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48 hours in Dubai

Our top tips for exploring Dubai – the islands of sun and superlatives

Day 1

09.00-12.00

Bastakiya, Dubai, UAE

Al Bastakita – a historic district in Dubai

Finding the real Arabia – Bastakiya Quarter in Bur Dubai gives a glimpse into Dubai's traditional roots. It's been declared a conservation area and no vehicles are allowed. Walking tours are arranged regularly in the mornings. A stroll down the narrow alleys will give you a peek into the restored buildings. Visit Basta Art Cafe and the nearby galleries then head off to the glittering Gold Souk.

14.30-18.00

When it comes to retail therapy, you're spoilt for choice. Dubai Mall is extravagant in everything from its 1,200 shops to its indoor aquarium and 160 food outlets. Every brand conceivable has made its presence felt here including a Gold Souk. If you are tired of shopping, visit other attractions in the mall like the Dubai fountain, Burj Khalifa Observatory, Dubai Aquarium and Ice Rink.

21.00-late

Burj Khalifa Watercourt, Dubai, UAE

The Dubai Fountain, located at the foot of Burj Khalifa, is the world's tallest performing fountain

At the doorstep of Dubai Mall is Burj Khalifa, the largest building in the world. It's one of the most spectacular places to watch the sun go down. It’s so tall you can watch the sunset from the base of the building, jump in an elevator to the top, and watch it all over again. The observation platform is situated at 450m high. The views are magnificent. The best time is around 6 pm so book in advance and afterwards dine out and watch the Dubai Fountains.

Day 2

09.00-12.00

If you're visiting Dubai don't miss the opportunity to enjoy a Desert Safari. Head off in Land Cruisers into the stunning sand dunes of the Arabian desert and say goodbye to the city. Enjoy an adventurous rollercoaster dune bash across the mysterious dunes of Dubai in a 4x4 vehicle. Thrill-seekers should try out adrenalin rushing activities in the form of quad-biking or sand-boarding. A trip to Dubai would not be complete without a desert camel ride with the aid of a Bedouin guide.

12.30-15.30

Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai, UAE

Madinat Jumeriah is set in 40 hectacres of landscaped gardens

After a morning in the desert visit Madinat Jumeirah for a light lunch. This is a stunning contemporary interpretation of a traditional Arab village, complete with a souq, palmfringed waterways and desert-coloured hotels and villas festooned with wind towers. At its heart lies Souk Madinat Jumeirah, a labyrinth-like bazaar with shops lining wood-framed walkways. With over 75 shops and 42 restaurants and bars it's a great place to while away the afternoon. There's even the chance to jump on an abra (traditional Arabic boat) and enjoy 3.7km of meandering waterways.

18.00-21.00

Dubai is a gastronomic paradise. It’s fast gaining acclaim as a culinary capital. You’ll be spoilt for choice. A constellation of the starriest chefs has taken up residence in the city. Think Gary Rhodes, Marco Pierre White, Pierre Gagnaire, Jamie Oliver, Wolfgang Puck, Nobuyuki Matsuhisa (of Nobu fame)…

Do you have an extra day’s holiday to take? Make it 78 hours in Dubai

Day 3

09.00-12.00

Palm Jumeirah from 66th floor, Dubai, UAE

The view from the 66th floor of Palm Jumeriah

Take a stroll along the Beach Walk l at Jumeirah Beach Residences. This 1.7km walk is the city's first outdoor shopping and dining promenade. It’s the perfect place to browse stylish shops or just watch the world go by from one of the pavement cafes. If you fancy dipping your toes in the Arabian Gulf, then head along to the Open Beach. Enjoy the morning sun, sand and views of the Palm Jumeirah. For those who enjoy gentle exercise then JBR has become the place to kick start your day on a soft, reinforced running track and make use of the fixed exercise equipment beside the beach.

12.30-16.00

End on a high with a Bond-style helicopter flight. Take in the landmarks of Dubai from dizzy heights. View the world-famous Burj Khalifa and Burj Al Arab together with the spectacular Palm Jumeirah. Then dash off for an extravagant afternoon tea at Skyview Bar. It’s located at the pinnacle of the seven-star, sail-shaped Burj Al Arab. Finally head off to Dubai International Airport and indulge in Dubai Duty Free, the largest airport retailer in the world.