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Something different in Dubai

After touring Dubai’s famous sites and sparkling skyscrapers, discover another side to the city with these lesser-known attractions and activities. Explore a world floating on water at the manmade World Islands; see the city from new heights with a hot air balloon tour; discover art and fashion at Al Quoz Art District and Dubai Design District; and then, after a busy day of sightseeing, treat your body to a traditional Middle Eastern hammam.

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Al Quoz Art District

A few years ago, Dubai may not have been considered one of the world’s leading art destinations. But that opinion is changing. Follow local artists and collectors to the artistic Al Quoz neighbourhood and discover an array of modern art in industrial spaces. There are myriad galleries and studios to explore, alongside quirky cafés and eateries where the city’s creative residents gather.

Dhow boat cruise

As Dubai is a coastal city, the ocean is an integral part of life and, as a former port town, is the reason for the city’s success. Instead of boarding a modern super yacht, why not take a trip on a traditional Arabian dhow boat. Book a sightseeing cruise on a large dhow or sit with locals as they cross the creek from the Bur Dubai souk to the Spice Souk on an abra (a small wooden water taxi) for only AED1.

Dubai by air, water and land

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Dubai from the sky

While gazing at Dubai’s towering buildings from the ground is impressive, it’s even more captivating from above. From hot air balloon adventures over the desert to seaplane flights over the city and even skydiving over Palm Jumeirah, there are plenty of alternative sightseeing tours available for a fresh perspective of the city’s leading sites.

Winter sun holidays: Dubai by air, water and land

Dubai Design District

Dubai isn’t only great for shopping; it’s also a burgeoning hub of design. Dubai Design District is at the centre of the city’s burgeoning fashion and design scene. Leave the luxury labels at the city’s super malls and discover independent boutiques, galleries and leisure outlets in this fascinating new neighbourhood.

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The World Islands

A manmade globe-shaped archipelago off Jumeirah Beach, The World Islands was originally created as a luxury retreat but most of the 300 islands have been empty for years. Soon, a new project named The Heart of Europe, will transform the distinctive coastal development with residences, hotels and leisure facilities. Until then, a beach day on a secluded island doesn’t sound half bad.

Arabian hammam

Nothing heals the body after a long day of sightseeing like a massage. After exploring the city, do what the locals do and treat yourself to a spa break. For a true taste of Arabian luxury, opt for a traditional hammam experience. Similar to a Turkish bath, the hammam begins with a steam, followed by a scrub and an oil massage, which usually takes place on a heated stone.

Extravagant pampering

Public beaches

With many hotels housing private beaches, there may be no need to visit a public beach. But if you’re staying in an inner-city hotel, or wish to have a more local experience, Dubai’s public beaches have plenty to offer. Kite Beach is great for water sports; Sunset Beach is renowned for its view of landmark Burj Al Arab; and JBR Beach, stretching along Dubai Marina (soon to host the Bluewaters Island Development), is a dining and leisure hub.

Going green in the desert

Image credits: Art exhibit in Dubai © Visit Dubai, Abra on Dubai Creek © Visit Dubai, Dubai from the sky © Skydive Dubai, Jumeirah beach © ImageGap, All other imagery © iStockPhoto