A relative newcomer on the Abu Dhabi museum scene, Warehouse 421 launched in 2015 as a cultural space looking to nurture young UAE talent. The steel and glass building is based around the idea of an Islamic courtyard and features two converted warehouses in an industrial estate that have been completely reworked by Danish architect Bjarke Ingels. Inside, tropical plants create greenhouses in the vast space. Drop in for a rotating exhibition schedule, performances by blues and afrobeat bands, outdoor film screenings and sign up for an art workshop to get hands-on.
Emirates National Auto Museum
When BBC programme Top Gear comes calling to ask to feature your cars in their TV show, you know it’s probably in one of the best automotive museum in the world. A must-visit for any self-confessed speed freak, this museum features a huge showcase of American cars and even the Sheikh’s Mercedes rainbow collection. But the star of the show? The world’s largest truck. Fasten your seat belts.
Etihad Modern Art Gallery
Don’t miss this small gallery with work by international and local artists (some of which is for sale) in the quiet residential neighbourhood of Al Bateen. Combine your visit with lunch in the highly rated café with its quirky décor and pick up an arty souvenir in the gallery’s gift shop.
Zayed Heritage Centre
Take a whistle-stop history lesson of the UAE and how the late Sheik Zayed united the emirates to form one country. The museum features objects from the Sheik’s life including decadent furniture, his favourite rifles, pimped-out cars and a bizarre portrait of him made entirely from postage stamps. Embrace the weirdness.
The best way to learn about Abu Dhabi’s past and culture is to head to this museum, which recreates life in the region before the skyscrapers sprung up. There are also craftsmen showcasing a variety of skills that traditionally existed here, including woodwork carving, weaving and tanning. The museum closes early – at 4pm, so make sure you arrive with plenty of time to see everything – including the resident camels.
Al Sadeem Astronomy
Take a night time trip just 30 minutes outside of the city to this observatory where there’s minimal light pollution – all the better for seeing constellations. The knowledgeable staff will let you use the indoor and outdoor telescopes and explain everything you can see. Their online store also stocks various astro-related gifts, including a portable planetarium that you never knew you needed. Check their website for details of the next meteor showers and book ahead to visit.
Manarat Al Saadiyat
Watch this space, Saadiyat island is set to be a huge culture spot and future home of the Louvre Abu Dhabi as well as the Guggenheim. You can still visit right now though, the Manarat Al Saadiyat centre has multiple gallery spaces and rotating exhibitions on art science and culture.
Qasr Al Hon
Widely credited as “the birthplace of Abu Dhabi”, Qsar al Hon is the first permanent structure in the state, in the 1760s and was the home of the Al Nahyan family. These days the fort plays host to a variety of cultural events. There’s a museum inside with artefacts and hologram displays and kids can get hands on by weaving baskets and making crafts. There are often dances, camels, market stalls selling kaftans and food stalls outside, and lots of locals take part. Make sure you check the opening times as they’re often unreliable.