Proudly modern and cosmopolitan, Abu Dhabi is the UAE's forward-thinking cultural heart where nothing stands still – except perhaps the herons in its mangroves.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi, with its globe-trotting collection covering the breadth of humanity's artistic achievements, finally threw open its doors in 2017. It's the first of the city's planned mega-museum projects to open and a major feather in Abu Dhabi's cap as it pushes to become the region's cultural leader. This world-class museum may get all the buzz but more locally focused sights get a look-in too. Emirati heritage can be difficult to seek out but pearl journey dhow trips and the Abu Dhabi Falcon Hospital take you behind the curtain to get a glimpse of it.
Opulent, dramatic and no expense spared: the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is a triumph of Islamic architecture for the modern world. Architectural nods to all the great Islamic empires of past from Fatimid Egypt to South Asia's Mughal dynasty are represented among its blinding white marble facade, but this is a mosque thoroughly of and for the 21st century, with striking contemporary artistry at its heart. Non-Muslims may only be allowed to enter a single mosque in the city, but the one they can, is magnificent.
Thrills & Spills
Need some adrenaline in your life? Yas Island provides enough distractions to keep even the most dedicated thrill-seeker happy. This is the setting for the famed Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, the track hallowed ground for Formula One fans. Year-round there are opportunities to hop in the driving seat yourself and make your own Yas Marina Circuit memories. Off the track, Ferrari World and its speed-freak favourite Formula Rossa roller coaster plus Warner Bros World provide full-on family entertainment with enough rides to wear out and sate the thrill tick-list of kids and adults alike.
There's no need to leave the city for a beach-break, Abu Dhabi offers a swath of sand for everyone. Saadiyat Island has one of the nicest slices of public beach (with a minimal fee) while Al Bateen, the Corniche and the brand-spanking-new beach on Hudayriat Island offer up completely free swags of sandy fun. On the water, Abu Dhabi's Mangrove National Park showcases a completely different face to a city more known for glinting glass-and-steel skyscrapers than nature. Keep your eyes peeled for flamingos, heron and scuttling crabs as you explore the waterways of this vast forest by kayak.