It’s not always where you want to go, but how you want to get there.
Taking a flight to Dubai, where ‘the world’s longest, tallest, biggest and best’ is, including man-made marvels that have rewritten record books have attracted tourists all over the world to Dubai.
As someone who lives part-time in Canada and part-time in the UAE, here is my Guide to Dubai:
In Dubai, tourists and residents alike have the world on a plate. No matter what your heart desires, Dubai has it all.
THE BEST PLACES TO STAY
- With a palm-lined road and stunning courtyard, the One&Only Royal Mirage was the very first Hotel I stayed at in Dubai and it certainly won’t be the last time I stay there.
- The XVA Art Hotel is a boutique art hotel like no other.
- The Armani Hotel is inside the world’s tallest tower and Georgio Armani’s first hotel property.
- Since its inception off Jumeirah Beach in 1999 – the Burj al Arab has been a symbol in Dubai for many years. With an atrium that rises 590 feet embodied by waterfalls, serene aquariums, crystal ceilings, silk wallpaper and the crème de la crème of design and innovation. It is personally the hotel I stay at when I’m in town.
Whether its La Petite Maison, Il Borro Tuscan Bistro, Marina Social or Bistrot Bagatelle showing off their superb plant-based options on their menus – there is something for everyone.
Whether it’s Michelin-starred restaurants such as Marea that has great Italian-style cuisine with slick service or ONI, a Japanese restaurant and lounge with a chic atmosphere – there are also many other hidden gems. Try gold-dusted sushi at A.E.R. located in DIFC, Arabic cuisine at Antika or Asian cuisine at Shanghai Me.
Whether you visit award-winning restaurants from Nobu to Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen, visit the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah for an underwater dining experience surrounded by an aquarium.
For a fun vibe try Zuma, Buddha Bar, the Bulgari Yacht Club, or Atmosphere at the Burj Khalifa.
For traditional Emirati cuisine, head to Al Fahidi area near Dubai Museum in Bur Dubai, to the Arabian Tea House. Here you can try Arabic coffee, Emirati stews, kebabs, camel milk ice creams and more. For modern Emirati cooking, try Logma – which has chebab (pancakes) with cream cheese and date syrup, regag (a thin, crisp bread), fusion parathas, machboos and other Emirate delicacies. One of my all-time favorites is the Baku Cafe in Dubai, for the best kabobs and a taste of Azerbaijan.
Bars such as A.E.R. Lounge & Bar, Antika Bar, O’Learys, Roar, The Lounge Burj Khalifa, Baoli and Mood Rooftop Lounge are some of the newest and trendiest rooftop bars, exotic gardens, shisha lounges and places to sip on a cocktail while taking in panoramic views of Dubai. For a speakeasy experience, try The Luggage Room – which is a “secret bar” set behind a heavy unmarked door in the lobby of Millennium Place Marina while jazz and classic beats place as you cozy up against faux suitcase-stacked walls and sit on furniture with an old-school vibe. Another spot is the Havana Social Club – a Cuban bar on Bluewaters Dubai with vibrant street food, 1950’s Havana glamour and flamboyant dancing. It’s especially a popular place to checkout on a THURSDAY NIGHT. If you want to stick with the Latin theme, try CoveBeach, MINA Brasserie or Poppy by David Myers – all fun, lively places to salsa, cha cha and rhumba the night away.
Speaking of drinks, there’s great news for ladies! In the UAE, there is always an opportunity to have FREE drinks as there is always bound to be a Ladies Night somewhere. One of my personal favourites is At.mosphere, Burj Khalifa’s Ladies’ Night. With ladies paying around Dhs200 every Tuesday between 9 pm. and midnight, enjoy sky-high views of Dubai at night with flowing sparkling grape and selection of canapés, with an after party till 3 a.m. at Armani Prive. Another option is Noir, which is a glamourous way to drink in style at a trendy bar every Thursday from 8 p.m. until 11 p.n. and get unlimited bubbly and six freshly shucked oysters for Dhs195.
For FREE exhibitions, there are a variety of globally recognized galleries such as: Leila Heller Gallery, Jameel Arts Centre and The Third Line.
Looking for a fun brunch spot in Dubai? Look no further. From Atelier M in Pier 7 for gazing out at sparkly Marina Lights, to Boardwalk that has a massive terrace over the water located at Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, to Mina’s Kitchen breakfast brunch to miX by Alain Ducasse, Wet Deck – Dubai has some of the trendiest spots to eat brunch at, As Qasr Brunch or Villa Beach at the revamped Jumeriah Beach Hotel. If you are into Dim Sum, Han Shi Fu has unlimited dim sum and sushi for brunch. For a brunch buffet, try Brasserie 2.0. Feeling fancy? Try a brunch that serves dishes from MasterChef, The TV Experience that presented dishes from past winners from the hit television show. For brunch with a view, try all’onda, Il Faro or Key West Bar & Grill.
Sky Zone activity park has a variety of things to do such as: a trampoline park, dodge ball, a warrior course, zip line, wall climbing and much more. If you want to make a splash in Dubai, visit Aquaventure Waterpark, where you can swim with dolphins, go through a glass tunnel with sharks, or feed some stingrays. Visiting the Burj Khalifa, which is currently the tallest building in the world with 160 floors and 828 metres high – you can head to the 148th floor and enjoy the views or dine at the world’s highest restaurant – At.mosphere. If you are an adrenaline junkie – try Skydive Dubai – where you can jump out of a plane at speeds of 120mph over a man-made island. If you prefer the theme of heights, try skiing on an indoor slope! That’s right, Ski Dubai is the Middle East’s only indoor ski slope, complete with real snow… and you can meet real penguins too! If you are feeling adventurous, visit IMG Worlds of Adventure – the world’s largest indoor theme park. Velociraptor goes from 0 to 100kph in a terrifyingly quick 2.5 seconds. With the world as your oyster in Dubai, end your day at Global Village – with more than 70 countries represented with themed stalls, shows, presentations and attractions as well as more than 100 kiosks offering street food from around the globe. If you would like a relaxing setting, visit the Dubai Opera, book a Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, have a spa Day at the Burj Al Arab or the Bulgari Hotel. I personally also like to visit the Dubai Miracle Garden.
My personal favorite ways to enjoy a beach day are at Nikki Beach Dubai that offers great music, a fun party vibe and indulgent food and drinks. Blue Marlin UAE Ibiza serves up Mediterranean dishes with BBQ’d meats while you lay on a beach bed all day. Another beach to check out while in Dubai is Saddiyat Beach that has perfectly preserved sand dunes and a great opportunity to sight dolphins. Only a ten-minute ferry ride from Saddiyat is Zaya Nurai Island – where most of your entry fee is given back in credit to spend on lunch, a spa experience or an array of available watersports. Last but not least, Zero Gravity is another popular beach club in Dubai that hosts a happening party every weekend.
Treasures from far and wide are found in Dubai. Whether you choose to shop at The Dubai Mall – known as the world’s biggest mall or explore The Gold Souk, which has hundreds of retails offering a selection of jewelry, diamond and other precious stones or the Textile Souk that has a wonderful selection of colourful fabrics. Other major areas to shop include Mall of the Emirates, towards the southern end of the city (nearer Dubai Marina) or outlet malls such as The Outlet Village in Jebel Ali and the enormous Dubai Outlet Mall.
Don’t forget to visit one of the self-service kiosks to claim your tax refund at DXB located at Terminal 1 and Terminal 3. These kiosks enable international shoppers to validate their own tax-free purchases.
Swimwear is acceptable on the beach or by a pool, but anything exceptionally revealing, should be avoided. It’s important to dress respectfully and thoughtfully. The rule of thumb in the UAE is to make sure your T-shirt covers your shoulders, and your shorts, skirt and dresses cover the knee. Sheer and very short fabrics are generally frowned upon.
SIP! SIP! HOORAY!
The consumption of alcohol is permitted in designated, appropriately licensed restaurants and bars.
Tourists can purchase alcohol from licensed retailers such as MMI, which has 17 stores across Dubai. Only non-Muslims who are over the age of 21 may purchase and consume alcohol in Dubai.
Those visiting the UAE on a tourist visa may rent and drive a car with their home country driving license, if they are from selected regions. Download the Uber app.