Abu Dhabi is not a destination that has ever been top of my travel to do list, but I was more than happy to discover a little more about the capital city of the UAE, on a stopover between London and Seoul. Abu Dhabi is the largest of the seven Emirates that form the UAE, and has become known as a destination that champions its heritage and showcases culture. It is an accessible size, so in just 3 days we managed to eat our way round the city, soak up the sun on the beach and wander round some incredibly impressive museums and mosques.
Rosewood Abu Dhabi – The Rosewood in Abu Dhabi is one of three hotels this luxury group has in the Middle East. In a destination where five-star hotels are plentiful and lavish it is hard to stand out, but the Rosewood does so effortlessly with understated and sophisticated style. The hotel is found on Al Maryah Island and is the proud home to several brilliant restaurants, including Cantonese, Lebanese and International eateries. There is also the beautifully serene Sense Spa and tropical outdoor pool area. Our suite for the night was a heavenly oasis of comfort, with every amenity and more. The bathroom was a real highlight with a huge tub overlooking the city.
Tashas – This brunch spot is a hit with the locals, and provided a nice break from eating in hotel restaurants. The cafe is an export from South Africa and offers fresh juices, coffee and generous brunch dishes. I loved my spicy scrambled eggs with avocado and toast.
Sambusek – Head to the Rosewood’s Lebanese restaurant Sambusak to sample the best meze in town. A vibrant menu captures the essence of Lebanon’s cuisine with the freshest seafood, marinated grilled meats and authentic salads and baked treats. We particularly loved the cheesy fatayer and flavoursome kibbeh, made with lamb.
Namak by Kunal Kapur – Located within the Dusit Thani Hotel this is the flagship Abu Dhabi restaurant for Indian master chef and tv personality Kunal Kapur. Despite the slightly tired interiors the food is exciting and imaginative. The lamb chops and chicken tikka tacos were both winning dishes, and I found the paneer butter masala curry addictively tasty.
Mirzam – Originating from Dubai, Mirzam is a boutique company producing high quality chocolate using single origin cocoa beans chosen for their unique flavour and quality. This shop recently opened at the historical site of Qasr Al Hosn and the shop is a lovely place to sit overlooking the city with a cup of flavoured hot (or cold) chocolate. I loved the chocolate and fell instantly in love with the colourful decorative packaging.
Hidden Bar – Gin enthusiasts should head straight to the Hidden Bar inside the Rosewood Hotel. This atmospheric bar serve their own flavoured gin infusions with tonic or you can choose to taste one of the 150 brands behind the bar.
Arabica % – When I visited the original Arabica % coffee shop in Kyoto I never imagined the company would grow so fast, and now they have 54 stores internationally. With shops on the Corniche and at Al Bateen the Emiratis seem to be loving the Arabica blends, with both venues seeming very busy. I visited every morning for my daily caffeine kick, and was very grateful to have somewhere to get such high quality coffee in Abu Dhabi.
The Espresso Lab – This speciality coffee lab and roastery at Qasr Al Hosn takes coffee very seriously. Choose from filter coffee or espresso-based drinks, which use local beans rather than importing from around the world.
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque – I was in complete awe of Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. This stunning mosque is the third largest in the world, and can accommodate up to 41,000 worshippers. The mosque holds the world’s largest hand-woven carpet and the main crystal chandelier weighs 12 tons! It is free to visit, but I recommend booking in advance and taking the opportunity to do a guided tour which takes you to areas you wouldn’t otherwise get to see.
Qasr Al Watan – This incredible palace only opened in 2019, opened by Sheikhs Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Ruler of Abu Dhabi and President of the United Arab Emirates) and Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan to celebrate the heritage of the country.
The Louvre – A sibling to the famous Parisian museum, the Louvre Abu Dhabi exhibits exciting contemporary shows alongside an impressive permanent collection which includes work by Degas, Magritte and Manet. The building itself is also visually impressive, a structure inspired by the cupola (a distinctive feature in Arabic architecture), designed by architect Jean Nouvel.
Qasr al Hosn – This is the oldest stone building in Abu Dhabi and should be the first stop on any itinerary to get a basic understanding of UAE history. The city was built around this fort, and to me it felt like the centre of the city.
Saadiyat Beach Club – Found on Abu Dhabi’s iconic Saadiyat island this luxury beach club is the perfect city escape for the day. Sit on the white sand beach or by the pool, or use the gym & spa facilities inside. The club serves a casual food and drinks menu to satisfy all your cravings. It was total bliss to spend a day chilling out in the sun here.