Dubai is a dazzling city of contrasts; a glistening metropolis powerhouse, surrounded by the never-ending Arabian desert. You’ll find local women and men floating in and around the city in their traditional abayas and kanduras, set against a backdrop of the tallest building in the world, uber chic cafes, and cosmopolitan venues. It is ever evolving and expanding but here are a few mainstays that will give you a well rounded experience of this unique destination:
What to Pack:
- One of the most frequently asked questions I receive about my trips to Dubai is “what did you wear?”. There is a lot of uncertainty around what is acceptable when it comes to dressing in this city. Truthfully, it has come a long way since my first visit in 2010 (when it was still considered risqué to wear a skirt that fell above the knee in the Dubai mall). I’ve returned a number of times since and have always felt comfortable in maxi dresses, off-the-shoulder tops paired with linen pants, levis with cute statement shirts and handcrafted slides from the souks. When it comes to dressing at night, I wear the same outfits and heels that I would when going out in NYC – a pair of Stuart Weitzman heels and an IRO cocktail dress. With the expat scene being so substantial, and the local woman really interested in fashion, almost anything goes when it comes to dressing. Just as long as you steer away from overtly sexy, sheer garments, you’ll fit in just fine.
Where to Stay:
- Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Dubai: quite possibly my favorite hotel in the entire world. It feels like a calm and tranquil oasis removed from the city but in actuality it is supremely located in the centre of the city, walking distance to the Dubai mall and roughly a 20 min Uber ride to the Dubai Creek, Alserkal Avenue and the Miracle Garden. It has unparalleled views of the Dubai Canal and super luxe, modern, and expansive rooms.
- The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai: located along the beachfront in JBR, this is a perfect spot if you want to go from city to beach just by stepping outside your bedroom door. It is an incredible design homage to the origins of the destination. I fell in love with the main dining lounge where the ceiling is shaped like the inside of an abra (the traditional boat which crosses the creek daily) and the majlis (place of gathering room) which looks like the interior of a royal palace.
What to See:
- Alserkal Avenue – super modern art hub in Dubai. Make sure to visit Mirzam Chocolate, TheJamJar for DIY painting on canvas, Oo La Lab for making your own perfume, and Custot and Leila Heller Gallery for amazing modern art curations.
- Bastakiya – historical district of Dubai located alongside the Dubai Creek which boasts super unique cafes and art galleries. From there you can wander to the Dubai Creek and Souks.
- Dubai Creek – for a glimpse into the origins of the city, hop on an abra boat ride and head across the creek to the Spice, Gold, and Perfume Souks.
- Souks – be prepared to bargain and sample as you pick-up spices, slippers, and gold!
- Dubai City Walk – a perfect way to get a glimpse of “real” life in Dubai.
- Miracle Garden – a bit cheesy but with a little editing, great opportunities for Instagram photos.
- Madinat Jumeirah – a fantastic view of the famous Burj Al Arab and manmade creek. Feels a bit like the Vegas version of Venice but still worth at least one visit.
- Al Seef – Dubai’s relatively new Heritage District. The buildings are made to look like the traditional architecture of Dubai. I had an amazing time walking through there at sunset.
- Desert Safari with Platinum Heritage – this is a must! You cannot visit Dubai and not experience the desert. I especially liked this tour service with the vintage jeep Land Rover and the photographer who travels with you to take all your photos.
What to Eat:
- Mama’esh – incredible Palestinian food with the most amazing owner! A must experience!
- La Serre Bistro – super cute cafe located at Vida Downtown, Dubai. Perfect for brunch.
- The Lighthouse – located in the design district, also perfect for breakfast or lunch.
- XVA Cafe – eclectic art style cafe in the Bastakiya area.
- Kulture House – a concept cafe x gallery and fashion store. One of my favorite new discoveries!
- Comptoir 102 – really chic, french spot with cool indoor store.
- Flamingo Room by Tashas – glimmering and glamorous! Definitely go for dinner!
- La Cantine du Faubourg – perfect for an outdoor dinner.
- Zuma DIFC – chic Japanese restaurant. Perfect for a cocktail or two.
- Saltbae Burger DIFC – actually one of the best burgers I’ve ever had.
- Drift Beach Dubai – for an amazing Friday brunch by the pool.
Where to Shop:
- Dubai Mall – the largest mall in the world where you’ll still find local designers in smaller boutiques. I also love the jewelry stands that sell beautiful evil eye necklaces and bracelets.
- Souks – again don’t miss the spices, slippers, gold, and perfumes.
- Sauce – really unique local concept store. Their stuff can take you from DXB to Mykonos to Ibiza.
- BHV Le Marais – a lot of local, high end designers!
- City Walk – you’ll find your big brands mixed in with local brands here.
Where to Play:
- Galaxy Bar: the new, intimate hotspot located in DIFC. The DJ is incredible and the audience is super curated. A really fun experience just make sure to book a table in advance to ensure entry.
- Avli by Tashas: located right next door to Galaxy Bar, this is a perfect spot to go to for drinks before heading over to Galaxy later in the evening.
- WHITE Dubai: though I have not been, I’ve heard this is quite an experience. If you are looking for a larger venue in the feeling of Ibiza, this would be it.
- Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE: a super fun day party experience. You can dance until the sun goes down to amazing house, techno, electronic etc.
What to See Outside the City:
- Abu Dhabi day trip to see Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, the Louvre, and Saadiyat Beach Club. This is a must not miss experience! The drive is only an hour from Dubai and well worth the time and finances to get there. Try and visit the Mosque and Louvre around sunset for the best photo opportunities and also to avoid the heat.
- Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is an amazing oasis in the middle of the desert. The infinity pool truly looks out onto the desert that goes on forever.
- Oman Musandam Dhow Cruise for the most incredible azure waters and snorkeling. If you can’t quite make it to Muscat, this is a perfect alternative.