Loud, ambitious and unashamedly glitzy. Dubai is a holiday destination that
divides opinion more than most.
On the one hand, this metropolis-on-sea is a playground for luxury lovers – its designer shopping is unrivalled, there’s a lively nightlife scene and hotels here are bigger, taller and more in your face than New York, London or LA.
On the other, the sheer amount of glass and steel can be overwhelming for the first-time visitor. It’s home to the tallest building on earth – which looms audaciously over a futuristic skyline of high-rise towers and an elevated metro system that zips through the city.
But it’s not all shopping and skyscrapers – there are plenty of off-thebeaten- track activities for dubious Dubai visitors to enjoy and, most importantly, now is the time to start thinking about winter sun. Fortunately for us, the United Arab Emirates has it by the bucketload.
The amazing skyline Whether you’re downtown around the Burj Khalifa – the tallest manmade structure on earth – or soaking up the sun at the Marina, you’re never far from an amazing view in Dubai. The city is jam-packed with skyscrapers, making for one impressive cityscape.
Dubai has a growing culinary scene to match the ambition of its futuristic vision. There are international offerings from La Petite Maison, Zuma, Cipriani and Marina Social by Jason Atherton, while Nusr-et in the Four Seasons serves some of the best steak in town. Locals recommend heading to Al Hadheera, a restaurant in the desert run by five-star hotel Bab al Shams which serves an impressive live buffet of Arabic, Mediterranean, Levant and Emirati food. For sliders and milkshakes, head to Salt – a trendy aluminium burger van parked on Kite Beach founded by a local Emirati. Even vegans are catered for: Bestro, a meat and dairy-free counter in the Dubai Mall serves up tasty plant-based dishes that are more than worth the hype.
If you love nothing more than the feeling of sand between your toes, you’ve come to the right place. There’s no shortage of sun, sea and sand in Dubai, although it’s important to note that the lion’s share of beaches are owned by the large resorts – meaning that if you’re not a guest, you won’t be able to access them. However, there are plenty of excellent free beaches to be found such as the popular Jumeirah public beach and the Umm Suqeim beach – which sits underneath the landmark Burj Al Arab. If you’re looking for something a little more remote, try the peaceful Al Sufouh beach, which has a spectacular view of the famous Palm Islands.
The Palm Islands
The city’s man-made islands are just some of the many examples of Dubai’s ambitious energy. These artificial archipelagos look like a stylised palm tree from above and are primarily home to hotels, resorts and private villas. In fact, they are one of the only man-made structures visible from outer space.
The best way to see these spectacular islands is by boat – hire one of the yachts or speedboats offered by one of the many private touring companies, or hop aboard the Palm Monorail that runs to the Atlantis resort.
Growing art scene
From the hip Alserkal Avenue art district that’s emerging in the industrial Al Quoz area to the glossy art galleries lining the Financial Centre, Dubai has a burgeoning art scene worth a visit from anyone looking to expand their collection. The Dubai Design District, a purpose-built community dedicated to promoting and nurturing emerging local talent, is the creative hub of young Dubai while design festivals like Art Dubai and Design Days bring international artists and collectors to the heart of the city throughout the year.