There’s something for everyone visiting Dubai, even those on a budget.
Although it has been dubbed one of the most expensive cities to visit, there are a lot of sights and attractions to visit in Dubai without spending anything.
The best places to visit in the city for free include the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, Alserkal Avenue and Al Qudra Lake.
Whether you want to learn about local culture, have fun under the Arabian sun or explore Dubai’s offerings, these spots are the best places to be.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
|Location: Al Fahidi St. – Al Souq Al Kabeer – Bur Dubai – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 800 33222
Operating hours: 7:00AM to 8:00PM daily
The Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood is one of Dubai’s most preservered cultural spots.
Offering a glimpse of life in Dubai back in the 19th century until the 1970s, the traditional wind towers called “barajeels” are some of Al Fahidi’s most distinct attractions.
Being located on the Dubai Creek, this neighborhood played a significant role in the city’s commercial trade back in the day.
But today, you can explore Al Fahidi’s alleyways and streets to discover different traditional buildings, art galleries and shops for free.
Al Fahidi also hosts different events and cultural festivals throughout the year, so make sure to check out the Dubai Calendar to see events on the date of your visit.
|• The Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood opens from 7:00AM to 8:00PM daily, but most of the tourist attractions open between 9:00AM and 10:00AM. Go early to avoid the long queues and explore the quarter before the crowds come in.|
• It’s best to visit Al Fahidi on weekdays.
Free Things to Do at the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood
A visit to the Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood should take you two to three hours. These are the top things that you can do for free while in the area:
Walk Around the Al Bastakiya.
Best explored in the morning, a walk through the Bastakiya Quarter instantly takes you back in time with buildings made of coral, palm wood and mud.
Stop by one of the local wind towers to see the ingenuity of the locals to funnel cool air inside houses to beat the hot Arabian sun.
Visit the Coffee Museum
Arabian coffee is one of the best in the world, so make sure to learn about its history for free at the Coffee Museum.
You can also check out more than 300 antique displays of traditional coffeemakers. And don’t forget to sample the coffee at the brew bar.
|Location: Villa 44, Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, Bastakiya – Bur Dubai|
Contact Info: +971 4 353 8777 | +971 4 353 8666
Operating hours: 9:00AM to 5:00PM (except on Fridays)
Explore the Coins Museum
Al Fahidi’s Coins Museum showcases a huge collection of coins used in the different eras in Dubai that you can see for free.
With more than 470 coins displayed over two floors, you’ll have a fun time learning about the beginnings of Dubai’s coins.
|Location: Al Shindagha Area – Bur Dubai|
Contact Info: +971 4 392 0093 | +971 4 515 5000
Operating hours: 8:00AM to 2:00 PM (except on Fridays and Saturdays)
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary
|Location: Ras Al Khor Road – Ras Al Khor – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 800 900
Operating hours: 7:30AM to 5:30PM (Winter: October to March)
6:00AM to 6:00PM (Summer: April to September)
A 15-minute drive from the city center will take you to the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary located at the very end of the Dubai Creek.
One of only a few protected urban reserves in the world, the sanctuary is maintained by the Dubai Municipality to preserve its rich wildlife.
Visiting the sanctuary is free, but the up close encounters with migratory and resident birds and other animals is definitely priceless.
A highlight of this trip will surely be the huge flocks of flamingoes that fill the lagoon with their signature pink color.
You may also come across other creatures like the fringe-toed lizard, blue-headed agama and the Ethiopian hedgehog.
|• The best time to visit the sanctuary is between October and March or the winter season when more than 30,000 migratory birds from Africa and West Asia come to Ras al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary to escape the cold winter. It’s also the time when the most number of flamingoes are seeking refuge in their special area in the sanctuary.|
|Location: 17th St. – Al Quoz – Al Quoz Industrial Area 1 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 4 333 3464
Operating hours: 10:00AM to 7:00PM daily
Alserkal Avenue is a haven for anyone who loves the arts.
This 500,000-square foot art district within the Al Quoz Industrial Zone is a community for artists, designers, entrepreneurs and visual and performing arts groups in Dubai.
Founded by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, this space is free for anyone who wants to explore Dubai’s local art scene, meet with like-minded artists and just soak in art.
|• The best time to visit Alserkal Avenue is between November and March where you can walk around the compound more comfortably since the weather is cooler. You should also check out the different events scheduled in Alserkal Avenue, especially their “Art Nights” where you can witness local artists showcase their work.|
Top Art Galleries to Visit for Free at Alserkal Avenue
There’s so much to explore at Alserkal Avenue with different warehouses showcasing a variety of art media ranging from artwork to photography.
But these are the best free spots that you should check out during your visit:
Green Art Gallery
Founded by Mayla Atassi, the Green Art Gallery is one of the most popular spaces in Alserkal Avenue.
This space features contemporary art exhibits from artists in South Asia, Turkey and the Middle East.
Here, you’ll find works from artists like Nazgol Ansarinia, Alessandro Balteo-Yazbeck and Jaber Al Azmeh.
|Location: Al Quoz 1, Street 8 – Alserkal Avenue – Unit 28 – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 4 346 9305
Operating hours: 11:00AM to 7PM (except Sundays)
Founded by the famous Indian gallerist Malini Gulajrani, 1×1 Gallery is a space created to give local and foreign artists the opportunity to showcase their work through collaborations.
1×1 Gallery has already exhibited the works of artists such as Salima Hashmi and Justin Ponmany, and it continues to work with different artists from around the world.
|Location: 10 Alserkal Avenue – Street 8 – Al Quoz I – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 04 341 1287
Operating hours: 10:00AM to 7PM (except Friday and Sundays)
Gulf Photo Plus
Gulf Photo Plus is one of the best spaces to visit in Alserkal Avenue if you love photography.
It features a wide collection of photographs ranging from vintage shots to globally renowned images from some of the top photographers.
You’ll also see the different cameras through the years and learn a bit about their history while you’re in the gallery.
If you want to take the experience to the next level, you can enrol in one of the private classes, artist talks or workshops that the gallery hosts every now and then.
|Location: D36 – Alserkal Avenue – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 4 380 8545
Operating hours: 10:00AM to 7PM (except Sundays)
Al Qudra Lake
|Location: Al Qudra – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 800 900
Operating hours: Daily
If you want to escape the city for a bit, a 30-minute drive will take you to the beautiful Al Qudra lake at the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve.
This man made lake is open to tourists free of charge and it gives you the opportunity to enjoy nature in the desert away from the hustle and bustle of the city center.
If you love the outdoors, Al Qudra is also a great spot for camping and barbeque picnics that it’s usually filled with people during long holidays.
|• The best time to visit Alserkal Avenue is between November and March or the winter season where the weather is perfect for exploring the outdoors without the scorching heat of the sun.|
Free Things to Do at Al Qudra Lake
Al Qudra Lake is one of the best places in Dubai to enjoy the desert without paying for expensive tours or camps.
If you’re up for an adventure, here are some of the free things that you can do in this area:
A lot of locals and tourists flock to Al Qudra Lake to go camping, especially on long weekend breaks or holidays.
This desert oasis offers different spots where you can set up camp on your tent or car, and just enjoy being one with nature.
Most people who come here also do barbeque picnics since it’s allowed in the area as long as you bring a container and use your own equipment for the barbecue.
Remember that it’s prohibited to make fire directly on the sand and make sure that you clean up your area after using it.
|• Al Qudra Lake can get crowded on the weekends. So, if you want to avoid the crowd, it’s best to go on weekdays.|
• The best spots to set up your tent are at the East camping ground or anywhere near Love Lake.
Al Qudra Lake has one of the best cycling trails in Dubai with over 86 kilometers for cyclists to enjoy.
The trail starts at the Last Exit Al Qudra where you’ll also find shops, food trucks, a petrol station and a supermarket.
The Al Qudra cycling track is divided into four routes:
- Route 1 stretches for over 50 kilometers and is suitable for beginners.
- Routes 2 and 3 are used by experienced cyclists and groups
- Route 4 is a straight path running alongside D63 or Al Qudra Road.
|Location: Al Awir Road – Dubai – United Arab Emirates|
Contact Info: +971 800 900
Operating hours: 24 hours a day/7 days a week
|• If you’re just visiting Dubai and don’t have your own bicycle, you can rent a bicycle and some gear at the Trek Bicycle Store in Al Qudra Road.|
• It’s best to start cycling before sunrise to 9:00AM, especially in the summer months when the weather in the desert can get extremely hot. Also, avoid riding past sunset since some areas are not illuminated yet.
Enjoy the Best of Dubai for Free
A lot of people think that they can’t afford to visit Dubai because it’s too expensive for their budget.
But the Dubai government made sure that everyone will have a great time in the city by creating spaces that locals and tourists can enjoy without any fee.
Aside from these popular spots, you can also visit other museums, parks, malls and beaches that are accessible to the public free of charge.
You can even enjoy authentic food in the city even if you’re on a budget.
Truly, Dubai is a city for everyone. So, book that ticket and be on your way to enjoying these best places in the city for free.