United Arab Emirates

The best tips for Abu Dhabi – according to me.

By November 15, 2018 September 20th, 2019 No Comments

Being a lay-over city does not do right to the city of Abu Dhabi, but most of the time -for me at least- it has been a lay-over city. On my way back from my Jordan Trail adventures in Jordan for example (more on this horrible experience here). But there is way more to Abu Dhabi. In september I decided to spend a week in Abu Dhabi for one of my Quarterly reviews. So here are the best tips for Abu Dhabi – according to me.

Why you’ll love Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi (not unlike Dubai) is like the perfect adult playground. Hotels, malls, restaurants, convenience, great service. 

I love the smell of Abu Dhabi. That might sound strange, but the people who have been will know what I mean. Every mall or hotel and even museums have their own distinct smell. And not like over-the-top cologne kind of smell, no a subtle fragrance that just makes the building smell nice and fresh. 

The big problem … the heat. I spent a week in Abu Dhabi in September and it still was 44 degrees Celcius. Way too hot for a run. Way too hot to spend time on the beach. Way too hot for pretty much everything other than being inside your hotel, rushing into an Uber to a museum, mall or business appointment and rush back to the air-conditioned hotel. But hey … is that really that bad?

Another thing – a personal preference – is that I miss a bit of soul/authenticity in Abu Dhabi. Everything is well-thought of, maybe even perfect, making me miss the imperfection of cities like Naples or Asian cities. Or even older cities like Amman or Istanbul. It should not, in any way, keep you from exploring Abu Dhabi.  

My best omakase experience in Abu Dhabi

The Japanese habit of omakase (お任せ) when you’re ordering at a restaurant pretty much means, “I’ll leave it up to you”, inviting the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes. I try to do it in every city I visit, and apply the idea behind to everything between how I pick my runshow I pick my foodhow I plan activities with my kidshow I explore cities and how I travel in general.

Lebanese food at Mosaic in Abu Dhabi

Lebanese food at Mosaic in Abu Dhabi

The Japanese habit of omakase (お任せ) when you’re ordering at a restaurant pretty much means, “I’ll leave it up to you”, inviting the chef to be innovative and surprising in the selection of dishes. I try to do it in every city I visit, and apply the idea behind to everything between how I pick my runs, how I pick my food, how I plan activities with my kids, how I explore cities and how I travel in general. So, I tried this in Abu Dhabi as well.

My best omakase experience in Abu Dhabi was without a doubt the Lebanese restaurant Mosaic in the Embassies district. I had a late lunch there, mainly because when I wanted to have lunch, the restaurant was fully booked. So I returned later that afternoon for a late lunch – and it was worth the wait. When I asked the waitress to order for me – some amazing hummus, mixed grill, manoush (Lebanese flatbread). Definitely on of my best tips for Abu Dhabi and worth a visit when you’re nearby.

The best hotels in Abu Dhabi – according to me.

View from the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi terrace

View from the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi terrace

I stayed at the Intercontinental Abu Dhabi (part of IHG) as I still had a free Intercontinental Ambassador night still available to redeem. It is a fine place to stay. Service is fine, the hotel is ok, really nothing to complain about … well, it is an Intercontinental hotel I guess.

A general remark about Intercontinental hotels

I guess the key problem with Intercontinental hotels I have developed over the years is that Intercontinental hotels (as well as Crown Plazas and for the majority, Hilton hotels) are pretty much the same everywhere. They’re slightly outdated, service is ok and above all – it really really feels like a hotel. And I have to pay for breakfast (which is free with higher tiers in Hilton and Marriott). It is why I moved much of my loyalty nights to Marriott, who have way more different and different-style brands with their Design Hotels and Autograph Collection, for example. Same goes for this Intercontinental Hotel in Abu Dhabi. It has seen better days, service is ok, not perfect and it above all, really feels like a hotel.

The best restaurants in Abu Dhabi – according to me.

  • I loved the Lebanese restaurant Mosaic in the Embassies district. I discovered it by chance because of a meeting nearby – also see my description with my best omakase experience in Abu Dhabi. 
  • In the Louvre, I had a very nice lunch.

The best things to do in Abu Dhabi – according to me.

  • The Abu Dhabi Louvre

    The Abu Dhabi Louvre

    The Louvre Abu Dhabi is the Louvre … in Abu Dhabi. It is approximately 24,000 square metres in size, with 8,000 square metres of galleries, making it the largest art museum in the Arabian peninsula. It is just amazing. The building in itself is more than worth the visit – it is beautiful from so many angles, it is smart, is has great references to old Arabic towns. It is breathtaking – one of the best tips. 
  • Rising majestically from manicured gardens and visible from the bridges joining Abu Dhabi Island to the mainland, the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque is an impressive welcome to the city. With more than 80 marble domes on a roof-line held aloft by 1000 pillars and punctuated by four 107m-high minarets, it’s a masterpiece of modern Islamic architecture and design. Conceived by Sheikh Zayed, and marking his final resting-place, the mosque is one of the few in the region open to non-Muslims.
  • Corniche beach and its boulevard offer a great view of the sea and the city.
  • Slightly unrelated, but on my way back to Amsterdam and Brussels at Abu Dhabi International airport, I got the chance to spend some time in the Plaza Premium Lounge. A nice, spacious lounge but above all – a shower! It was my first lounge shower experience (can’t wait to try the showers in the new KLM Lounge at Schiphol airport soon).
  • Another nice thing – I had a really late flight out of Abu Dhabi (or early – 02h05). I decided to spend my late afternoon and much of the evening in the nearby Yas mall, a huge mall with a wide variety of flagship stores (including the Ferrari experience). A great place to spend some time, shop some souvenirs or wait your time out until your flight (instead of spending it at the airport).

The best places to go out for a run in Abu Dhabi – according to me.

Run at Corniche beach

Run at Corniche beach

I prefer running in the evening, have dinner after and then relax a bit and go to sleep early. However, with Abu Dhabi temperatures, that does not make any sense. That pretty much limits your Abu Dhabi running options to either running in your hotel fitness (which I hate passionately) or getting up really early and see if you can find a decent place to run. The only decent one I found was running Corniche beach – an approximately 5-kilometer long boulevard/beach with great views of both the sea and the city. 

So, what are the best tips for Abu Dhabi – according to you?

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