Dubai, UAE: What to do

Abra Crossing

In a city where candlelit dinner cruises, outrageously fast ziplines and inner-city skydives come as standard as a means of blow-the-budget entertainment, it can be pretty cool to take things back to basics. For the cost of about 20p, you can glide across Dubai Creek on a traditional Abra boat, which dates back to old Dubai’s fishing heritage. What. A. Bargain.

La Mer

La Mer is a sprawling new beachfront area that’s jam-packed with food, shopping and activities to get your teeth into. Here, you can split your time between about 150 food outlets, an absolute ton of banging boutiques, a water park with an artificial wave for surfing and a luxurious row of private beach hut-style cabanas that overlook the shimmering blue gulf. Hanging ten while your mates shop for sarongs? Yeah, we’re into that.

E-fatbike the dunes

Let’s face it, sliding helter-skelter down a sand dune is only fun if your fate’s entirely in your own hands. And that’s why you should trade the traditional SUV dune bash for an electric fatbike. Not only will you get some extra oomph on the going-up bits, but cycling is perfect for checking out the wildlife. You’ll see the likes of camels and ibex, before chowing down on a picnic in the shade of the region’s indigenous ghaf trees. From £100.

XGrounds Kite Beach Skatepark

If you’re more about riding over pools than swimming in them, this one’s for you. Roll through the 3,100sq-m beachfront skatepark as the heat drops at 4pm and don’t stop riding the banks, runs and pipes until midnight. The park’s two profiled plazas make it perfect for newbies and seasoned shredders, and as this is Dubai, it’s obviously the largest in the UAE.

Wreck Diving

Dubai’s not all super-luxe resorts and iconic architecture you know – the Gulf harbours some pretty astounding secrets. Get your beginner badges then take a scuba tour and you’ll find 18 wrecks to explore. Each tour comes complete with that eerie hair-on-end feeling and all sorts of marine critters. Beginners open water course £545; wreck diving £314.

Quad Bike Desert Safari

You’ve not fully experienced the UAE until you’ve razzed a quad bike over sand dunes with the Burj Khalifa sitting on the horizon – we’ll tell you that for free. Spend the afternoon revving to your heart’s content, then take a trip to a Bedoin camp for shisha, Tanoura dancing and Arabic barbecue fare while you swap tales of quad-biking prowess. From £117 per group.

Dubai, UAE: Where to eat & drink

Frying Pan Adventures

Any foodie with a penchant for fresh fish would likely leap at a seafood lunch prepared by an old seadog in the even older (and glitter-free) neighbourhood of Al Ras. The catch? You’ve got to deal with the heady aroma of the fish market in the morning before winding along the creek to build up an appetite before eating. The six-hour tour costs £105 per person.

2nd December Street

If the hyper-luxe restaurants and celebrity fine-dining spots of Dubai’s main drag don’t float your boat, head down to 2nd December Street. Quiet during the day, this quickly becomes one of Dubai’s busiest spots to grab grub and check out street art after dark. The places here are largely owned and frequented by expats, so you’ve got everything from authentic Arabian shawarma to restaurants serving great value dim sum. Bring an appetite, eat your way from place to place and you’ve got the perfect Friday night.


High-end sushi is nothing new in Dubai, but Hoseki – a tiny new Japanese restaurant in the overtly luxurious Bulgari Resort on Jumeirah Bay Island – is. Headed up by Japanese chef Masahiro Sugiyama, this postage stamp-sized nine-cover restaurant serves traditional chef’s table-style omakase food that’s tailored to each diner’s specific taste, all with the iconic backdrop of the Dubai skyline through the window. But as you might imagine from such a teeny-tiny, in-demand restaurant, they don’t take walk-ins – better book your dinner now.

Marina Social

Dubai is packed to bursting with top-end restaurants run by celeb chefs, with everyone from Gary Rhodes to Salt Bae dipping their toes in the water. The only one of them that gets anywhere near the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, though, is Jason Atherton’s Marina Social. So if you’re in it for the no-holds-barred Friday brunch thing, you’re probably going to want to do it here, with drool-worthy British-Mediterranean-inspired dishes dishes like confit duck leg and chargrilled flank steak. Yeah, we wouldn’t have any problems scoffing all that either.

Burj Al Arab Terrace

You’d be forgiven for losing yourself as you dine on a state-of-the-art deck 100m out over the stunning blue Arabian Gulf. Thankfully you’ll be receiving one-of-a-kind service in the shadow of the most iconic landmark on the Dubai shoreline – the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab hotel – so you won’t have to pinch yourself for too long. Just sit back and enjoy the view.


So we’re not expecting any prizes for finding a food truck with game – they’re part of the furniture these days. But we do expect you to head down to this fixture on all-action Kite Beach (that’s between the Palm and the World Islands) if you’re after unpretentious sliders and loaded fries. This summer’s menu trend? Cheetos in everything – cheesy chips were never so good.

Dubai, UAE: Where to stay

Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa

Forget everything you thought you knew about Dubai hotels: the high-rise blocks with multiple restaurants, the rooftop pools, the hustle and bustle of a modern metropolis. Why? Because we’re taking you out of the city and into the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve to crank up the chill. At Al Maha – a dramatic escape from The Luxury Collection that’s set among sand dunes and acres of wildlife reserve – you can catch some serious zzzs at the same time as watching cool critters from your window. It’s basically a Bedouin camp brought up to date with infinity pools, private dining in the dunes and (if you hadn’t already guessed) lavish luxury. From £407.

FORM Hotel

Not all hotels are born equal, and Form Hotel in Dubai’s Culture Village recognises that. Here, you can pick and choose which extra luxuries you want as part of your package, from indulgent spa sessions, private butlers and, er, designer pyjamas to day tours of Dubai’s architecture, art and food. And because almost everything’s an optional extra, the rest of this gorgeous, design-led bolthole’s charms come at a very reasonable price, so you can experience the glitz of Dubai at a relative snip. From £60.

Palazzo Versace

Part 16th-century Italian palace, part Arabian architectural masterpiece, Palazzo Versace Dubai is opulent in everything from its furniture to its food options. Located down on the edge of Dubai Creek, it’s also less than 15 minutes in a car from the Burj Khalifa, downtown Dubai and the airport, making it the perfect urban oasis for an indulgent getaway. Don’t believe us? You will when you’re swimming in one of the resort’s three mosaic-tiled swimming pools, listening to live music in the Quincy Jones Bar, chowing down in one of the numerous restaurants and lounging around like a member of the Medici family among interiors draped with exclusive Versace fabrics. Yeah, you betcha. From £316.

W Al Habtoor City

It’s big, it's boldly designed, it's lovely and it's luxe – so it’s pretty much everything we’ve come to expect from W. You’ll get signature service, inside scoops on the city’s sights and an on-the-pulse place to relax and revel. With a 30th floor panoramic view from the welcome desk, you’ll be weak at the knees from the offset for all the right reasons. From £147.

Fairmont The Palm

So what will it be? A morning stretching out on Fairmont The Palm’s manicured beach, or lounger hopping between four swimming pools? We’ll do both thanks, with a session in the splash park while we’re at it. When you’re not enjoying the guaranteed sun, check out the Willow Stream Spa, where you can be buffed for hours. From £200.