One of my best friends lives in Dubai and since she has moved there I have been longing to visit. Dubai can be quite expensive, especially if you have to stay somewhere in a hotel. However, there are a lot of things to do and it’s just a matter of finding the right places to eat at, drink at and spend your time at without spending too much. From my own experience I can say that Dubai can be an amazing experience and it doesn’t have to break the bank (especially if you have as great a friend as I do to show you around!).
What to see / do
- The Burj Khalifa: of course the world’s tallest building is in Dubai, where else would it be? Looking up at this beautiful building from the street, especially with the light shows at night, is thrilling enough, but you can also visit the top on the 160th story by buying a ticket.
- The Dubai Mall & the Dubai Fountain: of course, like many other things in Dubai, the mall here is also the biggest mall in the world. With almost 1200 shops it is easy to get lost here but it’s great to beat the heat in Dubai, especially in summer. Just outside of it is the Dubai Fountain, the world’s … yes, tallest fountain! Go here to see one of the many fountain shows shown during the day. It’s the perfect break outside of the mall and completely free.
- La Mer: La Mer is a beachfront in Dubai loaded with many shops, cute streets, street art and entertainment. Perfect to spend a late afternoon and evening at.
- Dubai Marina: the Marina is both a residential area and one with lots of entertainment. You can find JBR here, a leisure complex with alfresco dining options and sandy stretches to relax on. You can spot some of the most luxurious yachts parked here, rent a boat yourself for the day with some friends, enjoy some shopping at the Dubai Marina Mall or check out the cafés and pop-ups along the Dubai Marina walk waterside promenade.
- The Frame: a massive structure that has been designed to represent the connection between the old and new towns of Dubai, and also the largest picture frame in the world. You can get tickets to go all the way to the top using the glass lifts on the sides, and observe the city from great heights through the glass walkway flooring.
- The Global Village: Dubai’s Global Village is basically a theme park that is suited for all ages. It is also popular with families as the rides and attractions are kid-friendly. It’s open only from November through April (closed in summer as many things in Dubai are) and features a hoax of activities like concerts, rides, restaurants, and attractions from around the world.
- Kite Beach: it’s very much like a Miami beach with its wide stretch of sand, beautiful blue water, and enough activities to do besides sunbathing. In other words, Kite Beach is the perfect place for beach lovers. Play some beach volleyball, try out kite-surfing, or just go for a nice relaxing sunbathing and swimming session.
- Jumeirah Mosque: this is the only mosque in Dubai that is open to non-Muslim visitors, so very popular with people from all over the world who come to visit Dubai. It is also among the most beautiful in the UAE, so definitely worth the visit. Go on one of the tours to learn more about its history, or visit it at dusk for some breathtaking views.
- Dubai Spice Souk: like most markets in cities, this is one of the most vibrant parts of Dubai, where all the action happens. Most vendors at the spice souk will sell similar spices and food, but it is still very much worth seeing this part of town. Go here to buy some saffron, buy a souvenir or try out one of the many restaurants.
- And if you’re into an adventure: go to Ski Dubai, the Wild Wadi Waterpark, the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Aquaventure park or Skydiving. Anything is possible in Dubai!
Where to eat
Arabic / Lebanese:
- Karam Beirut: located outside the Dubai mall with a beautiful view of the Dubai Fountains and the Burj Khalifa, it is guaranteed to give you a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The food served here is traditional Lebanese, so anything from hummus and falafels to grilled meat.
- Bait Matyam: one of the best places to go for an authentic Levantine/Arabic breakfast, lunch or dinner. They serve authentic Lebanese food here with which you cannot go wrong! The place is also super cosy and homely, and has excellent service.
- Ibn AlBahr: a Lebanese restaurant that specialises in fish and seafood. Located at the Palm Jumeirah, right at the beach, an absolutely dreamy location. You can choose your own fish and have a wide selection of traditional mezze to start with.
- Mama’Esh: best place for the traditional fatayer in Dubai.
- L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele: one of the best pizza places in town, the one featured in the film Eat Pray Love. If you love authentic Italian pizza, make sure you go here!
- Luigia Dubai: second on the pizza list is Luigia Dubai which also has some amazing Italian pizzas. One of the best in Dubai.
- Reif Japanese Kushiyaki: one of the best Japanese places in Dubai. Their skewers, gyoza, ramen and frilled avocado dishes are all to die for.
- Maru Udon: another great Japanese place in Dubai. Go here for some of the freshest Udon noodles (made fresh every day). Don’t miss out on their special udon doughnuts and sesame ice cream for dessert, it’s (almost) the best part of the meal.
- Nola’s: a great place for a casual evening with friends. Go here for some Southern food inspired by New Orleans and live music to entertain you. Make sure you make a reservation in advance though, as they tend to get fully booked!
- Bombay Bungalow is great for Indian, located by JBR and Masti Dubai serves delicious Indian-inspired food, right by Jumeira Beach.
Breakfast / brunch:
- Fel Restaurant: an amazing place for a Saturday brunch. Only 99 dirhams for a 3-course brunch with a drink. Serving anything from eggs benedict to delicious bowls, as well as pancakes!
- Amongst Few Cafe: another great place for brunch. The avocado and eggs is one of the best dishes!
- Friends Avenue Cafe: as brunch is my absolute favourite meal of the day, here is another (and final) suggestion for a really good brunch place. They have really special dishes like cheesecake french toast that are really worth a try. They have two locations in Dubai, one at JLT and one in Motor City.
- Walnut Grove Dubai: it has an amazing view of Burj Khalifa and the fountains from its terrace and the perfect spot for enjoying either breakfast or lunch.
- Brunch & Cake: one of the most instagrammable places in the city, great for brunch with generous portions and good service.
For more inspiration and ideas, head to my friend’s famous Dubai Food and Lifestyle Blog – @thedubailist on Instagram!
Where to go for pool parties
- WHITE Beach at Atlantis: this one is simply included because it is at what is possibly the most impressive hotel in all of Dubai (or at least it is in my opinion). Go here on Tuesdays for Ladies Day and pay only 150 AED to get unlimited drinks (ladies only – 150 AED for men without the unlimited drinks) and a beautiful view of the hotel from your sunbed. Perfect for your Instagram feed!
- Barasti Beach: Barasti is best known for always having next-level entertainment, and the best part of it is that entrance is free! This spot is aesthetically pleasing, with a lively pool, hammocks in the ocean (for your insta pics), and great drinks. Barasti is a great place to catch the latest sporting action, listen to live bands, all while indulging in great food. Check out their website or Instagram for the most up to date information about upcoming events.
- Drai’s Nightclub: a famous night club in Dubai with some famous artists performing here like Wiz Khalifa and Tinie Tempah, but also great for a day-time pool party. They are now closed until further notice due to COVID, but hopefully, they will be hosting some dazzling parties again soon!
- DRIFT Beach Dubai: this luxurious beachside club is known for its vibrant night scene and relaxing daytime lounge. It’s located on the seaside, features a gorgeous infinity pool and some stunning views over the Dubai skyline and the Palm Jumeirah. It offers contemporary European cuisine and some innovative drinks. They have Ladies Day on Monday’s and Tuesday’s, offer a breakfast deal from Sunday to Thursday and have a live DJ on Friday’s and Saturday’s.
- Nikki Beach, Pearl Jumeirah: this resort is located on the waterfront of Pearl Jumeira. The perfect location allows guests to enjoy the blue waters and stunning panoramic views from every corner of the club. They offer Ladies Tuesdays (discounts for the ladies) and Happy Thursday (discounted drinks). And, yes, it is part of the famous beach club chain that you can also find in Ibiza. Check out their website or Instagram for their upcoming events.
- Zero Gravity: Chill out on a large day bed, sun lounger or cabana at their glass-fronted, insta-famous pool, complete with a jacuzzi and rain showers. They have great deals on often like their BIG-BIG-BREAKFAST – unlimited breakfast for 75 AED on Friday and Saturday – and LONG-LONG-LUNCH, and of course Ladies Day on Tuesday. They also do 2-for-1s every Sun, Tues and Thu from 5-8pm. Check out their website or their Instagram for their latest events.
I hope you enjoyed reading my guide & have lots of fun traveling!