Dubai, being on many flight paths between Europe and Asia, makes the perfect city for a short stopover. If you have just 3 days in Dubai, you’ll be wanting to make the most of the short amount of time available to you to see as much of the city as possible. This 3 day Dubai itinerary is written by Valentina Djordjevic and is packed full of the best things to do in Dubai.
I’ll hand you over to Valentina now to tell us how to explore Dubai in 3 days…
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Planning 3 Days in Dubai
Dubai is a flashy travel destination overflowing with great restaurants, entertainment & shopping. It’s a modern city, built from the ground up only in the last few decades. Dubai is located in the middle of the Arabian Desert, and it’s bordered by the tranquil turquoise waters of the Persian Gulf.
You don’t need more than 3 days in Dubai to check off the bucket list, and we’ll show you how!
Use this 3 day Dubai itinerary and you’ll be able to take advantage of everything this great city has to offer. We’ll help you get to all of Dubai’s hottest attractions, dine at Dubai’s trendiest restaurants, hit up the best beaches and stay at the most luxurious hotels.
Dubai is one of the most unique places in the world. Almost like Las Vegas of the middle east. It’s where glam and excess meet old world history and Muslim culture. The service industry in Dubai is top-notch. It’s, without a doubt, the cleanest city I’ve ever laid eyes on! Also, it’s one of the safest places in the world with unbelievably low crime rates.
An overview of this 3 day Dubai Itinerary
Day 1. You’ll learn about history and culture at the Dubai Creek and experience the luxury of Dubai’s downtown.
Day 2. Visit one of Dubai’s best beaches then take a desert safari.
Day 3. Walk the Dubai Marina, tour the Dubai Miracle Garden and experience the Global Village.
When is the best time to visit Dubai?
The best time of year to visit Dubai is November through to April (in the winter months). Due to the desert climate, it can be excruciatingly hot in the summer!
Also, many of the top attractions like the Dubai Miracle Garden and the Global Village are closed during summer months.
You’ll especially want to avoid travelling during Ramadan (beginning of May through the beginning of June) because many restaurants will be closed or have odd hours.
Getting to Dubai
You can get to Dubai by flying into the Dubai International Airport (DBX). Emirates airline connects Dubai to major cities all over the world. It’s an absolute treat flying Emirates because they offer above-average legroom, free WiFi and 2 checked bags with every economy class ticket! Dubai’s downtown is only a 15-minute cab ride from the airport.
Getting around Dubai in 3 days
To get around Dubai, you’ll need to take quite a few cabs… or Ubers. It’s a big city, and many of the attractions are relatively far from one another. For example, it will take 25 minutes to get from Dubai’s downtown to get to the Dubai Miracle Garden.
Alternatively, you can opt for public transportation. Although, it will take twice as long to get around. Luckily, cab fare is reasonable. You’ll pay less than 10 USD for that 25-minute cab ride.
You might decide to rent a car. Roads signs in the UAE are labelled in Arabic and English making it quite easy to get around. Although, like in many big cities, you may struggle to find parking.
See where all the various attractions are located in this Tourist Map of Dubai.
Where to stay in Dubai
There are many great places to stay in Dubai, but we recommend staying in downtown. You’ll be within walking distance to the Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountains, the Burj Khalifa and more!
If you think you’ll want to spend every spare minute on the beach, stay at the Jumeirah Beach Hotel.
3 Day Dubai Itinerary
Day one of your 3 day Dubai itinerary
For breakfast on day 1…
Start your first morning in Dubai at the ‘Sum of Us’. It’s a 10-minute drive outside of downtown in the direction of the Dubai Creek attractions. The Sum of Us serves up some of the best breakfasts in Dubai! They’re a bread and pastry bakery, a gourmet coffeehouse and innovative restaurant all in one. With plenty of vegan and health conscious breakfast options, the Sum of Us won’t disappoint.
In the morning…
Continue to the Dubai Creek for some cultural and historical enrichment. Start at the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort. The Al Fahidi Fort is one of the few historic buildings in Dubai. It was built over 200 years ago in defence of the ruling monarchs. Inside the museum and fort, you’ll take a step back through time and learn about how civilizations lived in the Arabian desert.
Next, you can take a traditional Abra boat across the river to the Souks. Abras are leaving every few minutes. You’ll pay a 1 dirham coin to your driver once you get inside the boat. Ideally, you want to take route 1: Bar Dubai to Old Souk. Then, you’ll only be 5 minutes away from the Gold and Spice Souks.
Visiting the Souks can be a challenge but I do not regret going. Although, I wish I had known more about what to expect.
The Souks are traditional markets where locally sourced goods like gold, textiles, spices and perfumes are sold. They are great places to shop for souvenirs or gifts for the family. However, the vendors are extremely aggressive with their sales tactics. This can be off-putting.
Get lunch at…
Once you’re done shopping, take the Abra back across the creek. Get lunch at the beautiful Arabian Teahouse restaurant. This is a Dubai must!
Not only does it offer a cute garden vibe, but the Arabian Teahouse is one of the best places to taste authentic, well-prepared, Emirati food. You can’t make reservations here, so expect to wait a few minutes. It’s worth it! Make sure to order some tea with your meal!
Finally, you’ll want to visit the Al Fahidi Historical District before you head back to your hotel. The neighborhood is set up like a labyrinth with traditional style buildings. Get lost inside looking for various art galleries, craft shops and museums.
In the Evening…
Spend your evening of day 1 in Dubai in the downtown area. If you’re staying in downtown, walk to the Dubai Mall first. It’s huge and gorgeous. There’s also an aquarium and an ice rink inside!
The most impressive parts of the mall are the ones that house the luxury design brands. Walk towards Chanel, Burberry, Gucci and you’ll see what I’m talking about. This part of the mall is also less heavily trafficked. The basement of the mall is where you will access the Burj Khalifa.
You’ll want to book the SKY experience at the Burj Khalifa. This package includes access to floors 124, 125 and 148. Floor 148 is the world’s highest observation deck.
It’s a lot cheaper to purchase standard admission that includes only floors 124 and 125, but these floors tend to be a lot more crowded. Your SKY ticket will also include a refreshment at the top.
Be sure to check the time of sunset and book the tour that starts 1 hour before the dusk. Book early to avoid disapointment!
You won’t need a whole hour on floor 148. Take a few photos and then head back down into the Dubai Mall.
Exit the Dubai Mall in the direction of the Dubai Fountains. Explore this pretty plaza, view the stunning Arabian architecture of the Palace Hotel, and wait for the next fountain show to start.
After you’ve seen the fountain show, explore Burj Plaza just before dusk. There’s a lot of pretty lights that come on at night. This area is so scenic and picture perfect!
Have dinner at Em Sherif. It’s a Lebanese restaurant located across from the Dubai Fountains. Dubai is a cultural melting pot with a huge immigrant population. So, don’t focus on just Emirati cuisine here! Eat delicious Lebanese, Chinese, Japanese and Malaysian food! If you don’t feel like splurging on dinner, instead have middle eastern fast food at Filful’s downtown location. This is a local favourite chain!
After dinner, head to the Level 43 Sky Lounge rooftop bar. It is a 40-minute walk from downtown if you are feeling ambitious, but it’s only a 10-minute cab ride.
I love this place because it’s got a hip vibe, chill electronic music and an outdoor rooftop terrace with views of the surrounding skyscrapers. You can also make a reservation online in advance to ensure you’ll get a great table.
Day 2 of your 3 day Dubai Itinerary
Have breakfast at…
Start your morning of day 2 in Dubai with breakfast at Comptoir 102. It’s a 15-20 minute cab ride from downtown and a few minutes walk from La Mer Beach. Comptoir 102 is regarded as the best healthy cafe in Dubai.
All ingredients are locally and sustainably sourced to ensure the highest quality. The menu is focused on nutrition and flavour, with many low carb and dairy free options. You’ve got to try one of their famous smoothies that are infused with vegetables, fruits, vitamins and nut milk.
In the morning…
Next, walk over to the beautiful La Mer Beach. It’s one of Dubai’s newest and best-developed beachfront. You’ll find plenty of shopping, dining and urban art. It’s the perfect place to relax. You can rent lounge chairs, umbrellas and even towels. Spend the day basking in the sun & enjoying the crisp waters surrounded by luxury.
Have lunch at…
Once you’ve worked up an appetite, walk down the beach to Salt. Have lunch or just their amazing soft serve ice cream! Their original softies are the best.
In the afternoon…
If you have more time and energy, the other neat attractions in this area are the Etihad Museum and the Jumeirah Mosque. The Etihad Museum is a 15-20 minute walk from Salt in La Mer, and the Jumeirah Mosque will be on your way.
The Etihad Museum is a beautiful modern and interactive museum that documents the contemporary political history of the United Arab Emirates.
The Jumeirah Mosque is one of Dubai’s most iconic landmarks. Visitors of all faiths are welcome. Organized free tours are run most days at 10 AM. Rework this activity at the beginning of your beach day if interested. The cultural tours discuss holidays, traditions and customs of the Muslim faith.
In the evening…
In the evening of your second day, set out on a Dubai Desert Safari. This is a Dubai bucket list must! There are many different tours and operators to choose from. Most tours will pick you up at your hotel around 4 or 5 PM.
Safari tours include camel rides, dune bashes, falconry shows, traditional food, belly dancing performances and henna tattooing. Some include alcoholic beverages.
We did the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve Tour. Overall, it was a great experience. The food was excellent! The landscapes were stunning, and the entertainment was fun. Our guide took the time to help us snap amazing desert photos. Make sure to get a henna tattoo.
The only part I will caution against is the SUV dune bash. The dune bashing may be a lot more fun in an ATV than the 4×4 SUV. My experience with the 4×4 SUV was that it was too long and a bit nauseating in the end. We spent more than 3 hours of the night driving and dune bashing!
Some tours skip the dune bashing all together. Instead, they may offer longer camel rides and dune surfing. If I were to go again, I’d definitely opt out of the SUV dune bash and choose either ATVs or no dune bash at all!
Whatever you decide, make sure you take part in a desert safari! Also, bring a sweater or jacket. It gets surprisingly cold out in the desert at night.
Day 3 of your 3 day Dubai itinerary
If you’re staying in downtown, walk to La Serre Bistro & Boulangerie for breakfast. This French bakery serves up the freshest and most decadent bread and pastries in Dubai. It’s also one of Dubai’s top restaurants. Have breakfast on their stunning outdoor patio.
In the morning…
Head over to the Dubai Marina. It will be a 15-20 minute drive from downtown. Do the Dubai Marina Walk, and enjoy the surrounding skyscrapers. Then, head over to the Jumeirah Beach Residence area. It’s a beautiful commercial district. Have a Nutella butter bun at Pappa Roti.
In the afternoon…
Next, you’ll want to get another cab. Head to the famous Dubai Miracle Garden and prepare to be amazed! This place has hundreds of thousands of beautiful flowers arranged in cute structures. It’s heavenly.
In the evening…
Once the sun sets, head to the Global Village. This is a great place to shop for souvenirs! It’s a multi-cultural market theme park. It’s only open in the evenings. It’s a 30-minute drive from downtown and 15 minutes away from the Dubai Miracle Garden.
Finally, end your last night in Dubai with a fancy dinner. I recommend TOMO for Japanese cuisine lovers. Zheng He’s is a must if you’re feeling Chinese. The wonderful Uptown rooftop bar is walking distance from Zheng He.
If you are travelling with a significant other, read about more things to do in Dubai for couples.
Many thanks to Valentina for this great insight into how to explore Dubai in 3 days. I’m dying to book a weekend trip to Dubai now!
If you have more than 3 days in Dubai, here are a few other activities you could consider adding to your Dubai itinerary…
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