Abu Dhabi Cornice beachfront

Complete Guide to the Abu Dhabi Corniche

by Abu Dhabi Travel Planner Team

Arguably the most famous street in Abu Dhabi, the Corniche stretches over 8 kilometres along the city’s northern coast. Flanked by skyscrapers and parkland on one side and a beautiful soft white sandy beach on the other, the Corniche provides the iconic city skyline so commonly seen in postcards and travel magazines.

But when people suggest you visit the Abu Dhabi Corniche, what exactly are they referring to? What is there to do, and what practicalities are involved?

On this page, we’ll run you through exactly what is the Abu Dhabi corniche and how to enjoy it as part of your Abu Dhabi itinerary.

Where to find the Abu Dhabi Corniche

Abu Dhabi Corniche is also known as Corniche Road or Corniche Street. It runs parallel to the coast in the downtown area of Abu Dhabi.

How Do I Get to the Abu Dhabi Corniche?

Any taxi in Abu Dhabi can easily drop you to the Abu Dhabi Corniche, though as the road runs for many kilometres, you’ll need to be a little more specific in your directions; if you instruct “the beach”, they will drop you near the end of 50th Street (Al Khaleej Al Arabi Street).

You can also find local bus services that can drop you at various points along the Corniche, and there are stopping points included on the Abu Dhabi Big Bus Hop-on-hop-off route.

Where should I park along the Corniche?

If you are driving in Abu Dhabi or have your own car, there are numerous car parks along the Corniche – though it’s important to note, none of them are free.

A good place to park inside is at the Nation Towers Mall, a small shopping centre attached to the St. Regis Hotel. Otherwise, large car parks are dotted along the Corniche – all with a MAWAQiF parking meter (pay by coins or by phone app).

an overhead view of the Abu Dhabi Corniche and skyline
Parking for the Abu Dhabi Corniche beach is across the main road; access the beach through pedestrian underpasses

Access to the beach side of the Corniche is via underpass or pedestrian crossings. Numerous underpasses along the Corniche exist, but not all of them are suitable for strollers or wheelchair users.

It is possible to make drop-offs on the beach side of the road, but do take heed of signage so that you don’t break any rules.

What Is There To Do Along The Corniche?

The Corniche is the lifeblood of Abu Dhabi. Whilst new entertainment destinations and malls have shot up around the city, the Corniche will always be the city’s heart.

As well as tall office buildings and residential accommodation, there are numerous hotels and restaurants, shopping centres and landmarks along the Corniche. Not to mention the parks, entertainment and sports facilities dotted along the beautiful sandy beach.

The Corniche Beach

The ‘Corniche Beach’ is the name given to the whole beach area that runs parallel to Corniche Road. This is the most easily accessible beach in Abu Dhabi.

The beach is protected by an artificial breakwater making it particularly suitable for families with smaller children, as there are no strong currents. However, the minimal tidal range does mean that the sand close to the shore has a mossy feel underfoot, which some people find a little disconcerting.

beches on the Corniche

The beach is divided into sections for the general public and families – each with its own amenities. These sections and where to access them, are highlighted below.

A’l Bahar Beach

The A’l Bahar area of the Corniche starts beside the Nation Riviera Beach Club. It is characterized by the large number of converted shipping containers that serve as food and beverage outlets. The beach is located directly opposite the Abu Dhabi breakwater, and the water is calm and clear, making it a great place for swimming.

A'l Bahar Playground

Al Bahar offers a huge range of things to do besides swimming and lounging around on the beach. Kids will enjoy the large playground and jungle gym with zip lines. For the grown-ups, there are a variety of water sports on offer as well as volleyball courts and spaces to play football and other ball games. There’s even an outdoor gym for real fitness fanatics!

There are plenty of coffee shops, some good sit-down restaurants, showers and toilets.

Al Sahil Beach

Once the Corniche’s most popular section, the area needs a bit of a revamp. That said, there are clean toilets, a few coffee shops, and a fantastic pirate-ship playground for the kids.

For those wanting to be more active, there are beach volleyball courts and spaces to play football and other games. Alternatively, you can take a stroll along the boardwalks that run through the well-kept gardens that act as a buffer between the beach and the busy main road.

The beach area is divided into sections with gated entry from the footpath and gardens at the top of the beach. Access to some of the sections of the beach does attract a small charge (AED 10.50 for adults and AED 5.25 for children) as sunbeds and umbrellas are provided. The area beyond gates 1 & 2 is reserved for families (single men are not allowed).

Anyone can access the beach through gates 3 – 6. The only free section of the Sahil beach is the section by gates 3 and 4.

You can also hire e-scooters or pedal buggies to ride along the iconic 8-kilometre stretch of coastline.

All beaches on the Corniche are monitored by lifeguards and security staff. Alcohol is not allowed and you should be very careful not to take photographs of other bathers. All sections of the Corniche beach are open from sunrise to sunset; restaurants will open later and close later.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Rules for modesty on Abu Dhabi’s beaches

It is important to remember you are in a Muslim country, and there are laws and etiquette to abide by:

  • Nude and topless sunbathing are strictly prohibited in Abu Dhabi. Even young children should wear appropriate swimwear and avoid running around in the nude.
  • While bikinis are tolerated at hotel swimming pools and private beach clubs, we suggest avoiding wearing them on free public beaches.
  • People are required to dress respectably when leaving the beach. You should not enter a restaurant of cafe (away from the beach) with wet clothes, or with swimwear showing.
  • Photography is prohibited on the Corniche public beaches. You should not photograph anyone without their permission in the UAE, as this breaches privacy laws. Use of a professional photographer for a family photo shoot is even prohibited; security will ask you to leave!
footpath along the corniche
A wide blue footpath flanks the busy Corniche Street for pedestrians

Gardens and Parks Along the Abu Dhabi Corniche

There are many lovely little parks and gardens on either side of the Corniche, perfect for a picnic. Shade is provided by trees as well as masonry gazebos.

Most of the parks contain play areas, the largest being Lake Park which also includes a large lake and fountain.

You will find these parks and gardens very busy on the local weekends – Friday afternoon through Sunday.

Other Sporting Activities Along the Abu Dhabi Corniche

Apart from the sports and leisure facilities dotted along the beach, you can also choose to walk or cycle the entire 8 Kilometre (5-mile) stretch on the specially designated cycle and footpaths.

Hiring bikes and electronic scooters and riding up and down the Corniche is also possible. For a recent article on electronic scooter usage in Abu Dhabi, including all of the rules, click here.

For more details about renting a bike scooter click here.

Dining Spots on The Abu Dhabi Corniche

In addition to the cafes and food and beverage outlets set on the ‘beach’ side of the Corniche. There are lots of lovely places to eat along the ‘city’ side of the Corniche. Here is a rundown of where you can find some of the best places to eat along the Corniche:

Budget Dining on the Corniche

  • Nation Towers Mall
    • Starbucks, Poke San – Yummy sushi and poke bowls.
  • World Trade Centre (WTC) Mall
    • KFC, McDonald’s & Popeye’s Chicken can all be found in the food court, alongside many other fast food outlets. You’ll also find Costa Coffee and Starbucks inside the mall along with numerous other coffee shops.
    • In the Souk section there are some great little cafes including Shakespeare and Co which serves international cuisine and is open for breakfast.

Mid-range dining on the Corniche

  • Nation Towers Mall
    • Cafe Bateel – Lots of international favourites and the best dates around (open all day)!
    • Wafi Gourmet – Excellent Lebanese food.
    • Mado – Delicious Turkish food and gourmet ice cream (open all day).
  • WTC Mall
    • Leen’s – gourmet international cuisine in a relaxed environment.
    • Nando’s – South African chicken restaurant.
  • WTC Mall – The Hub (upper mid-range dining)
    • Stouff Beirut – Lebanese restaurant with live cooking stations.
    • The Bollywood Bronx – A stylish restaurant offering contemporary Indian cuisine.
    • Backyard Bistro – contemporary international cuisine with an eco-friendly ethos.
  • The Radisson Blu Hotel (upper mid-range dining)
    • West Bay Lounge – Mediterranean fusion cuisine on the beach.
    • Hemingway’s Pub – award winning pub open from 4pm.

High-end dining on the Corniche

Ultra High-end Dining on the Corniche

Shopping Opportunities Near the Abu Dhabi Corniche

Whilst the old souks are long gone, the Corniche offers some good shopping opportunities. On the roads running adjacent to the Corniche, there are lots of little fabric shops and tailors aplenty if you fancy getting a special outfit made.

The best option for those happy to buy off the peg is the World Trade Centre Mall.

The World Trade Centre Mall & Souk

The World Trade Centre Mall (also known as WTCAD) is built on the site of the old Abu Dhabi souk. Designed by Norman Foster, the Mall nods to the past with its narrow alleyways, wooden beams and light wells.

Part of the mall is known as ‘The Souk’ and contains numerous little shops filled with the types of treasures that you would expect from Aladdin’s cave; beautiful carpets, embroidered cushions covers, sumptuous robes and every manner of brass teapot, lamp and camel. Whilst nothing is cheap, you can haggle when buying in bulk.

Souvenirs in Abu Dhabi madinat shopping

Nation Towers Mall

The Nation Towers Mall contains many fancy outlets for anyone looking to buy chocolates, dates or nuts. Perhaps Godiva or Teuscher can satisfy those cocoa cravings, or for the best dates around, head to Cafe Bateel.

If you or the little ones want to escape the heat for a while, the mall also contains a cinema and The Little World Discovery Centre, which is great for small children.

Landmarks on the Abu Dhabi Corniche

As well as swimming, sunbathing and shopping opportunities, the Corniche is home to a number of Abu Dhabi’s most famous landmarks. Here we take a brief look at some of them.

Etihad Towers and Observation Deck at 300

For a fabulous 360-degree view of the city, head to the Observation Deck on the 74th floor of the Conrad Hotel, Etihad Towers. As well as fantastic views, Observation Deck at 300 also offers delicious afternoon teas (these must be booked in advance). Other light refreshments are available, as well as a range of alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

Tickets to go up to the Observation Deck cost 95 AED, but 55 AED is redeemable against food and beverages on the day of your visit.

For reservations, call + 971 2 811 5666

City view from Observation Deck at 300

The Emirates Palace

Undoubtedly one of the world’s finest hotels is Emirates Palace by Mandarin Oriental (not a real palace as many mistake it for!). Visitors flock to see the stunning architecture and interior decor, including the solid gold vending machine.

Make a reservation at Le Cafe to try your very own gold dusted Cappuccino and take a peek inside this incredible hotel, or for something truly amazing, book a treatment at The Spa at Mandarin Oriental.

For reservations, call +971 2 690 9000

The spectacular Emirates Palace

The Founder’s Memorial

A stunning tribute to the Father of the Nation, Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan. Opened in 2018, the centerpiece of the Founder’s Memorial is ‘The Constellation’, a three-dimensional portrait of the late Sheikh Zayed which is reminiscent of the stars in the night sky. For more information, click here.

Founders memorial Abu Dhbai lit up at night
The Founder’s Memorial at the western end Corniche, lit up at night

Qasr Al Watan

Stroll through the truly magnificent halls of the UAE’s presidential palace, Qasr Al Watan. Every inch of the complex is studded with intricate mosaics and delicate fretwork. For a full guide on Qasr Al Watan, click here.

Qasr Al Watan
Qasr Al Watan – The beautiful presidential palace

Other Areas of Interest Close to Abu Dhabi Corniche

The Dhow Port & Fish Market

Just a stone’s throw from the Corniche is Mina Port, with its vibrant fish market. Don’t forget to take a look at the dhow port, where you can see traditional fishing boats and the iconic baskets used by local fishermen.

Abu Dhabi Heritage Village

If you turn right before you reach the Emirate’s Palace, you can head onto the breakwater that protects the Corniche beach and visit the Heritage Village. Here you will find a mock-up of a traditional settlement, complete with artisan workshops and animal husbandry demonstrations.

There’s a museum and the chance to buy lots of souvenirs. The buildings are old, and the museum could benefit from some upgrading, but it’s a great place to gain an insight into the history and culture of the UAE as well as provide the perfect opportunity to take some stunning photos of the city from the small beach that runs behind the village.

Qasr Al Hosn

For a more in-depth understanding of how Abu Dhabi has changed over time, visit Qasr Al Hosn, just a block or two behind the World Trade Centre. Set inside the old Abu Dhabi Fort, the well-designed museum tells this story of Abu Dhabi and its people with hands-on activities, interactive visuals, and sound and light shows.

A visit to Qasr Al Hosn can be paired with the House of Artisans, watch live handicraft demonstrations and enjoy gahwa, an Arabic coffee demonstration.

To find out more about Qasr Al Hosn, click here.

Qasr al Hosn House of Artisans

More Frequently Asked Questions About Abu Dhabi’s Corniche

Does it cost to use the Corniche Beach?

Some sections of Abu Dhabi public beach are free (Sahil gates 3 &4) and Al Bahar. The sections offering sun beds and umbrellas charge a small fee, currently AED 10.50 for adults and AED 5.25 for children.

Is it allowed to swim in Abu Dhabi Corniche?

Swimming is allowed from the public beach areas of Abu Dhabi Corniche. There are lifeguards during daylight hours.

How long is the Abu Dhabi Corniche?

The Corniche stretches 8 KM.

Are there change rooms on the Abu Dhabi Corniche?

There are changing rooms available at various locations along the Corniche.

What is a Corniche?

You will find many places in the Middle East have an area described as the “Corniche”, but what exactly is it? The dictionary definition is “a road on the side of a cliff or mountain, with the ground rising on one side and falling away on the other”.

You won’t find any mountains along the Abu Dhabi Corniche, but one side is flagged with beaches and parklands, whilst the other is where the skyscrapers and city buildings of Abu Dhabi start.

The Abu Dhabi Corniche stretches for 8kms along the end of Abu Dhabi Island

We hope that you will enjoy your time along Abu Dhabi Corniche. It really is the street that has it all!

Discover More Fabulous Areas in Abu Dhabi

Extending your visit to Abu Dhabi, you may also like to dig deeper into some of our favourite areas of Abu Dhabi:

  • Visit Saadiyat Beach and Saadiyat Island – Abu Dhabi’s best white sand beaches with real waves, a string of luxury hotel resorts and a relaxed beachfront vibe, as well as the city’s cultural district, including the Louvre Abu Dhabi and several up-and-coming projects.
  • Visit Hudayriyat Island, to the west of Abu Dhabi; this is the city’s newest island opening with a focus on sports and recreation, as well as a heritage trail, Circuit X for the kids and miles of bike tracks for track and off-road cycling.

Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi

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