Sharjah is often overlooked by visitors to the UAE who prefer to visit its glitzy and glamorous neighbour Dubai but Sharjah has a charm all of its own. Full of cultural attractions and museums, Sharjah offers a contrasting perspective of the UAE and provides visitors with a deep insight into the culture that underpins the modern nation.
Sharjah is also a very family-friendly emirate with education at the core of most of its attractions.
In addition to historical sites, museums and galleries, there are numerous parks, beaches and other family-friendly venues making Sharjah the perfect place to visit with children. In this post we’ll cover:
- How to get to Sharjah from Dubai
- Sharjah’s best museums and cultural attractions
- Fun nature & animal experiences in Sharjah
- Places to relax and unwind in Sharjah
- Places to shop in Sharjah
You can use our handy map here to work your way around the Emirate of Sharjah:
NB the Emirate of Sharjah is actually split between the shores of the Arabian Gulf and enclaves on the east coast. This guide focusses on the main city & central regions of Sharjah. We cover the eastern enclaves of Sharjah in more detail here.
Differences between Sharjah and Dubai
Whilst the two are neighbouring Emirates with no physical border, it’s important to note some subtle differences. Sharjah takes its decency laws very seriously. Both women and men should dress modestly ensuring that knees, shoulders and mid-drifts are covered.
It is also important to note that Sharjah is a ‘dry’ emirate meaning that the purchase, carrying and consumption of alcohol is strictly forbidden.
Getting there, Dubai to Sharjah
Whilst the roads in Sharjah are notorious for congestion, the fact that the main visitor attractions can be found in little clusters makes a day trip (taking in two or three different places) relatively easy.
Many of Sharjah’s main tourist spots are scattered around the Heritage and Arts or ‘Heart of Sharjah’ area near the Corniche or in the Sharjah Desert Park area 25kms outside the city.
The City of Sharjah is just a 25-minute drive from Dubai International Airport DXB along the E11 (taxis cost in the region of 50 AED). Alternatively, you can take the Dubai Metro and bus which takes around 35 minutes and costs around 7 AED.
Alternatively, overseas visitors coming on a day trip from Dubai may want to join either the City Sightseeing Bus, or take a guided tour from your hotel in Dubai for ease of access to all the city highlights of Sharjah:
Sharjah’s Best Museums and Cultural Attractions
Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization
An extensive and enlightening collection offering an insight into the history and culture of Islamic civilisations to the whole family. Located in a former souk, the museum is vast by UAE standards. It has a well thought out layout and clear interpretation as well as fun interactive displays in some galleries.
The Abu Bakr Gallery on the ground floor explains the Five Pillars of Islam offering an excellent introduction to the religion to those with little prior knowledge. The Ibn Al Haitham Gallery, on the other hand, contains numerous science and technology exhibits which highlight the contributions that Islamic scientists have made to the modern world. The ceiling dome depicting the signs of the zodiac is also not to be missed!
The museum has a café, toilets and baby changing facilities and disabled and buggy access.
You can learn more about the Museum of Islamic Civilisation here
Sharjah Art Museum
At the heart of the ‘Art Area’ Sharjah Art Museum is one of the largest museums in the UAE.
The Museum displays art dating from the 18th Century as well as having a number of well-curated contemporary exhibitions. Guided tours are available, or you can stroll around the galleries at your leisure. The Museum periodically offers workshops for families with children aged 7 and over as well as workshops for families with children with disabilities aged 3 and over. For more details contact the museum directly by phoning 065197255.
The museum has toilets, baby changing facilities, a feeding room and a café. There is wheelchair and buggy access. Entry is free. Belongings must be left in lockers in the reception area.
Sharjah Al Hisn Fort Museum
Situated on the edge of the Heritage District, Sharjah Fort or Al Hisn as it is known locally was built in 1820 by Sheikh Sultan bin Saqr Al Qasimi. No trip to the UAE is complete without a visit to at least one of the coral and adobe forts that punctuate the desert.
The exhibitions inside the fort give a good introduction to the history of Sharjah. Children will love exploring the battlements whilst mum and dad enjoy the atmospheric surroundings.
Open 8am-8pm Saturday – Thursday and 4pm-8pm on Fridays. Entrance is 10 AED for Adults, 5 AED for children aged 2-12 and free for under 2s.
Learn more about Sharjah Fort here
Al Noor Mosque
The beautiful Al Noor Mosque, located on Khalid Lagoon, is open to non-Muslim visitors for guided tours. All visitors should dress modestly in loose-fitting clothes and women should cover their hair.
Tours last about an hour are free and are operated by the Sharjah Centre for Cultural Communication on a Monday and Thursday at 10am. For more details contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sitting outside of the main city, the new Sharjah Mosque opened in 2019 to welcome up to 25,000 worshippers at one time. Built on a stunningly grand scale, there is a track that wraps its way around the Mosque to admire its architecture from every angle outside. Inside, there is a cafeteria, gift shop and space for non-Muslim visitors (though at present we understand no guided tours).
Sharjah Science Museum
An interactive Science centre which makes learning fun for the whole family. Exhibits and demonstrations cover a variety of topics including, the human body, electricity and aerodynamics. There is also a planetarium.
The Museum also caters for very young children with a hands-on learning area that toddlers can explore with their parents and a soft play zone. There are also family-friendly workshops on offer such as
The Museum has toilets, baby-changing facilities, feeding rooms and a café. There is also a prayer room.
Open Saturday – Thursday 8am – 8pm, Friday 4pm – 8pm. Entrance is 10 AED for Adults, 5 AED for children aged 2-12 and free for under 2s, over 60s and people with disabilities.
For more details visit the Sharjah Museums webpage
Sharjah Calligraphy Museum
Lovers of beautiful writing shouldn’t miss this amazing collection. Located on Calligraphy Square in the Heart of Sharjah District, the museum contains significant works by both locally and internationally renowned calligraphers. As well as permanent exhibitions the museum offers a variety of workshops to visitors.
For more information visit the Sharjah Museums webpage.
Sharjah Classic Car Museum
If you’re a real lover of classic cars, make some time to visit Sharjah Classic Car Museum. Entry is 5AED and whilst the museum is not massive there is enough to entertain any little classic car aficionados that you may have in your midst. Note that there are toilets on site but there is no café so make sure that you take drinks and snacks.
Open 8am-8pm Saturday-Thursday, Open 4pm-8pm on Fridays.
Fun nature & animal experiences in Sharjah
Sharjah Aquarium and Maritime Museum
A large aquarium with 20 tanks that recreate different aquatic environments including a walk-through tunnel which is sure to wow the little ones!
Feeds and talks are scheduled throughout the day and there’s the opportunity for children to get hands-on with a number of interactive displays. Workshops including making sea-shell embellished picture frames are also occasionally available for the over7s.
Entry to the museum also includes the adjacent Maritime Museum where a variety of family-friendly workshops are on offer including making Fish Machboos (a local seafood dish) and making bath bombs (March 2020). For workshop dates email the Sharjah Museums Authority.
Open 8am-8pm Saturday to Thursday, 4pm-10pm on Fridays. Closed on Sundays.
Did you know? If the snarling traffic puts you off visiting Sharjah you can catch an RTA Ferry from Al Ghubaiba Marine Station in Dubai to Aquarium Marine Station Sharjah – learn more here!
Sharjah Natural History and Botanical Museum
A 25km drive from the city of Sharjah in the Sharjah Desert Park is the Natural History & Botanical Museum. Another well-designed museum that can be enjoyed by the whole family with lots of opportunities for hands-on learning. The museum contains five galleries exploring life on earth since the dawn of time. Exhibits include fossils, meteorites, taxidermy and a botanical garden hosting a variety of native plant species.
Included in the ticket price is access to The Sharjah Discovery Centre and the petting zoo at Arabia’s Wildlife Centre both definitely worth a visit.
Open 9am – 5.30pm most days, except Thursdays 11am – 5.30pm, Fridays 2pm – 5.30pm and Tuesdays (Closed).
Arabia’s Wildlife Centre
A Centre devoted to the conservation and understanding of the native wildlife of the region. Over 100 species are on display including many that are close to extinction.
Visit the reptile house where you can see numerous snakes, scorpions and camel spiders; then head to the aviary where you will find songbirds, Indian Roller birds and flamingos. Within the aviary, you will find a walk-through cave in which there is a tank containing a species of blind fish found only in Oman.
Our favourite area of the centre is the nocturnal house where you can learn about how the desert comes alive at night. It is also possible to see baboons, wolves and the rare Arabian leopard. There is also a petting zoo where children can get up close to goats, camels and other farm animals and a café selling snacks and light meals.
For more details visit epaashj.ae
Sharjah Discovery Centre
The Sharjah Discovery Centre is conceptually similar to Kidzania, offering children the opportunity to learn about the world around them in a miniature version of the adult world.
Designed for children between the ages of 3 and 12 the centre is divided into seven areas, these include; Build Town where children can build their own house using cranes and construction blocks; An Airport where the children work through different airport procedures; and water world where children can splash around in little boats and learn about how different things move in the water.
A great place for imaginative play and for an entry fee of just 10 AED, this is a total bargain! Located in the ancient village of Mleiha, around 65 km away from the city of Sharjah, the centre revolves around a working archaeological site where finds have demonstrated human habitation for some 120,000 years.
The centre provides an insight into the lives of the peoples occupying the area since that time. A number of tombs occupy the site as well as a ‘palace’ and ‘farmhouse’ complex.
Whether you choose to do a day trip or camp overnight, you’re sure to be wowed by the centre’s customer service. The natural beauty of the area is stunning but there are plenty of home comforts such as cafes and toilets.
The centre offers a fascinating family-friendly educational programme including sessions in stargazing as well as desert safaris. There’s also horseback riding and trekking.
For more details visit discovermleiha.ae
Places to relax and unwind in Sharjah
Al Majaz Waterfront Park
As the sun sets Al Majaz is the place to be. Dancing fountains and mini-golf are just a few of the delights in this hub of family fun. It is also possible to take an Abra from here to gain impressive views of the city from the water or tour the park on the family train. Remember to take towels and swimmers as there is also a splash pad for the kids!
Take a look at what you can expect here:
There are plenty of places to find snacks including the Molten Chocolate Café, Amorino Gelato Café and the Al Fanar restaurant offering Emirati cuisine.
For more details check out the Al Majaz website.
Al Montazah Parks
Al Montazah Parks comprise of a waterpark (Pearls Kingdom) and an outdoor amusement park (Island of Legends) spread over 126,000 square metres on an island (with road access – take the S103) in the middle of a lagoon, opposite the flag island. The whole thing is built in the spirit of adventure and is the perfect place for lots of family fun!
Pearls Kingdom comprises of 25 rides and attractions and has a sort of ‘Arabian Night’s’ theme; there are rides based on flying carpets, pirates and a mystery river. Full access to the park is 110AED for children (free for children under 80cm) and 150 AED for adults.
The park is open daily from 10am until 9pm. Tuesday is, however, Ladies day and men are not permitted.
Island of Legends whisks visitors around a magical world with a number of thrilling rides. The Loch Ness Spin boats bring you up close and personal with the Loch Ness Monster whilst you’ll be launched high into the sky with Dragon Discovery. Full Access to Island of Legends is 120 AED for children and adults.
The parks are clean and well maintained and there are a variety of food and beverage options. There is often live entertainment including singing and dancing and acrobatic displays.
For more details on visiting Al Montazah parks click here.
A pretty pedestrianised zone lining either side of a canal with numerous restaurants, cafes and playgrounds as well as a musical fountain with shows from 5pm.
Al Qasba has everything for a fun-filled evening out. After dinner, why not take a boat ride or hire a luminous & eco-friendly water kart? Go Karts and bikes are also available to hire.
As well as outdoor play areas there is also an indoor play centre for when it’s too hot to play outside.
Al Qasba is also home to the Maraya Art Centre which hosts a number of exhibitions and family-friendly events and has its own sculpture park, the Masrah Al Qasba theatre and the Furat Qaddouri Music Centre which offers music lessons and provides a venue for a variety of concerts.
When the weather sends you indoors, check out Adventureland at the Sahara Centre. A huge jungle-themed play centre with numerous rides, soft play, cookery and arts and crafts areas, it’s certain to keep the kids busy for hours!
For more details including opening hours click here.
There is no shortage of beaches in Sharjah. The beaches along the Corniche tend to get quite crowded but they do have good facilities and offer a variety of water sports.
Al Fisht public beach offers a 600 metre stretch of sand with shady spots to build sandcastles as well as a small playground. Al Khan beach (close to the aquarium) has a very similar setup.
The best family beach in Sharjah is undoubtedly at Khorfakkan on the east coast, you can learn more about the Khorfakkan exclave of Sharjah here.
Places to shop in Sharjah
Souq Al Arsah
One of the oldest souq’s in the UAE, the Souq Al Arsah has a great atmosphere and is the perfect place to pick up those bargain holiday souvenirs.
Central Souk Sharjah (aka Blue Souk)
A beautiful building dating back to the 1970’s, this fully airconditioned indoor market is a classic mix of old and new Sharjah, best known for its gold!
There are a number of modern malls in Sharjah including Mega Mall and City Centre. Each has its own cinema and indoor amusement centres as well as a number of international chain stores, supermarkets and restaurants.
We think that you’ll agree that Sharjah has a lot to offer for families. It is undoubtedly a very friendly emirate placing an emphasis on education as well as fun and encouraging families to gain a greater understanding of the world around them. Offering so many interesting things to do and see, beautiful beaches, relaxing parks and opportunities to explore and camp in pristine desert, why wouldn’t you want to visit Sharjah?
More family adventures around the UAE
If you enjoyed this guide, don’t miss these other fabulous guides to explore all around the Emirates:
- Your Ultimate Guide to UAE Winter Weekends – with a downloadable checklist covering all 7 Emirates
- Exciting things to do in Ras al Khaimah – more forts, mountain, desert & ocean exploration
- Fun Family Things to do in Fujairah – far more than just beautiful beaches, includes Khorfakkan
- Exploring Al Ain & the UAE’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites
- 12 Cultural Highlights you mustn’t miss in Abu Dhabi
- Our favourite UAE Beach Staycation resorts
- UAE Desert resorts you will love (with and without the kids!)
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Post contributed by Lynette Fortey-Burnett, writer & classical Arcahelogist based in the UAE with her family. You can learn more about our contributing writers here.