Abu Dhabi’s latest architectual wonder Qasr Al Watan open to the public
Qasr al Watan – the UAE’s Presidential Palace – opened its dramatic gates to the public in March 2019. Sitting on vast grounds occupying 380,000 acres at the tip of Abu Dhabi island, it is now one of Abu Dhabi’s most magnificent buildings – though it faces stiff competition from the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque as the city’s most beautiful building!
The Palace provides visitors with an opportunity to further explore the history, traditions and journey of the UAE through a vast collection of cultural artefacts, art and rare manuscripts. Visitors will also be able to understand the Palace’s architecture and design, which incorporates the essence of the spirit of the United Arab Emirates.
Far more than just a stunning building, the Palace serves as a functioning house of Government.
Qasr al Watan includes the offices of the President of the UAE (His Highness Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan), His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum (Vice President and Prime Minister of UAE and Ruler of Dubai) and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan (Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces).
It is also where the Federal Supreme Council (the highest legislative and administrative body in the UAE) meet and home to UAE Cabinet Meetings. The private offices are not included in the public tour but the main palace building and library are open to explore.
Opening Hours for Qasr Al Watan
Unless the palace is closed for state visitors or special events, doors are open to the public areas of the palace six days a week.
- Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (last entry 5:00 PM)
- Thursday to Saturday 12:00 PM to 7:30 PM (Last entry 6:00 PM)
- Palace in Motion Show 7:30 PM
- Monday’s closed (this is the same for the Louvre – Monday’s are the best day to plan an out of town visit or a beach relaxation day if you’re planning out your Abu Dhabi itinerary!)
- Ramadan Hours 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM (last entry 4:00 PM) No Palace in Motion Lightshow
Tickets to Qasr Al Watan
- Adult Tickets 60 AED
- Junior Tickets 30 AED
These must now be pre booked at qasralwatan.ae/en/booking
Group guided tours are not presently running due to COVID-19 social distancing restrictions.
Self Guided Tours of Qasr Al Watan
You can now opt for a multimedia guide at the ticketing booth (additional cost) to enhance your Qasr Al Watan experience. Take your headset throughout your visit and listen along to pre-recorded audio clips for an interactive experience across the Palace.
The self guided tours are available in English, Arabic, German, Russian and Chinese.
We’d highly recommend this option for a more immersive experience as signage alone will not be enough for a thorough understanding.
Signage on the tour is in both Arabic and English.
How to get there – Qasr Al Watan
The Presidential Palace can be found in an area of Abu Dhabi known as Ras al Akhdar. Many refer to it as the West Corniche. Head beyond the end of the main Corniche beach road, past the Founders Memorial and Emirates Palace on your right and Etihad Towers on your left.
At the very end of this road, you will come to the incredibly grand entrance gate – this is for VIP’s only! Visitors will enter at a smaller entrance just off to the right, where you are taken to a visitor parking. From here, pre-booked tickets are checked, and then a short shuttle (with commentary) takes you through the palace grounds to the palace entrance.
Qasr al Watan is a stop on the Big Bus Route (when services resume post-COVID). Your entry to Qasr Al Watan is not included and the Big Bus ticket, however, you can easily walk from the bus stop to the entrance in the cooler winter months.
Tours of Qasr Al Watan
There are several tour companies that can assist you with guided tours of Qasr Al Watan including your pickups, either from Abu Dhabi or as part of a day tour from Dubai *
[* currently COVID-19 restrictions prevent this]
Day trips around Abu Dhabi which include Qasr Al Watan
Although not all tour services are operating at present, try these options for day private day tours around the highlights of Abu Dhabi
Day trips from Dubai to Abu Dhabi which include Qasr Al Watan
Most day tours Dubai to Abu Dhabi are currently suspended. Please check back when border crossing requirements are lifted.
Qasr Al Watan Visitor Experience
After arriving at the visitor centre, guests are transported within the grounds by a free shuttle (read luxury coach) to the palace entrance.
Use this map to get your bearings – each of the rooms described in more detail below!
1. A Memory from the Palace
Your journey through the palace commences with the Media Room, where official press conferences are held. Enjoy this photo opportunity to commemorate your visit to one of the world’s most unique cultural landmarks (pictures can be collected at the end of your tour in the gift shop).
In ordinary times, this is the point where group tours would gather to commence their guided palace tour.
2. The Great Hall
Next, you’ll step foot into the utterly breathtaking Great Hall. “Great” is not quite superlative enough to describe the grandeur and extreme opulence exuded by this space. Shades of blue and white complement an abundance of gold decorating every surface.
From the central dome and archways down to the finest details in mosaic tiling, it is a stunning display of Arabian craftsmanship and artistry.
Adding to the intrigue, each corner of the room has a large, mirrored geometric cubes offering different sensory experiences. A unique juxtaposition, let your inner art critic decide whether you love them or hate them!
3. Presidential Gifts
Here you’ll find an exhibition of diplomatic gifts that the UAE has received from the past decades. A fascinating insight into cultural considerations and protocols in selecting diplomatic gifts, all beautifully displayed.
4. Spirit of Collaboration
Dominated by a 350,000, 12-tonne crystal chandelier, this is the room where the UAE Cabinet and Federal Supreme Council meet. It is also where the Gulf Cooperation Council and Arab League meet when the UAE is hosting (this wing of the palace may be closed during your visit).
5. The Presidential Banquet
In the stuff of fairytales, see where officials from around the globe are treated to modern Emirati hospitality.
6. Presidential Meeting Room
Where state officials and dignatories from around the world are hosted in a traditional Majilis style set up.
7. Qasr Al Watan Library
Featuring a collection of 50,000 books, the library aims to preserve and share centuries of Arabian knowledge and culture.
8. House of Knowledge: Age of Enlightenment
Encompassing two wings, this exhibit highlights the most notable Arab scholars in the fields of astronomy, science, art and literature.
Sitting between the two wings of the House of Knowledge stands the simply stunning gold calligraphy sculpture “The Power of Words”. The gold is actually an inscription quoting the country’s founding father;
“Wealth is not money and oil. Wealth lies in people, and it is worthless if not dedicated to serve the people” ~ Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan al Nahyan
The sculpture is designed and crafted by the renowned Emirati artist, Mattar bin Lahej.
9. Palace in Motion
If you are able to stick around until the evening Thursday through Saturday, you can catch Palace in Motion, an intriguing nighttime show that sees the palace lit up. The show lasts approximately 15 minutes.
A gift shop can be found at the conclusion of your palace tour before taking the shuttle back to the palace entrance.
The Palace Grounds
The palace grounds are quickly becoming well established, having started just a few short years ago as a blank canvas.
In addition to the Power of Words sculpture found inside the palace, a further two silver sculptures can be found in the glistening sunlight of the garden. Also adorned with quotes from Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nayhan they read:
“Science and history walk side by side. By using science, man can record his history and preserve it for generations to come, so others may learn from it and come to know what their ancestors achieved.”
“The education of our people is a great wealth. We are proud of our educated nation because through knowledge and science we will open the horizon to a glorious future.”
The sculptures are intentionally designed for visitors to step inside along them to be appreciated from a different perspective – and yes, they are utterly instangrammable! #QasrAlWatan
Where to eat near Qasr Al Watan
There is currently one dining option within the Palace at “Legma” grab ‘n go, which you’ll find at both at the Palace exit and Visitor Centre exit.
Dhiyafat Qasr Al Watan, found in the main Palace and Maqha Al Maktaba situated within Qasr Al Watan Library are temporarily closed.
What restaurants are near Qasr Al Watan?
Nearby there’s a large selection of restaurants at neighbouring hotels. You will likely need a cab or some form of transport, though, as the buildings are not really within easy walking distance in the heat.
- We highly recommend combining Qasr Al Watan with afternoon tea at Emirates Palace
- A trip to the palace on a Friday morning followed by buffet brunch at Nahaam is the perfect pair
- Late afternoon trips can be paired with sundowners at Rays Bar, Conrad Abu Dhabi
A great activity to pair with Qasr Al Watan is to take a trip to Observation 300 in Etihad Towers – from here, you can then get spectacular views looking back to the Presidential Palace and across the city to help put everything in perspective.
Stay near Qasr Al Watan
The Presidential Palace is not a residential palace, however, you are immediately adjacent to one of Abu Dhabi’s most impressive hotels fit for Royalty – Emirates Palace.
If that’s not quite in your budget, there are several other nearby hotels to try, with pools, beach frontage and some with highrise views over the city. Why not try:
- Khalidiya Place Rayhaan by Rotana
- Grand Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel & Residences Emirates Pearl
- Conrad Abu Dhabi Etihad Towers
More Frequently asked questions visiting Qasr Al Watan Presidential Palace
In accordance with local laws and customs, guests are asked to wear respectful clothing when in the palace. It’s recommended to cover knees and shoulders at a minimum. You can find our complete guide to respectful local dress in Abu Dhabi here.
Unless there is a state visit, the palace is open to the public 6 days a week (closed Mondays) throughout the year. See daily opening times and modified timings for Ramadan above.
Yes, for tourists there is a cover charge of 60AED to visit inside the palace.
Construction of the palace took seven years between 2010 to 2017.
Yes strollers are permitted in the grounds, or can be hired for 40 AED in the visitor centre.
We’d recommend allowing yourself at least two hours. The guided tour (when running) takes a full hour, and by the time you transfer to and from the visitor centre, stop in the gift shop, refreshments break and photographs in the grounds you’ll easily fill this time.
Qasr al Watan has quickly become an essential part of any visitor’s Abu Dhabi itinerary. It may only be new but already plays an integral part in the city’s rich cultural landscape and is undoubtedly one of the most extravagant and beautiful buildings in the world.
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Before you go… Important things to consider planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack as well as top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
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