The best place to stay is the Dubai Marina area and our hotel (the 5* Grosvenor House) was right in the middle of it. Twin towers, 45 floors each, great rooms, fantastic service and just minutes to Jumeriah beach. The hotel courtesy coach shuttles guests 10mins to the beach at its partner hotel Le Royal Meridien Resort & Spa, another fantastic property with the best Beach Club I’ve seen. Acres of gardens, 3 pools, bars & restaurants, recliners & cabanas, waiter service and the beautiful azure blue waters of the Arabian Sea all at your disposal.
The nearby beachfront promenade is called “The Walk Dubai” with a huge array of luxury shops, restaurants and cafes, with free night-time entertainment outdoors – we stumbled upon a ‘Red Bull Style’ event featuring world champion skaters, roller-bladers and BMX-ers which we watched from bean-bags provided for everyone on the beach.
This whole area is very family-friendly, with lots of kids running around the paved areas and restaurants seemed very welcoming of children up until quite late in the evening. Remember tho’ alcohol is not available in all restaurants, so should you want to enjoy your glass of vino with dinner, make sure to ask before you take your table.
The Dubai Marina area has so much to offer, with over 7km of wide paved walking areas packed with superb restaurants overlooking the yachts on the marina. By day there are lots of excursions to choose from and by night you can enjoy a dinner-cruise. We opted for a 90 min rib-tour which took us through the marina, out around the giant Palm Island and over to the stunning Burj Al Arab Hotel, with a guided tour of the Royal Palaces along the way. It was a really great way to enjoy a different vantage of Dubai.
By night on the Marina we visited Pier 7 – well worth checking out. It’s a tall circular building with 7 floors, each one with a different themed bar and/or restaurant, some with in-house DJs. Thursday & Friday nights are big nights for Pier 7. Great night-life, young crowd, good vibe.
Brunch is very popular on Fridays and Saturdays in Dubai and lots of restaurants & bars have great deals on offer. You pay-in around noon and you can eat and drink all you like into the late afternoon. Some have live music or DJs. We brunched at Zero Gravity Bar (beside Sky Dive Dubai) - fantastic.
A visit to Dubai wouldn’t really be complete without taking in the Burj Khalifa Tower – the tallest building in the world. The Khalifa tower is particularly spectacular by night. Soaring high at 555 meters to the top - you can also access the world’s highest outdoor observation deck. Atmosphere Restaurant is located on level 122 should you wish to book a pretty expensive meal with an admittedly good view.
Burj Khalifa Tower is located immediately adjacent to the Dubai Mall. Yes, you guessed it; the biggest mall in the world. At 12 million square feet, its area is equivalent to 200 soccer pitches. With over 1,200 retail stores, 200 food outlets, not to mention the Olympic size Dubai Ice Rink, the Dubai Aquarium, an Underwater Zoo, a 22-screen Cineplex and the Emirates Flights Simulator. There are endless possibilities for families. We visited the Dubai Aquarium close to midnight and it was still packed with families!
Several of the mall’s restaurants have outdoor areas that face a 30-acre man-made lake, complete with computerised fountain jets that shoot water high into the air, all accompanied by music and synchronized laser shows. For an amazing view of these famous Dubai fountains, as well as the Burj Khalifa Tower, get an outside table at one of the restaurants at the Souk Al Bahar which overlook the fountains. The 10 mins fountain shows begin at 6pm and run every 30 minutes, with a different ‘performance’ each time.
We took a walking tour of ‘old Dubai’ city centre which brought us though the spice souk and gold souk - well worth a visit. The tour also includes stops at the Dubai Museum, the Royal Palace and an ‘Abra’ (traditional old boat) trip across Dubai Creek. The guide was great, a mine of information and local knowledge.
We also visited the wonderful Souk Madinat Jumeirah which combines traditional Middle Eastern shopping culture of stands, carts & stalls with a mix of boutique brands. It’s also home to over 20 restaurants offering cuisine from all over the globe. Most of the Souk restaurants, bars and cafés have great views of the Arabian architecture, waterways and the iconic Burj Al Arab Hotel.
On our last night, we dined at the Buddha Bar. It simply has to be seen to be believed. A three-story high gold buddha sits happily overlooking his diners who enjoy a three-story window view of the Dubai Marina. Dazzling Dubai has so much to see and do. The variety is endless and they are continuing to build more and more incredible attractions, hotels and infrastructure mega-projects.
It definitely deserves another visit – and I don’t think I’ll be waiting another 18 years!