The emirate's best toilet, burger, elevator, proposal spot and more
Discover the finest of what this city has to offer with our occasionally tongue-in-cheek guide to the good and the great of eating, drinking, schmoozing and beyond.
Dubai is awesome – and it’s only getting more so. A city where the airport has just overtaken Heathrow to become the biggest in the world, you can win gold simply by losing weight and there is always – always – something new to try at the weekend. So frequently do new restaurants open and new activities emerge that it is pretty much impossible to do all the amazing things in this town during your stay. But worry not a moment more – help is at hand. To ensure you make the absolute most of your time in this marvellous land of the biggest, tallest and most ambitious, we’ve rounded up 50 of the very best things in Dubai. From the unimaginably tasty to the downright silly, they may not all be totally serious, but each and every one is a must-see, do and try. Let the funathon begin!
1 The best burger Burger lovers haven’t lived until they’ve chowed down on the Jones Wagyu Burger – a thick patty layered with veal bacon, cheese, salad and Jones’ bois boidran sauce, sandwiched between two halves of a brioche bun. If you’re feeling fancy, add on foie gras, truffle mayonnaise or even a slice of melted truffle brie. Mmmm, truffle brie... Dhs69. Jones the Grocer, near Manara Road, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 346 6886).
2 The best local coffee experience For the ultimate Dubai caffeine fix, a visit simply must be paid to The Majlis Dubai’s brand new outlet next to Jumeirah Mosque. Here, at the second, swankier branch of city’s camel milk café, sample drinks made with camel milk (such as the camelatte and the camelccino) and dishes with camel milk at the core of their ingredients, such as muffins, croissants, pastries and ice-creams. The Majlis Dubai, next to Jumeirah Mosque, Jumeirah 1 (04 352 0822).
3 The best café Baker & Spice in Souk Al Bahar is Time Out’s favourite café of the year, with its home-style, organic cuisine and cosy decor. Eat in or take away, choosing from an ever-changing selection of salads and sweet treats, plus hot mains and unique breakfasts. We particularly love the hearty vegetarian gnocchi. Baker & Spice, Souk Al Bahar (04 425 2240).
4 The best brunch No stay in Dubai is complete without at least one Friday afternoon spent indulging in as much fine cuisine as you can physically stomach, and Traiteur at the Park Hyatt should top your list. Diners even get to meander through the French eatery’s very kitchen to help themselves to a selection of delicious dishes. Packages start from Dhs465 (with soft drinks), Dhs570 (with sparkling grape, hops and grape). Traiteur, Park Hyatt, Deira (04 317 2222).
5 The best milkshake Head to Buffalo chicken wings specialist Wingsters in Dubai Marina for a thick, creamy, icy shake with attitude. Vinny’s Vanilla Milkshake is Time Out’s mobster-themed beverage of choice, and though there’s the option to smother it in everything from chocolate chip cookies to peanut butter, we recommend sticking to the original. You won’t be disappointed. Dhs18. Wingsters, Marina Diamond Building, Dubai Marina (800 94649).
6 The best food court If there’s one thing Dubai does better than most cities, it’s a mass assembly of the great and the good of the world’s fast food giants, with a few home-grown heroes thrown in the mix. Head to the ground floor of Mall of the Emirates for Time Out’s favourite – with plenty of variety, pretty consistently clean, airy surroundings and roughly half the chaos seen in many larger courts around the city. Ground floor, next to Nike, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 409 9000).
7 The best restaurant Chic DIFC eatery Zuma was declared Time Out’s Restaurant of the Year for 2014 back in March, and what a restaurant it is. Serving upmarket and innovative Japanese eats, this stylish eatery in the city’s financial centre has lost none of its buzz, despite ever more contenders for the title staking a claim on the city’s fantastic dining scene. Zuma, Gate Village 6, DIFC (04 425 5660).
8 The best Creekside restaurant Despite its monumental role in shaping Dubai into the global import and export hub it is today, the Creek is surprisingly lacking in impressive eateries lining its banks. Fortunately, Boardwalk does a stellar job in this arena. Sitting on stilts right over the Creek, this now Mediterranean-themed eatery (refurbished earlier in the year) serves up freshly baked breads and pizzas, seafood mains and favourites from earlier menus including fish and chips. Boardwalk, Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, Deira (04 295 6000).
9 The best salad No food-loving lettuce fiend worth their salt should go through life without trying the Pierre’s salad – an Asian riff on the classic Caesar salad by famed French chef Pierre Gagnaire, served up at his Dubai Festival City outlet Choix Patisserie and Restaurant par Pierre Gagnaire. Think shimizu chicken, romaine lettuce, pomelo, datterino tomatoes, aloe vera and tofu. Dhs50. Choix Patisserie and Restaurant par Pierre Gagnaire, InterContinental Dubai Festival City (04 701 1136).
10 The best place to swim in butter Famed for its gargantuan portions and named after its trademark desserts, The Cheesecake Factory is one of the best places to go in Dubai if you fancy pushing your stomach (and possibly blood pressure) to its very limits. Aside from dozens upon dozens of different varieties of cheesecake, try pasta dishes that hit the 1,000-calorie mark, Everest-esque piles of chicken wings and sandwiches that can comfortably satisfy two adults. The Cheesecake Factory, various locations including Mall of the Emirates (04 409 9000).
11 The best free bread basket With more restaurants offering free carbs to kick off the meal than not, this is certainly a hard category. In the fancier dining arena, head to Blue Flame at the Jumeirah Creekside Hotel (Garhoud, 04 230 8459), where you can gorge on a variety of exquisite savoury muffins before starting your meal. Alternatively, if your mall-trawl has left you famished, ain’t no better place to fill up than Texas Roadhouse (The Dubai Mall, 04 325 3951), which offers unlimited servings of piping hot, fluffy, butter-topped rolls to get your juices going for your steak lunch.
12 The best place to get a meal for two for under Dhs100 Budget doesn’t have to be boring – and nowhere proves this better than funky urban street food-inspired eatery Zaroob. Serving up Egyptian, Lebanese, Syrian and Palestinian-style eats, fill up on feteer (a layered, doughy treat filled with cheese, eggs or whatever you fancy), tasty mezze and savoury shawarma plates. Zaroob, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 327 6060).
13 The best place for diet-mad Dubaians Whether you’re counting carbs, following a Paleo diet or simply trying to up your protein intake to make those gym sessions really count, HEAT Café & Grill on Jumeirah Beach Road offer simple, healthy meals featuring steamed veggies, grilled lean meats, nourishing salads and even protein pancakes (they’re also now serving breakfast all day). HEAT Café & Grill, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 338 8831).
14 The best cake Easily the most famous cake in Dubai, this dessert is behind the demise of more diets than most. Despite a slew of cupcake shops, cheesecake havens and more attempting to steal our hearts, The Lime Tree Café’s infamous, enormous carrot cake remains our go-to for a celebration. Following closely behind on our list of favourites was the same café’s monkey tail banana cake – a heavenly combination of banana sponge and drizzles of chocolate, smothered in a heart-stopping layer of creamy frosting and topped with shavings of more chocolate. Sadly, the latter cake isn’t available at the moment, but we hear rumours of a return to the menu in 2015... The Lime Tree Café & Kitchen, various locations including Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1 (04 349 8498).
15 The best pizza When open-air pizzeria Bussola reopens (typically post-summer in September) it’s a must-try for the city’s best Italian-style pizzas served in a beautiful setting. To those with more adventurous palates, we highly recommend opting for sea urchin in your topping. From Dhs58. Bussola, The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi, Al Sufouh Road (04 511 7136).
Out and about 16 The best dragon-shaped mall Where else but the one and only Dragon Mart? A haven of bargain Chinese wares, pick up tools, furniture, clothes, toys, electronics and more in the largest space devoted to selling Chinese-made products outside of mainland China. Al Awir Road, near International City (04 433 6200).
17 The best premium cinema screen Scamper up the escalators in The Dubai Mall to Reel Cinema, where inside its Platinum Suites you’ll find the Rolls Royce of cinema seats. While these electronically-reclining leather armchairs may make it almost impossible to enjoy a spill-free feast from the extensive, restaurant-style menu, it’s the most comfortable you’ll have ever been while covered in ketchup. Dhs130. Platinum Suites, Reel Cinema, The Dubai Mall (800 38224 6255).
18 The best arcade An enormous indoor theme park with more than 170 arcade games, plus 14 rides and attractions, Sega Republic is a popular place to escape the heat during summer. Try stomach-churning motion simulators, play four-way air hockey on the Sega Sonic Quad table or scream your lungs out on the pitch-black SpinGear rollercoaster. From Dhs10 for pay and play, or Dhs175 for a day pass. Sega Republic, The Dubai Mall (04 448 8484).
19 The best beach Huge beach park Al Mamzar offers some of the city’s cleanest sandy spots for setting up camp, with several different bays to catch rays in. There are palm trees and shady, grassy spots offering refuge from the sun, kiosks selling cool refreshments and showers, changing rooms and toilets, too (though we recommend bringing your own loo roll). Dhs5. Al Mamzar Beach Park, Al Mamzar (04 296 6201).
20 The best park One of Dubai’s oldest and largest urban expanses of green, Safa Park has a jogging track running around its circumference, plus numerous playgrounds, basketball courts, open spaces for setting up football pitches, a small boating lake and even a waterfall. Dhs3. Safa Park, Al Wasl Road and Al Hadiqa Street (04 349 2111).
21 The best view In one of the world’s tallest cities, incredible views aren’t particularly hard to come by – but only one place can lay claim to the emirate’s highest public observation platform, and that’s At The Top. Everyone needs to have done this trip up the Burj Khalifa at least once – just make sure you book ahead rather than turning up on the day, as while advance tickets cost Dhs125, on-the-spot tickets cost a staggering Dhs400. At The Top, Burj Khalifa, Downtown Dubai (04 367 3333).
22 The best jogging track Hit the beach for the city’s most scenic jogging route, running from the end of Jumeirah Open Beach (next door to Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa) down towards Umm Suqeim. This bouncy route is a great place for people-watching, plus the sea breeze adds just the right amount of resistance to help you improve your cardio workout. Off Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeirah 1 (no number).
23 The best hotel lobby There’s certainly no shortage of grand entrances and reception areas in Dubai’s poshest hotels and resorts, but how many can say they’ve acted as a major set piece in a Hollywood blockbuster? Step up Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, whose lobby featured prominently in 2011’s Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Head there now to lurk behind columns in the manner of Tom Cruise… Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Palm Jumeirah (04 453 0000).
24 The best golf driving range Practise your swing in the posh grounds of The Address Montgomerie Dubai and enjoy views of the New Dubai skyline. We recommend heading down at sunset for the most picturesque setting, followed by a drink at Links, where you can continue enjoying the vista. Dhs120 (unlimited day pass for driving range and par 3). The Address Montgomerie Dubai, Emirates Hills (04 390 5600).
25 The best smell Wander through the Spice Souk in Deira and allow the aromas of cardamom, dried limes, star anise, pepper and more to fill your nostrils. So potent are the scents of these exotic hauls, you can pretty much trust your nose to lead you there from the Gold Souk, no map necessary. Deira, near Gold Souk.
26 The best toilet If you’ve dined at Prime 68, the steakhouse on the 68th floor of the JW Marriott Marquis, you’ll know that the views are impressive, but they don’t stop in the restaurant – you get a loo with a view thrown in for good measure, too. The white and silver mosaics frame the scene right over Sheikh Zayed Road. Prime 68, JW Marriott Marquis, Business Bay, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 414 3000).
27 The best underwater experience Go swimming with thousands of colourful reef fish, sharks and rays inside Atlantis The Palm’s Ambassador Lagoon. Different experience packages make the activity open to both those with scuba diving licences and those without – try an ultimate dive or do the ultimate snorkel, both of which offer a fascinating insight and surprisingly relaxing marine experience. From Dhs250 for ultimate snorkel (including take-home mask and snorkel). Ambassador Lagoon, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 1040).
28 The best elevator Experience vertigo from the safety of Jumeirah Emirates Towers’ hotel lift, which takes you more than 50 floors up, allowing you to take in the view during the ride through clear glass windows on all sides. Need an excuse to head to the top of the hotel? Check out the new brunch at Alta Badia, which features Italian-style sharing plates. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, DIFC (04 330 0000).
29 The best place to learn that Dubai has history Many people will try to tell you that Dubai is only a few decades old – and they’re wrong. People have been living and working in the region for thousands of years, and a visit to the Dubai Museum at the old Al Fahidi Fort (itself built in 1787) is a great place to learn more if there’s only room for one history stop during your stay. Dhs3. Al Fahidi, Bur Dubai (04 353 1862).
30 The best car park Few driveways see quite so many camera flashes as the main entrance to Mall of the Emirates, which (particularly during public holidays) sees its valet parking drive littered with eye-wateringly expensive motors, from chrome Rolls Royce Phantoms to custom Bugattis. It’s a petrol-head tourist’s dream. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 409 9000).
31 The best place to have an art attack Whatever form of creativity you thrive on – be it pottery throwing, theatrics, jewellery making, painting, dance or music – Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre (Ductac) has courses and workshops to keep your fingers from twitching. Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (04 341 4777).
32 The best place to scare the living daylights out of yourself Fling yourself from a plane at SkyDive Dubai – it’s the ultimate bucket list experience in the city, and you don’t need any prior experience or skills to be able to do it. Each tandem jump includes photos and a video of your dive, which make excellent Christmas and birthday gifts for the mums and dads you want to scare silly too. Dhs1,999 for a tandem jump with instructor. SkyDive Dubai, Palm Dropzone in Dubai Marina (04 377 8888).
33 The best place to pick up something unique Held at Times Square Center on Sheikh Zayed Road, local artisans’ market ARTE is the ideal place to find fantastic gifts and unique buys for you, your kids and your home. Pick up restored driftwood knick-knacks, hand-knitted children’s soft toys, clothes, fridge magnets supporting local animal charities and much more. Next market Friday September 12. ARTE, Times Square Center, Sheikh Zayed Road, www.arte.ae.
34 The best selfie-worthy sight Elbow your way through the swarms of mums, dads, kids and grandparents lining the walkways outside The Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar, and head for the bridge that links the two across the lake of The Dubai Fountain. From here, you can get a great shot of yourself with the Burj Khalifa and, if you time it right, the water jets too. Downtown Dubai.
35 The best road trip Hit the road to discover Fujairah on the UAE’s scenic east coast. The ‘new’ Dubai to Fujairah Road, the E84 (which is now a couple of years old, but new in relative terms) offers a smooth drive through the Hajar mountains, vastly more appealing (and quicker) than the speed bump-littered route through Al Dhaid. E611 to E102 (Sharjah-Kalba Road), turn off onto the E84.
36 The best place to show off your gym-honed physique While hot posing ground Blue Marlin may be yet to reopen, that doesn’t mean the city’s beautiful people have nowhere to go. Purobeach Urban Oasis at the Conrad Dubai offers the coolest poolside weekend hangout around, complete with chillout beats and grown-up beverages. Purobeach, Conrad Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 444 7444).
37 The best swimming pool It’s hard to beat a lagoon – particularly one that spans 10,000 sq m, and that’s exactly what Anantara Dubai has got going on. Get the day pass and not only do you get to cool off in the lagoons all day, but also the main pool and on the resort’s beach. Dhs250 (adult), Dhs100 (child). Anantara Dubai The Palm Resort & Spa, Palm Jumeirah (04 567 8140).
38 The best cycle path For adults in search of a good, long, safe stretch, head to Al Qudra Road and you’ll find a roughly 50km track. Trees have been planted that will hopefully offer some shade a little further down the line, but in the meantime on this desert stretch expect to spot camels, falcons and if you pedal far enough, the sanctuary of Bab Al Shams for much-needed refreshment. If you’re looking for somewhere to take the kids to help them get comfortable on two wheels, Al Barsha Pond Park (between Emirates NBD and Al Barsha Mall) has a great little track.
39 The best place to watch a sunset Grab a towel and hit Sunset Beach in Umm Suqeim for a beautiful Dubai sundown – there’s a reason this spot is so-named. Sit on the sand, with your toes in the water or perch on the wall and watch as the sun sinks behind the Burj Al Arab – a classic UAE silhouette. Sunset Beach, off Jumeirah Beach Road, Umm Suqeim.
40 The best culture hub Find dozens of galleries and arthouses all clustered together at Alserkal Avenue in the industrial district of Al Quoz. While it’s currently undergoing an expansion, the art and culture hub is already one of the biggest and most important in the city. Street 8, Al Quoz 1, www.alserkalavenue.ae.
41 The best bike shop Amateur cyclists can sometimes find their lack of expertise exploited or downright ripped off, but head to Revolution Cycles in Motor City and you can expect fair, professional and honest service. They won’t fix anything without letting you know exactly what they plan to do and how much it will cost. If it’s a simple change, they’ll even show you how to do it yourself and save a few dirhams. More seasoned cyclists can also get their hands on some top-of-the-range gear here. Apex Atrium Building, Motor City (04 369 7441).
42 The best place to lose yourself in literature Home to literally hundreds of thousands of titles, Book World by Kinokuniya is the place to find pretty much any hard or paperback you’re looking for. From cookery to comics, thrillers to self-help, find everything from the latest releases to more obscure publications in one giant store. Book World by Kinokuniya, The Dubai Mall (04 434 0111).
Pampering 43 The best head massage Soothe a shouty mind with the uber relaxing ayurvedic head massage at Breath & Health. Yes, it involves the use of oils, but it’s so worth the multiple hair washes that will inevitably follow for the magnificently zen hour you’ll spend in the hands of a trained therapist. As well as massage, the centre also offers a range of alternative therapies, including acupuncture and dry cupping. Dhs290 for 60 minutes. Breath & Health Alternative Medical Centre, Al Wasl Road, Umm Suqeim 2 (04 348 9940).
44 The best manicure Ladies can have the manicure of their lives at Spa Cordon in DIFC, by opting for the ‘perfect’ 60-minute session, which includes a soak, scrub, masque and gentle massage. It’s the most pampered you’ll feel in any nail salon. Dhs130. Spa Cordon, Sky Gardens, DIFC (04 421 3424).
45 The best facial There is no more reliable facialist in town than Essa Beauty owner Lydia Espin, from the UK. Her independent beauty salon in JLT commands an army of loyal female followers – and little wonder, considering the expertise of its chief therapist and founder, who can solve just about any skin complaint going. Essa Beauty, Lake Level, Cluster G, Jumeirah Lakes Towers (04 374 4288).
Nightlife 46 The best ladies’ night Women, make your way to Dubai Marina Yacht Club’s Aquara Lounge on a Tuesday night, where along with your free drinks, you’ll also get expert tips on hairstyling and make-up applications. Tue 8pm. Aqaura Lounge, Dubai Marina Yacht Club (04 362 7900).
47 The best sports bar When the Premier League kicks off on Saturday August 16 with Manchester United v Swansea, you’ll need somewhere to watch all the important action. Step up Time Out’s best sports bar of 2014, McGettigan’s DWTC. McGettigan’s DWTC, Dubai World Trade Centre (80 6247).
48 The best place to wear sunglasses indoors Pose up a storm at swanky Dubai nightspot People by Crystal, which sits at the top of the Raffles Dubai’s landmark pyramid structure. Party down for the 411 night on Saturdays to rub shoulders with sunnies-wearing soulmates. People by Crystal, Raffles Dubai, Oud Metha (050 297 2097).
49 The best karaoke night Combining renditions of heavy metal favourites with the sweet strains of hits from the latest Disney flicks, there’s no wider-reaching karaoke night than that held at 1UP. After a brief hiatus for summer, it’s only a matter of time before the crowds turn out to wrestle for the mic once again. 1UP, Boutique 7 Hotel & Suites, TECOM (04 434 5555).
And finally… 50 The best place to pop the question If you’re lacking the imagination to plan something that really speaks to you and your partner’s shared interests and passions, Atlantis The Palm has several packages at the ready to help, including the ‘under the stars’ proposal, which includes a meal in a private beach cabana, flowers, chocolates and a stay in the hotel, an ‘underwater’ proposal, which includes dinner for two in Ossiano with a message presented by a diver, champagne, photos, flower, chocolates and a stay, or a dolphin proposal, which includes an interaction with the marine mammals (including the ring being presented by the dolphin), chocolate, flowers and a stay. Price on request. Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 0000).
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