Total Guide to Abu Dhabi: What to Do

By Julia Wheeler

This story originally appeared in the January/February 2017 issue of Elite Traveler.

Winter sunshine and Arabian hospitality await you in the capital of the United Arab Emirates. More self-assured and less frenetic than neighboring Dubai, largely due to oil wealth, it has taken a more leisurely and measured approach to tourism. The result is a considered, confident city that melds traditional with state-of-the art, luxury with tranquility and full-on excitement with an evolving restaurant scene. The city is made up of dozens of islands (not man-made like Dubai’s) and this geography is being used cleverly to focus on the different aspects the city has to offer.Whichever you choose, you are assured of a warm welcome – as the locals say bayti baytak (my house is your house).


Speed, excitement and fun provide thrills on Yas Island, nestled to the east of the city and home to the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix each November, and the fastest rollercoaster on earth at Ferrari World.

Total Guide to Abu Dhabi

STAY: Five-Star car fans can be trackside for high-speed races and practices year round at the Yas Viceroy. This iconic hotel sits astride the route of Sebastian Vettel, Jenson Button, Kimi Räikkönen and others. F1 Grand Prix options in November include a four-night stay in an Island Suite with wraparound balcony and a panoramic view of the track, Grand Prix tickets, a pit-lane walk among the drivers and crews, plus invitations to on-track concerts and entertainment. $38,400 per couple,

If you plan to arrive by water, Yas Marina has fully serviced berths for superyachts up to 150m. This is a great option for staying close to the track during F1 race week. Berthing rates include guest passes to concerts and a pit-lane walk, although not the grandstand. Express early interest from April.

EAT: Executive chef Cesare Romani oversees all food offerings at the Yas Viceroy including Angar and its Indian cuisine – try the signature butter chicken and salmon tandoori, followed by the Desi Opera dessert. Pineapple carpaccio sets the taste buds tingling at Italian Amici. Party later on the terrace at Iris or at MAD, the biggest indoor nightclub in the UAE. Alternatively, try the urban roof deck and club at Skylite and Rush and dance above the F1 track.

Total Guide to Abu Dhabi

ENTERTAINMENT: At Ferrari World you will be pulling 4.8Gs and traveling faster than an F1 driver on the Formula Rossa rollercoaster, so goggles and a serious seatbelt are essential. After reaching 150mph in 4.9 seconds, put yourself back in control of the wheel at the Karting Academy or zip around the professionals’ track in a Ferrari California. Safe from the roar of the engines, you can cycle the track on Tuesdays.

There are 18 holes to try at the Yas Links Championship Golf Course and shopping at YasMall. Yas Waterworld has free-fall slides, a hydro-magnetic tornado raft and special women-only days.