Sumptuous hotels, designer shopping, stunning beaches and even the odd camel or two make Dubai a stand-out holiday destination. Here’s your ultimate 48-hour itinerary.
07:00 Soak up the views
Enjoy the cool drinks and warm smiles that will greet you on arrival at the luxurious and sophisticated The Palace - The Old Town. Built on the edge of a lake in downtown Dubai, The Palace is directly connected to the Souk Al Bahar and faces The Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa - the views don’t get much better than this. But neither does the service or facilities.
Next, head over to the Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa and while away a few hours by any of three stunning pools or on the elegant beach (the shuttle service runs every five minutes). Alternatively, head over to Aquaventure at The Atlantis. It’s one of the largest waterparks in the Middle East and offers over 42 acres of waterslides, rivers and rapids. Guests staying at The Atlantis have unlimited use of the park.
12:30 Book a brunch
The Friday brunch is something of a Dubai institution so make a beeline for the Grand Grill, one of the most popular steak houses in the city at the Habtoor Grand Resort & Spa, and tuck into a mouth-wateringly meaty brunch.
From juicy slabs of perfectly grilled meat and succulent Boerewors sausage via a few sticky beef ribs, these dishes are all finger-lickin’ good. Finish off with a serving of banana curry ice cream.
‘Friday brunch is something of a Dubai institution so make a beeline for the Grand Grill’
15:30 See Dubai from the sky
Head over to a private terminal at Dubai International Airport for a helicopter ride over the city. There is no better way to appreciate the majesty of Dubai and helicopter tours can be tailored to ensure you see whatever you want. Fly down the creek and follow the coast over Jumeirah as far as the Burj al Arab and then head back down Shiekh Zayed Road for views of Dubai’s most impressive landmarks. You’ll finish the day with some amazing photos of the city.
But if that all sounds like a little too much exertion, how about spending the afternoon being pampered? The Talise Ottoman Spa in the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray is modelled on the ancient palaces of the Ottoman Empire and offers a luxurious and opulent spa experience. Alternatively, the One&Only Spa at the Royal Mirage is another centre of pampering excellence. This serene sanctuary offers 12 private treatment suites as well as a range of holistic and tailored experiences to relax both mind and body.
19:30 Walk this way
If you like your retail therapy a little off-piste, hit JBR’s cobbled beachfront promenade The Walk, and browse the Covent Garden Market. The vibrancy of this night market comes from its street artists and more than 75 stalls, selling everything from handicrafts and traditional handmade jewellery to fashion items, art and confectionary. On a Friday night, Lamborghinis, Ferraris and other pricey motors are out in force.
For a more lavish dining experience, choose Michelin starred Vineet Bhatia’s Indian restaurant Indego at Grosvenor House. Kebabs bursting with rich flavours, assorted samosas with unique stuffings and delectable desserts like creamy coconut and mango cheesecake make this a gem of a restaurant.
23:00 Hit the heights
Dubai is best viewed from altitude at night. So why not make your way over to Downtown Dubai where you can stroll the observation deck 124 floors up the world’s tallest tower, the Burj Khalifa.
From here, soak up the views of Dubai’s glimmering skyline, Gulf shore, sprawling desert and the neighbouring emirate of Abu Dhabi. Now file under ‘M’ for memorable.
09:00 Take a dip
, the adults-only pool is perfect for lazing around during the day but head to the main pool for an early morning swim.
11:00 Go for Olympic Gold
Get in the mood to take up new sports and emulate Peter Wilson’s exploits in the shooting by booking a session at the shooting range at the JA Jebel Ali Golf Resort & Spa. There are a number of facilities on offer including clay shooting and Olympic trap but the five shooting ranges are tailored to suit all abilities. And when you’ve finished, chill out at Shooters, the club’s restaurant. This Western-style American steakhouse is famous for the finest flame-grilled steaks in Dubai. But best of all, the circular floor-to-ceiling glass wall gives you uninterrupted views of the shooting ranges below.
14:00 Head down to the pub
Once you’ve settled some scores – and decided who pays for lunch – the Irish Village, just around the corner from the Garhoud Bridge, boasts what is possibly Dubai’s most authentic pub experience. The buzzy beer garden is a lush, relaxed haven of fountains, lakes and cobblestones in an otherwise bustling city, serving traditional pub grub such as Guinness battered fish ‘n‘ chips and sausages and mash. The staff are from Ireland adding to the ‘authentic’ Irish flair and it’s a prime venue to listen to live acts, both in-house and visiting live bands. Bob Geldof makes an annual appearance.
17:00 Soak in the souks
Spend the late afternoon mooching around the breezy Bur Dubai textile souk, where you can snap up beautiful silks and satins in every colour and pattern imaginable. Barter hard; persistent protest followed by a confident walk away is often all it takes to get merchants to drop their asking price by as much as half.
Once you’ve perfected your haggle, hop on an abra (water taxi) and catch a ride to Deira along the Dubai Creek to the atmospheric spice souk.
Follow your nose to the best buys, such as frankincense, lemon balm, dried rose hips, cinnamon sticks and saffron. The pungent aromas from the jute sacks and the wonderfully restored wind towers are worth some of your time, if only to serve as a reminder that there was a bustling Dubai long before the city started hitting world records for tallest building, largest mall, and so on. Finally, stroll through the covered arcades of the enormous gold souk and savour the sheer size and indulgence of it all.
19:00 Go for a spin
There are plenty of fabulous places in Dubai to have dinner but how many of them involve sitting in a slowly rotating restaurant? Not very many. In fact, Al Dawaar is Dubai’s only revolving restaurant, located on the 25th floor of the Hyatt Regency Dubai. You’ve seen New Dubai in all its splendour, now saviour traditional local dishes while taking in wonderfully unique views of the blue Gulf waters, the Creek and Old Deira City. It doesn’t matter where you sit, this slick eatery revolves slowly (taking an hour and 45 minutes to revolve 360 degrees) so you can gawp and gaze at Old Dubai and beyond in every direction.
21:00 Raise the bar
Head to the world famous and enduringly hip Buddha Bar, located in the Grosvenor House Hotel. Sip sake-soaked cocktails among the Asian-inspired interiors of plush carpets, red chandeliers and a gigantic statue of Buddha, and the effortlessly cool clientele, all of whom seem to be dressed in black and bling. Mounds of bling. Never knowingly understated. But isn’t that what Dubai is all about?