What’s this about? Shopping?
No, you want to head to the nearby Dubai Mall for that – most of Dubai’s shopping districts are covered to make them accessible all year round. The Boulevard, which runs in an almost full circle around Souk Al Bahar, The Dubai Fountain and the Burj Khalifa is essentially rows of restaurants (many with views of the latter landmark), with hotels – such as The Address Downtown Dubai, Vida Downtown Dubai and Al Manzil – dotted along the route.
So it’s in Downtown? Sounds a bit expensive to me.
Hardly. Many of the restaurants and cafés along the strip are well-known local and international chains – think Bennigan’s, Arz Lebanon and Paul – plus some stellar one-off outlets such as Armenian eatery Mayrig, trendy café and hangout The Pavilion, and chef Silvena Rowe’s modern Middle Eastern outlet Omnia by Silvena.
Fairly new, then?
You could say that. They only started building Downtown Dubai in 2004, and they’re still putting up buildings in certain sections of the area. Until 2012, the 3.5km road was known as Emaar Boulevard, after the area’s real estate developer Emaar Properties. That December, Emaar renamed it to pay tribute to His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai.
That 3.5km sounds like a long walk. Any alternatives to exploring on foot?
There sure are. Try cycling the route by hiring a bicycle from Byky, which has four automated pick-up and drop-off stations in the area (rentals start from Dhs15 for 30 minutes). Alternatively, flag down a rickshaw – the Buggy on the BLVD service can take up to two passengers at a time for a cosy ride around the sights. Romantic.
Lovely stuff. Now, where can I wind down with a drink?
Depends what you’re in the mood for. If it’s pub vibes and live sports, plot a route to Nezesaussi in Al Manzil hotel. For super swanky vibes and great views, head to Neos at The Address Downtown (though prepare to remortgage your house). Something in the middle? Check out Stage2 at boutique hotel Vida, which does a low-key but lovely cheese pairing night every Wednesday for Dhs150, including three drinks.
Only on Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard
The Dubai Trolley
This bright red uber-retro, hop-on, hop-off tram trolley stands out against Downtown Dubai’s modernity. It’s the world’s first hydrogen-powered, zero-emission street trolley, and while it currently only services a one-kilometre stretch of the road, it’s a novel way to see the sights.
Local lies to tell tourists
The Dubai Mall was actually built on the site of the earliest shopping mall in the world. Archaeologists even found evidence of early credit cards dating back as far as 1067 AD.