One question I get asked a lot either by friends, passengers or via messages on Instagram is ‘I’m coming on holiday to Dubai, what should I do?’. To me, Dubai is a perfect holiday destination. It has so much to offer with pretty much perfect weather all year round. With its optimal geographical location on the map, many people have a connecting flight through Dubai. And I can’t encourage people enough to visit the UAE, even just as a little stop over to break up long haul trips. There are a lot of countries who get a free visa on arrival with no prior application which makes for easy travel planning, but check here for information on whether or not you’ll need to apply in advance.
Dubai is a fairly new city that has grown and expanded exponentially in the last twenty years or so, click here for some insane comparison photos over the years. But, even with its rapid development, it hasn’t lost touch with the history of Old Dubai and there are plenty of cultural things to do if that is something you are looking for. It isn’t all just glitz, glamour and an abundance of wealth. There is something for everyone here, of all ages. So I thought I would write up some of my must do’s when in Dubai!
Burj Khalifa | Downtown Dubai
The famous Burj Khalifa is known all over the world and quite rightly, it’s the worlds tallest building standing high at 830m since it completed construction and opened in 2010. It includes residential space, a hotel, the world’s highest restaurant and nightclub, and an observation deck.
You can go up the Burj Khalifa in the high speed lift that whizzes you up to the 124th floor in the world’s third fastest elevator at 36km/h or 600m a minute. From the top you see views across Dubai and into the desert and also an aerial view of the dancing fountains below. On days where the tide is low and the visibility is high, you can see the peaks of the Iranian mountains. That’s how high the Burj Khalifa is.
My tips for heading up the Burj Khalifa are rather than paying the 141 AED, visit the lounge called Atmosphere. There is a minimum spend of 250 AED. However, for this price you can enjoy some cocktails with a view instead of just paying to see the view. Reservations are essential, and make sure to request a table by the window. You can also do Afternoon Tea here for 500 AED if you’re really wanting to treat yourself.
The Dancing Fountains |Downtown Dubai
Right next to the Burj Khalifa is the dancing fountains. The dancing fountains are one of my favourite things in Dubai and I don’t think I’ll ever tire of watching them. Based on the dancing fountains of Las Vegas at the Bellagio Hotel, the ones in Dubai are, no surprise, bigger and better. They play daily, twice at lunch time at 1pm and 1:30pm and then from 7pm til 11pm playing every half hour. They alternate between a well known song such as Michael Jackson’s Thriller and Adele’s Skyfall to a traditional Arabic number. They never fail to amaze me at how high these fountains actually go, and whenever I’m at the Dubai Mall (the world’s biggest mall) I always make sure to head outside and watch if I know they’re about to play.
The Dubai Frame | Zabeel Park
A new addition on the scene, the Dubai Frame opened in January 2018 and is a 150m tall and 105m wide frame that from one side shows you old Dubai and the other side new Dubai. You can also go up the frame to get a great view from over the city and tickets cost you just 50 AED.
Friday Brunch | Everywhere
Brunch to you means a late breakfast early lunch combo, probably comprising of avocado toast and a coffee. Brunch in Dubai is a completely different concept. Mainly happening on Friday afternoons, brunch is a three to four hour long food and drink extravaganza. They vary from price to price but include unlimited food and drinks during the set time. They are a fancy affair where everyone dresses up, but some are renowned for their food and whether or not they are table service, the price, the venue or whether its more of a party brunch or targeted at families etc.
It’s a must do when in Dubai but some of my favourites are STK (The Rixos, JBR) which is offered at 500 AED, is table service and includes bubbles. This brunch runs 1pm – 4pm and is served from a set menu. Don’t worry, you can eat as much as you want, just ask for anything that you want more of. If you’re a lover of steak, this is a great brunch for you to try out. Do bear in mind this brunch usually has around a one month waitlist, so get your booking in early if it’s for a special occasion.
Another favourite of mine is Wanderlust located at the JW Marriott Marquis. This one is priced at 425 AED and runs 1pm til 4pm. This brunch is a buffet style and is designed to be a ‘one stop culinary journey around the world’ boasting 10 live stations where chefs will cook and prepare in front of you, in addition to a whole variety of dishes. The food stations are so many, that they include a map on your table so you can see where everything is. They even include a donut wall, and a bloody mary station to make the perfect bloody mary just as you like it. Wanderlust offers a great drinks package that includes every drink you can think of. This brunch is great for group of friends looking for a more lively brunch that still offers great food too.
And if you’re looking for one that is more casual and offers great food with table service with a great view then look no further than Asia Asia in Dubai Marina. Located inside Pier 7, Asia Asia offers asian style food (and an abundance of it too) and select house drinks, wines, beers and cocktails. The watermelon martinis here are to die for, as well as the sweet potato dim sum. Be sure to reserve a table outside on the balcony so you can take in the gorgeous views of the marina and watch the yachts go by full of people enjoying their weekend. Brunch here is priced at 500 AED and runs from 2pm til 5pm, great if you’re a late riser or wanting to pack a bit more into your weekend.
A great app to download for discounts on brunches is the ‘Lets DXB’ app. It shows all brunches in Dubai as well as different food and drink offers. Download before your trip to avail great discount such as 15% off Wanderlust brunch!
Yacht Day | Dubai Marina
A yacht day in Dubai is a great way to see the skyline of Dubai from a different perspective. Prices vary from how big the yacht is to how long you rent the yacht for. If there’s a big group of you, splitting the boat between you all works well, and you can bring your own food and drinks and most yacht companies will cook the barbecue for you. Head out of the marina, and past the Dubai Wheel and up around the palm towards the Burj Al Arab for great views and picture opportunities whilst you soak up the sun and enjoy your luxurious trip.
The Madinat | Um Sequim 3
The Madinat is a hotel resort comprised of three hotels, the Jumeriah Al Naseem, the Mina A’Salaam and the Burj Al Arab. But what this resort has to offer is more than three hotels, but a mini Arabian city along the beachfront. It has a modernised yet traditional gold souq running through its indoor with a whole host of shops, bars and restaurants. It’s also home to II Boro Tuscan Bistro which just won Dubai’s restaurant of the year for the second year in a row. A must try when visiting the Madinat. After you’ve wandered through the indoor souq, head outside to see the resort surrounded by water canals where you can ride an abra on for 75 AED. It’s like being in an Arabian Venice. It takes you on a tour showing you everywhere which you don’t have access to on foot and tells you about all the different restaurants and events they have on offer. It’s perfect at sunset before you stop for dinner or drinks, giving you a real feel for the place and an idea for a hotel when you next visit Dubai. Another great place for food here is Tortuga which serves Mexican!
A favourite lounge of mine here would be Shimmers located on the beach. It has the perfect setting for drinks on the beach with the closest view of the Burj Al Arab. For anyone wanting those close up Burj Al Arab pictures, this is the best spot, otherwise it’s only those staying in the hotels who can get access.
Desert Safari | Al Madam
One thing that is a must when visiting the Middle East for the first time is a trip to the desert. Dubai gets colloquially referred to as one big sandpit, and behind the sprawling city is an abundance of sand not that far out by car. So for those ultimate Arabian feels, a desert safari is great fun.
Desert safaris include quad biking, camel rides, sand boarding, 4×4 sand dune driving, dinner and a traditional show. They’re a lot of fun and usually last from 1pm – 9pm!
If you’re looking to book one, my friend Reza offers a great desert safari and can tailor it to your needs if necessary. He will pick you up and drop you off back to your accommodation, take all the best pictures for you and is super helpful and informative! For any inquiries just drop him a message on whatsapp his number is +971509685656 or check him out on instagram @eagletoursdubai.
Ladies Day | Various Locations
Being a lady in Dubai is quite a wonderful thing. There are many different places that have great offers on around Dubai, simply for being a lady. Below I’ll post some of my favourite ladies day’s and the days they run on, so you can best plan your trip to Dubai depending on when you’re here. Side note: It is not a ladies only event, men can also attend however they just do not get the deal that’s on offer…
Monday: Drift Beach, The One & Only Royal Mirage
Located next to the Palm this beach club has great views across to the Dubai Marina. For 100 AED this will get you entry, a sun bed and towels, still/sparkling water, a fruit selection and an alcoholic cocktail. One of the more pricey ladies days that doesn’t offer as much, but is great for picturesque views in a five star hotel.
Wednesday: Cove Beach, Caesars Palace, Blue Waters
For 100 AED for ladies, you can enjoy a sun bed and towel, free flow drinks from 12-5, and lunch. It’s a great ladies day but fills up quickly, so make sure you get down there early to grab a spot!
Thursday: Andreas, Grand Habtoor
Ladies day at Andrea’s will set you back for just 125 dirhams and you can enjoy complimentary sun beds at the pool, a mixed platter of selected light bites, and unlimited frozen beverages. A much more chilled out and relaxed ladies day for those wanting to soak up the sun whilst enjoying some day drinks.
Sunday: Barasti, The Westin Mina Seyahi
Ladies day at Barasti is actually every Sunday, Monday and Tuesday and on these days ladies can get free entry (as normal), free flowing frosé, free towels for your sun bed, and 50% off food, drinks and also water sports.
For those of you unfamiliar with Barasti, it is Dubai’s only free beach club and well known and loved among residents. Offering great prices and open all day and night, anything goes. Perfect for anyone of all ages (over the age of 21) it has a gorgeous pool, big beach and numerous bars situated on different levels. No matter what time of day you come to Barasti there will always be people about, and is a great place to tan, drink and eat, especially for those on a budget. Opening at 10am, make sure to get there early to snap up a sun bed, or bring your post brunch self here.
Ladies Night | Everywhere
With ladies day, there is also ladies night. It really is great being a girl in Dubai. Ladies nights include free drinks, and quite often discount on food. Ranging right across the week (more commonly midweek) there’s no way I could cover all the ladies nights that happen across Dubai. Again, I will list my favourites and the weekday they occur so you can best plan your trip, however these are a small fraction. For all ladies nights, check out here for the full list, just bear in mind that some are a lot more casual and won’t be as busy/lively as others.
Tuesday: Pier 7, Dubai Marina
Pier 7 is my go to ladies night. Located in the marina, Pier 7 is a great way to introduce yourself to ladies night. Located across 7 floors, each level is a different bar/restaurant that has something on offer that evening. With each of these places just an elevator away, it is incredibly popular and is usually very busy with the majority of the restaurants here offering three free drinks for ladies. My favourites to visit here are Cargo, Asia Asia and Atelier M. Or if you really want to make the most, you can start from the bottom and work your way up. If you’re wanting to eat dinner, reservations are essential for any of the restaurants. So book in advance and make sure you request outdoor tables for those perfect marina views whilst you sip your free drinks. Mama Zonia located on level 2 is a newcomer to the Pier 7 scene but is having rave reviews. They’re also offering 50% off dinner on ladies night too!
Tuesday: Karma Kafe, Downtown
It’s not very often I head downtown, but when I do, one of my favourites to visit is Karma Kafe. Not at all a cafe, but a very fancy restaurant and lounge that has a great outdoor terrace overlooking the dancing fountains. Ladies night here is on a Tuesday and will get you three free cocktails or grape and 50% off food. The food here is pan-asian cuisine and is very good. I highly recommend the rainbow maki and the spicy edamame. Food is served sharing style and will be brought out as it is ready. It works well as you watch the fountains and sip on free cocktails.
Wednesday: Ramusake, JBR
One of the most popular ladies nights, and you’ll see why is at Ramusake. Located in the Double Tree Hilton on JBR, Ramusake is a Japanese restaurant that offers unlimited free drinks for ladies 8pm til midnight. Get down early as this restaurant quite regularly hits capacity and a queue can be seen right out the door, or even better book a table for dinner and make sure to order the sweet potato fries. They are without a doubt the best sweet potato fries EVER. I’m not sure what it is they do to them, but they are beyond heavenly.
Wednesday: Mr Miyagi’s, Dubai Marina
Found on the 9th floor of the Media One Hotel there’s something for everyone here, costing you 99 AED this will give you unlimited drinks from 10pm – 3am. Anything goes in Mr Miyagis and takes you on a “trip to Thailand”. Filled with tuk tuks, and drinks served in buckets, there’s even a show put on in the middle of the evening. If you’re looking for food, it’s great to eat here too.
One thing people always want to see is the Palm, and I can understand why. It is an artificial archipelago out to shore of Dubai’s coastline and looks incredible from above. But this is the issue, you can only see the palm when you’re above, not when you’re on it. The best way to view the palm is from the plane when you’re flying in, providing it’s a daytime landing. I also cannot tell you which side of the plane to sit on as Dubai has two runways so its alternates between sides to view it.
A great way to see it would be to sky dive. Sky Dive Dubai takes you up to 13,000ft and will cost you 2,199 AED. From here you jump out of the plane and feel the rush as you reach speeds of up to 120mph with the most incredible view below. Personally, you couldn’t pay me enough to do it, but I wish I had the guts for the amazing pictures and videos you get along with it.
Or if you’re wanting a more budget friendly alternative, head to the Observatory located on the 52nd floor of the Marriott in the Dubai Marina. Here you get 360 degree views of the marina and the palm. It’s a great place for dinner and a drink with a view, make sure to get there whilst the sun is still up though.
Waterparks | Jumeriah 2 and Palm Jumeriah
Dubai has two big waterparks if you’re looking for a different day with an adrenalin rush. The first of the two is Wild Wadi located in Jumeriah 2 next to Jumeriah Beach Hotel. Being extremely close to the Burj Al Arab you get great views as you float around the lazy rivers or try out the surfing experience. A day pass here will cost 336 AED on the day, or to save yourself some money, book online for 283.5 AED.
The other option is Aquaventure located at the Atlantis on Palm Jumeriah. The more popular and well known one of the two, this is where you can ride the Leap of Faith which plummets you down into a shark filled aquarium tank. As you’re in a clear tube, you can see the aquarium from the inside. Here you can also swim with dolphins, visit the sea lions, book in for an aquarium diving session, and even ride a zip line across the park. Tickets here will cost you 289 AED when booked online, and vary during the seasons when purchased on the day. And if you’re staying at the Atlantis, it’s free!
I hope this helps to give you an idea of some of the things you can do in Dubai. I could continue on with numerous other things such as IMG Worlds of Adventures, Dubai Miracle Garden, The Spice Souks etc, but this post is already becoming incredibly long. I hope it helps to give you some ideas, and below I’ve included a map and pinned where all the different places are, in the hope it helps you consider location when booking a hotel.
As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more daily updates: