En route to the Seychelles last November, Dan and I spent the weekend in Abu Dhabi! This was mostly due to the fact that we needed to connect in the Middle East and had already visited Dubai (en route to the Maldives). In any case, I had been wanting to visit Abu Dhabi and the flights worked out. There is plenty to do in Abu Dhabi to fill a weekend and even longer, but we only had the weekend. Here’s what we managed to do during that weekend, which we highly suggest to other visitors, whether in transit or on vacation in Abu Dhabi.
FIRST DAY IN DUBAI – 12.5 HOUR FLIGHT & ARRIVAL IN ABU DHABI!
We flew direct from JFK (New York) to Abu Dhabi on Etihad’s 10:00 PM flight, which arrived the following evening in Abu Dhabi (losing almost a whole day). We arrived a few minutes early and made it to our hotel, the Marriott Hotel Downtown Abu Dhabi, without much fuss. Abu Dhabi lifted all Covid restrictions just before our trip, so we didn’t have to deal with anything relating thereto. Due to our Marriott Platinum status, we received access to the Marriott’s Executive Club Lounge, which was open for complimentary drinks for almost an hour after we arrived (a fun surprise in Abu Dhabi where alcohol is $$$). As such, we quickly checked into our room and immediately proceeded to the Executive Club Lounge.
The Executive Club Lounge is located on the 20th floor and was spacious and not too crowded. We had more drinks than expected (we thought there was only time for one), as well as lots of water and soda to recover from the flight.
After the Lounge, we went to the Marriott’s 25th floor rooftop lounge, At 25, for a dinner of Middle Eastern fare and post-dinner shisha. Our first evening turned out to be surprisingly fun!
DAY TWO – F1 RACING AND A DELICIOUS LEBANESE DINNER.
We slept in a bit our first day due to jet lag and eventually began our day with complimentary breakfast at the Marriott (again, due to our Platinum Status with Marriott). We had two options for breakfast – taking it in the Executive Club Lounge or in the main breakfast restaurant. We opted for the restaurant because there was more choice, despite it being very crowded. We both opted for some random selections from the large buffet and an Arabic Eggs Benedict, which was chicken shawarma on a Zatar croissant topped with a poached egg and Sumac Hollandaise sauce. This was an interesting twist on a classic! I added a hash brown with my order….
Post-breakfast, we hit the Marriott’s rooftop pool for a bit of sun. I knew the Marriott had a pool but honestly, was not expecting too much. However, the pool was lovely! I could have stayed for much longer than we did. Don’t miss it at the Abu Dhabi Marriott.
In any case, we had to leave the pool because we had tickets to the F1 Racing event at the Yas Marina. Had we planned this, absolutely not. But, we made a friend at the Executive Club Lounge and he happened to have extra tickets that he offer to us – SO nice! So we took a taxi about 30 minutes out to Yas Marina. And yes, Abu Dhabi is quite spread out and it can take awhile to get around the city.
We stayed for a few rounds of racing, some cider in the beer garden, and a military flight display before heading out for our dinner reservation at LI Beirut, a Lebanese restaurant in the Conrad hotel. F1 was quite fun and I’m glad that we went to see it!
We love Lebanese food, so I was very excited by this reservation! We almost didn’t get in because Dan was wearing shorts (which seemed totally appropriate….), but they let us in anyway. We had a pretty traditional Lebanese dinner. I didn’t take a lot of pictures, but I got a couple. The fattoush salad was particularly good!
We ended the evening with rooftop Shisha at Al 25. I also ordered a bottle of Sandi Prosecco, which vineyard we visited last Thanksgiving in Italy. It was fun to find this in Abu Dhabi.
DAY THREE – THE SHEIKH ZAYED GRAND MOSQUE, A CAPPUCCINO TOPPED WITH REAL GOLD, THE LOUVRE ABU DHABI AND DINNER ON SAADIYAT BEACH.
Our third and final day in Abu Dhabi was a big one – all of our sightseeing packed into one day! We again started the day with breakfast at the hotel, and again opted for the main restaurant for breakfast due to it offering more options.
After breakfast, we took a taxi to the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. We pre-booked entrance tickets online (free) and hoped to catch the guided English tour. Spoiler alter, we did not catch that tour, LOL. Arriving at the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque was a bit crazy and there was loooong lines (likely due to F1 and World Cup). In any case, we did get to enter the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, and IT WAS SO GORGEOUS. I am going to post my pictures separately because there are so many. But the Mosque is gorgeous and unmissable in my opinion. We walked through the standard tourist route and took tons of photos. This was definitely the highlight of our weekend in Abu Dhabi!
After touring the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, we taxied over to the Emirates Palace, AKA a 7 Star Hotel that is 1) gorgeous and 2) serves a “gold cappuccino.” Setting aside the gold cappuccino, simply visiting the Emirates Palace is impressive. Anyone is welcome inside, although there is a conservative dress code in place. We took some photographs and then sat town at Le Café to order lunch and, of course, the golden cappuccino. Pro tip – reserve a table at Le Café online (we did). Le Café has limited seating and it gets busy. And of course, we ordered the gold cappuccino at a cost of about $16 USD. The gold cappuccino actually turned out to be a fantastic cup of coffee topped with the outline of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and real gold flakes. Was it worth $16 USD, no in terms of quality of coffee, but it was definitely worth $16 USD for the experience (IMO).
In addition to the coffee, we also ordered a salad and a turkey sandwich with truffle. Both were pretty tasty, but you certainly come here for the coffee and desserts.
After our Gold Cappuccino, we had a bit of downtime at the Marriott and eventually checked out at 4:00 PM (thanks again Platinum status for the guaranteed late checkout!). From there, we taxied directly to the new (ish, opened in late 2017) Abu Dhabi Louvre! I LOVE the Paris Louvre and was very excited to check out this addition. The Louvre Abu Dhabi is located on trendy and tourist-friendly Saadiyat Island, which will soon include a few more world-class museums (such as a Guggenheim outpost). In terms of the museum itself, the Louvre appears to be floating on water and centers around a really interesting dome feature that looks super cool. Once inside, the art is a mix of Middle Eastern artifacts and artwork in addition to other art that has been loaned from museums worldwide, including the Louvre in Paris. Not nearly as large as the Parisian Louvre, we spent about 2 hours in the Louvre Abu Dhabi and could have spent longer, but we had dinner reservations!
From the Louvre Abu Dhabi, we walked about 15 minutes to the tourist heart of Saadiyat Beach for dinner at another Lebanese restaurant called Beirut sur Mer! Yes, we loooove Lebanese food! We also loved Beirut sur Mer. The interior decor was adorable and the food was great. I’ll write about this separately. Reservations are recommended, especially on the weekend. The restaurant was packed when we visited, mostly with locals! Its also located juuuust off Saadiyat Beach, so if you go during daylight and sit outside, you can see the beach.
We tried to stay for shisha at Beirut sur Mer, but it was too crowded. So, we caught a taxi back to the Marriott and had some shisha on the Marriot’s rooftop bar before heading to the airport for our late night flight to the Seychelles. We were able to squeeze in a few minutes at the Al Dhabi Lounge at the airport, but it was really packed due to F1 and the Word Cup in Qatar. In any case, the sparking wine was quite good. We took off on time and got great views of the Yas Marina racetrack on our way out!
STEAL OUR TRIP
Marriott Hotel Downtown Abu Dhabi: Sheikh Rashid Bin Saeed St – Al Manhal – Al Tibbiya – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates. Rooftop pool. Executive Club Lounge for certain status holders and room types. Several restaurants/bars on site. Shisha available on rooftop. There are not really any touristy things within walking distance of the hotel.
Li Beiruit: Inside Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers, W Corniche Rd – Al Bateen – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates. Open 7:00 PM – 11:30 PM. Apparently no shorts for me. Reservations recommended.
Sheik Zayed Grand Mosque: Very helpful website, including detailed information on what to wear. Recommend pre-booking your entrance time on the website (free) to save a few minutes.
Emirates Palace: West Corniche Road – Al Ras Al Akhdar – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates. Conservative dress code to enter building.
Le Café: Inside the Emirates Palace (above). Open daily 9:00 AM – 11:00 PM.
Louvre Abu Dhabi: Saadiyat – Abu Dhabi – United Arab Emirates. Open 10:00 – 6:30 Tuesday – Thursday, until 8:30 Friday – Sunday. Closed Monday.
Beirut sur Mer: Jacques Chirac St., Al Sa’DiyatCultural, Cultural District, Abu Dhabi. Open daily 9:00 AM – 12:00 AM, 1:00 AM on Friday and Saturday. Dinner reservations recommended.
Al Dhabi Lounge: Post-security in Terminal 1 at Abu Dhabi International. Terminal 1 and Terminal 3 are connected without needed to go through security again. Complimentary food and beverage. Showers available. Hugh lounge but does fill during really crowded times. Priority Pass members receive complimentary access.