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Abu Dhabi is often overshadowed by its world famous and more populous sister city, Dubai, but as the capital of the United Arab Emirates, it's still worth a visit. Less showy than Dubai, opulence, and tradition still mingle here with dazzling skyscrapers and ornate mosques standing shoulder to shoulder. Enjoy an unforgettable visit to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, wander around the grounds of the Emirates Palace and haggle over a bargain at one of the traditional souk markets. For an authentic taste of the region, sample Abu Dhabi's best shawarma at Bait El Khetyar. Located on the southern coast of the Persian Gulf, Abu Dhabi offers visitors modern amenities set against a backdrop of ancient heritage and culture. Not sure where to stay when visiting? We can help you choose the best hotels in the area.
Best Overall: Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi
The concept of the fictional Shangri-La is envisioned here in bright white Arab architecture and meandering waterways navigated by traditional boats, known as abras. These boats ferry guests from the hotel through verdant gardens to souks and areas of interest. You’ll also be able to stroll along the private beach before relaxing in your six-bedroom villa with your very own private swimming pool. Fully serviced apartments and more standard guestrooms are also available. Expect to find an LCD TV, DVD player, luxury mosaic bathrooms and free daily newspapers. For dining options, choose from elegant French dishes, Vietnamese or the signature Shang Palace restaurant for delicious takes on Chinese classics.
Best Budget: Premier Inn Abu Dhabi Capital Centre Hotel
Located opposite the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (ADNEC) this hotel offers an affordable option for visitors who want to experience the capital city without breaking the bank. The Zayed sports city is close by and offers opportunities to go bowling and even ice skating. Rooms here feature plush bedding, free Wi-Fi and blackout curtains to ensure a sound night's sleep. You can also expect tea and coffee making facilities, as well as a 32” smart TV. Relax in the swimming pool or work out at the gym before making arrangements for supper in the city or in the hotel’s own restaurant. A Costa coffee shop provides lattes and snacks throughout the day.
Best Families: The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
Within the shadow of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, this huge hotel offers everything a busy family could need to unwind and relax in beautiful surroundings. The waterfront location features a luxurious spa for parents to enjoy while the kids are being entertained by the on-site babysitters. Children will also enjoy the Ritz kids' club that offers a supervised program of activities including meals, so Mom and Dad can drop their brood off and relax all day long. Rooms include views of the gardens or pool, 400-thread-count Egyptian cotton linens and marble bathrooms. With eight restaurants, you’ll be spoiled for choice and kids will love their own special menu that includes chicken tenders and pizza. The beautiful beach and 1,600-square-meter swimming pool both provide hours of fun activities for the whole family.
Best Romance: The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort offers Mediterranean architecture and beachfront location just a 10-minute drive from the city’s downtown. Your own private butler will cater to your every need and whim and can help to organize romantic treats for your sweetheart. Rooms are decorated in classic elegant tones and feature spa-like bathrooms. If that is not indulgent enough, head to the Iridium spa and book a "time together" treatment in the couples' room. The adults-only pool is a romantic spot to lounge and float around before getting ready for an enchanted evening.
Choose from five restaurants and enjoy candlelit moments especially for two.
Best Luxury: Emirates Palace
This glittering golden palace is a stunning 394-bedroom hotel set on a beautiful beach. Rooms here are opulent enough for royalty and feature flat-screen TVs, in-room iPad’s, as well as private terraces or balconies. Reserve the three-bedroom Palace Suite that comes with your own private Jacuzzi to truly experience unparalleled luxury. The Emirates palace specializes in al fresco dining with elegantly tented gazebos and traditional Arabian flair. Over dinner, you can enjoy views over the marina and beach. Relax with bespoke spa packages, including resting in an ice cave and a Moroccan Hammam. When you’re feeling active you can take part in daily yoga, tennis and water sports or book a camel ride on white sandy beaches. Be sure to sample what has been called the “best afternoon tea in Abu Dhabi” at Le Cafe and order the 24K gold-flaked Palace Cappuccino.
Best Nightlife/Best for Singles: Yas Viceroy Abu Dhabi
The Yas Viceroy has eleven separate dining, lounge and entertainment venues to keep night owls entertained into the wee hours of the morning. Relax around the rooftop lounge opposite the infinity pool and enjoy a pre-dinner cocktail as the DJ spins some beats.
Enjoy the taste of the world at the international buffet or choose from specialty restaurants serving Italian, Mediterranean, Japanese or Indian cuisine. Rooms feature 42" TVs, high-speed Internet and bathrooms with deep soaking tubs and rainforest showers.
Later visit the Empire, at Rush Nightclub, a unique club, the only one in the world built over an F1 racetrack. Dance the night away to the hippest DJs and be sure to dress to impress.
Best Business: Khalidiya Palace Rayhaan by Rotana
The Khalidiya Palace has six ocean facing meeting rooms that are equipped with everything the business traveler could need, including remote-controlled projection screens, portable LCD projectors, Lapel Wireless Microphones and 42” LCD TV screens. The full-service business center includes multilingual secretarial support and currency exchange services. The 443 contemporary rooms are large and comfortable and come with air-conditioning, Wi-Fi and tea and coffee making facilities. Choose from two restaurants and two bars specializing in authentic Arabian cuisine such as Kibbeh Traboulsiyeh, a lamb dish.
In your leisure time, rejuvenate with a massage or spa treatment and enjoy the 200-meter private beach and the enormous swimming pool, which is one of the biggest in Abu Dhabi.
Best Beachfront: Beach Rotana
The enviable location of this private beachfront property is also within easy walking distance of all the city has to offer. Shops, boutiques, movie theaters and the Abu Dhabi Mall are all close by, as are the new CBD and the Corniche. The 565 rooms offer water or city views and each has free Wi-Fi, TV, luxury linens and a mini-fridge. A spa, wellness center and swimming pool provide plenty of opportunities for guests to relax and recharge, while those looking to get active will appreciate the tennis and squash courts. Mini beach bums will love the indoor and outdoor children's play centers. After a day on the beach, choose from eleven restaurants, including French-Polynesian, Indian, Italian and German cuisines.
Best for Golf: The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa
Those looking to improve their swing or just play the game they love will appreciate the Westin’s 27-hole championship course, which is the home to the PGA European Tour Abu Dhabi Golf Championship. Located just five kilometers from the airport, you can be teeing off almost as soon as you land in Abu Dhabi. Rooms include gorgeous views of the golf course and come with Wi-Fi, a flat-screen TV, minibar and air-conditioning. If you're looking for a change of pace or need to rest your weary muscles after a long game, visit the Heavenly Spa for a range of treatments, massages and wellness packages. For supper, enjoy a buffet dinner at the Fairways restaurant or order in-room dining for a laid-back evening.