All that glitters is probably actual gold in glamorous Dubai, but aside from sprawling shopping malls, luxurious spa treatments and extravagant hotels, there are plenty of other things to discover on a Secret Escape to one of the world’s most luxurious cities.
Where to eat
Friday brunch in Dubai is a must and one of the best and most extravagant is still at Al Quasr, where you’ll find every food and drink under the sun spread across this luxurious hotel’s ground floor. Think lobsters, ice-sculptures holding sushi plates, a cheese room and all the Moet you can drink.
For something completely different, vodka shots, borscht and feathers, tights and tassels abound at Russian restaurant Troyka in Dubai’s Ascot Hotel. You’ll be talking about the bizarre live entertainment for weeks. Dine in a classic car in The Garage (Ramee International Hotel, Deira), or head to the Cuban inspired Malecon – one of Dubai’s best budget hotspots for live Latino music, drinking and dancing all week long (Dubai Marina Beach Resort & Spa).
Where to drink
Contrary to popular belief, drinking is not only allowed, it’s practically encouraged in Dubai. The flowery-shirt wearing staff in the Madinat Jumeirah’s Trader Vic’s will keep spirits high, literally, with their Tiki Tiki cocktails, and if you have a craving for karaoke, the cosy confines of Harry Gattos in Emirates Towers won’t disappoint.
Ladies are spoilt for choice on Tuesday nights, when drinks are cheap and sometimes even free. Rock Bottom, Double Decker and Longs Bar are expat favourites but for something a little classier and less likely to make your shoes stick to the floor, ladies drink for free on Tuesdays at Amika, half price on Tuesdays at Caramel, and for free on Fridays at Margaux. Check the internet for updates before you go.
Beaches and parks
Most of the parks in Dubai are either free or extremely cheap to visit. Jumeirah Beach Park and Al Mamzar Beach Park cost just 5 AED to enter and both have great facilities. Safa Park in Jumeirah, or Creek Park along the Dubai Creek are good for a picnic or a kick around with a ball if it’s not too scorching outside.
Horse riding through the desert or even a forest is possible too, if you head to the Equestrian & Polo Club at Mushrif Park (90 mins, 300 AED). Zabeel Park has a nice boating lake to help you catch some rays in style, or get fit with the free running track and outdoor gym equipment at Al Barsha Pond Park.
How to get around
A day pass for Dubai’s speedy and modern Metro will cost you 14 AED for all zones, although it’s better to get a taxi for short distances as they’re quite cheap compared to in other cities.
When to go
The best time to visit Dubai is from October to April when humidity is lower and you can make the most of outdoor activities. Many restaurants will be undercover and air-conditioned for the rest of the year, although in spite of the heat Dubai offers blue-sky, sunny holiday weather year-round.
Separating fact from fiction
Some people think that romance is banned in Dubai, but whereas holding hands and kissing in public is frowned upon, the luxury and glamour you can experience behind closed doors is reason enough for lovers to visit.
It’s true that covering up is advised in Dubai. There’s no need to wear an abaya (it’s not as strict as Abu Dhabi up the road) but exposing your bare legs, cleavage or arms in a shopping mall is not advised. Bikinis are permitted on the beach.
Whereas alcohol is abundant for tourists in Dubai, it’s true that being drunk in public is a punishable offense. Always take a taxi if you’ve had one too many.
And what to absolutely not miss:
1. Gaze at the glittering skyline from an abra on Dubai Creek and shop for souvenirs in the spice and gold souks
2. Take in the view from the observatory on level 124 of the Burj Khalifa – the highest viewing platform in the world
3. Learn to ski in the desert at Ski Dubai – the first indoor ski resort in the Middle East. Don’t miss some cheese fondue in Apres at the bottom, as you watch everyone falling over in the fake snow
4. Get wet and wild at Wild Wadi, the water park at the foot of the Burj Al Arab. With 30 rides and attractions it’s often less crowded than the other one at Atlantis, on the Palm Jumeirah
5. Check out the Dubai Fountains – designed by the creators of the Fountains of Bellagio in Vegas. Watch as water shoots as high as 500 feet and crashes back into the 30-acre Burj Khalifa Lake
6. Take a desert safari in a dune buggy and stay for dinner with a belly dancing show, delicious kebabs and some henna tattoos, all in the sandy wilderness of the desert.
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