The Galleria on Al Maryah Island in Abu Dhabi
Credit: Getty Images/arabianEye

Abu Dhabi is quickly gaining ground on its UAE neighbor, Dubai, as the stopover of choice for visitors on their way to Africa and Asia. An upcoming flourish of new arts venues means it’s on its way to becoming a tourist destination in itself (and worth that 13-hour Etihad flight). The city is gearing up for the openings of a Jean Nouvel-designed branch of the Louvre museum as well as a Frank Gehry-conceived outpost of the Guggenheim. Along with the arts boom, there’s an increasing number of up-and-coming areas of the city that are reflecting this new energy. One of the most exciting is Al Maryah Island, home to the Abu Dhabi Global Market Square, the financial center of the city.

With the recent opening of the Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island, it’s now become the go-to corner of the city for travelers looking for a high-end base. The Four Seasons joins the Rosewood (just a few minutes’ walk away), as well as the city’s premiere shopping center, The Galleria, which is home to a mind-boggling number of luxury shops, from Balenciaga and Bulgari to Cartier and Tom Ford. A highlight of Al Maryah, though, is something that’s totally free: a walk along the water on the island’s promenade at sunset, taking in the glittering skyline of the city. Here’s what to check out during your stay.

Four Seasons Hotel Abu Dhabi at Al Maryah Island

Since much of the social life in the UAE revolves around hotels, there seems to be extra incentive to get them just right. And since opening last Spring, the 200-room Four Seasons has become one of the city’s understated hot spots, where businessmen and elegantly-dressed locals take afternoon tea in the pristine lobby lounge, and where all six restaurants and bars have become buzzy gathering spots. The hotel’s standout art collection, meanwhile, includes over 2,000 pieces (tours are offered on request). The Galleria shopping center can be accessed via the hotel’s lobby.

Rosewood Abu Dhabi

The 189 clean-lined, modern rooms at the Rosewood occupies part of a 34-floor skyscraper, with floor-to-ceiling windows providing sweeping city views. Its newest restaurant, Dai Pai Dong, is part of Abu Dhabi’s current crop of must-tries, with a menu focusing on Cantonese cuisine (including handmade noodles and dim sum). There’s also a Sense spa, a 25-meter outdoor swimming pool and Smoke, a Shisha bar located on a terrace overlooking the city (particularly magical at sunset).

The Galleria

Malls are a big deal in the UAE, and the glittering, unabashedly luxury-minded Galleria was built to impress. There are almost every conceivable high-end fashion and jewelry brand here (Graff, Prada, Ralph Lauren and Van Cleef & Arpels among them), but also some of the city’s best restaurants, like Zuma (a branch of the highly-popular, London-based contemporary Japanese eatery). Beating the midday heat with a long stroll around this massive temple to luxury is an easy way to spend an afternoon.

Butcher & Still

The clubby, retro atmosphere of Butcher & Still evokes prohibition-era America, which might seem out of place in the middle of Abu Dhabi—but it works. Leather banquettes and wooden floors lend a coziness to this steakhouse in the Four Seasons, where diners order from a range of cuts, the specialty being the signature Tomahawk chop, a 21-day aged bone-in ribeye.

Dahlia Spa

Spread over two floors of the Four Seasons, Dahlia Spa is one of the largest in the city, with 8 spa treatment suites, whirlpools, saunas, separate men’s and women’s fitness centers, a barbershop and a salon. The spa recently launched an exclusive partnership with French beauty company Biologique Recherche, using the products as the key ingredient in a range of facials.