Visiting one of the Dubai souks is guaranteed to add some 1001-nights flair to your trip. These traditional marketplaces are a quintessential part of the Arabian heritage. They’re also the best place to hunt for Dubai souvenirs, from glorious gold jewels over shimmering tea sets to colorful textiles. Visiting a souk is an immersive experience and one of the top things to do in Dubai. It’s also the perfect opportunity to practice your haggling skills and a wonderful kid-friendly Dubai activity.
Let us take you on a journey along the souks of Dubai. From traditional souks, such as the Gold Souk and Spice Souk in historic Deira, to modern souks, such as the Souk al Bahar in the shadow of the Burj Khalifa and the Souk Madinat near the iconic Burj Al Arab (which we visited on an Inside Burj al Arab tour). Whichever Dubai area you’re staying at, there’s always a souk nearby. Here’s an overview of the best souks in Dubai to add to your itinerary as well as the best souvenirs of Dubai to buy.
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Why you should visit at least two souks in Dubai
The atmosphere of a souk, in Dubai and elsewhere, is so unique because of the multi-sensory aspect. There are shiny jewels and colorful centerpieces that catch the eye but also more discrete items with intricate details and mountains of aromatic spices. You’ll return home with plenty of gifts and souvenirs from Dubai, that’s a fact.
Visiting a souk is also an excellent way to learn more about the culture, from patterns that are used in textile items to ceremonial objects and local ingredients.
With so many things to discover, it’s easy to loose track of time. Then again, getting lost in the small alleys and letting your senses guide you is all part of the charm. And a super-safe destination such as Dubai is perfect to do so.
There are two main types of souks in Dubai:
- Traditional Dubai souks can be found in the historic Deira district. These souks have been a bustling trading place since 1850 thanks to their proximity to the Creek harbor where merchant ships from Africa and India moored. There’s one traditional souk that’s located on the opposite bank of the Dubai Creek and that’s the Textile Souk.
- Modern Dubai souks are found near some of the tourist hotspots such as the Burj Khalifa and the Burj Al Arab, Dubai’s most expensive hotel. There’s also a wonderful modern souk in Al Seef, part of the historic Al Fahidi district.
Since both types of Dubai souks offer a very different experience and have their own unique vibe, we would strongly recommend you to visit one of each. Especially the Deira Gold Souk and the Souk Madinat Jumeirah deserve to be added to your Dubai itinerary (although the Al Seef Heritage Souk makes for a good modern-day souk alternative if you’re staying in Downtown Dubai).
Tips to haggle like a pro at the Dubai souks
Shopping your heart out at the Dubai souks shouldn’t be all too expensive… if you master the art of haggling. And if not, don’t despair because it’s never too late to learn. Haggling is part of Arabian culture and so you shouldn’t feel guilty for bargaining. It’s not condescending. On the contrary, vendors expect you to haggle and value the social interaction. Rest assured that vendors at the Dubai souks have a generous margin for negotiation. So, just embrace the cultural experience and play the haggling game.
Here are a few tips to haggle like a pro:
- Chances are vendors have overheard you talking to your travel companions and so they might greet you in your native language. Answer with a friendly marhabaan or as-salam alaykum.
- Look around for a bit and, even if you see an item that you really want to buy, keep a poker-face and look indecisive.
- When the vendor approaches you, make a connection by engaging in a short conversation to break the ice.
- When the conversation starts to focus on the item you had your eye on, first ask the vendor for his best price and even a very best price. Then you’re up. Make your counteroffer, which should be about a third to half of the vendor’s best price. That’s when the haggling game begins.
- Enjoy the process. Appreciate how both the vendor and yourself want to agree on a price that’s fair for both without losing face. Stay respectful, kind and friendly.
- If the price you had in mind is not an option for the vendor, then give him a final offer or just thank him for his time. Chances are that, as you start to walk away, he’ll reel you back in offering a lower price or add in another product to sweeten the deal.
Still not convinced you’ve got it in you? Or maybe you just want the visit the souks with an expert at hand? Then you might feel more comfortable taking a tour with a knowledgable guide. Here are some suggestions, all of which have glowing reviews:
VAT refund for gifts and souvenirs from Dubai souks
Did you know that you can get the VAT refunded for qualifying purchases that you made during your trip? That includes gifts and souvenirs from Dubai souks. Here’s how it works:
- Check with the merchant if he participates in the Tax Refund for Tourists Scheme.
- Note that only goods intended for consumption outside of the United Arab Emirates are taken into account.
- The minimum spend to qualify for a refund is 250 AED in one and the same spot. Just ask the merchant at check-out as tax free. He’ll then scan you passport and enter your details in the VAT refund system.
- Your purchase will then be labeled with a tax free tag and you’ll get a receipt.
- Make sure to validate your qualifying and labeled purchase(s) at the airport within 90 days and prior to check-in. You can find UAE VAT Refund counters in the departure halls of all terminals at both Dubai and Abu Dhabi Airport. Self-service kiosks are also available and very user-friendly. Make sure to have your receipt(s), passport, flight details and credit card ready. Your refund will be credited to your credit card or issued in cash (only if you reach a certain amount).
Map of the souks in Dubai
For your convenience, we’ve created a map indicating all the Dubai souks as mentioned in this article.
Traditional Dubai souks
Dubai Gold Souk
If there’s one souk in Dubai that you should absolutely visit, then it’s this one. The Dubai Gold Souk is out of this world. The covered walkways and neighboring streets house over 300 retailers. Seemingly endless rows of dazzling displays of glimmering gold, from 18 to 24 karat, line the streets. Rings, earrings, bracelets and necklaces so elaborate that you just have to pause to admire the craftmanship.
If you’re looking to make a specific purchase rather than just shopping around, then make sure to reserve enough time to visit the Dubai Gold Souk. We’d also strongly recommend looking up the market price of the day, which you can find here. It’s listed per gram and per caratage.
You’re encouraged to negotiate here just like in any other Dubai souk. While the market price applies to the precious metal itself, the craftmanship costs are negotiable. But you might just as well visit this souk to do some window-shopping. Marveling at the sight of so much precious metal is an experience on its own. You’re free to take pictures of the jewels unless there’s a no-photograph sign on the window.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at the Dubai Gold Souk
Gold, obviously! There’s gold in abundance here so we’d strongly recommend shopping around and comparing prices. Some of the most prominent shops may charge extra so go ahead and compare their offer with the offer in a smaller shop that’s a bit tucked away. The Deira Gold Souk is strictly regulated so you can rest assured that you are buying the real deal.
Make sure to pay in cash instead of by credit card. Also, check the stickers on the window to make sure that you can get most of the VAT refunded at the airport before returning home. Et voilà, that’s how to get yourself a shimmering souvenir from Dubai at a very competitive price.
Getting to this Dubai souk
You can reach the Dubai Gold Market in Deira by taxi, drivers know this place very well. It’s also a stop on the red route of both the City Sightseeing and Big Bus hop on hop off buses. Alternatively, you can take the metro (green line) to Al Ras metro station. But the most scenic route is by abra, the traditional wooden boats that cross the Dubai Creek, from the Bur Dubai to the Deira Old Souk abra station.
The Gold Souk is open every day from 10 am (except on Fridays, when it opens at 4 pm) until 10 pm. Evenings tend to be the busiest moment to visit.
Deira Spice Souk
The explosion of colors and aromas makes a visit to the Spice Souk one of the most unique sensory experiences. As you navigate your way through the maze of narrow alleyways and corridors dotted with piles of spice, a fragrant world opens up.
The atmosphere is very different here than it is in the gold souk. The vendors, most of which are Iranian, may be a bit more insistent too. But don’t let that put you off and just accept it as part of the experience.
Take the time to discover spices and other ingredients that you may not be familiar with. It’s an excellent place to learn about middle eastern flavor combinations and scented teas. When you’re ready to buy, then be prepared to haggle.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at the Deira Spice Souk
The saffron that’s being sold at the Spice Souk is of premium quality. Other popular herbs are cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cloves, nutmeg, zaatar, sumac, vanilla and coriander. But you’ll also find rose petals and dried hibiscus, incense, dried fruits, dates and a selection of nuts.
Do check your merchandise, especially when buying nuts, to make sure there’s no infestation.
Getting to this Dubai souk
The Dubai Spice Souk is located south of the Gold Souk and therefore also accessible by taxi, metro (Al Ras metro station),City Sightseeing bus,Big Bus and abra.
The Spice Souk is open every day from 10 am (except on Fridays, when it opens at 4 pm) until 10 pm. Evenings tend to be the busiest moment to visit.
Deira Perfume Souk
A different aromatic experience can be found at the Perfume Souk, where an array of fragrances is on display. Inside the shops, that is, because the sun is known to alter the scent.
The enticing middle eastern scents often feature spicy and woody notes and tend to be quite prominent. Of course, milder versions are also available.
In Arabian culture, perfumes are not alcohol-based as in Western culture. The attars or perfume oils are layered on. Oud, the agarwood essential oil, is the most popular one and used as an undertone for many Arabian perfumes. It’s one of the most expensive natural resources in the world.
Oud is quite intense though, especially if you’re used to breezy Western perfumes. Oil based perfumes also unfold over time and last much longer. Oud oil and its derivative perfumes can be worn directly onto the skin or carefully sprayed on clothing. Do so with caution though and spray from a distance in order to avoid oil stains.
Another type of Arabian perfume is bakhoor, which has to be burned. Bakhoor consists of agarwood chips soaked with citrus, jasmine or other soft and crisp essential oils. It makes for a lighter alternative to oud. The fragrant smoke it creates is traditionally to infuse clothing and hair. It also makes for a very popular incense to perfume the home.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at the Deira Souks
Many of the fragrances at the Perfume Souk in Dubai are made available as incense allowing for carefree sampling. If you’re looking to buy it as a personal perfume rather than an interior perfume, it’s important to try it on your skin since your skin type strongly influences the result.
This is also the place to be for a customized perfum. Vendors will be happy to create your own personal blend by adding drops of amber, rose, saffron, vanilla, jasmine,chamomile and more to the oud oil.
Bakhoor incents also make for a wonderful souvenir from Dubai. Fill your home with one of its enticing scents to be transported back to this glamorous Emirate in no time.
Getting to this Dubai souk
The Deira Perfume Souk is located east of the Gold Souk and also accessible by taxi, metro (Al Ras metro station),City Sightseeing bus,Big Bus and abra.
This souk is open every day from 10 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 10 pm (except on Fridays, when it opens at 4 pm).
Grand Souk Deira
As its catch-all term indicates, this souk houses a wide range of articles. It’s a great place to hunt for souvenirs with an Arabian touch and even for groceries and utensils.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at the Grand Souk Deira
Choose from an array of Arabian goods such as ceramic art, traditional Arab shoes, colorful shawls, aromatic spices, soft Persian rugs, Arab clothing and even toys (although those might not be made in Arabia).
Getting to this Dubai souk
The Grand Souk Deira is located right in between the Gold and the Spice Market. Just like the other Deira souks, it’s accessible by taxi, metro (Al Ras metro station),City Sightseeing bus,Big Bus and abra.
This souk is open every day from 10 am (except on Fridays, when it opens at 4 pm) until 10 pm.
The last in our list of traditional souks in Dubai is located on the opposite side of the Dubai Creek. The Textile Souk or Old Souk in Dubai displays its vibrant merchandise against the sand-colored canvas of the immaculately restored traditional buildings in the historic Al Fahidi district.
The cheerful colors and authentic prints that line the covered alleys are a feast for the eyes. The Textile Souk offers everything from traditional garments, such as the abaya, to accessories and even buttons and sequins. Home accessories such as rugs, pouffes and pillows are also available. The fabrics come from all over the world and the vendors are mostly Indian.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at the Dubai Textile Souk
This is another great place to shop for Dubai souvenirs. The brightly colored caftans, scarfs in the finest silk, embroidered lady slippers, breezy dresses and soft cashmeres make for perfect gifts too. And if you’re looking for an insta-worthy flowy dress or shawl to wear at your Dubai desert safari, you’ll sure find it here too.
Getting to this Dubai souk
You can reach the Textile Souk by taxi, drivers know this place very well. It’s also a stop on the red route of both theCity Sightseeing andBig Bus hop on hop off buses (the stop is called “Old Souk Dubai”). Alternatively, you can take the metro (green line) to eitherAl Ghubaiba or Al Fahidi metro station. But, again here, the most scenic route is by abra to the Bur Dubai Old Soukabra station.
Other attractions in the historic Al Fahidi district are the Dubai Museum, where you can learn all about the Emirati heritage, and the Dubai Coffee Museum, which takes visitors on an aromatic journey and showcases a wide assortment of Arabic coffee blends in its shop and café.
The Dubai Textile Souk is open every day from 10 am to 2 pm and from 4 pm to 9 pm, except on Fridays when it’s open from 4 pm to 10 pm.
Modern Dubai souks
Souk Madinat Jumeirah
Our absolute favorite contemporary souk in Dubai is Souk Madinat Jumeirah. It’s located at one of the most prominent oceanfront locations in Dubai, just steps away from the iconic Burj Al Arab, the Jumeirah Beach Hotel and the Wild Wadi water park. In addition to the souk, the Madinat Jumeirah complex houses a variety of restaurants as well as 4 luxurious hotels – the Jumeirah Al Qasr, the Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, the Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf and the Jumeirah Al Naseem – a classic theatre and the Theatre of Digital Art. The palm-fringed canals are the focal point of Madinat Jumeirah and hotel guests can explore the inner sanctum by means of an abra.
As soon as you enter Souk Madinat, you feel the same captivating atmosphere that characterizes the traditional souks. The only difference is that this bazaar takes places in a polished replica of an old-style Arabian market. While the Souk Madinat Dubai shopping experience may not be entirely authentic, it almost feels like it is.
This is one of our favorite Dubai places to visit on a hot afternoon or during a relaxed evening. We just can’t resist the splendid Arabian setting and love discovering the many enchanting little treasures in this souk. The best things to buy from Dubai all under one gorgeous roof.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at theSouk Madinat Jumeirah
No better place to shop for gifts from Dubai for friends and family than at the mesmerizing Souk Madinat. Feast your eyes on colorful textiles, shiny jewels, magical lanterns, Persian carpets, classy kaftans, hand-woven pashmina shawls, copper dallah coffee pots and plenty of Arabian-inspired trinkets such as miniature Aladdin lamps and decorated camel statues. When you need a break from shopping, indulge in a delicious tea with dates or camel milk chocolate.
And this may not be a traditional souk, but haggling is just as accepted here as it is in any other souk. Oh yes, we speak from experience.
Getting to this Dubai souk
You can reach Souk Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai by taxi, drivers know this place very well. It’s also a stop on the blue route of both the City Sightseeing and Big Bus hop on hop off buses. Alternatively, you can take the metro (red line) to Mall of the Emirates metro station and take a taxi from there.
Souk Madinat Jumeirah is open every day from 10 am until 11 pm.
Al Seef Heritage Souq
The Al Seef Heritage Souq is located in the Al Fahidi Historical District also known asAl Bastakiya. Its inviting creekside location is the perfect place to spend the evening. Head to the promenade at sunset to watch the abro cross the Dubai Creek before heading to the souk.
No small alleyways and corridors here but rather a wide pedestrian street flanked by old-world Arabian style buildings. The lively souk is just as colorful as Souk Madinat but feels less like a bazaar and a bit more like an actual shopping street. That doesn’t affect the atmosphere, though. The Arabian decor and vibrant merchandise work their magic to create a leisurely shopping experience.
The Al Seef Heritage district is also home to a wide variety of restaurants – the Al Fanar seafood market is our favorite – as well as to the gorgeousAl Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, Curio Collection by Hilton.The Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) can be found just around the corner. Learn more about the Emirati culture or participate in an authentic Emirati meal.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at theAl Seef Heritage Souq
Some wonderful Dubai souvenir shops are located in this souk. Discover the colorful assortment of carpets and tapestries, artefacts and ceramics, hewels and perfumes as well as home decor and art.
Getting to this Dubai souk
You can reach Al Seef Heritage Souk in Dubai by taxi. It’s also a stop on the red route of both theCity Sightseeing andBig Bus hop on hop off buses. Alternatively, you can take the metro (red line) to Burjuman metro station from where it’s a short stroll to the souk.
Souk al Bahar is open every day from 10 am. It stays open until 10 pm from Saturday to Wednesday and until 11 pm on Thursday and Friday. The souk restaurants close one hour later.
Souk al Bahar
Souk al Bahar is located at the heart of Downtown Dubai and overlooks the Dubai Mall, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Fountain. Some fabulous hotels nearby include the Palace Downtown, Manzil Downtown and Vida Downtown.
You can access the Arabian-style souk via an elegant pedestrian bridge crossing the Burj Lake. Souk al Bahar, which translates as Market of the Sailor, is pretty compact and houses some of the most popular gift shops in Dubai.
To us, this is the least impressive souk. It’s more mall-like and lacks the bustling atmosphere that’s so typical for a souk. Then again, it’s conveniently located and a solid option if you’re staying in Downtown Dubai and your Dubai itinerary doesn’t allow for an extensive shopping spree. Rest assured that you’ll find some wonderful Dubai souvenirs here.
Dubai souvenirs to buy at the Souk al Bahar
The attractive mix of elegant boutiques lining the alleyways offers anything from antiques, perfumes, ceramics, oriental carpets, glimmering gold jewels and souvenirs to local delicacies such as dried fruits and spices. For the most mouth-watering dates, head to Bateel. These delicious treats are among our favorite things to buy in Dubai. We always return with about a dozen of their gorgeous gift boxes for our friends and family (and for ourselves, of course).
Getting to this Dubai souk
You can reach Souk al Bahar in Downtown Dubai by taxi, drivers know this place very well. It’s also a stop on the blue and red route of both theCity Sightseeing andBig Bus hop on hop off buses. Alternatively, you can take the metro (red line) to theBurj Khalifa/ Dubai Mall metro station, from where you can board the feeder bus to the souk.
Souk al Bahar is open every day from 10 am. It stays open until 10 pm from Saturday to Wednesday and until midnight on Thursday and Friday.
That’s a wrap! Now we can’t wait to find out if you’ll be adding a visit to the Dubai souks to your itinerary? If so, which one rank highest on your list? And which souvenirs from Dubai are you hoping to score? Will it be your first visit to a souk, in Dubai or elsewhere? And do you master the art of haggling? Any more tips to share with your fellow-readers? The comment box is all yours!