What are the best museums in Dubai? Learn about the UAE’s past and culture at the Etihad Museum, enjoy magic at the Museum of Illusions, and visit museums that kids will love!
Although the UAE is a fairly new country and Dubai is famous for being one of the most modern cities in the world, their roots go back to a mysterious past that spans thousands of years.
So in Dubai you can visit dozens of interesting museums that tell the past of this land of ancient pearl merchants, wild pirates and brave explorers. But you can also visit interesting science, technology museums and kid-friendly interactive installations. Let’s find out which museums in Dubai are worth visiting!
The Top 20 Best Museums in Dubai
The Etihad Museum is undoubtedly the most important museum on the history of the UAE, and is definitely worth a visit to understand the culture of the country in depth.
The most interesting attraction is the Union House, a circular meeting room located in the garden of the museum: the federal constitution was signed here in 1971, so the UAE was officially born here.
The Etihad Museum boasts 8 permanent exhibition pavilions that trace the history of the UAE, from that of the individual emirates to the stages that led to the birth of the Union.
One pavilion is dedicated to the UAE Constitution, while the last is dedicated to the impressive scientific and technological progress that has taken place in recent times.
Etihad Museum Tickets
Tickets cost AED 25 and you can get your priority entry ticket online with no price difference.
Many visitors prefer to take a reduced-price combo ticket that allows them to visit both the Etihad Museum and the Al Shindagha Museum.
Etihad Museum Timings
The Etihad Museum in Dubai is open daily from 10:00 AM to 05:00 PM. Last admission at 04.00 PM.
Allow around 1 or 2 hours for the visit.
Museum of Illusions
In the Museum of Illusions in Dubai, you won’t believe your eyes! This museum boasts over 80 incredible installations designed to fool your brain: there are rooms where you will feel like you are walking on the ceiling, others where you will see people magnified or miniaturized and so on.
This museum will delight visitors of all ages, with incredible magic tricks, for each of which a thorough scientific explanation is provided. In the museum, you can also attend live magic shows and learn new things about illusionism. Remember to bring your camera, you will surely have the opportunity to take some really weird photos!
Museum of Illusions Tickets
Tickets for the Museum of Illusions start at AED 65 (for adults), but can be purchased online for a special price.
Museum of Illusions Timings
The Museum of Illusions in Dubai is open from Sunday to Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM and from Thursday to Saturday from 10.00 AM to midnight.
Allow about 1 hour for the visit.
Al Shindaga Museum
This museum is located near the House of Sheikh Saeed Al Maktoum, on one of the banks of Dubai Creek.
The Al Shindaga Museum tells the story of this area of the city, the oldest, once teeming with merchants of pearls and essences from all over the world, along the trade routes between the Orient and Europe.
One of the most interesting attractions concerns the Perfume House, which allows visitors to immerse themselves in the scents and history of fragrances that over the centuries have been very important for the economy of this corner of Arabia.
It is worth buying the combo ticket that allows you to visit this museum and the Etihad Museum with a single ticket.
OliOli Dubai’s Experiential Play Museum
OliOli is an interactive museum dedicated to kids who, by playing, can learn many things about science, the environment, technology and the world around us.
Here children can choose from over 40 immersive experiences that stimulate their imagination, creativity and intuition. Together with their families and other kids, they will have fun discovering many new things.
Dubai Museum & Al Fahidi Fort
The Dubai Museum is located in Dubai’s oldest building, the Al Fahidi Fort, within walking distance of Dubai Creek and the historic district of Al Bastakiya.
It is worth a visit to find out more about Dubai’s culture and history, see ancient coins, customs and weapons, and discover what an old traditional house looks like inside.
It is worth finding out more about the ancient merchants who were very important to the economy and life of the emirates before the discovery of oil.
The Pearl Museum is located in the Emirates NBD headquarters, admission is free but you will have to go through security checks, and consists of a private collection that tells the story of the pearl industry.
Here you will be able to see pearls, documents and artifacts that belonged to the life of pearl seekers, donated by Sultan Al Owais, who was a wealthy pearl merchant, poet and philanthropist from Dubai.
The Museums of the Historic District of Al Bastakiya
The historic district of Al Bastakiya (Al Fahidi) is located along the Dubai Creek, and is one of the oldest and best preserved areas in Dubai.
There are dozens of small museums to visit here, so it is recommended that you visit the area with a local guide, taking part in one of the guided walking tours.
Some of the most famous museums are the Coffee Museum, dedicated to the ancient local traditions and blends of coffee, the Coin Museum, which boasts a large collection of ancient Middle Eastern coins, and the Bayt Al Khanyar Museum, also called Dagger Museum, dedicated to the iconic “khanjar”, the traditional dagger of the people of the emirates.
The Museums of Deira, Dubai’s Old Town
No visit to Dubai is complete without seeing Deira, the old quarter nestled on the bank of Dubai Creek opposite Bur Dubai. Today it is a lively multicultural neighborhood, where many expats and workers live with their families, but still retains some traces of the past: the renowned Gold Souk, which is one of the most important gold markets in the world, the Spice Souk and some interesting museums.
The most interesting museum in Deira is undoubtedly the Al Ahmadiya School, a museum that tells the history of the school in the Middle East. This ancient school founded by a wealthy pearl merchant, is now a historical museum that can be visited for free.
The Al Ahmadiya School museum preserves intact the classrooms, courtyards and environments where once lessons were held. Through dioramas you can get an idea of what a school looked like in this corner of the world just half a century ago.
In the area it is also worth visiting the Naif Museum, also known as Dubai Police Museum, but which should not be confused with the other modern police museums, such as the one located at the Dubai Police Academy, near the Burj Al Arab.
The Naif Museum is a small museum located in an old fort in Deira, which was the first prison and the first headquarters of the Dubai Police. The museum is free to visit and boasts a number of displays of weapons, uniforms and photographs that will take you back to Dubai’s past.
For those who love art and poetry, it is worth mentioning the Bait Al Banat Women’s Museum, which celebrates the importance of women in the UAE, telling stories ranging from tradition to modernity. In the Bait Al Banat there are also several exhibitions of artworks by female artists, as well as objects belonging to local customs.
Also quite interesting is the Museum of the Poet Al Oqaili, located in an old mansion built in 1923, which belonged to Mubarak bin Hamad bin Mubarak Al Manea Al Oqaili, a poet born in Saudi Arabia who lived in Dubai from 1875 to 1954.
Poet Al Oqaili is recognized as one of Dubai’s foremost poets and luminaries. Today his home is a small museum that can be visited for free and which displays documents, poems and artifacts that belonged to him, another good way to see what life was like in Dubai in the recent past.
Majlis Ghorfat Umm Al Sheif and Jumeirah Mosque
One of the liveliest areas in Dubai, the Jumeirah waterfront, is also one of the most culturally interesting. Here you can visit the Etihad Museum, but also the Jumeirah Mosque, the most important mosque in Dubai, which is open to non-Muslim visitors and offers very interesting visits to learn more about the local culture.
Not too far from there, Majlis Ghorfat Umm Al Sheif is worth a visit. This beautiful palace built in 1955 was a summer residence of Sheikh Rashid bin Saeed Al Maktoum, who used to meet his advisers here to make important decisions.
Today the Majlis Ghorfat Umm Al Sheif can be visited and preserves original utensils and furnishings of the time, allowing visitors to see what a traditional Majlis looks like, the room where the ruling council meets to discuss and make decisions.
Interesting Museums to See on a Day Trip from Dubai
When visiting Dubai it is worth taking a look at the interesting cities nearby, such as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah or the ancient oasis of Al Ain, which boast some of the most interesting museums in the UAE.
The Louvre Museum in Abu Dhabi is one of the most important museums in the UAE, and can be easily visited on a day trip from Dubai. This museum is the result of a prestigious agreement with the Louvre Museum in Paris, and exhibits some of the most important works in its collection.
It boasts an interesting selection of artworks ranging from prehistoric to contemporary art, with a particular focus on Islamic and Middle Eastern art. Definitely worth the trip.
Here is a deeper guide to visiting the Louvre Museum Abu Dhabi.
Sharjah Museums: the Cultural Capital of the Emirates
Sharjah was the most important emirate in the past, and still retains its role as the cultural capital of the UAE today. In Sharjah, you can visit many interesting museums, such as the Museum of Islamic Civilization or the Al Mahatta Museum, which is an aviation museum located in what was the oldest airport in the UAE.
Also interesting are the Sharjah Classic Car Museum, dedicated to vintage cars, and the Maritime Museum, which is the best museum to visit to understand the relationship of the local population with the sea and with maritime trade routes.
There are dozens of museums worth visiting in and around Sharjah, making it a good destination for a day trip from Dubai.
You can find a deeper guide to visiting Sharjah here.
Al Ain: ancient fortresses in the heart of the Desert
Al Ain is a city that belongs to the Emirate of Abu Dhabi, but is located in a green and lush oasis in the middle of the desert, along the border with Oman.
Al Ain is a great place to take a look at the more authentic side of the UAE, and to relax a little away from the hustle and bustle of Dubai. You can take long walks in its palm oasis, and explore ancient fortresses that resemble sand castles and look like something out of some ancient novel.
You can find an in-depth guide to Al Ain and its museums here.
Some Useful Tips for Visiting Museums in Dubai
To visit Dubai’s Old Town and its museums, including the famous districts of Al Bastakiya and Deira, it is worth joining a guided walking tour: the local guides will show you the most hidden gems of the city, and allow you to discover much more about local culture, food and traditions.
The best way to get around Dubai’s top attractions and museums is with the excellent Hop On Hop Off Bus service: the bus routes connect all of Dubai’s top sights, allowing you to explore the city easily.
If you want to save up to 50% on admission tickets and transportation, you might want to check out the Dubai Unlimited Pass, which allows you to enjoy Dubai to the fullest, without breaking the bank.
If you are visiting Dubai or planning your trip and want to discover all the best things to do and see, check out this guide with all the best tips from the locals!