Think there’s nothing to do in Abu Dhabi when the sun goes down? Think again. The city may not be quite as lively as super-flashy neighbour Dubai, but it still has plenty of options for a decent night out.
As with its dining scene, Abu Dhabi nightlife mainly revolves around hotel bars and clubs. Discard the images of sterile lounges playing elevator music to one side though. The scene here is decidedly lively and things can get pretty raucous. With purse-friendly happy hours, weekly parties and ladies’ nights galore, the UAE’s capital knows how to host a night out.
Going out in Abu Dhabi
As a relatively conservative Muslim city, there are a few things to note before heading out for those rooftop mimosas in Abu Dhabi. Here’s how to make sure you’re respecting the local laws and customs while enjoying the city’s great nightlife:
Stick to licensed venues
A special license is required to buy alcohol from shops in Abu Dhabi, and these are only available to residents. While shop staff are unlikely to ask to see a license, it’s better to stick to buying your drinks from licensed venues like restaurants, bars and clubs.
Over 21s only
The official legal age for drinking in Abu Dhabi is 18, but licensed venues aren’t actually allowed to sell alcohol to anyone under 21. Because of this, most bars and clubs are for over 21s only, and will check ID on entrance.
Visiting Abu Dhabi during Ramadan
Bars and restaurants are unlikely to serve alcohol during Ramadan, and all nightclubs will be closed.
From after-work tipples to rowdy parties, most Abu Dhabi bars are bustling every night of the week. If you’re looking for somewhere a bit quieter to start the night, or just fancy a more serene evening, head to one of these spots:
This underground wine bar is cosy and intimate; something lacking in the usual Abu Dhabi bar scene. La Cava can be pricey, but the quality fare on offer and top-notch service aren’t likely to disappoint. The nightly 2-hour buffet is definitely worth a mention – 195 AED ($53/£42) for unlimited wine and cheese… not bad, eh?
What was once simply known as Dai Pai Dong’s ‘secret bar’ has had a rebranding in recent years, and the now-named Dragon’s Tooth isn’t quite so secret anymore. Still, this speakeasy-style spot hidden at the back of the Rosewood’s Chinese restaurant has thankfully kept its chilled ambience. Take a trip back to 1920s Shanghai and enjoy inventive cocktails served up by friendly staff who know their stuff.
Shades Pool Bar
If a low-key drink by the pool sounds appealing, check out Shades. Located inside the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, this casual haunt serves unpretentious snacks (think burgers and fries), tasty cocktails and a variety of shisha, all served amidst the resort’s pleasant landscaped gardens. Tip: ask about their evening brunch.
If you’re on the hunt for Abu Dhabi bars with a buzz, you really don’t have to look too far. The city’s expat workforce are out in droves most evenings of the week, making for a fun and rousing atmosphere.
When it comes to wow factor, Glo has it in spades. This rooftop bar on Al Maryah Island has the views, the ambience and the swanky decor complete with huge steel structures and palm trees. The cocktail menu is limited but fun, and there are plenty of light bites on offer too. Grab a seat on one of the comfy sofas and get ready for some high quality people watching to the soundtrack of deep house music.
For a buzzing waterside spot, you’re unlikely to be disappointed by Pacifico Tiki. This restaurant and lounge overlooking the marina has seating indoors and out, and is Polynesian-themed because why not? It’s a relaxed, friendly place with great service, but don’t let the laid-back decor fool you – drinks can be on the pricey side. However, there are some great weekly offers available, including two ladies nights and a half-price happy hour Saturday to Thursday.
If it’s action you want, you can’t go wrong with Mr. Miyagi’s. This Thai-themed spot is the self-proclaimed ‘liveliest Asian bar in Abu Dhabi’, and we’d have to agree. From the colourful decor (tuk tuks and cherry blossom trees included), to the infectious group of entertainers, you can’t help but get into the party spirit. But if you do need a little help, the unlimited backpacker-style cocktail buckets at the popular Thursday and Friday brunches should do the trick.
Ultra glam bars
Planning to pack your gladrags for your Abu Dhabi trip? Well then, you’ll need some places swanky enough to wear them. Here’s our pick of the best luxe lounges and bars that will have you feeling fab-u-lous the minute you strut through the door.
What better way to spend an evening in Abu Dhabi than grabbing drinks at the palace? Hakkasan Terrace may be set inside the super posh Emirates Palace Hotel, but happily the cocktail prices are on a par with other bars in the city. With sleek seating areas, curtained cabanas and gorgeous city views, it’s got all the ingredients for a night out in style.
When you think of Abu Dhabi opulence, Lexx is probably close to what you’re imagining – this place oozes those ‘your card may well be declined’ vibes. Still, while it is on the pricier side of things, there are enough offers to make an evening here surprisingly affordable. There’s the buy one-get-one-free happy hour from 5pm to 8pm Saturday to Wednesday and midnight to 2am Thursday and Friday. ‘Ladies Wednesday’ means four free drinks for women – what better reason to stop by?
Hope you don’t mind heights – Ray’s Bar is located on the 62nd floor of the Conrad at Etihad Towers. All that height does make for spectacular views, though, plus the novelty of entering the bar via a lift. Drink prices are pretty standard, and there’s the ever-present happy hour and ladies’ night offers to take advantage of. There’s also one for the guys here, too. ‘Gents’ Night’ runs every Sunday from 8pm, offering three drinks and a snack for 95 AED (£20/$26).
When it comes to clubs in Abu Dhabi, there isn’t exactly a huge variety to choose from. However, the silver lining is that the ones the city does have usually have a lively atmosphere – what’s worse than a club with three people on the dancefloor? Here are your best options for a more energetic night out.
MAD on Yas island
Something of a staple in the more raucous Abu Dhabi nightlife scene, MAD on Yas Island is usually packed full of revellers until the early hours. The music is hip hop, and you can forget the conservative dress code here – the short shorts are out in full force. The club has hosted some impressive international acts, too, including Usher, T-Pain, Ne-Yo and Tinie Tempah. There are plenty of bars close by for pre-drinks, but keep in mind they may not be so lax about the dress code.
A relatively new addition to Abu Dhabi’s club scene, Hysteria is located in the Hilton Capital Grand. The club hosts weekly themed nights, including ladies’ night every Wednesday (free drinks for girls) and ‘Wild Thursday’ – it is the last day of the working week here, after all. If you’re after something a bit different, head over on a Friday to hear more local tunes blasted at the club’s Arabic night.
While Relax@12 is more laid back during the week, things are turned up a notch (or several) during the weekend at this lounge/club. There’s also Ladies Night every Tuesday, complete with DJs and free drinks for women, which fills the place up. Located on the 12th floor of the Aloft hotel, the open-air spot has some rather nice views, should you find time to appreciate them.
Need a hearty brunch to fix you on the morning after? Take a look at our guide to the best brunch spots to visit.
Looking for thrills and adventure in Abu Dhabi? There are plenty – you just have to know where to look. It all starts with sending the Orbzii app to your phone, and get ready to dream, plan and book your once-in-a-lifetime trip to the emirate.