Dubai is not just known for being a gateway to the Middle East but also as a gleaming, modern playground for both the rich and famous.
From the world’s most expensive meals and luxury goods, to the solid gold vending machines that are dotted around the city and opulent five star hotels.
For first time visitors to the Emirate, the city can be captivating from the start, as the barren, brown sand dunes break way to a glittery oasis of one of the world’s most vibrant and developed cities. Its series of manmade islands, gigantic shopping malls, and luxury resorts can seem like a dream, not entirely part of reality.
For every opulent and expensive venue or activity in Dubai there are just as many ways to enjoy Dubai on the cheap, or even for free.
Our local experts put together a list of some of the best free things to do in Dubai, all great suggestions that can help round out your vacation itinerary.
A Way to Save on Ticketed Dubai Attractions
We know that this blog post is about listing the FREE things to do in Dubai, but, are you looking to visit a few of the ticketed attractions during your vacation?
Consider using a Go Dubai Card – which includes free admission to dozens of the area’s most popular attractions – all for one low price.
A Go Dubai Card can save you up to 52% off combined admission vs paying at the gate.
1. Make A Splash at the Dubai FountainsYou certainly can’t come to Dubai without seeing the famous Dubai Fountains, so after you’ve had your fill of the Dubai Mall Aquarium, the Fountains are just a short stroll outside.
Enjoy the fantastic views of the promenade and the iconic skyline while you enjoy a spectacular free light, music, and water show.
Featuring classical Arabic and world music, the perfectly choreographed show pulls out all the technical stops.
One of the best time to view the fountain show is at dusk to experience the full contrast of the lights and water in the setting sun.
While you are here, you’ve got to check out the Burj Khalifa – tickets are included on the Go Dubai Card.
Getting there: Taxi or Dubai Metro to Dubai Mall.
2. Experience A Dhow YardOnce the traditional Arabic dhow boats carried would-be traders and travellers to Dubai’s promising shores.
Today the boats operate mostly as a tourist attractions, ferrying visitors across the Dubai Creek. Though for a real and authentic taste of the Emirate’s cultural history take a walk through the dhow yard at Al Jaddaf in Oud Metha where you can see boats of all sizes being built or repaired.
It’s also a great place to snap pictures to remember your trip and is one of the most unique opportunities for any visitor.
You can enjoy a Dhow Dinner Cruise of Dubai Creek with the Go Dubai Card.
Getting there: Taxi to Al Jaddaf dhow-building yard, off Al Khail Road in Oud Metha.
3. Get Your Run On at the ParksTaking advantage of the city’s abundance of sunny and warm days, Dubai offers a number of free parks with complimentary workout equipment.
Get out of your hotel and experience some of the lushly landscaped outdoor facilities the city has to offer.
One of the best parks is tucked away in the residential Al Barsha area at Al Barsha Pond Park.
Featuring a designated jogging track around the perimeter of the park, you can run here for free anytime you like. The park also features outdoors workout equipment including pull-up bars, rowing machines, and sit-up benches.
Getting there: Taxi to Al Barsha Pond Park.
4. Sample The Farmer’s Market
It seems like Dubai has only very recently discovered the joys of farmers markets filled with fresh, local goods and fruits and vegetables.
The city’s Ripe Food and Craft Market has enjoyed an ever-expanding following of loyal customers each Friday, on the first day of the Middle East’s weekend.
A great free thing to do, you don’t even need to spend any money to enjoy the ambiance of the market where local companies and providers have all set up shop to bring unique and small batch goods to shoppers.
The market is a great place to just relax and enjoy the free musical performances and artists that bring entertainment and diversity to the population.
The Ripe Market takes place nearly every Friday at Zabeel Park from 9am to 5pm, and is an especially lovely place to visit in the warm and dry spring and winter months.
Getting there: Taxi to Zabeel Park, entrance at Gate 2.
5. Go Under The SeaDubai is known for its amazing malls and built-in attractions and the Dubai Mall is no exception.
From an indoor ice rink and amusement park to a major movie megaplex, the mall tops the record books as one of the biggest in the world. It’s also home to the Dubai Aquarium which you can explore for free in the middle of the mall.
Encased in the world’s largest acrylic sheet, the massive aquarium is home to more than 30,000 marine life and more than 400 sharks.
It is one of the most breathtaking (and free) views in the city.
Getting there: Taxi or Dubai Metro to Dubai Mall.
6. Enjoy the Beach
Jumeriah Beach Residence Walk and public beach is at the heart of one of Dubai’s busiest and most beloved neighborhoods.
JBR Walk, as it’s known by locals, is the place to see and be seen as you leisurely stroll the wide boulevards lined with restaurants, boutiques, and luxury hotels. This is a great place to enjoy the Walk and its mix of locals, ex-pats, and tourists.
After you’ve had a walk, the public beach that spans the end of JBR is one of the best free places in the city to spend a relaxing day sunning, swimming, and people watching. There’s also nothing quite like watching the sun set over the Arabian Gulf straight from the beach.
Getting there: Taxi to JBR Walk or the Dubai Tram to Jumeirah Beach Residence 1.
7. Hit The Racecourse
Dubai is home to the richest horse race in the world, the Dubai World Cup, which calls Meydan Racecourse home.
Though you don’t have to be a high roller to experience the excitement of the race track.
Meydan is home not only to the race, but also many restaurants and bars to indulge in. Every weekend during race season you can enter the racecourse for free to catch a glimpse of all the action and the stunning vista.
This is one day at the races that could keep you from spending money altogether!
Getting there: Taxi to Meydan Racecourse, free admission at Gate B.
8. Stroll Through Old ArabiaThe Madinat Jumeirah is an expansive complex designed to mimic the charm and details of old world, traditional Arabic architecture.
From its own private canal and abras to vaulted ceilings and traditional fabric canopies, the Madinat has all the flourishes of old Arabia for tourists to enjoy.
While the complex houses a maze of shops, restaurants, hotels, a nightclub, and even a theater guests can experience it all for free.
It the perfect place for a stroll and a photo opportunity, especially if you’re visiting Dubai in the height of the summer, as most sites are indoors or covered.
Getting there: Taxi to Madinat Jumeirah.
9. Check Out the Spice SoukDubai’s spice souk in Deira is one of the remaining cultural relics from the past that give the city color and complexity.
This absolute maze of aromas and sites and sounds will transport you to the bustling Arabia of the past.
Get lost in the aromatic delights of the spice souk as you wander its maze of shops selling saffron, frankincense, vanilla, and other sought after delights.
You don’t even need to break out your credit card to enjoy this attraction, in fact you may even be able to tempt the shop owners for a free taste.
Getting there: Taxi to the spice souk in Deira.
10. Get A Dose Of ArtDubai has increasingly been positioning itself as a vibrant hub for arts and culture, especially as the epicenter of the modern Middle East.
The Al Serkal area, once an industrial wasteland, has been revitalized into a neighborhood of galleries, venues, shops, theaters, and pop-up restaurants all in celebration of Dubai’s contemporary arts scene.
Even if you aren’t a serious art buyer, you can spend a great afternoon freely wandering around Al Serkal’s galleries for the latest exhibitions and pieces from today’s artists.
From sculptures to photography, each gallery housed in the district offers something to interest almost any taste and preference.
Getting there: Taxi to Al Serkal arts district.
Let’s Recap on How to Visit Dubai for Cheap
So there are some fun ideas for free things to do in in Dubai.
Remember, if you want to add some attractions to your itinerary that normally cost money, consider purchasing a Go Dubai Card.
With the Go Dubai Card you get free admission to dozens of attractions all for the one low price of the pass. You can save up to 52% off combined admission costs vs paying at the gate.