Top Things to do in Dubai during Dubai Shopping Festival

Dubai is known for its grandeur. Right from its classic structures and avant-garde architectural marvels to its awe-inspiring events, nothing in Dubai is done on a small scale. One such highlight that the city offers every year is the Dubai Shopping Festival or DSF. The festival runs for almost a month (from December-January) and is one of the best times to visit the city. Along with the numerous shopping opportunities, you can also attend music concerts, live performances, and many such interesting events during DSF.

History of Dubai Shopping Festival

The first Dubai Shopping Festival was held in 1996. With the intention of promoting tourism in Dubai, the festival was started by the Ruler of Dubai and the Vice President of UAE, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. It earned massive recognition in its debut version itself, as over 1.6 million people attended this festival. From then on, the DSF has grown bigger and better with so many new attractions, events, and activities every year. While the entire city participates in this shopping festival, Global Village is considered to be the center of the whole event. Global Village was started in 1997 (the second year of the festival) on the banks of Dubai Creek, where people were able to visit pavilions of different countries and enjoy their cultural activities, food, handicrafts, souvenirs, etc. The Dubai Shopping Festival has come a long way and is one of the much-awaited events in Dubai. With this note, let us get to know more about the top things to do in Dubai during DSF.

Best Things to Do in Dubai during DSF

  • Shopping

Shopping is undoubtedly the best thing to do in Dubai during the shopping festival. The main reason that DSF attracts so many people from around the world is that you get to enjoy some amazing deals and discounts on all sorts of products. Be it clothes, accessories, jewelry, electronics, or home décor, everything comes with a huge discount, sometimes around 75%. The deals and the shopping festival are not limited to a particular spot or mall. In fact, almost all the malls and stores in the city offer great deals during this time of the year. If you are in Dubai during the beginning of the shopping festival, you may also be able to enjoy the 12-hour sale on the first day, where malls and stores offer 90% off on selected items.

Dubai shopping festival

Here are some of the best places to shop from during the DSF:

  • Mall of the Emirates
  • Dubai Outlet Mall
  • The Dubai Mall
  • Boxpark
  • Global Village
  • Dubai Gold Souk
  • Dubai Festival City
  • Ibn Battuta Mall
  • Witness the Fireworks
Fireworks at global village, Dubai shopping festival
Fireworks at Global Village

Dubai does not do anything half-heartedly, and the fireworks display during DSF is proof enough of the same. Apart from the grand fireworks on the opening (somewhere during the last week of December) and closing of the DSF (late January or early February), you would be able to see some fabulous fireworks every weekend. A few of the best places to catch remarkable fireworks are Global Village, JBR Beach, and Dubai Creek. The fireworks at the Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah on New Year’s Eve are also something you should not miss.

  • Attend Live Concerts and Performances

The DSF is not just all about shopping but a grand carnival of all things good in life. During the festival, Dubai hosts several music concerts and live performances by world-renowned artists. These programs are held in several areas of the city throughout the month. You would also be able to witness street performances, juggler acts, and other such interesting events during the shopping festival. As every year sees performances by different venues, you should check the official DSF website to know the exact details. You’ll find special shows, events, and activities for children as well.

  • Market OTB
market otb

If you are bored of shopping at the malls of Dubai, Market Out-of-the-Box or Market OTB is something you would enjoy wholeheartedly. Held at the Burj Park in Downtown Dubai, Market OTB has been a constant at the DSF in the last few years. This unusual market showcases the talent of both local and international brands and artists. You can buy everything from unique and bespoke clothes to accessories and at the same time enjoy artwork, music and dance shows, stage performances, pop-up cinema, etc. Another of its highlights is food trucks offering a variety of delicious food.

Timings: 4 PM to 11 PM (Sunday to Thursday) and 10 AM to 12 AM (Friday and Saturday)

  • Participate in Raffle Draws
raffle draws in Dubai shopping festival

While the DSF is a place to spend your money, you can also get some money back if you are lucky. Participate in the numerous Raffle deals and win anywhere from around AED 150,000 to AED 500,000 during the shopping festival. There is also the Nissan Raffle draw where you get the chance to win some luxurious Nissan cars. To participate in these Raffle draws, all you have to do is to buy a ticket worth AED 200 from places like the Dubai Gold Souk, Metro Stations, Global Village, ENOC/EPPCO outlets, etc. Sometimes, you may also be able to win a raffle ticket when you shop at some of the selected stores.

  • Check out the DSF Carnival
Dubai Shopping Festival Carnival

Another weekend attraction at the DSF is the colorful carnival that happens at Al Seef Street. Every year, the carnival adapts the theme of the shopping festival. You get to see here numerous performers from different nationalities, unicyclists, musicians, stilt walkers, jugglers, acrobats, marching bands, and clowns showing off their talent and skills. The carnival is lively, loud, and extremely fun.

Best Things to Do in Dubai Apart from Shopping

When you are not shopping and enjoying the numerous attractions of the DSF, you can be a regular tourist and visit the famous Dubai landmarks. We bring to you a few of the best things to do in Dubai.

  • Visit Burj Khalifa
Burj Al Khalifa
The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower at a height of 828 meters (2,717 feet), stands in Dubai on March 5, 2012. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem (UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Tags: SOCIETY CITYSPACE) – RTR2YV3I

Get to the observation deck on the tallest building on earth, the Burj Khalifa, to see a panoramic view of the city. Be it the 124th floor or the 148th floor, the view from the top is incredible.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 11 PM

How to Reach: Get down at the Dubai Mall Metro Station and walk to the mall. The entrance to Burj Khalifa is on the ground floor of the mall.

  • Go on a Desert Safari
desert safari

Enjoy an evening in the middle of the desert with some adventurous activities like dune bashing, camel riding, and sand boarding. You would also get to enjoy live dance performances and a delicious BBQ dinner.

Timings: 3:30 PM to 9:30 PM

How to Reach: The desert safari tours also include transportation to and from your hotel or residence.

  • Wander around the Dubai Aquarium
Dubai Aquarium

Right inside the Dubai Mall is the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, which is home to an amazing number of marine animals. The aquarium also offers some unique experiences and tours including glass-bottom boat tours, shark diving, cage diving, scuba diving, etc.

Timings: 10 AM to 12 AM

How to Reach: Dubai Aquarium is located within Dubai Mall.

  • Stroll along Garden Glow

Be fascinated with the unique figurines and sculptures lit by 10 million energy-saving bulbs at Garden Glow. The Ice Park and Dinosaur Park are the main attractions here.

Timings: 4 PM to 12 AM (closed during summer months)

How to Reach: It would be best to take a cab to Garden Glow. The nearest metro station is Al Jafiliya Metro Station.

  • Have Fun at Ski Dubai
ski Dubai

Try your hand at skiing at the largest indoor ski park in the world, Ski Dubai. Located in the Mall of Emirates, Ski Dubai also has a Snow Park where you can indulge in snow rides and activities.

Timings: 10 AM to 11 PM (Saturday to Wednesday) and 10 AM to 12 AM (Thursday and Friday)

How to Reach: Get down at the Mall of the Emirates metro station and walk to the mall through the walkway connecting the station to the mall.

  • Enjoy a Relaxed Dhow Cruise Dinner
Dhow cruise dinner

Head over to Dubai Creek or Dubai Marina for a relaxing dinner on the luxurious dhow cruise. Along with a scrumptious buffet dinner, you also get to enjoy the views and a great Tanoura dance performance.

Timings: 8 PM to 10 PM (approximately)

How to Reach: The travel company usually arranges transportation to and from the dhow cruise for the guests.

  • Spend a Day at Aquaventure

Located on Palm Jumeirah, the Aquaventure Water Park is a part of Hotel Atlantis. It is one of the largest water parks in the UAE and has rides and slides that would satisfy both thrill seekers and kids. The water park also has an aquarium as well as a beach.

Timings: 10 AM to sunset

How to Reach: Take a monorail or a cab to Palm Jumeirah from the Mall of the Emirates metro station.

  • Check out the Dubai Museum
Dubai museum

History lovers would get to spend an interesting hour knowing about the past of Dubai at the Dubai Museum. Located inside the Al Fahidi Fort, the Dubai Museum has an interesting set of exhibits about the Emiratis and their lifestyle during the yesteryears.

Timings: 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM (Saturday to Thursday) and 2:30 PM to 8:30 PM (Friday)

How to Reach: You can take a metro to Burjuman Metro Station and walk to the museum, which is 1.5 km away. You can also take a cab from the station to the museum.

  • Enjoy Afternoon Tea at Burj Al Arab
Burj Al Arab

Visit the only seven-star in the world, the Burj Al Arab, to devour their famous afternoon tea. While the view from the Sky View Bar is great, the menu consisting of varieties of tea and coffee, scones, cakes, and pastries is even better.

Timings: 3 PM (window seating) and 3:15 PM (non-window seating)

How to Reach: Get down at the Mall of the Emirates metro station and take a cab to the Burj Al Arab.

  • Have a Thrilling Day at IMG Worlds of Adventure
IMG Worlds of adventure

IMG Worlds of Adventure is the largest indoor theme park in the world and has zones, rides, and attractions based on the themes of Marvel Comics and Cartoon Network.

Timings: 11 AM to 8 PM (Sunday to Wednesday) and 11 AM to 10 PM (Thursday and Friday)

How to Reach: You can get to the Mall of the Emirates metro station and take a cab to the indoor theme park. It would take 30 minutes to reach the park from the metro station.

Tips for Travellers

  • Before you plan your DSF holiday, do not forget to get your Dubai visa. It takes 2-3 days to get your Dubai e-visa.
  • Download the DSF app which would give you information about the deals, discounts, offers, activities, and performances happening around the city.
  • Start your shopping early in the morning to avoid crowds. Also, attend the DSF during the early days as stocks and sizes are likely to diminish by the end of the festival.
  • To avoid waiting in lines outside trail rooms, wear layers of clothes so that you can try out different outfits without visiting the trail room.
  • Always explore a bit before making a purchase, especially when it comes to electronic gadgets and furniture. Different stores offer different deals and discounts, and by exploring you can pick the best.
  • Research well and make a list of what you want to buy for a smooth and hassle-free shopping experience.


Dubai Shopping Festival is the best time to visit Dubai as so much happens in and around the city during this time of the year. It is one of the most exciting festivals; one that you should attend at least once in your lifetime.

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