Top Free Activities in Dubai

17 January 2013
Read Time: 1.6 mins

As the commercial heart of the United Arab Emirates, Dubai generally conjures images of opulent suites, decadent meals and celebrity-style shopping experiences. Located within the Arabian Desert, on the Arabian Penisula's southeast coast, Dubai is a cosmopolitan metropolis, a city of contrasts, teeming with vibrant life. Believe it or not, it's possible to visit Dubai without spending a small fortune. Dubai's zero-cost activities include sightseeing, swimming, geocaching and window shopping.

Dubai Souk Dubai Central Souk

Shopping Malls
Dubai's heat can be stifling so stay indoors and enjoy window shopping in any one of the city state's incredible malls. In Dubai Mall explore an area of 836 thousand square metres boasting 1200 stores. See how the other half lives in the luxurious BurJurman, located in the city centre. Alternatively, wander through the Deira City Center or the modern Chinese “market”, Dragon Mart, where you'll see everything from gadgets to handbags to pearls. After dark, catch the spectacular Dubai Light and Sound Show at Wafi Mall, located just 10 minutes from Dubai International Airport.

Parks and Mosques
Spend some down time in one of Dubai's parks, or check out the city's largest mosque, The Jumeirah Mosque, located opposite the Palm Strip mall on Al Jumeirah Road. Open to non-Muslims, visitors are welcome to join a tour to learn about the second largest religion in the world. Visit Safa Park's waterfall and in Zabeel, take a selfie with a surfing kangaroo and koala, a gift from the Gold Coast in Queensland, Australia. Try geocaching, the global treasure-hunting craze. Use your smartphone or GPS device to take part in this fun, free adventure.

Art Galleries
Dubai's go-to art destination, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC), is home to a number of art galleries showcasing local Middle Eastern and international artists. Art Sawa, Ayyam Gallery, Edge of Arabia and the stylish XVA Gallery specialise in contemporary Middle Eastern art. A private collection, The Farjam Collection, located at Gate Village 4, DIFC, features impressive free exhibitions and educational programs. Cross-cultural collaborative art and Islamic art is worth seeing here.

The Middle East is famous for its gold and spice souks, Dubai for its cheap gold especially; if you're prepared to haggle for it, you're sure to get a bargain. But without spending a cent you can easily lose track of time wandering through a traditional Arabian market. Visit Souk Madinat Jumeirah with its pristine waterways, and lantern lit corridors overflowing with antiques and souvenirs; it's stunning at night. Marvel at the pieces on display in Dubai Gold Souk and take in the aromas of the nearby Spice Souk, Perfume Souk and Fish Souk.

Bastakiya Quarter
Head downtown along the south bank of Dubai Creek in the Bur Dubai district to find Dubai's charming historic area, Bastakiya Quarter. Stroll the character filled streets and admire Persian architecture; mansions that are now home to art galleries and popular sheesha cafes. Many businesses close their doors against the heat between 1pm and 4pm, reopening for the vibrant evening hours.

Xanthe Coward

Xanthe's favourite travel destinations are the Greek Islands, Indonesia, Fiji and Vanuatu. With a background in performing arts, fine food, wine and good times, Xanthe enjoys travel that brings her close to the locals and their leisure activities. Being a theatre reviewer means that Xanthe will always do dinner and a show before checking out the late night city scene and still be up early to find the markets and a decent pot of chai.