Walking Tour: A Stroll Downtown

  • Start Abu Dhabi Flag
  • End Heritage Park
  • Length 10.5km; four hours

Stroll along the Corniche and the busy metropolis will seem a world away. That said, there isn't a better way to admire the city's modern skyline.

From the giant flag, the symbol of unity in this capital city, it's a brief walk to Abu Dhabi Heritage Village. Here you can enjoy a glimpse of Emirati life before oil revenues transformed the country forever.

Follow the breakwater, which comes alive during the powerboat racing championships. Across the road, there's an oyster statue, a reminder of the city's former pearling industry. The view beyond is dominated by the opulent Emirates Palace – hotel, spa, cultural centre and general city icon.

Joining the Corniche, you'll notice a billboard-sized poster of Sheikh Zayed, father of the nation. His 'benign dictatorship' brought development to Abu Dhabi and the country as a whole, as demonstrated by the architectural optimism of buildings such as Etihad Towers, clustered opposite.

Along the Corniche, you'll see similar expressions of confidence, such as Nation Towers, home to the St Regis. The Hiltonia and the Nation Riviera Beach Clubs offer luxurious swimming, and the public Corniche Beach is Blue-Flagged for cleanliness. Take a break at the Nova Beach Café here.

Pause next at Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum St. The inland procession of fine buildings includes the Burj Mohammed Bin Rashid, the city's tallest tower, home to the World Trade Center, and the Etisalat building with its 'golf ball' crown.

Think you've been walking west to east? In fact the orientation is southwest to northeast, but this tends to be overlooked on maps. This stretch is beautifully landscaped and parallels attractive Lake Park, connected by an underpass.

In a city where the shoreline has been dredged and reshaped, it's endearing to see that the khor (creek) beside the Sheraton Hotel has not been filled in. The Corniche passes over it, leaving this venerable hotel with its treasured beach.

Continue on to Heritage Park and a romantic view of the dhows floating two abreast in the harbour opposite.