Guide: World’s most iconic museums in Abu Dhabi


Three of the world’s most iconic museums can all be found in one island: Saadiyat Island, a 27 square-kilometer island off the coast of Abu Dhabi. With Zayed National Museum opening in 2021 and one more coming our way, let’s take a look at what’s in store and what is currently open to visitors.

Saadiyat Cultural District from Saadiyat Cultural District on Vimeo.


The museum, which opened in 2017, houses artwork from different civilisations and cultures, from the most ancient to the most contemporary.

A variety of textual and multimedia resources in multiple languages will place the artworks in context, explain where they come from and relate the rich histories of the objects and artworks.

Louvre Abu DhabiWhat to see

The art display features four major periods: archaeology and the birth of civilisation; medieval days and the birth of Islam; the Classical period from Humanism to Enlightenment; and modern and contemporary, starting at the end of the 18th century.

In true enlightenment style, visitors will be invited to study the works for themselves, compare them, and delight in their unique qualities and meanings.

Who designed it

The Louvre Abu Dhabi is designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Jean Nouvel. A falaj-inspired water system runs through the museum, inspired by ancient Arabian engineering.

Louvre Abu Dhabi’s geometric lace dome was inspired by the interlaced palm leaves traditionally used as roofing material and resulting in an enchanting rain of light. The roof’s complex pattern is the result of the same geometric design repeated at various sizes and angles in ten different layers, five external and five internal, an arrangement that gave the dome a lacy and delicate form.

How to get there


The national museum of the UAE, which is expected to open in 2021, tells the story of the late Sheikh Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the unification of the UAE and its history.

A digital rendering of the Zayed National Museum

What to see

The museum features an interactive gallery of Sheikh Zayed’s life and times, a library and special galleries on falconry, heritage, society, science and faith.

Who designed it

Visitors can also check out the museum’s architecture, designed by Pritzker Prize winning architect Lord Norman Foster.

The Zayed National Museum’s distinctive towers are reminiscent of the wing tips of the falcon. The building is designed to minimise energy usage by incorporating natural ventilation and lighting in the five towers, and using photovoltaic panels and heat exchange technologies.


The Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, which is expected to open in 2022, will feature a permanent collection, exhibitions, scholarly publications and educational programmes, promoting a transnational perspective on art history.

A digital rendering of the Guggenheim Museum in Abu Dhabi

What to see

Galleries are distributed around the atrium on four levels connected by glass bridges above. The museum will include 13,000 square metres of gallery space, with eleven iconic cone-like structures providing further exhibition space. In each of the cones, visitors will have the opportunity to view unique, site-specific artworks by leading contemporary artists.

Just off the soaring glass atrium will be an educational centre and a 350-seat theatre, where the museum will offer a wide-ranging educational and performing arts programme. The state-of-the-art facility will allow for a wide variety of live programmes including lectures, panels, symposia, music recitals, theatre productions, film viewings and performance.

Who designed it

The landmark structure was designed by world-renowned architect Frank Gehry, who describes his composition for the building as “intentionally ‘messy’, moving into clarity.”

Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s cones are inspired by the region’s ancient wind-towers, which both ventilate and shade the museum’s exterior courtyards in a fitting blend of Arabian tradition and modern design.


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