Day One

Begin this citywide tour of Abu Dhabi at magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (closed Friday mornings). Board the Big Bus here and enjoy the drive beside the Eastern Corniche mangroves. Alight at Abu Dhabi Mall and explore the regional craft shops at the Khalifa Centre opposite. Continue on the Big Bus to Manarat Al Saadiyat, a cinematic exhibition centre dedicated to local art and culture, and the stunning new Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Have lunch in harbourside Al Dhafra, serving lavish Emirati buffets. Visit the neighbouring Al Mina Fish Market and then hire a bike from Cyacle at ADIA HQ and cycle part of the 8km to the public beach, enjoying the city's impressive skyscrapers en route. Ascend Jumeirah's Etihad Tower for the highest high tea in Abu Dhabi.

Dine on a signature camel burger at Le Café in the opulent Emirates Palace and enjoy post-dinner drinks in high-rise Ray's Bar across the street, before rejoining the real world with coffee and shisha at one of the late-night Breakwater cafes.

Day Two

Set the scene for today's exploration of city roots at the Heritage Village with its traditional architecture, local crafts and photographs of city founders. Stand under the giant Emirati flag and admire the achievement of the Nahyan family in building a great capital on little but sand. Get closer to the founding father at the Zayed Centre, housing memorabilia in fine traditional buildings. Delve into the city's heart along Zayed the First St, pausing to explore Khalidiyah shops showcasing local arts and crafts.

For lunch, choose a backstreet favourite such as Zahrat Lebnan from among many regional kebab shops and then walk east past Qasr Al Hosn, the oldest building in town. Pass the street sculptures, symbols of core Arab values, to the World Trade Center Souk, the site of the city's original market.

Walk along busy Hamdan St and admire the city's evening lights before turning south to the Gold Centre; the jewellery here features pearls, upon which the city's pre-oil economy was founded. Dine on scrumptious Jordanian specialities on the cheap at Bait El Khetyar, about 1.4km east.

Day Three

If the first two days were all about seeing, this day is all about doing. Yas Island is Abu Dhabi's activities hub and what better way to arrive than by seaplane. Stay in the fast lane in a behind-the-scenes tour of Yas Marina Circuit, or better still get behind the wheel in a driving experience with DriveYas.

Have lunch on the wonderful California–meets–Afghanistan cuisine at the wonderful Nolu's Café. If you have the stomach for it, feel the speed at neighbouring Ferrari World, offering the fastest ride in the world. Continue the adrenaline rush at Yas Waterworld on 45 Arab-themed rides and slides in search of a lost pearl.

With resources depleted, fuel up at one of the Viceroy's buzzing restaurants, followed by after-dinner drinks at pit-stop Iris with a view of the Viceroy's spectacular lasers and lights. Grab a graffiti-clad limo and pump it up at manic Mad on Yas Island, the UAE's biggest nightclub.

Day Four

Slow down the pace today for a gentler engagement with the city and its non-human inhabitants. Begin by visiting the Falcon Hospital and watch a raptor flying display. Call in for a cuddle at the neighbouring Arabian Saluki Centre, kennels for the favoured dogs of the Bedouin. Spare 90 minutes to complete the tour of nearby Masdar City, a pioneering concept in environmentally sustainable living.

Eat a healthy lunch at Masdar's Organic Foods & Café and then head for a relaxing afternoon on sociable Yas Beach. When the heat wanes, join a kayak ecotour through the mangroves to explore this remarkable habitat, rich in bird life. Take the free Yas Express to Saadiyat Island, spotting gazelle and dolphins en route. The Saadiyat beach clubs offer detoxing sundowners and a dip in the sea as the sun sets – you may see a turtle awaiting nightfall to come ashore to nest.

Revitalise in the spa, then prepare for supper on the outside terrace of Turquoiz, a perfect venue for a lightly grilled catch of the day.