Dubai is one of the luxurious and wealthiest of the seven emirates, filled with character, towering skyscrapers, beautiful beaches, and more. The sunny metropolis offers a healthy mix of modern-day culture and rich history paired with thrilling adventure, world-class shopping, and entertainment. However, you don’t have to burn your pocket when visiting this wealthy metropolis. There are many cheap and free things to do in Dubai as well.
The optimum time to visit Dubai is during Winter during the months of November to March when the weather is just right. During this time, the temperature can reach as low as 17°C, making it ideal for outdoor activities such as hitting the sand dunes or catching some sun at one of the many snowy-white beaches.
Places to visit in Dubai for Free
This is one of the cleanest and biggest beaches the sun-filled city has to offer, spanning at least 1 mile in length. JBR is short for Jumeirah Beach Residence, a residential complex home to dozens of residential skyscrapers and high-end hotels. The beach features soft powdery sand, a splash zone dedicated to young children, and an outdoor fitness center.
Next door to the beach is The Beach at JBR, a community of rural plazas with cafes, shops, and restaurants. There is also easy access from the beach to the vibrant outdoor shopping mall with stylish storefronts and restaurants. Often, there will be luxury sports cars cruising through the streets.
A sun-soaked trip to JBR Beach is a dreamy place to visit in Dubai for free. There are a range of food options but you can always pack your own snacks if you are on budget. The beach is available to visit from 7:30 am to 10 pm every day, with the exception of Wednesday and Thursday’s closing at 11 pm.
The JBR beach is part of a larger area called the Dubai Marina. This is an affluent residential neighborhood popular among expats. Apart from the beach, the Dubai Marina Walk is another great place to visit if you like to sit by the water.
The waterfront pathway features a sight of countless luxury yachts, nice restaurants and the Dubai Marina mall. While it is nice to visit during the day to have a seat and read a book or soak in the sun, I love to go for a stroll here at night after dinner. The night lights and breeze are calming and you can sometimes see people performing along the pathway.
The Famous Souks
Dubai’s notorious souks are traditional Arab markets that offer some of the best shopping experiences in the city. Souks are one of the many free things to do in Dubai. There are plenty to see and check out even if you are just window shopping. If you plan to leave with some unique treasures in hand, be prepared to bargain as it is quite possible to negotiate the price on specific items. There are two types of these colorful markets; traditional souks and contemporary souks.
The traditional markets include the Gold Souk, Spice souk, Perfume Souk, and Textile Souk. Contemporary Souks consists of the Souk Madinat, Ripe Market, and Gold & Diamond Park. Both types offer exclusive fashion accessories, furniture, souvenirs, and delicious cafes and restaurants to grab a quick bite to eat and soak in the lively atmosphere.
At night, musicians come out to play some of their best tunes for the crowd to enjoy, making it an enriching experience for visitors. Dubai’s most legendary market would be the Gold Souk. Not only is it the most prominent market around, but also one that offers some of the world’s finest jewelry.
By far, the Dubai Mall is one of the most exciting and free places to visit in Dubai. With well over 12 million square footage, the massive mall hosts more than 1,300 retail shops, a SEGA game arcade, 22 movie theaters, an ice skating rink, and over 200 restaurants and cafes, not to mention the largest indoor aquarium in the entire world.
The Dubai Mall is the prime destination for luxury shopping, making it the fashion capital of the Middle East. You can spend even a full day just taking in every bit of this lavish masterpiece. The mall is open daily from 10 am to 12 am. The mall tends to get busier on the weekends, but it is also one of the best times to have an immersive experience as a place to visit for free in Dubai.
Famous for being the tallest structure in the world, the Burj Khalifa stands tall at an overall height of 2,722 feet. The structure is a multi-complex with 160 stories, including nine extravagant hotels, residences, corporate suites, an outdoor observation deck, an artificial lake, and the world’s tallest performing water fountain, The Dubai Fountain.
Needless to say, you can get an impressive view of the city if you head up to the viewpoint of the tower. You can get tickets in advance online. There are also more premium options that include skip-the-line and access to lounge as well as the 148th floor if you want a more exclusive experience.
However, you don’t even have to go up to marvel at this amazing architecture. Visiting the Burj Khalifa is also absolutely one of the best places to visit in Dubai at night.
Things to do in Dubai at Night
Burj Khalifa Fountain Show
The Burj Khalifa Fountain Show is one of the sun-kissed city’s most popular free things to do in Dubai at night. Located in the Burj Khalifa Lake, the stunning fountain show is performed daily at 1 pm and 1:30 pm and lasts up to 5 minutes. During the evening, the fountain show begins at 6 pm and occurs every half hour until closing at 11 pm. At the start of the event, hidden water jets shoot out water up into the air, up to 150 meters in a harmonic rhythm in sync with the music. The performance sparkles with the power of over 6,000 lights, lasers, and 50 projectors.
I recommend catching this spectacular view from the Waterfront Promenade located just outside the Dubai Mall. Although, due to its massive size, the performance can be seen from many locations around downtown. Every show is different so you can stick around and catch a few of them if you have time.
You can also take a traditional boat ride on the Burj Lake which brings you closer to the dancing water for a more magical experience.
Al Seef by Meraas
A historic and unique blend of old and new Dubai, Al Seef is a perfect place to visit in Dubai for free culture immersion. You get to admire the generational glow-up of Dubai. Al Seef hosts free festivals regularly, making it one of the trendiest spots in the city. The district offers unparalleled experiences consisting of waterfront shopping, art installations, firework shows, and dining.
You can spend 2 to 3 hours checking out the charming vibe, culture, and scenery. I find that the vibe of the place really comes out when the sun sets. During the night, the streets resonate a lively atmosphere with street performers and the sounds of the waves in the background sending a cool breeze through the air. Al Seef is at its prime in entertainment on Thursdays and Fridays.
Global Village is a flourishing multi-cultural theme park with plenty of exciting attractions, unique international cuisines, cultural shows, and much more. Each gallery is themed under a certain country where you will find items like food, fashion, accessories from that specific country.
Dubai’s Global Village just recently celebrated its 25th season. The Global Village is only open from November to April each year. You should plan to spend at least 3 to 4 hours here, with the variety of activities and experiences available. I couldn’t finish visiting all the “countries” and was at some point just skimming through some of them.
A visit to the Global Village makes one of the best cheap things to do in Dubai. The entry fee can be as low as AED 15 (USD 4).
Arabian Night Tours
Dubai’s Arabian Night Tours features some of the city’s best outdoor activities, including dune bashing, camel rides, cruises, hot air balloon rides, a dance show, and so much more. There is something for everyone to enjoy, from desert delights to traditional Arabian BBQ. Most tours start in the morning and late afternoon and lasts till the night.
This is a paid activity but the Dubai desert experience is a worthwhile spending and caters to different budgets. There are many packages for your selection depending on the activities you want to participate in.
Umm Suqeim Beach
Although not as big or clean as the JBR beach, the popular Umm Suqeim Beach offers one-of-a-kind sunset views; hence the nickname Sunset Beach. Amongst the many beaches, Umm Suqeim Beach is one of the best places to visit in Dubai at night. Here is also where you can get a good view and photo with the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel.
It is a public beach which makes it entirely free to visit every day, 24 hours a day. Night swimming at beaches in Dubai is prohibited, with the exception of Umm Suqeim Beach, among just a few others. The beach is equipped with Smart Power light towers that help swimmers see better at night. The lights illuminate up to 125 meters of the beach and 30 meters of the sea. Visit this beach before sunset to beat the crowd, and find an excellent spot to catch the sunset for a gratifying and magical experience.
Al Qudra & Love Lake
Escape the sparkling city and spend a night under the starry night at Al Qudra, in the center of the desert. Al Qudra is a remote location that provides visitors with a tranquil experience, disconnected from technology and connecting with mother nature. The area does not feature any restaurants or cafes but merely a place to camp out or have a picnic. During the night, the skies overhead are crystal clear, putting on a peaceful starlit show. This is also a great place to catch the sunset, with amazing colors reflecting on the lake if you are lucky.
Al Qudra is in tune with the wilderness, making it a perfect location for wildlife watchers. A few minutes away is Love Lake, an artificial lake shaped into two interlaced hearts. A visit here makes for a romantic getaway with someone special.
Dubai City Passes
If you are looking to go for different paid activities, don’t forget to check out the Dubai city passes available. These passes usually cover the key attractions and can be great money savers.