A Travel Guide to Dubai: Our Expert Advice
Your essential guide to eating, sleeping and exploring the City of Gold
Glamour, glitz, riches, and retail therapy - just a few of the images that spring to mind when thinking about Dubai. An all-time Plum Guide favourite, this is a city that has retained its reputation as one of the world’s cultural capitals for decades - and trust us as travel experts, that reputation is well deserved. If the mood strikes for staggering architecture, fabulous food, deep blue skies, outrageous hotel bars, and all the shopping you could ever do, look no further than Dubai - It is called the City of Gold, after all. Not sure where to begin? Our travel guide to Dubai should have you covered.
What to do
Climb up the famous Burj Khalifa
An aerial view of the city skyline with the Burj Khalifa, Dubai, UAE
No travel guide to Dubai would be complete without pointing you in the direction of the staggering Burj Khalifa. Grazing the clouds at a dizzying height of 829.8m, this is still the world’s tallest tower, and is a great first stop when you get to the city. Book your tickets ahead of time to pay a visit to Khalifa SKY on Level 148, where you’ll be able to soak up unprecedented views across the city and beyond. Not a fan of heights? Keep your feet on terra firma with a visit to the Dubai Fountain at the base of the Burj. Never one to miss the opportunity for a spectacle, they've designed the world’s tallest performing fountain, made up of five circles and two arches of dynamic water displays that vary from day to night. Take a stroll along the shiny new floating Boardwalk platform, where you can get up close and personal with the water displays.
Take a trip to the Dubai Frame
A view of the Dubai Frame lit up at night, Dubai, UAE
Speaking of spectacles, don’t miss a chance to visit the world-famous Dubai Frame. This museum and monument doubles as a captivating observatory, where you can take in views of both old Dubai to the north, and the impressive new regions to the south. This magnificent structure demonstrates the city’s ever-changing face, and celebrates the fusion of old and new world design that makes it such a memorable place to visit. Forget everything you know about waterparks and reserve an afternoon for Aquaventure Waterpark, which practically laughs in the face of all others out there. Made up of over 105 record-breaking slides and attractions, you won’t be short of things to do. Or slides to plummet down.
Feel the sand between your toes at Jumeirah Beach
White sand and clear blue sea on a sunny day at Jumeirah Beach, Dubai, UAE
It's essential that you set aside some time to explore Dubai Marina. This manicured marina runs along a 3km stretch of shoreline, fusing opulent hotels, exclusive eateries, bustling markets, and luxury apartments. Spend a few hours here one afternoon, and stay for the evening to watch the skyscrapers sparkle by moonlight. We'll always recommend staying for dinner on the beach (nothing like the sand between your toes to whet the appetite), or heading for a cocktail at one of the polished hotel bars for views across the Gulf. The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residences allows you to make your way to the beach, where supercars and superstars are as regular a sighting as the palm trees that line the sand.
Where to stay
A view of the city skyline with skyscrapers and a bridge in the evening, Downtown Dubai, UAE
Choosing where to stay in Dubai really depends on the kind of stay you’d like. If it’s high-octane cosmopolitan glamour you're after, we recommend making Downtown Dubai your home for the week. Here, the city’s most famous landmarks shoot towards the sky beside spectacular green spaces and world-famous architectural sights. This is the hub of food, music, and culture in the city, and everywhere you turn you’ll find another dose of Dubai glitz - from polished cafes and exclusive hotels to fabulous art galleries. Looking for something a little more peaceful? Dubai Creek Harbour is a newly-completed neighbourhood nestled on the historic banks of Dubai Creek, where you'll drink in views of Downtown and enjoy al-fresco dining while enjoying the serene surroundings.
When to visit
A Christmas tree in front of large skyscrapers and a beach, Dubai, UAE
According to our Plum Guide sources, the best time to visit the City of Gold (and complete this travel guide to Dubai, of course) is from November to February. Unless you enjoy searing temperatures, these are the months when the heat remains strong but pleasant, with cooler evenings and early mornings (waterside yoga, anyone?). Dubai thrives on its global reputation as a glamorous tourist destination, and this time of year is when the super yachts descend, visitors fill the air with excitement, and the whole place has a general feeling of sunshine-spiked merriment. Having said all this, the summer months are far more affordable - but this may be on account of the rising temperatures that make going outside something of a feat. So while a cheaper flight can be tempting, we recommend following the trend in this case.
Where to eat
A selection of spices and herbs at a market stall, Dubai, UAE
Dubai has very much earned its reputation as a culinary hotspot. It's currently home to a whopping 11 Michelin-starred restaurants, and fine dining is available at every gold-drenched turn. Throw yourself in at the (delicious) deep end and book yourself a table at STAY, Yannick Alléno’s world-famous restaurant - now the proud owner of two Michelin stars. Journey through a tasting menu of eclectic takes on classic French cuisines. And just as with any good adventure, you can expect a few surprises along the way.
For something a tad more casual, we recommend Zheng He, where classic Chinese flavours collide with Western plating at a dockside restaurant meandering into the Jumeirah Mina A’Salam resort. No weekend in Dubai would be complete without a long, leisurely brunch. Try 1Oak for their famous ‘late late brunch’ (expect a sore head in the morning), or try Tokyo-inspired flavours at sensuous Tabu. Locals flock to Bar Du Port for views across the Dubai Harbour, with a four-hour brunch of ‘Mediterr-Asian’ dishes.