It all began on October 1 and will come to a close on March 31, but there is plenty more for visitors to see and do before then.
Here are 50 things everyone must try before the world's fair finishes, from top restaurants to eat at to activities to enjoy and even hidden gems to check out.
Five country pavilions to visit
The Singapore Pavilion is certainly a conversation starter. A botanical masterpiece, the pavilion’s slogan reads: “It is hard to tell where nature begins and architecture ends.” The building, designed by Singapore-based architecture firm Woha, is covered, inside and out, in a net-zero energy rainforest powered by a self-sustaining ecosystem.
Inside, there is a canopy walk, that takes you through the space flanked by forest trees, capped with a spectacular Hanging Garden. Visitors can stroll across an undulating landscape and nine-metre tall Garden Cones, a testament to Singapore’s reputation as a City in a Garden.
Singapore Pavilion is located in the Sustainability District; open daily from 10am-10pm; singapore2020expo.gov.sg
From the inside and outside, the Swiss Pavilion is worth exploring. The red-carpet entrance reflects onto the mirrored shell of the building, designed by Swiss architecture company, OOS. “The pavilion reflects Switzerland and its diversity – from magnificent landscapes to innovative projects and ideas for a sustainable future,” reads the architectural description.
Inside, you can immerse yourself in the country’s climate with an indoor mountain where you can walk uphill through a sea of real fog. Naturally, Swiss chocolate is centre stage with a Sprungli Boutique and Cafe, where you can dine in or take sweet treats away. Make your way to the rooftop bar for some of the best sunset views over the Expo 2020 site.
Swiss Pavilion is located in the Opportunity District; open daily from 10am-10pm; swisspavilion.org
The fascinating past of Ancient Egypt is the central focus of the country’s Expo 2020 Dubai pavilion. Decorated with hieroglyphics, the formal writing system used in Ancient Egypt, inside the fascinating look back at history continues, with a museum-quality exhibit featuring three original pharaoh statues as well as reproductions of King Tutankhamun’s treasures.
Egypt Pavilion is located in the Opportunity District; open daily from 10am-10pm
Designed by architects at Amann-Canovas-Maruri, the colourful Spanish pavilion looks like a cluster of tents from the outside. The striking architecture serves as a metaphor for the cultural links between Spain and the Arab world. Inside, you can dine on tapas and see Dynamo, an interactive art piece by Daniel Canogar located in The Atrium.
Spain Pavilion is located in the Sustainability District; open daily from 10am-10pm; expospain2020.com/en
Saudi Arabia Pavilion
The spectacle of the Saudi Arabia Pavilion is clearly visible from the outside. As you queue to enter, you’ll notice plenty of people looking up and taking selfies in the mirrored base of the angular building, which is lit up with Arabic calligraphy after dark. As you step into the basement of the pavilion, you can chance your luck with a rain simulator. However, the fun really starts on the escalator up, which takes you through a tunnel of replicas, built to resemble Saudi Arabia’s most famous structures.
At a giant 13,059 square metres, the pavilion is the second largest at Expo 2020 Dubai. The building also boasts a globe-shaped screen that shows a reel of footage, highlighting the vast variety of scenery in the kingdom.
Saudi Arabia Pavilion is located in the Opportunity District; open daily from 10am-10pm; ksaexpo2020.sa
Five restaurants to eat at
All things Thai at Long Chim
Long Chim is the brainchild of Australian chef David Thompson, who says his visit to Thailand in the 1980s resulted in a life-long love affair with its “food and fascinating culture”.
The Dubai outpost of the Thai restaurant is inspired by the markets of Bangkok. On the menu are signatures such as chicken satay, green papaya salad, massaman curry and sweet and sour prawns, as well as lesser-known dishes such as grilled Thai squid, smoky chilli relish with crispy bean curd and Thai oxtail soup.
The dishes are part of his effort to showcase Thai cuisine as being more than just about “red and green curry”.
Long Chim is located in the Mobility District, and is open 10am-10pm
Explore Africa at Alkebulan
Alkebulan (al-kee-boulan) is the oldest name for Africa, and this food hall seeks to promote the as-yet untapped cuisine from the continent. The offerings are curated by Alexander Smalls, the chef who launched Cafe Beulah, one of the first African-American fine dining restaurants in New York City, in 1994.
The restaurants within the African Food Hall are: Afro Street Eatery, Bar Cane, Chicken Coop, Choma BBQ, Jiko Cocktails, Penja, Seven Seafood, Shoebox Bakery, Sweet Ophelia’s and The Tasty Goat.
Think black-eyed peas and palm oil stew served with plantain and farofa; octopus choma (the Swahili word for barbecue) over coconut poached kasava; a Sinhalese-Moroccan lamb msemen; bunny chow; and Ghana “travel cake” made with Nyangbo chocolate.
Alkebulan The African Dining Hall is located in Jubilee Park, and is open on weekdays, 10am-midnight; and weekends, 10am-1am
Grab a treat at Sushiro
The first Middle Eastern outpost of the popular Japanese sushiya, Sushiro serves more than 100 dishes, all customised to be halal, a first for the chain.
The menu is divided into nigiri, gunkan, rolls, ramen and desserts, and serves everything from tuna, shrimp, salmon, crab and octopus, to eel, flounder and whelk. Vegetarians and vegans can sample natto (fermented soybean) rolls, seared bean curd, cheese tempura and customisable ramen. Matcha is the star of the dessert menu, but more adventurous foodies can also try bracken mocha, candied sweet potato and ice brulee.
Most dishes can be picked up straight from the conveyor belt or ordered using a touch panel.
Sushiro is located by the Japan Pavilion and is open 10am-11pm
Just dough it at Bread Ahead
While the USP of this bakery and cafe is its masterclasses, its compact menu proffers some truly delicious baked goods. Pick one up as you walk around the Expo 2020 site, and it’ll make the trek seem even more worth it.
On offer are two types of gluten-free sourdough pizzas (the beef chorizo pie is recommended) and nine types of doughnuts. The latter comes in moreish flavour combinations, including sea salted caramel and honeycomb, blackcurrant cheesecake, and lemon curd. Traditionalists can sample the vanilla custard doughnut and margarita pizza. Bread Ahead also serves organic teas, coffees, milkshakes and smoothies.
Bread Ahead is located in the Mobility District and is open 10am-11pm
A Michelin-acclaimed meal at Adrift Burger Bar
David “Gypsy Chef” Myers created Adrift Burger pop-up in Los Angeles over the course of 30 days when he had no choice but to hang his travel boots mid-pandemic. Only a few months later, though, Myers got – and jumped at – the opportunity to bring the brand to Expo 2020 Dubai.
Describing it as Venice Beach fused with a Tokyo vibe, the Michelin-lauded chef has kept most of the original menu intact. This includes the classic Adrift burger, the Impossible Earth burger for vegans and the Good Morning burger if you’re in the mood for an indulgent breakfast. Myers recommends the DM burger (with aged Vermont cheddar and secret sauce in a brioche bun). Other dishes to try include curry leaf fries and chocolate miso caramel milkshake.
Exclusive to the Dubai outpost are roasted cauliflower with dukkah, and cucumber, tomato and whipped feta salad, as well as baked cheesecake, and chocolate and caramel popcorn sundae.
The restaurant famously welcomed Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, Crown Prince of Dubai, in its opening month in October.
Adrift Burger Bar by David Myers is located in the Mobility District and is open 10am-midnight
Five attractions to see
Cool off at the Expo 2020 Water Feature
The coolest fountain in the Emirates since The Dubai Fountain, the Expo 2020 Water Feature is a must-visit.
You’ll find it in Jubilee Park and can’t miss it – it’s 13 metres high and features 153 dancing water jets. Water tumbles up and down the vertical walls accompanied by an orchestral score from the award-winning composer of the Game of Thrones theme music, Ramin Djawadi.
Three viewing platforms overlook the lower plaza area that’s usually filled with excited visitors slipping off their shoes for a paddle, but it’s also been the site of some serene yoga classes, performances and celebrity visits. At the centre of the ring is a spiral sculpture that comes alive at night with a dramatic fire-spewing feat.
See the incredible light show at Al Wasl Dome
The beating heart of Expo 2020, Al Wasl Dome should be on every visit list. The world’s largest 360-degree projection dome, the structure is 67.5 metres tall and 130 metres in diameter, and is the main staging area for the event.
It is where the opening ceremony took place and is also where the world’s greatest show will end with a spectacular closing event.
Beneath its trellis dome, a lush garden grows and visitors can find a shady spot during the day, but the real magic comes at dusk, when a spectacular nightly show that tells the story of humanity using cutting-edge projection and display technology brings the dome to life.
Spend the night at Rove Expo 2020
The only hotel on-site, Rove Expo 2020 is a great choice if you want to make the most of your visit to the world’s greatest show. Book a room and you not only get free entry to the event, you also get to skip the queues via a separate entry-way and a golf buggy shuttle right to the hotel.
Located beside Al Wasl Plaza, most suites have private balconies so guests can take in the performances unfolding at the plaza from the comfort of their rooms. Up on the rooftop, the sparkling infinity pool is perfect for cooling off in and enjoying some of the best views in the house of Dubai’s largest 360º projection show.
Step inside Expo’s Entry Portals
Delivered to the site in 2019, the three huge entry gates that welcome visitors to Expo were one of the first signs that things at the site were truly under way.
The carbon-fibre structures tower 21 metres in the air and stand at the site’s three entrances. Designed by award-winning British architect Asif Khan, they consist of a skeleton of lines – held together with complex geometry – that cross and intersect to create a beautiful lattice that shifts and moves depending on the viewer’s perspective.
The design also echoes the traditional patterning of the mashrabiya. The box-shaped structures are also the last piece of architecture that the last visitors will see when they leave Expo on closing day.
Explore Jubilee Park
Named for the UAE’s 50th anniversary, Jubilee Park is well worth a visit. Inspired by the seasonal rivers formed in the desert during periods of intense storms, it features a meandering wadi that leads to a huge performance space where you can catch daily shows.
There’s also an observation tower that towers 55 metres in the air, a children’s playground, a souk and plenty of restaurants and kiosks for when you need to refuel.
Five activities to try
Enjoy the views from Garden in the Sky
Go up 55 metres on this 360-degree observation tower and enjoy sweeping views of Expo 2020. The rotating tower at Jubilee Park is lined with lush greenery on top. At night, the base of the tower beams with light, as do the rings around the observation cabins.
Each ride lasts about six minutes, with rides every 10 minutes. One ride on the Garden in the Sky is priced at Dh30
Sweat it out at the Sports, Fitness and Wellbeing Hub
Spread over 5,400 square metres, this free-to-use dedicated space in the Mobility District has six zones. The main one – the largest – is the football field, also called Aussie Park. It’s home to a constant stream of events, activations and tournaments, such as AC Milan’s Academy sessions. There’s even a giant screen to stream live sporting events.
Adjacent to it is a multipurpose court predominately used for basketball, but also netball, volleyball, badminton, tennis and even bowling. Different events take place there in the evenings.
Behind the court is a global fitness stage, designed for mass participation, where events such as Les Mills training sessions and the Boot Camp Australia take place. There are also two cricket batting cages and academy sessions taking place here a few nights every week, where teachers take participants through the game of cricket.
There's also an outdoor gym and all of this can be accessed for free by Expo visitors.
The Expo 2020 Sports, Fitness and Wellbeing Hub is open daily, 9am-midnight. More information is available here
Design and fly your own aircraft
At the Emirates Airline’s futuristic pavilion, visitors get the chance to design their own aircraft. Using an ultra-haptic interface, you can create your own design and decide on the type of engine, wings, range and livery of your jet. Once the construction is complete, there’s the chance to fly the plane through the Emirates flight simulator to see just how well it would perform.
Visitors can also see what the aircraft of the future will look like for passengers. Using virtual reality headsets, guests visiting the pavilion can navigate through a virtual jet, discovering the fuselage’s interactive windows, viewing different types of cabin and exploring how seating configurations are set to change.
Go on a passport stamp-collecting expedition
One of the most exciting activities while at Expo 2020 is collecting its passport stamps. But with 191 pavilions, it's next to impossible to do it in a day. Last year, The National's diligent reporter James Langton managed 64 stamps in one day. One visitor even managed to get 200 stamps on his kandura.
All you have to do is purchase your Expo 2020 Dubai passport, sold around the site for Dh20, and set off to as many pavilions as possible. Each pavilion will stamp your passport at the exit.
The passport was introduced at the Expo 67 in Montreal. Since then, it has become one of the most popular Expo souvenirs for visitors who want to keep track of all the different international pavilions.
Take the Expo bicycle tour
Visitors to the world fair can take a bicycle ride around the world in only one hour. The guided tour experience will take you across 191 country pavilions and give you a two-wheeler perspective of one of the biggest Expo events in history.
Explore all three thematic districts – Mobility, Sustainability and Opportunity – with guides speaking in English and Arabic. There are two morning and two evening tours available daily.
Bicycle tours are included with your Expo 2020 tickets but pre-booking is essential. Register here.
Five art installations to admire
'Dodecalis Luminarium' by Architects of Air
This newly installed inflatable design installation at the Festival Garden lets visitors experience light and colour in new ways. Made by UK arts organisation Architects of Air, the structure has maze-like interiors bathed in light, from deep reds to electric greens.
Ideal for any age, the Dodecalis Luminarium continues the work of Architects of Air, which has been presenting similar labyrinthine structures around the world. The organisation’s founder Alan Parkinson has been designing pneumatic sculptures since the 1980s with the intention of creating temporary sites that make visitors contemplate space and light.
'Equinox' by Mat Collishaw
At Terra - The Sustainability Pavilion, a giant artwork blooms. The kinetic sculpture Equinox by British artist Mat Collishaw showcases a dance in nature – the beauty of pollination and ecological harmony as insects flutter and feed around a spinning lotus flower.
Made with the use of zoetrope technology, the work also functions as a type of optical illusion. The flower, measuring five metres high and three metres wide, is powered by hydraulics and blooms throughout the day. As it opens its petals, insect models and animations begin moving across the surface to present a stunning strobe show.
Sabeel Fountains across Expo 2020 site
Walking around the sprawling Expo 2020 site, you’ll definitely be in need of some hydration. Expo 2020, in collaboration with Art Jameel, has presented a total of 37 creatively shaped water fountains all around the venue, with a number made by contemporary artists such as Nasir Nasrallah and Dana Awartani.
The Sabeel Fountains are the result of a design contest held in 2019 to gather proposals for fountain designs. UAE creative studio Architecture + Other Things, made up of design team Faissal El Malak and Alia Bin Omair, won the contest and produced two works, Water in the Green and Nahel, as Signature Fountains.
'A point in time' by Khalil Rabah
Part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s public art programme curated by Tarek Abou El Fetouh, A point in time by Khalil Rabah presents enlarged objects invented by the 11th-century Persian scholar Al Biruni. The inventor used these tools to measure latitude, including the ones of his own city, located in what is now modern-day Uzbekistan, when he was only 17 years old.
Featuring a life-size copper cone, golden spindle and a black half-globe that points out Dubai’s location, the installation by the Palestinian artist Rabah brings Al Biruni’s sketches and ideas to life, making them materially visible. There is also a playfulness to his work, as the public is free to engage with the sculptures.
'Garden' by Hamra Abbas
In this beautiful and scenic installation, artist Hamra Abbas has depicted a quiet, imaginary gardenscape that provides a delicate contrast to the more majestic displays at Expo. The visual combines the artist’s personal memories, including a cherry tree that grew in her former residence in Boston, a banyan tree from her home in Lahore, along with gardens from the period of the Mughal era.
The near one-square-metre installation is made of inlaid marble, with materials, including pink marble and lapis lazuli, speaking of tensions in trade between the geographies of India, Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Five late-night spots to hang out at
With popular restaurants in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi, Lebanese spot Iris has become a firm favourite at Expo 2020. Located at Al Forsan Park, Iris Lounge has weekly ladies’ nights, business dinners, drinks deals and a sushi night, so there are plenty of reasons to stop by after a busy day exploring. It is open until late on weekends.
Iris Lounge is open on weekdays until 10pm and on weekends until 1am
The Irish Village
One of the liveliest late-night spots at Expo 2020 is, unsurprisingly, the Irish Village at Jubilee Park. Promising to offer a “small piece of Ireland in the heart of Expo” the spot boasts an open-air terrace, regular live music and entertainment, and classic pub grub.
Open on weekdays until midnight and on weekends until 1am
Garden on 1
Expo 2020’s resident sports lounge Garden on 1, found at the Mobility District, offers regular themed nights such as curry night and quiz night, as well as regular drinks deals and shows the biggest sporting events, including the Six Nations Championship, which takes place over the coming weeks.
Open on weekdays until 11.30pm and until 1am on weekends
Sample a selection of light bites while taking in views of the Expo site at this open-air venue. The rooftop bar overlooks Al Wasl Dome, which features the world’s largest 360-degree projection surface.
The open-air space has a chic, homely feel, with a live DJ spinning a soundtrack of house, modern beats, lounge and jazz.
Open on weekdays until midnight and on weekends until 1am
The Local Aussie Grill
Everyone’s a local at this Australian corner, which has proved a firm favourite with Expo 2020 visitors. Top off your Australia Pavilion experience with some Aussie tucker (that means food in their slang) and enjoy fish and chips with chicken salt or "shrimps on the barbie", potato cakes, scallops and tempura avocado at this relaxed spot.
Open on weekends until 1am and until midnight on all other days
Five performances to watch
Nasheed Al Wasl
Every week or two, a student choir takes to the Jubilee Stage to perform a series of 30-minute concerts where they perform extracts from Al Wasl Opera, accompanied by SharQ Orchestra, which is made up of 50 musicians from around the world.
March 20; 11am and 1pm; Jubilee Stage
Once a month, experience a Khaleeji-led jam session at Jubilee Stage in the form of Jalsat Nights. Artists from around the Arab world are joined by musicians from other cultures to fuse together harmonies in this lively session, evoking the event’s spirit of connectivity.
March 15; 8.30pm-10.30pm; Jubilee Stage
With a career spanning 60 years, the singer and actress is one of Iran's biggest celebrities. Expect a set featuring her biggest hits such as Hejrat and Man-O Gonjeshk-Hayeh Khouneh. It starts at 8.30pm.
Thursday, March 17, Jubilee Stage
Infinite Nights series
The monthly Infinite Nights concert series takes place at Al Wasl Plaza and is streamed to a global audience, with performances focused on themes tied to the world’s fair. Past acts that have performed so far include Kadim Al Sahir, Nancy Ajram and Ragheb Alama, Alicia Keys and the Black Eyed Peas.
Coldplay recently performed as part of the series, too.
Light and drone show at China Pavilion
A 10-minute light show takes place daily at the China Pavilion, which is shaped like a traditional Chinese lantern and symbolises hope and a bright future. Take a visit to see the lights and drones come together to put on a mesmerising show.
Daily, 8pm-8.10pm; China Pavilion
Five places to go with children
A space that celebrates the Emiratis' relationship to the sea, Hammour House is a community art project that invites young visitors to discover life underwater while drawing inspiration from the One Thousand and One Nights story of Abdullah the Fisherman and Abdullah the Merman. Check out the space's list of workshops, talk series and performances. It is located in the Opportunity District, opposite the China Pavilion.
The Desert Farm
Located in Al Forsan Park, The Desert Farm is a dedicated space where children can learn about the different kind of plants that thrive in the desert as well as how scientists are trying to turn deserts into farmland in an attempt to fight deforestation. The Desert Farm is also located near Latifa’s Adventures playground, a space-themed park that features a replica of the UAE's Hope Probe.
Slide at the Luxembourg Pavilion
Luxembourg has found the perfect feature to lure families with children: a giant slide, making it the only pavilion to have one at Expo 2020 Dubai. The slide ends at a green area filled with trees and woody fragrances that reflect the forests of the European country. Honestly, you can never go wrong with a slide.
Around the World merry-go-round in Mobility
If the lines are long and you're looking for a fun and quick experience for the youngest of your children then consider hopping on the Around the World merry-go-round located in Mobility. This old-fashioned carousel features hand-painted images of previous world expos. It's free and a nice four-minute break throughout a busy and fun-filled day at Expo.
Meet a robot
If you are visiting Expo 2020 Dubai, there is no doubt that you will stumble upon one of its roaming robots – from small orange dancing ones to larger white ones that can help you around the site. These artificially intelligent devices are used to enhance the visitor experience and it's definitely a fun experience for little children to interact with them.
Five hidden gems not to miss
An indoor mountain
Chances are, one of the longest lines you’ll find at Expo 2020 is at the Swiss pavilion (so much so that the pavilion actually hands out umbrellas so visitors don’t have to stand in the direct sunlight). It’s worth the wait, however, because when you enter, you’re instantly transported to the Alps.
Travel up a ramp through a dark and misty room, with the mountains projected in the background, all creating an unbelievably ethereal experience. It's a cooling respite from the heat outside, and you can wrap up the experience with Swiss chocolate from the pavilion’s cafe, or snacks at the rooftop terrace.
A robot bartender
Yanu, which translates to “thirst” in Estonian, is a contactless robot bartender who can whip up a number of non-alcoholic drinks at your command. Choose between options such as lingonberry juice (Dh23) and Estonian alco-free gin and tonic (Dh43). The robot is located on the ground floor, near the Taste Estonia cafe, which also does a pretty mean Y Generation burger.
Umbrella projections and indoor rain
Located in the Sustainability District, it's all about creating a circular economy. There are solar-powered rain showers, a mountain covered in herbs and flooring made from fungi. But the best part is when visitors travel to the bottom of the pavilion, they are handed white umbrellas, with projections underneath turning them into little screens. Within your umbrella, you get a chance to see how the structure was created, all culminating with a burst of water from the top. It’s definitely a creative way to make a point.
A green upper viewing deck
Don't miss the Sky Market at the Singapore Pavilion, an open, multipurpose deck. Besides offering a gorgeous view of the Expo landscape, it’s a calming spot to relax, cooled by a light mist, to simply take in the moment. With an abundance of greenery around, we recommend using it as a respite from all the walking that Expo requires.
A ball pit and swings
What’s great about the Germany Pavilion is how the whole place has been designed to help you unleash your inner child. The space features a giant interactive ball pit, with 100,000 balls. Each of these balls tells a story, so visitors will have to grab one and place it on a scanner to see a short presentation.
If that’s not enough, the pavilion also features a Graduation Hall, where visitors can sit on swinging seats, designed to symbolise the world coming together. A fun representation of what Expo 2020 is all about.
Five exhibitions to visit
Jean Paul Gaultier from A to Z
Famed French designer Jean Paul Gaultier will be at Expo 2020 Dubai this month, to open an exhibition at the French pavilion chronicling his contribution to fashion. Jean Paul Gaultier from A to Z will trace the designer’s 50-year career and showcase some of his most famous creations and archival pieces.
Jean Paul Gaultier from A to Z, until March 31, France Pavilion
The Turkey pavilion will host a carpet show on every Wednesday of this month. Visitors can discover the history of Turkish rugs, which are a millennia-old art form and famed for their symmetrical double knotting technique, also known as the Turkish knot. The 30-minute talk and exhibition will be helmed by by Ahmet Cinar, president of Cinar Rugs International.
Every Wednesday until March 30, 5.30pm-6pm; Turkey Pavilion
Kosovo art collection
The Kosovo Pavilion is home to a permanent collection of art works that traces the country’s culture and history. Featuring portraits, monuments and other realistic, impressionistic and abstract art forms, the exhibition offers a deep dive into Kosovar art over the past 60 years and a snapshot of one of Europe’s oldest civilisations.
Permanent collection, Kosovo pavilion
New Zealand Art Showcase
The New Zealand pavilion features a digital Art Wall curated by the country’s national museum. The large-scale LED screen is interactive, so visitors can choose from a selection of 120 works by local Kiwi artists, “hang them” on the art wall and then comment on their selection.
Art Wall, until March 31, New Zealand pavilion
This women-centred photography showcase launched to mark International Women's Day and shines a light on the early days Emirati life, before the establishment of the union. It's an open-air display of 30 images that explore the stories behind the female faces featured in each photograph. It's based at Expo 2020's art and nature walk, Al Ghayath Trail.
Until Sunday, March 20, Al Ghayath Trail
A version of this article was original published on February 9.