Seven Ways to Spend Weekends in Abu Dhabi

Students walk along Abu Dhabi's sprawling Corniche waterfront area.

NYU Abu Dhabi students live in a cosmopolitan region on the banks of the Arabian Gulf where beaches, ethnic restaurants, historic attractions, and iconic sites like the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Burj Khalifa are right at their fingertips.

Not far from campus are gold souks, lavish malls, Arabian coffee spots, and even the world's fastest roller coaster — a weekend dream for any university student. So where does one possibly begin

1. Embark on a culinary journey

One perk of living in a multicultural city is the diversity of culinary treats available on a single street. You could, theoretically, discover a new favorite cuisine every weekend. Several food maps of the city have been drafted already but you could make your own and trade with friends.

“Whenever I end up on the street across from Madinat Zayed, I go through the gold souk, walk down the opposite side and somehow find myself in the Al Sultan bakeries,” said Seoyoung Lee, Class of 2019. “When you open the door — inside, it’s like, ‘woah!’ The aroma, the décor, it’s so nice. And they have the best manakeesh!”

2. Get sporty

Is there any better way to indulge the weekend adrenaline rush than to race go-karts or ride the world's fastest roller coaster? Freshman Raghav Kedia likes to spend free weekends at the Al Forsan sports resort and recommends trying its 18 horsepower karts because "they’re much, much faster and amazing fun to drive."

Al Forsan also has paintball, horseback riding, wakeboarding, archery, bowling, rifle-shooting and pistol-shooting. The world's fastest roller coaster is at Ferrari World is not far from NYUAD.

3. Hit the cafes

Weekend brunch in Abu Dhabi is a popular way to unwind.

Some students recommend taking a brunch, spa or coffee break to unwind and relax. “We go to the Third Place Café and talk about poetry and literature," said freshman Rida Zafar who also recommends Chai tea at Happy Cafeteria downtown or, closer to campus, a more luxurious experience at one of the Saadiyat Beach hotels with magnificent views of the sea.

4. Explore the Corniche

Abu Dhabi's sprawling beachfront walkway stretches more than 10 kilometers and has food and restaurants galore. Bicycles are available to borrow if your feet get sore.

5. Go back in time, just for a day

Abu Dhabi is a relatively young city, but as many of us have come to realize, it has a deep and rich sense of history, and a palpable appreciation of its heritage. Whether you’re a history-lover, beach-lover or camel-lover, the sea-facing Heritage Village is a must-visit. It tells the story of how the Emirates’ past blossomed into Abu Dhabi’s present. The juxtaposition of the reconstructed huts against the city skyline represents the unique co-existence of the past and the future in Abu Dhabi.

Heritage Village Abu Dhabi.

6. Embrace spontaneity

Abu Dhabi is full of hidden gems that students continue to discover every day.

“Two weeks ago, me and a couple of friends went to Foodlands. We grabbed tea at the last moment — the only reason we were served tea was because the manager said, ‘You are good customers; you’ve been here a long time’. We just drank tea and sat there for hours,” said Waqar Younas Khan, Class of 2019.

“Another time, we went to the mall...suddenly my friends saw a football and decided to buy it. It was the most impulsive buy ever! Then we came back and started to play in the middle of the night. Everyone who walked by just stared at us. It was a great night.”

7. See the Emirates

If you’re feeling adventurous and would like to try something new, explore the UAE. Freshman Maria Laura Mirabelli decided to take a bus to visit Al Ain with some friends. The views atop Jebel Hafeet mountain are amazing, she said, and the city "has a different vibe from Abu Dhabi, which can be quite nice and refreshing.” Al Ain also has a zoo and beautiful sunsets from the fort.

Atop Jebel Hafeet mountain.