Abu Dhabi Downtown Walking Tour, Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi Downtown Walking Tour (Self Guided), Abu Dhabi

Embraced by the shimmering shores of the Arabian Gulf, Abu Dhabi is the regal capital and largest emirate of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The region's name in Arabic means "Father of the Gazelle" and is likely due to the graceful gazelles that once roamed its lands in the past.

The history of Abu Dhabi dates back to ancient times, with evidence of human habitation stretching over thousands of years. However, it wasn't until the 18th century that it began to emerge as a significant settlement.

In the mid-18th century, the Bani Yas tribe, led by the Al Nahyan family, established control over the area, including Abu Dhabi. The town grew slowly but steadily, relying mainly on pearl diving and fishing as its primary industries. The discovery of oil in the region in the 20th century transformed Abu Dhabi from a modest coastal town into a modern and prosperous city.

At the heart of this metropolis, the downtown expanse boasts an array of captivating landmarks that beckon the discerning traveler. The illustrious Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Mosque, an architectural marvel of grandeur and devotion, is a sublime edifice that accommodates multitudes in its opulent embrace.

At Heritage Park, the soul of the Emirates unfurls its ancestral tales through intricately adorned structures and artifacts. The park's centerpiece, Al Ittihad Square, is an emblem of unity that commemorates the fateful confluence of emirates into a harmonious UAE bond.

Meandering through the Central Market Souk, an ancient marketplace transformed into a vibrant tapestry of colors and aromas, one is bound to be transported to a realm of sensory delight and artisanal treasures.

Alongside the city's majestic waterfront, the Abu Dhabi Corniche beckons as a serene backdrop for leisure and contemplation. Here, the allure of azure waters mirrors the city's dazzling skyline, offering solace and serenity in equal measure.

In the lavish embrace of Abu Dhabi, time's sands yield treasures of history, innovation, and boundless appeal. If you find the sublime in both tradition and progress, the timeless refrain echoed by Abu Dhabi's downtown blend of heritage and modern sophistication will certainly resonate with you.
How it works: Download the app "GPSmyCity: Walks in 1K+ Cities" from Apple App Store or Google Play Store to your mobile phone or tablet. The app turns your mobile device into a personal tour guide and its built-in GPS navigation functions guide you from one tour stop to next. The app works offline, so no data plan is needed when traveling abroad.

Download The GPSmyCity App

Abu Dhabi Downtown Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Abu Dhabi Downtown Walking Tour
Guide Location: United Arab Emirates » Abu Dhabi (See other walking tours in Abu Dhabi)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 7
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.9 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: leticia
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Mosque
  • Al Ittihad (Union) Square Heritage Park
  • Central Market Souk
  • Cultural Foundation
  • Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road
  • Qasr al-Hosn (White Palace)
  • Abu Dhabi Corniche
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Mosque

1) Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Mosque (must see)

The Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Mosque is an iconic architectural gem that holds a prominent place in the city of Abu Dhabi. The mosque's construction was initiated during the administration of the late President Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, a visionary leader and a pivotal figure in the establishment of the modern UAE.

This magnificent mosque stands as a testament to unity and international collaboration, as it was constructed with materials sourced from various countries worldwide. Materials from Italy, Germany, Morocco, Pakistan, India, Turkey, Iran, China, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Greece, and the United Arab Emirates came together to create this awe-inspiring structure. The use of high-quality and durable materials such as marble, stone, gold, semi-precious stones, crystals, and ceramics underscores the meticulous attention to detail in the design and construction of the mosque.

The grand endeavor involved the efforts of over 3,000 workers and 38 contracting companies, contributing to the creation of this stunning architectural masterpiece. With a capacity to accommodate approximately 41,000 people, the mosque covers an impressive area of 22,412 square meters (241,240 square feet).

The internal prayer halls of the mosque were opened to the public in December 2007, and since then, it has become one of the most visited buildings in the UAE. The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque Center was established to oversee the mosque's day-to-day operations, serving as a place of worship, Friday gatherings, as well as an educational and cultural center for visitors to learn and discover.

With its awe-inspiring beauty, grandeur, and significance, the Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Grand Mosque has become a symbol of national pride for the UAE, attracting visitors from all corners of the globe to experience its breathtaking architecture, embrace its spiritual aura, and appreciate the values of unity, tolerance, and peace that it embodies.
Al Ittihad (Union) Square Heritage Park

2) Al Ittihad (Union) Square Heritage Park

Al Ittihad Square Heritage Park, located along the bustling Airport Road between Hamdan Street and the Corniche, stands as a testament to the country's rich cultural heritage and national identity.

At the heart of this captivating park lies Al Ittihad Square, an architectural masterpiece that commemorates the formation of the United Arab Emirates. In the local language, "ittihad" signifies "union," and this square stands as a symbol of unity and pride for the Emirati people. The square's design artfully weaves Emirati cultural symbols on a monumental scale, exuding a sense of grandeur and significance.

The centerpiece of Al Ittihad Square is a stunning representation of a traditional incense burner, known as "mabakhir," meticulously crafted to reflect its true essence and cultural importance. Emirati hospitality is embodied in the symbols surrounding the square, including a large coffee pot called "dallah," adorned with a long spout, a quintessential part of Emirati gatherings where coffee is a symbol of generosity and warmth.

A conical palm-frond food cover known as "makkabah" also adorns the square, serving as a reminder of Emirati culinary traditions and the spirit of sharing meals with loved ones. This woven palm cover is emblematic of the region's roots and its deep connection to nature and sustainability.

Additionally, the square features a "gülabdan," a sprinkler designed to hold rose water, which is customarily poured on the hands of guests after a meal as a sign of appreciation and respect for their presence.
Central Market Souk

3) Central Market Souk

The Central Market Souk is one of the oldest and most cherished locations in Abu Dhabi. Since its inception in the 1970s, a traditional souk has graced this site, serving as the bustling heart of trade and commerce for over three decades. However, tragedy struck in 2003 when the original souk was ravaged by fire.

Determined to preserve the essence of the traditional souk while offering a distinctive and memorable shopping experience, a lavish and ambitious project was undertaken to rebuild the Central Market. The architects masterfully combined the charm and atmosphere of a traditional Arabic souk with the allure of modern boutique-style shopping. Traditional architectural elements, such as geometric patterns of stars and rectangles, and intricate wooden latticework, are evident throughout the market, evoking a sense of timeless beauty and cultural pride.

One of the highlights of the Central Market Souk is its rooftop garden. This serene oasis is adorned with trees, quirky sculptures and charming cafés and provides a bird's-eye view of the nearby Culture Square.

The moment you step into the market, you are greeted by the faint aroma of incense, reminiscent of any Middle Eastern souk. For those seeking souvenirs to take home, the Central Market is a treasure trove of regional and local products and artifacts, making it an ideal place to explore and shop for keepsakes.

The market also boasts a selection of restaurants and cafés where visitors can mingle with local businessmen while savoring a delightful array of Arabic, Western, or Indian cuisine. Alternatively, one can indulge in the age-old tradition of enjoying a shisha pipe in the comfort of a traditional tent within the rooftop garden.
Cultural Foundation

4) Cultural Foundation

The Abu Dhabi Cultural Foundation, established in 1981, serves as a beacon of art and knowledge within the United Arab Emirates, specifically situated near the historic Qasr al-Hosn. This institution is a conglomerate of the Institute of Culture and Art, the National Library, and the National Archives, marking it as a cornerstone for the country's cultural development and preservation.

Architecturally, the foundation's building is a contemporary masterpiece that beautifully integrates elements of Islamic design, such as exquisitely carved doorways and arched columns. Its well-maintained gardens and elaborate courtyards add to the aesthetic and cultural experience, reflecting the foundation's commitment to preserving both architectural and archaeological heritage.

Operated under the auspices of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, the Cultural Foundation plays a pivotal role in the advancement of the national arts scene, including cinema, music, literature, and the arts. It is instrumental in nurturing the UAE's cultural identity and heritage, showcasing the nation's journey and its aspirations.

A visit to the Cultural Foundation is not just an educational experience but also a deep dive into the cultural heart of the UAE. Exhibitions feature a rich tapestry of cultural artifacts, including models of old Abu Dhabi city, collections of ancient Islamic art, historical photographs, and traditional musical instruments. The foundation's facilities, including meeting rooms, lecture halls, a cinema, a theater, a coffee shop, and an exhibition center, cater to a wide range of cultural activities and events.
Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road

5) Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road, also known as Khalifa Street, is a vibrant and dynamic mixed-use area situated in Abu Dhabiю As one of the well-established neighborhoods in the city, it offers a bustling and diverse environment with a wide array of activities to engage in.

The heart of this community is bustling with life, making it one of the more energetic and exciting areas in Abu Dhabi. It is a hub of commercial, residential, shopping, and dining venues, catering to the diverse interests and preferences of its residents and visitors.

For avid shoppers, the area boasts The Mall at World Trade Centre Abu Dhabi, which stands just opposite Khalifa Street. This massive shopping destination houses a convention shopping mall, a modern souk, as well as commercial and residential spaces. Here, shoppers can find exclusive luxury fashion brands such as House of Fraser, Karen Millen, and Missoni, making it a premier destination for those seeking high-end fashion and dining experiences. Notable dining options at The Mall include Bu Trinity, Tamba, and Jazz@Pizza Express, offering a delightful range of culinary delights.

Nearby, another shopping destination awaits at Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre. This more traditional mall is known for its gold and jewelry souk, offering a glimpse into the rich heritage and culture of the region. With a Lulu Hypermarket and a small food court, it remains a favored spot for locals and tourists alike.

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Road is also a haven for food enthusiasts, with an abundance of restaurants offering a diverse range of cuisines at various price points. Whether it's fine dining or casual eateries, the options are plentiful, catering to every palate and budget.
Qasr al-Hosn (White Palace)

6) Qasr al-Hosn (White Palace)

The White Palace, also known as Al Hosn Palace, stands as a cherished and iconic landmark in Abu Dhabi. This historic stone building holds the distinction of being the oldest of its kind in the city, taking visitors on a captivating journey back to the 18th century when the Al Nahyan family ruled from its grand halls.

Originally built as a round watchtower around 1761, the palace served as a strategic defense structure guarding the precious freshwater well on Abu Dhabi island. Over time, it evolved into a small fort around 1793, eventually becoming the permanent residence of the ruling sheikh. The palace underwent significant expansions, with a major transformation taking place in the late 1930s, funded by revenues obtained from granting the first oil license in Abu Dhabi. This expansion solidified its status as the royal palace, and the name "Qasr al-Hosn," meaning "palace-fort," was born.

Throughout its history, Qasr Al Hosn has witnessed the passage of time and the evolution of the city. It served as the seat of government until 1966, remaining at the heart of Abu Dhabi's governance and cultural heritage.

In recent decades, the palace underwent renovations, including the addition of a bright white painted concrete render, earning it the moniker "White Palace." Although the white color might be a more recent feature, the grandeur and historical significance of the palace remain timeless.

The palace has been thoughtfully preserved and restored, and in association with the Cultural Foundation, it now serves as a vibrant hub for exhibitions, cultural events, art classes, and workshops. Visitors can immerse themselves in the rich history and heritage of Abu Dhabi while exploring the ancient halls that once housed the ruling Al Nahyan family.

Situated across from the Etisalat Tower, the palace is a captivating sight, flanked by Sheikh Zayed the First Street, Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum Street, and Al Nasr Street, near the Cultural Foundation. The Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage launched a comprehensive expansion plan in 2007, further preserving and opening up this historical monument to the public.
Abu Dhabi Corniche

7) Abu Dhabi Corniche (must see)

Abu Dhabi Corniche, a must-visit destination on your trip to Abu Dhabi, stretches for six kilometers along a scenic coastal boulevard, running from the Sheraton Hotel to the Hilton Hotel. This picturesque road is bordered by many enchanting gardens, a testament to the ruler's passion for greenery and the city's dedication to creating beautiful public spaces.

As you travel along the Corniche, you'll be greeted by charming fountains at every intersection, adding to the overall beauty and serenity of the area. The modern buildings that grace the skyline across the sea provide an elegant backdrop to the breathtaking views along the boulevard.

The Corniche's seafront is adorned with spectacular sandy beaches, offering a delightful escape for locals and tourists alike. Whether you seek relaxation or recreation, the Corniche has something for everyone. Families can unwind in the inviting atmosphere, athletes have ample space for their practices, and children can revel in the open playgrounds.

The Corniche provides well-defined areas for specific activities, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable experience for all visitors. Children can frolic in the specially designed playgrounds, sports enthusiasts can engage in beach volleyball, and those seeking a leisurely stroll can walk along the scenic track. Lifeguards diligently monitor the swimming area, ensuring safety for those who wish to take a dip in the azure waters.

Walking Tours in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Create Your Own Walk in Abu Dhabi

Create Your Own Walk in Abu Dhabi

Creating your own self-guided walk in Abu Dhabi is easy and fun. Choose the city attractions that you want to see and a walk route map will be created just for you. You can even set your hotel as the start point of the walk.
Abu Dhabi Seaside Walking Tour

Abu Dhabi Seaside Walking Tour

Corniche Road, or simply the Corniche, is an idyllic meeting point between opulent urbanity and the tranquil embrace of the Arabian Gulf's azure expanse. Wrapping around the western side of Abu Dhabi's main island extended in the early 2000s at the expense of the land reclaimed from the sea, today the Corniche serves as a high-end recreational area, offering a mix of cultural attractions...  view more

Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 4.0 Km or 2.5 Miles