Dubai is one of the shiniest jewels in the opulent crown of the United Arab Emirates; home to vast deserts, ultramodern skyscrapers and a wealth (pun intended) of over-the-top luxury experiences.
The city loves to break a record, boasting the world’s biggest shopping mall (Dubai mall, with more than 1,200 shops) the world’s tallest building (the Burj Khalifa, a skyscraper that towers 828 metres over the city) and the world’s most luxurious hotel (the iconic Burj Al Arab, where all the gold you see – and it’s a lot – is real 24 karat). Ultimately, everything in Dubai is bigger and more lavish than you’ve ever encountered before – even the police cars are Ferraris.
But getting a taste of this grandeur isn’t as expensive as you may think – you can now get return flights to Dubai for less than £300, and if you know where to go, it’s an amazing holiday destination, no matter how you like to unwind.
Plus, as it’s only a six hour flight from London, it’s the ideal choice for a long-haul city break, with a climate offering close to year-round sunshine. Convinced? We thought so. Here’s what you need to know:
Where to stay in Dubai
Traditionalists will love the opulence of the recently refurbished Jumeirah Al Qasr – from the fountain of golden horses on the driveway to the palatial crystal chandeliers that hang from multiple ceilings in the lobby, it’s impossible not to feel like Arabian royalty upon arrival, and things only get better from there.
The decoratively patterned rooms boast marble bathtubs, sumptuously soft beds and views of the sea and the resort’s scenic waterways, which you can travel on via abra to the spa, restaurants and the souk, an on-site marketplace stocking everything from perfume and jewellery to classic souvenirs.
Prefer something a little simpler and sleeker? Jumeirah Al Naseem won’t disappoint. The ocean views inspire the palette for the interiors – contemporary creams, blues and golds that will instantly soothe any stressed-out soul. There’s three large pools to choose from (including the crucial adults-only option) and landscaped gardens designed by Bill Bensley, all perfect for a restful retreat.
If your budget stretches to it, a stay at the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab – commonly referred to as the world’s only ‘seven-star’ hotel – is truly a bucket list experience. Each suite (from AED 4500, or approximately £940 per night in the low season) is bigger than most London flats – they span two floors, and come complete with perks such as full-size Hermes toiletries, your choice of 14 different types of pillows, and overwhelmingly helpful 24-hour personal butlers to tend to your every whim.
Insider tip: you don’t actually have to be a guest of the Burj Al Arab to take a peek inside – book afternoon tea, make a dinner reservation or rent an air-conditioned cabana for a pool day, and you’ll get to bask in the spectacular surroundings for a somewhat smaller price tag.
At the other end of the spectrum, there’s the 780 square metre royal suite, frequented by A-listers from across the globe who love features like its private lift, library and cinema, with a price tag starting at £13,800 per night. You know, just in case that lottery win ever comes through.
Where to eat in Dubai
When the accommodation is this stunning, it’s unsurprising that many of the best places to eat in Dubai are located within buggy-driving distance in the resorts themselves.
The Burj Al Arab just signed up three new chefs with a combination of 7 Michelin stars between them, so it’s the place to be if you’re after fine dining – try Al Mahara for seafood in a wall-to-ceiling aquarium akin to Ariel’s kingdom, or Scape for a more relaxed experience on the sprawling terrace.
Coffee lovers should also sip the much-Instagrammed 24-karat gold cappuccino at the Sahn Eddar lounge, which is sprinkled with glittering real gold flakes atop a foamy, rich espresso.
Elsewhere, the team at Summersalt have come up with an inventive Japanese-Argentinan fusion menu that curiously compliments the Ibizan, beach club vibe of its decor. Order the tasting menu for a good overview, but be sure to taste the lobster and baby spinach salad dressed with yuzu, parmigiano and truffle oil – the unexpected combination of flavours is not to be missed, and according to staff, has customers coming back for repeat visits more than any other dish.
Rockfish is another destination with major draw – the food (more seafood) is delicious, but the highlight is undoubtedly Bartender RJ and his gin trolley. Tell him the G&T of your dreams, and he’ll whip it up at the table in seconds.
Visiting during Ramadan? Al Majlis is the most beautiful location to experience Iftar – the breaking of the fast – in town.
What to do in Dubai
There’s a list of tourist attractions to tick off in the city – the infamous mall (think Westfield on steroids) and fountains, amazing views from the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Frame, and all of the water parks and brunches you can shake a stick at. But for a more authentic tour, let Platinum Heritage drive you out into the desert for a sustainable desert safari, known as the Al Marmot Bedouin Evening Experience.
As the sun sets, you’ll drive the dunes in a Land Rover, get to meet and greet (and if you wish, ride) the camels, witness a falcon show, dine with the locals and enjoy entertainment like henna painting and dancing demonstrations. You don’t have to join in – but you’ll enjoy it even more if you do.
How to get to Dubai
Emirates is the airline of choice for most travellers – in the spirit of Dubai extravagance, an upgrade to business class will get you lounge access, Bvlgari amenity kits, and a fully-reclinable seat that makes the flight feel like a pleasure, never a chore.
A 7 night trip including 5 Nights Jumeirah Al Naseem Half board and 2 nights at Burj Al Arab Jumeirah B&B based would start from £2299pp including transfers and return Flights on Emirates Airlines from Heathrow. Book through Best At Travel or call 0203 9939773