Here in Dubai we’re all too familiar with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kind of culture. Things pop up, things close down. At City Walk, however, things seem to be only going one way, and that’s forward.
Essentially a large collection of individual yet interconnected buildings to explore (be warned it’s hot this time of year), the sprawling area in Al Safa is rapidly expanding, with new shops, restaurants and attractions to see every time you visit.
The family-friendly, pedestrianised eating and shopping district first opened back in 2013, but the area really came to life in 2015. Further expansion followed last year, and it hasn’t stopped since.
The development from Meraas, the brains behind BoxPark and The Beach (opposite JBR), spans more than ten million square feet.
There are dozens of (unlicensed) places to grab a bite to eat, whether you’re after fine dining from a Michelin-starred chef (step in, Dragonfly by Tim Raue) or an ice cream sundae as big as your head (well hello, Serendipity 3).
Add to that plenty of spots to have a coffee, lighten your wallet at some designer stores or even take a stroll in a rainforest and you’ve got City Walk covered.
Ready to go? We’ll talk you through it…
THE STREET ART
Some of the world’s most famous urban artists were given free rein to decorate the walls of City Walk. From giant cartoon murals, to quirky smaller designs, there’s loads to stop and look at when you’re wandering around.
Part of the inaugural Dubai Walls project, big names from the street art world including Rone, Eine, Nick Walker, Magda Sayeg and Blek le Rat, have left their creative stamp all over the development. The kids'll love it.
Hailed as “the Pioneer of urban art in Europe”, Blek le Rat was one of the first artists to use stencils for creating public art. Meanwhile, the reputation of UK artist Eelus is fast gathering pace with exhibitions all over the world, from Norway to The Gambia. The rainbow, Banksy-style mural by Eelus is probably the most talked about piece among City Walk’s art.
WHERE TO STAY
La Ville Hotel & Suites opened last year and is the only licensed property in the area. The hotel is chic and, as the name suggests, has upmarket European styling with whitewashed walls, shutters and plenty of greenery in the courtyard below. If you’re looking for a mini summer staycay it’s also worth exploring, with a range of deals available including weekend stays and pool days.
La Ville Hotel & Suites City Walk, Dubai, Autograph Collection (04 403 3111).
WHAT TO DO
With massively wide boulevards, bright lighting and an often serene air about it, City Walk is reminiscent of a Hollywood film set. Split into different districts, there’s even a section with a traditional British phone box and postbox if you miss a bit of Blighty. There’s loads to do with the kids, too.
Catch a flick at Roxy Cinemas
The cinema is based in the central hub of the area (just near Serendipity 3, Demoiselle and the fountain). With massive reclining leather chairs, fluffy pillows and blankets, you’ll be even comfier than if you were at home if you go all out and book The Director’s Lounge. There are 20 screens, so there’s plenty of choice, whether you’re in the mood for comedy, cartoons or whatever.
Head to Mattel Play! Town
Bob The Builder, Fireman Sam, Angelina Ballerina… This centre has all the family’s favourite characters that kids can meet. There’s dressing up, stage shows and more at this “eduplay” attraction for little ones aged two to ten. Entertainment while they learn? Ideal.
Sat-Wed 9am-8pm; Thu 10am-10pm; Fri 11am-10pm. www.playtowndubai.com
Explore The Green Planet
Where else would you find a rainforest in the middle of the desert? This is Dubai, after all, so of course there’s a massive ecosystem at City Walk. Take a stroll through the indoor centre that is home to more than 3,000 plants and animals including snakes, birds and even some friendly sloths (we’re not advising getting too close, though). There are also plenty of butterflies and beautiful flowers to admire and relax around. You can’t miss the 25-foot tree, either, which happens to be the biggest man-made tree in the world (of course). It’s an excellent place to escape the heat this summer when you can’t hang out in the open air.
Dhs95. Sat-Wed 10am-6pm; Thu-Fri 10am-8pm. www.thegreenplanet.com
Get gaming at Hub Zero
The 18,000-square-metre Hub Zero is fully state-of-the-art, using the latest technologies. Set up in collaboration with gaming companies Electronic Arts, Capcom, Konami, Microsoft and Square Enix Space, this centre has activities for all ages. It houses 3D and 4D cinema experiences, and for a retro take on things, you can even indulge in some pinball. Or there’s a full-on laser tag battle to take part in if you’re feeling active. For more serious gamers there’s a LAN (or Local Area Network, to novices) gaming area, with 70 stations. If you’re more into Pac-Man and Space Invaders, don’t worry, you’ll be well-catered for, too.
From Dhs160. Open Sun-Thu 5pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 3pm-midnight. City Walk, Al Safa Street, www.hubzerodubai.com
WHERE TO EAT
When the time comes to replenish those calories you’ve burnt wandering around, you’ll be pleased to know that you’re spoilt for choice at City Walk. There are nearly 70 eateries, from ice cream parlours to tea shops via monster burgers and fine dining from Michelin-starred chefs.
With every dish inspired by cocoa, this one is a chocolate-lover’s dream. Savoury or sweet, everything on the menu is enhanced by the versatile nib – cocoa butter salmon and mashed potato with white chocolate, anyone? If you’re feeling less adventurous, the chocolate fondant and double dark choc chip brownie offers a more conventional approach.
Open Sun-Thu 8am-10pm; Fri-Sat 8am-midnight (04 590 5070).
Family-friendly breakfast spot Eggspectation is a massive hit in JBR, and now, eggscellent (ahem) news, there’s a second brand open in City Walk. You can’t fail to have noticed the huge queues at The Beach branch on a weekend morning, and we’re sure this new outlet will be just as heaving. Famous, of course, for its egg dishes, the restaurant also serves lunch and dinner, with mac ’n’ cheese, sandwiches, flatbreads, burgers and salads rating highly among the offerings. However, the eggs are what it’s all about here. There are also giant stacks of pancakes, mountains of French toast and Nutella-filled crêpes if you’re after a sweeter start to your day. The large City Walk outlet spans 2,800 square foot and boasts its signature friendly atmosphere and staff. In the winter, there will be outdoor seating, too.
Open daily 7am-midnight (04 240 6877).
We’re not lying, there’s a lot of cake at City Walk (and ice cream, sweets and chocolate shops, too). If you’re in need of a sit down and something sweet to recover from one too many expensive purchases, Hummingbird Bakery is the place to visit. It’s a popular little spot to stop off for a cupcake or some of its famous red velvet cake.
Open daily 10am-midnight (04 449 8576).
Don’t miss the Frrrozen Hot Chocolates at this one. The famous New York restaurant (which stars in the Hollywood film of the same name) has pride of place near to the cinema in the main round at City Walk. Don’t fancy something sweet? Dig into a foot-long beef hot dog instead.
Open Sun-Thu 10am-10pm; Fri-Sat 10am-midnight (04 394 9672).