The concept of “a land of contrasts” might be one of travel writing’s biggest cliches, but for Dubai, a place where vast windswept deserts rub shoulders with sky-tickling steel and glass towers, and cavernous air-conditioned malls sit just down the street from traditional warren-like souks, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more fitting description.
There’s probably nowhere else quite like it when it comes to service, so whether you’re looking to unwind in a spa or celebrate in style with one of Dubai’s infamous boozy brunches, you’re guaranteed to feel like a rock star in this fabulous city.
Sure, the odd display of ostentation is par for the course in a city that – for better or worse – has become infamous for almost unimaginable luxury, but those in search of a more authentic holiday will find ample evidence of the city’s captivating Middle Eastern setting, too.
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Where to stay in Dubai
If you want to experience Dubai in all its stunning, somewhat bewildering glory, look for a hotel in Jumeirah Beach. Here, the iconic, ultra-luxurious “seven-star hotel” that is the sail-shaped Burj al Arab sits on its own island, while just down the road at Umm Suqeim you can find the mind-boggling Madinat Jumeirah resort. Styled like an ancient Arabian citadel, it comprises hotels (including our top couples’ pick Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf), shops, bars, restaurants and even a water park.
Downtown Dubai is also extremely popular with holidaymakers, not least for its convenience. Stay here – at the Manzil Downtown, Armani Hotel or Address Boulevard – and be within paces of shopping, culture, chilled cafés and the towering Burj Khalifa.
But perhaps surprisingly, those in search of something more secluded are also well catered-to. One&Only The Palm sits at the very tip of the man-made island from which it takes its name, offering quiet and a feeling of exclusivity. On the more extreme end of the scale, there’s Al Maha Resort and Spa, which sits five miles into a nature reserve and offers uninhibited views of the vast desert.
The 9 best hotels in Dubai
There’s one word that comes to everyone’s mind when they think of things to do in Dubai and that’s brunch! In Dubai, the weekends kick off on a Friday and The Majestic hotel is probably one of the best places to stay if you’re looking to enjoy delicious food and endless booze.
This hotel is home to a number of restaurants, but Bar Baar has recently cooked up a storm with its colourful décor and range of street food dishes to match. With over 65 Indian dishes with a twist to choose from, this is undoubtedly one of the coolest places to eat in Dubai.
The four star hotel offers simple rooms with spectacular views of the skyline, right in the middle of rich history and culture, as well as close to local malls and nightlife, making it the perfect place to stay for any traveller looking to experience every side to Dubai.
The Madinat Jumeirah resort complex might be mind-bogglingly enormous, yet the Jumeirah Dar Al Masyaf is among the most intimate offerings in Dubai, making it our best hotel for couples. Each suite, set in a low-rise summerhouse with scenic views, has the feeling of a private residence, with large bathrooms, Nespresso machines, Bose music systems and even superbly helpful and courteous butlers.
But if staying in somehow doesn’t appeal, there are plenty of options for enjoying each other’s company in the resort, namely over 50 restaurants and bars for romantic nights out, excellent spas for treating yourselves to a relaxing couple’s massage, and even a water park just next door for a fun daytime date.
Not only does the Manzil Downtown Dubai benefit from reasonable room pricing throughout the year, especially refreshing in a city where prices have been known to skyrocket in the milder winter and spring, it also allows one child aged four or below to stay for free, making it arguably our best value Dubai hotel as well as our top pick for families.
The central location, just a few minutes’ walk from the Dubai Mall, also makes corralling kids to the sights a cinch. Add exceptionally friendly and welcoming staff, babysitting services, free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel to keep them occupied, and cloud-like beds to collapse into at the end of busy day, and you have all the makings of a great family hotel.
Particularly pared-back by Dubai standards, the clean white interiors of Address Boulevard strike just the right balance between obvious luxury and subtlety. With elegant neutral schemes and plush textiles throughout, an aesthetic that flows from common areas into the spacious rooms and suites, the overarching impression is one of calming cohesion.
Despite its convenient location – with its own walkway to the Dubai Mall and a mere 15-minute drive from Dubai International Airport – many guests have reported that a stay at this Downtown Dubai hotel feels remarkably escapist. To take full advantage of the serene atmosphere, hit the hotel’s spa, a full-floor extravaganza with hammam, treatment rooms and vitality pools, followed by a swim in the infinity pool with uninterrupted views of the Burj Khalifa.
Often touted as one of the most luxurious hotels in the world, it stands to reason that the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah would take the top spot in our list for impressive accommodation. The name alone is now synonymous with opulence, and it’s not difficult to see why. The iconic sailboat-shaped hotel stands on its own island, complete with private beach, which can be reached by chauffeur-driven Rolls Royce – or by helicopter, if that’s more your speed.
On arrival, ultra-decadent suites await, kitted out with iPads, iMacs, widescreen TVs, private butlers, whirlpool baths, and floor-to-ceiling views of the Arabian Gulf. As you’d expect, there’s an abundance of gold and marble, everywhere from the lowliest suite to the incredible on-site spa – certainly one for those looking to get the full Dubai experience.
Seeming a world away from the dazzling centre of Dubai (but in reality a mere 45-minute drive), serene Al Maha Resort and Spa sits in the idyllic Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, offering a retreat where guests can luxuriate in a private pool while looking out over the desert, feet from the reserve’s wandering oryx.
A superb choice for couples, each spacious private suite is styled after a traditional Bedouin tents (except, of course, with Wi-Fi) and mixes authentic Arabic styling with unabashed luxury. With rain showers, soaking tubs and private sundecks, rooms are perfectly suited to holing up in, but options for dune drives, nature walks, massages and even sunrise falconry sessions are all there for those looking to really get away from it all.
The beauty of Dubai is that, almost anywhere you go, you’re assured of a spectacular view, whether that’s of the scenic Arabian Gulf or the dazzling Dubai Marina. For a really stirring treat, however, you might want to try the Armani Hotel Dubai. Situated inside the world’s tallest building, it offers breathtaking birds-eye views of Downtown Dubai, and rooms overlooking the Dubai Fountain, particularly beautiful when illuminated after sunset, come highly recommended.
And the views inside are pretty good, too. Appropriately, considering its namesake, the Armani oozes elegance, with lots of curved lines, tactile materials and sumptuous neutral shades offset by dramatic lighting. For the full effect, be sure to hit the luxurious spa.
For a secluded feel without the distance of the Al Maha Resort, head to the western tip of The Palm, where you’ll find relaxed resort One&Only The Palm, one of the closest offerings in Dubai to a boutique hotel with easy access to the beach.
For foodies, it also offers some of the best dining in the city, served with a side of incredible views – three-Michelin-starred chef Yannick Alléno heads up Stay, a sumptuous French restaurant with dramatic decor and an interactive ‘Pastry Library’ that leaves dessert up to the diner, while digestifs can be enjoyed alongside dazzling views of Dubai Marina at the hotel’s overwater bar-lounge. You can also take a short water taxi to sister property the One&Only Royal Mirage, should you wish to take advantage of seven more delectable restaurants.
This little guesthouse in the Bastakiya Quarter is a beautiful place to stay, albeit a little out of the way. You’ll need a cab to get into the centre of the city, but if you fancy exploring the lesser known neighbourhoods, then you can borrow the bikes at this guesthouse for free, and take in your surroundings that way. Dubai Museum is also only a five-minute walk away.
This is the best hotel in Dubai for a ‘local experience’, and the benefit of that is the prices are incredibly good (around £70 per night for a double room). The rooms are elegant and each of them unique. They feature art from different designers, and all come fully equipped with the necessities such as air con and Wi-Fi. The hotel’s courtyard cafe offers some delicious local cuisine, with English speaking staff on hand who are said to be very friendly and helpful.
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