Parking They’ve finally ditched the paid parking, which is a relief, but the spaces are tight and we struggle to get our motor into them. 2/5
Best bites We don’t rate the breadth of food options at BurJuman. However, café chain Dome does a mean latte, and Zone Lounge is a cute little spot serving traditional Lebanese and Italian food. 2/5
Flagship store Saks Fifth Avenue is a fashion institution, having been with us for seven years. While it may not be as instantly jaw dropping as Bloomingdale’s, we tend to find its sales superior. 4/5
Top one-off shops There’s the aforementioned Saks for designer fashion, as well as Marina Rinaldi: high-end clothes for curvy women. 2/5
Extreme attractions There’s a good Fitness First gym and… erm, that’s it. 1/5
Achilles heel This mall is great for high-end fashion shopping, but offers little else. On weekdays, navigating the busy Bur Dubai streets can also be a strong deterrent. -3/5
Insider tip Hidden high street: We like the New Look and Zara outlets here because they tend to stock a better range of sizes than outlets at other malls (which often feature rails of XS and XXL clothes).
Parking This mall’s popularity means parking can be a nightmare. If it’s busy, head to the basement just below the cinemas, where there are usually a few empty spots. 2/5
Best bites Try great-value sandwich store Potbelly: Dhs19 for a sizeable sandwich that’s packed with lots of flavour. Most of the remaining eateries are fast-food venues. 2/5
Flagship store Iconic is a department store with a twist. Stocking less obvious brands, it’s loud, brash and young, with a great gift section. 4/5
Top one-off shops ForLove21 is an accessories store by popular US fast-fashion brand Forever 21 – it sells an extended range of the brand’s accessories, and is perfect for super-cheap on-trend jewels, shoes, bags and the like. If you’re more of a beauty fiend, Aussie cosmetics brand Red Earth is a hidden gem, offering a great range of beauty buys. 2/5
Extreme attractions There’s a Magic Planet amusement arcade, but thanks to the mall’s popularity it’s the most manic in Dubai (think yelling kids, buzzing machines and pounding music). What’s more, it’s situated right next to the food court, so you’ll never have a quiet meal. 2/5 Achilles heel DCC is always crowded. Don’t even try going on weekends, and woe betide the unwitting shopper who attempts to brave the taxi queue (on one visit we were waiting for an hour and a half). -3/5
Insider tip Snack stop: Locally owned fusion shawarma brand Wild Peeta has just opened a branch at the mall.
Parking Parking at Ikea is a nightmare at the weekends (much like the shop itself), but there are usually a few spaces on the second floor of the basement car park. 3/5
Best bites This mall is our culinary favourite thanks to the Marina Pavilion. Jamie’s Italian serves hearty food and Entrecôte does gorgeous steaks with grape. In the mall, families will love Spur steakhouse. 5/5
Flagship store We hate to say it, but flat-pack furniture warehouse Ikea really has to be considered this mall’s main draw. 4/5
Top one-off shops We’ve already mentioned Ikea, and we also like new Spanish and Italian-focused multi-brand boutique The Fashion Net, although the mall doesn’t have any other stand-outs. 2/5
Extreme attractions There’s a bowling alley, a Fitness First gym and, when the weather’s not too hot, a mini fairground. Snore. 2/5
Achilles heel Festival City used to have a captive market: those who lived too far from Mall of the Emirates, but not quite close enough to Deira City Centre. But it’s now flanked by Mirdif City Centre and The Dubai Mall, meaning it’s lost some of its audience. -2/5
Insider tip Outdoorsy: Dubai Festival Centre features a lot of natural light and high ceilings, as well as a marina, so it’s the place to go if you need to hit the mall but wish you were actually outside.
Parking It’s easy to find a space, although the parking area is outside. Your car will be a box of unbearable stickiness by the time you’ve finished shopping. 2/5
Best bites Food here is pretty average. We usually stick to Iranian chain Hatam or The French Bakery, which offers snacks to keep you fuelled. 1/5
Flagship store The Nike and Adidas factory shops are stuffed with sports goods. Allied Factory Outlet sells designer shoes, beauty brands and fashion – we love the men’s cut-price Vilebrequin trunks and Paul Smith goodies. 4/5
Top one-off shops Outlets are technically all one-offs (even the Massimo Dutti and Mango stores, for instance), but for a boutique vibe we like The Outlet, which stocks brands such as Alexander McQueen, for up to 70 per cent off. 5/5
Extreme attractions It’s not particularly ‘extreme’, but the mall is home to the UAE’s only Chuck E Cheese – a family entertainment centre with a bowling alley, simulator rides and loads of junk food. 1/5
Achilles heel It’s quite a way out of town, on Al Ain Road (about 20 minutes from Trade Centre). On your way back to Dubai, you have to drive along the highway towards Al Ain for about 10 minutes before you can turn around. -2/5
Insider tip Tunnel route: When leaving the mall, you can save time and avoid the U-turn by cutting under the highway via a secret tunnel, although there’s only room for one car and it does feel a little creepy: we’d usually opt for the extra 20 minutes driving time.
Parking We’re impressed by how many spaces there are (14,000, to be exact) and we like the green lights that tell you when a space is free. However, the car park is a nightmare to navigate, and if you take a wrong turn you may end up on Business Bay Crossing. 3/5
Best bites For delectable grills and Lebanese staples, Al Hallab shouldn’t be missed. For wood-fired oven pizza and people-watching in the elegant Fashion Avenue area, Armani Caffé is your best bet. 4/5
Flagship store Don’t miss Bloomingdale’s – the mammoth department store runs over four floors. We love the homewares dept for its quirky finds: there’s a whole section with goods from the Museum of Modern Arts in New York. 5/5
Top one-off shops There are loads. Our faves include huge Japanese bookstore Kinokuniya, French department store and gourmet supermarket Galeries Lafayette, high-end fashion boutique Symphony, Willy Wonka sugar-high trip Candylicious and cute design-led watch shop Wrist. 5/5
Extreme attractions Where do we begin? There’s an ice rink, an aquarium, an underwater zoo, entrance to the world’s largest building, the world’s largest fountain, Kidzania (a place where kids can pretend to be adults all day), and Sega Republic (a place where adults can pretend to be kids all day). 5/5
Achilles heel Apparently there’s a Virgin Megastore on the way, but how can the world’s largest mall have existed for three years without a single CD or DVD store? Also, if you’re arriving by metro, you have to catch an expensive transfer bus from Burj Khalifa station, for which you need a separate ticket. -4/5
Insider tip ‘Secret’ parking: Enter the car park via the cinema entrance opposite the Address Downtown, take the last left-hand turn (by the 3M booth), then turn right and follow signs to the exit. But instead of exiting the mall, continue straight ahead – you’ll go down a ramp to the second level, which is almost always empty.
Parking We usually park outside China Court (parking 6) for instant access to the cinema. But we’re intrigued by the new Robotic Parking system at Ibn Battuta Gate Hotel, which is free. 5/5
Best bites Mediterranean meat and fish dishes at Finz always impress, while Lime Tree Café is good for breakfasts. 4/5
Flagship store The Sun & Sand Sports store at Ibn Battuta is one of the best-stocked sports stores in Dubai, offering gear for all manner of pastimes. It also stocks Nike Air Jordans and other such covetable sneakers. 2/5
Top one-off shops Quirky American designer Betsey Johnson’s fashion boutique is great if you’ve got some cash to splash, and Aussie store Zu sells gorgeous heels. 3/5
Extreme attractions The in-mall cinema offers the city’s only IMAX screen. There’s also SkyDubai Adventure, a tethered hot air balloon that rises 150m into the air. 2/5
Achilles heel It’s a bit of a schlep to trek the length of this sizeable single-storey mall. It’s also lacking that one flagship shop that keeps us coming back, and many of its best shops have closed (House of Prose, Saucony, Fitz and Simons). -3/5
Insider tip Easy access: If you want a quick sweep of high-street brands, then Ibn Battuta has H&M, Forever 21, Topshop, Oasis and River Island all within a one-minute walk of each other.
Parking It’s easy to navigate, but the paid parking system can be annoying, what with people in Dubai seemingly incapable to work out how to stick a ticket in a machine. If you stay longer than four hours on weekdays, you’ll have to pay. 3/5
Best bites The new Fashion Dome has several high-end restaurants, most notably Tribes, an all-singing, all-dancing South African steakhouse. Easy access to the Kempinski also means you can treat yourself to some of Dubai’s best coffee at Aspen. 4/5
Flagship store Harvey Nichols deserves a mention for its gorgeous window displays alone. The top-end department store also houses trendy Moroccan restaurant Almaz by Momo. 4/5
Top one-off shops There are plenty of one-off high end stores thanks to the new Fashion Dome: Y3 and Diane Von Furstenberg are standouts. 3/5
Extreme attractions Indoor ski slope Ski Dubai offers skiing, snowboarding, tobogganing and (our favourite) Zorbing. If none of these appeal, try watching the skiers from the comfy confines of Après bar. 4/5
Achilles heel The walkways are narrower and the ceilings lower than at many of the city’s other big malls, making Mall of the Emirates feel more obviously crowded, especially at weekends. -3/5
Insider tip Fancy a drink? Thanks to its proximity to Kempinski and The Pullman hotels, Mall of the Emirates features a number of licensed venues, meaning it’s possible to round off your shopping trip with a drink.
Parking The spiralling multi-tiered car park is disorientating, but it’s never particularly busy, which means finding a place to park isn’t difficult. 3/5
Best bites This modest mall boasts a few decent dining options, including Carluccio’s and Gourmet Burger Kitchen. 3/5
Flagship store Foodies will love ambling round the mall’s Waitrose outlet. There’s also a good branch of fashion brand Reiss – while the store itself isn’t particularly big, it always features a great range. 3/5
Top one-off shops Sconto is a cute designer boutique that often hosts sales – think 60 per cent off designers such as Balmain – while quirky store SoBoHo stocks vintage-style T-shirts, kids’ clothing and gifts. 4/5
Extreme attractions While they’re not extreme per se, the pedal buggies available to rent outside the mall are pretty cool if you fancy doing some post-mall exercise. Likewise, the mini faux-steam train that snakes around the first floor of the mall is fun for kids, and a useful way to get from one end to the other if your feet are tired. 3/5
Achilles heel Marina Mall is great for a decent bite to eat, a quick nose around the shops and catching a film, but considering its prime location, The Dubai Mall’s little sister should boast a few more top retailers. -3/5
Insider tip A quick massage: Feeling a little achy after a couple of hours of mall trawling? Head to Stadium Sports and relax on the massage chairs that are on demonstration. Score/25 13
Parking It’s near impossible to get a spot in the outdoor parking, but the basement usually has plenty of spaces. There’s only one entrance, so you’ll never have to suffer the ‘I have no idea where my car is’ panic. 3/5
Best bites Mercato’s food options are fairly average. French chain Paul is the spot we’d frequent, as it offers nice croissants and coffee for hungry shoppers. 2/5
Flagship store The Spinney’s outlet is big, yet quiet enough to make shopping a pleasant experience. It’s open until midnight and it’s right beside the car park. 3/5
Top one-off shops Zin Zin, Bullets and Butterflies and Fleurt are fantastic one-off fashion boutiques, and new stall The Green Ecostore gets top marks for selling eco-friendly products. 5/5
Extreme attractions Sometimes there’s an older gentleman playing the piano in-mall. A definite thumbs down on the extreme scale. 0/5
Achilles heel This mall is a lot smaller than the rest, which adds to its charm, but also means that after an hour you’re done. The limited range of shops and lack of food options means this isn’t somewhere you can while away a whole day. -3/5
Insider tip Hidden stores: In the basement car park there are two cool stores: Portfolio UAE, which will print photos on canvas, and Minutes Cobbler Shop, where you can get keys cut, buy shoe expanders and have your footwear mended.
Parking We usually opt for the quiet rooftop parking, but with 7,000 spaces there’s usually not much of a problem finding a spot elsewhere. 3/5
Best bites Some would say PF Chang’s, although we’re more likely to veer towards Zafran for a zesty curry. 3/5
Flagship store Mirdif’s Pottery Barn will always hold a special place in our hearts – the American homewares store offers shabby chic at its best. There’s also a branch at The Dubai Mall. 4/5
Top one-off shops If you’re keen on keeping fit, French sports store Decathalon has everything a healthy heart could desire, at ridiculously cheap prices. Elsewhere, Freedom Furniture (Australia’s answer to Ikea) stocks classic home looks, and Turkish high-street store NetWork is a great spot to pick up an affordable suit. 4/5
Extreme attractions There’s indoor skydiving at iFly, plus plenty of thrills for kids. PlayNation features Soccer Circus, Yalla Bowling and Magic Planet, while Aquaplay is like Aquaventure for the little ones. 4/5
Achilles heel Its distance out of town is the main downside of this mall. While it’s one of the quietest (and therefore nicest) shopping venues in the city, it’s just too far away for those of us in New Dubai. However, on a Friday morning you’ll be able to whizz there in 20 minutes. -2/5
Insider tip Ditch the kids: Don’t fancy dragging a screaming toddler across Carrefour? Fear not: educational play centre Little Explorers will pick your kids up from outside the supermarket, take them off for two hours, and drop them back tired.
Parking This Oud Metha mall is relatively quiet and we never have trouble finding a space (there are plenty of separate areas for parking). 3/5
Best bites Wafi is a foodie’s dream. Try wonderful Middle Eastern fare in a fantastic setting at Khan Murjan, fresh and delicious Italian in the licensed Medzo, and a mind-boggling assortment of olives and other treats at Wafi Gourmet. 4/5
Flagship store Salam, once the largest store in Dubai, is undoubtedly Wafi’s flagship. However these days it doesn’t stack up next to other high-end department stores. 2/5
Top one-off shops This is where Wafi stands out against many of its bigger rivals. The mall offers women’s multi-brand boutiques Desert Rose and Tigerlily, Danish womenswear brand Malene Birger and specialist watch store Buben & Zorweg. 5/5
Extreme attractions The Pharoah’s Club 13-metre climbing wall is a quirky feature, and at Dhs400 for 10 sessions it’s an affordable hobby. 1/5
Achilles heel Getting to Wafi can be tricky for the uninitiated (it’s hidden amid a rather awkward network of small roads and construction areas next to Dubai Healthcare City). It also lacks that one key store that could really pull in the crowds. -2/5
Insider tip Novelty factor: Wafi has an Egyptian theme and parts of the mall are quite beautiful. Make sure you explore all of this mall, including the underground Khan Murjan souk, which is themed on a traditional Arabic souk. Breathtaking.
And the winner is… The Dubai Mall!: With a score of 18 out of a possible 25, the epic centre comes up top. Why? Because there’s just so much of it. Trumping many smaller malls by opening bigger and better branches of shops the others once had exclusively, it offers pretty much every store you could ever need (except a CD and DVD retailer). A close second is Mirdif City Centre, which wins points for family-friendly activities and the fact that it never seems crowded. In third, Mall of the Emirates scored highly thanks to its wide range of culinary options, followed closely by Dubai Festival Centre. Yes, we acknowledge that the small malls have their own brand of charm, but it’s the bigger ones that win out. Think of it like this: who would win in a fight between the beloved Manny Pacquiao and the behemoth Wladimir Klitschko? Exactly.
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David Jul 24, 2011 06:59 am
I think timeoutdubai should expand this list and include online shopping portals like moosavings.com etc. After all, aren't we in the midst of a dot.com boom?
Misha Jul 20, 2011 08:29 pm
Wasted time, no really sales here!!
The fashion are 2009 !!!
So terrible, price are expensive !!!
Roland May 30, 2011 04:27 pm
Hi, you forgot telling about Ibn batutta Mall the unique themed design with the several country styles and of course the educational factor of the informations about Ibn batuttas travels which can keep you busy for some hours. But the average mall-afficionado isn't keen to improve his knowledge. Go shopping!
Michael Smith May 30, 2011 04:23 pm
Some good observations but at times a farcical analysis. How often has the analyst been to each Mall at different times? Does the analyst realise for example how much parking there is at Festival Centre. It has to be one of the easiest malls to park at. It isn't all about IKEA. What is the point of these rankings other than I suppose to sell your mgazine. More fool me to read them. One rather unknowledgable person making observations that sadly will be used by the marketing professionals as fact. Give me several Malls over the Mall of Emiirates that most would say is too large. The popularity of Deira City Centre is for good reason. What of compactness and less tirning as a category. .
Sharon May 30, 2011 04:18 pm
Nice article, but I think the smaller malls are better for me as a mom with 2 kids. Arabian Centre tops my bill - free activities for the kids, a Daiso, affordable retailers, supermarket and Home Centre. I only go to the Dubai Mall for two shops - Kinokuniya and the Organic Market!