Dubai: Our Favorite Local Spots
Dubai is crazy… Crazy AWESOME. We really did a LOT in 5 days, and only 3 of those days were 100% spent in Dubai. You can see and do a lot in just a few days here. That being said, there are waaaay too many things to do and see in Dubai – almost anything you could possibly want, from camel-riding, to wine-and-dine nights, to sky diving. I’ve tried to break it down a bit for you and focus on the high lights. Below are MY recommendations for the best things to see and do during your stay in Dubai.
To See and Do:
Media One Hotel: This is where we stayed during our trip. This hotel is located in Media City, nearly at the edge of the Marina Walk (best place for night life). The hotel is trendy, the rooms are beautiful (please be warned there are see-through glass bathrooms), the prices are affordable (Dubai “affordable”, that is), the location is great, and there are multiple restaurants and bars right in the hotel. I recommend staying here while in Dubai.
Dubai Mall: Located downtown, the Dubai mall is quite immense and breathtaking. If you’re a shopper, this place is a dream come true. If you’re not – well, maybe it’s more like a nightmare. The mall is HUGE (biggest in the UAE) and beautifully decorated, with multiple sections dedicated to various themes. There’s even an aquarium, a skating rink, and a set of waterfalls in this mall. There are plenty of fast food and sit down restaurants, too. No matter if you’re on a mission to drop some dollar bills or not, the Dubai Mall is a must see. Why? Well, in addition to being impressive in general, the entrance to the Burj Khalifa (world’s tallest tower) is located in this building. The famous Dubai fountains are also located here!
Dubai Fountains: The Dubai fountains are located immediately outside of the beautiful Dubai mall. There’s one show at 1 PM (lasts about 5 minutes), then shows every half hour starting at 6 PM. A cool idea? Get tickets to the Burj Khalifa, ride up to the 124th floor, and watch the show from above. That would be neat!
Burj Khalifa: The Burj Khalifa is the tallest tower in the world. The only entrance is in the Dubai mall. This building is seriously something else – and if you’re going to spend money on one tourist attraction, I’d say to do this one. The views from the top are ridiculous, and the whole experience is well done (of course, we’re in Dubai, so everything is well done). I recommend going early so it’s not too busy, you can take your time, and take lots of pictures. Pay 125 AED to go to floors 124 and 125 online. You have an additional option of paying 500 AED to go even higher, but this is approximately $125 USD, and I think that’s crazy!
The Souks: The souks are probably the only “authentic” part of Dubai. Head here if you’re looking for a “real” experience and you’re in the market for spices, gold, shoes, party decorations – whatever! When you’re here, everyone wants your business, and bargaining is expected. Also – watch your stuff. Pick pockets are definitely around. Don’t let that freak you out, though – you just need to be aware of your belongings, as you always should be. You can score some GREAT bargains on quality goods here if you know what to look for!
The Marina Walk: The Marina Walk is a seven kilometer stretch of paved walkway nestled amongst the skyscrapers. This area is GREAT for nightlife, to people watch, and to walk around. This area is definitely preferable at night to the downtown area – there are lots of rooftop bars to grab drinks overlooking the city. Additionally, this area is adjacent to JBR (the beach area), which is also full of nightlife, people, atmosphere, and restaurants.
JBR Beach: The JBR public beach is AWESOME. The sand is soft, the water is clean and comfortable, and there is plenty to see and do on and around the beach – day or night. Walk around, people watch, bask in the sun. Grab a drink on the beach at the Hilton hotel. It’s the only spot along the beach you can have alcohol (Islam law in Dubai). The café at the Hilton called Wave Breaker is also a good place to grab some lunch!
Smoky beach: This “beach” is actually located ON JBR beach. On this stretch of sand, there is a market where you can shop for local goods and some local street food. It’s just a cool place to check out, especially at night! During the day and night, there are various outdoor seating areas on the beach where you can have some shisha and just hang out!
Mall of the Emirates: The Mall of the Emirates is another HUGE mall. It’s funny. It actually looks “old” and “small” only because Dubai Mall is so incredibly beautiful and HUGE. This mall is actually gigantic and beautiful as well – AND has an indoor ski RESORT. Nope, it’s not just an indoor ski slope. It’s an entire resort equipped with multiple runs, a luge, and even a ski lodge inside to grab lunch and drinks. It’s definitely cool to see. Grab an inexpensive and tasty supper at their food court (lots of options)!
To Eat and Drink:
Ravi: In Dubai, you have MANY options for food and drink– many of which are American chain restaurants. If you want some GOOD, CHEAP, DELICIOUS food in a restaurant filled with locals – go to Ravi. The food is amazing. It’s about $5 USD per person – just ask what’s good – they’ll recommend food for you. I really recommend trying some version of mutton, chicken curry, and the daal fry (delicious lentil dish). All meals are served with lots of tasty naan. It’s worth the trip over to Ravi.
Operation Falafel: I really like this place. It’s cheap and has authentic Arabic food – hummus, falafel, shwarma – etc. TASTY. And it was full of locals. It’s KIND of “fast food”. Definitely recommend for a delicious, cheap, meal down by the beach. The one I’m talking about is located near JBR (beach), but there are multiple locations around town.
Wavebreaker: This is the bar and restaurant located at the Hilton, right on JBR beach. At the very least, grab a beer here and enjoy the weather and the scenery. It’s the only place you can drink on the beach (due to restrictions on where alcohol can be consumed and alcohol licenses). The food is also quite nice.
Pure Sky Lounge (in the Hilton): If you’re looking for a view of the city – this is it. You can see the palms AND the beach from here. It’s pretty awesome. Happy hour runs from 5-8 when you can get half price (or better) craft cocktails. This particular bar is located on the 35th floor of the Hilton on the Marina Walk.
Dubai Yacht Club: We didn’t quite make it here, but I know this place is great for food and drinks. It’s down on the Marina Walk and apparently has a great view! Plus, if you’re a yacht fan… HELLO! You’ll see lots of them here.
Buddha Bar: Buddha bar is conveniently located right on the Marina walk and has a stunning view of the water. This BEAUTIFUL restaurant and bar is great for cocktails and tasty Asian fusion food. The food is relatively pricey, especially considering the small portion sizes, but Buddha bar has a wonderful happy hour where you can snag inexpensive craft cocktails – I recommend the wasabi sake Bloody Mary. Yes, please!
360 Bar: This outdoor, circular (hence, 360) bar is located at the Jumeriah Beach Hotel – the sister hotel of the world’s only seven star hotel, Burj al Arab (also the most expensive in the world). It’s the PERFECT place to get a drink and a killer view of the Burj al Arab. The views are particularly beautiful at sunset – which conveniently occurs right around happy hour (5-8). The whole Jumeriah Beach resort is really nice to walk around as well. It’s worth the short taxi ride from downtown or from the Marina.
The Observatory: If you’re after killer views of the city, The Observatory is another great rooftop option to get a 360 degree view of the city (52 floors up). They also have a great happy hour and decent bar food. There is only an indoor seating area, entirely enclosed by glass. The Observatory is located in the Marina Walk area of town.
Have you visited Dubai – and did you find some other favorite local spots? If so, please feel free to post them here!