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21 must-visit UAE attractions for 2021

The world’s appetite for the newest, tallest and fastest additions to the United Arab Emirates is insatiable, and we couldn’t possibly have started the year without collating all the best things to look forward to this year!

Expo 2020:

Postponed for a year due to the global pandemic, Expo 2020 will now take place from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. The first World Expo to be held in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, and the largest ever event in the Arab world. Expo 2020 is expected to host 150,000 average daily visitors, 30,000 volunteers, over 200 restaurants, 192 country pavilions, 60 live daily events and more than 20 performance venues and spaces! It’s no wonder the six-month-long event has been billed as ‘the world’s greatest show.’

GO: Visit expo2020dubai.com for more information.


Ain Dubai:

Situated on Bluewaters Island in Dubai, Ain Dubai, or the Dubai Eye as it is affectionately known, will become the world’s tallest Ferris wheel when it is completed later this year. Ain Dubai stands at a height of over 250 metres and is set to offer 360-degree views of the Dubai skyline and views of the city’s famous most landmarks such as Burj Al Arab, Palm Jumeirah and Burj Khalifa. Its base will serve as an entertainment zone.

Go: Visit bluewatersdubai.ae for more information.


Al Qana:

Al Qana is a waterfront destination currently under construction in Al Maqta close to the Shangri-La Abu Dhabi. Seeking to bring a new definition of social dining and entertainment in Abu Dhabi, Al Qana extends across 2.4 kilometres of waterfront and connected by four traversing bridges. Visitors will be able to stroll along the boulevard and experience a selection of dining, entertainment, retail, wellness and adventure attractions. These include the region’s largest aquarium, a first-of-its-kind lifestyle and wellness hub called The Bridge, Al Qana Cinema (the largest standalone cinema in Abu Dhabi), a first-to-the-UAE multiple-level Virtual Reality Zone, a state-of-the-art E-Sports arena and a 4,000m2 kids’ entertainment and activity centre.

GO: Visit alqana.ae for more information.


Museum of The Future:

The Museum of the Future represents a visionary cultural institution, currently under construction on Dubai’s Sheikh Zayed Road. Set to be a centre of creativity and hope where visitors can see, touch and shape our shared future, the Museum of the Future will combine elements of exhibition, immersive theatre and themed attractions, inviting visitors to look beyond the present. Contrary to the concept of traditional museums based behind closed windows displaying eras of the past, masterpieces, and encounters, the Museum of the Future is distinguished by being an incubator for innovative ideas, technology, and future projects.

GO: Visit museumofthefuture.ae for more information.


Yas Bay Waterfront:

Yas Bay Waterfront is a vibrant leisure and entertainment zone at the heart of the new Yas Bay development on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Capturing a sense of vitality the area is home to the Etihad Arena (a state-of-the-art multi-purpose venue with a capacity of 18,000 guests), two luxurious waterfront hotels, cafés, restaurants, retail outlets and leisure and entertainment facilities. Restaurants already announced include Dubai favourites LSB (Lock, Stock & Barrel), Asia Asia, Siddharta Lounge and La Carnita, alongside new concepts The Central, Bushra and Zeera along a picturesque 3-kilometre waterfront boardwalk. 

GO: Visit yasbay.ae for more information.


Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island:

Sticking with Yas Bay, Abu Dhabi will welcome the arrival of the five-star Hilton Abu Dhabi Yas Island. The 546 room property will feature signature dining and cafés that include Graphos Social Kitchen and Osmo Lounge and Bar, a fully-equipped kids’ club, a luxurious urban beach Club and a relaxing spa. All set in a prime waterfront location.

GO: Visit hilton.com for more information.


Deira Islands:

Deira Islands is a new development comprising of four man-made islands situated adjacent to Dubai’s Deira district. Already home to Riu Dubai, the emirate’s first four-star, 24-hour all-inclusive beachfront resort, the development will add Deira Mall and The Night Market in 2021. The latter will be the world’s largest night market and a modern interpretation of a traditional Arabian souk, with nearly 5,300 shops and 100 quayside cafés and restaurants.

GO: Visit nakheel.com for more information.


The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences:

A second Atlantis hotel will be opening on the Palm Jumeirah later this year! The luxury property will offer sophistication and endless ocean views, defined by lush green spaces, and a playful contrast between fire and water. In terms of leisure, guests can expect exclusive swimming pools, private beaches and the A 90-metre-high infinity sky pool. The Royal Atlantis Resort & Residences will also be home to restaurants and bars led by some of the most famous chefs in the world, including Dinner by Heston Blumenthal; Milos by Costas Spiliadis; La Mar by Gastón Acurio; Jaleo by José Andrés; Ling Ling by Hakkasan; and Ariana’s Kitchen by Ariana Bundy.

GO: Visit theroyalatlantisresidences.com for more information.


Aquaventure Waterpark:

Just because Dubai is getting a new Atlantis hotel doesn’t mean we should forget about the current one. Waterpark Aquventure is getting an upgrade. In addition to the current slides, attractions, 500 meters of private beach and Dubai’s longest Lazy River, the 34-metre tall Trident Tower will bring 12 new rides to the park. These include the world’s longest ProSlide MammothBLAST, a 449-metre, family-friendly water coaster and raft rockets that will propel riders through winding channels. Once complete, Atlantis The Palm’s waterpark mega extension will make it one of the world’s biggest.

GO: Visit atlantis.com for more information.

Dubai Parks & Resorts:

Sticking with thrilling attractions, Motiongate at Dubai Parks and Resorts will launch two new rides to expand the Lionsgate Zone. Fans of the major motion picture franchises John Wick and Now You See Me, will be able to experience two record-breaking new rides in 2021. Set over a 310-meter track, and reaching speeds of up to 64km per hour, John Wick: Open Contract will deliver up to 2.8 G-force from the 4D free spin coaster. Reaching speeds of up to 70 km per hour, riders of Now You See Me: High Roller will feel like they are part of a daring Horsemen escape as they race to expose the antics of a criminal mastermind. The theme park complex will also introduce the LEGOLAND Hotel, where all themed rooms can accommodate up to five persons and the lobby is said to boast a LEGO pirate ship and LEGO castle!

GO: Visit dubaiparksandresorts.com for more information.


The St. Regis Dubai – The Palm and SUSHISAMBA:

The Palm Tower is a 52-storey five-star hotel and residential development located about Nakheel Mall on the Palm Jumeirah. The architecture is inspired by a palm tree’s shape and will feature one of the world’s highest infinity pools on the 50th floor, two swimming pools at podium level and a viewing deck on the 52nd floor. Celebrating the culture and cuisine of Japan, Brazil and Peru popular restaurant SUSHISAMBA will debut in late 2021. The stunning new 12,000sq ft. location will occupy the 51st floor of The Palm Tower, offering unparalleled 360-degree views of Dubai and a menu of Japanese tempura and sushi; Brazilian churrasco and moqueca; and Peruvian anticuchos and ceviche.

GO: Visit thepalmtower.com for more information.


Dubai Creek Harbour and The Tower:

Work is currently underway on the world’s tallest tower, the centrepiece of a new development at the historic Dubai Creek. The Creek Harbour Tower is designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava and once completed the structure will stand 100 meters taller than the Burj Khalifa. With dynamic illumination and movement lighting on the facade, the project’s pinnacle will be an oval-shaped bud containing ten observation decks.

GO: Visit emaar.com for more information.


The Dubai EDITION:

Following hot on the heels of a successful Abu Dhabi opening in 2018, the second EDITION hotel in the United Arab Emirates is set to open in Downtown Dubai this year. The Dubai EDITION is expected to feature 210 rooms and suites, along with seven restaurants, swimming pools and a spa and fitness centre, in a prime location opposite The Dubai Mall.

GO: Visit editionhotels.com for more information.


Mandarin Oriental Wasl Tower:

Another new Dubai hotel to look forward to will be the cities second Mandarin Oriental hotel. News on the development is scarce, but the 63-storey Mandarin Oriental Wasl Tower is expected to feature 257 rooms, suites and serviced apartments with views over downtown Dubai and the Burj Khalifa from the properties desirable location on Sheikh Zayed Road.

GO: Visit mandarinoriental.com for more information.


Jubail Island:

Nestled within the UAE capital, between Yas Island and Saadiyat Island lies Jubail Island. A stunning refuge minutes away from the bustling city centre offering a breathtaking landscape with a wide array of cultural and entertainment destinations. The island which is already home to the Jubail Mangrove Park will be adding clamping pods and Abu Dhabi’s first eco retreat to its sandy shores. The Pura Eco Retreat offers a getaway for relaxation where you can stay in chic domes or native tents for those looking to get back to nature.

GO: Visit staypura.com for more information.


Saadiyat Cultural District:

The Cultural District on Saadiyat Island has the Louvre Abu Dhabi at its centre and the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi and the Zayed National Museum to follow in the next few years. In the meantime, Mamsha Al Saadiyat is the place to visit. Offering a lifestyle inspired by the art of the cultural district and charm of the Saadiyat coastline, Mamsha features luxurious residential homes, the 1km stretch of beachfront known as Soul Beach and a selection of soon-to-open restaurants. These include Lebanese spot Beirut Sur Mer, Raclette Brasserie and Café, The Steak Room and rumours of an Abu Dhabi location for popular Jamaican restaurant Ting Irie.

GO: Visit saadiyatmamsha.com for more information.


The Heart of Europe:

The World Islands is an archipelago of artificial islands constructed in the shape of a world map. Located 4km off the coast of Dubai, The Heart Of Europe development is well underway with Phase 1 of the megaproject including an Italian-themed five-star facility, the Portofino Hotel. Inspired by the holiday resorts in Portofino, the project features Italian architecture, a harbour, clear waters and stunning views of the sea and the Dubai skyline. Portofino will be the first five-star family-only hotel and resort in the region. The Heart of Europe will also feature the climate-controlled Rainy Street covering one kilometre, where it will rain on command! 

GO: Visit thoe.com for more information.


Al Hudayriyat:

Much like Jubail Island, Abu Dhabi’s Al Hudayriyat continues to grow. What started as a public beach and cycle track has burgeoned in recent months to include 23 sports courts, a BMX park, skate park, obstacle course, high ropes course and splash park. The latest offering is Bab Al Nojoum which invites visitors to enjoy a unique camping experience, with 124 tents available for rent. These range from fully equipped exclusive tents, to beach tents with ocean views and camper vans.

GO: Visit hudayriyatisland.ae for more information.


Meydan One:

Once complete Meydan One Mall will in Mohammed Bin Rashid City will feature over 550 retail outlets, 180 food and beverage options, a 21 screen cinema and a 25,800sqm dancing water fountain. However, the pinnacle of the project will be the Winter Village with its 1km ski slope, which will hold the title of the world’s longest indoor ski slope.

GO: Visit meydanone.com for more information.


Warner Bros. Hotel Abu Dhabi:

The world’s first Warner Bros branded hotel will open in Abu Dhabi this year. The hotel will be operated and managed by Hilton and is located adjacent to the Warner Bros. World Abu Dhabi theme park. The Warner Bros Hotel Abu Dhabi is expected to feature 250 rooms that embrace a modern décor that celebrates Warner Bros.’ film and television library. The property will also include signature restaurants, a spa, fitness club, kids club and a rooftop pool.

GO: Visit wbworldabudhabi.com for more information.


The Dorchester:

Dubai-based developer Omniyat will be bringing luxury brand The Dorchester to the banks of the Dubai Canal with the opening of The Residences, Dorchester Collection, Dubai. Dorchester Collection’s first property in the Middle East boasts two interconnected towers, one housing the Dorchester Collection hotel and rooftop swimming, the other contains 39 luxurious residences housed within a modern structure in Business Bay.

GO: Visit dorchestercollection.com for more information.


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David Tapley - Editor
Dubai-based editor for one of the region’s most fiercely local lifestyle publications across Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Dubai and Qatar. Specialised in food, hospitality, arts, culture, and travel-related content.

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