#WeekendinDubai: A 3-Day Itinerary That Will Create Major Instagram Envy

A weekend in Dubai requires snapping a pic of the tallest building in the world from Jumeirah Beach with the best Instagram filter. (Photo: Siegfried Layda / Getty)

With its soaring skyscrapers and sandy beaches, alluring souks and desert sunsets, Dubai is not only a traveler’s haven but a photographer’s dream. Even if you’re only an amateur shutterbug, you’ll want to get smart snaps for your Instagram feed — and spark a little envy among your friends back home. Here’s our guide to the best weekend in Dubai, Instagram-style.


(Photos: Paul Thuysbaert)

Friday Sunset

What better way to kick-start your Dubai stay than by announcing your arrival — on Instagram — with a gob-smacking snap of the city’s sweeping skyline at sunset? Make a beeline for the 124th-floor observation deck of half-mile-high Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. (To avoid long lines, book your tickets ahead of time.)

Suggested filter: Nashville will enhance the warmth of the sunset and add softness for a beautiful effect.

Friday Night

Once you’re back down on earth, stake out a prime position overlooking the 30-acre man-made lake at the base of Burj Khalifa. You’re here to photograph the planet’s largest dancing fountain as it shoots illuminated jets of water 500 feet into the air in sync to a choreographed soundtrack. (Use a tripod to best capture the Dubai Fountain show.) But don’t leave without a pic of the futuristic Burj Khalifa. The best place to get a full-length shot of Dubai’s iconic tower is from Neos, an Art Deco-style lounge on the 63rd floor of The Address Downtown Dubai. (It’s been closed since a New Year’s Eve fire, but should be reopening in the near future.)

Suggested filter: Lo-Fi will boost contrast and create darker shadows to show off the fountain’s dancing water.

Friday Late Night

Famished? Snag a taxi and zip over to the Deira neighborhood on Al Muteena Street. Dig into — and Instagram — smoky grilled kebabs at the Iraqi restaurants dotting this neon-lit street. After dinner, stroll the palm-shaded median strip, where local residents — mainly workers from the Indian subcontinent — settle onto wooden benches for games of backgammon and cards well into the night.

Suggested filter: For photos taken in low-light settings — such as a street scene at night — Amaro will add a little extra light for a natural glow.


(Photos: Paul Thuysbaert)

Saturday Morning

Thanks to the often-scorching afternoon temperatures in Dubai, mornings are the time to walk. Start your day with an amble along the breezy alleyways of the historic Al Fahidi quarter. Merchants from Bastak in southern Iran built these splendid wind-tower homes from coral, sand and gypsum. Now, they house courtyard cafés, galleries and small museums. You’ll have photo ops galore.

Suggested filter: Aden gives a slight pastel effect with low contrast, which can work nicely for these outdoor city shots.

Saturday Afternoon

Retreat from the midday sun into air-conditioned Dubai Museum in Al Fahidi Fort, Dubai’s oldest building, dating to 1787. Before the sunlight gets too bright, snap an image of the fort’s imposing facade. Inside, you’ll find archaeological relics that date to 3000 B.C. and colorful, kitschy dioramas of Dubai’s pre-oil era. Then, lunch on Arabic food at nearby Bastakiah Nights — it’s in a handsome wind-tower house, where you can enjoy the courtyard breezes or dine in air-conditioned rooms decorated with Arabian crafts.

Suggested filter: For historic buildings with graphic shapes and texture, try a black-and-white filter like Inkwell for added drama.

Saturday Evening

Pay 1 dirham to cross Dubai’s bustling creek on an abra. (These traditional wooden boats, which serve as taxis, make charming photographs themselves.) The action on the water will provide plenty of opportunities for Instagram pics — from sail-rigged dhow boats unloading cargo to luxury cruisers helmed by Emirati men wearing keffiyeh (head scarves). Once you’re off the abra, head to Dubai’s souks, which come alive after sunset. The first one you’ll spot is the aromatic Spice Souk, where sacks full of colorful turmeric, cumin, cloves and more will make for plenty of exotic-looking Instagram posts. Then get lost in the tangle of lanes on your way to the glittering Gold Souk, where you’ll gawk at the extravagant jewelry on display.

Suggested filter: Lark gently boosts color and brightens to intensify the great colors found in the souks.

UAE-weekend-souks-Dubai.jpg(Photos: Paul Thuysbaert)

Saturday Night

Zip back across Dubai Creek on an abra to the Heritage Village in the Al Shindagha neighborhood, a charming re-creation of the old pearl-diving and fishing village that was Dubai’s first settlement. Dine alfresco at the Arabic restaurant Kan Zaman, where you can smoke aromatic shisha as you admire the enchantingly lit Dubai Creek at night.

Suggested filter: Perpetua enhances green and yellow tones, making it wonderful for brightening outdoor shots. (It’s not so great for selfies, though!)

Sunday Morning

Dip your toes into the turquoise Persian Gulf at one of Dubai’s beautiful public beaches — perhaps the white-sand strand known as Umm Suqeim. Here, you can grab that much-photographed shot of the iconic, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab that stands just off shore.

Suggested filter: Outdoor shots can benefit from a little extra color depth — try Mayfair.


UAE-weekend-Zaabeel-Park-Dubai.jpg(Photos: Paul Thuysbaert)

Sunday Lunch

Grab a takeout lunch of Indian snacks from Al Karama and make your way to sprawling Za’abeel Park, where you can capture candid shots of the locals at play. This is Dubai’s Central Park after all — where people come to exercise, picnic, barbecue and play cricket amid the lake, ponds and green space.

Suggested filter: Crema slightly desaturates and decreases contrast, equally great for take-away food shots or outdoor scenes.

Sunday Evening

The late-afternoon light flatters the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary on Dubai Creek, where you can photograph elegant pink flamingos. (If you don’t have a long lens, take binoculars.) There are few lovelier images to leave with than these long-legged birds wading in the still water with the dazzling Dubai skyline behind them.

Suggested filter: X-Pro II is fantastic for boosting vibrancy in bright shots that have pops of color. It will bump up the warmth and contrast of your photo — and add a vignette effect (a darker shade around the photo’s edge).

Watch: Traveler 7: Dubai