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About Dubai

Dubai has something for everyone

Dubai sits on the coast of the Persian Gulf, less than 7 hours from the UK on a direct flight from London Stansted Airport.

It’s no exaggeration to say that whatever type of holiday you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Dubai. Beach-lovers will be spoilt for choice with a range of glamorous resorts, beach clubs and public beaches. If discovering the history and culture of your destination is a priority, you’ll love the atmospheric souks and preserved historic streets at the mouth of Dubai Creek, where the city began.

Dubai has been part of the United Arab Emirates since 1971 and given its futuristic appearance, you might be surprised to discover that its history goes back much further. The first records of Dubai come from 1799, when its main industry was pearl fishing. When the market for pearls collapsed in the 1920s Dubai turned to trade – an industry that you can still see today in the Deira district as wooden dhows laden with goods from all over the world set out across the Gulf to Iran and beyond.

Since oil was discovered in the 1960s Dubai has continued to push forward, with a series of incredible and record-breaking building projects. Everywhere in Dubai you’ll come across world firsts and world-beating sights; the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa), the world’s biggest mall (Dubai Mall), the world’s biggest flower arrangement (the life-size Airbus A380 at Dubai Miracle Garden) and the world’s biggest gold ring – which is estimated to be worth a cool $3 million.

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The best area to stay in Dubai depends on what you’re looking to do on your trip, but good public transport, including the futuristic metro means that wherever you stay, you’ll find it easy to get around the city. Dubai is a long, thin city which hugs the coast, with Bur Dubai and Deira at one end, the Marina area at the other and Downtown and the Palm area in between.

To be in the middle of the action, choose a hotel in Downtown. This area is where you’ll find the Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and the skyscrapers of Sheikh Zayed Road. Hotels in this area include the ultra-luxe Armani Hotel, which is in the Burj Khalifa itself, and the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel – the tallest in the world. If your budget is a little more modest, try the Rove Downtown Hotel, which features Instagrammable style, great breakfasts and views of the Burj Khalifa from many rooms.

For beach holiday lovers, look at one of the resorts on the Palm. This man-made wonder extends nearly 4 miles off the coast and from the sky looks exactly like a palm tree. Hotels on the Palm include Anantara The Palm, The Fairmont and the iconic Atlantis, which sits proudly at the very tip of the island.

For a mix of shopping, restaurants and relaxation, try the Marina and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) area. Hotels in this neighbourhood benefit from a great choice for dining, easy connections to the rest of Dubai via the Metro, shopping at Marina Mall and seaside fun at JBR Beach. Hotels in the Marina and JBR area include the Address Dubai Marina, Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach and Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort and Spa.

If you’re looking for a smaller, boutique hotel experience for your stay in Dubai, you’re in luck. In the Al Fahidi Historic Neighbourhood there’s a small but growing range of quirky, traditionally inspired hotels and guest houses – the XVA Art Hotel with its 13 individually-decorated rooms set around a series of shaded courtyards is one of our favourites.

Where to shop and what to buy in Dubai

With 1200 shops in the Dubai Mall alone, you’ll never be short of opportunities to shop in Dubai.

As well as visiting the international stores in Dubai Mall and Mall of the Emirates, ensure you make time for some shopping with a Middle Eastern flavour. Haggling in the Gold, Spice and Perfume souks on the banks of the Creek will make an incredible holiday memory.

If that sounds too intense but you still want a mix of cultures while you’re shopping , try the Madinat Jumeirah complex of shops, restaurants and hotels. Set around a series of picturesque waterways and traditional Arabian-style architecture, and with views of the Burj Al Arab, you’ll find authentic souvenirs in a more relaxed environment.

What to eat and drink in Dubai

Dubai is one of the most international cities in the world – just 10% of its residents are Emirati, while the remaining 90% are ex-pats from all over the world. This is reflected in the Dubai food scene, and means that whatever you fancy eating, you’re bound to find it.

With so many incredible sights in the city, it’s no surprise that some of the most sought-after tables come with a view. One of the best ways to see the Dubai Fountains is from the restaurants that line the waterside; Thai restaurant Thiptara and Argentinian Asado are particular favourites. Alternatively you could go up above the action – way up – to At.Mosphere on the 122th floor of the Burj Khalifa.

For a romantic atmosphere, try one of the many restaurants at the Madinat Jumeirah complex. The traditional-style Arabian architecture, shady courtyards and winding waterways create the perfect mood, while the much-awarded Pierchic restaurant boasts magical views of the Palm and Burj Al Arab.

One meal you mustn’t skip is the legendary Dubai Friday Brunch. You’ll find these weekly events at nearly every hotel and restaurant and they’re an unmissable opportunity to eat, drink and socialise on the first day of the UAE weekend. Some of the best are Bubbalicious at the Westin Dubai (as the name suggests, it includes bottomless bubbly) and Latin American-style Toro Toro at the Grosvenor House Hotel.

Alcohol is tightly regulated in Dubai and only sold in hotels. Most bars and licenced restaurants are actually part of hotels, and as a visitor you won’t be able to buy alcohol in shops. That being said, there’s no shortage of incredible drinking spots in Dubai. Our favourites include Asia Asia, a stylish bar with plenty of cosy booths in the Marina neighbourhood, and Level 43, which sits in an incredible location high above Sheikh Zayed Road with views of Downtown’s skyscrapers and the Burj Khalifa.

Dubai has a packed events, sporting and cultural calendar, so whenever you go, you’re sure to find there’s something going on.

January: Dubai Shopping Festival, Dubai Marathon, Dubai Desert Classic

February: Dubai Jazz Festival, Dubai Food Festival, Dubai International Boat Show, Dubai Duty Free Tennis Championship

March: Dubai World Cup, Art Dubai, Festival of Literature

April: Middle East Film and Comic Con

May: Dubai Duty Free Darts Masters, Traditional Dhow Race

June: PSA Dubai World Series Finals, Dubai Sports World

July: Dubai Summer Surprises

October: Fiesta de los Muertos, Fashion Forward, Desert Warrior Challenge, Dubai Fitness Challenge

November: DP World Tour Championship (Golf), Samsung International Beach Soccer, Arab Fashion Week, Dubai Design Week, The Color Run

December: UAE National Day, Dubai Rugby Sevens, Dubai World Superseries Finals (Badminton), Dubai International Film Festival, New Year Dubai

Direct flights to Dubai from London Stansted land at Dubai International Airport (DXB) which is situated near the Deira area on the north side of Dubai Creek, around 9 miles from Downtown. Getting to your destination in Dubai from the airport is easy – the Dubai Metro runs throughout the day and taxis are readily available and reasonably priced.

Flights to Dubai from London Stansted are operated by Emirates Airlines, which is based in Dubai. The flight time from London Stansted to Dubai International Airport is just under 7 hours.

Hiring a car is a good option in Dubai if you’re planning to go outside the city, for example for a day trip to Abu Dhabi. Arranging car rental is easy from the London Stansted Airport website.

Take a trip to the top of the Burj Khalifa. This must-do in Dubai doesn’t take you quite to the top of the world’s tallest building but it gets you dizzyingly close – the outside viewing platform is 124 floors up. Book in advance as peak slots often sell out – tickets for the prime sunset slot are particularly sought after. For early risers, an early-morning sunrise ticket is a cheaper alternative.

See the Dubai Fountains. These amazing fountains at the foot of the Burj Khalifa perform a choreographed ‘dance’ to music every evening – accompanied by a light show on the Burj Khalifa itself. The show is free, so make sure you get there early for a good view.

Visit the Deira Souks. In a small area in the older area of Dubai you’ll find a very different side to Dubai. Walk through the Gold Souk to see the world’s biggest gold ring and amazing jewellery of every type, then continue through the Spice Souk and Perfume Souk for a true sensory experience. Carry along the banks of the Dubai Creek and watch wooden ships (dhows) being laden with goods destined for Iran and beyond – Dubai’s trading heritage in action today.

Take a boat trip on the Creek. Whether you choose a 20p ride on a traditional water taxi, a luxurious dinner cruise or one of the city’s futuristic water buses, seeing Dubai from the water shouldn’t be missed. Some tours take in the incredible Palm artificial island and pass the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab on their way to Dubai Marina.

Go shopping! Dubai Mall is the biggest in the world. As well as its 1,200 shops (including the world’s biggest sweet shop), the Dubai Mall is also home to a three-storey waterfall, a dinosaur, an ice rink and an aquarium. A short distance from Dubai Mall is Mall of the Emirates, another gigantic shopping centre which boasts its own ski slope with real snow.

Go dune-bashing and camel-riding in the desert. One of the most popular activities in Dubai is a desert safari. These are available from a range of tour companies and typically involve a trip out to the desert in a 4x4, an exciting hour or so dune-bashing across the sands, followed by a camel ride and a traditional meal as you watch the sun go down.

A day trip to Abu Dhabi. Dubai’s next-door neighbour is around a 90 minute drive away and well worth a visit. As well as the stunning Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Abu Dhabi offers theme parks including Ferrari World, plus the new Louvre Abu Dhabi.

Enjoy a Friday Brunch. The Dubai working week is Sunday to Thursday, with the weekend landing on Friday and Saturday. Friday Brunch buffets are an institution across the city and most hotels and many restaurants offer their take on the tradition. Whatever type of food, drink or atmosphere you’re looking for, there’ll be a brunch that suits.

Hit the beach. For much of the year, Dubai basks in perfect beach weather, and there’s a spot of sand for everyone. On the Palm, many of the resorts have private beaches where you can bask in style with a cool drink never far away. For those on a budget, check out one of the public beaches – Kite Beach, JBR Beach and Sunset Beach are all favourites. If you’re looking for more of a party atmosphere, try one of the beach clubs – Zero Gravity’s Friday brunch beach party is legendary.

See wild flamingos. If the city’s getting too much and you’re longing for some nature, head out to the Ras Al Khor wildlife sanctuary. This surprising natural wetland just a few minutes from Downtown is home to tens of thousands of native and migrating birds, including gorgeous pink flamingos. Visits are free – try to go at morning or afternoon feeding time to see the biggest flocks.

Explore the history of Dubai. Across the Creek from the souks and bustling trade of Deira, the Bur Dubai area is the most historic in the city, and includes Dubai’s oldest buildings, the Al Fahidi fort. Inside the fort, which dates back to 1787, you’ll find a museum with evocative displays, taking you back to Dubai as it was before the skyscrapers. After your visit, stroll through the Al Fahidi historic neighbourhood with its traditional houses, art galleries and cafes.

Useful Information

Key facts

Language:Arabic, English
Currency:UAE Dirham
Time zone:GMT +4 hours
Flight time:6 hours 55 mins
Airport code:DXB
Holiday type:Beach / City Break / Cuisine / Discovery / Sightseeing / Winter Sun

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