long weekend in Dubai itinerary

Long Weekend in Dubai Itinerary – How to Make the Most of Your 3 Days in Dubai

Are you looking to spend your long weekend in Dubai? In this comprehensive guide, I have got for you a suggested 3 days in Dubai itinerary along with some valuable tips to make the most of your brief trip to one of the grandest corners of the UAE!

Whether you crave a completely relaxing break or a full activity packed retreat with your family and friends, this travel program is all you need to plan your perfect 72 hours in Dubai. It includes a mix of different activities that work great for both active holiday and somewhat slow-paced vacation.

So read on to know how I recommend spending your 3 days in Dubai whether they are part of a long weekend, quick Dubai city break, or perhaps a long layover. Even with limited time you can still do a lot and get an excellent introduction to such a magnificent Arabian city in the UAE!

Please note: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a commission if you make a purchase or booking by clicking a link (at no extra cost to you).

Resources You’ll Need for a Weekend Trip to Dubai

Before I offer you my version of weekend in Dubai itinerary, I want to share resources that I personally use for planning a trip to Dubai and UAE.

Who Is This Dubai Itinerary For?

long weekend in Dubai itinerary
must do in Dubai for first timers

While this 3 days itinerary is ideal for first-timers to Dubai and returning visitors alike who haven’t seen much of Dubai yet, it is especially great for those who wish to get a slice of everything that this city offers within a short period of time.

There is so much to see and do in Dubai that most of the time it can be overwhelming (and kind of impossible) to cover it all in a few days. I, therefore, suggest you slow down and go a bit deeper as you see the city’s mix of iconic, quirky and timeless attractions at a super relaxed pace.

Moreover, I have created this program with the assumption that you will have full three days at your disposal (from early morning on the first day till late evening on the third) to spend your weekend in the city.

Is Weekend in Dubai Enough for a Trip?

Usually, it is rather easy to visit many cities around the world on a weekend city break. But with Dubai it’s somewhat different.

On the one hand, Dubai is big and grows so fast. It offers so much entertainment and so many options for vacations that many cities combined don’t offer even a fraction of that, so a weekend in Dubai, even a long one, can be too little time.

On the other hand, Dubai is a pretty expensive city. If you stay there for a long time, you need quite a high amount of money, particularly for accommodation and food. And in many ways, Dubai is similar to other major metropolitan areas. So if you traveled a lot and visited many cities and currently travel on a budget, it is quite possible to see Dubai’s many attractions just in a few days.

Of course, in that case if you go to Dubai for a long weekend or 3 days during the week, you will have to give up visiting the water park, many museums, skip shopping in local malls or some other incredible Dubai sights.

But yet it is very possible to see all the main attractions in a short period of time. Just be ready to wake up early, end your day late, and pack your days with lots of action!

Where to Base Yourself on a Long Weekend in Dubai?

With this little time, you want to stay close to one of Dubai’s centers (such as the old district Al Fahidi, the area around the Dubai Mall, Dubai Marina, or anywhere near them) to be able to get places easily.

I’d avoid staying in Jumeirah Beach, La Mer, or the Palm area if your goal is to do lots of sightseeing. Getting out of those neighborhoods can be time consuming (unless you rent a car) and you may end up spending more time on the road than on actual sightseeing.

3 days in Dubai
One of my favorite hotels in Dubai is Vida Creek Harbour hotel in Dubai Creek. It is also a fantastic place where to stay on a short visit to Dubai but only if you rent a car

Here are a few hotel suggestions for a mid-budget that I’d choose for myself and that are excellent picks for 3 days in Dubai. They go for about $80-$150 per night (depending on the season), are centrally located, and from each of them, it is easy enough to explore the city on your own terms and do independent sightseeing.

ROVE CITY WALK (pop-up hotel) – luxury hotel relatively on a budget, located between Dubai Mall and City Walk Mall near the iconic Sheikh Zayed Road.

CARLTON DUBAI CREEK (chain hotel) – 4 star hotel in Old Dubai near Spice Souk (bazaar) and across Al Fahidi. Dubai Creek locates it, so if you book a room on the creek side, you can get a beautiful view of Dubai’s panorama. Baniyas Square metro station is located within less than 10 min walk.

OAKS LIWA HEIGHTS (all-suites hotel) – in the JLT area near Dubai Marina, great for those who’d love to cook on their weekend in Dubai as all rooms are suites that come with kitchenettes or full-size kitchens. 

XVA ART HOTEL (heritage) – within the heart of historic Al Bastakiya where guests can soak up local culture and feel the history through their stay.

How to Spend Long Weekend in Dubai Itinerary 

Day 1 (Friday) in Dubai: Early Morning Wandering, City Tour, Beach/Park Time & Evening Dinner Cruise

weekend in Dubai
long weekend in Dubai

Since this is a weekend in Dubai itinerary, I make suggestions for three days from Friday to Sunday. And to get the best out of your short 3 days in Dubai visit, make sure that you touch down at the emirate either in the evening on Thursday or in the early morning on Friday.

If you arrive in the morning and cannot check into the hotel, then drop your luggage and take a quick walk in the area where you’ll stay (I assume you chose one of the popular neighborhoods I suggested above) just to get a feel of your surroundings. There will be definitely a lot to check out.

If you arrive on the previous day, then don’t sleep for too long, have breakfast (if staying in Al Bastakia’s historic neighborhood, go to the Arabian Tea House for an authentic Emirati breakfast) and dedicate a bit of time to self-walk. Emirati breakfast, which is similar in some ways to Turkish breakfast, is a must if you are looking to have a cultural experience in Dubai. 

traditional Emirati restaurant
Emirati breakfast

But do not walk for too long as on a short visit to such a city it would be better to get an introduction through a tour. 

Morning – Join the Dubai City Tour

Following a brief self-guided stroll, you can embark on a half-day city sightseeing tour. It is a must-do as this tour lets you take in the region’s both surefire icons and hidden gems in four to five hours.

The best thing is that it comes with the services of a professional guide and includes roundtrip hotel transfers.

Hear the stories behind those parts of Dubai that are drenched in history and culture, such as Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Dubai Museum within the city’s oldest fort (Al Fahidi) etc, and indulge in some quick shopping at the traditional Arabian souks or bazaars like Gold Souk, Textile Souk, and Spice Souk.

Al Fahidi Old Dubai
Dubai City Walk

A drive on a bus through the stunning boulevards and neighborhoods of Dubai Marina, Bluewaters Island, and Sheikh Zayed Road gives you an overview of the city’s ever dynamic and pulsating sights. Apart from these, there will be photo ops at Jumeirah Mosque, Jumeirah Beach, Madinat Jumeirah and Atlantis, The Palm Resort to name a few.

We personally went on this tour from this company as they offer excellent overview tours of the entire city. But GetYourGuide organizes similar tours but oriented more on separate neighborhoods and in-depth experiences in them. Like this private tour with locals for example or a combined Dubai Old Town and street food tour.

Does my content help you plan your trip? If yes, I’ll appreciate a cup of coffee from you, so I could produce more free guides and itineraries!

Afternoon – Spend Time on One of Dubai’s Beautiful Beaches

After the city tour, you can choose to spend time till evening relaxing in one of the neighborhoods you liked the most (go back using metro or taxi) or go to one of the beaches, or by heading to the region’s top shopping spots.

Dubai beaches
La Mer beach

Among beaches, in my experience, the next ones are the best not only for swimming but overall where to have a fabulous time. And they are La Mer beach which also has a beautiful boardwalk and adjacent park, Kite beach popular for kitesurfing and kayaking, or West Beach famous for Dubai Marina panorama, high-end hotels and bars.

best beach in Dubai by car
West Beach is truly incredible at any time of the day no matter when you come – in the morning, afternoon, or late at night! 

Evening – See La Perle by Dragone Show

Wind up your first day by watching a mesmeric theatrical show, La Perle by Dragon, which is a part-aquatic and part-aerial presentation. It is a very unique spectacle that includes artistic performances, imagery and various special effects while showcasing the story of UAE’s pearl diving history.

With its cast encompassing over 65 brilliant performers from different parts of the world, this water show will take you on a fantastical journey where its every aspect is mesmerizingly pulled off under the expert direction of Franco Dragone who has won immense accolades for his jaw-dropping creations such as La Reve and Cirque de Soleil.

While there are really a lot of things to do in Dubai, I believe La Perle by Dragone show should be on the list of must-do things on any visit because it is a truly one-of-a-kind experience that captures Dubai creative spirit and presents aspirational future.

Purchase your tickets in advance since they are always limited and sell out fast. There is also a chance to combine this show with Dubai water canal cruise and dinner.

Day 2 (Saturday): Ski Dubai, Burj Khalifa, The Dubai Mall & Another Show

Morning – Mall of the Emirates with Ski Dubai & Alserkal Avenue

Dubai is all about the malls that tuck away so many sights. This is why today I offer you to devote your time to some of the most grandiose malls that surprise with the number and uniqueness of activities.

Give an icy start to your second day in Dubai by going to Ski Dubai, a mountain-themed attraction with snow. And it is not necessary to go inside to ski on your own to have fun. Seeing this place through the glass window is no less exciting.

Mall of the Emirates
Ski Dubai

If you rent a car in Dubai for the time of your visit (which in my experience is the best bet and I explain why in my post), then on the way to the Mall of the Emirates I suggest you make a stop at the Courtyard community center with classy fountains, greenery, artsy objects, and interesting architecture.

Besides them, there is a number of lovely cafes where to have a meal or coffee. My favorite places for breakfast and morning beverages are Cassette and Boston Lane. If you don’t have breakfast included in a hotel stay, eating here would be a nice start to the day.

Overall, the Courtyard center creates an impression that you are somewhere in India but at the same time like somewhere in Turkey like Bergama or Bodrum. It shows a very different side of Dubai which is well worth seeing.

unique place in Dubai
Cassette cafe Dubai

After light breakfast, you can pop into the Alserkal Avenue hub across the road from the Courtyard. It is an artistic place with an evolving collection of amazing art galleries, old classic vintage cars, instagrammable spots, and cute cafes too. They open at 10, so it makes it perfect to visit them right after breakfast.

With these places, it is easy to lose track of time and spend half a day or even longer just here. So try to start this day 2 in Dubai early. 

After you are done visiting the Courtyard and Alserkal Avenue, continue your way to the Mall of the Emirates and its indoor ski resort Ski Dubai, located inside the mall.

There, with the temperature maintained at a steady 2 degrees Celsius (35 Fahrenheit) throughout the year, this snow-filled attraction is one of the ultimate spots in the Middle East to indulge in a variety of snow activities including skiing, snowboarding, sledding, and zorbing.

If you don’t feel like going inside, find a table by the window in North 28 cafe (from there you can also partially see a penguin show) or simply go to the second floor and watch the action that takes place in Ski Dubai through the window. I’ve been to many ski resorts in Europe and never thought that going to Ski Dubai would be of any interest but it really was!

Afternoon – The Dubai Mall

best things to do in Dubai for first timers

One of the most interesting places to add to any Dubai itinerary! And a bit of planning in advance will help you with the effective exploration of this massive mall at Downtown Dubai, featuring over 1200 shops, hundreds of dining venues, and of course, tonnes of leisure choices.

Shopping freaks are in for a supreme treat, while connoisseurs of taste will have quite a tough time figuring out where to grab a bite here.

Speaking of its amusement attractions, they cater to every interest. Infinity des Lumières art museum, for instance, is sure to delight art lovers. For action and thrill seekers, there is Ekart Zabeel car racing track, Dubai Ice Rink, and Play DXB among others. There is a dedicated attraction for your little ones, such as KidZania Dubai.

And of course you can never go wrong with the incredible Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo with over 33,000 marine creatures in its giant 10 million liter tank.

Evening – Burj Khalifa ‘At the Top’ and Dubai Fountain Show

Another totally exciting and must-visit place in Dubai is Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building which stands next to the Dubai Mall. Going up to the 148th floor is once in a lifetime experience which you can’t miss especially if spending only 3 days in Dubai.

Dubai from above

With your entry tickets to its ‘At the Top’ observatory deck, you get to catch the stunning views over the whole of Dubai, covering its ocean, desert and city skyline, all from a celestial standpoint.

If this is not enough, get your tickets to Burj Khalifa Sky Level which hosts the world’s highest observation deck at a height of over 555 meters. Regardless of your ticket choice, you get to enjoy one of the world’s fastest elevator rides plus a multimedia display on Dubai’s past as part of your Burj Khalifa visit.

Back on the ground, proceed to Burj Lake that is outside of Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall. The major allure here is the dancing fountain show (Dubai Fountain) set on the lake.

This aquatic performance is a definite see for its breathtaking sync of water twirls with music and light. You can watch it for free, but I would advise you to take an abra ride like on the left photo below (charges apply) or hit the dedicated Dubai Boardwalk (charge apply) if you wish to admire the show without the hindrance of any crowd.

My other favorite place where to watch Dubai fountains show is from one of the cafes in this part of the mall (the right photo below is from one of the cafes there) or from that part where you’ll find the Lounge Dubai.

Dubai abra ride
Dubai fountain show

If you want to watch a show in the afternoon instead evening, then just make sure to arrive before 1 pm since afternoon fountain shows happen only at 1 pm and 1:30 pm, which by the way is excellent timing since the fountain area at that time stays rather quiet.

Night – Dubai Cruise

Cap off your second day in Dubai with an enchanting cruise along Dubai’s water at Dubai Marina or Dubai Creek.

Subject to your preference, you can go on a traditional dhow cruise (complete with buffet dinner and folk performance like Tanura dance), stylish cruise through one of the symbols of Dubai Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina evening cruise, or alternatively make it as stylish as possible with a luxury yacht charter Dubai experience.

Dubai dinner cruise

Whichever your desired cruise is, you can be assured of an unforgettable evening on Dubai’s water.

Day 3 in Dubai (Sunday): Morning Desert Safari, The View At The Palm, Spa Treatment And Departure

Morning – Desert Safari / Hot Air Balloon Ride

Today, you will wake up to the most magical experiences. Be ready as you will head out to the region’s isolated desert part in the early morning.

Most exhilarating experiences such as the 4X4 dune bashing and the compelling desert sunrise views are the high points of your morning desert safari. Add to this a variety of cultural and traditional activities like camel ride, Emirati breakfast, henna tattooing, Arabian Oryx at the desert camp, and Al Qudra Lakes like with this sunrise jeep safari.

getting around Dubai

Want to heighten your desert experience in Dubai?

Nothing could probably beat a hot air balloon flight over the desert! It lets you fly like a mighty bird over the endless stretches of desert sands for more than an hour, giving you a panoramic view over its plant and animal inhabitants.

This airborne activity is a relaxed adventure which means that it can be enjoyed by all age groups and skill levels. Dependent on your package, this activity comprises a lavish breakfast plus an array of desert inspired activities.

desert safari

Mid-Morning – The View at the Palm

After the desert safari, the company will you bring back to the hotel or one of other points around the city. From there, I suggest you head to another miracle of Dubai – The View at the Palm.

It is not just another viewing deck in Dubai. It has been designed to give you the full view of Palm Jumeirah – the huge man-made island that is a true engineering marvel, especially for its captivating palm-tree-like design complete with a crescent.

The View at the Palm is located on the 52nd level of Palm Towers which also offers some other immersive experiences to keep you occupied there.

Afternoon till Evening – Slow-Paced Walking, Spa or a Quick Drive

You can while away your time till departure by doing some last-minute shopping, checking out an activity or attraction that you have missed out on this weekend in Dubai itinerary, or simply going on a quick drive around Dubai checking other places that you’ll find in my other posts. Roads are excellent, free parking is ample, and driving is so enjoyable in this city!

Another thing to do which can be a good end to the trip is getting a stress-busting spa treatment at one of the city’s many award-winning spa facilities like Talise Ottoman Spa (at Zabeel Saray Hotel).

When getting there by car, you can also see more of the Palm and especially in the evening admire the sunset which acquires amazing colors illuminating Dubai seascape, like here:

Palm boardwalk

Night – Bid Farewell to Dubai

If your flight is late at night, then on a third day of your 3 days in Dubai itinerary pack loads of memories to take back home.

If you fly in the morning on the following day, then on the way back to the hotel from the Palm make a night stop at the Palm West Beach to catch sight of Dubai Harbor and skyscrapers in glow.

My Top Tips For Your Long Weekend In Dubai

1). Traveling to Dubai during weekends can get pricey particularly if you don’t plan your trip much in advance.

Yes, it is highly advisable to pre-book your accommodation, sightseeing tours, and airport transfers at least three to four months before your intended travel, especially if you are traveling in November-December and February through April.

2). The best time to visit Dubai is during the pleasant winter months (November to March) when the whole city is awash with festivities, seasonal attractions (like Global Village, Dubai Miracle Garden and Dubai Shopping Festival), outdoor markets, and a distinct effervescence.

desert at Expo

That said, it is not a bad idea to visit Dubai during the summer season as well (June to August). While you may not be able to indulge in outdoorsy fun but the region’s wealth indoor attractions and activities make up for it. And it comes with the bonus of low cost for accommodation, flight tickets, etc.

3). Dubai’s public transport (including Dubai Metro, public buses, ferries etc) is efficient, fast and mostly, spotless and safe.

But, with just three days, it is worthwhile to book a private transfer or hire a vehicle (with or without driver) to get around in the city. Having an international driving license if you are looking to discover Dubai on your own is not mandatory unless license from your country is not in latin language.

4). If you are planning to rely on public transport, it is ideal to stay in accommodation located in a prime city spot close to a metro station or a bus station (hotel suggestions I gave in the beginning on this post are all in prime locations and close to the metro or bus stops).

5). For utmost savings, consider buying an all-in-one or a combo pass that comes packaged with two or more Dubai attractions or activities for one single price. Like this explorer pass where you can choose 3 to 7 attractions and save money or buy a Dubai silver transport card at any ticketing machine.

Conclusion to this Long 3 Days in Dubai Itinerary

Dubai is full of incredible places! Now that you have my suggested program on how to spend a long weekend (or any other 3 days) in Dubai, simply pack your bags!

You may not have time to see everything on one trip but one thing is sure – you will have the best short vacay of your lifetime!

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