Occasionally, it feels like everything is conspiring against you, doesn’t it? You got sucked into finishing yet more work that was offloaded onto your plate. You got an unexpected phone call that couldn’t wait. Your train was delayed on the way back from the gym where you were working on that summer body. By the time you got back home you were so exhausted and inevitably you got sucked into your Instagram feed and got FOMO.
With such a busy lifestyle, you don’t have time to research every aspect of your trip ahead of time. But you’ve made it now. You’re here. That trip to Dubai has finally arrived and this guide can be your tick list of the top ten things to do in Dubai before you head home!
Well, I couldn’t help you with your packing, or ensure you got to the airport on time, but I can help you make sure that once you get to Dubai, you know the best things to do and see, so you come back raving about what a great time you’ve had!
Here are the top 10 things, in no particular order, that you’ve just got to do in Dubai:
1. Go on a romantic Gondola ride
Before I visited Dubai, I’d never thought of it as a spot for romance. Oh boy, I was wrong. Before you leave you must take a gondola ride through Madinat Jumeirah, a harbour-side hotel combining luxury with tradition in a truly unique spot. The hotel sits on a beautiful web of meandering waterways and walkways linking each part of the resort. Arrive at sunset and ask your butler or concierge to show you to the nearest “Abra spot”, from where you can relax onto a gondola with your loved one and enjoy a truly unique experience. Nothing beats the joy of sharing this smooth journey across the tranquil waters, passing private enclaves, endless palm trees and Arabic inspired forts, with someone you care for. As the sun sets see this all light up and witness the distinctive sail-shaped silhouette of Burj Al Arab. We took the “Abra” or cushioned gondola to Pai Thai restaurant but, for romance, I’d skip Pai Thai. Instead I’d recommend taking the gondola journey from the Souk Madinat waterfront to one of the many luxury hotel bars.
2. Visit Dubai Mall and the Fountain Show
This is no ordinary mall. It’s showy and exuberant and on the fine line between elegant and maybe-gone-too-far but it’s a must visit if you’re in Dubai. From the elaborate fountains to the glass tunnels of sea life in the aquarium, you’re spoilt for choice. With stores from all over the world and not one but two Sephora stores, it’s a shopaholics dream. For those who aren’t into shopping you’ll be glad to know that Dubai Mall has tonnes of restaurants. I’d highly recommend heading to one of the restaurants with an outdoor area, like Wafi Gourmet, to eat whilst watching the fountains. The amazing fountain display starts every 30 minutes, and the music and lights change. I had gone with low expectations but loved it.
3. Search for the Best Hummus Beiruti in town
Am I the only one who didn’t know how incredible the Hummus Beiruti is in Dubai before I went? Every time I asked for recommendations I got told more and more places to try. There are lots of great ones so go on a hunt and try loads, they all taste a little different, some more like a classic hummus, some with a lot more garlic and some spicy. They’re absolutely delicious and a pleasure to eat with the fluffy, pillowy breads which arrive at your table, hot and puffy. My favourite spot for Hummus Beiruti was in super casual local haunt, Mezza House, which also doubles as an epic spot for people watching! It was recommended to us by local friends and there’s a great atmosphere too.
4. Eat excellent Pan-Asian food
You’re absolutely spoiled for choice and according to my taste buds, the Pan-Asian food in Dubai is a thousand times better than that which we have in the UK. Dare I say it, before I came to Dubai, I didn’t really like Pan-Asian! We had lots of it and with no regrets. Here are my suggestions by area:
- Dubai Marina and nearby: Asia Asia at Pier 7 is the spot to go to if you’re staying nearby to the Marina. It’s absolutely excellent and the only reason I don’t have a blog post on it is that it’s candlelit so I couldn’t take photos! It also boasts gorgeous views of the Dubai Marina skyline and has excellent cocktails!
- Jumeirah and nearby: Zengo at Le Royal Meridien has some of the most delicious sushi and grilled items I’ve had in the last few years!
- The Palm Jumeirah: Nobu at the Atlantis is your best bet but do make sure you read my post first so you know what to order and what to skip!
5. Visit the Souks
Slightly away from the tourist hubs of the Palm, the Marina and Jumeirah Beach, you can visit the Dubai Souks, a collection of unassuming streets, packed with spices, perfume, oud and gold. Dubai is known for cheap gold but even if, like me, that’s not what you’re in Dubai for, it’s a unique spot to walk around in the late afternoon, once the midday sun has gone. Bartering for spices is great fun and it’s a good spot to take home some unique souvenirs such as fragrant flower teas or handcrafted oud diffusers.
6. Have drinks in the sky – 122 floors above ground!
On the 122nd floor of the world’s tallest building, Burj Khalifa, through an entrance to the Armani Hotel, is one of the best bars I’ve ever been to. This bar goes by the name of “At.mosphere”. 422 metres above the ground, you can enjoy breathtakingly pretty views and innovative cocktails, with ingredients from around the world. Some of these are elaborately served on dry ice or with theatrical touches.
I have no idea why it has a full stop in the middle of its name but what I do know is that At.mosphere at the Burj Khalifa has some of the most exquisite cocktails and views of any bar I’ve ever been to. It’s opulent, luxurious, and extravagant and with an unrivalled wow factor. This is one for those of you who appreciate a view on the side of your drink! Many people buy tickets for “At the top” which is the viewing platform at the Burj Khalifa on the 124th and 125th floor but personally, I think this is a more luxurious and more relaxing alternative that you mustn’t miss!
7. Try the best French food outside of France
I fell in love with La Petite Maison in DIFC, Dubai. Yes. It really is that good! Make sure you reserve ahead and don’t leave until trying the epic apple tart and crème brûlée!
8. Unwind with a spa day at Le Royal Meridien
Aaaand relax! Is there anything more calming than a spa day? I loved the Roman-themed Caracalla spa at Le Royal Meridien hotel, though we weren’t staying there we were able to book massages and buy day passes. With fantastic Elemis massages, well equipped shower rooms, both male and female hammams, sauna and steam facilities you’re all set to melt away any stresses. On top of this, you have access to the gorgeous outdoor pools and the private beach – it’s a perfect way to rejuvenate. Given that we were there during Ramadan there were even offers making our treatments even more of an affordable luxury!
9. Spot a luxury car (or two or three!)
If you visit Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, you may be lucky enough to see or hear a supercar zooming past you, coming to a grinding halt as the traffic builds up outside Harrods superstore. By comparison, in Dubai, the official playground of the ultra-rich of the Middle East, you can’t travel down Sheikh Zayed road (the longest road in the Emirates) without spotting dozens of cars with eye-watering price tags. What do you expect from the city that owns the world’s fastest police car, the Bugatti Veyron? (In case you thought that I had become a car expert I should let you know that actually The Doc told me what make it was…)
Our most surprising moment was when we walked out of the Atlantis hotel after visiting Nobu only to find that the valet had got our fleet of Ferraris and Lamborghinis ready for us… We wished they were ours at least!
10. Beach it up!
Jumeirah beach is the first beach where I’ve been able to swim in hot water – the sea temperature reached 27 °C whilst we were there so there’s no reason not to jump right in! I loved this beach in that it was so unique. On one side, you see endless water and the occasional camel strutting across the sand, and on the other Dubai’s skyline. It may be manmade but if you can handle the heat, it’s a lovely space to relax. If you prefer a more photographic guide then do connect with me on Instagram!
You work hard and play hard and now’s the time for you to kick back and enjoy yourself in Dubai. Have a great trip and comment below with any other tips you have too, I’d love to hear them!
This post was written as part of a monthly collaboration with my fellow travel blogging friends on the Travel Link Up, where we all write on a set theme. Check out the latest posts on Follow Your Sunshine, SilverSpoon London, Adventures of a London Kiwi or on the blog of our lovely guest host Erin at Erin Out and About to see more!