Where to stay in Dubai
1. For a sleek stay: The Armani Hotel, housed in the Burj Khalifa, has all the style you’d expect from fashion icon Giorgio Armani, plus incredibe views over Downtown Dubai. The signature restaurant serves exceptional Italian cuisine.
2. For a beach break: If opulence is your thing, the One&Only Royal Mirage will not fail to impress. The Arabian palace-inspired decor is enough to make any guest feel like royalty, plus there’s access to a gorgeous private beach.
3. For family fun: Atlantis, The Palm is one of Dubai’s most iconic buildings, soaring high above the man-made Palm Island. Its underwater theme and on-site water park make it a brilliant upmarket family resort.
On a budget:
1. For an arty escape: In the heart of the Al Fahidi Historical District, the XVA Art Hotel has a pretty tree-filled courtyard where breakfast is served, and simple but spotless rooms. The hotel doubles up as a gallery, with paintings and illustrations by locals hanging on the walls.
2. For a basic retreat: Among the hustle and bustle of Bur Dubai the the Arabian Courtyard Hotel & Spa is a pleasant escape. There’s a rooftop restaurant and Indian/Arabian-inspired decor throughout.
3. For affordable luxury: The reasonably priced Melia Dubai is a perfect compromise. It’s stylish, clean and has a rooftop pool for cooling off after a long hot day.
Where to eat in Dubai
1. For local fare: Head to Tawasol near the Deira clocktower for Emirati food in a traditional communal setting, or join the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for a brunch with the locals.
2. For Friday brunch blowouts: All-you-can-eat-and-drink indulgence on a Friday afternoon is a weekly tradition among expats in Dubai. Book your spot at Zuma for sensational Japanese dishes, or head to the W Hotel for superb Mediterranean cuisine.
3. For fine-dining: At the end of the Al Qasr Hotel’s private pier, Pierchic has gorgeous sea views and sublime seafood. For Western-Chinese fusion, book a table at Zheng He’s in the pretty Madinat Jumeirah.
Insider travel tips
1. Get a discount: Invest in the Entertainer discount card for 450 AED and you can make back the cost and then some through huge discounts at restaurants and attractions throughout the city.
2. Be a lady: Tuesday is Ladies’ Night throughout Dubai, meaning women get free entry or free drinks in many of the popular bars and clubs.
3. Budget beaches: Don’t pay for the privilege of sunning yourself on private beaches in Dubai if you just want a day out on the sand. Head to Jumeirah Beach Park and Al Mamzar Beach Park (5 AED entry each) where there are plenty of seaside facilities at your disposal.
Dubai day trips
If you want to get out of the big city and discover more of the UAE, try one of these great day trips from Dubai:
1. Desert safaris: Just an hour out of the city a vast expanse of desert awaits exploration. Take a Platinum Heritage desert safari (with the option to stay overnight) to explore a wildlife reserve by vintage jeep, then watch a falconry display before tucking into traditional Arabian food at their Bedouin camp. Come darkness, the stars are the main event – a rare sight for Dubai city dwellers.
2. Abu Dhabi: Another record-breaking city, home to the world’s furthest-leaning manmade tower and the world’s largest hand-woven rug, is just 90 minutes by road from Dubai. Abu Dhabi, the country’s capital, is another modern metropolis with three must-see attractions: the stunning Sheikh Zayed Mosque, the Abu Dhabi Louvre and the impressive Emirates Palace Hotel where you can stop for a coffee in ultra-opulent surroundings.
3. Jebel Jais: In the far north of the UAE near the border with Oman, around 90 minutes’ drive from Dubai, is the country’s tallest mountain: Jebel Jais. Take a day trip with Safarak and drive through the desert to Ras Al Khaimah where you’ll ascend the spotless tarmac road that winds up the mountain, then settle in to watch the sunset behind the craggy peaks as you feast on a picnic of Middle Eastern salads and sweets.
The best time to visit Dubai
The summer months in Dubai (May-September) are often unbearably hot, sometimes topping 50°C. Plan your trip for the winter months (between October and February) if you don’t want to fry, though bear in mind December and January are peak season, so the beaches and hotels will be busy.
How to get there
Dubai is an international travel hub, with hundreds of daily flights in and out of the country to destinations all over the world. The international airport, which is served by over 50 different airlines including most major carriers, is just 14km from Downtown Dubai and 33km to the Marina, and it has its own metro stop connecting the city to the skies.