When you think of Dubai, what’s the first image that pops into your head? Is it majestic sand dunes? Is it the impressive Burj Khalifa that towers above the cityscape? Or perhaps you think about more abstract concepts like wealth and luxury shopping?
Regardless of what you think of Dubai, there’s no denying that this city in the UAE is actually one of the most visited destinations in the world, beating out even New York and Rome in a 2018 report! However, despite this, it’s safe to say that most Malaysians don’t really know much about Dubai as a travel destination.
In fact, I think most of us only know Dubai as the transit point for long-haul flights to Europe. After all, Dubai International Airport is the busiest airport in the world in terms of international passenger traffic. But beyond the confines of the arrival hall is a vibrant city filled with stunning scenery to explore!
Today, let’s dispel the misconception that Dubai is nothing more than a “transit city”. Time to take a look at some of the most Insta-worthy locations in the City of Gold!
1. The Burj Khalifa
Of course we have to start with Dubai’s iconic Burj Khalifa! Towering above the city skyline, this glittering architectural marvel is easily one of the most recognisable buildings in the world. It’s so famous in fact that some cinephiles might even recognise it from that memorable scene in Fast & Furious 7!
That being said, we cannot in good faith recommend you drive a car through the windows of this beloved landmark! Instead, head up to the outdoor terrace of At The Top, Burj Khalifa Sky Observation Deck for a panoramic view of the city you’ll never forget. It’s also here where you can fill your Instagram feed with photos featuring the impressive Dubai cityscape in the background!
If you’re a night photography aficionado, then you definitely have to visit the Burj Khalifa after sundown when it is, literally, lit! The exterior is covered in mesmerising lights, giving you the chance to capture and share a truly magnificent sight!
Did you know? At 555 metres, the Burj Khalifa is actually the world’s tallest observation deck! Don’t look down if you’re afraid of heights!
2. Alserkal Avenue
Art lovers and hipsters take note! Alserkal Avenue is Dubai’s ode to the arts, a kaleidoscope of colours and installations celebrating the work of many talented artists. As of writing, Alserkal Avenue plays host to art collections of over 25 international galleries, all housed within an ambient 500,000sq ft art district!
This new haven for Instagrammers is also home to plenty of hip cafes, independent art spaces, designer stores and also movie screenings featuring the masterpieces of independent filmmakers in the region! Beyond the glamourous art world, there are plenty of Insta-worthy photo spots throughout the area to elevate your creativity, so you can up your #potd game!
3. Dubai Frame
Right, how shall I frame this for you? Okay, puns aside, Dubai Frame is another one of the city’s architectural marvels. It resembles a massive photo frame (150 metres tall!) with the middle section at the top acting as a unique sky bridge and observation deck!
Located in Zabeel Park, Dubai Frame is one to add to your bucket list, especially if you’re in search of alluring photos to make your friends on Instagram jealous! Although taking a picture in the verdant park with the massive structure dwarfing everything in the background is impressive in and of itself, it’s when you step into the building’s observatory that you’ll be blown away.
You see, Dubai Frame provides you with a truly unique view at the top. Since it is located between the modern and historical sides of Dubai, you can actually enjoy a view of both new and old at the observatory. Toward the north, you’ll see Dubai’s iconic city skyline, filled with glittering skyscrapers (including the aforementioned Burj Khalifa) while in the south, you’ll catch a glimpse into Dubai’s lesser known traditional side!
4. La Mer
La Mer is one of the newer additions to Dubai’s cityscape and if we may say so ourselves, it is as much fun as it looks! Here’s what you need to know: La Mer is basically an exciting leisure and entertainment hub made up of four different zones: the main entertainment hub, a picturesque beach, a thrilling waterpack (Laguna Waterpark), and an F&B zone offering an array of tantalising cuisine.
This urban beachfront is adorned with artsy murals and fairy lights at night so no matter what time of day you visit, it’s equally enticing. The wide open spaces and bustling streets are where you can find plenty of Insta-worthy backdrops for your photography fix! But beyond finding that perfect shot in the viewfinder, don’t forget to relax and enjoy the day too!
Once you’ve had your fair share of the sandy beaches and turquoise water, why not take a leisurely stroll and hop between the over 100 cafes and restaurants in the area whilst enjoying the sunshine or awesome evening vibes? Trust us, you won’t regret it!
5. Madinat Jumeirah
How would you react if I told you that you could go to Dubai and with some expert photography fool your friends into thinking you went to Venice? Surprised? But that’s exactly the kind of vibes Madinat Jumeirah gives off the very moment you step into it!
Well-known among avid photographers, this district located on the edge of the Arabian Gulf is arguably Dubai’s premier photoshoot location! With classy 18th century architecture and turquoise water channels around every corner, Madinat Jumeirah might just be the place which lulls you into spending hours finding that perfect shot.
One unique photo you shouldn’t miss here is the opportunity to snap a picture of the world’s first ever seven-star hotel: the Burj Al Arab. The attention-catching contrast between the futuristic hotel in the background and the vintage classic architecture in the foreground makes the perfect composition for an awe-inspiring photo. Your Instagram feed will surely be lit!
6. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Continuing to slowly step away from the glitz and glamour of Dubai’s modern city, we take a slight step back in time as we visit the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood! The first thing you’ll notice about this neighbourhood is the architecture and colour of the buildings. Most of the coral-coloured buildings in Al Fahidi were in fact built in the 19th century!
With plenty of open courtyards and pristinely preserved towers, Al Fahidi provides a welcome change of scenery from the metropolitan vibes of the city centre. As you stroll among the streets, visiting shops selling traditional crafts and souvenirs, you’ll feel as if you’ve been transported back in time.
Aha! I bet you didn’t see this coming! Unbeknownst to many who merely transit through Dubai, the city is actually home to one of the country’s most beloved natural attractions: the ever picturesque exclave, Hatta. Nestled amongst the embrace of the Hajar Mountains and boasting scenic mountain views, ambient farms, wadis, and cultural buildings, Hatta is the prime destination for a nature escape from the city.
The Hatta Dam is one of the most frequently visited locations in the area, thanks to its stunning scenery and enigmatic peaks. Here, you can even rent a kayak and paddle out into the water for a memorable experience! I guess Dubai isn’t just a big piece of desert like many people believe, now is it?
8. Last Exit
Fancy restaurants and expensive eateries, make way! Food trucks are the latest global food trend and in Dubai, it’s easy to see why! Last Exit isn’t actually a “place”, it’s actually a series of theme parks focusing on food trucks! Rather than just being found in one place, Last Exit can be found in several locations throughout the city, including on the busy Sheikh Zayed Road which connects Dubai and Abu Dhabi!
Not only are Last Exit pit stops the perfect way to enjoy a good meal after a long drive, You can also find washrooms, charging boxes, convenience stores, ATMs, prayer rooms and more! What’s more, most locations are also often adorned with a decor that reflects the overall theme. You might find one location that follows a trippy cyberpunk theme and then another that looks like it belongs in a Cars sequel. Needless to say, apart from the good food, these locations are also a great feature for your Instagram feed!
Bonus: Sunsets at the beach (Umm Suqeim & The Beach by JBR)
Perched on the Arabian Gulf, it should come as no surprise that Dubai has its fair share of stunning beaches. In fact, catching the sunset in Dubai, as the fiery golden hues of the setting sun illuminate the beachfront, is absolutely one of the most beautiful experiences in the city. If you’re after the iconic shot of the sun setting against the Burj Al Arab, simply head to Atlantis, The Palm and sign yourself up for an afternoon seaplane tour.
However, if you simply wish to enjoy the crashing waves of the sea and the ambience of an Arabian sunset in earnest, head on over to The Beach by Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR). It is a cauldron of exciting beach activities from the usual volleyball and kayaking to more unique activities like skydiving, jet skiing, and flyboarding. You can even ride a camel there as you wait for that incredible sunset vista!
Psst, if you’re looking for an ideal pose, we recommend going for a silhouette shot facing the ocean. Hmm, perfecto!
Time to get clickin’
We hope we’ve changed your perception of what Dubai is like as a city and as a travel destination! As the photos above show, the City of Gold is more than just a stopover on your way to Europe and beyond! So next time you’re in Dubai, take some time off your schedule and go on a mesmerising photography tour of the city! Your Instagram followers will thank you for it!