Be the host with the most by following our itinerary
Time Out staff
The tourists are back in Dubai in their droves, with visitors from across the world booking up hotels and filling the malls of our coastal city. In 2011, the number of tourists visiting Dubai rose ten percent, with 9.3 million descending on the emirate across the year (smashing the initial prediction of 8 million).
According to the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing, the Burj Khalifa, Burj Al Arab, Ski Dubai, Palm Islands, The Dubai Mall and Atlantis The Palm top the list of tourist attractions in our emirate. As long as you live here, in one of the world’s most talked-about cities, you’ll need to be prepared to host visiting friends, family and all manner of random acquaintances, often at short notice. Fortunately, we have plenty of suggestions up our sleeve with this comprehensive list of itineraries to suit a variety of guests and situations.
Best mate Let the good times roll with waterparks, brunches and sundowners.
If they’re here for… one day 9am Head to Wild Wadi and get wet on the scary new Jumeirah Sceirah ride. Splash-tastic. Day pass Dhs175. Madinat Jumeirah (04 348 4444).
11am Take a trip to Old Dubai and whip round the restored Bastakiya neighbourhood, and then stop off in Dubai Museum to have a giggle at the dated display video chronicling Dubai’s growth, which lists ‘The Palm’ and ‘Burj Dubai’ as ‘future projects’. Dhs3. Al Fahidi Fort (04 353 1862).
12.30pm Go to Bait Al Wakeel for a cheap and authentic Middle Eastern lunch, while sitting on a wooden terrace hanging over the creek. Near the Textile Souk, Bur Dubai (04 353 0530).
2pm Go Downtown and wow them with a trip up the Burj Khalifa. Make sure you show them the gold vending machine in the observation deck – it seems to impress more than the view. Dhs100 in advance. www.burjkhalifa.ae.
3.30pm Wander around The Dubai Mall and try the ice rink. Dhs55 (04 448 5111).
5pm Grab a snack at one of the mall’s outdoor cafés and watch the Dubai Fountains do their thing. Free. www.thedubaimall.com.
6pm Hit trendy Calabar for happy hour from 6pm until 8pm, and enjoy drinks from the magnificent terrace. The Address Downtown Dubai (04 436 8888).
8.30pm Head upstairs to Neos and sup mixed drinks with jaw-dropping views of the Dubai skyline. The Address Downtown Dubai (04 436 8888).
Best mate If they’re here for… the weekend
Day 1 9am-noon Spend the morning embarking on a whistle-stop tour of Old Dubai.
12.30pm Sit down to a typical Dubai brunch. For a comfortable compromise of quality, price and quirkiness, we recommend the Dusit Thani Dubai. From Dhs215 (04 343 3333).
4.30pm Head over to Bahri Bar for its weekly After-Brunch Beats sessions. Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
7pm Go for a stroll around the Madinat’s many nightlife venues, and stop at Honyaki for quality Japanese-style sustenance. Madinat Jumeirah (04 366 6730).
11pm Stay in the Madinat and hit top club Trilogy – which hosts international DJs on Thursdays, and residents during the week. (050 624 5751).
Day 2 11am Head to Saladicious for a late breakfast, then spend a few hours soaking up some rays on the beach. JBR (04 345 5822).
3pm If your pale friend starts to wilt, head to Mall of the Emirates for a drink overlooking the ski slope at Après to escape the sun. Mall of the Emirates (04 341 2575).
4pm Feeling adventurous? Grab some skis or throw yourself around in a zorb ball in Ski Dubai. If you’re looking for something more sedate, pet the penguins instead. Snow park entry Dhs130; slope pass Dhs180; 40-minute penguin package Dhs175 (04 409 4090).
7pm Go for a slap-up meal at Table 9 by Scott and Nick. Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira (04 227 1111).
9pm Chill out at 360°’s new Latin-tinged night, Entra Mi Casa – call ahead to get on the guest list. Jumeirah Beach Hotel (056 682 6617).
Best mate If they’re here for… five days
Day 1 Embark on an overnight desert safari. After bashing those dunes, lie out under the stars and catch up over some grape in the serenity of the empty desert. Dhs650 per person for ‘starlight express’ package. Arabian Adventures (04 303 4888).
Day 2 Recover from your night in the desert with a relaxed morning by Kitesurfing Beach, before an arty afternoon spent dallying around Al Quoz’s many galleries (there’s an interesting show, ‘Elegy to My Trapped City’, which runs at Meem Gallery until Tuesday November 13).
Day 3 Escape the city with a day trip to Musandam, soaking up the sweeping views of the peninsula. Dhs199 per person. HuntUrDeals.com (050 972 1570).
Day 4 Enjoy a day of competitive sports. In the morning, head to Paintball Dubai for some all-out warfare (from Dhs90, 04 324 4755). After lunch, try an adrenaline-soaked race round the go-karting track at Dubai Autodrome (Dhs110 for 15 minutes, 04 367 8700). As evening falls, head to The Locker Room in Barsha for a relaxed round of bar games and a drink (Golden Tulip Al Barsha (04 341 7750).
Day 5 Make up for yesterday’s silliness with a day of culture before dining at the idyllic Bastakiah Nights restaurant, which offers a feast of Middle Eastern food. Bur Dubai (04 353 7772).
Family Ensure marvellous memories for mum, dad and the rest of the clan.
If they’re here for… one day 9am Start the day with an Emirati breakfast, accompanied by fresh local bread and traditional hot drinks at cute and quirky café Klayya. Barsha Mall (04 325 5335).
11am Take a trip to the Ripe farmers’ market. Once they’ve feasted their eyes on the gourmet local produce, explore the arts and crafts section to bag an unusual souvenir. The Courtyard, Al Quoz (04 380 7602).
2pm Head to the Burj al Arab to show off the glittering sight of the world’s most expensive hotel and treat them to a seven-course afternoon tea at the hotel’s lobby lounge, Sahn Eddar. Make sure you book a table by the window, so they can enjoy the lovely views of the beach opposite. From Dhs350 per person. Burj Al Arab (04 301 7600).
6pm Head to 101 on the Palm Jumeirah – you’ll travel there by boat from the One&Only Royal Mirage, and you can treat you parents to al-fresco Dubai dining with a relaxed Mediterranean dinner. One&Only The Palm (04 440 1010). Otherwise, head to Festival City for a traditional Emirati feast of saloona and machboos, amid the kitsch yet atmospheric decor of canal-side restaurant Al Fanar. Festival City (04 232 9966).
Family If they’re here for… the weekend
Day 1 8am Wake early for a stroll along the water around Dubai Marina, stopping off for a light breakfast at Baker & Spice (snag a seat outside). Marina Promenade (04 362 4686).
12.30pm Treat your parents to the Friday ritual of brunching at The Westin. As well as a mind-boggling selection of food, there are acrobats and a great kids’ area. Dhs350 (soft drinks), Dhs490 (sparkling grape). The Westin Dubai (04 399 4141).
4pm Work off brunch with an aimless wander around The Walk at JBR and stop for a mid-afternoon coffee at one of the many al-fresco cafés, before heading to Meydan Beach Club for a sundowner. JBR (04 433 3777).
6pm Head to Blue Bar near DIFC and wind down with an evening of jazz and blues. Live music Thu-Sat 9.30pm-2am. Novotel World Trade Centre (04 332 0000).
Day 2 Use the one-day itinerary to round off your weekend.
Family If they’re here for… five days
Day 1 Book ahead, and take your folks on the creekside tour with the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (organised by request only). It includes a visit to Bastakiya Mosque and the textile souk. Dhs255. Bastakiya (04 353 6666).
Day 2 Take a stroll through DIFC’s Gate Village. Check out vintage watch boutique Momentum (04 327 4320), and Scandinavian design store D.tales (04 370 0520), and don’t miss the XVA Gallery – its most current exhibition, ‘Rebirth’, showcases the work of Iraqi artist Sami Karim. (04 358 5117).
Day 3 Take it easy with a day at the beach. Try Club Mina at The Westin if your parents fancy a spot of tennis mid-sunbathing (Dhs200 per person per day, 04 318 1551). If you really want to push the boat out, head to The Pavilion Marina & Sports Club at Jumeirah Beach Hotel (Dhs250 per person per day, 04 406 8800).
Day 4 Try a cultural day out in Sharjah, with a visit to the Sharjah Heritage Museum (Dhs5; 06 568 0006) or Sharjah Archaeology Museum (Dhs5; 06 566 5466) and throw a visit to the Aquarium in for fun (Dhs50; 06 528 5288). Finish with dinner in the atmospheric Al Qasba area – try Shababeek, a Lebanese venue with a ‘saj bar’ where you can watch the bread being made (06 554 0444).
Day 5 Plan time for souvenir hunting at Ibn Battuta Mall or The Dubai Mall. Finish with dinner on the balcony of Italian restaurant BiCE Mare (Souk Al Bahar, 04 423 0982).
Friends of friends A good friend has burdened you with their mates – what do you do?
If they’re here for… one day 9am Hit the desert and get dune-bashing. Most desert safari itineraries include a camel ride, lunch and an activity such as dune-buggying or sandboarding, so you won’t need to put too much thought into keeping them entertained and fed. From Dhs350 per person for desert tour. Arabian Adventures (04 303 4888).
4pm Head to Barasti (04 399 3333) or Wavebreaker (04 399 1111) for sundowners on the beach. Both are casual enough that you don’t need to change out of your desert attire.
8pm Pick a busy spot for dinner where they can try authentic local cuisine, such as Emirati restaurant Al Makan. Madinat Jumeirah (04 368 6593).
Friends of friends If they’re here for… five days
Day 1 Send them out on a day of shopping, taking in Mall of the Emirates and The Dubai Mall, where they can climb the Burj Khalifa. (book in advance for Dhs100; www.burjkhalifa.ae), roam the Dubai Aquarium (Dhs50; 04 437 3155), try the rides at Sega Republic (Dhs220 for a Power Pass; www.segarepublic.com) and find plenty of spots for a bite to eat.
Day 2 Suggest a day trip on a dhow around the coast of Musandam. Most tour operators offer a pick-up service from Dubai. Lunches are provided on the boat, as are snorkels, towels, refreshments and in some cases kayaks and banana boat rides. From Dhs200 per person on a group trip. (+968 2 683 6551).
Day 3 Try watersports on the beach at Watercooled in Jebel Ali Golf Resort (Dhs100 for 20 minutes’ waterskiing; 04 814 5555), followed by clay pigeon shooting at the Jebel Ali Shooting Club (from Dhs220; 04 883 6555). Go novelty at lunchtime and grab a camel burger at Best Burgers Forever in Dubai Marina (050 469 5022).
Day 4 Spend a cultural day in Bastakiya, wandering around galleries and visiting Dubai Museum (04 353 1862). In the afternoon, send them off to Al Sahra Equestrian Centre, which now runs camel treks complete with a bubbly package, where you can stop and have a relaxing drink on a secluded sand dune. Dhs350 per person for two hours (04 367 9500).
Day 5 Squeeze in some last-minute souvenir shopping. Head to Mall of the Emirates for novelty Emirati salt and pepper shakers, or try Karama for great-value pashminas, and Bur Dubai for traditional dresses – we like Sweety Abaya at the Abu Hail Centre in Deira. (04 297 4850).
Friends of friends If they’re here for… the weekend
Day 1 Use the one-day itinerary to kick things off and break the ice.
Day 2 9am Pack them off on a Big Bus tour. There are two different routes they can try – with so many stops, this can even be spread over two days. From Dhs220 for a 24-hour pass. www.bigbustours.com/eng/dubai.
4pm Set off for a stroll around the souks in Deira. The shops open as the evening sets in – and gold is far more visually impressive when it’s lit up at night. Head over to Delhi Darbar for dinner – weather permitting, you can easily walk there, and the shops, vendors, traffic and smells make for a fantastically chaotic, interesting multi-sensory experience. Al Naif Road (04 235 6161).
8pm If you’ve no need for an early night, stop in at QD’s on the way back for a coffee, fruit juice or something a bit stronger, enjoying the scent of shisha while overlooking the creek. Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club (04 295 6000).
Long-distance partner Looking to impress your overseas sweetheart? Here’s how
If they’re here for… one day 9am Start your morning with an elegant breakfast at Zest, where you can dine on the terrace from 7am. One&Only The Palm (04 440 1010).
11am Head over to Umm Suqeim open beach, hire a paddleboard and paddle out around to the Burj Al Arab for a relaxing, alternative way to take in the sights. You might even spot a turtle while you’re out. for Dhs75 each. Surf Dubai (050 504 3020).
12.30pm Make your way to The Dubai Mall, where you can spoil each other by overspending at Fashion Avenue, then take a stroll around the Burj Park before heading to Souk Al Bahar for lunch. Downtown Dubai, www.thedubaimall.com.
4pm Take your own private tour of the city in a limousine, before heading back to relax and get ready for the evening. Dhs615 per hour. Wonder Bus Tours (04 359 5656).
7.30pm Have pre-dinner mixed drinks at Koubba, overlooking the waterways of the Madinat Jumeirah. Al Qasr (04 366 6730).
8.30pm Try a romantic dinner on the beach at Shimmers. Mina A’Salam (04 366 8888).
Long-distance partner If they’re here for…the weekend
Day 1 8am Start the morning with coffee and pastries at Café Bateel. Dubai Marina (04 368 4696).
9am Head to Riva Beach Club to relax by the sea. Free entry; Dhs100 per person for sun lounger hire. Palm Jumeirah (04 430 9466).
12.30pm Since you’re in the area, head to an opulent brunch – either Al Qasr (from Dhs425, 04 366 6730) or Imperium at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray (from Dhs275, 04 453 0444). For a more romantic experience, take advantage of the Friday lunch at Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire at the InterContinental in Festival City (from Dhs250, 04 701 1199).
5pm If you’re brunching on or around The Palm, then hit Voda Bar at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray (04 453 0444) for half-price happy hour or pop into laid-back Aussie favourite Bidi Bondi at Shoreline Apartments (04 427 0515). If you’re in Festival City, drop into Eclipse Bar on the 26th floor of the InterContinental and watch the sun set over the creek (04 701 1111).
Day 2 Once you’ve recovered from the previous day’s excitement, head out to the traditional bedouin camp in Ras Al Khaimah and spend a night relaxing by the bonfire and gazing up at the stars. Camp overnight in tents, and ride a camel back to your car in the morning. Dhs340 per person (04 266 6020).
Long-distance partner If they’re here for… five days
Day 1 Spend a day exploring Old Dubai. Start off at the fish souk in Shindagha as early as 6am (taxi drivers are familiar with the place), before wandering through Deira’s souks and jumping on an abra across the creek. Once in Bur Dubai, look around Meena Bazaar – if your other half wants a shirt made, today’s the day to order it. Eat at Baithal Ravi Restaurant – we recommend the vegetable kadai. Near Musalla Tower, Bur Dubai (04 352 8090).
Day 2 Book a couples’ treatment at the Talise Ottoman Spa, which has a new menu starting in November. You can then lounge in a private cabana on the beach. Spa prices vary; Dhs250 per person for beach access (booking essential). Jumeirah Zabeel Saray (04 453 0000).
Day 3 Sign up for a diving trip off the coast of Fujairah if you’re both qualified (from Dhs450 per person, including equipment, +968 2 683 6069). Alternatively, meet the dolphins at Atlantis (from Dhs395 per person, 04 426 1030), or hire your own private boat with Xclusive Yachts to take you around the coast (from Dhs299 per hour, 04 432 7233).
Day 4 It’s time to hit the shops. Peruse designer threads in The Dubai Mall, and stop off at Wafi Gourmet to introduce your partner to excellent Lebanese cuisine (04 330 8297).
Day 5 Do something adventurous – see Dubai by helicopter (15-minute tours from Dhs795 per person; www.arabiahorizons.com). Round off the day with a romantic dinner on board Bateaux Dubai as you float down the creek (Dhs470 per person, 04 315 4777).
Business associates from out of town Want to seal a deal? Look no further – there’s more than enough to do in Dubai to ensure you wow your colleagues
If they’re here for… one day 9am A working breakfast at Make Business Hub – a light-filled multimedia-friendly workspace that serves coffee brewed in the latest filter techniques (JBR, 04 392 9216). An alternative is The Pavilion, which boasts a great Downtown location, a tasty breakfast menu and comfortable workstations (Emaar Boulevard, 04 447 7025).
11pm Up the ante for lunch – the Burj Al Arab (a must-see for most tourists) offers a lavish business lunch deal that offers pick-up in a Rolls Royce Phantom and lunch (Dhs795 for three courses, 04 301 7600). If this is a little over the top, you can’t beat the Time Out Dubai award-winning business lunch at Zuma in DIFC (Dhs62 for two courses, Dhs120 for four, 04 425 5660).
2pm It’s time to relax. Head out to Dubai Autodrome for the Audi Driving Experience, which can include a whirl in an R8 (Dhs950 for the regular experience, Dhs2,450 for the sports car experience, 04 367 8700).
7pm Enjoy drinks followed by dinner at At.mosphere (Burj Khalifa, 04 888 3828) – if you’re going to seal a deal anywhere, it’s on the 122nd floor of the world’s tallest building.
Business associates from out of town If they’re here for… the weekend Day 1 If you’ve wrapped up business already, set aside the weekend for some more pleasurable activities. Start early with a fishing trip hosted by Marine Concept (Dhs850-2,750, 055 960 3030). Once you’ve ensured your client returns to shore with the catch of the day, scrub up and head to The Ivy for one of Dubai’s more civilised brunch options (Dhs475 for three courses and house beverages. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, 04 319 8767).
Day 2 Dust off the irons and head out to The Montgomerie golf course at Emirates Hills (Dhs825 per person for 18 holes, 04 390 5600). If you need a lie-in, take advantage of the twilight packages, priced at Dhs450 per person for tee-off after 2.10pm. Try lunch in Bunkers, or dinner at Nineteen (The Address Montgomerie Dubai, 04 390 5600).
Business associates from out of town If they’re here for… five days Day 1 Help your guest become acquainted with the city and its history with a stroll along the creek in Deira. Once you’re done, try Glasshouse’s new business lunch at the nearby Hilton Dubai Creek (Dhs75 for three courses, 04 227 1111).
Day 2 Keep things simple today – lunch at one of Emirates Towers’ many restaurants. Hakkasan does a good dim sum lunch that can now be enjoyed on the outdoor terrace (Dhs120 per person, 04 384 8484). If you need to talk business, take advantage of the conference facilities – the Congress Rooms, for example (04 319 8707) and finish the day with dinner at top steakhouse The Rib Room (04 319 8088).
Day 3 To break up the week, give your guests a Dubai experience they won’t forget by throwing them out of a plane (strapped to a qualified skydive instructor, of course). Skydive Dubai offers tandem jumps for Dhs1,700 (050 154 2992).
Day 4 Back to business in DIFC. Grab breakfast on the go from 1762 (800 1762), while lunch options include buzzing French restaurant La Petite Maison (04 439 0505). You needn’t go far for dinner – try gleaming steakhouse Gaucho (04 422 7898). Pre- or post-dinner drinks can be had at Caramel (04 425 6677).
Day 5 Pull out the stops – lunch at the Burj Al Arab (see one-day itinerary), then enjoy the city from on high with a Seawings tour (Dhs1,325 for 40 minutes; 04 883 2999).