Taking after ancient Arab villages, Madinat Jumeirah looks like a movie set with its very own souk, palm-lined waterways and sand-colored architecture, hotels and restaurants. You can easily spend a day exploring every nook and cranny for little design details that make the place so aesthetically pleasing. Pro tip: explore Madinat Jumeirah on a traditional wooden water taxi called abra. Madinat Jumeirah; +971 4 366-8888
Dubai Miracle Garden
A Disneyland for budding botanists and anyone with a green thumb, Dubai Miracle Garden showcases a colorful myriad of desert flowers — 150 million when in full bloom, in fact. The displays and exhibits have a different theme each season so you’ll never really know what to expect. Due to high temperatures in Dubai, the Garden is closed June through September. It’s around AED40 per adult to get in. Al Barsha South 3; +971 4 422-8902
Lovers of the sun, sand, and sea should hit up Jumeirah Beach for its glorious views, particularly with the distinctive sail-shaped Burj Al Arab, one of the world’s tallest hotels, in the background. And if you time your day right, stopping by during the breathtaking sunset will deliver some seriously good Instagram posts.
For a change of scenery, visit the Al Fahidi Historical District. Better known as Al Bastakiya, this old heritage town features countless photo opportunities with its grand ochre-colored structures and winding alleyways. Between IG shots, you can check out places like the Dubai Museum and the Al Fahidi Fort. Al Hamriya, Bur Dubai
Dubai Design District
Dedicated to the creative fields, the Dubai Design District (or D3 for short) is a hip precinct in the vein of international counterparts like London’s Shoreditch and New York’s Meatpacking District. From design studios and art installations on the street to shopping promenades and trendy cafés, there’s lots to see, do and snap photos of in this edgy part of Dubai. Ras Al Khor Rd; +971 4 433-3000
Dubai Desert Safari
It’s hard to resist the magic of Dubai’s marvelous desert and mesmerizing golden skies. If you can’t decide whether a camel ride, sandboarding session or dune buggy trial run will work best for that Instagram shot, sign up for an exciting desert safari with Local Dubai Tours to do it all.
Level 43 Sky Lounge
You won’t believe the views you’ll get at this open-air pool and swish lounge. Part of Four Points by Sheraton Sheikh Zayed Road, it sits 155 meters above the ground and offers jaw-dropping 360-degree sights of the city skyline. Hit it up at sunset for stunning photos and stick around for a drink or two after.
Note: Taking photos using a tripod requires prior approval from the hotel, so be sure to send them an email before you show up. Four Points by Sheraton Sheikh Zayed Road; +971 5 6414-2213
No trip to Dubai would be complete without a visit to the Burj Khalifa. An engineering and design feat, this impressive superstructure stands at a whopping height of 828m. Buy a ticket to access the observation deck at levels 124 and 125 (prices start from AED125 per adult during non-peak hours and AED200 during peak hours) for mind-blowing views of the city. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd; +971 4 366-1688
Even if you’re not staying at this fancy resort, it’s worth popping by for an Instagram shot of the surreal Aladdin-esque main entrance. The venue is centrally located, making it an easy stop for anyone. It’s also a hop, skip and jump away from Dubai Mall and other must-see sites like the Dubai Fountain. The Old Town Island, Mohammed bin Rashid Blvd; +971 4 428-7888
Feeling adventurous? Fancy a hike? Outdoorsy types will want to venture out to the Hatta region, which is located about an hour away from central Dubai. At Hatta Dam, you’ll find a few hiking trails to choose from, many of which lead to vantage points where you can drink up views of mighty rugged mountains and a pretty green-water lake. Hatta Dam, near Hatta Fort Hotel, Sharjah Kalba Rd