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; www.dxbmarine.com)
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.
(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.
(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.
(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
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.
(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.
(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; www.jumeirah.com)
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.
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:
(Souk Madinat Jumeirah, 04 366 6546; www.madinattheatre.com)
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; www.ductac.org)
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:
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 www.artdubai.ae.
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 www.dubaifilmfest.com.
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.