When it comes to stepping off the streets and into park life, Abu Dhabi really delivers, with many green spaces planned into this modern city from the start. These parks are part of the city’s culture and act as a social melting pot. As the day cools down you can see families eating together, kids playing on the grass, and couples strolling winding pathways. Many of the city’s green spaces have picnicking spots and playgrounds as well as full-blown water parks, great cycle routes and some of the best restaurants in town. Spotlit fountains, bridges and walkways are also the perfect backdrop for a chat or Instagram snap. One tip: as well as our list below, don’t forget that you’ll find several parks off the Corniche waterfront, too.
One of Abu Dhabi’s newest and most ambitious recreational spaces, Reem Central Park has an urban feel thanks to its contemporary outdoor furniture and graffiti art. Stroll around statement fountains and walkways past sparkling turquoise canals. But beyond the photo-posing opportunities, the sports facilities are top-notch, too, with a skate park, football pitch, and tennis and basketball courts. Meanwhile, on the beach there’s a volleyball court and an idyllic-looking playground that kids will love. After all that running around, there’s sure to be some hungry mouths to feed, and on-site restaurants include a pizzeria and gourmet food trucks to top up the calories you burned off.
Al Reem Island, Abu Dhabi
One of the most picturesque parks in the city, Umm Al Emarat has a beautiful geometric Wisdom Garden dedicated to Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. It features stepping stones around a reflective pool, palm trees and cooling mist. Elsewhere in the park, there’s a botanic garden and a shade house with a tower that offers spectacular views over the city from its two viewing platforms. Drop by the amphitheatre for live music performances, and catch the outdoor cinema, screening animated kids’ films during the cooler months. And on Saturdays there’s the Ripe Market – a food and craft market selling local goods, where you can also join in the free yoga classes on the lawn.
15th Street, Mushrif Area, Abu Dhabi
Right in the heart of Abu Dhabi is the unexpected burst of greenery and ostentatious fountain jets of Capital Gardens, also known locally as Asima Gardens. The skyscrapers on all sides give some wow-factor, and whether you’re here to hit the playground or just a park bench, you’re never far from the buzz of the city – even if the park itself is oddly tranquil. A city centre oasis in the true sense of the word.
Al Danah, crossroads of Khalifa Bin Zayed and Sultan Bin Zayed, Abu Dhabi
Kids will love cooling off in this adventure park. A real Abu Dhabi landmark, with grandeur courtesy of Islamic architectural flourishes, these labyrinthine gardens are traversed by a miniature railway and feature waterways, fountains, lakes, an aquarium, and even artificial waterfalls. Need yet more water? Khalifa Park also incorporates the Murjan Splash Park, with its pool, slides and bumper boats (but expect a 50 AED entry charge). Too wet for you? Then head to the park’s playgrounds, museum, picnic spots or outdoor auditorium. You could spend all day exploring this vast park.
Off Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan St, Abu Dhabi
Al Ain Public Garden
The stunning main park in Al Ain has varied play areas for toddlers upwards, but a dose of romance for the grown-ups, too, thanks to fountains that are spotlit at night and plenty of walkways and hidden corners for a stroll and quiet chat. Or try your luck at its cheerful amusement arcade, slightly hidden near the back entrance.
Zakher Roundabout, Abu Dhabi
A rendition of a traditional Arabian village, this is more cultural experience than park. You can stroll around its recreation of a pre-modern souk and mosque, and watch artisans demonstrating traditional crafts in a series of workshops. There’s a lot of greenery, too, though little ones may be straining for something closer to an adventure playground. Don’t leave without a trip to the shop for some handcrafted soap made with dates or sweet-smelling oud.
Corniche meets Al Firdous St, Abu Dhabi