Nightlife in Dubai: from clubbing to culture

by alexritman

Despite what you may think, there are plenty of places to go on a night out in Dubai. Here are some of the best options from clubs to cultural offerings

There are hundreds of places to get a drink in Dubai, from the scruffy to the swanky. Listing them all would be ridiculous, but here's a roundup of the decent places to check out.

Best bars for views

(Jumeirah Beach Hotel
Set on its own island off the end of the pier at the back of the Jumeirah Beach Hotel, this is one unique venue. International DJs head down for Thursday and Friday evenings during winter months and it can get quite busy. If you want to mingle with some of Dubai's beautiful people, surrounded by the ocean, this 
is the spot.

(The Address Downtown Dubai)
Up on the 63rd floor of The Address Downtown Dubai with incredible views of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain, Neos is somewhat a special place, sadly with somewhat special prices. For a one-off, it's definitely worth it, just remember not to wear trainers because the bouncers won't let you in.

Best bars for atmosphere

(Dubai Marine Beach Resort; 04 346 1111;
There's an excellent array of international beers on offer at this lively place in the Dubai Marine Beach Resort down in Jumeirah, opposite the Jumeirah Mosque. 

Left Bank
(Souk Madinat Jumeirah; 04 368 6171)
At the back of the Souk Madinat Jumeirah, this is a long-standing and popular favourite, great for a post-meal drink. It's quite dimly-lit inside, so I often prefer to head to the tables in front, assuming the temperature isn't at Gas Mark 5. 

Bar Zar 
(Souk Madinat Jumeirah; 04 366 6348)
This is a cheap and cheerful place also in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah and spread over two levels. The best spots are the beanbags by the fake waterway outside, especially if the live band inside aren't much cop, which is fairly often.

Barasti Bar
(Le Meridien Mina Seyahi)
A great beach bar at the side of Le Meridien Mina Seyahi, this vast, wooden-decked place is chilled by day and rowdy by night, especially at weekends. During the summer months, the beach is turned into a concert area for various DJs and bands. It's a little like a meat-market sometimes, but some people seem to like that sort of thing.

Best bars for people watching

(Armani Hotel)
A ludicrously swanky, designer-endorsed bar at the base of the Burj Khalifa (world's tallest tower) featuring a massive screen on the back wall that acts like a sort of screensaver for the music. It's great for posing, and not at all cheap, but, hey, we're in Dubai. Be careful, it is quite dark inside.

Rooftop Bar
(One&Only Royal Mirage)
This cool, mood lit spot on the top of the One&Only Royal Mirage has great views across the Burj Al Arab and is commonly regarded as the most romantic spot in town. If you need to earn brownie points with that special someone, earn them here. Many a knee has been gotten down on at this spot.  

Best clubs

Nasimi Beach 
(Atlantis, The Palm)
Dance in the sand at this hugely popular spot by the side of the Atlantis, The Palm, with international DJs flocking most weekends to entertain the 3,000 or so revellers who regularly turn up. Tickets can usually be bought at the door, but it might be worth checking with the hotel first as it depends on the night. 

(Souk Madinat Jumeirah, 04 336 6917;
A cool, multi-layered club by the side of Madinat Jumeirah that hosts various international DJs. Mark Ronson was here just a month ago. It's definitely worth checking out the rooftop, which has its own DJ and amazing views of the Big Bus Tour.

Cultural offerings 

Opera houses and theatres are unlikely to be top of your thoughts when you consider Dubai. Indeed, a 'lack of culture' is one of the criticisms the city often receives. In many ways, it's difficult to argue, but when you consider that just 30 years ago much of this metropolis was sand, it's unfair to compare the place with major Western cities that have had centuries of classical composers and playwrights to build upon. That said, the cultural scene is growing rapidly and venues are opening to cater for more high-brow entertainment. And, as Dubai has grown, touring international groups are now starting to regularly include the city on their calendars.

Here are a couple of places worth checking out:

Madinat Theatre
(Souk Madinat Jumeirah, 04 366 6546;
Nestled in the Souk Madinat Jumeirah is this well-established theatre, which regularly hosts international theatre groups, musicals, comedy acts, dancing troupes and other such stuff. Tickets can be bought at the box office by the door or online.

(Mall of the Emirates, 04 341 4777;
The Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre sits at the top of the Mall of the Emirates and has space for concerts, plays, exhibitions and workshops. Go to the website to see what's coming up.

There are also an increasing number of major annual events in Dubai that are helping push the city onto the cultural stage:

Art Dubai
This vast contemporary art fair usually takes place in March and takes over much of the Madinat Jumeirah. Alongside regional galleries, established international names often take part to showcase their works in order to attract deep Arab pockets. See

Dubai International Film Festival

Now into its seventh year, DIFF take place each December at the Madinat Jumeirah and offers a great opportunity to watch Hollywood blockbusters before their international release, plus excellent regional films you're unlikely to see back home. You might even get to glimpse the odd star. See

More expert advice on Dubai

For suggestions on where to stay in Dubai, see my Dubai Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Dubai page.

Read my nightlife overview on my Dubai nightlife page.


I'm a freelance journalist in Dubai and write for a wide range of local and international titles, including Time Out, Esquire and The National. 

I came to Dubai almost five years ago with the full intention of saving a large amount of money and leaving within six months to go travelling. However, I unexpectedly began to really enjoy the place (and I also failed to save anything) so decided to stick around and watch a city grow at a frightening speed around me. As a Dubai resident (and, fortunately, working in the media) I've often been lucky enough to get ringside seats for some of Dubai's latest, greatest and (often) more ridiculous developments.

My Dubai  

Where I always grab a coffee: The Lime Tree cafe in Jumeirah may be a rather popular spot with residents, but it's just a short walk from my flat, has a very friendly vibe and a lovely outdoor seating area. Crucially, it doesn't have any WiFi, meaning that I can actually get work done there without procrastinating. It's also just over the road from the beach, which is never a bad thing.

My favourite stroll: Dubai may not be particularly pedestrian friendly in many parts of town, but the streets of Satwa are always abuzz with life, anytime of the day. It's also home to some of the best (and cheapest) roadside restaurants in town.  

Where to be seen this winter: With the temperatures having simmered down since summer, outdoors really is the place to be in Dubai. That said, the new Armani Hotel  in the Burj Khalifa (aka The World's Tallest Tower) is only a few months old and features a variety of Armani-endorsed restaurants and the rather swanky Armani/Prive club just next door. There are also a various new hotels opening up on The Palm Jumeirah, each no doubt coming with their own selection of bars and eateries. 

The most breathtaking view: While Dubai isn't short of tall structures, the observation deck of the Burj Khalifa, some two thirds of the way up the building's 828 metres, offers some frankly preposterous views of the city, even stretching out across the Gulf towards Iran. 

The best place for some peace and quiet: On the airport side of the creek, the Park Hyatt and its surrounding area is a small nugget of Mediterranean-style bliss, with cool waterside bars and restaurants providing some much needed chill in an otherwise bustling and noisy city. Alternatively, you can just drive out to the desert, perhaps one of the most peaceful and quiet places anywhere (once you've turned off the 4x4's engine). 

Shopaholics beware!: Where to start. The Dubai Mall, The Mall of the Emirates, BurJuman Mall, Ibn Battuta Mall, Deira City Centre, Mercato Mall, Marina Mall, The Outlet Mall... the list of temples to consumerism is endless. There's even a dedicated 'Shopping Festival'. With approximately 1.8 shopping centres per person (not really, but it does feel like that at times), Shopaholics should really be aware what they're letting themselves in for before they even set off. 

City on screen: Being but a youngster, Dubai has yet had the privilege of featuring in many films. There has been a few brief cameo roles in Syriana, Body of Lies and no doubt a few other tales of Middle Eastern espionage and politics, plus the appearance in an episode of Doctor Who, but no major blockbuster has been set solely in the city, a situation Dubai, I'm sure, would like to rectify. 

Don't leave without: Heading out to the desert, standing on top of a sand dune and having a look around you. Many people may do it, but this doesn't take anything away from the impressiveness that one huge amount of sand can bring. Also, get a boat to take you around The World islands. It may not look the most amazing thing from sea level, but being able to say you've been around the world in under an hour is an anecdote you can bring to any party. I suppose you should probably take a look at the Burj Khalifa too. It is very tall.