Dubai 21X21 – How to visit 21 must see in Dubai having only 21 hours?

Recently I described my amazing experience with the highest skyscraper in the worldBurj Khalifa. Today I would like to share with you my stopover in Dubai, where I was planning to see another 20 must-sees.

Dubai is one of the biggest cities in the Middle East with a well-being economy, that has been growing rapidly for the last decades. The city is a workplace for many Asian immigrants, who by their own hands rose many amazing skyscrapers and other buildings possible to see today. Dubai is the biggest city in the United Arab Emirates with the biggest economy in the Persian Region and finally – one of the biggest flying transport hubs in the world. As far as I know at the time of preparation of this reading Dubai International Airport is 3rd the biggest in the World. Most of the objects have been raised in the previous decade.

My meeting with Dubai basically happened twice, but only once I decided to spend a day there. Everything is because of the flying hours. Sometimes, when you want to have a nice flightseeing setting the flying time during the day is a priority, making potential stopover places omitted. Anyway, I have been to Dubai downtown just once, but I will be back for sure.

We were planning our journey to Malaysia and Thailand in December 2016. It was going to be our first long-haul journey. We decided to choose Emirates Airlines the main hub in Dubai. Fortunately, the flying times were favorable for us. The first flight from London was scheduled at 20:25 with an estimated landing in Dubai International  (DXB) at 7:15. The next flight to Kuala Lumpur International  (KUL) was scheduled at 4:10 the next day, giving us exactly 20 hrs 55mm of total stay.

We were flying to Dubai on Friday night (27.01). Unfortunately, the very commencement of our journey wasn’t successful. After boarding, we had to sit on the plane and wait. The reason was a tripped fuse in the plane, which happened at the moment when the aircraft left the chute. Repairing this defect took around 1 hour and finally, we departed at 21:35. Well, in the beginning, we lost 1 precious hour in Dubai.

After around 7 hours of routine flight, our plane touched down at the massive Dubai airport, but as late as 8:30. Terrible queues to passport control also consumed our time, and finally, around 10 am we left the airport 🙂

What is the best transport in such a big city like Dubai? Obviously metro! This kind of transport is highly advisable for me because is rather overground. The underground section is only in the city centre. Other parts of the route are elevated on viaducts, making  The metro route a sightseeing route at once. There are 2 metro lines in Dubai: a red one is the main spine of city transport, and a green one, feeds the old town. Next, to the Red and green line operational another four are planned. All fully automated and driverless trains operate within 45 stations at a considerable 25km distance. This is amazing and makes all the main Dubai attractions easily accessible. Aside from the metro, you can move within Dubai by bus but is much slower in spite of a well-developed express road net. I used the buses to reach the places, which the metro doesn’t.


I am going to describe the most interesting places, which we were able to visit in this short time.

1. Burj Khalifa – for me the most interesting building in Dubai, because I like panoramas and long-distance observations from the top. To find out more about my experience at the top of this building read this article. There is also some general information too.

Burj Khalifa

Pic. 1 View on the Burj Khalifa.

2. The Palace Downtown Dubai – one of the most luxurious accommodations in Dubai, however, the external presence of this building can definitely draw attention. The building represents a Moorish style performing in a typical Arabic view and colour. The symmetrical facade is represented by porches with the ogival main entrance. This 5-star hotel is located vis-a-vis the Dubai Fountains.

The Downtown Palace in Dubai

Pic. 2 The Downtown Palace in Dubai – view from the opposite side of the lake.

Palace Downtown in Dubai 2

Pic. 3 Palace Downtown in Dubai – view from the Souk Al Bahar.

3. Souk Al Bahar – in the literal translation means ‘Market of the sailor’. It is located vis-a-vis the Palace Downtown, a bit closer to the Dubai Mall. It’s the most prominent souk in Dubai, offering distinctive Arabic products and clothes. The building is famous for its architecture – large corridors built with natural casing stone, restrained lightning, and Arab decorations. Souk Al Bahar has over 100 shops and over 20 restaurants.

Souk Al Bahar inside

Pic. 4 Souk Al Bahar inside, the main hall.

Souk al Bahar outside

Pic. 5 Outside of the Souk Al Bahar, view towards Palace Downtown.

4. The Dubai Fountains – is the World’s largest system of choreographic fountains set on the man-made Burj Khalifa Lake. These fountains are illuminated by 6600 lights and 25 color projectors. The length is 275m and water can shoot up to approximately 150m in the air accompanied by a range of contemporary classical Arabic and world music. The Dubai Fountains consist of many water jets and shooters making the water shoot up in many different patterns and combinations. The beam of light from the fountain can be seen even 30 km away. The fountains show takes place every 30 minutes from 6 pm daily.

Dubai Fountains seen from the top of Burj Khalifa.

Pic. 6 Dubai Fountains and adjacent Souk AL Bahar are seen from the top of Burj Khalifa.

Dubai Fountains and Opera beyond

Pic. 7 Dubai Fountains (not running at the moment, when the picture was taken) and view towards Opera with Emaar district beyond.

5. The Burj Khalifa Park – is an 11 ha area surrounding the Burj Khalifa skyscraper. At the center of the park is the water room, which is a series of pools and water jet fountains. All plants are watered with water coming from the Burj Khalifa cooling system.

Burj Khalifa Park

Pic. 8 The Burj Khalifa Park with Burj Khalifa skyscraper beyond.

Burj Khalifa Park with Emaar Square downtown beyond

Pic. 9 The Burj Khalifa Park with Emaar Square downtown beyond.

6. The Dubai Opera – a modern building located vis-a-vis the Burj Khalifa Park is a multi-format performance centre. There are a lot of events to see like theatre,  opera, ballet, conferences, and exhibitions. This is undeniably the city’s major cultural hub and main entertainment venue with 2000 seats.

Dubai Opera

Pic. 10 View of the Dubai Opera from the front.

7. Dubai Mall – is the second-largest Mall in the world by total land area – the equivalent of 200 football pitches.  The Dubai Mall includes 1200 shops and in 2011 was the most visited place on Earth. Every year Dubai Mall attracts nearly 54 million visitors. Aside from shopping, this is also a great leisure centre. Dubai Mall was opened in November 2008. My wife was fascinated by the high fashion outlets, which we were passing by. There are 70 of them in the whole Dubai Mall, especially on Fashion Avenue. Our attention was drawn also to the indoor fountain, which gathered a lot of people willing to take the picture. Due to lack of time, we couldn’t see the other leisure spots like the Olympic-sized Dubai ice rink and massive cinema complex. Because of earlier transport circumstances, we were quite late. At 12.30 we had an entrance to Burj Khalifa’s top deck.

Dubai Mall inside

Dubai Mall inside2

Pic. 11-12 Inside the Dubai Mall.

8. The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo – this is a 10 million liter tank, which contains more than 33 thousand animals and the largest collection of sand tiger sharks. The aquarium is home to 140 species of sea life.

Dubai Aquarium

Pic. 13 Close-up view of the Dubai Aquarium.

9. The Emirates Towers – contain two towers rising up to 355 and 309m. This building complex is the symbol of Dubai. You can see it easily from the metro. They are the most amazing skyscrapers in Dubai.

Emirates Towers from Burj Khalifa

Pic. 14 View on the Emirates Towers from the Burj Khalifa

10. Jumeirah Mosque – one of the most iconic landmarks in Dubai and the only mosque open to the public. This mosque was entirely built from white stone in the medieval Fatimid tradition with towering twin minarets framing a large central dome. The mosque can accommodate up to 1,200 worshippers at any given time. The landmark is easily seen from the metro route (Pic. 14).

Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai

Pic. 15 The Jumeirah Mosque in Dubai (credits: Neil Farrin/

Jumierah Mosque from the metro

Pic. 16 The Jumeirah Mosque is seen from the Dubai Metro route.

11. Sheikh Zayed Road – this is a part of the E 11 highway, a transportation backbone of the United Arab Emirates. This highway is also the longest road in this country. In Dubai, this is the main thoroughfare running through the modern downtown business district. The Sheikh Zayed Road is one of the best on-the-ground vantage points for Dubai’s famed skyscraper views.

Sheikh Zayed Road Al Safa road from Burj Khalifa

Pic. 17 View on the Sheikh Zayed Road and Al Safa Road junction from the Burj Khalifa observation top deck.

Sheikh Zayed Road near Dubai Marina

Pic. 18 Sheikh Zayed Road near Dubai Marina.

12. Burj Al-Arab – is the world’s tallest hotel, counting 321m high on its own artificial island on the Dubai coastline. This is also one of the most expensive hotels in the World with the most luxurious suites for only 15k USD for 1 night. The hotel features a picturesque view of the city from the Sky View Bar, located on the 27th floor, although a  minimum spend is required.

Burj Al Arab from Jumeirah Island

Pic. 19 Burj Al Arab is seen from the main road connecting Jumeirah Island.

13. The Mall of Emirates – the second largest shopping centre in Dubai after The Dubai Mall. This is one of the most popular places to visit in Dubai, where there are a lot of cafes, restaurants, and shops, that have hundreds of high-end brands. The main attraction is the walk-in chilling freezer, which leads directly to Ski Dubai. The architecture of this Mall combines Arabic and Mediterranean elements.

Mall of Emirates seen from Dubai Metro

Pic. 20 The Mall of Emirates seen from the Dubai Metro.

Mall of Emirates inside

Pic. 21 Inside of Mall the Emirates.

14. Ski Dubai – is a spectacular indoor resort dedicated to snow and skiing. It features all types of snow activities. The temperature level inside is -4.

Ski Dubai

Pic. 22 The Ski Dubai landscape. It was hard to capture a better view through the glass wall.

15. Dubai Marina – is an artificial canal city, built along a 3 km stretch of Persian Gulf shoreline. The population of Dubai Marina is about 50k inhabitants with the further capability of up to 120k when all is ready. In order to create this man-made marina, the developers brought the waters of the Persian Gulf into the site of the Dubai marina, creating a new waterfront. This large central waterway has been excavated from the desert. Upon completion, it is claimed to be the world’s largest man-made marina, beating Marina del Rey in California.

Dubai Marina - typical view

Dubai Marina - typical view2

Pic. 23-24 Dubai Marina – typical view.

16. Jumeirah Lake Towers – consist of 80 skyscrapers being constructed along the edges of the 3 artificial lakes. The towers will range from 35 to 45 floors, except the Almas Tower with 66 floors.

Jumeirah Lake Towers - typical view

Pic. 24 Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) – typical view.

17. Palm Jumeirah Island – is one of two palm islands, located alongside the Persian Gulf shore in Dubai. Both Palm Jumeirah and Palm Jebel Ali take the shape of a palm tree. Palm Jumeirah Island is a major tourist place in Dubai to go for. However, the best way to view the Palm Islands is from the air or atop one of Dubai’s many high-rise skyscrapers, such as the observation deck at the Burj Khalifa.

Palm Jumeirah Island main entrance

Pic. 25 Palm Jumeirah Island – main entrance and typical view.

Other major attractions are to be seen i.e. from the Burj Khalifa observation deck.  At least we saw them, having a shortage of time. When you use a telephoto lens with a considerable zoom you can close up interesting objects from some distant district. One holdback is a high haze concentration, that can impair your view. I am showing you the objects, that I couldn’t visit directly due to lack of time, but they were easily visible to me when I was standing at the Burj Khalifa observation deck.

18. Dubai Frame – is one of the newest of Dubai’s sights. This 150-meter-high picture frame consists of a series of galleries with Dubai’s history and Emirati heritage. You can also go to the Sky Deck, where fantastic panoramas of both old and new Dubai are located.

Dubai Frame from Burj Khalifa

Pic. 26 Dubai Frame seen from the Burj Khalifa top deck.

19. Deira Clocktower – a roundabout in eastern Dubai (Deira). The clock tower at this roundabout was erected as a symbol of Dubai. It remains a prime attraction in Dubai and one of the 17 most beautiful clock towers around the World.

Deira Clocktower 2004

Pic. 27 Deira Clocktower in 2004 (credits: Alain Martineau/

Deira Clocktower from Burj Khalifa

Pic. 28 Deira Clocktower seen from the Burj Khalifa observation deck.

20. The World Islands – are islands spread across the coast of Dubai and look like the World Map at the ocean. The only way to travel between the islands is by yacht or by air.

The World Islands seen from Burj Khalifa

Pic. 29 The World Islands saw from Burj Khalifa.

21. Safa Park – a big urban park located near Sheikh Zayed Road. Initially, the park was located on the outskirts of Dubai. The park includes 3 lakes, a small forest, and a hill. The park is perfectly visible in its entirety from Dubai’s high-rise towers.

Safa Park seen from Burj Khalifa

Pic. 30 The Safa Park is seen from the Burj Khalifa observation deck.

Here are all 21 attractions,  that I saw during my stopover time. There are at least twice more spots to see in Dubai. I ran out of time when I wanted to visit Old Dubai. There are many interesting places there. Basically, my Dubai sightseeing was confined to the red metro line. If I picked up the green one, then I could see Old Dubai with the Dubai Creek area. Because we had a slot for the Burj Khalifa observation deck, this destination had to be prioritized. I am convinced, that I will visit this splendid city in the future and see other must-see places, which I couldn’t this time.

In the finish, I strongly recommend setting your stopover journey as much convenient as possible in order to have good sightseeing in the meantime of the journey to the final destination.

Mariusz Krukar



  1. Interactive map of Dubai Metro
  2. CutureTrip: Top 20 must-see sights in Dubai
  3. Things to do in Dubai
  4. LonelyPlanet: Top things to do in Dubai.


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  1. Burj Khalifa experience















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