Best museums in Dubai – Ranked from 10 to 1

Shindagha museum at day time0

Most museums are there to preserve and record the history for the coming generations. There are a lot of great opportunities for anyone who wishes to learn about the history and traditions of Dubai. Although not located in any of the major geographical regions, there have been human settlements that centered around Creek thousands of years ago. This shows us that Dubai has a significant history that ought to be explored. So, visiting the museums should be among the list of things that you do in Dubai. 

Apart from those museums that talk about history, there are other kinds of museums as well that specializes in their own niches. Here is a list of the 10 best museums in Dubai ranked from 10 to 1 to cover on your visit to Dubai. Before you start reading, there is a caveat. These rankings are purely subjective and are based on the author’s point of view. You may like one of them that we ranked lower, better than the one that we ranked higher. And that’s OK. If you have already visited any of these, tell us which one you liked the most in the comments.

10. Naif Museum

This one offers free entry to all. But unlike other heritage museums in Dubai, the Naif Museum is on the Deira side of Creek, in the old Naif Fort building built in1939. This was also the first-ever police station in Dubai. In 1997, Sheikh Muhammad Al Maktoum ordered a wing of this building to be converted into a museum. Today, Naif Museum showcases the history and evolution of police and security services in Dubai.

It is worth remembering when you visit the museum that the security service in Dubai is among the best in the world. Therefore, this museum is an ode to its humble beginnings. It is an insight into how Dubai became a forerunner in keeping law and order. The museum also gives a free guided tour.

There is a display of the changes the Dubai police uniform underwent over the decades along with different types of weapons used by the police in the early days. You can see the old detention rooms and important documents and decrees related to the police.

Our recommendation: Looking at how the Dubai police have changed in a century’s time is interesting. Visit this place if you happen to be nearby.

  • Location: Naif, Deira
  • Entry fee: Free
  • Opening hours:  Sunday through Thursday, from 8:00 AM until 2:00 PM
  • Suggested visit duration: 1 hour

9. Coins Museum

Like many other historical museums in Dubai, the Coins Museum is also located in the historical neighborhood in Bur Dubai. This one, albeit being small, offers a lot of information and is also free to enter. There are about 470 coins on display with touch screens that provide all the information about them.

The Coins museum was opened in 2004. One of the old two story buildings near the Ruler’s Dewan in the historic neighborhood was selected for the museum. All the buildings in this heritage site have a similar mud-colored look because of the construction with coral stones and plaster.

There are eight rooms in the museum, each with a different theme. The first one of them curates the history of coinage. All the rest of them has coins dedicated to different eras and geographical regions from Rashidun Caliphate to Umayyad, Abbasid and other Islamic civilizations. There are also coins from Egypt, Turkey, North Africa, Islamic Spain, and those minted in the United Arab Emirates itself.

Our recommendation: This museum will be interesting to visit even if you are not a  numismatologist. Also considering this place is free to enter, you must add this to your itinerary among other museums.

8. History of Cinema Museum

There are only a few museums on earth dedicated to the history and development of cinema. History of Cinema Museum in Dubai depicts the history of moving pictures that, surprisingly, began more than 30,000 years ago when prehistoric men tried recreating movements with shadows. Basically, that’s what even modern movies are doing, recreating movements and telling stories with shadows. But it has only gotten more and more sophisticated over time.

The relics housed in the museum are the personal collection of the Arab businessman Akram Miknas. As opposed to regular museums, the History of Cinema Museum is on the first floor of a typical office building. You will get a comprehensive look at the history of cinema and the tools and equipment used in different time periods to capture and recreate images. There are original items in its collection that dates back to the early eighteenth century. 

Visitors can not only view the collection but also interact with them. They can look into the peep show boxes and turn the reels of the projectors from antiquity. You can see life-like pictures through stereoscopes which were used in the early days of 3D imagery. There is also a gift shop in the museum where you can buy movie memorabilia and other souvenirs related to filmmaking.

Our recommendation: History of Cinema Museum has only been opened a few years ago and hasn’t started to pull the crowd yet. But a visit here will be informative to anyone, including the kids. And if you are interested in the art of movies, add it to your bucket list.

  • Location: 1st Floor, MCN Hive Building, Al Barsha
  • Entry fee: 
    • Adults: 30 AED
    • University students: 25 AED
    • Children and high school students: 20 AED
  • Opening hours:  Saturday through Thursday from 9:00 AM – 6:00 PM
  • Suggested visit duration: 2 hours

7. Coffee museum

Arabs have had a long relationship with coffee. It is said that they were the first to use coffee as a recreational drink and they were the ones who carried the coffee culture to the rest of the world. The word coffee itself has its roots in the Arabic word Kahva.

The Coffee museum, located in one of the many heritage houses in Al Fahidi historical neighborhood, tells the tale of love between Arabs and the coffee. Space inside the elaborately decorated rooms is dedicated to the ancient artifacts of coffee brewing and drinking. You can see the old rotating rosters, pots, and grinders.

There are audio and visual presentations about the coffee and the legends about its origin. You can even try different varieties of coffee, including the Arabic, Ethiopian and Japanese brews. You can see some vintage coffee adverts in German adorning the walls.

Coffee museum in Dubai is one among the very few museums in the world dedicated to coffee culture. There is also a small library here with a collection of historical texts that relate to coffee, like the encyclopedia of Johann Friedrich Von Pfeiffer that has over 170 pages about coffee.

Our recommendation: The Coffee museum is a small but interesting museum. Worth a visit to know more about coffee and also to have a cup of it.

6. Saruq al Hadid Museum

This one is a trip back in time. A long, long time back to the iron age. Considered one of the richest historical sites in the whole of the Arabian peninsula, the Saruq al Hadid archeological excavation site is in the southern region of Dubai at Rub Al Khali desert. 

This location was discovered by the ruler of Dubai in 2002 while he was flying over the desert. He noticed a particular patch of sand that was darker than its surroundings. However, the artifacts found there are showcased in another more accessible part of the city. Saruq al Hadid Museum is on the banks of Dubai Creek nestled between many other historical buildings. It is inside an old house which once belonged to Sheikh Juma Bin Maktoum Al Maktoum.

Unlike most of us think, the history of human settlement in Dubai goes back to thousands of years ago. This museum displays the evidence of human life in this once desolate desert from as early as the third millennium BCE. 

Saruq al Hadid Museum uses cutting edge technologies to narrate the past. There are immersive and informative video and audio presentations. Apart from the galleries, the museum lets everyone have a hands on experience of archeology. You can roll up your sleeves and dig up artifacts out of dirt from the simulated excavation site. Children will love this a lot.

Even now, there are numerous things being unearthed. Therefore, between every three months, the display of the museum is reorganized to present the latest discoveries. 

Our recommendation: This museum is a rare gem. It is the only museum in Dubai where you can dive deep into the ancient history of Dubai.

  • Location: Shindagha, Bur Dubai
  • Entry fee:
    • Adult: 20 Dhs
    • Adults over 60: Free
    • Children 7­ – 12 years: 10 Dhs
    • Children up to 6 years: free
  • Opening hours: 
    • Saturday through Thursday, 8:00 AM – 8:00 PM
    • Friday: 4:00 PM – 8:00 PM
  • Suggested visit duration: 2-3 hours

5. Dubai Museum

It is the oldest museum in Dubai. Sandwiched between the busy shops and streets in Bur Dubai, this Museum looks unremarkable from the outside. But you will definitely notice it for the large model of wooden dhow displayed on top of it and also the cannons placed next to the entrance. 

Built in the late 18th century, this was originally used as a fort to protect the town from foreign attacks. Three watchtowers flank the top of the fort. This fort functioned as the ruler’s residence until 1896 and later a prison. In 1971, it was converted into a museum to showcase the history and traditions of Dubai.

The entry fee to this museum is very nominal; you can almost count it as free. When you get a ticket and enter inside, a modest courtyard welcomes you. Some old canons, a boat, and an Arish are here. Arish, the houses built with palm leaves and tree trunks, were used by the common men of those times. From the courtyard, there are few galleries with displays of old weapons and tools used by the Arabs. 

But the main parts of the museum is located two floors underground. A spiralling ramp takes you to the underground galleries. The key attractions of these galleries are the dioramas. These life size dioramas take you through the daily lives of Arabs before the oil boom. There are depictions of marketplaces and typical Arab houses. The diorama of the pearl diver is really well done. You can see him diving and the only equipment he has are the nose clip to prevent water getting in the nose, a leather glove and a rope tied around his ankle to pull him back from the water. The use of Light and sound make the experience even more enhanced.

There is a section solely dedicated to the archeological findings. Human remains and tools used around 4000 years ago by the ancient civilization in the region are preserved here. In another part of the museum, there is a display of historical government documents which became significant milestones in the history of Dubai.

Our recommendation: This is an average museum without much surprises. But it is still good for a casual visit.

  • Location: Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai
  • Entry fee: 3 Dhs
  • Opening hours:
    • Saturday through Thursday – 8:30 AM to 8:30 PM.
    • Friday – 2:30 PM to 8:30 PM
  • Suggested visit duration: 2 – 3 hours

4. Pearl Museum

Dubai was the land of pearls and gold. While it came to be known as a gold trading hub, pearl diving was also its own forte. Arabian pearls were fabled all over the world. But, as the artificial pearls and modern equipment took over, pearl diving as a trade died out. 

Today, located in the National Bank of Dubai headquarters in Deira, is the largest repository of the world’s finest pearls. The Museum shows the equipment used for pearl diving in those days from dhows to diver’s gears. There is an informative presentation of the different pearl beds in the shallow waters and the kinds of oysters that populated each of them. 

Experienced pearl divers knew the locations where they could dive for each variety of pearls and they would rotate these pearl beds between harvests to allow the species to thrive. This shows how those early men were wise enough to avoid ruthless exploitation of natural resources.

The Pearl museum gives extensive infromation about the pearls. Pearls are priced based on their color, luster, shape, weight and size. The advantage of pearls over other precious stones is that it can be used as it is found. There is no need for any cutting and shaping. But in the days of yore, apart from being used as jewelry, pearls were also a form of currency in Dubai. In those days, a pearl diver has to begin his training from a young age of ten. 

In the main gallery of the museum is a collection of pearls in different shapes and hues protected by a high-security glass window. Displayed beneath the array of bright lights, the pearls fill the rooms with rainbow hues. There is also an exhibition of ancient coins in the museum.

Late Sultan Ali Al Owais, the son of Ali Bin Abdullah Al Owais, was the one who donated his private pearl collection for the public viewing. His father was a wealthy pearl trader from Al Shamsi tribe in Sharjah.  

Our recommendation: Nowhere else in the world can you see such a huge collection and variety of pearls.

3. Etihad Museum

This is about the more recent past of the country. The Etihad museum is an icon of modern architecture. Rather than portraying things from the ancient past, Etihad museum focuses on the period after the oil boom. Especially the years between 1968 and 1974 and the formation of the United Arab Emirates. The meaning of the Arabic word ‘Etihad’ means ‘Union’.

Etihad museum takes you on a journey through the modern history of the country through photographs, documentaries, and artifacts. The museum is in Jumeirah right next to The Union house where the constitution was signed. Anyone can visit the Union House for free.

Passports, and personal belongings of the founding fathers and an interactive touch screen with their family tree to many generations back are some of the interesting stuff. There is a huge painting of the UAE’s political geography by an Emirati artist. The seven golden pillars in the main hall denote the pens used to sign the agreement, and the curved white roof, the paper on which it was signed. A library with more than three thousand titles, a beautiful garden, and a cafe is also part of the museum. 

Our recommendation: This is a place of great importance in the history of the modern UAE. This museum is different from every other museum in style and content. 

  • Location: Jumeirah Street
  • Entry fee:
    • Adults: 25 AED
    • Students: 10 AED
    • People of Determination: Free
    • Children: Free
  • Opening hours: Daily: 10:00 AM – 08:00 PM
  • Suggested visit duration: 2 – 3 hours

2. Museum of Illusions

This is a completely different kind of museum. Museum of Illusions in Bur Dubai Al Seef near the creek is a world of mind blowing optical illusions.  Museum of Illusions in Dubai is one of the many such museums by the world renowned museum chain of the same name. The one in Dubai being the biggest of all others, houses more than 80 tricks and illusions to puzzle your brain. Children are going to love it the most. 

The main attractions in this museum are the Ames room, the Slanted room, and the Vortex tunnel. You can look bigger or smaller than your friend in the Ames Room and defy gravity in the Slanting Room. The vortex tunnel deceives your mind with visual effects into thinking that the platform you are standing on is moving while, in fact, it is standing still.

You will have so many instagram worthy spots here. Actually, almost all of them are going to be exciting. You can add your own bit of creativity to the mix and make it even more entertaining. They will also provide you the scientific explanation for the illusion. Therefore this is also going to be educational for the younger ones.

Our recommendation: A great combination of entertainment and information. A must visit place if you have kids with you. Or even with your friends. Remember that there will be a lot of moments for pictures so don’t forget to take your camera with you. 

  • Location: Al Seef, Bur Dubai
  • Entry fee:
    • Adults: 80 Dhs
    • Children: 55 Dhs
    • Students & senior citizens: 65 Dhs
  • Opening hours:
    • Sunday to Wednesday from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM
    • Thursday to Saturday from 10:00 AM to 12:00 AM
  • Suggested visit duration: 1 hour

1. Al Shindagha Museum

On the historic banks of the creek, Dubai has added yet another attraction. The Shindagha Museum, which was opened in 2019, is a part of changing the face of the old Dubai. Right now, only the first phase of the museum is completed. Once Dubai Historical Neighborhood project is finished, this will become a cluster of 23 galleries. The Perfume house was the first one to open among these. 

Shindaga Museum is located next to the House of Sheikh Saeed Ibn Al Maktoum. The museum itself is in the old house of Sheikha Shaikha Bint Saeed Bin Maktoum who was a skilled perfumer. The display in the museum includes a massive 28 Kg piece of Oud which belonged to her. 

‘Windows of Dubai’ is another part of Shindagha Museum which offers glimpses to the past and future of Dubai’s growth. State of the art technologies and augmented reality are used to provide the tourists with a distinct experience. 

There are many exhibition houses in the Shindagha Museum. ‘Governance and Society’ shows the growth of the modern landscape of Dubai along with its ruling family. Another gallery ‘Creativity and Wellbeing’ explains the traditional arts, crafts and medicine. There are two more galleries called ‘Living off the Land and Sea’ and a ‘Children’s Pavilion’.

Our recommendation: A must visit museum in Dubai. Plan your schedule to include this museum in your itinerary. This is like a much updated version of the Dubai museum with modern design and better everything.

  • Location: Al Shindagha, Bur Dubai 
  • Entry fee: 15 Dhs
  • Opening hours:
    • Open from Saturday to Thursday from 10:00 AM to 6:00 PM (Except on Tuesdays when the museum is closed)
    • Friday : 2:30 PM to 9:00 PM
  • Suggested visit duration: 3 – 4 hours

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