Where to stay in Abu Dhabi
Where to stay in Abu Dhabi

Where to stay in Abu Dhabi? (2 minute guide to localities)

a map of a city
Click on the image for a larger version

Interactive Map. Locations in blue, Tourist attractions in Red.
Link to download: https://drive.google.com/open?id=13BG8BDFpKWVlLwFPTCDCcTMnrbN2qbHF&usp=sharing

Behold. Everything you see is Abu Dhabi (and there’s some more that you do not see and do not need to since its irrelevant to tourists). A guide for Dubai can be found here.

As you can see from the black scale line below (35 kms), Abu Dhabi is very large by European city size standards. However, most of it is not densely populated with vast expanses of sparse suburban housing (aka emptiness). All the ‘islands’ are islands in name only and are very well connected by expressways for easy access.

Abu Dhabi is almost the inverse of a normal city (where everything is consolidated in the centre), this makes the question of ‘Where to stay in Abu Dhabi?’ relatively tricky for first time visitors. There is no mass public transit system, the bus network is primarily for residents and so tourists get around by taxis – modern high quality sedans that are clean, safe and cheap by Western standards (but expensive by developing world standards). A ride from the main city (blue area) to the airport (yellow area) would be around 20-25 USD (70-90 AED).

Main city = Dark Blue (Map 1), 7 (Map 2)

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Photo Source: http://www.kingpininternational.com/media/managed/large/abu_dhabi_skyline.jpg
a traffic lights on a street
Hamdan Street Photo: https://pre00.deviantart.net/3e02/th/pre/i/2006/059/8/f/abu_dhabi___hamdan_street_by_sniper2000.jpg

Only area to be somewhat densely populated. This is where the tall buildings are and you actually have a chance at seeing human beings when you walk around your hotel. This is the only location in the entire city that will feel ‘buzzy’. Especially Hamdan street. Every other location is somewhat secluded. This area is relatively sparse in good hotels (3 fantastic Marriott options are all located here though), but it’s definitely THE place to stay as a first time tourist.

Major Tourist Spots:
Corniche (waterfront promenade)

Best hotels in this area (in order of quality and value):

  • St Regis Corniche Nation Towers
  • Sofitel Corniche
  • Marriott Downtown
  • Courtyard WTC
  • Le Royal Meridien

Palaces and Hotels on edge of city = Light Blue (Map 1), 8 (Map 2)

Emirates Palace
Emirates Palace

Emirates Palace and the Presidential Palace (don’t attempt to go here) are located on the left edge of this area along with Marina mall (one of the 6 biggest malls in the city). This area is very dense with hotels but not a dense area in general and so there isn’t much within immediate walking distance of any of them. Luckily it is adjacent to the main city (5 mins by cab).

Major Tourist Attractions:
Emirates Palace (this is where the Coffee with Gold in it is and also the Gold bar dispensing machine)

Best hotels in this area (in order of quality and value):

  • Emirates Palace (Abu Dhabi’s Grand Dame hotel, expensive)
  • St Regis Corniche Nation Towers
  • Jumeirah Etihad Towers

Al Maryah Island (Business District..) = Red (Map 1), 6 (Map 2)

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That’s all there is to it. Photo: https://arabiangazette.com

Maryah is the main financial center of Abu Dhabi (sort of, more or less, since there is no actual ‘downtown’ concept in Abu Dhabi).

Major Tourist Attractions:
Grand Central Mall (the biggest and likely best mall in Abu Dhabi when it opens in late 2018)

Best hotels in this area (in order of quality and value):

  • Four Seasons
  • Rosewood

Saadiyat Island = Green (Map 1), 1 (Map 2)

a beach with a large building and a body of water
St Regis Saadiyat. Photo: St Regis

Sparsely populated but perhaps the most suitable location for luxury tourists. The Louvre is located here (on the left edge). The upcoming Guggenheim will also be built here.  The best beach resorts in the city are all located here (with amazing secluded beaches). Whilst on the beach, you cannot see or feel any sense of a city nearby whereas you are only a 10 minute drive to ‘downtown’. It is serenity and seclusion 10 mins away from the city and the best place to stay if you want a bit of relaxation to go with all the exploring.

Major Tourist Attractions:
Louvre Museum

Best hotels in this area (in order of quality/value):

  • St Regis Saadiyat (joint with Park Hyatt)
  • Park Hyatt (joint with St Regis)
  • Jumeirah Saadiyat (new, opening late 2018)
  • Rotana Saadiyat (new)
  • Rixos Saadiyat (new, opening late 2018)

Yas Island = Black (Map 1), 2 (Map 2)

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W Yas Hotel. Photo: Official website

The fun and leisure island. Far from the major areas of the city but full of family friendly fun stuff. Ferrari World, Warner Brothers theme park, Yas Waterworld, Yas F1 Track (all kinds of motor sports) are all located here along with the current biggest mall (Yas Mall). This area is dense with 4 star properties but I do not recommend staying here as it is quite far from the other important areas. Yas is best done as a day trip for the theme parks.

Major Tourist Attractions:

  • Ferrari World – Fastest Rollercoaster in the world is here, indoor theme park, suitable for summer
  • Warner Brothers theme park – completely indoors theme park, suitable for summer
  • Yas Waterworld – water park
  • F1 Track – variety of motorsports year round along with driving experiences available
  • Yas Mall

Best hotels in this area (in order of quality/value):

  • W Yas hotel (only 5 star option on this island)
  • Park Inn by Radisson (if cheaper than Radisson Blu)
  • Radisson Blu
  • Crowne Plaza

Airpot = Yellow (Map 1), 3 (Map 2)

Very plane area. Not much to sea here.

Grand Mosque/Canal area = Orange (Map 1), 4 (Map 2)

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Grand Mosque. Photo: http://www.abudhabi2.com/

One of the biggest attractions in Abu Dhabi, along with a bunch of luxury hotels on either side of the canal. Best done as a trip (by cab).

Major Tourist Attractions:
Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque (largest mosque in UAE)

Best hotels in this area (by quality/value):

  • Ritz Carlton Grand Canal
  • Fairmont Bab Al Bahr


  • Hyatt/Andaz Capital Gate (most leaning building in world, possible tourist attraction)
  • Westin Golf Resort


For first time visitors, my advice is to pick a hotel within the main city (blue and red areas) if you want easy access to shops, restaurants and human beings OR Saadiyat (green area), which is a no brainer for the best beach and luxury hotels, and only a short 10 min cab ride to the city.

Yas Island (black) and Grand Mosque areas (orange) are best avoided by first time tourists because you will be secluded. The corner of the city (Light Blue) is also fairly secluded and requires a cab ride to the center of the city, which can take similar time as the Saadiyat hotels.

In other upcoming articles we will review and rate almost all the hotels in Abu Dhabi.

You can also check out a guide for Dubai here.

Drop a comment if you have any questions!