Dubai is an extraordinary place and one of the most attractive destinations at the moment. When police cars are Bugattis and Lamborghini’s, there are ATM’s that dispense gold, man-made beaches, the world’s tallest tower and the world’s only 7-star hotel, you know that city doesn’t do things in small measures. It is a city of extravagance and that’s one of the reasons it has always caught my attention.
Whether you’re looking to stay in Dubai for a quick stopover or heading there for a longer vacation, there is really something for everyone. Here’s what we got up to in our short but sweet stay in the UAE!
What to do in Dubai
Head to the desert. We spent 2 nights in the desert at Al Maha Resort where we got to experience a range of exciting activities such as FWD sand duning, camel trekking, falconries, wildlife walks and more! However, as the desert is only a 1 hour drive from the city, you could also choose to make it a day trip!
Explore Dubai Old Town. If you do visit Dubai and you have a bit of extra time on your hands, I’d really encourage you to explore Dubai’s Old Town, which is often overlooked by a lot of visitors. There’s many vibrant markets full of textiles, spices, tea, perfume, gold and dates (always SO many dates – haha!). It is such a change of pace from the big city.
A few things not to miss in the Old Town:
- Sheikh Mohamed Centre for Cultural Understanding. A non-profit organisation that promotes awareness of Dubai’s tradition, culture and religion. We also stopped here to try some traditional Arabic coffee and tea which we really enjoyed!
- Gold Souk. Also located in the Old Town is the Gold Souk is a traditional market consisting of over 380 retailers, most of whom are jewellery traders. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so much gold in my life. This is where you could get a great deal on some gold, but you will have to haggle for it! You’ll never know what you might spot for you or a loved one. All merchandise is carefully regulated by the Dubai government to ensure the authenticity its quality.
- Dubai museum. This museum is inside the city’s oldest intact building, Al Fahidi Fort which was originally built in 1781. It’s filled with exhibits and galleries that recreate historic Arab houses, mosques, souks and date farms.
- Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood. If you’d like to transport yourself to old Arabia, just step into the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood where gypsum and coral buildings have been restored to their original glory. Would highly recommend this experience!
Go to the top of the Burj Khalifa. With a total height of 828 m, the Burj Khalifa has been the tallest structure and building in the world since its topping out in late 2008. A trip to Dubai wouldn’t be complete without making it to the top! Truly an architectural masterpiece and it still astounds me that it even exists.
Shop at the Dubai Mall. The Dubai Mall is known as the second-largest mall in the world and a haven for shoppers. It’s hard to comprehend just how massive it is with over 1,300 retail outlets including two anchor department stores – Galeries Lafayette and Bloomingdale’s – and over 200 food and beverage outlets. There is also a world-class Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, VR Park, and ice skating rink. That’s not all though as a massive expansion of Dubai Mall is currently underway!
Watch the Dubai foundation show. After your trip to the Dubai Mall and/or Burj Khalifa, it’s the perfect time to catch the foundation show at the Burj Khalifa Lake. Performances are held daily and last up to 5 minutes. Evening shows begin at 6 pm and are every half hour until 11 pm.
Visit the Miracle Garden. One of the places I was really excited to visit was Dubai’s Miracle Garden. The garden occupies over 72,000 square metres, making it the world’s largest natural flower garden featuring over 50 million flowers and 250 million plants. Although I think my favourite part was seeing a life-size replica of the famously luxurious Emirates Airbus A380 covered entirely by flowers. Crazy!
Enjoy the Souk Madinat Jumeirah. Also known as the “Little Venice” of Dubai, this souk turned out to be my favourite. We loved spending the morning here, exploring the shops and venturing on a short boat ride. It is an Arabian architecture masterpiece that is a modern take on a traditional Arabic Market. My only regret is we didn’t go back here at night as I’ve heard it’s rather romantic when the canals are all lit-up. I couldn’t think of a more romantic spot for dinner.
Watch La Perle. If you’re looking for a nighttime activity, I’d suggest booking yourself into Dubai’s resident live show ‘La Perle‘, created by Franco Dragone. It is a breathtaking fusion of immersive artistic performances, imagery and technology. The show is presented in a 1,300 seat purpose-built, state of the art theatre which is filled with 2.7 million litres of water!
Head to a man-made beach. There are many public man-made beaches throughout Dubai but as we were staying at Fairmont The Palm, we got to enjoy its very own beach access!
Visit the Palm Islands. The Palm Islands are three artificial islands, Palm Jumeirah, Deira Island and Palm Jebel Ali, on the coast of Dubai. If you’re not staying on The Palm, you should definitely go and check it out! There’s beaches along with beach clubs, Atlantis (which has its very own Aquaventure Waterpark and The Lost Chambers) and spectacular views all around!
Where we stayed
Fairmont The Palm
For our stay in the city, we checked into Fairmont The Palm which is a luxury 5-star beachfront resort situated on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah. We had the most beautiful time here and it’s such a great base for exploring Dubai. This resort boasts incredible views of the Arabian Gulf and glittering Dubai Marina skyline, 10 world-class restaurants and lounges, 4 temperature-controlled swimming pools, a fitness centre, health club and stream spa.
We dined at three of their restaurants including:
- Little Miss India: A big call, but we both agreed this was the best Indian food we have ever had in our life. Plus the interiors, ambience, staff (I mentioned I was a bit chilly and next thing I know the staff have kindly bought me a blanket!) and overall experience was incredible.
- Ba Restaurant and Lounge: Serving delicious modern Asian cuisine, Ba become another one of our favourite places to dine. With low lighting and sparkling skyline views in the distance, it’s perfectly suited for a romantic evening for two or an intimate gathering between friends.
- Seagrill Bistro: Think seafood platters and tender grill favourites with a luxury beach atmosphere. One of the chicest places to lunch!
Al Maha Desert Resort
As I mentioned earlier, we wanted to experience more than a day in the desert so staying at Al Maha seemed like the perfect experience whilst we were there. I wrote another dedicated blog post on our time there (see: our stay at Al Maha Resort), so be sure to check it out if you’d like to know more! If you’re looking for somewhere luxurious, beautiful and all-inclusive, I couldn’t recommend it enough.