Your guide on things to do away from the track at the Abu Dhabi Formula 1 Grand Prix on November 25-27, 2016.
It may not be a long-haul journey to Abu Dhabi but it may still feel a long way to travel for a long weekend, especially when there’s so much else to see and do while you’re here. Whether you’re staying on Yas Island itself, in downtown Abu Dhabi or even in Dubai, here are a few things to see and do if you’ve swung yourself a few extra days in the Emirates. The Editor attended the 2015 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix and stayed in Dubai. All images © Tomasz Cwiklinski & F1Destinations.com
No visit here would be complete without a stroll along the iconic Corniche; 8 kilometers of manicured beaches, boutiques, cafes, restaurants and hotels that’s the very essence of Abu Dhabi’s luxury lifestyle. Hire bikes cheaply for an alternative way to see the area, using the dedicated cycle lanes that run alongside the promenade. To coincide with the race, the city puts on the Yasalam Festival each year on the Corniche. Go to the F1 Fanzone every day till late to have a go on the driving simulators, buy official team merchandise and – if you’re not going to Yas Island for the race – watch the action on big screens. In addition to F1-themed fun, there’s also music, art and community events, including Beats on the Beach, a series of concerts taking place on November 24-27, 2016. The lineup for this year is yet to be finalized, but you can expect a few decent local and international dance acts to be appearing.
Other things to do in Abu Dhabi
- Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque: Get a free guided tour of complimentary one of the world’s largest and most spectacular mosques (pictured above), which has a capacity for some 40,000 worshippers. Some say this gleaming edifice is a little ‘Disneyfied’, but it’s still a magnificent spectacle. Arrive at 4.30pm for a sunset tour.
- Observation Deck at 300: For staggering views across the city head for the 74th floor of Tower 2 at the Etihad Towers Complex, the city’s tallest structure at 300 metres up. You can even make an afternoon of it and take afternoon tea up there. Guests staying at the Jumeirah Hotel at the Emirates Complex get in free, otherwise entry is 75 Dirhams (16 EUR / 20 USD) of which two thirds is given back to you as food and drink vouchers for when you get to the top.
- Helicopter Tour: For a suitably glitzy way to mark the beginning or end of your F1 trip, why not take a helicopter trip over the city? Flights take off every day (9-5pm) from Marina Mall Terminal and cover views of the Emirates Palace, the Corniche, Ferrari World and all the F1 action down on Yas Island. Shared trips in a six seater helicopter cost around 900 Dirhams (around €200) per person. Private trips cost significantly more. Book here.
- Desert Safari: For those chasing an adrenaline buzz, take a sunset trip out to the desert in a 4×4 for a roller-coaster ride over sand dunes. Excursions are led by experienced dune drivers and end with dinner and dancing in the desert. Also recommended are dune buggy trips where you get to do the driving yourself! Book here.
- Camel Races: Who said it was all about the F1 paddock in Abu Dhabi? Camel Races are held on Thursday and Fridays in the winter and offer visitors a chance to visit the camel paddocks as well as watch the racing itself. Entrance to races is free at the Al Wathba Camel Race Track, some 45 kilometres outside the city.
- Emirates National Auto Museum: This one is an absolute must for any car fanatic. This public collection of over 200 cars belongs to HH Sheikh Hamad Bin Hamdan Al Nahyan, an incurable petrol head known as the ‘Rainbow Sheikh’. The collection has previously been featured on Top Gear, and is found in Al Gharbia, 45 kilometres south of the city. Entry costs 50 Dirhams (just over €10). You’ll lots of off-roaders, the world’s largest truck, lots of classic American cars and the Sheikh’s Mercedes ‘rainbow collection’ – one in a different colour for every day of the week. Click here for more information.
Best of Dubai
Dubai is less than 2 hours by road north of Abu Dhabi and can also make a good base for your Grand Prix weekend. If you have a day or two extra in your trip itinerary, it’s well worth a visit. We’ve chosen some of the highlights below.
- Burj Khalifa: The world’s tallest building and Dubai’s most incredible landmark is now home to the world’s highest viewing platform, a cool 555m (or 148 floors) up in the sky. The exclusive platform accepts just 50 visitors an hour and tickets cost a hefty 300 AED (€70). If this is too steep, you can visit the ‘At the Top’ observation deck on the 124th floor for a more reasonable 125 AED (€30 EUR). Prices are higher during the prime ‘dusk’ hours. To beat the crowds, you can buy your tickets online up to a month in advance.
- Mall of the Emirates: right next door to the Burj Khalifa, this massive shopping center has every kind of shop you can imagine (including all the world’s leading luxury brands, of course), plus restaurants, a cinema complex, and even an indoor ski slope! Click here for more information.
- Jumeirah Beach, Dubai Marina & the Palm: Dubai is home to some of the whitest and sandiest beaches in the world, so don’t forget to plan for some down time on Jumeirah beach if you’re staying in Dubai. Sea temperatures are still a warm 22 degrees in November, too. Another good way to see the ‘new Dubai’ skyscrapers of Jumeirah is to take a cruise around Dubai Marina (see images below). The man-made Palm Jumeirah is also close by; take the monorail to check out the impressive Atlantis Hotel.
- Jumeirah Mosque: Non-Muslims are not often allowed to visit mosques, but the ‘open doors, open minds’ project at Jumeirah Mosque is bucking the trend with its very popular organised tours for all. Explore the opulent and vast interior of this architectural wonder, and ask your guide everything you want to about Dubai culture and anything you don’t already know about Islam.
Use our budget planner to work out the cost of a weekend at Yas Marina for the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Warning, it’s going to be expensive. The next race is on November 24-26, 2017.
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