One of the seven emirates that make up the United Arab Emirates, Dubai located between majestic sand dunes and the crystal waters of the Arabian Gulf is a coveted global destination. A city of superlatives composed of locals, expats, and visitors from all over the world, there is always something new to see and explore in Dubai. Add to that Dubai has the best weather in the Northern hemisphere’s winter months, so stop for a long layover on route to somewhere else, or do yourself a favor and make the city your next vacation destination to discover this unique gem in the Middle East. Here’s 10 reasons Dubai is always worth traveling for.
Take a Trip Around the World
You can travel the world by visiting Dubai, which is now playing host to Expo 2020 (through March 2022). Explore uniquely designed pavilions from 192 countries (each with their own story to tell), and sample a melting pot of global cuisine. The Expo is easy to access via the Metro or by car (in Dubai that includes valet) and promises a life-changing immersive experience. Of our favorite pavilions: The lush greenery of Singapore, a playful and surprising Germany, and the extraordinary architecture of the UAE.
Scale New Heights
Dubai is renowned for its dramatic cityscape and futuristic sky-high buildings. The tallest building in the world? Check (Burj Khalifa). The world’s tallest observation wheel? Check (Ain Dubai). Want to jump out of a plane over the city? Check (Sky Dive Dubai). To visit Burj Khalifa (a towering 2,722 ft), and Ain Dubai (an experience that will see you soaring over the marina for 38 minutes) book in advance to time it at sunset to watch the color and beauty as Dubai moves from day to night.
It’s a Foodies Paradise
In a thriving multicultural city like Dubai, expect to be tempted by international food and flavors at every turn. Among the many gastronomy highlights: Tresind Studio brings modern Indian gastronomy and art to the plate. Get up close and personal with a street food tour from the team at Frying Pan Adventures in Old Dubai. Check out the five-seat award-winning restaurant at High Joint for the best burger in town. And be sure to explore Time Out Market Dubai, home to eleven locally developed restaurants and three lively bars offering stunning views of the famed Dubai Fountain.
Stay in High-End Style
Dubai is awash with lavish luxury hotels and new ones open all the time. For a chic fashion designer immersion, Armani Hotel Dubai, located in the iconic Burj Khalifa tower in the city’s vibrant downtown district (overlooking the spectacular dancing Dubai fountain, dynamic skyline, and Arabian Gulf), evokes the modern minimalism, sophistication, and elegance you’d expect from the iconic Italian fashion house. It is also home to Armani/Prive, considered the hottest club in town when night falls. If you’re looking for more of an authentic, artistic experience, stay in Old Dubai where you will find XVA, an art hotel with a small collection of rooms, galleries, and shaded courtyards located in the historic district. Up for the thrill of adventure? Dubai is home to the world’s largest water park, Aquaventure and you’ll find the 5-Star Hotel and Resort Atlantis on its grounds. Or bed down in a suite overlooking an indoor ski slope, at Kempinski which has Aspen-inspired ski chalet rooms attached to the Mall of the Emirates.
The Shopping Scene is Beyond
With an entire month dedicated to shopping the Dubai Shopping Festival, (affectionately known as ‘DSF,’) and some of the most amazing designer malls in the world, Dubai is a shopper’s paradise. The world’s largest mall, Dubai Mall, features 1200 stores including all the luxury fashion brands, an ice rink, and a massive aquarium. In addition, visitors to the UAE should visit D3, the Dubai Design District, for unique brands and annual festivals. There’s also O’de Rose where you can pick up beautiful local crafts and one-of-a-kind items including jewelry, clothes, and ceramics.
Explore The Incredible Natural Beauty
Walk along its many beautiful beaches or explore the stunning deserts surrounding the city, and you’ll see Dubai is bathed in natural beauty. One of the best ways to experience it is with a safari dune-bashing adventure — guests are picked up from their hotels and taken on an epic and memorable drive to watch the sunset over the dunes and enjoy dinner in the desert. Avid bike riders should visit the Al Qudra track, to explore the surrounding area and it’s absolutely worth getting out of bed early to catch the sunrise from a hot air balloon. If you’re more of an underwater type, Deep Dive Dubai, the world’s deepest pool is open to certified divers.
A Vibrant Cultural Immersion
Dubai has a diverse art and cultural scene that dazzles with must-visit museums, galleries, and performance spaces. Enjoy entertainment at stylish Dubai Opera, home to visiting musicals, events, and other can’t miss performances. Explore Alserkal Avenue, an arts district located in the industrial Al Quoz area with its own dedicated Cinema Akil, featuring screenings and showings from global filmmakers in an intimate setting. Learn more about Dubai’s unique culture and heritage at the Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort, and pay a visit and your respects to the stunning Jumeirah Mosque, operating under the concept ‘Open Doors. Open Minds’ non-Muslim guests are warmly welcomed.
Dubai Literally Dazzles
The Dubai Fountain is one of the city’s best treasures. Located outside the Dubai Mall (and easily seen from many locations in the area), this water, music, and light spectacle was designed by the same team who created the iconic Bellagio fountain in Las Vegas. Also known as the dancing fountain, it’s almost 1,000ft long and shoots water up to 500ft into the air, accompanied by a range of classical, contemporary, Arabic, and international music. Another larger-than-life light experience is the Drone Light Show at the Dubai Marina, which takes place during the Dubai Shopping Festival and is free for all to enjoy.
Step Back in Time
Dubai is a city of contrasts where futuristic and modern meshes with old-world charm and ancient history. The best way to step back in time is to explore the Old Town. Here there are abra stations where visitors can pay AED1 to jump on a boat and ride across the Creek. Go late in the afternoon to maximize the experience (and skip the heat of the day). In this historic district, guests can find traditional houses with preserved wind towers that acted as an early form of air-conditioning (a necessity in the desert heat). Wander through Bastakiya, and stop by the Arabian Teahouse for an authentic local experience that highlights the region’s deep sense of hospitality.
The first and only floating hotel in Dubai, the world’s most celebrated ocean liners, the QE2, is now permanently docked at Dubai’s Port Rashid. With 215 hotel rooms and suites, dining and nightlife venues, and an interactive history exhibition and heritage tour, guests can choose how they want to experience their visit. Stop by for high tea, sundowners, or an overnight stay – there’s even a luxury spa if pampering is on your agenda.
Meet The Author
Courtney Brandt is an American author and journalist living in Dubai, UAE. Her work has been been published in Forbes Middle East, Curiosity Magazine, Elite Daily, The Forward Feed, Food&Wine, Sopexa, A Luxury Travel Blog, Matador Network, JustLuxe, Travelettes, Citizen Femme, and Roads & Kingdoms. Connect with Courtney on Instagram, LinkedIn, or weekly newsletter for more of her foodie and travel adventures.