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If you’re gonna do a stopover anywhere, you should really do it in Dubai. Popular with travellers looking to break up longer journey when travelling between Europe and Asia-Pacific, it’s got the world’s tallest building, the world’s biggest shopping mall, the world’s biggest waterpark…you get the idea. If you want it, Dubai probably has it, and a really, really big one, at that. With fantastic connections to and from the airport, if you’ve only got 24 hours in town, then you’ll wanna read our guide to how to do a Dubai stopover.

How to get from Dubai Airport to the city

You’ve only got 24 hours in the City of Superlatives, so you need to use your time well. Getting from Dubai Airport is really easy no matter what option you go for, but you’ll be all about speed so we recommend skipping the taxi ranks and making a beeline for the Dubai Metro instead.

The Dubai Metro’s Red Line runs from the airport to various stations in the city, including major hubs like Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall and Dubai Marina. The nearest station to the airport is Airport Terminal 3 Station, and you’ll be able to buy a ticket at the station too.

Stop 1: The Burj Khalifa 

The first thing you’ll want to do is head straight for the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. Towering 829.8m over Dubai, you’ll get the best view of the city from the observation desk on the 124th floor. But the Burj Khalifa actually has more than one observation deck – there’s At The Top and At The Top Sky. A ticket to At The Top will give you access to the 124th and 125th floors, whilst a ticket to At The Top Sky will give you further access to the 148th floor. We definitely recommend getting tickets in advance, as they sell out quickly.

A little bit more down to earth (but not that much), the view is just as enjoyable from Atmosphere on the 122nd floor, where you can enjoy the highest high tea in the world. The decadent menu includes a selection of the finest patisseries, homemade English scones, mini cakes, quiches and finger sandwiches, all served on a tiered cake stand.

Stop 2: The Dubai Mall

Right next door to the Burj Khalifa is the Dubai Mall, one of the world’s largest and most visited shopping malls. With over 1,300 shops to mooch around in, running the gamut from luxury brands to high-street fashion and electronics stores, you could probably spend your whole 24 hours in here.

It’s not just shops here, either. There’s the VR Park Dubai, an indoor virtual reality theme park, the Dubai Ice Rink, KidZania (think an award-winning small-scale city where kids can play pretend at different careers). There’s even a dinosaur exhibition here! It’s home to what they call the ‘Dubai Dino’, a 155-million-year-old Diplodocus longus.

Alternative stop 2: The souks

If you want a bit more of a traditional experience, then hop in a taxi (it’ll take about 20 minutes) to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. Close by you’ll find the vibrant souks that Dubai is known for, offering a glimpse into the city’s rich cultural heritage. The Gold Souk dazzles with its vast array of gold and jewelry, while the Spice Souk is all about tantalizing the senses with loads of exotic spices and herbs.

The Textile Souk, meanwhile, is a right treasure trove of fabrics, from silk to intricately embroidered items. The Perfume Souk is where you’ll find some unique scents and traditional attars. Note that the souks are spread across either side of the Dubai creek, so if you want to visit all of them, you’ll have to hop in a dirt cheap abra boat across the water! You’ll really feel like a local, then.

Stop 3: JBR Beach

After pounding the halls of the Dubai Mall or rifling through the souks, you’ll probably be very interested in having a bit of a rest. If you’re not staying at one of the more luxurious beach hotels, Dubai has a few public beaches where you can soak up the rays.

Hop back in a taxi down the Sheik Zayed Road (it’ll take around 40 minutes from the Dubai Mall, depending on traffic), and head to JBR Beach. Close to the Dubai Marina, it’s one of the busiest free beaches in the area, but it makes for great people watching. Look towards the sea and you’ll see the Ain Dubai wheel on Bluewaters Island to your left, whilst on the water you’ll see boats and jet skis passing by, as well a floating waterpark. Beach loungers and umbrellas are available to rent, and there are bathrooms dotted around, with plenty of places to grab a drink and snack.

Stop 4: Dubai Marina

It’s been an amazing day, but it’s been a long day. By this point, you want somewhere to just chill out for the evening. And when the sun starts to go down, Dubai Marina is a pretty good place to be. Lucky for you, it’s just a ten minute walk from JBR Beach!

Full of waterfront promenades, trendy cafes, and restaurants, Dubai Marina just epitomizes luxury living and leisure in Dubai. Barasti Bar is a popular place here to hang out and enjoy some sundowners. It’s got loads of hops, an alfresco setting and live sports too. Bar du Port, meanwhile, is a quieter and more classy sort of joint that blends Ligurian Riviera finesse with Côte d’Azur vibes, and comes with a Mediterranean-inspired menu. For something super relaxing though, try the Jetty Lounge down at One&Only Royal Mirage – it’s got a serene setting, Mediterranean bites, and mixed drinks.

But if it’s Emirati cuisine you’re after, you can’t beat Al Fanar Restaurant & Cafe, offering a taste of the Emirates in a fine dining setting.

Stop 5: The Dubai Fountains

On your way back to the airport, make sure to stop by the  The Dubai Fountains to watch them dance and shoot water up to 500 feet into the air. Set on the Burj Khalifa Lake, it’s one of the world’s largest choreographed fountains and spans over 900 feet in length. Running to a whole variety of music, shows run from 6.30pm all the way until 11pm.

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