A three minute guide to Abu Dhabi

WHY

Often thought of as a stopover destination when flying with Etihad or Virgin Australia, Abu Dhabi is growing as a cultural hub. The opening of the new Louvre museum there in 2016 will add to a surprisingly large array of options in a city that's way less frenetic than neighbouring Dubai.

VISIT

Ferrari World (ferrariworldabudhabi.com) is the world's largest indoor theme park, and while it has a decent selection of fun simulators and big screen-centric "rides", the absolute monster is the Formula Rossa. This is the fastest rollercoaster in the world, shooting passengers onwards and upwards at 240km/h. It is, to put it mildly, a remarkable heart-starter.

EAT

Bentley's Bistro and Bar (bentleybistro.com) in the Galleria Mall has a great terrace overlooking the water and an admirably lengthy happy hour from 5pm to 9pm every day. There's a broadly European feel to the menu, but the lobster and wagyu steak dishes are there for anyone fancying a properly lavish splash out.

LOOK

During the less fiercely hot winter months (basically November to February), the Corniche becomes Abu Dhabi's prime strutting, jogging and cycling territory. The public beaches line up alongside it, and the shiny statement-making towers lined up on the other side provide the eye candy. If you tag the breakwater onto the walk, you'll end up by the humungous Marina Mall and the Abu Dhabi Heritage Village. The latter has reconstructions of traditional Emirati coastal and desert houses, plus a small museum that has some fantastic old photos of the city's early days.

MUST

Abu Dhabi's most memorable experiences are to be found in the desert, so take some time to leave the city itself and head out into the dunes. Emirates Tours and Safari (eatours.ae) runs trips out into the sand, involving camel rides, 4WD dune bashing experiences and a Bedouin-style barbecue dinner. Belly dancing, henna painting and a rather spectacular desert sunset are also thrown in.

SLEEP

For wow factor, the Yas Viceroy (viceroyhotelsandresorts.com/en/abudhabi) is tough to top. The Yas Marina Formula One Grand Prix circuit snakes around and under it, while the interior design is all sleek white curves and push-button in-room technology.

Less flash, but excellent value is the Hilton (Hilton.com). One of Abu Dhabi's oldest hotels, it offers a good range of restaurants and bars with an excellent beach club. The latter has large pools, water slides and a big chunk of private beach.

TIP

Alcoholic drinks can be exceptionally expensive, so if you feel like tippling, it's worth taking advantage of the generous duty free allowance – four litres per person.

Disclosure: David Whitley was a guest of the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority (tcaabudhabi.ae).

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