Bur Dubai: Where history remains. Join us as we explore the heart of Dubai.
The Bur Dubai district (which translates to Mainland Dubai) is often called the Old City since this is where it all began. Located South of Dubai Creek, Bur Dubai will quell your appetite for traditional Emirati culture, quaint mercantile settings, and remnants of Moorish architecture. From its beautiful mosques to buzzing souks – there’s no shortage of interesting things to explore as you wander through this vibrant neighbourhood. It’s also a relatively wallet-friendly option for travellers who want to go beyond the glamour of modern Dubai and interact with local traders and residents.
In this guide, we’ll take you through Bur Dubai’s narrow alleys to sample the usual sights and hidden gems. If you want to experience this colourful district but don’t know any locals, we’ve got you covered with our list of options for solo, couple, or group travellers – let’s dive in!
Historical, Architectural, and Cultural Sites to Visit in Bur Dubai
There are many historical, architectural, and cultural sites to visit in Bur Dubai, and each one provides a unique and fascinating insight into the city’s past and present.
Looking to escape the hustle and bustle of modern Dubai? Step back in time when you visit the Bastakiya Quarter in Bur Dubai. This neighbourhood, also known as Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, was once a busy merchant’s quarter and has been lovingly restored to its former glory as a historical center. As you wander through the narrow alleyways, you’ll be transported back in time, with traditional wind-tower houses, craft shops, and quaint cafes all harking back to the culture of old Dubai.
Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House
Get a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of Dubai’s ruling family at the Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum House in Bur Dubai. This traditional Arabian residence previously housed the emirate’s former ruler, Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, and has now been restored as a museum. As you wander through the intricately decorated rooms, take a minute to admire the beautiful stained-glass windows, ornate balconies, and intricately carved wooden doors. The museum also houses a range of fascinating exhibits on Dubai’s maritime history, with displays on pearl diving, fishing, and boat building.
Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
For a truly immersive cultural experience in Dubai, visit the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding in the Al Fahidi district. With its open doors and open mind maxim, the center offers a range of experiences, from traditional Emirati breakfasts with local families to guided walking tours of the neighborhood. Visitors can learn about the rich cultural traditions of the United Arab Emirates, from traditional dress and customs to the art of henna painting and calligraphy. The center also offers workshops on the Arabic language and Islamic culture, as well as a range of cultural performances, including music, dance, and storytelling.
The Iranian Mosque in Bur Dubai might have its own awe-inspiring Instagram page, but it’s still considered a hidden gem. Tucked away in a quiet corner of the bustling Al Fahidi district, this mosque is a lovely example of traditional Iranian architecture, with its beautiful blue-tiled facade and intricately carved wooden doors. Visitors are welcome to explore the mosque’s peaceful interior, ornate chandeliers, prayer rugs, and calligraphy-adorned walls. The mosque is also home to a range of fascinating exhibitions on Islamic history and culture, including a collection of ancient Islamic manuscripts and artifacts.
If you’re an art lover looking for a cultural escape in Dubai, look no further than the Majlis Gallery. Since 1976, this gallery has been a platform for local and international artists and is renowned for its focus on contemporary Middle Eastern art. The gallery is housed in a traditional wind tower house, with its interior featuring stunning examples of traditional Islamic architecture and design.
The Dubai Heritage Village
The Dubai Heritage Village is located at the mouth of Dubai Creek in Bur Dubai. It’s an authentic recreation of a traditional Emirati village and offers visitors the chance to experience life in Dubai before the skyscrapers and luxury resorts took over. The village is home to various fascinating exhibits and demonstrations, including traditional Emirati crafts like pottery and weaving, as well as a working pearl diving display. Visitors can also explore a traditional souk, or marketplace, where they can browse for traditional handicrafts and sample the delicious local cuisine.
Outdoor locations in Bur Dubai
The Creek stretches for over 14 kilometres and is the site of the city’s original settlement, where merchants and traders sold their wares centuries ago. Today, it’s still a hub of activity, with a range of traditional boats and water taxis ferrying passengers from one side to the other. You can take a leisurely cruise along the waterway while enjoying views of the city skyline and the traditional dhows. On either side of the Creek, visitors can explore a range of markets and souks, selling everything from spices and textiles to gold and jewellery.
Creek Park is one of the city’s largest and most popular parks on the banks of Dubai Creek. This inviting green space covers over 96 hectares and features a range of facilities and activities to suit visitors of all ages. Families with children can enjoy the park’s large playgrounds, picnic areas, and even a miniature train that takes visitors on a scenic tour of the park. Sports enthusiasts will love the park’s tennis courts, basketball courts, and jogging track, while nature lovers can explore the park’s lush gardens, bird sanctuary, and even a small forest. Creek Park is also home to the Dubai Dolphinarium, where visitors can watch live dolphin shows and interact with these clever marine mammals.
Similar to Creek Park, Zabeel Park is one of Dubai’s largest and most popular public parks, covering over 47.5 hectares of beautifully landscaped green space. The park offers a wide range of recreational activities for visitors of all ages, from cycling and jogging to picnicking and barbecuing. There’s also a large lake where visitors can rent paddle boats and a miniature train that takes guests on a scenic tour of the park. The park is also home to the Dubai Frame, an iconic structure that offers stunning views of the city’s skyline.
Zabeel football Stadium
The home ground of Al Wasl FC, one of the top football clubs in the country. The stadium has a seating capacity of around 8,000 spectators and is known for its state-of-the-art facilities, including a world-class pitch, floodlights, and a modern scoreboard. The stadium has also hosted several high-profile football matches and other sporting events, making it an important sporting venue in the UAE.
Dubai Garden Glow
Located in Zabeel Park, this unique attraction features a dazzling array of colourful light displays and interactive exhibits, all designed to showcase the wonders of nature in a fun and engaging way. Visitors can explore a giant dinosaur park, a glowing garden filled with colourful flowers and plants, and even a replica of the Burj Khalifa made entirely out of recycled materials. It’s also home to various fun rides and games, making it the perfect destination for a family day out.
Shopping spots in Bur Dubai
There’s an exciting array of independent clothing and jewellery stores to discover in Bur Dubai. Love exotic fabrics? After picking up some unique pieces, head to a nearby local tailor for a bespoke outfit that’s made to measure just for you.
Old Souk, Gold Souk, Spice Souk and Meena Bazaar
Old Souk, Gold Souk, and Spice Souk are three of the most iconic traditional markets in Dubai. These bustling souks are a treasure trove of exotic goods and ancient culture, where visitors can haggle for gold, spices, textiles, and other handmade crafts. Meena Bazaar, on the other hand, is a more modern shopping destination that offers a range of affordable clothing, electronics, and household items. The bazaar is particularly famous for its Indian and Pakistani products, making it a popular spot among ex-pats from South Asia.
Places to Eat and Drink in Bur Dubai
Bur Dubai is a serious paradise for food enthusiasts. You can enjoy a meal at charming cafes nestled in the tranquil courtyards of the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood or explore the lively Meena Bazaar area, also known as Dubai’s Little India, where you can find excellent ethnic restaurants serving delectable, spice-infused curries.
Arabian Tea House Cafe
The Arabian Tea House Cafe is a popular restaurant in Dubai that serves a wide variety of traditional Arabian cuisine. The cafe is known for its relaxing atmosphere and is located in the Al Fahidi historical neighborhood, which is one of the oldest areas in Dubai. Visitors can enjoy dining in the tranquil courtyards of the cafe, surrounded by lush greenery and a peaceful ambiance.
XVA Cafe is a popular cafe located in Al Fahidi. It is known for its artsy and bohemian atmosphere, as well as its menu of Middle Eastern and vegetarian dishes. The cafe can be found in the boutique XVA Art Hotel which also boasts an art gallery showcasing local and international artists.
Dhow Cruise Dinner
Dhow Cruise Dinner is a great option if you’re in the mood to enjoy a delicious dinner buffet while cruising along Dubai Creek on a traditional wooden dhow boat. The boat passes by historical landmarks such as the Heritage Village, Sheikh Saeed’s House, and the Dubai Museum. The experience includes traditional Arabic music and entertainment, creating a romantic and relaxing ambiance. It’s a great way to experience Dubai’s culture and history while enjoying the cuisine and stunning views.
The Irish Village in Bur Dubai
The Irish Village is a popular pub and restaurant that serves authentic Irish food, drinks, and music. It is known for its rustic charm, cozy atmosphere, and live events such as music performances and sports screenings. The Irish Village also features an outdoor garden area, complete with a large screen for watching sports and a children’s play area. The pub is a favorite among ex-pats and locals alike and is a must-visit spot for anyone looking for a taste of Ireland in Dubai.
Other informal eateries in Bur Dubai
While there are plenty of upscale restaurants and cafes in Bur Dubai, there are also many more informal and affordable eateries where you can enjoy a delicious meal. From street food stalls to small family-run cafes, whether you’re looking for traditional Emirati cuisine, Indian street food, or international fare, Bur Dubai has it all. Here are a few of the casual spots worth checking out:
- Bu Qtair Fish Restaurant – a popular and casual eatery serving fresh seafood.
- Ravi Restaurant – a famous Pakistani restaurant known for its delicious curries and kebabs.
- Karachi Darbar – an Indian restaurant serving traditional dishes like biryani and tandoori chicken.
- Al Ustad Special Kabab – a small restaurant famous for its delicious kebabs.
- Automatic Restaurant – a budget-friendly restaurant that serves Indian and Pakistani cuisine.
- Calicut Paragon – a South Indian restaurant famous for its biryani and seafood dishes.
- Sindh Punjab Restaurant – a Pakistani restaurant that serves authentic dishes like nihari and paya.
- Bombay Chowpatty – a popular spot for street food lovers, serving chaats, vadas, and other snacks.
- Zafran Biryani – a restaurant that specializes in biryanis and kebabs.
- Barbeque Delights – a Pakistani restaurant known for its barbecue dishes like seekh kebab and tikka.
If you’re looking for a hotel in Bur Dubai, you’re about to be spoilt for choice. Check out our guide where we unpack the top options for best value hotels in Bur Dubai. Whatever your preference, you’re sure to find the perfect accommodation in Bur Dubai.
Getting to Bur Dubai
If you’re traveling on the Dubai Metro, you can disembark at either the Ghubaiba or Al Fahidi station. Also, if you’re taking a water taxi, please keep an eye out for the Al Ghubaiba marine transport station or the Bur Dubai Abra station.
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