They say New York is the city that never sleeps, but I truly believe this statement is even more applicable to Dubai. With cars racing down Sheikh Zayed Road at 3 am in the morning and workers drilling through the night in order to create this magnificent skyline there are far better things to do than to sleep in this city…
Most people only see the ‘glitz&glam’ of Dubai, but behind the skyscrapers and multi-million dollar cars and mansions, there is so much more to discover. I was lucky enough to live here for 7 years of my life and I enjoyed every single day of it. With so many things going on around town and sunshine every day, Dubai never gets boring…
Before venturing out and exploring the city you must take a trip up the Burj Khalifa, which is with its soaring 828 meters one of the tallest skyscrapers in the world. If you don’t want to take the tourist route, go visit the At.Mosphere restaurant on top for an unforgettable ‘High Tea’ experience with mesmerizing views over Downtown Dubai and the fountain show at Dubai Mall.
One of my absolute favorite places in the United Arab Emirates is the magical Arabian desert. With the magnificent colors of the sand changing colors with every dune and its exotic wildlife, it invites to some of the most adventurous road trips as well as the most amazing sunset/sunrise and stargazing sessions. I highly recommend taking a tour with Dubai Platinum Heritage, as they take you on an unforgettable safari tour through the Desert Conservation Reserve in some epic vintage cars!
I also recommend checking out the famous Al Maha Desert Resort, which is with its private Pool Villas in the middle of the Desert probably one of the most exclusive places to stay in Dubai. Check out their Spa packages or sunset offers!
While I was living in the city I had so many visitors over the time that I eventually came up with a personal tour including some of my favorite places. One of them was the old town by the creek with its Aladdin-like ‘Souk’, which is an Arabic outdoor market. There you can buy all kinds of things and souvenirs spending much less than at the big shopping malls. From nuts&spices to textiles, art, and pottery all the way to gold and silver, just name a price and don’t forget to bargain!
After shopping your way through the busy market streets, you can relax at some of the traditional tea houses or enjoy some Arabic Mezze, which is similar to a little tapas or Antipasti platter featuring all local specialties, like Hummus and Falafel. My favorite place is the Arabian Tea House in the beautiful Bastakiya Quater.
I also recommend taking one of the old wooden boats, called ‘Abbra’, for the ultimate experience and in order to cross the creek and check out the other side of the market. The ride will cost you only 1 Dhs and it will save you an exhausting taxi drive through Dubai traffic, which can get pretty busy at peak hours.
During winter months, I also like checking out the Ripe Market at Zabeel Park, which offers fresh fruits and veggies along with some local arts and handmade couture.
Another really interesting place to visit is the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, where you can learn about different bird species and watch flamingo feedings (at 10 am and 4 pm!) right in the heart of the city. Did you know for example that flamingos are actually born with grey feathers and obtain their pink color from eating a natural diet of shrimp and algae?
One of my favorite places in the city is Al Quoz and Alserkal Art District, which invites with many cool coffee shops and boutiques away from the tourist crowds downtown. There, you will also find one of my favorite hangouts, the Cafe Rider, which is the ultimate mecca for all bike enthusiasts and coffee lovers.
Some other really nice places to grab something to eat or just have a coffee in this area are Wild and the Moon, Hapi or Tom & Serge. All of them are serving healthy&delicious meal options and really good coffee in a cool atmosphere.
My favorite restaurant and hangout in Dubai will always be Jones the Grocer. I used to spend many evenings here while working on my blog and really enjoy their food, which is always made from the freshest ingredients. They also have a really nice grocery and deli section where you can buy kitchen items and indulge in a cheese tasting room. With several different outlets around town, you can even enjoy a glass of vino and some jazz along with your meal if you opt for the licensed restaurant at the Dusit Thani Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road.
Being a big fan of Mexican food I really love the famous taqueria Maria Bonita as well as the trendy Muchachas Mexican Cantina, which is a licensed shop serving delicious Margaritas and always invites for a great Instagram food snap 😉
Having spent most of my time in the business and urban living area of DIFC, I really feel like a local around here and know most of the restaurants and bars by heart. One of the best eateries are the famous Italian Cipriani, which is inspired by the famous Harry’s Bar in Venice and always invites me for a delicious Bellini cocktail, La Petite Maison, a Cote d’Azur style French-Italian restaurant, and the fancy Asian fusion kitchen and sushi bar Zuma, which serves some of the best cocktails in town. For a more affordable dining experience, I also recommend Burger&Lobster or the Sum of Us, which is not licensed but also serves breakfast along with some pretty good coffee.
For brekkie, I really love the Açai Spot, which serves some of the best Açai bowls in town! Another great spot is the Hamptons Cafe or the coffee shop at the Surf House in Jumeirah, where you can also rent a board and get into the water for an early morning SUP session or -if there are any waves- even do some surf! Jumeirah Beach is really one of my favorite places to hang out and go running. With its bike path right next to the beach stretching all the way from the Open Beach to the majestic Burj Al Arab, where you also find the Wild Wadi Waterpark, you can enjoy a really nice workout before getting into the sea.
Another really great place for a run is the Jumeirah Palm, which invites with incredible views and a path right along the water. There you also find some of the most amazing beach clubs the famous Atlantis Hotel. If you like to take a little stroll, head to The Walk on JBR and check out The Beach, which is the new destination for dining, shopping, and entertainment.
If you looking for a place to stay, I highly recommend the Rove Hotel in Downtown. With its urban vibes, central location and affordable rates it is the ideal place for a city visit. From here, you can walk to Dubai Mall and reach any of the restaurants and bars in DIFC within minutes. The airport is located only 10-15 minutes away by taxi. Go check it out:
For those who prefer to stay close to the beach and want to make their vacation an unforgettable experience, I highly recommend the Ritz-Carlton in JBR or the One&Only on the Palm, which is also home to the Jetty Lounge, one of the best and most exclusive beach bars around town. Another great place to stay is the Anantara Resort, a Thai inspired hotel with an exotic Maldives flair.
If you are looking for an adventure, head to Skydive Dubai and go jump out of a plane to see the magnificent skyline from above. Another unforgettable experience is a trip on a hot air balloon or a dune buggy ride in the desert. Even during the summer months when the temperatures are getting dangerously high there are many other fun activities around town, like the Inflight Dubai, an indoor skydiving wind tunnel or Hub Zero, an Arcade Gaming Center for adults. If you want to combine fun with a great workout try one of the spinning classes at Flywheel Dubai, go visit Ski Dubai at the Mall of the Emirates or the indoor trampoline park Bounce Dubai.
Nightlife in Dubai also won’t leave you disappointed. With so many bars and restaurants around town offering all kinds of entertainment, there is definitely something for everyone. Check out Bidi Bondi on the Palm or Cabin crew’s all-time favorite Barasti Bar for a laid-back Australian style beach bar experience. If you are in the mood for a tropical island cocktail you should head to Mahiki or Trader Vic’s, which also offers Salsa dance lessons. Dubai is also home of the famous Buddha Bar, which invites with great chill out vibes from some of the world’s best DJ’s. Some other great places in the Marina area are either the skydiving hub Zero Gravity or the adult playground and rock bar Stereo Arcade. There are many more really nice rooftop bars and outdoor clubs around town and along Sheikh Zayed Road. If you need some more inspiration you should definitely get a copy of Whats on Dubai and watch for 80s nights at Sho Cho in Dubai Marine Resort.
For those who would like to explore the surrounding Emirates, I highly recommend taking a trip down south to Abu Dhabi to see the magnificent architecture of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Another nice city escape is Fujeirah, which is only a 2-hour drive away and offers one of the most scenic routes.
If you are up for a longer road trip and can spare a few days outside of town you should definitely go and visit Oman, which has a very traditional Arabic flair and some of the most beautiful beaches with amazing camping and epic mountain views. Make sure, you take some extra time and check all visa requirements prior to heading on the trip, as the border crossing can be a little tricky at times. A great place to stop at for a little break is the beautiful Hatta Ford Hotel, which also has a really nice restaurant.
With so many fun things to do and amazing places to visit in Dubai, this place really never gets boring. The great thing is that there will always be something new to discover and I honestly can’t wait to check out all the upcoming exciting projects waiting for me on my next visit…so stay tuned…