Get out and enjoy a drink at one of Dubai's al fresco nightspots
Much like macaroon purveyors and ice-cream vendors, the number of al-fresco drinking spots around the city has quietly crept up over the past year. There have been hits and there have been misses, but a few have wowed us enough to make our list of must-visits. Top newcomers include the stunning 101 on the Palm Jumeirah, RED Lounge Terrace, which opened its doors at the top of the Raffles pyramid, and Jetty Lounge, which introduced us to the notion of a beach bar sans boisterous crowds. But hurry, because with summer on its way and the mercury rising daily (the average highs will hit 37.7 °C by May!), it won’t be long before we’re all shooed indoors to enjoy the sunset with our noses to the double-glazed glass.
USP: You’re on SZR, but you’ll feel as though you’re in Ibiza.
An inner-city poolside spot that’s all trendy white furniture and pink mood lighting, the pool area of the Shangri-La turns into a fierce nightspot at dusk. On week nights it’s a great chillout spot; on ladies’ night it’s full of heels, mini skirts and those who appreciate them; and on weekends it’s packed with a sundowners crowd.
When to go: The feeling’s right on ladies’ night (it’s on Mondays, by the way).
Open daily 6pm-2am. Shangri-La, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 343 8888).
USP: Its 360° views (naturally)
The bar is located on a helipad-shaped island at the end of a jetty just next to the Burj Al Arab, and we haven’t had a visitor yet who hasn’t sighed at 360°’s picturesque setting and thought about moving to the UAE. The theme is laid-back – beanbags, beds, white colour scheme – but the Friday guestlist (before 8pm) encourages visitors to dress to impress. Get your name on the list via the contact details below.
When to go: Friday for partying, Saturday for sundowners.
Open Sun-Thu 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat 4pm-2am. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, www.platinumlist.ae (04 406 8744).
USP: You can grab a boat ride here from the One&Only Royal Mirage.
‘Like 360° with a more laid-back crowd’ is how we recently described this new venue – it’s so stylish it may give you butterflies on your approach. Alternatively, that might just be the rocky sea as you draw up to this over-water venue (or it could be the Palm’s speed bumps, if you arrive by car). Channelling Saint Tropez with its white decor, fresh menu and on-trend DJs, the only drawback is its isolated location. Although, for exclusivity, this is its strength too.
When to go: Any Friday night you’re feeling adventurous.
Open daily 11am-1am. Booking essential. One&Only The Palm (04 440 1010).
USP: Views of the Burj Al Arab over a specially built moat.
Gently lit with olde-worlde Arabic-themed lanterns by night and bathed in glorious sunshine by day, Bahri Bar is one of the city’s pricier, swankier drinking spots, where even the amber beverages are a decadent affair, arriving in what can only be described as oversized bubbly flutes. If you can tear your eyes away from your drink, there are plenty of photo opportunities to be had in the shadow of the nearby Burj Al Arab.
When to go: Sunset on the weekend.
Open daily 6pm-2am. Mina A Salam, Jumeirah (04 366 6197).
USP: Throwback acts on the beach.
There are very few bars like Barasti: not only does it have a sizeable deck area where you can enjoy dinner, but there are plenty of places to stand or sit round the pool. Head down
the steps to an even bigger deck, which leads onto the beach. Al-fresco options aplenty.
When to go: For a big Friday evening.
Open daily 11am-2am. Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina, Jumeirah (04 399 3333).
USP: Great waterside drinks deals.
This surprisingly large veranda sits neatly at the edge of the Madinat’s waterway, with plenty of beanbags and bar stools to go around, and even patio heaters for nippier nights. Feeling peckish? You’re in luck – the seriously sinful but too-good-to-resist signature chips are among the city’s finest.
When to go: Tuesday nights, when it’s five drinks for Dhs90. Bargain!
Open Sun-Thu 5pm-2am, Fri-Sat 4pm-3am. Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6348).
USP: Its unobstructed view of the towering Burj Khalifa.
An expensive choice for a cocktail or two, but the flashy setting is worth it. You can rest your feet while sitting on chubby beanbags and rest your drinks on hearty chunks of wooden ledge. There are trees all around, giving the place a natural, earthy feel, and the smart-casual clientele usually opt to stand or lounge while gazing at the Burj. It calls itself a ‘Latin-inspired venue’– we’re not entirely sure why, but it’s an awesome hangout nevertheless.
When to go: Relax while watching the Dubai Fountain: 6pm to 10pm on weekdays and 6pm to 11pm at the weekend.
Open daily 6pm-2.30am. The Address, Downtown Dubai (04 436 8880).
Chill Rooftop Lounge Lounge
USP: Cool decor that’s unusual for this end of town.
On the surface it’s a beautiful lime-green and white space, though on closer inspection Chill isn’t as well finished as the bars at the marina and the view of Bur Dubai doesn’t compare. That said, it’s an oasis among the madness. The large area is dressed in pink paint, loungy romantic beds (as you’d find in Barasti) dark wood and tiled floors, and there’s also Wi-Fi access and a bar menu to sate your appetite. Head over on one of the regular club nights, when the place gets particularly lively.
When to go: At lunchtime, for a spot of sun and a pleasant drink over your work.
Open daily noon-2am. Royal Ascot Hotel, Bur Dubai (04 355 8500).
The Irish Village
USP: This lakeside spot is like an old friend – you neglect it sometimes, but when you go back you’re always glad you visited.
A bit of an institution, The Irish Village is a good option if you fancy al-fresco drinks but don’t want to get dressed up to the nines. With an extensive food menu and cosy wooden benches, you can easily while away a relaxing night here, although it can get quite rowdy once the ales have kicked in with the crowd.
When to go: This is a definitive Thursday night after-work spot, but is also good for a lazy afternoon in winter.
Open Sun-Wed 11am-1am, Thu-Sat 11am-2am. Aviation Club, Garhoud (04 282 4750).
USP: The lounge beds around the outside of the bar.
One of Dubai’s favourite sea-view spots, Horizon is the place for mixing with a trendy, affluent, young and ridiculously overdressed crowd. The emphasis is not on chatting and getting to know each other (the music is very loud) – it’s more for people-watching, admiring fashion efforts and being beautiful. Vacuous? Maybe. But we all need a bit of light relief now and then.
When to go: On Thursdays from 6pm until 8pm for the happy hour, when everyone gets 30 per cent off, and ladies can snap up Cuban-themed drinks for Dhs15.
Open daily 10am-2am. Habtoor Grand Resort & Spa, Al Sufouh Road, Dubai Marina (04 399 5000).
USP: It’s located on the beach, mere feet from the water.
One of the best new bars to open in the past 12 months, this low-key beach lounge boasts top-notch grape beverages, excellent service and tasty snacks. An ideal bar on the sand, with fewer posers than your average upmarket beach venue.
When to go: For relaxed mid-afternoon drinks at the weekend, or an after-work catch-up with friends.
Open daily 2pm-1am. One&Only Royal Mirage, Jumeirah (04 399 9999).
USP: Great views, food and soundtrack.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that Buddha Bar’s sister venue oozes sleek sophistication and great decor, with a DJ and food to match. Where Karma trumps its Grosvenor House equivalent, however, is its outdoor deck. Here you can enjoy dinner (the food at Karma is excellent) or casual drinks, while soaking up views of the shimmering waters and glittering buildings of Downtown Burj Khalifa.
When to go: Any night of the week for dinner first; then drinks.
Open Sat-Wed noon-2am; Thu-Fri noon-3am. Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Burj Khalifa (04 423 0909).
USP: An enormous terrace from which to watch the sunset.
The huge terrace has stunning views of the Burj Al Arab and the Gulf, with Middle Eastern lanterns for mood lighting. There’s usually live music to entertain guests – the most recent house band was a cool Colombian group that played Spanish-infused music and popular covers. If you’re partial to a cigar, the Armoury Lounge next door sells a variety of flavours that you can enjoy while admiring the view. The bar menu also offers a selection of light bites.
When to go: Between 8pm and midnight for the live band.
Open daily 7.30pm-2am. Al Qasr Hotel, Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
M-Dek, Media One
USP : Café del Mar meets Dubai.
M-Dek has made a name for itself thanks to Media One’s plentiful weeknight promotions and deals, as well as providing the venue for the hotel’s post-brunch party. With the pool as the centrepiece and DJ decks at one end, the venue screams Café del Mar – and is a great place for socialising in the sun.
When to go: Post-brunch drinks on a Friday are always hard to beat.
Open Sat-Thu 6pm-11pm; Fri 3pm-11pm. Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City (04 427 1000).
USP: The creekside views.
QD’s is rather unique in Dubai: you can smoke shisha here, dine and drink while listening to a DJ – activities that are normally separated out into cafés, restaurants and clubs. The result attracts a wonderfully unique Western-Arabic multicultural crowd, who together enjoy the spectacle of coloured dhows sailing past on the creek.
When to go: On weeknights for relaxed drinks and people-watching.
Open daily Sun-Thu 5pm-2am; Fri-Sat 6pm-2am. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).
RED Lounge Terrace
USP: It’s at the top of a pyramid, looking over the lights of Sheikh Zayed Road.
If you have a date or visitors to impress, you can’t go wrong with this Chinese-themed bar overlooking the Downtown skyline. There’s a daily happy hour and teetotallers can sample Chinese tea, but everyone should get stuck in to the delicious dim sum snacks.
When to go: Any night of the week – happy hour runs from 6pm until 8pm.
Open Tue-Sat 6pm-2am. Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha (04 343 0000).
USP: Its JBR Walk location, making it ‘The Talk of the Walk’
A huge bar/restaurant, The Talk’s poolside spot makes it ideal for lolling in the sun during the day. Head here to catch some rays, experience flavourful sandwiches and pizzas and, of course, have a bit of a chat.
When to go: Any day for a long, lazy afternoon.
Open daily 9am-1am. Mövenpick Jumeirah Beach, The Walk at JBR (04 449 8888).
USP: It’s perhaps the chicest, sleekest spot in Dubai.
With a healthy Japanese menu, stern bouncers and mainly white decor, Sho Cho screams fashion. But don’t be scared off. The beachside setting is picturesque, and on Monday nights the ’80s music helps the crowd unwind.
When to go: Monday evenings, pre-Boudoir.
Open daily 10pm-3am. Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa. (04 346 1111).
USP: This small spot has an exclusive feel thanks to classy decor and drinks, and a terrace overlooking luxury yachts.
We almost feel as though we’re in the south of France when at The Terrace. Housed in the beautiful blue-and-white-hued Park Hyatt, and with fantastic service and an intimate terrace, it’s a great place to take people you want to impress but not overwhelm.
When to go: For winding down after Friday brunch at one of the Park Hyatt spots.
Open daily 4pm-2am. Park Hyatt, Deira (04 602 1234).
USP: The view, all the way down the coast to Satwa, and across the city.
There is pretty much one reason to visit this bar, and that’s the view. It. Is. Incredible.
Here you can gaze at Jumeirah, the Burj Al Arab and Dubai’s epic neverending skyline in the distance. This showing-off spot comes with a few bonuses, including great food (though be prepared to bring a full wallet – it doesn’t come cheap), and on cooler nights you can also enjoy the cosy inside bar with soft lighting and warm red and sandy furnishings.
When to go: When it gets dark, to see the city lit up at night.
Open daily 7pm-2am. Jumeirah Beach Hotel, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 406 8999).
USP: A pool table, shisha and barbecue by the beach
There’s much to love about the Hilton’s secluded beach bar, from its casual dress code to the well-used pool table and menu of traditional pub favourites. There are few better places to relax on a warm Saturday evening, though eyebrows may be raised at the prices and the limited draught selection.
When to go: Any time you can’t be bothered to get dolled up – flip-flops and board shorts are welcomed.
Open daily 10am-11pm. Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence (04 399 1111).
USP: This Spanish-themed spot is known for its sangria, paella and roof terrace.
Sitting in Seville’s is a relaxed affair. With a roof garden and an old-school feel, it’s our go-to spot for languid Friday afternoons.
Tip: call ahead to see if there’s a corporate party being held next door on the night you want to go – the noise of the revelry can ruin the atmosphere somewhat.
When to go: Fridays for early-evening dinner and pre-club drinks.
Open Sat-Mon noon-1am, Tue-Fri noon-2am. Wafi, Oud Metha. (04 324 4777).
Belgian Beer Café (Crowne Plaza Festival City)
USP: Vast hops selection and views over Business Bay.
This cosy Festival City spot heaves on the weekends, yet is good if you want to be able to actually speak to the people you’re with. The bar offers a great selection of brews and we love the mussels – ah, buckets and buckets of mussels.
When to go: Whenever you feel like a pint and a natter.
Open daily 6pm-2am. Crowne Plaza, Dubai Festival City (04 701 1128).
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Tysha May Liong Apr 12, 2011 10:32 am
Great article, so helpful indeed. Can't wait to start bar hopping! Woohooo!!!
Francois Mar 29, 2011 08:22 pm
Ben Feb 16, 2011 05:44 am
Good article, some great new ideas. Only further suggestion would have been to include some price points for comparison between the locations? E.g. bottle of beer, glass of wine, shot of vodka, regular cocktail...
nisreen Feb 15, 2011 08:00 am
hello ..the place looks nice...why dont reviews mention the average prices for the listed places?