17 Top Tourist Attractions & Places to Visit in Sharjah
Sharjah is the arts capital of the United Arab Emirates. While some of the other emirates focus on beach vacations, shopping, and contemporary city glitz, Sharjah's tourist attractions are all about history and culture.
The emirate's efforts to preserve the area's history garnered Sharjah the title of Cultural Capital of the Arab World by UNESCO in 1998.
For museum and art lovers, Sharjah is the best place to visit in the UAE. Visiting the renowned Sharjah Art Museum and the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization are the two major things to do, while the surrounding Heritage Area is full of restored buildings now dedicated to Emirati history.
This is also a wonderful family-friendly destination, with lots to keep smaller visitors amused, including Al Noor Island, with its butterfly house and the Sharjah Desert Park.
Out of the city itself, Mleiha Archaeological Site offers a two-in-one attraction, with desert activities and tours of one of the UAE's most significant archaeological sites.
Find out how to plan your Sharjah stay with our list of the top attractions and things to do in Sharjah.
See also: Where to Stay in Sharjah For Sightseeing
1. View the Acclaimed Art Collection inside Sharjah Art Museum
One of the largest arts museums in the United Arab Emirates, this state-of-the-art facility opened in 1997 and features a permanent collection, as well as a program of temporary exhibits.
The galleries, spread over three floors, focus on works by Arab artists from throughout the Arab world.
The permanent collection includes a gallery wing devoted to artworks from the Barjeel Collection displaying an array of significant contemporary art from the Middle East.
Other galleries display artworks from 18th- and 19th-century painters who visited the Middle East and became fascinated by the natural environment, architecture, and culture.
The Ali Darwish gallery contains watercolors of Sharjah.
Address: Corniche Street, Sharjah
Official site: https://www.sharjahartmuseum.ae/
2. Brush Up on History at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization is a good place to dive into the deep roots of Arab and Islamic culture.
A number of scientific and religious manuscripts, as well as a collection of Islamic arts and craft work dating from the 7th to the 19th centuries are on display.
Features of particular note include the exhibit of clay, pottery, and glass, as well as metallic handicrafts inlaid with silver, gold, and brass, and the collection of astrolabes.
The museum holds items dating back to the Abbasid and Umayyad eras, including a coin collection of silver dinars and dirhams, but also traces the far reaching tentacles of Islamic culture, with exhibits of Mughal and Ottoman craft work.
Address: Corniche Street, Sharjah
3. Stroll the Alleys inside Sharjah Heritage Area
The Sharjah Heritage Area is small, restored neighborhood in downtown Sharjah, stretching from the waterfront to Sharjah's fort.
Inside the district, a number of traditional Emirati houses have been preserved and now are home to museums.
Three of the museums are well worth a visit for insights on Emirati heritage. The Sharjah Heritage Museum hosts exhibits covering all facets of traditional Emirati life.
The Calligraphy Museum explores this Arab art form, with galleries hung with work from the Arab world's finest calligraphy artists. And Bait Al Naboodah is a finely restored traditional family villa, once home to the Al-Shamsi family.
A number of traditional souk areas have also been revived in the neighborhood. Souk Al Arsah is the best one to visit. This large covered courtyard souk is thought to be the oldest surviving bazaar in the country. It has been fully restored in its traditional style and now includes a number of different shops featuring silver and wooden handicrafts, jewelry, traditional garments, and beauty products.
4. Explore Desert Landscapes & Ancient History at Mleiha Archaeological Site
Sharjah's Mleiha Archaeological Site is one of the best places to visit in the UAE to both learn about the deep history of the Arabian Peninsula and to add some desert activities into your vacation.
Mleiha is near the small settlement of Maleha, 60 kilometers east from Sharjah city.
Mleiha's museum and visitor center at the site entrance offer a thorough rundown of the site's history and heritage, and arranges a variety of tours for exploring the surrounding area with its orange sand dunes and craggy rock outcrops.
Desert activities include 4WD tours across the sand dunes, horse riding desert tours, desert buggy trips, and short hikes.
In the evenings, they run stargazing tours at their "sunset lounge," where you can watch sunset on cushions set up in the desert and then learn about basic astronomy aided by a guide and telescope. Overnight desert camping tours are also available.
The vast and multi-layered archaeological site itself is hugely significant to our understanding of early human history.
In the caves here, the first evidence of Paleolithic human activity outside of Africa was found.
Other parts of the site have revealed evidence of a later Neolithic settlement; Bronze Age tombs, including a large Umm An Nar tomb (which has been incorporated beautifully into the visitor center area); and fort and palace remnants from a 2nd- or 3rd-century settlement here.
The visitor center offers archaeological tours covering the major sites plus hikes up to the caves where signs of early human habitation were found.
Official site: https://www.discovermleiha.ae/
5. Visit Sharjah Fort
Sharjah Fort (called Al Hisn in Arabic) sits on a plaza at the corner of the Heritage District.
The fort was built 200 years ago and has served as both a defensive facility for the town and as the traditional residence of the ruling family of Sharjah.
Inside, the rooms contain themed displays tracing the history of Sharjah, as well as the town's importance as part of the Gulf's trade networks.
One exhibit details the painstaking restoration of the building in the late 20th century. From the roof, there are great views across the Heritage District and out to the sea.
The Sharjah City Highlights Private Tour offers a half day of exploring Sharjah's sights including Sharjah Fort, Sharjah Heritage Museum and Souk Al Arsah. The guide can tailor the trip to your interests, so you can add in trips to the Museum of Islamic Civilization or the Art Museum or a ramble around the Central Market if you like. Transport, including pickup and drop-off from Dubai hotels, is included.
Address: Hisn Avenue, Sharjah
6. Take the Kids to Sharjah Desert Park
The Sharjah Desert Park offers kids an easy taster of the UAE's desert ecology and wildlife. It's 31 kilometers east of Sharjah city, along the E88 Highway.
The center incorporates three different neighboring sites:
The Arabia Wildlife Center is the main area, with enclosures housing Arabian oryx, Arabian leopards, and endemic reptiles. There's also a children's farm, where little ones can get up close to typical farm animals. The wildlife center has an important breeding program for endangered animals in the Gulf region.
The Sharjah Natural History Museum offers a thorough overview of the UAE's wildlife, plants, and geological history and has been fully set up with children in mind to enhance the learning experience.
Sharjah Desert Park's other main site is the Islamic Botanical Garden, a lush green space where 52 plant species all mentioned in the Qur'an (including figs, black cumin, and henna) are grown along with other plants such as saffron and pomegranate. The garden is landscaped to incorporate waterways and pools inspired by the Gulf's traditional horticulture irrigation system.
7. Shop at the Central Market
Sharjah's Central Market, built in the 1970s, is the city's most famous architectural landmark. The intricate blue tile work on the exterior has given it the nickname the Blue Souk.
More than 600 shops are inside, where shoppers will find sections devoted to gold and jewelry, perfume, clothing, food, electronics, and gift-type items.
The upper floor has the atmosphere of a traditional bazaar, with vendors selling antiques, carpets, Omani and Yemeni jewelry, and all sorts of other souvenir-type items that hail from the greater Arab world, as well as central and south Asia.
For downtime after shopping exploits, the market area is also home to plenty of cafés.
Location: Khalid Lagoon, Sharjah
8. See the Butterflies on Al Noor Island
This public park, created in Khalid Lagoon and accessed by bridge from the central city's Corniche Street, is Sharjah's top spot if you're looking for some tranquil downtime to recuperate from shopping and museum exploring.
The island blends art and nature into its design, and features gardens scattered with modern art sculptures and installations, created by some of the world's most renowned artists.
The premier attraction is Al Noor Island's butterfly house, where approximately 500 different butterfly species can be seen.
For smaller kids, it's a great, close-up encounter with nature, though anyone with an interest in the natural world will also enjoy a visit.
In the evenings, the island is a good option for an after-dinner family stroll, as after dark, the art installations amid the island's gardens are lit up, creating a charming, fairy-tale world. Be aware, though, that the butterfly house is closed after dark, so you may need to make two visits to enjoy the full charm of Al Noor Island.
Address: Khalid Lagoon, Sharjah
Official site: https://www.alnoorisland.ae/
9. Visit Sharjah Aquarium & Maritime Museum
As a settlement, Sharjah has always been linked closely to the water, and the Aquarium and Maritime Museum highlights the importance of the sea in the city's and the emirate's development.
For kids, the aquarium is the main attraction, and hosts around 150 species of sea life, including reef sharks and stingrays.
The connected Maritime Museum hosts interesting exhibits on traditional wooden dhows, as well as pearl collecting and fishing — all once important to the economy here.
Highlights include the collection of glimmering pearls (including what is thought to be the oldest pearl ever collected in the world) and the beautiful wooden dhow docked outside the museum.
Address: Al Meena Street, Al Khan district, Sharjah
10. Shop for Foodie Gifts at Souk Al-Jubail
Sharjah's huge, covered Souk Al-Jubail is an excellent way to experience the bustle of traditional Arabian shopping in a modern setting.
Join local shoppers as they do their weekly rounds at the fish souk — a stinky and busy mix of noise and color — and then dive into the fruit and vegetable souk, which is always crowded with vendors shouting out their prices and customers bargaining for good deals.
As well as being a prime opportunity to capture some vibrant photos of daily Sharjah life and see a shopping souk that hasn't been dressed up for the tourists, this is a great place to pick up gifts of local produce to take back home, such as dates and local honey.
Address: Corniche Road, Sharjah
11. Sharjah Archaeology Museum
Sharjah Archaeology Museum has exhibits tracing the wide-arcing history of humanity in the area.
Displays in the Stone Age section include numerous flint pieces reflecting the technology of that period, and old seashells. There are also ornamental gems and pottery shards from the Ubaid period that were found in Al Hamriyah and confirm the trade exchange of this age with Mesopotamia (present-day Iraq).
The Bronze Age Hall features archaeological finds of pottery, metals, stone, and jewelry, while the Iron Age Hall is home to two of the museum's prize pieces: a camel statue and a ceramic dome that both come from the Muweilah archaeological site.
The museum has done a good job of making its exhibits user-friendly, and children will be kept entertained by a variety of hands-on games.
Next door is the Sharjah Science Museum, the only interactive hands-on museum in the United Arab Emirates.
The Exhibition Hall includes state-of-the-art elements, which have been designed to get children interested in science. You can test your flexibility, grip strength, and balance; make a cartoon; use a music synthesizer; build a puzzle of the human body; or visit Playspace (which caters to younger children).
The on-site Planetarium takes you on a tour of the universe, from the Sharjah sky to deep space.
Address: Sheikh Rashid bin Saqr Al Qasimi Street, Sharjah city
Official site: http://www.sharjahmuseums.ae
12. Take a Nature Break in Kalba
The most southerly village in the United Arab Emirates, Kalba is a tiny exclave of the Emirate of Sharjah on the eastern coast.
About 112 kilometers east of Sharjah, it's a charming place for a stroll that is worth the trip for the Al-Hisn Museum (built as a fort 200 years ago) and the fully restored House of Sheikh Saeed bin Hamad Al-Qassimi with its displays of musical instruments and traditional furniture.
Just south of the village is the Khor Kalba Conservation Reserve containing a vast mangrove forest.
This is a bird-watcher's paradise, especially during spring and autumn migrations.
Visitors can spot the rare white-collared kingfishers that breed here, as well as reef herons and booted warblers. Trips to the reserve are by boat or kayaking tours.
On the outskirts of Kalba town is the Al Hefaiyah Mountain Conservation Center, a nature reserve with 30 desert and mountain species.
The large internal enclosure houses smaller animals such as reptiles, while outdoors, the large natural habitat style enclosures are home to desert lynx, Arabian leopards, caracal, and wolves.
13. Enjoy Child-Friendly Evening Entertainment at Al Qasba
This waterfront quarter, alongside the Al Qasbah Canal, is Sharjah's top nighttime destination with plenty of cafés and restaurants rimming both sides of the canal.
It's a favorite place for promenading families in the evening, and there is plenty of kid-focused fun to be had in this district.
There are both outdoor and indoor children's entertainment parks within the quarter, featuring a variety of rides, a go-cart center, and a soft-play area to keep little ones busy.
Head here also for evening boat rides, which launch from the canal out into Khalid Lagoon to see Sharjah's skyline lit up after dark.
Address: Corniche Street, Sharjah
14. Khor Fakkan
Khor Fakkan is the second largest town on the east coast and an exclave of Sharjah. It's 109 kilometers east of Sharjah city.
Although the main feature of town is the thriving and less-than-picturesque container port, it's surrounded by a long stretch of beach that trails along the shore.
Khor Fakkan is only home to one mid-range older resort (Al Aqsah, just up the coast in Fujairah gets most of the east coast's beach-going tourists), but the sand here is good for a stop-off if you're road-tripping down the coast.
In the center of Khor Fakkan is one of Sharjah's newest tourist attractions, a huge manmade waterfall and a theater built in Roman-style overlooking the sea.
15. Tour the Al Noor Mosque
The Al Noor Mosque is the only mosque in Sharjah open to non-Muslims.
Anyone interested in digging a bit deeper into the heritage of the United Arab Emirates and wanting to learn a little about Islamic beliefs would find a visit here a worthy addition to their Sharjah itinerary.
Non-Muslims can visit the mosque on a tour, which takes place every Monday at 10am and includes a discussion on Islamic and Emirati history, culture, and traditions.
The mosque itself is a modern construction (built in 2005) and modeled on classical Ottoman style, with slender, pointed minarets, typical of Ottoman mosque architecture.
Address: Corniche Street, Sharjah
16. Experience a Downpour at Sharjah Rain Room
This immersive art installation, recreating a continuous flow of torrential rain, was previously exhibited in London, New York, and Shanghai but has found a permanent home in Sharjah.
The installation, set in a darkened space, with 2,500 liters of water recycled and looped through the ceiling, uses sensor technology so that visitors can walk through the rain without getting wet themselves.
Visiting the installation is very popular with UAE locals, who see little real rain throughout the year, but even those from wetter climes will appreciate the cleverness of the technology that allows you to wander through a downpour without getting soaked.
Address: Al Andalus Square, Al Mujarah, Sharjah
Official site: http://sharjahart.org/sharjah-art-foundation/projects/rain-room
17. Take the Kids to Al Montazah Island
Al Montazah Island (also known as Flag Island) is a top spot in Sharjah if the kids need to let off some steam.
This small island in Khalid Lagoon is home to both a theme park with roller coasters and other rides plus a water park with plenty of water slides to beat the heat and have some fun.
The island's big attraction, though, is the 60-meter-high Eye of the Emirates observation wheel. Head up on this big wheel to get a soaring perspective over the city. Views from the top can stretch for 50 kilometers. It's particularly good for nighttime shots of Sharjah's lights and many illuminated buildings.
Where to Stay in Sharjah for Sightseeing
Hotels are spread throughout Sharjah with a scattering of resorts along the beachfront and plenty of high-rise hotels near the Corniche, facing Khalid Lagoon, in the city center.
- The Hilton Sharjah, near the Al-Qasba area, overlooks Khalid Lagoon and offers a complimentary shuttle to a nearby private beach. There is a great rooftop pool area.
- If you want the sand, the Radisson Blu Resort is in Sharjah's beachfront area and features a private beach and swimming pools, a gym, and a spa.
- Also in the beachfront area, Coral Beach Resort Sharjah rims a clean sweep of beach and offers plenty of pools and restaurants with a swag of kids' activities for family-friendly holidays.
- A popular option for longer stays in the city, Ramada Sharjah has a great central location opposite a shopping mall and near the lagoon and corniche. Its one- and two-bedroom apartments come with full kitchens and laundry facilities.
- TIME Ruby Hotel Apartments has solid facilities and friendly staff and a good central city location, while Lou Lou'a Beach Resort, right on the oceanfront, is an affordable beachfront district option with a great pool area overlooking the sea, and good-sized rooms.
- With a pool as its focal point, Sharjah Beach Hotel offers great value, considering its prime location on the beach less than 10 minutes' drive from the Heritage Area. The pool area is big, and rooms have balconies facing the sea.
- In the city center, Spark Residence is convenient for longer stays, with its one- and two-bedroom suites.
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More Cities: Dubai is the United Arab Emirate's main tourist destination for its high-rise architecture, beaches, and shopping malls. It's only a short hop from central Sharjah. If you've enjoyed visiting Sharjah's museums, don't miss Abu Dhabi, home to the Louvre Abu Dhabi.
More Cultural Destinations: Check out Al Ain for its museums and the Hili Archaeological Site or head to Fujairah to visit its coastal forts and the beautiful Al Bidya Mosque.