Dubai

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The iconic Burj Al Arab hotel peers out from behind the sprawling Madinat Jumeirah complex

By Alex Ritman, your Dubai expert

I write for Dorling Kindersley, .... Read more

Why go to Dubai?

It's lovely and warm...

Obvious maybe, but the Dubai sunshine is why many people flock here each year. Between November and May, the temperature is simply glorious – not too hot, far from cold, just right. If it weren’t for the air conditioning indoors or the swanky restaurants, there wouldn’t really be any reason to change from shorts, t-shirt and flip flops.

Life's a beach out here

With the weather sunbather-friendly six months of the year (or longer if you're wearing a factor high enough), it's only right that Dubai offers a great selection of beaches. There are a wide variety of impeccable stretches of sand attached to resorts – most of which non-guests can use for a fee – offering the usual towel and lounger options (usually with a highly attentive waiter on hand). But there are also some equally nice public beaches and beachparks, which are either free to use or cost next to nothing, and these are just as well kept and inviting (although you’ll have to get your own drink). Find out more on my Dubai attractions page.

Eat your way around the world

While there are some excellent places to enjoy varieties of hummous, flatbread and other Arabic delights, Dubai hosts a simply incredible array of international cuisines in some of the best restaurants on the planet. And, because it’s Dubai, often they’re in a setting you’re unlikely to find elsewhere – at the foot of the world’s tallest tower, overlooking the world’s biggest fountain, or even on a manmade island in the shape of palm tree. Read more on my Dubai caf├ęs and restaurants page.

Treat yourself (and someone else)

Home to the world’s only seven-star hotel (the iconic Burj Al Arab gave itself an extra two stars just to be on the safe side), Dubai prides itself on its red carpet-style luxury offerings. Chauffeurs, private butlers, private beaches, pretty much every whim and indulgence is available to holidaymakers wanting to splash out for something a bit special.

Shopping, shopping, shopping...

Is there anywhere else in the world that celebrates a dedicated ‘shopping festival’? Dubai really is a consumer’s paradise and has spent billions ensuring that a shopping trip isn’t just about pushing a trolley forlornly around a mall. The shopping centres are vast cities, and, aside from housing almost every known brand on the planet, come complete with some quite incredible extras, such as ski slopes, aquariums and even skydiving centres. Read my shopping advice on my Shopping in Dubai page.

Spitting distance from the dunes

Just a short drive out of Dubai and you’re in the desert, and you’ll quickly forget anything of skyscrapers and shopping centres. The vastness of the sand dunes, which stretch out into the endless distance, is immense. Jump aboard a four-wheel drive adventure (or hire your own motor, if you’ve got the nerves) and check out what much of Dubai may have looked like just a few decades ago.

Blink and it'll have grown

“Hang on, that wasn’t there last week,” is an overused expression in Dubai, a city with a skyline that has changed with terrifying speeds over the past few years. In just the past 12 months, the Dubai Metro has opened, handily linking various parts of town with a state-of-the-art monorail, along with the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa, and this during a period of economic downturn. Sure, the credit crunch may have knocked some of Dubai’s more outlandish developments on the head, but it’s still a place where - if you sit down for long enough - you can marvel at a city developing at a phenomenal rate of knots.

Gulf of good fun

With many hotels perched by the side of the Gulf, there are plenty of watersports available for those who might need a break from the exhaustion of sunbathing. Excellent wakeboarding, kitesurfing, parasailing, windsurfing and waterskiing facilities are all here, along with less strenuous (but just as fun) activities at the two incredible waterparks (Aquaventure and Wild Wadi Waterpark). There’s even diving in the Dubai Aquarium, if you fancy coming face-to-face with a shark while bemused shoppers look on (it's in the Dubai Mall).

It's the Middle East's middle ground

For those out there who might be both curious and apprehensive about the Middle East, Dubai is a great place to start. It’s a city where Arabic and Western cultures happily collide, often with some unique results. Local Emiratis wearing traditional robes spend hours strolling around the malls, while mosques sit comfortably alongside fastfood joints and bars. After a while, you won't even notice.

Earn your bragging rights

For ‘I’ve done that’ box ticking, Dubai is among the best, and the most bizarre. Rack up your list of accomplishments with a trip up the world’s tallest building, a skiing lesson in a ski centre in a shopping mall, a boat ride around The World (a group of islands made to look like the globe), a drink in the world’s only seven-star hotel or an evening under the stars in the desert.

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Dubai Hotels

Price fromRating (out of 5)
1. The Address Downtown Dubai
£156
4.5
2. Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa
£400
4.5
3. Al Qasr
£167
4.4
4. Park Hyatt Dubai
£118
4.4
5. Dar Al Masyaf
£228
4.3
See all expert-rated Hotels in Dubai

Dubai Restaurants

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. Reflets Par Pierre Gagnaire
Expensive
4.8
2. Rhodes Mezzanine
Expensive
4.8
3. Nobu
Expensive
4.6
4. Thai Kitchen
Mid-range
4.5
5. Zuma
Expensive
4.5
See all expert-rated Restaurants in Dubai

Dubai Things to do

Price guideRating (out of 5)
1. Desert Safari
Expensive
4.6
2. Ski Dubai
Expensive
4.5
3. Burj Khalifa
Expensive
4.5
4. Dubai Creek
Budget
4.3
5. Jumeirah Beach Park
Budget
4.3
See all expert-rated Things to do in Dubai

Popular destinations in Dubai (United Arab Emirates, Middle East)