48 Hours in Dubai? List of Things to do on a Short Layover!

48 hours in dubai

48 hours in Dubai is not a lot of time, but still enough to explore the highlights of the city.

I spend 48 hours in Dubai as a layover on my way to my first trip to SE Asia. Even though I could have flown earlier, I decided that I want to stay in Dubai for two days to see a bit of the city.

I did most of the highlights and I’m sure that you can fit even more in 48 hours – on my second day there, I slept until 2 pm!

So, here’s a comprehensive Dubai Travel Guide with lots of inspiration for what you can see and do if you only have 48 hours in Dubai.

(Please note that you won’t be able to do all of those things in just 48 hours, so choose depending on your interests and what would you like to see the most)

READ NEXT: How to Visit Dubai on a Budget 

Enjoy the sunset at the Burj Al Arab beach

(recommended by me)

That’s a must thing to do, no matter if you have just 48 hours in Dubai, one week, or one day. Burj Al Arab is one of the most recognizable landmarks of Dubai and enjoying the beautiful sunset at the free beach with a view of one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, is surely a pleasant thing to do.

Of course, you can also swim, sunbathe, make a picnic, play games, etc., but don’t forget to take your camera and take lots of cool shots at sunset.

48 hours in dubai

La Mer Beachfront 

(recommended by Arzo Travels)

If you visit Dubai these days you can not skip La Mer. La Mer is THE place to check out and if you ask me, the hype is justified.

The newest beachfront in Jumeirah is quite close to Dubai Downtown and Burj Al Arab, is a fun place. Whether you want to chill at the beach, do some water sports, get a tan, enjoy a view of Burj Khalifa – there is plenty to do!

If you want to spend all day, you can easily do so – free showers and clean public toilets are just some handy facilities.

the restaurants and cafes there are totally hip and stylish – most come with a beach view, the others have such an interesting interior design that you will love them, too.

Most of all, this place is perfect for those who love street art. Nowhere else in Dubai, you’ll be able to find sweeter and more street art. Fun and colorful wall all over La Mer – it is definitely something for the eye!

48 hours in dubai

The Dubai Frame 

(recommended by Rachel’s Ruminations)

While the Burj Khalifa is awe-inspiring because of its sheer size, the Dubai Frame stands out because it’s so unusual. Shaped like an enormous picture frame, it has no apparent useful purpose.

At a distance, the Dubai Frame looks like it’s just a few stories tall, emerging from a very green park area. In fact, it is about 150 meters tall, which translates to somewhere between 45 and 50 stories high.

If the Dubai Frame has a purpose, it is simply the entertainment value of riding an elevator up one side, walking across the top to see the views of old and new Dubai on either side, and riding down the other side again.

There is a twist to the experience, though. The long hall across the top is punctuated by large grey glass panels on the floor that suddenly clear if you step on them, allowing an unimpeded 150-meter view straight down! It’s a bit of a shock if you’re scared of heights, as I am.

The views from the Dubai Frame are less spectacular than from the Burj Khalifa, but it’s a lot cheaper and makes a fun alternative.

48 hours in dubai

Desert Safari Tour

(recommended by Travels with Talek)

One of the coolest things to do in 48 hours in Dubai is to go on a Desert Safari Tour. The tour takes off on big 4-Wheel jeeps racing over the desert and balancing precariously on the edge of sand dunes before plummeting downward. Destination: a desert oasis, complete with intricately weaved carpets lining the inside of tents billowing in the desert winds. The jeeps deposit the guests at some distance from the tent. They must make the final approach to camels.

A wonderful BBQ dinner is spread out for the patrons.  After dinner, the fun really starts. Take your pick; shisha smoking or henna tattoo – for the guys too!  Soon it is time for the belly dancer. She emerges in a flowing costume and dances rhythmically, her silhouette against the dark blue desert sky. As the music accelerates so does the belly dancer finally reaching a crescendo.

The belly dancer’s performance is followed by a whirling dancer in a costume fitted with lights. As he whirls in the night the costume lights flash, creating a surreal image that is unique and unforgettable.

48 hours in dubai

A trip to the palm

(recommended by the German Backpacker)

A trip to the famous Palm is an interesting activity when you have 48 hours in Dubai. Since most pictures you’ll see of the Palm are taking from the air, it’s a different experience to actually be on it. You can reach the “start” of the Palm by metro, from where you need to switch to a Monorail to take you actually to the edge of the Palm, where the famous Atlantis hotel is placed. After arriving at the Atlantis, we walked a little bit around the seaside and had a nice view of the famous ”Burj al Arab” hotel, however, you can’t enter the area of the Atlantis hotel if you’re not a guest, unfortunately. There are a waterpark and an aquarium you could visit as well.

Therefore, the best views of the Palm and the Atlantis hotel will be from the Monorail, so make sure to get a window seat. While I was a little bit disappointed not to visit the Atlantis and to enjoy the view from there, it was still an interesting experience to visit the Palm and to be actually on it (instead of seeing it from above!).

48 hours in dubai

Dune bashing

(recommended by Live Less Ordinary)

It would be silly to travel to Dubai without visiting the surrounding deserts, and one of the easiest as well as the most fun ways to experience the sand dunes is by dune bashing.

There are many tour options for this, although they may not all be for the faint-hearted, which I didn’t realize when inviting my mum along for a relaxing day in the dunes. As they are more ‘extreme’ than I had originally expected, where it became more of a race, and a bit like a game of chicken at times, as the drivers pushed every inch of space between a convoy of jousting 4x4s. They would speed up and fall into the steepest of slopes, and are either extremely professional drivers, or just terribly reckless. My sister literally through-up at the first stop along the route.

However more amiable options are available to choose from, and the tours generally last around 40 minutes, before the last stop at a Bedouin Camp. At the Bedouin camp, we enjoyed some local cuisine, shisha, a belly dance performance, and camel rides, before a more relaxed drive back to the hotel.

48 hours in dubai

Alserkal Avenue

(recommended by Travellers Archive)

When thinking about Dubai, you might only have the glittering skyline and its huge skyscrapers in mind. However, there is actually more than you can do during a 48 hour trip to Dubai.

During the past couple of years, more and more young artists developed their skills openly and found their very own creative space. As there wasn’t much in the city up until then, they simply created their designated area, in which you can now find galleries, cafés, and shops, in which handmade products are being sold: Alserkal Avenue. Come here and stroll through the alleys of this former industrial area. In case it’s too hot, you can chill in one of the many beautiful cafés that offer sustainable coffee and some proper froth-art.

Apart from that, you can meet local artists in their very own galleries. Enjoy prime exhibitions at Dubai’s first private museum, the Salsali Private Museum or enjoy the Isabelle Van den Eynde Gallery. Alserkal Avenue can be easily reached by metro and bus.

48 hours in dubai

Dubai Gold Souk

(recommended by The Lady Brianne)

Shiny things as far as the eye can see and prices to make the jaw drop — this is the Dubai Gold Souk. With perhaps more gold than you have ever seen in one place, it is an unmissable stop when traveling to this glitzy city. The window displays alone are worth a visit but step inside and it gets even better.

The UAE is largely tax-free and as a result, the prices are unbeatable. Each item is priced by weight and as you navigate the many alleyways of the souk, you will see displays announcing the daily market prices per gram and per karat. If you see something you like, it will be weighed before you are presented with the cost. You won’t pay the market price, the stores still need to make a profit, but you will be able to negotiate an amazing deal given the information at your disposal. And do negotiate! It is expected, and it is how you will be able to walk away with sparkly new baubles and money still in your wallet.

48 hours in dubai

The Dubai Mall

(recommended by Our Overseas Adventures)

You can’t visit Dubai and not experience Dubai Mall, the largest and most visited shopping mall in the world. Yes, it has over 1,200 stores including many luxury brands, but it’s also a destination in its own right thanks to some of the great attractions inside. You could literally spend days exploring the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo with its underwater tunnel, Olympic sized ice-skating rink, 22 screen cinema, virtual reality park, a huge replica of the Dubai Creek Tower, life-sized 55 million-year-old dinosaur skeleton, Hysteria haunted amusement park, and an indoor modern Souk featuring traditional Arab clothing and handicrafts.

Another must-see is the Dubai Fountain – you guessed it – the world’s largest performing fountain. It plays every afternoon except Friday and every evening. Like many things in Dubai, the mall is big and bold so it’s a good idea to download their app to help you navigate your way around 5.9 million square meters!

48 hours in dubai

Karama

(recommended by Baby & Life)

While many think of Dubai that is filled with glitz and glamour, there’s definitely more to this city. It should come as no surprise that shopping is one of the many tourist attractions on offer and the malls in Dubai are stunning and magnificent in its ability to keep us busy all day long. However, there’s another side of shopping that you may not have heard of – Karama.

This outdoor shopping complex has recently received a facelift and colorful street art adorns the building facades. As you start walking through the complex, shopkeepers entice you into their stores filled with clothes, bags, watches, and shoes but they also have a hidden vault of fake/replica luxury brand name items. Some store owners will bring the goods to you and others may request you to follow them to a secret underground vault. While this can be daunting if you’re traveling alone, it’s the norm here.

I’ve always visited Karama with another female and have never visited the vaults alone. Requesting them to bring goods to you is absolutely acceptable too. Karama is definitely a place to flex your bargaining muscles as you can walk away with quite the deal.

If you’re looking to buy souvenirs, this is the best spot to do so because there are entire shops dedicated just for souvenirs and you’ll find everything from tiny Aladdin-esque lamps to frames filled with the 7 sands of the UAE. Grab shawarma from the pop-up shop and spend an hour or two taking in the Dubai street art and the ambiance of a different type of shopping experience but only do so if you’re in the mood to be adorned with the attention of shopkeepers trying to draw you into their stores!

48 hours in dubai

JBR The walk and the beach 

(recommended by Our Globetrotters)

For Dubai’s modern take on visiting the seaside, you cannot miss The Beach.  Enjoy the silky golden sands of the Gulf with all the amenities you could hope, this is one of the most vibrant places for visitors to Dubai.

Best enjoyed during the cooler winter months of the year, the Beach is free to enter but also includes deck chairs, umbrellas, and towels to hire, modern and clean changing facilities, and ample water sports opportunities including a giant watercourse.   Those that like to keep fit on vacation will enjoy the running track and exercise equipment dotted along the beach, whilst families have a play park and splash park nearby at hand. This is also the perfect place to capture yourself riding into the sunset on a camel!

You are immediately adjacent to preeminent shopping district The Walk which is home to street art and regular interactive art installments as well as a huge range of dining options from alfresco cafes, ice creameries to 5-star restaurants.

Located immediately adjacent to Dubai Marina, make sure you schedule an afternoon and evening to enjoy this exciting, modern part of urban Dubai.

48 hours in dubai

The Miracle Garden 

(recommended by Little City Trips)

Dubai Miracle Garden is a seasonal spectacular held every winter in Dubai that’s not to be missed.

Tucked in the outer suburbs of Dubai, there’s a little patch of paradise that in fact is home to the largest flower garden in the world by a total number of blooms – 109 million! Every November, Dubai Miracle Garden opens its doors to the public to show off their latest masterful creations, all made entirely from flowers!

The centerpiece for the last two years has been the Emirates A380 but you mustn’t miss the giant floral clock, the many arched walkways, houses, and giant weeping lady. As the design changes every year, it’s a great place to visit over again!

It can get very busy on weekends and late in the day so best to fit this one into your early morning itinerary (open Nov to late May).

48 hours in dubai

Hot air balloon sunrise ride

(recommended by A World to Travel)

If I was to pick my most cherished of all the Dubai unique experiences I lived when I toured the city, that would be the hot air balloon sunrise ride – or should we say a magical carpet ride? – over Dubai’s desert, I went on three years back. It was memorable and an experience I have suggested to everyone headed to UAE since then. 

Well worth the ultra-early wake-up call and the one hour drive before reaching the Dubai Desert Conversation Reserve dunes from where the company takes off. If you get lucky as I did, you will witness the sunrise over the horizon. You might even see one or two local species as gazelles or oryx from above, as well as an oasis and a never-ending sea of dunes while flying over them. And that is something that, if you are like me, you’ll keep in your memories forever. 

48 hours in dubai

Cocktails at the Burj Al Arab

(recommended by Show Them The Globe)

Dubai screams luxury and extravagance and cocktails at the Burj Al Arab are the perfect way to indulge in the glitz and glamour of the city during the 48 hours in Dubai.

Often described as one of the world’s most luxurious hotels (it’s the world’s only 6-star hotel), evening cocktails at the 27th floor Skyview Bar is an opulent experience. The iconic sail-shaped building dominates the Dubai skyline and the Burj Al Arab is only accessible to guests and those with a reservation at one of its restaurants or bars. We loved the soaring atrium lobby complete with a dancing fountain and a 500,000-litre aquarium with over 4,000 fish. Evening cocktails are served as the sun sets over the Persian Gulf and Dubai glitters in the distance while a jazz band takes to the stage. It’s Dubai at its finest.

48 hours in dubai

Global Village

(recommended by Whisper Wanderlust)

Global Village is one of my favorite places in Dubai due to its complexity and the wonderful experiences I have had there. Being located relatively close to Dubai Miracle Garden, on Shaikh Mohammad Bin Zayed Road Exit 37, it is very easy to visit both in one day, thus gaining time.

Annually, over 5 million visitors across the world come here, and this impressive number is perhaps also justified by the low entry fee of only 15 dirhams. At Global Village, there are represented approximately 75 countries around the world, both through famous buildings and monuments, as well as details of their culture or cuisine. In just a few hours, you can watch traditional Indian costumes, taste the sweet flavors of Turkish delight, get in touch with Romanian culture and its famous Dracula, feel the romance of Paris through the Eiffel Tower, admire the cherry blossoms of Japan or feel the oriental fragrances of Saudi Arabia. Everything is possible there, and the journey from one continent to another is done in a few steps. It’s the perfect opportunity to travel all over the globe at the same time. Besides, there is also a mini entertainment park with all sorts of attractions to boost your adrenaline, perfect for children, but also a nice arranged river that you can cross on a boat.

48 hours in dubai

Food tour

(recommended by The Travel Bunny)

Dubai conjures up images of modern skyscrapers, huge shopping malls, and beaches. But there’s another side of the city that’s well worth exploring. I went on A Food Lover’s Early Morning March with Frying Pan Adventures run by Arva Ahmed who is passionate about the city’s older side. We discovered a fascinating aspect of Old Dubai, its people, their stories, their food, and traditions on this excellent food tour.

We started our authentic Dubai food tour by visiting the busy fish market. We crossed the creek and ate a delicious breakfast by the water. We visited the aromatic spice market, food market, and the souks. We learned about the history of coffee. We ambled through alleyways, we met shop-keepers, traders, and local people who shared their passion for food, their stories, and their recipes. We discovered a different side of Dubai and found an authentic passion for food and flavor in the hidden alleyways and souks of Old Dubai.

48 hours in dubai

Burj Khalifa

(recommended by A Soul Window)

At 829 meters, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai is the tallest building in the world. You can view it from the open space at its base. It is free along with the fountain show every evening. The backpackers will love the fact that they can get down at Dubai Mall Station and walk for 10 minutes inside the mall to arrive at the open space. You can also have a bird’s eye view of Dubai by accessing the observation deck on the 124th floor (starts 125 AED) or ‘At The Top Sky’ deck on the 148th floor for a fee. You need to book your tickets in advance. Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa can be done together so it’s wise to include it in your itinerary as it saves time from unnecessary commuting. Since both are a must-visit destinations when in Dubai, so clubbing it together helps you save time. You must spare at least 3 to 4 hours for both the mall, observation deck and the fountain show.

48 hours in dubai

And those are our best recommendations for things to do in Dubai in 48 hours. Could you do all? For all of this maybe 48 hours won’t be enough, but you can choose based on your interests. 

Thanks for reading, 

Bilyana

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