Abu Dhabi experiences: 8 hidden gems to try

Everyone knows about visiting the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace, but here are some other things to see and do in the capital

Kayaking in Abu Dhabi’s mangroves. Courtesy Sandra Sfeirova
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Whether you're headed to capital for the first time or have guests coming into town for the opening of the Louvre Abu Dhabi, The National staff has put together their list of recommendations. Most people already know about the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque and Emirates Palace, but here is our list of some other things to see and do in the capital.

Eat at Le Beaujolais

Keeping with a French opening, why not try out the hidden jewel of Abu Dhabi: Le Beaujolais. This quintessential French eatery is located in the Mercure Hotel on Hamdan Street. The outside appearance doesn't do this place justice, but it has been a local favourite for decades. Be seated by the capital's most famous host, Buddy, and try the gratinee a l'oignon (onion soup) followed by boeuf bourguignon (beef stew). You're welcome. - LeAnne Graves

Kayak at the Eastern Mangroves

Combine some sunbathing with a bit — OK, quite a lot — of exercise and nature, and try kayaking through the Eastern Mangroves. Sign up for a spot on one of the Noukhada Adventure Company's group tours where an experienced guide will take you through the water channels that run among the mangroves, pointing out wildlife and telling you a bit about the ecosystem along the way. Or, if you're a more experienced kayaker and feeling brave, then you can simply hire a kayak for an hour or two and go it alone. What ever you do, make sure you stop for a rest and a swim on one of the mangrove beaches — it provides the perfect vantage point from which to take in the city's dramatic skyline. - Laura Mackenzie

Cycle on the Corniche

One of the nicest ways to enjoy the capital is to cycle the Corniche. Join the locals exercising along this scenic 8-kilometre waterfront with the city skyline as your backdrop. En route you will pass people at play on the public beaches or enjoying family picnics on the grassy areas and parks alongside. A bike path runs parallel to the boardwalk, ensuring a smooth, carefree journey. There are also cafes and restaurants at which to stop for refreshments. The Corniche starts from the corner of Corniche Road and 18th Street, at the entrance to the Breakwater (opposite Hilton Abu Dhabi — the oldest hotel in the city) and runs all the way to Mina Zayed port.

Don't have a bike? Not a problem. You can either hire one from the FunRideSports rental stations (from Dh30 per hour, Dh20 per child) or download the Cyacle app and buy a day pass (from Dh20 for 24 hours, if you check your bike back into one of the docks for a five-minute re-set within each hour). Cyacle has bike stations at various points along the Corniche and has 50 in total across Abu Dhabi. Simply get your ride code, unlock your wheels from the docking station and go.

For FunRideSports, call +971 055 353 9350 or email info@funridesports.com; for Bikeshare by Cyacle, e-mail customerservice@cyacle.ae, call 800 292253 or go to www.bikeshare.ae - Amanda Dale

Head to a salon

When I have visitors, I always make sure to keep an afternoon free for a trip to the salon. I find salons in the UAE to be cheaper, more professional, more accessible and more relaxing than their overseas counterparts. So take a few hours out and book yourself in and get some true pampering. My favourite salon outlet is Tips and Toes. They offer treatments, just as their name suggests, from your tips to your toes. The staff are professional and have knowledge of all the latest beauty trends. A regular mani-pedi costs Dh150. - Felicity Campbell

Visit Mina Market

As a long-term resident of Abu Dhabi, I can safely say my favourite place in the city is Mina Zayed. The port is a beautiful representation of industry and tradition colliding in one spot. Towering cranes and massive cargo ships sit opposite a bustling market filled with everything you never thought you needed. My personal highlights include the fishmarket — which is the definition of organised chaos; the garden market — where you can dip in and out of through stalls bursting colourful foliage; and the random pile of bagged onions (I’m not kidding) that are stacked further up the port towards the sea … you can find it by merely cracking open a window and following the scent. This place is beautiful to visit during the day and at night, I recommend doing both. - Juman Jarallah

Head to Jazz Bar, Hilton Abu Dhabi

If you are looking for a night out in the capital, the Jazz Bar at the Hilton hotel will hit the right note. DNA is the current house band and features American, Cuban and Mexican musicians, led by the exuberant David Howard. They not only play the old classics, but exciting covers of the latest chart hits too, making this a fun venue for all ages. The clientele is a mix of tourists and locals, from countries all over the world, but with one thing in common — a love of music and having a good time. If you visit, we challenge you not to get up and dance. For those wanting a more relaxed, low-key night, there are also plenty of tables at which to sit and unwind. The food and beverages are top-notch and there is also a VIP section if you really want a night to remember.

Jazz Bar, Hilton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road, Sunday to Friday, 7pm to 2am, (closed Saturdays); the DNA Band plays from 9.30pm to 1.30am; telephone 02 692 4247 for reservations. - Amanda Dale

Bargain at the Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre

Take a step away from the glitzy malls and get a true local shopping experience at Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre and Gold Centre. Located in the heart of old Abu Dhabi, this cluster of shops is one of the city's oldest institutions. Haggle for your gold on the ground floor, or head to the second floor to pick up some fabric. There is a wealth of shops stocking a vast range of materials and sewing accouterments as well as other little knick-knacks.

Open from 9am to 11pm. Madinat Zayed Shopping Centre and Gold Centre is located between Jawasat Road, Airport Road, Electra Road and Muroor Road. - Felicity Campbell

Try a barber shop or a Moroccan bath

Abu Dhabi, UAE, 12 September 2017: Naama Beauty Center Moroccan Bath,located at Hamdan Street, Abu Dhabi,UAE,Vidhyaa for The National

In Arabic, there's a special phrase for someone who's looking good and fresh after a shave, haircut or even a shower: na'eeman. A trip to the barbershop is an integral part of life for men in the Gulf from all countries, Arab or otherwise. Women in the capital can get a more intimate view of Abu Dhabi by visiting a Moroccan bath. One of the city's oldest hammams is at Naama Centre, hidden on the first floor of an ordinary high rise on Hamdan Street. Najat Bennis, a Moroccan who has long called Abu Dhabi home, opened the salon in 1990 and it is a favourite for women from traditional communities like Baniyas, Al Wathba and Madinat Zayed. Barbershop and bathhouse are a chance to meet those born and raised in Abu Dhabi, and freshen up in the process. Na'eeman. - Anna Zacharias

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