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Bucket list experience:

Last updated: 16 January, 2023
Expert travel writer: Nicola Chilton

In a desert city where summer temperatures nudge 50°C, Dubai’s 60-plus shopping malls serve a similar function to city parks – vast open spaces where citizens can gather in comfort to wander and mingle, as well as to dine and shop.

The bigger malls also serve as entertainment hubs, with everything from cinema complexes and kids’ edutainment zones, to giant aquariums and regular live events. Even if you’re not a shopper, a visit to a mall is a quintessential Dubai experience – and one of the city’s favourite pastimes.

Don't miss

For many, the must-see mall attraction is the aquarium in Dubai Mall, where shoppers can stroll past a vast acrylic tank (11m high and 51m long) housing everything from giant groupers to sharks and rays. For a fee, you can walk through the aquarium tunnel, or try your hand at scuba diving among the fish.

While you’re there

Outside Dubai Mall, and at the foot of the world’s tallest building, is a large man-made lake that springs into life every 30 minutes throughout the day, when a series of powerful, synchronised fountains leap and cascade to a rousing playlist of music.

Over on Jumeirah Beach, visits to Souk Madinat Jumeirah can be combined with an abra tour along the warren of canals surrounding the replica souk. It’s not an authentic souq, but it’s enchanting nonetheless. Boats depart every 20 minutes until 11pm.

Price: Free
Minimum age: Any
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: -

Getting there & doing it

All of Dubai’s shopping malls have extensive (free) car parks and taxi drop-off points. The bigger malls, such as Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall, are also stops on the Dubai Metro. Dining facilities are extensive – the bigger malls have numerous food courts and hundreds of restaurants. Malls in Dubai are open late – people tend to spend their evenings here.

When to do it

Shopping malls in Dubai are open all year round, seven days a week, typically from 10am to midnight.

In the hotter months, the malls are a great way to escape the heat of the afternoon, though they’re buzziest in the evening, when locals gather to meet friends and dine out. The most popular malls can be uncomfortably busy on Fridays.

Dubai Mall
Experience

Dubai Mall

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

One of the world’s largest malls, at the foot of the world’s tallest building – a veritable city within a city. The mall includes 1,300 shops, a vast aquarium, ice rink and cinema, and SEGA Republic. Next door is a modern souk and a lake with spectacular dancing fountains directly beneath the Burj Khalifa.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Ibn Battuta Mall
Experience

Ibn Battuta Mall

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

This themed shopping mall lies beyond Dubai Marina and is split into six separate courts that trace the travels of famous Arabic scholar-traveller Ibn Battuta. Look out for story boards throughout and other oddities such as replica ships and life-sized elephants. There’s an IMAX theatre too.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Mall of the Emirates
Experience

Mall of the Emirates

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

This labyrinthine mall holds around 1,000 outlets and is one of Dubai’s most popular. The top attraction is Ski Dubai, the famous indoor ski run and snow park. If you don’t fancy skiing, just grab a coffee and watch the surreal snowy scene through huge windows.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Mirdif City Centre
Experience

Mirdif City Centre

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Yet another vast mall, this one is located just south of the airport and on a similar scale to Mall of the Emirates. In place of a ski run, there’s an aerial assault course and indoor skydiving centre, alongside a great ‘edutainment’ zone for kids.

Best for ages: 4+ | Free

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Our writer’s picks of the best places to stay near this experience, closest first

Address Beach Resort

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Stylish seaside hotel in pedestrian-friendly Dubai Marina, within walking distance of plenty of bars and restaurants, topped by the world’s highest infinity pool.

Official star rating:

Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

An atmospheric creekside hotel filled with retro design details, just a short walk from old Dubai and the city’s heritage areas.

Official star rating:

Burj Al Arab Hotel

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dubai’s instantly-recognisable icon rising from the waters of the Arabian Gulf, with a chic beach club, sky-high spa and dazzling interiors.

Official star rating:

Four Seasons Hotel DIFC

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

A stylish boutique-sized hotel in buzzing DIFC, with a rooftop bar, small-but-sexy rooftop pool, and some of the city’s best restaurants on the doorstep.

Official star rating:

Destination guides including or relevant to this experience

Dubai

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dubai offers year-round sun, sand and sea, with a unique combination of Arabian culture, mega-malls and audacious architecture.

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Our writer’s recommendations of other bucket list experiences our writer says you must do in this destination, closest first

Burj Khalifa

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

At 828m, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building. Head up to the world’s highest outdoor observation deck for exceptional views of the city and desert beyond, and to learn Dubai history along the way.

Best for ages: 4+ | £30

Dubai desert safaris

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

A must-do Dubai experience – experiencing the surrounding desert through outdoor adventure, desert dinner and traditional entertainment.

Best for ages: 10+ | £20 | 4+ hours

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A night in the desert

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Take the opportunity to spend the night in a real desert, outside of the city – for a night of complete tranquillity and mesmerising star-gazing.

Best for ages: 13+ | £100 | 4 hours

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Other worthwhile experiences near this experience if you have time or interest..

Ain Dubai (Dubai Eye) tallest ferris wheel in the world on Bluewaters Island, JBR beach club with sunbeds in the foreground.
Experience

Ain Dubai

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

The world’s highest Ferris wheel, Ain Dubai has recently opened in Dubai Marina, offering spectacular views of the waters of the Arabian Gulf and towering skyscrapers along the coastline.

Best for ages: 6+ | £30

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New desert cycle track at Al Qudra in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. It's length is nearly 100km
Experience

Al Qudra Cycle Track

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

A serious, 86km cycling track out in the desert, head out for an early morning or evening ride and you might be lucky enough to spot gazelles or oryxes. Bike rental available from Hello Bike.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free | 1+ hours

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Woman in red dress enjoying art exhibition at the local gallery in Dubai
Experience

Alerskal Avenue art district

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

This warehouse district, a vibrant community of all things arts, continues to go from strength to strength. It features exceptional regional art across multiple galleries, as well as the region’s first arthouse cinema, and a handful of hip cafes and one-of-a-kind design boutiques.

Best for ages: 13+ | Free

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Aquaventure Waterpark
Experience

Aquaventure Waterpark

Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Colossal marine and waterpark located at Atlantis The Palm, featuring adrenalin-pumping slides, including 12 new slides added at Trident Tower. Heaven for kids and big kids; only the bravest dare to try the near-vertical ‘Leap of Faith’ waterslide.

Best for ages: 6+ | £70

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