Top 10 free family holiday destinations

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The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is rightfully considered the leisure and entertainment hub of the UAE, with its record-breaking theme parks, unique museums and historical landmarks. And 2021didnt disappoint, as the city witnessed grand openings of several one-of-a-kind attractions including Al Qana National Aquarium, the largest in the Middle East, and the world’s first Warner Bros. branded hotel on the planet; Warner Bros. Hotel Abu Dhabi. There are also lots of activities available for free in Abu Dhabi, from watching cinema masterpieces to cycling on the iconic Yas Marina Circuit to observing flamingos in their natural habitat. We have compiled a list of must-visit hidden gems with free entry in Abu Dhabi, along with their locations and opening hours to help you have a fun time without having to break the bank.

Top Free Places to Visit in Abu Dhabi

There is a surprisingly high number of free attractions in Abu Dhabi, which include Mangrove National Park for nature lovers, Warehouse421 for art connoisseurs, as well as Heritage Village for those willing to find out more about the early days of the UAE. In fact, Abu Dhabi ranked third in the best destination to invest in a holiday home, according to a study by Compare The Market, which analyzed a number of popular cities in terms of things to do, affordability, and the local weather, among other key factors.

NBD! When planning a visit to a public place in the UAE capital, you have to remember that from 1 January 2022 the entry process in theme parks, cultural centers, resorts, health clubs, recreational and sports facilities, museums, cafes, restaurants, cinemas and shopping centers is limited to those who are vaccinated, exempted or aged under 16. It is also required for visitors or guests to show their green status on the Alhosn app, which appears after a negative PCR test and remains green for 14 days thereafter. That being said, entry to events requires a negative PCR test received within 96 hours, in addition to a green status on the Alhosn app.

Mangrove National Park

The Mangrove National Park is a perfect location to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. The park is protected by the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi and accounts for approximately 75% of the total mangrove forest area in the UAE. Besides mangrove forests, there are salt marshes, algal communities and mudflats to be found. Mangrove National Park is also home to hundreds of plant and bird species, such as mottled crab, the western reef heron, and of course, the greater flamingo. Not forgetting the fact that it serves as a habitat for foraging foxes, turtles, as well as marine mammals, including dolphins and dugong.

Where: next to Anantara Eastern Mangroves Hotel.

Opening hours: 11am–11pm daily.

Cinema Space

Launched back in 2014, Cinema Space is a totally voluntary and independent initiative, which provides the opportunity to enjoy classic and modern world cinema with the help of free-of-charge community screenings for movie lovers in Abu Dhabi. On the website cinemaspace-abudhabi.splashhat.com, you will find programme dates and times for the entire month, with short film descriptions as well. Please, remember that you have to register your spot as seating is limited at the event. Just select a film that you would like to see and click on the RVSP – Click here button under it. Once you complete a reservation, you will obtain an automatic email with confirmation.

Where: Manarat Al Saadiyat, Saadiyat Island.

Opening hours: time varies.

Note: Saadiyat Island was among the top 3 most popular areas in terms of real estate transactions in 2021. You can read more about trends and forecasts of the Abu Dhabi real estate market in this article.

Heritage Village

If you want to immerse yourself in traditional Bedouin life, then Heritage Village is the right destination for you. It gives insight into how life in the UAE looked before it turned into one of the most innovative countries in the world. Run by the Emirates Heritage Group, it features numerous must-see attractions, including a mosque, a traditional souq and a historic encampment, among other defining features. Moreover, there are hand crafted gifts available made by local artisans with the help of traditional skills of glass blowing, weaving, pottery and much more.

Where: at the Corniche Breakwater in Abu Dhabi, near Marina Mall.

Opening hours: 9am–4pm Saturday–Thursday, 3.30pm–9pm Friday.

Contact info: 026814455; torath.ae.

Emirates Palace

Operated by Mandarin Oriental, Emirates Palace is one of the most luxurious hotels in the UAE. In fact, the project has cost AED 11B (USD3B), making it the third most expensive hotel ever built. Known for its exquisite design, Emirates Palace consists of 114 domes, with the central dome rising 238 ft above the ground, crafted with crystals, mother of pearl and gold. As well as all that, there are 1,002 gorgeous Swarovski chandeliers in total, where the largest weighs a whopping 2.5 tons. Not forgetting the 8,000 palm trees in the garden and 2 hand-made wall displays showcasing the palace. Of course, you cannot stay for free in the hotel, however, the admission to its grand lobby is free and it is highly Instagrammable, so perfect to increase those Instagram likes!

Where: West end of the Corniche.

Opening hours: 24/7.

Warehouse421

Founded in 2015, Warehouse421 is the ultimate arts and design hub, which was transformed from industrial warehouses in the Mina Zayed of Abu Dhabi. It regularly hosts UAE-based, regional and international cultural practitioners, designers and artists, in order to promote art and culture in Abu Dhabi. You can visit various events, such as film screenings, workshops, talks and performances. That being said, Warehouse 421 features an expansive array of monthly workshops for free, besides paid events. Full monthly schedules are available on warehouse421.ae, where you can check information regarding all events and whether they are paid entry or free.

Where: Mina Zayed Abu Dhabi, near Mina Center and Abu Dhabi Vegetable Market.

Opening hours: 10am–8pm Tuesday–Sunday.

Contact info: +9712 6768803; [email protected]

Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque

tHE Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is the largest mosque in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, with a capacity of welcoming up to 55,000 worshippers and visitors daily. Completed over a period of 11 years, the mosque celebrates architectural styles from vaious Muslim civilizations, following the vision of Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founder of the UAE. This magnificent masterpiece houses the largest hand-woven carpet and one of the largest chandeliers in a mosque on the planet. Among its other key features worth mentioning are its 82 white marble domes, 1,096 amethyst-and-jasper-embedded columns, gold-plated Swarovski chandeliers, reflective pools and one of the biggest mosaic artworks worldwide. Attendees are provided with the opportunity to benefit from Cultural Tours during visiting hours (no prior booking needed).

NBD! When visiting Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, women are required to cover their heads. Additionally, both male and female visitors are to be dressed conservatively, as transparent, short and tight clothing is prohibited.

Where: between the 3 main bridges connecting Abu Dhabi to the mainland (Mussafah, Maqta and Sheikh Zayed bridges).

Opening hours: 9am-10pm Saturday-Thursday (last entry at 9.30pm); 9am-12pm Friday (last entry at 11.30am) and 3pm-10pm (last entry at 9.30pm).

Contact info: +97124191919.

Yas Marina Circuit

Yas Marina Circuit is famed for several world records, including it being the most expensive F1 circuit ever built, at a cost of AED 3.7B (USD 1B). It also houses the first hotel to have ever been built over an F1 circuit; the W Hotel. Designed by Herman Tilke, a renowned German engineer, racing driver and circuit designer, Yas Marina Circuit hosts the annual global racing event; the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Entry to the venue itself is free and you can book an array of paid activities there. Moreover, the Zayed Sports City attraction offers the ADNOC TrainYAS Presented by Abu Dhabi Sports Council programme for walkers, runners and cyclists on the following days for free:

  • TrainYAS: 6pm–10pm on Mondays and Wednesdays.
  • TrainAM: 6am–8am on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays.
  • TrainYAS Ladies: 6pm–9pm on Tuesdays (females only).

There are complimentary bicycles available in both adult and children sizes at the ComYas village. Additionally, you can bring your own helmet or use a complimentary one, however, remember that a limited number of equipment is available.

NBD! Prior booking on yasmarina.circuit.com/en/healthandfitness/registration is a must, in which you can choose a suitable time slot and your preferred day. That being said, registration closes 12 hours before the start time every day, so it is advisable to plan your visit ahead of time.

Where: Yas Island.

Contact info: [email protected]

The NYUAD Art Gallery

Based in the prestigious New York University Abu Dhabi, this non-commercial art gallery is the Gulf’s first and only university gallery with a programme of experimental and scholarly muse exhibitions. The gallery is known for housing various exhibitions by globally renowned scholars, curators and artists. The NYUAD Art Gallery is complemented by the auxiliary venue; the Project Space, a non-commercial gallery, which is supported by the museum-trained employees of the main gallery. As of January 2022, the NYUAD Art Gallery is hosting an exhibition called “Modernisms: Iranian, Turkish and Indian Highlights from NYU’s Abby Weed Grey Collection” until 5 February 2022, with masterpieces by some of the regions most talented artists, including M. F. Husain and Parviz Tanavoli, among others.

NBD! Although the entry is free, you have to book a visit in advance on nyuad-artgallery.com.

Where: NYU Abu Dhabi’s new campus.

Opening hours: 12pm–8pm Tuesday–Sunday.

Contact info: +97126288000; [email protected]

Cultural Foundation

Cultural Foundation, which was established back in 1981, is the UAE’s first cultural center aimed at the creation and appreciation of Emirati literature and arts. Since then, the Cultural Foundation has become a premier space for culture and arts in the region and worldwide. In addition to hosting art workshop classes, movies, concerts, lectures and art exhibitions, it also offers a range of activities for the younger generation in the children’s library. All exhibitions are free to visit and no prior booking is required.

Where: Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street, Al Hosn.

Opening hours: 10am–7pm Saturday–Thursday; 2pm–7pm Friday.

Contact info: 026576348; [email protected]

How Can We Help?

Abu Dhabi is striving to become one of the best destinations worldwide for living, working and investing. Alongside tons of attractions, it is widely renowned for its strong economy, religious tolerance, safety and work-life balance.

Metropolitan Capital Real Estate is a full-cycle real estate company, which will help you find a suitable property for purchase or to rent which is in close proximity to museums, cinemas, art galleries and more, that will make various attractions of Abu Dhabi easily accessible for you. In addition, we provide legal services, property management services and assistance with obtaining a mortgage if needed.

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