From fine dining to family-friendly activities, there’s loads to do in this ever-expanding neighbourhood
Here in Dubai we’re all too familiar with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of culture. Things pop up, things close down. At City Walk, however, things seem to be only going one way, and that’s forward.
Essentially a large collection of individual yet interconnected buildings to explore (be warned it’s hot this time of year), the sprawling area in Al Safa is rapidly expanding, with new shops, restaurants and attractions to see every time you visit.
The family-friendly, pedestrianised eating and shopping district first opened back in 2013, but the area really came to life in 2015. Further expansion followed last year, and it hasn’t stopped since.
The development from Meraas, the brains also behind BoxPark and The Beach (opposite JBR), spans more than ten million square feet.
There are dozens of (unlicensed) places to grab a bite to eat, whether you’re after fine dining from a Michelin-starred chef (step in, Dragonfly by Tim Raue) or an ice cream sundae as big as your head (well hello, Serendipity 3).
Add to that plenty of spots to have a coffee, lighten your wallet at some designer stores or even take a stroll in a rainforest and you’ve got City Walk covered.
Ready to go? We’ll talk you through it…
THE STREET ART
Some of the world’s most famous urban artists were given free rein to decorate the walls of City Walk. From giant cartoon murals, to quirky smaller designs, there’s loads to stop and look at when you’re wandering around.
Part of the inaugural Dubai Walls project, big names from the street art world including Rone, Eine, Nick Walker, Magda Sayeg and Blek le Rat, have left their creative stamp all over the development.
Hailed as “the Pioneer of urban art in Europe”, Blek le Rat was one of the first artists to use stencils for creating public art. Meanwhile the reputation of UK artist Eelus is fast gathering pace with exhibitions all over the world, from Norway to The Gambia. The rainbow, Banksy-style mural by Eelus is probably the most famous of City Walk’s art.
WHERE TO STAY (AND GET A DRINK)
If you’re looking for something to eat, you won’t be disappointed. In fact, you could even be in trouble if decision-making is not your forte, such is the huge range on offer.
On the bar side of things, however, the scene is very different. La Ville Hotel & Suites opened last year and is the only licensed property in the area. The hotel is chic and, as the name suggests, has upmarket European styling with whitewashed walls, shutters and plenty of greenery in the courtyard below.
It’s home to grape bar Grapeskin, restaurant Chival and pool bar Look Up, so you’re well catered for, whatever you’re in the mood for. Look Up is a chilled-out, LA-esque bar where the vibe is relaxed. Mixed drinks and prime views of Downtown Dubai and the Burj Khalifa from over the glittering infinity pool are the order of the day here.
The hotel is an excellent place to stop by if you’re in the area, and there’s also a spa if you’re after some R&R. If you’re looking for a mini summer staycay, it’s also worth exploring, with a range of deals available including weekend stays and pool days. La Ville Hotel & Suites City Walk, Dubai, Autograph Collection (04 403 3111).
WHAT TO DO
With massively wide boulevards, bright lighting and an often quiet air about it, City Walk is reminiscent of a film set. Split into different districts, there’s even a section with a traditional British phone box and postbox. Whether you’re visiting City Walk with friends or have the whole tribe in tow, there’s loads to do.
Catch a flick at Roxy Cinemas For movie viewing in style, book yourself a seat in the Director’s Lounge at Roxy Cinemas. The movie theatre is based in the central hub of the area (just near Serendipity 3, Demoiselle and the fountain). With massive reclining leather chairs, fluffy pillows and blankets, you’ll be even comfier than if you were at home. And you can order snacks to your seat, should you not be tempted by the multitude of eateries outside. Stick to the popcorn (it comes in a massive vat so unless you’re mega hungry don’t opt to supersize) or dig into sliders, pizzas and ice cream sundaes. There are 20 screens, so there’s plenty of choice, whether you’re in the mood for comedy, cartoons, action films or more. www.theroxycinemas.com.
Drop the kids off at Mattel Play! Town Bob The Builder, Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina… This centre has all the family’s fave characters that kids can meet. There’s dressing up, stage shows and more at this “eduplay” attraction for little ones aged two to ten. Entertainment while they learn? Ideal. Sat-Wed 9am-8pm; Thu 10am-10pm; Fri 11am-10pm. www.playtowndubai.com
Where else would you find a rainforest in the middle of the desert? This is Dubai, after all, so of course there’s a massive ecosystem at City Walk. Take a stroll through the indoor centre that is home to more than 3,000 plants and animals including snakes, birds and even some friendly sloths (we’re not advising getting too close, though). There are also plenty of butterflies and beautiful flowers to admire and relax around. You can’t miss the 25-foot tree, either, which happens to be the biggest man-made tree in the world (of course). It’s an excellent place to escape the heat this summer when you can’t hang out in the open air. Dhs95. Sat-Wed 10am-6pm; Thu-Fri 10am-8pm. www.thegreenplanet.com.
The 18,000-square-metre Hub Zero is fully state-of-the-art, using the latest technologies. Set up in collaboration with gaming companies Electronic Arts, Capcom, Konami, Microsoft and Square Enix Space, this centre has activities for all ages. It houses 3D and 4D cinema experiences, and for a retro take on things, you can even indulge in some pinball. Or there’s a full-on laser tag battle to take part in if you’re feeling active. For more serious gamers there’s a LAN (or Local Area Network, to novices) gaming area, with 70 stations. If you’re more into Pac-Man and Space Invaders, don’t worry, you’ll be well-catered for, too. From Dhs160. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 3pm-midnight. City Walk, Al Safa Street, www.hubzerodubai.com. Have a wander through Hareem Al Sultan Based on hit Turkish TV series Hareem Al Sultan, this exhibition focuses on the glamorous life behind the doors of the Topkapı Palace. Take a look at the original décor, costumes and accessories used from the very first episodes of the series to some of the most famous moments of the show. The programme first ran between 2011 and 2014, telling the story of Ottoman Sultan Suleyman the Magnificent, Turkey’s longest-reigning Sultan. It went on to become a worldwide hit, with an audience of some 400 million. This huge exhibition is spread out across 14 rooms and more than 1,300 square metres, and took 36,000 hours to put together. Free. Open Sat-Wed noon-10pm; Thu-Fri noon-11pm. www.citywalk.ae/play/hareem-al-sultan.
WHERE TO GET FIT
It’s not all eating and shopping at City Walk. If you’re after a workout with a difference, there’s a Physique 57 studio (www.physique57.com/studio-dubai) in the area, so if you want a challenge, give it a try. Each 57-minute session combines strength training and cardio at a ballet barre, and promises you’ll see results in just eight classes.
If you’re into cycling, there’s also brand-new spinning studio CycleBar (www.citywalk.cyclebar.ae), with a range of classes to really test you, too. The indoor cycling brand is hugely popular in the US and this is the first one outside of the States for the company. The tiered “CycleTheatre” holds up to 55 spinning bikes, two massive flat-screen TVs, personal data monitors and a state-of-the-art audio, video, and lighting technology that creates a multisensory experience for riders.
Whether you’re after high-end fashion or something more low-key, there are loads of options. Fashion-wise you’ll find Michael Kors, Coach, Calvin Klein, Polo, Ralph Lauren, Rag & Bone, Whistles, DVF and Cavalli. There are also jewellery stores including Swarovski, beauty shops such as Sephora, Bobby Brown and Urban Decay, and home stores including Lumas and Villeroy & Boch.
WHERE TO LIVE
There are 34 five- and six-storey residential buildings in City Walk, with nearly 1,500 apartments ranging from one- to four-bedroom properties, with starting prices to buy set at Dhs1,950,000. So if you’re looking to live within a quick walk of all the attractions, that’s a possibility, too.
WHERE TO EAT
All that shopping can be hungry work, so when the time comes to replenish those calories you’ve burnt, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re spoilt for choice at City Walk. There nearly 70 eateries, from ice cream parlours to tea shops via monster burgers and fine dining from Michelin-starred chefs.
Antonio Marras The restaurant from the Italian fashion designer is housed in the store itself, so you can browse, shop, and then celebrate your purchases with a bite to eat. It’s a first of its kind from Antonio Marras, and is worth checking out. Open daily 10am-midnight (055 372 6843).
With every dish inspired by cocoa, this one is a chocolate-lover’s dream. Savoury or sweet, everything on the menu is enhanced by the versatile nib – cocoa butter salmon and mashed potato with white chocolate, anyone? If you’re feeling less adventurous, the chocolate fondant and double dark choc chip brownie offers a more conventional approach. Open Sun-Thu 8am-10pm; Fri-Sat 8am-midnight (04 590 5070).
Demoiselle by Galvin From Michelin-starred chef brothers Chris and Jeff Galvin, this is a cracking new addition to City Walk. It’s the sister restaurant of Galvin Demoiselle, which is housed in one of the world famous department store, Harrods in London. It’s the brothers’ 11th restaurant, their first venture outside of the UK, and it’s headed up by their protégé, executive chef Luigi Vespero. The colour scheme here is fresh and bright, and casual by day, with lower lighting setting the mood for an evening meal. The menu is low-key but excellent. Go for the baked lobster fishcake, you won’t regret it. Sun-Wed 8am-11pm; Thu-Sat 8am-1am (04 590 5076).
This Asian offering from two Michelin-starred German chef Tim Raue is also a relative newbie to the area and you can’t miss it, as it’s red. Extremely red. The punchy décor will wow you almost as much as the food, as the menu is creative and fun, and, as expected, top-notch. Open daily noon-midnight (04 342 7044).
Eshak If you’re tired of ordering the same old selection of mezze (not that we can ever get enough of hummus, that is), Eshak is the perfect opportunity to mix things up a bit. This eatery is all about Uzbek and Middle Eastern fusion food, so you’ll find influences from across the region, and Eastern Europe. The décor is a mishmash of flowery embroidered seats, edgy modern art, and rustic wooden floors, and the food is great, too. Open daily 12.30pm-midnight (04 385 5435).
Farzi Café This “modern spice bistro” serves up “culinary art” and molecular gastronomy. It also now offers a mean breakfast, with a newly launched menu starring dishes including the scrummy-sounding eggs Benedict with chicken masala ragu. Yum. Open daily 10am-10.30pm (04 394 2556).
Family-friendly breakfast spot Eggspectation is a massive hit in JBR, and now, in eggscellent news (ahem), there’s a second brand open in City Walk. You can’t fail to have noticed the huge queues at The Beach branch on a weekend morning, and we’re sure this new outlet will be just as heaving. Famous, of course, for its egg dishes, the restaurant also serves lunch and dinner, with mac ’n’ cheese, sandwiches, flatbreads, burgers and salads rating highly among the offerings. However, the eggs are what it’s all about here. Dig into favourites including lobster or smoked salmon Benedict and loads of omelettes – we love the Southwest Sunrise, packed with cheese and peppers with large dollops of salsa, avocado and sour cream on top. There are also giant stacks of pancakes, mountains of French toast and Nutella-filled crêpes if you’re after a sweeter start to your day. The large City Walk outlet spans 2,800 square foot and boasts its signature friendly atmosphere and staff. In the winter, there will be outdoor seating, too. Open daily 7am-midnight (04 240 6877).
Hummingbird Bakery We’re not lying, there’s a lot of cake at City Walk (and ice cream, sweets and chocolate shops, too). If you’re in need of a sit down and something sweet to recover from one too many expensive purchases, Hummingbird Bakery is the place to visit. It’s a popular little spot to stop off for a cupcake or its famous red velvet. Open daily 10am-midnight (04 449 8576).
This floral boutique café is home-grown here in Dubai, and has tea-shop style white-washed furniture and, of course, plenty of fresh blooms. The flowery theme is very strong at this restaurant. The ceiling is covered in silk roses and even your coffee will come with a fresh rose. Your meal will most likely be adorned with edible flowers, too. The food is excellent, think lobster crêpes and fresh salads, and it’s open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, and afternoon tea, too. Open daily 10am-2am (050 170 5657).
Le Grill at Galeries Lafayette, Le Gourmet
This new kitchen from French department store Galeries Lafayette has a focus on charcoal and wood-fired rotisserie dishes. And there are also plenty of pastries on offer if you fancy a snack. Open daily 11am-midnight (04 403 3033). Sapori di BiCE This traditional Italian restaurant serves up home-style cuisine with classics including lasagne and pizzas. It’s also super-family-friendly, so a good one to check out when you’re in the area en masse. Open daily 8am-midnight (04 344 2550). Serendipity 3
Don’t miss the Frrrozen Hot Chocolates at this one. The famous New York restaurant (which stars in the film Serendipity) has pride of place near to the cinema in the main round at City Walk. Don’t fancy something sweet? Dig into a foot-long beef hot dog instead. Open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10am-midnight (04 394 9672).
The Brass The Brass takes coffee seriously. Stick to your standard morning mocha paired with a range of tasty baked goods, or try something completely different in the form of one of The Brass’ signature blends, including lavender honey or cinnamon lattes. There’s also an “east meets west” theme, which is reflected in the range of Arabic and Turkish coffees and sandwiches on offer. Open daily 7am-midnight (04 385 6971). The Victorian In a city seemingly overflowing with increasingly outrageous “freakshakes” (piled high with everything from candyfloss to mini burgers) The Victorian takes things back a step, with afternoon teas and knickerbocker glories. The new menu, specially created by The Victorian’s head chef Karl Kollmitzer, represents the best of classic British cuisine with dishes such as Earl Grey waffles and a full “Victorian” breakfast. Open daily 9am-midnight (04 338 1234).
Walnut Grove This comfy café is a popular pit stop in City Walk. The décor is on the industrial-chic side, but it’s warm and friendly. There are belt-busting burgers as well as salads and more on the menu, but mostly, it’s known for its cakes. They’re huge. And worth the calories. Open daily 8am-midnight (04 344 4441).