Exploring Abu Dhabi — the Cultural Capital of Middle East

When most people think of Abu Dhabi, the first thoughts that come to mind are a massive Middle Eastern metropolis known for glistening ultramodern skyscrapers, gorgeous sandy beaches, and ancient Islamic architecture.

You’d probably be more than a bit surprised to learn that there is a strong cultural element to the second-largest city in the United Arab Emirates. Yes, locals and tourists alike frequently take in the city’s lavish museums and art galleries. This is a short guide to the museums and art galleries of Abu Dhabi.

Louvre Abu Dhabi


It isn’t quite Paris, but this museum is nonetheless impressive. You’ll get the chance to view paintings produced by some of the world’s most iconic painters including Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet, and Leonardo Da Vinci. The Louvre Abu Dhabi also contains many fine works of photography from artists such as Joseph-Philibert Girault de Prangey and Roger Fenton.

Furthermore, the Louvre Abu Dhabi has artifacts from different areas of the Middle East as well as Japan and China. Overall, it’s a fascinating place to visit while you’re vacationing in Abu Dhabi.

Emirates National Auto Museum


There is no shortage of big oil money in Abu Dhabi. This is truly evident in the expensive, luxury automobiles driven by many of the city’s residents. Spend a few hours at the National Auto Museum looking over dozens of antique cars, cruisers, as well as unique and rare vehicles.

The museum is owned by Shaikh Hamdan, who has put many of his private collection of cars on display.

Warehouse 421


Set amongst a cluster of warehouses near the Port of Abu Dhabi, Warehouse 421 has a modern, hipster feel to it. There is a wide range of works produced by various artists, some very popular, others rather unknown. The exhibitions are well put together. It will take you a good two hours to see everything.

Etihad Modern Art Gallery


This small art gallery features an overabundance of great works. On the ground floor are many paintings. If you want to see sculptures, head on up to the second floor. Yes, for those of you who enjoy modern art, there’s no better place to be than Etihad Modern Art Gallery. It must be noted that there is no entry fee and you can reach the museum either by taxi or Big Bus Tours.

Folklore Gallery


Folklore Gallery is a great place to see exhibits of authentic artwork made by local artists. It’s truly one of the city’s most treasured gems. There’s nothing more pleasing than spending part of a day browsing and even shopping for art. As an aside, the gallery offers high-quality custom picture framing.

Hemisphere Design Studio & Gallery


Perhaps you’d like to see some fantastic works of art inspired by pop culture icons such as famous movie stars, superheroes and cartoon characters. Hemisphere Design Studio and Gallery is unlike anything you’re likely to see while you tour the museum and art gallery circuit in Abu Dhabi. Yes, there is truly a quirky vibe happening here which makes it feel more like New York City or London than the Middle East.

N2N Gallery


This art gallery – which opened in 2013 – was founded by two Ukrainian expats who wanted to bring their own style of Eastern European art to the UAE. As you browse the multilevel gallery, you’ll marvel at the eclectic collection of sculptures, graphic art, and paintings, which are a blend of realism and modernism. In fact, there are close to 200 works on display by various Ukrainian artists such as Petro Bevza, Igor Shipilin, and Ramazan Useinov.

Ghaf Gallery


Ghaf Gallery is one of the most popular art galleries in Abu Dhabi. Two of the city’s most famous contemporary artists – Mohamed Kanoo and Jalal Luqman – have many works on display inside. If you want to see the best art that Abu Dhabi offers, this is the place to do so.

Planning your trip to The United Arab Emirates? See also:

What you should know before visiting Dubai

Where to Stay in Dubai