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Everyone knows about the (really) big stuff in Dubai like the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest!), the Dubai Mall (world’s biggest!), and Deep Dive Dubai (world’s deepest!), but there are still a few things that get skipped by the masses, including a full-on national park, one of the world’s most beautiful mosques, and a flower garden that’s extra AF. Here’s  a quick guide to some Dubai hidden gems.

8. Hatta

Hatta is one Dubai's hidden gems. Two images, scrapbook style, show both the hills of Hatta and the lake formed by the Hatta Dam.

An inland exclave of the emirate of Dubai, Hatta actually used to be a part of Oman until it changed hands around 1850. It clocks in at 134km from the big city, nestled way up high in the Hajar Mountains – a popular place in years past for families based in Dubai to run off to in the summer months when the temps are sweltering in the city.

Thanks to a good, strong dose of investment over the last few years, it’s become a right little hotbed of outdoor activities – a load of cross-country cycling routes have been mapped out through the mountains, there’s watersports on the Hatta Dam, and Arabian horses to ride. You can get a good dose of Emirati culture here too, with Hatta Heritage Village and Hatta Fort.

Previously only really open to those with a rental car, you can now catch the H02 express bus from The Dubai Mall between 7am and 7pm that’ll get you to Hatta in around an hour and a half in blessed AC. It costs AED 25 each way, which comes in at just over a fiver.

You can read more about Hatta here.

7. DISHTRICT

This fusion concept pulls dishes from around the world – think the Middle East to Malaysia, and India to Italy – and gives them a modern kick. Dishtrict caters to everyone, too – vegans, vegetarians, and gluten-free foodies are all welcome.

From the Shatta Crab Salad to Indian street food with a twist, like the Tahini Nachos and the Dishtrict Dynamite Shrimp, and all the way to Beyond Meat Yakitori – all in all there’s 17 (!) world cuisines to munch on here.

Find it at Wasl 51 in Jumeirah.

6. The Dubai Frame

The Dubai Frame is one of Dubai's hidden gems. An image, scrapbook style, shows a large metal frame rising into the sky, with a lawn and trees surrounding its base.

 A symbol of the city’s transformation from a modest fishing village to a modern, dynamic metropolis, the Dubai Frame is a pretty prominent architectural landmark that looks like a really big, well, frame. It’s a whopping 150 metres high and 93 metres across, and the whole idea behind its location in Zabeel Park is that it frames all the other iconic landmarks around it – one side faces Old Dubai, the other the modern, shiny, new part.

Now, it’s pretty hard to miss, so it’s not a hidden gem in the normal sense. But what a lot of people don’t realise is that the Dubai Frame is not just something to admire from afar – there’s actually a viewing platform at the very top called – suitably – the Sky Deck, and it even includes ‘The Golden Bridge’, a 25-square-metre glass panel in the floor…*gulp*.

There’s also two exhibitions to check out whilst you’re here: ‘Dubai Past’ and ‘Dubai Future’.

5. Dubai Opera Garden

For more great views – minus the see-through viewing platform – you can head to the Dubai Opera, where you’ll find both a rooftop restaurant and a sky garden where you can sit back, relax, and clap your eyes on the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain. Rumour says this is the best spot to watch the New Years fireworks from.

The Dubai Opera is pretty impressive itself – designed to look like a traditional dhow boat, it’s cleverly designed so that it can transform from concert hall to theatre to banquet hall and back again.

4. Global Village

Global Village is one of Dubai's hidden gems. An image, scrapbook style, shows a busy night scene in Dubai, with lights, palm trees, and a Ferris wheel.

If you’re visiting Dubai over the cooler winter months then you’re in luck, because from around October to April is when Global Village rolls into town. An annual event that blends a bunch of cultural, entertainment, shopping, and dining experiences, each pavilion represents a different nation, from Japan to Turkey.

Shopping is a big thing here, but there’s also loads of live performances, concerts, and street performances, and the food is mega too. Kids’ll love the carnival area with rides and games, and then to round off the fun, there’s often a grand ol’ fireworks display at the end of the event – so you’ll be extra lucky if you’re visiting in April.

The displays and events change from year to year, so it’s a good shout to check their website for more info before visiting.

3. Mosque of Light

One of the first in the UAE to be designed by a woman, the mosque of the late Mohamed Abdulkhaliq Gargash – a prominent local businessman – is not just any mosque. Developed with the idea of creating a ‘sense of the sacred’, the Mosque of Light is a minimalist place of worship that focuses on the way natural sunlight filters through specially designed geometric perforations throughout the building.

The controlled natural lighting means the space changes as the day changes, and as people come for prayer at dawn, midday, afternoon, sunset and at night. One of the most tranquil spots in the city, it’s amongst the best of Dubai’s hidden gems.

Find it in the Al Quoz neighbourhood.

2. Dubai Miracle Garden

The Dubai Miracle Garden is one of Dubai's hidden gems. Two images, scrapbook style, show two structures built from flowers, one a traditional American home with a wrap-around porch, the other a miniature Burj Khalifa.

One of the world’s largest natural flower gardens and found in the Dubailand area, just outside the city, the Dubai Miracle Garden suits its name ‘cos you really do have to see it to believe it. It’s a full-on floral fantasy spanning over 18 acres, with each area organised into its own theme, and the more elaborate the better – we’re talking hearts, stars, arches, and even windmills and castles. And they mean business, too – the garden has several Guinness World Records for the largest floral installation and the tallest topiary structure, among others.

Closed during the summer months when it’s just too hot for comfort, the park is typically open from November to April, and sometimes they introduce evening hours, which means you can explore the gardens whilst they’re illuminated by a whole range of colourful lights.

Tickets are around £20 for those over 12, and £17 for those from 3-12. Under 3’s go free.

1. Mushrif National Park

To the east of the city, about 16km from the centre, is a little hotspot of nature a world away from the glitz and glass towers of Downtown Dubai. Aaaaaand, breathe. One of the oldest parks in Dubai, Mushrif National Park stretches across more than 5sq km of natural ghaf forest, and is a haven for birds. Arabian babblers, yellow-throated sparrows and Rufous-tailed robins all call this place home.

You can cycle the 20km of biking trails here, with multiple tracks of varying difficulty, or you can just walk it instead, with a 10km hiking path that features bridges, sculptures, and public facilities (loos!) along the route. There’s plenty of spots to keep kids entertained, like play areas, games, horse riding – even a train ride. Then there’s Aventura – a tree-top adventure course with 80 different challenges. In the summer you can catch concerts at the theatre there too.

To keep transport cheap, hop on the Red Line to Centrepoint Metro Station, then catch the 11B bus from the bus station here to Mushrif, Park 1. It’s a 30 min walk from here through some lovely greenery to the park itself – so bring comfy shoes!

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