Five free things to do in Dubai

From a musical fountain show to desert camping, here are free experiences you cannot miss when in the emirate

Go for a run at the Jumeirah Corniche

Go for a run at the Jumeirah Corniche

Run the city

If you love running, you’d be pleased to know that Dubai boasts numerous scenic running tracks. For starters, there’s an easy 5km loop around Downtown Dubai — take in the gorgeous views of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain as you jog on this track. Prefer a ladies-only environment? Check out the 4km running track at Creekside Park; on Wednesdays it’s exclusive to ladies and children. Saving the best for last, the 14km seaside route between the Dubai Marine Beach Resort and the Burj Al Arab — otherwise known as the Jumeirah Corniche, a development launched in 2014 — is indisputably the finest running route in Dubai. The corniche features a 5m-wide walkway and a 4m-wide jogging track, making it the longest corniche in the city.

Turn to the waterworks

The Dubai Fountain
Watch the Dubai Fountain dance

It’s almost preposterous to visit Dubai without checking out The Dubai Fountain, famed for being the second-largest choreographed fountain system in the world. With more than 6,600 lights and 25 colour projectors installed, the light beams can be seen from more than 32km away! The mesmerizing fountain show is choreographed to a wide range of music — from contemporary pop to classical Arabic sounds — and is best viewed from the Waterfront Promenade, located just outside The Dubai Mall.

How to get there: Take the Dubai Metro and alight at Burj Khalifa or The Dubai Mall Station. Follow the signs to the Dubai Fountain.
Show times: Afternoon shows (daily, except Fridays), 1pm and 1.30pm; afternoon shows (Fridays only), 1.30pm and 2pm; evening shows (daily) every 30 minutes from 6pm-11pm

Check out the goods at the Dubai Mall

Imagine this: The total internal floor area of the Dubai Mall is equivalent to the size of 50 football fields! The award-winning mall houses more than 1,200 retailers, including not one but two anchor department stores.

How to get there: Take the Dubai Metro and alight at Burj Khalifa or The Dubai Mall Station.

Take a deep breath at Deira’s spice souk

Smell the spices at the souk
Smell the spices at the souk

Wandering the narrow lanes of the spice souk in Deira promises a multisensory experience, thanks to the rich, vibrant colors and aromatic whiffs of the spices, as well as the dynamic chatter of merchants peddling their wares. Apart from hefty sacks of herbs and spices, the spice souk also sells textiles, incense, rugs and artifacts. While you’re there, don’t miss out the adjacent gold souk, which comprises over 300 retails, most of which are jewelry traders.

How to get there: The nearest metro stations are Al Ras Metro Station or Palm Deira Metro Station. Alternatively, to get to the spice and gold souks, take a boat (about US$0.25 per one-way ticket) across the Dubai Creek.

Go desert camping

Set up camp at Al Qudra Lake
Set up camp at Al Qudra Lake

Desert camping is a popular winter activity in the United Arab Emirates. In Dubai, there are plenty of amazing desert camping spots, including one by the man-made Al Qudra Lake in the middle of the Saih Al Salam Desert. This location is absolutely serene and picturesque at any time of the day — be it at night as you fall asleep under a blanket of glittering stars and to the soothing sounds of the crackling firewood; or at the break of dawn as you take in the surreal sunrise. The best part? Al Qudra Lake is less than an hour’s drive from Dubai’s city center, so you’re never too far away from the hustle and bustle.

Important: The lake is home to more than 150 species of birds, some of which are endangered. Please be a responsible visitor and do not leave any trash behind.

How to get there: The most convenient way to get there from central Dubai is by car. Look up the GPS coordinates 24°50’04.4″N 55°22’22.5″

Written by

Lili Tan

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