Countless times, I've had friends or family stopping at Abu Dhabi for a long layover with no idea what to do, or whether it's even worth it to leave the airport and explore. But trust me, it 100% is- even if just for a meal. 

As a food-oriented traveller, I really appreciate a good meal-itinerary that complements my site-seeing destinations for the trip, and Abu Dhabi is the perfect place to plan a day of cultural as well as culinary exploration. So here's a list of the restaurants you must visit if you're only here for less than 24 hours, that are also close to some of Abu Dhabi's iconic tourist hubs-

1. Breakfast 

The most important meal of the day- start the day right with a  scrumptious breakfast at Circle Cafe on Saadiyat island. Conveniently located just a few minutes away from The Louvre, this is the ideal spot to enjoy a relaxing morning with a hot cappuccino, and if you have a sweet tooth, some melt-in-the-mouth carrot cake. 

#SpoonTip: Go for the Shakshouka if you want a taste of some traditional Middle Eastern poached eggs on a bed of spiced tomatoes. 

2. Lunch 

hummus, Pita, bruschetta, tomatoes, Olio
Matthew Wenger

Located a short cab ride away from the scenic Corniche Beach is Hamdan Street, a vibrant, buzzing area of Abu Dhabi that will give you an authentic feel of the city. On Hamdan, definitely try some traditional Lebanese food at Al Farah.

Siya Chandrie

As a self-proclaimed hummus enthusiast, this place is paradise because of its constant supply of fresh, hot bread to dip into their flavorful hummus. Manakish, of course, is another must. I like to describe it as the Levant region's equivalent of pizza. My ideal go-to meal at Al Farah is usually stuffed vine leaves, hummus, and the meat & cheese manakish. The best part? It's super reasonably priced!

3. Tea time

Mehak Dhawan

Wind down your evening with a masala chai (tea) and a relaxing sunset at Chhappan Bhog, an Indian restaurant located just a few minutes away from Al Farah.

No trip to the UAE is complete without a taste of some authentic desi (South Asian) food. Sounds unexpected, I know, considering we're in the Middle East- but nearly 60% of the population here consists of people from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Oddly enough, the Indian food I've eaten here is as authentic as the food back home in Mumbai. 

Siya Chandrie

You'll probably be stuffed after lunch at Al Farah, but if by some miracle you can still squeeze in a snack, be sure to try the variety of chaat (a type of tangy, spicy Indian snack) at Chhappan Bhog. A personal favorite is the Samosa chaat, with the perfect combination of spice from the potato and a drizzle of cool yoghurt. 

4. Dinner 

After spending some time at the magnificent Grand Mosque, head over to Umm Al Emarat Park for a view of the city from the tower, and a relaxing end to the hectic day. Check out SALT, a cute and hipster food truck, for some delicious burgers, fries and milkshakes. 

Abu Dhabi is a food adventure waiting to happen- whether you're here for a weekend or just a day, make your trip worthwhile by trying these delicious restaurants that are also conveniently located near some of the city's iconic tourist destinations.