Only a handful of places in the world do excess like Dubai. Skyscrapers that seem to graze the stratosphere; shopping malls that are actually more like amusement parks; restaurants that don't simply serve a meal but take you on a whirlwind culinary journey; this is what Dubai does best. Not to mention the hotels…
Where to stay in Dubai
Dubai boasts some of the world's most exclusive (and expensive) hotels in the world. These not-so-humble abodes give guests access to helipads for a James Bond-esque entrance, and private docks for their super yachts. Their infinity pools glisten dozens of storeys above the traffic below with glass bottoms and floating Champagne buckets. The suites are fit for royalty (because often, that's the clientele), and their service is second to none. These places also carry a price tag most would gawk at. But that doesn't mean Dubai is only a place for the rich and famous.
A five star experience, while still a splash, is far more achievable than you might think. Many of Dubai's stellar hotels offer a range of rooms, including those on the lower end of the price spectrum, that still give you access to the luxury amenities enjoyed by those in the penthouse. For example, a balcony room at the 5-Star Fairmont The Palm hotel costs around ₤130 pounds/€150 per night, including a lavish buffet breakfast spread, access to 4 swimming pools, a private beach and a 24-hour concierge to meet your every demand.
If you're only stopping over for a few days, check to see if your airline offers a stopover deal. Emirates has, in the past, offered free nights in luxury hotels and generous discounts on a bounty of attractions to entice travellers to spend a few nights in the city. (Many cities that are classed as major airline hubs do this from time to time).
If you are ready to go all out, however, here are a few of my top picks in Dubai.
Bulgari Resort Dubai
Located on the shores of Jumeirah Bay, this elegant property has everything you need for a luxurious escape, from gourmet restaurants to intricately designed mosaics surrounding the lavish swimming pool. If the exclusive Bulgari Yacht Club and the private beach don't reel you in, the 1,700 square-metre hammam spa might bring you over the line. My top pick is the Pool Villa with Beach view; total privacy, a huge outdoor entertainment area and the comfiest king bed you'll ever sleep on.
Burj Al Arab
Shooting skyward on its own island, Burj Al Arab is a suite-only resort offering breathtaking views of the Arabian Gulf through floor-to-ceiling windows. Whether you arrive by a chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce or use the hotel's dedicated helicopter transfer service, the welcome you receive will be second to none. Be sure to grab a drink from the Sky View Bar, suspended 200 metres above the sea and bask in the sun in your own private cabana by the pool.
Waldorf Astoria Dubai Palm Jumeirah
Spread out along the famous Palm Jumeirah, this resort takes beachside luxury to another level. With six restaurants on site, you'll be dining like royalty every meal, whether it be dolled up in the fine dining outfits or by the beach on your sun lounger. The Pearl Club Suites are perfect for a romantic getaway for two, with a spacious ocean-view terrace, huge walk-in robe and a bath tub you'll never want to get out of.
Things to do in Dubai
As gorgeous as Dubai's 5-Star hotels are, you'll want to get out and explore at some point. High tea at the Burj Khalifa (currently the world's tallest building) and sunset drinks at Jumeirah Beach are essentials to tick off.
If you've got some space to fill in your suitcase, a visit to the Dubai Mall will fill it right up. There's more than 1,200 stores including everything from Bulgari to Birkenstock. The Galleria Mall in Jumeirah is where you’ll find lesser-known boutiques such as Zayan the Label and Mumuso.
At the base of the Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Fountain puts on a spectacular light and water show every evening with accompanying music perfectly choreographed to match the jets shooting into the air.
Don’t forget to see Dubai’s original tourist attraction, the Arabian Desert. Take a desert safari through the dunes on a quad-biking, 4WD or sand boarding adventure. Otherwise, opt for a slower-paced camel ride or luxury picnic in the desert. You can even get a taste of Bedouin life at the Al Marmoon Bedouin Experience by Platnium Heritage.
If you manage to see everything you want to in Dubai, head across to its neighbouring city, Abu Dhabi. Just over an hour’s drive, the capital of the UAE gives Dubai a run for its money when it comes to luxury and excess. Art buffs can visit the Louvre Abu Dhabi, and foodies can book an otherworldly dining experience at the Emirates Palace (possibly the most photogenic building in the entire city).
Where to eat in Dubai
When it comes to food, you might have a hard time choosing between the dozens of michelin star restaurants but Coya at the Four Seasons Resort on Jumeirah Beach or Ronda Locatelli at Atlantis - The Palm would be a good place to start.
If you’re looking to try traditional Emirati cuisine, Aljalboot Restaurant in Jumeirah is an excellent place to sample authentic local cuisine with a strong seafood focus. Try the Biryani shrimp and the signature seafood soup. Al Fanar is another much-loved outlet offering a more casual dining experience, serving up dishes such as Maleh Nashef (salted fish in a rich tomato sauce) and Emirati chicken tikka.
While not exactly a luxury experience, a trip to the supermarket will reveal a whole new side of Emirati cuisine. Think stuffed dates stacked 50 rows high, creamy hummus topped with pomegranate seeds and pistachios, and a bakery sending the scent of freshly-baked flatbreads all throughout the store.
Feel like treating yourself to a luxury Dubai escape? I’d be happy to talk it through with you. There’s plenty more tips and recommendations where this came from! Get in touch to start planning your dream trip today.