large bean bags to sit and relax on while enjoying the experience. The entrance to the screening is free of charge, you can buy popcorn, hotdogs or beverages to make the most of it.

#14 Capture a beautiful sunset at Al Qudra Lakes

A favourite camping spot of the local residents, Al Qudra Lakes are oases in the desert. A number of lakes, one after the other, with swans and ducks, this is not a very popular tourist spot but for those looking to go off-the-beaten-path and away from the hustle and bustle of the busy city, this is a good place to relax and watch the sun go down.

#15 Grab your tent and camp in the tranquil desert

The beautiful sand dunes that you will find in this region are hard to find anywhere else in the world. Coupled with the fact that it is a relatively safe country, camping in the middle of the desert is an experience that you will never forget. In the cooler months of December and January, the temperature can fall as low as 0° C at night, so be prepared with enough warm clothing. Unless clearly marked as private property, it is acceptable to camp anywhere you can find a comfortable spot to pitch your tent. Drive along the Al Qudra road and you will see enough people setting up their barbeque grills and tents to camp for the night.

Suggested read: How to experience 15 world records in 4 days, in the UAE

65 thoughts on “15 amazing things you can do for FREE in Dubai”

  1. Dubai is ever-evolving. There are so many new things to do there that I never heard of in Dubai, plus they are for free. Riverland is absolutely a pretty concept – French village in the Middle East. Have I ever thought of that? Also, movie screening at the Egyptian pyramid-themed mall. How cool is that!

  2. Thanks for sharing Useful tips on Dubai. Great post, musical fountain and Burj Khalifa, desert safari are best things to do here.

  3. I love Dubai! Great for a stop over. There’s still so much I have not seen and didn’t realise there quite a few things you can do for free. I loved watching the musical fountain whilst having dinner. Looks like I’ll have to make a return trip soon!

  4. Your posts reminds me of the time when I had a layover in Dubai of about 8 hours and tried not to spend any money but visit a little bit of the city. I did see the huge glass panel from the aquarium, I even spotted a shark. It was too early for the fountains to put on a show but I did go to the beach and admire Burj al Arab from there.

  5. So, seen as though I’ve commented on pretty much every post you have (as you have on my blog 😛 ) I actually didn’t realize that you live in Dubai, I knew that you have been there but I’ve learnt something new haha 😀 – In saying that and all the countries I’ve been to east and west, I’ve never actually been to Dubai before, even my connecting flights have not been through Dubai. It goes without saying I have bookmarked this post but I really do need to pay Dubai a visit 😀 Bastakiya would be awesome to visit, considering how modern Dubai has become. And also I would love to camp out in the desert 😀 😀

    1. Wow, can’t believe you’ve never been to Dubai! Especially because it IS a common layover for so many flights from Asia to Europe or the US and vice versa. It’s the gateway to the world 😉 Haha. You must visit, it’s a lively, happening city with some hidden spots (which I’d be happy to tell you about). Spend a week, it’s enough. And preferably in winter months (Nov-Apr).

  6. Imagine camping by the dunes. Sounds perfect!! I remember walking past the gold souk and heading to some beaches during my childhood days. 🙂 Cheers!!

  7. Such a cool list of free things to do! Burj Kalifah must looks amazing in the light show and clearly there is so much to to just explore around the city. Thanks for the best beach suggestion…that sounds like a must.

  8. This is a great comprehensive list for thrifty types like me if I ever get to Dubai! The photos are great.

  9. Great post! I love reading about the free things to do in different cities. Dubai can be so expensive, so this is really helpful!

  10. I feel so nostalgic while reading this post. I went to Dubai 5 years back for participating in an International Case study competition on behalf of my college. Aquarium was so soothing and the Gold Souq was equally exciting. Thanks for mentioning both in abundance in your post.

    1. You must travel to Dubai again, it has changed so much in 5 years! But yeah, Gold Souk and Aquarium are still there and still free 😉

    1. Ha ha, there are many options here for money spenders as well as budget travellers. Next time, you know exactly where to go if you want to save money!

  11. Very informative post, I would love to see the Led light screen of Burj Khalifa, those different looks are glimmering, and of course the French village I didn’t even know that they have this kind of portion in their country. thanks for sharing 🙂

  12. This is amazing – so much to do and for free! A traveler’s dream! I have never been as I assumed Dubai is way expensive however, it’s going back on my list! Thanks for such an informative post – love the pictures!

    1. Thanks Yesh, you must visit Dubai, there are so many misconceptions about this city, it’s not even funny!

  13. My father went to Dubai! It’s crazy to think it really exists, Ive heard its a very wealthy country… so free stuff would definitely be perfect for me!

    1. There’s a range of things to do for all kinds of travellers Madison – budget, luxury, super luxury. And as you can see, so many amazing things to do free of cost!

  14. This post made me smile, the first time I went to Dubai I thought I would hate it because of the lack of things to do! And as you can imagine I was completely wrong!

    1. The best part about Dubai is that it is so dynamic and ever evolving, every few years you will find entirely new things to do and see.

  15. This is so interesting – I had always thought because Dubai was so glamorous, it must also be super expensive. How refreshing to hear of so many cool things to do for free!

  16. How is life in Dubai? We were considering moving there but changed our mind as it all looks too overwhelming and extremely expensive. I’m happy to discover that there are things to do for free so if I visit one day I would definitely do the stuff from your list. Thanks for sharing!

    1. I love living in this city. Yes it’s expensive but if you live here, you end up having a great quality of life and since you do not pay taxes, it is pretty affordable too.

  17. Hmm, till now, I have only visited the Airport in Dubai. I’m not that much of a fan of big cities actually, but there are some activities you mentioned here that are quite interesting. Maybe I’ll stop for a day or two in Dubai before going on with my trip? Who knows? 🙂

    1. Mario it makes for a great stopover city, especially because there are so many flights that transit through Dubai. Do spend 2-3 days here next time you’re on a stopover!

  18. Useful tips for a destination which is not cheap at all!

    I will definitely do some of the tips when I am there 🙂

    Thanks and good luck with your adventures 🙂

  19. All of these seem great reasons to visit Dubai! I love the idea of the musical fountains, how magnificent they must be to see. And all that gold in display?! Wow. Hard to imagine what that must be like until you actually see it right in front of you. Great article! We thought about moving to Dubai for work but then we received another opportunity elsewhere…maybe one day we’ll still move over there. Must be a fascinating place.

    1. It’s a great city to live in as well! If you can brave the high temperatures in the summer 🙂

  20. You live in Dubai?????? That is awesome! I have friends that live there and wanted to visit them but I’ve always been afraid to visit the Middle East. I’m just worried about a lot of things especially about safety but it’s nice to know that this article shows how safe it can be just like any other city in the world.

    1. I won’t say it about the Middle East as a whole but Dubai is super safe! You don’t have to worry about travelling here at all. And the nightlife is so amazing! If you have friends here, then you shouldn’t even think twice about visiting 🙂

  21. I would love to do all of these except for the last one. I’m at a point in life where a comfortable bed is an absolute must when I sleep. I may be spoiled in that sense, but I’ll admit it. HAHA Thanks for a great list!

    1. Haha, camping can be tough but being surrounded by beautiful nature makes it totally worth it 🙂 I totally get it, however, it isn’t something everyone enjoys 🙂

  22. Thanks for sharing these tips! I really want to go to Dubai, but I have heard it can be pricey! Dubai Festival City looks stunning!!

    1. It’s not VERY pricey. Alcohol is expensive no doubt but everything else is just fine 🙂 And so many FREE things to do 😉

  23. These are exactly the things I like do when I travel, thank you for your tips.
    The French village is so funny if you think you are in Dubai 😀
    This article made me desiring to visit Dubai honestly…

  24. This really makes me want to go back. So much has changed in Dubai since I was last there. Thanks for the tips

    1. That’s the best part about Dubai, it’s so dynamic, it evolves constantly! There’s something new every few weeks. I love the city <3

  25. I never knew Dubai has so much to offer for FREE. Thanks for enlightening us. Calls for another visit to Dubai.

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