I wasn’t actually planning on any travel this year, but after a pretty poor excuse for a summer (I mean, I know we’re in the UK but srsly, 2017, what even was that?) I decided to take advantage of friends in warm places and getaway to the V decadent, desert destination, Dubai.
My good friend Angela has been in the Middle East for about 2 years now and recently took up residence in this go-to destination for ultimate indulgence. To be honest I didn’t really have too many expectations for Dubai, hell I was just happy to get away to some much needed sun, sea and full on swank, but I have to say, I had the most incredible time and would absolutely go back, in fact I’m planning a trip for next year as I type! Perhaps it was the luxury of staying with a friend so gaining insight into that boujis expat life or maybe I just needed some indulgence way more than I thought, either way I would 100% recommend it for any gaaaals, or guys, wanting a super indulgent but chilled out trip with a good mix of the buzz of a city and pure relaxation.
Now this isn’t by any means a definitive guide to Dubai, there is so much more than this to see and do but I thought I’d round up the spots I hit up on my trip to give any Dubai novices a good place to start. I don’t think I did anything particularly ‘touristy’ but managed to pack a lot in in 5 days.
Madinat Jumeirah Al Qasr
When to go
As we all know, Dubai is in the desert, so it’s pretty much a given to avoid in the high summer months where temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees! And in a humid, dusty city (yes it’s the desert but there’s also a lot of construction) this is no fun for the lungs or the body temp so best plan to go between October – April with November and March probs ranking the highest in the BEST times to go.
All airlines offer routes there but I chose to go with Emirates given their incredible reputation. To be honest, if you’re lucky enough to be travelling business or even first class I would say absolutely go with Emirates as I think it’s there where they excel, but if you’re a mere civilian like me, it’s really no different to Virgin Atlantic, in fact I think I actually prefer Virgin but that’s just me being very picky, either is really a great option.
El Chiringuito, Rixos, The Palm
Where to stay
So Jumeirah Beach and The Palm probably rank as the go to destinations when it comes to picking an area to stay in, with gorge hotels like the famous Atlantis, the decadent One & Only Royal Mirage, super cool Rixos The Palm and of course The Four Seasons Resort at Jumeirah Beach, you really are spoilt for choice when it comes to living in luxury. Given that I stayed with a friend I got the advantage to discover downtown, a v up and coming area and defo a great place if you’re less bothered about being close to the beach and want to explore what the city itself has to offer. The W Hotel just opened in Al Habtoor City right next to La Perle by Dragone (Dubai’s answer to the Vegas style Cirque de Soleil) but places like The Shangri La and Grosvenor House are on the ‘cheaper’ end of the scale and if you’re looking for something a bit cooler and really affordable, Rove Downtown looks like a great option.
Dubai is perhaps best known for its shopping. From its super luxe designer boutiques to global favs Sephora, Pottery Barn and even Daiso, there’s something to suit every budget. I visited both the Dubai Mall (Angela is lucky enough to live pretty much opposite) and the Yas Mall on Yas Island, Abu Dhabi (no I can’t stop myself from pronouncing it YAAAAAAAAAAS either!). Both have great shopping as well as the famous Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo in the Dubai Mall and if you do make it to the Yas Mall, make sure you pop into Tryano, a cute department store concept with an incredible shoe department and gorge in store boutiques including Gucci, Valentino & Louboutin, even if you can’t afford anything the store itself is such a cute destination.
The Beach at The St Regis, Saadiyat Island
When it comes to beaches there are some great free options with the most popular perhaps being JBR but me being me, I love a good beach club. Dubai is rife with gorge hotels offering beach access complete with food and drink service. A favourite with Brits (& the cast of TOWIE LOL), Nikki Beach recently took up its Dubai residence and Zero Gravity seems to be a firm fav all over the gram, but we opted for something a little bit more chilled, Ibiza export, El Chiringuito.
Located at Rixos, The Palm it’ll cost £50 to gain access El Chiringuito’s pool and private beach, complete with super chic beach bar, delicious food and the best beach side cocktails, if I was a Dubai local, this would absolutely be my weekend hangout. Super chilled vibes and not too pretentious dress code wise, (coz honestly who has time for a full face of makeup and wedges round the pool?!) El Chiringuito is a haven to escape the hustle and bustle of the cosmopolitan city.
Pai Thai at Madinat Jumeirah Al Qasr
Eat and Drink
Like any big city, Dubai is known for its food and drink offering with their famous Friday brunches being top of the list for any foodie. Places like Zuma, Jumeirah Al Qasr, Bubblicious at The Westin and Gaucho are Dubai staples with new ones popping up all the time. You’ll pay between 300 – 600 AED so around £60 – £100 depending on the venue for buffet style brunch with unlimited bubbly or house drinks. We checked out mexican themed brunch Zoco located in the newly built Al Habtoor City. Complete with mariachi band and bottomless Margarita we paid 350 AED and it was worth every Dirham! The food served was incredible with some of the best meat I tasted on the trip, tacos, giant fresh prawns, strip steak and of course chips (!) I would absolutely recommend this for a hazy hungover Friday after a ladies night out! (Ladies night is another Dubai locale right of passage; free entry and four free cocktails, yes please!)
For dinner we had everything, amazing kebabs at Gunyadin at the Dubai Mall, way too many carbs at The Cheesecake Factory (I’d never been so I HAD to go!) the most decadent dining experience, complete with arrival by boat, at Madinat Jumeirah’s delicious thai restaurant Pai Thai as well as a super chilled night at New York export, Miss Lily’s for yummy caribbean food and a cheeky twerk into the early hours. On my last day I also had lunch at Yui, a relatively new spot in the Dubai Design District this place does a great bowl of Ramen as well as yummy Donburi and even better mint lemonade (which became my obsession on this trip). We didn’t hit up the party scene too much whilst we were there but I did get to salsa the night away at Cuban themed member’s club Socialista Lounge. Other than thinking I was straight out of Buena Vista Social Club, I LOVED this place, gorge cocktails, chilled vibe and intimate setting, if you can a plus one you gotta check it out.
Iridium Spa at The St Regis Saadiyat Island
I’ve saved the best spots till last, the spas. The beauty of Dubai is that you can often buy a spa package complete with access to the hotel’s pool area for the day. We headed to the Iridium Spa at the St Regis, Saadiyat Island which is near Abu Dhabi, although they do also have one in Downtown Dubai. With a drive up alongside villas that mirror those of the Hollywood Hills, this is a real treat for any hard working city gaaaaal. We enjoyed a 90 minute facial, jacuzzi and steam room as well as day access to the pool and private beach complete with food and drink service – perfect way to spend a day off!
Other great spa destinations are the Armani Spa at the Burj Khalifa, Anantara, The Palm and the divine Talise Spa at the Madinat Jumeirah amongst of course a whole host of other decadent destinations – those are just a few on my list!
I also just wanted to point out how cheap it is to get not just a good but perhaps the best mani pedi I’ve ever had, my pedi is infact still going strong a good 3 weeks after – head to The Nail Spa in the Dubai Mall and for just £30 you’ll get the most indulgent mani pedi that really does put London’s cheapest options to shame. Is it too much to fly out every month just to get a top up?!