Dubai travel guide: Where to stay and what to do for a fun-filled trip in the desert
Recently named the most popular 2023 destination in TripAdvisor’s Travellers’ Choice Best of the Best Destination Awards, Dubai has seen its popularity surge in the last decade, quickly becoming one of the most sought-after destinations in the world.
The city truly has something for everyone, combining modern culture and history with cutting-edge architecture, luxury hospitality and exhilarating adventure. Whether you’re visiting the world’s tallest building or infinity pool, exploring the dunes a stone’s throw away from the city, or visiting the charming gold souks, you won’t find yourself short of things to do. Here’s everything you need to know for a fun-filled trip in this thriving city.
For those visiting Dubai for the first time, fewer places are more iconic than Raffles on the Palm Jumeirah. Tucked away on the West Crescent of Dubai’s man-made outer island, Raffles: The Palm is a luxurious palatial getaway perfect for anyone looking for an experience that truly lives up to its five stars.
Set amongst beautifully manicured gardens, Raffles is home to 381 rooms and suites, and eight villas, all with balconies that feature panoramic ocean views of the Arabian gulf or Dubai skyline. With ornate furnishings from traditional Italian ateliers of Francesco Molon, and more than 6,000 Swarovski crystal chandeliers throughout, Raffles truly does feel like the definition of opulence.
Rooms are spacious and tastefully finished with intricate designs on the plush antique furnishings. The pastel colour palette is accentuated with gold and silver leaf to give an added touch of luxury, while bathrooms are decorated in beautiful white marble.
There’s plenty to do on this 25-acre property, with a gorgeously lavish breakfast served in the luxurious restaurant and terrace, Le Jardin, while Piatti offers beachside dining in its beautifully decorated restaurant, inspired by the Amalfi coast. Come night-time, Matagi showcases contemporary Japanese food in a moody and intimate setting, while the nearby Sola jazz lounge hosts live artists and Asian and Mediterranean sharing plates. You can even combine the two with a special four-course set menu at Matagi before heading for delicious cocktails in Sola as part of the hotel’s Sushi and Soul night.
Guests have access to a discreet 24-hour personal butler to cater to any additional requests; additionally, you’ll find plenty of hotel staff on hand by the pool and 500-metre private beach, allowing you to soak up the experience and fully relax. There’s also the award-winning Cinq Mondes spa which offers hammams, saunas and an extensive list of treatments. For those looking to try something new, there’s a good selection of water sports by the beach.
The resort’s palatial backdrop and beachside location make it a must-visit for anyone looking to experience the extravagance Dubai has become renowned for. The hotel itself does a remarkable job of remaining lavish without ever feeling pretentious, and the spacious rooms really will feel like your own private palace.
Needing little introduction is the world’s tallest building: at 828 metres, the Burj Khalifa has stood proudly opposite Dubai’s fountains since 2010 and is a must-see during your time in the city. Designed by architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill, the Burj boasts 163 floors, with restaurants, apartments and an observation deck for those brave enough to ride right to the top.
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With a variety of tour providers offering affordable packages, visiting Dubai’s Lahbab desert is at the top of the agenda for many. You can escape the hustle and bustle of the city and choose between a sunrise tour, dune bashing, sandboarding, camel rides, evening star gazing and a traditional dinner showcase to suit your needs.
For those after a serious adrenaline rush, Dubai has become famous for its skydiving offering. If you’re ever wandering along Jumeirah Beach, you won’t be short of seeing brave thrill-seekers tandem skydiving from the nearby Skydive Dubai. With a selection of the most experienced skydivers, you’ll be in safe hands if you fancy giving it a try.
Immerse yourself in one of Dubai’s beautiful souks located on the Deira side of Dubai Creek. The Gold Souk is arguably the largest gold bazaar in Arabia, with beautiful fine jewellery, gold, silver and unique gemstones to suit your budget. Not far up the road are the spice, perfume and textile souks which are all equally renowned and full of beautiful treasures. With something for everyone, these traditional Arab markets are well worth a visit during your trip.