It’s a milestone year for the Formula 1 Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, which marks its 15th anniversary on 26 November 2023. With racing galore, fabulous post-race festivities, and now fewer than 15 culinary pop-ups to celebrate, this Grand Prix is revving up to be a good one.
Set on the vibrant Yas Island – a destination in itself with its bay, marina, and beach – the racing will take place at the Yas Marina Circuit. Here, the main event is joined by family-friendly attractions including Ferrari World (complete with the world’s faster rollercoaster), five-star hotels, luxury residences, and the biggest shopping mall in Abu Dhabi covering 2.5 million square feet. But that’s only just scratching the surface of what the capital of the United Arab Emirates has to offer.
Abu Dhabi is having its moment and it’s only set to get better as, after years of development, curation and hard work, the city has carved itself a reputation as a multifaceted destination for art, culture and entertainment, with big hitters such as the Louvre Abu Dhabi promising world-class tourist attractions. The Michelin Guide also arrived in Abu Dhabi last November, prompting restaurateurs and foodies to pour into the region. Elsewhere, historical landmarks, the most famous being Qasr Al Hosn and the Al Jahili Fort, which were built in the 1890s, and the Jebel Hafit Tombs, merge with the Etihad Towers and the skyline’s modern skyscrapers for a combination of tradition, design, and innovation.
Then there’s the year-round sunshine, vast desert dunes, white sand beaches, and clear waters of the Arabian Gulf – an archipelago that calls to marine, diving (wreck, deep-water and reef), and water sports enthusiasts thanks to its warm seas and abundance of native marine life, including barracuda, spotted eagle rays, and stingrays.
It’s no wonder then, that the region is attracting tourists and second homers in their droves. Whether you’re heading out for the Grand Prix, planning a winter getaway, or an even longer stay, here are some happening haunts that showcase the best of the region.
THE HOTEL: W ABU DHABI YAS ISLAND & ANANTARA EASTERN MANGROVES ABU DHABI
W ABU DHABI YAS ISLAND
A showstopper of a hotel, the five-star W Abu Dhabi boasts a thoroughly unique design spread over two buildings, set half on land and half on water. The architecture and design of the W Abu Dhabi, inspired by its locale and culture, continue inside with welcome desks in the shape of oil drops, columns that represent fossil dunes, and optical illusions that form silhouettes and shades, an ode to the wetlands, salt flats, fossilised sands, and dunes of the UAE.
What's more, it's perfectly located for racing fans, as it's on top of the Yas Marina Circuit racetrack - there simply aren't better views. Each of the 499 guest rooms and suites offer floor-to-ceiling windows with track or marina vistas but the room to book is the Extreme WOW Suite. The clue is in the name: boasting 409 square metres of luxury across two floors, it promises its own private lap pool, sauna and 180-degree views of Yas Island.
There are plenty of on-site dining, drinking and lounging options, with seven restaurants and bars, including the Garage (offering international cuisines), Italian fare at Amici, and the Wet Deck for cocktails and DJ sets. Alongside this is a state-of-the-art gym overlooking Yas Marina and a traditional hammam-inspired spa that boasts two rooftop swimming pools. Guests can also enjoy complimentary access to the Yas Beach Club with its beachfront location, pool, bar and dining area.
From £177 per night, visit marriott.com
ANANTARA EASTERN MANGROVES ABU DHABI
If you're looking for somewhere to retreat from the buzz of the F1, the luxurious Anantara Eastern Mangroves Abu Dhabi hotel is on the edge of the city, but only 20 minutes from the Yas Marina Circuit. Enjoy the tranquility and the views, with one side looking out to Abu Dhabi’s skyscrapers and the other across the mangroves. Here, there are 150 deluxe rooms, 66 Kasara Executive rooms, and six suites, designed to be contemporary, spacious and light-filled.
For wellness, head to the award-winning spa with Turkish hammam and gym, while outside is a swimming pool complete with sun terrace and views over the mangroves. When evening hits, take a stroll along the vibrant Eastern Mangroves Promenade where you'll find a mix of high-end residential apartments, shops, and cafes, before enjoying dinner at Anantara's international restaurant, Ingredients. For a nightcap head to Impressions Bar: a rooftop lounge that promises views of the Abu Dhabi skyline.
From £200 per night, visit anantara.com
THE RESTAURANT: TALEA BY ANTONIO GUIDA
Set within the Mandarin Oriental is one Michelin-star restaurant, Talea by Antonio Guida, with its laid-back, elegant atmosphere. Celebrating cucina di famiglia, aka family-style cuisine, the menu is a contemporary interpretation of classic Italian dishes, with highlights including vitello tonnato, linguine astice and cotoletta alla Milanese. The kitchen is headed up by Luigi Stinga, who was the recipient of the inaugural Michelin Guide Abu Dhabi’s Young Chef Award.
THE BAR: PENELOPE’S BRASSERIE & AMERICAN JAZZ BAR
A brasserie and jazz bar in one, Penelope's channels the glamour and vibrancy of the French Riviera. Sip on classic cocktails in an Art Deco setting and enjoy live jazz, while taking in the views of Yas Marina and the Arabian Gulf. Penelope's is also offering F1 packages with specially curated menus by executive chef Omer Jahangir.
THE CAFÉ: THE LIGHTHOUSE
A multi-faceted eatery-meets-concept store, The Lighthouse was established by Hashem Montasser and Hany Bassiouny and is an ode to the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Also taking inspiration from Virginia Woolf's seminal novel To the Lighthouse, and the Bloomsbury Group's tradition of meeting for stimulating conversation over long breakfasts and 'painting lunches', head here to pick up a coffee, shop, eat, and enjoy the atmosphere and creativity of the Yas Bay Waterfront.
THE HIDDEN GEM: HIDDEN BAR at the Rosewood
Tucked away within the Rosewood Abu Dhabi is the Hidden Bar, which draws inspiration from the prohibition era and the spirit of the day: gin. Here, you'll find an array of gins, over 250 of them in fact, along with handcrafted infusions and cocktails, such as the Birra Americano and Barrel-Aged Negroni. The bar is set in a cosy lounge with cocoon-style seating along with a glorious terrace with panoramic views. To accompany the gin there is a selection of cigars and bar snacks — choose from oysters, truffle fries, and a cheese board among others.
THE ENTERTAINMENT: SAADIYAT BEACH CLUB, YASALAM AFTER-RACE CONCERT and MANAR
SAADIYAT BEACH CLUB
Regularly voted Abu Dhabi’s best beach club, Saadiyat Beach Club is the place to relax, swim and dine. Set on the white sands of Saadiyat Island, swim in the sea or take a dip in the temperature-controlled pool before drying off in a cabana. There's also a steam room, sauna, hot tub, refreshing plunge pool, and a hugely popular Saturday brunch.
YASALAM AFTER-RACE CONCERT
Included in the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix ticket price are the after-race concerts, and in true F1 style, they promise to be big and bold with huge headliners. This year will see performances by Ava Max, Tiësto, Chris Brown, Shania Twain, and the Foo Fighters. Rev up the luxury and upgrade to the Golden Circle to get faster entry and exit, and a position closer to the stage.
MANAR ABU DHABI
Abu Dhabi is currently hosting the celebrated conceptual artist Carsten Höller as part of Manar Abu Dhabi - a city-wide public art exhibition that showcases light sculptures and immersive pieces by local and international artists. Abu Dhabi Dots is the second chapter of the artist's Dots series and sees Höller illuminate Corniche Beach with 20 spotlights in four different colours to create an immersive game. The spotlights follow the movements of the participants and allow them to play a 'reward and punishment' game with one another. Catch this, and many other installations across the city, until 30 January 2024.
THE SHOPPING: YAS MALL
When it comes to shopping, it doesn't get much bigger than Yas Mall. Not only are there a whole host of stores and boutiques (including over 370 international brands), but there are also 68 restaurants and bars, and entertainment in the form of a 24-screen cinema, indoor skydiving flight chamber, and the family-entertainment venue Fun Works. There's also a direct connection to Ferrari World Yas Island, the first Ferrari-branded theme park situated under a domed roof in the iconic Ferrari red.
HOW TO GET THERE: QATAR AIRWAYS
Flights from London Heathrow to Abu Dhabi with Qatar Airways start from £507pp return but we highly recommend you upgrade to take advantage of the airline's unique QSuite. Recognised as the best business class in the world by Skytrax in 2023, guests can expect spacious suite-style seats which can be booked in single, twin, double or quad configurations, as well as The White Company sleepwear, Diptyque amenities, fine wines and gourmet dining.