Why you should book a sunrise slot to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
Going to the top of the Burj Khalifa is a must-do while in Dubai, but if you want to visit at sunset you’ll pay a lot more and share your experience with a maximum-capacity crowd.
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Luckily, there’s another option. On winter mornings you can book a sunrise slot and see Dubai wake up; it costs around the same as a standard daytime visit but you’ll get an unforgettable view over Dubai at sunrise and even a free cup of coffee and a pastry afterwards.
I was really tempted by the At The Top sunset tickets but in the end the price difference (it’s almost double the price to go up between 3.30pm and 6pm – 200 AED compared to 125 AED) and tales of long queues put me off. I took a deep breath and booked the sunrise tickets.
On Saturday my alarm woke me up at 4am, which would be bad enough but we’d arrived from the UK – four hours ahead. To make the early wake-up call even more painful, my brain had done that thing where it wakes you up every hour to remind you that you have to be up before the crack of dawn.
The entrance to the Burj Khalifa At The Top viewing deck is inside the Dubai Mall, but since the mall isn’t open at 5.30am, we had to enter via one of the car parks. We wandered around the outside of the mall for a while looking for the entrance until a workman helped us out. He pointed us towards the taxi drop off point and told us that the door would look shut but just to push it and go in. Some reviews on Tripadvisor say to knock on the door at Entrance 7 of the mall but the official way to get in is by the Cinema parking where taxis stop (although of course it’s too early for any taxis to be around!).
We’d visited the mall a couple of days before so it was really strange to see it so dark and quiet – the only people around were shopfitters and the only light away from where they were working came from ATM machines and empty cafes.
We found the ticket desk and showed our online confirmation and ID to receive our tickets. Then we were straight in – no hassle and zero queues.
The lift is an experience in itself. It starts slow and then speeds up until you’re whizzing past floors at an amazing rate. The journey to the 124th floor takes less than a minute at 10m per second – definitely ear-popping.
The doors opened and we went through a revolving door out onto the open-air observation deck. It was still before 6am and dark at this point so we got a fantastic view of the Dubai Fountains and the skyscrapers on Sheikh Zayed Road.
It was also extremely windy and pretty cold so I was very glad I’d brought my jacket! Bags have to go through airport-style security on the ground floor. Camera tripods aren’t allowed and although there are slits in the glass which you can just about get your camera through, most tripods wouldn’t be tall enough to reach them anyway. There are a couple of official photographers up there should you want a cheesy picture of yourself balancing on the very top of the Burj Khalifa.
The other benefit of visiting the Burj Khalifa at sunrise is that the sun rises on the side of the building which has the outdoor viewing platforms, so you’ve got an unrestricted view as the sun comes up. The entire 124th floor is open to visitors but only part of it is outdoor. If you visited at sunset you’d be viewing it through the glass in the gift shop area.
At around 6.30 the sky started to get lighter and the sun broke through the clouds, reflecting off the waters of the Dubai Creek.
A few minutes later we were treated to beautiful rays of sunshine through the clouds and the city began to come to life.
Even at this point (around 7am) the viewing deck was by no means busy. Everyone was calm watching the sunrise, taking photos and enjoying the view.
We stayed at the top for nearly two hours. When we went to go down again there still wasn’t a queue. We were going back to our hotel for breakfast so we didn’t take up the offer of coffee and a pastry on the ground floor but it smelt great. Walking back through the mall as shop workers were opening up we were super-tired (we ended up going straight back to bed!) but knew we’d had a very special experience.
Have you made a special trip for a sunrise?