Whether it’s luxury shopping, a desert adventure or checking out the latest in architecture and innovation, Dubai is definitely the UAE city with the biggest personality and reputation. As host of the upcoming 2020 World Expo the interest in the emirate is growing, and with that comes one new hotel after another at a rapid pace. Having lived in the Emirates and stayed in many of the establishments in my shortlist, this is my pick of the best places that will make your Dubai stay both comfortable and memorable.
Fashionistas will find plenty to love at the opulent Palazzo Versace Dubai (Palazzo Versace Dubai)
Every inch of this 215-room five-star hotel was designed and tailored exclusively by Versace. Impressive? You bet. Located on Dubai Creek, the hotel (the second in the world after Australia's Gold Coast) was fashioned on a 16th century Italian palace and combines neoclassical style with Arabic architecture. It boasts eight restaurants and bars, three outdoor pools and some of the best views of the Dubai Creek. Guests are welcomed by a striking pebbled mosaic of the iconic Medusa upon entry, a 3,000-kilogram hand-blown Bohemian glass chandelier, and occasionally will come across a live falcon alongside its Arabic master. Rooms are beautifully designed with parquet flooring and silk finishes. A stay here is a fashionable, eloquent experience that is nothing short of impressive.
Rooms start from Dh1,000 (£211) per night
Those with a penchant for luxury will be in their element here. Visible from just about every corner of Dubai, the 321-metre-tall sail shaped property is as stunning inside as it is breathtaking from the outside. From the cascade waterfall at the entrance, to the vibrant colour palette and extensive use of gold throughout, the Burj Al Arab makes for a truly palatial experience. There are 202 luxury duplexes within the hotel and each of the 28 floors has its own check-in counter, reception desk and 24-hour private butler service. Guests can indulge in a dining experience like no other at Nathan Outlaw’s Al Mahara restaurant, where you’ll go “under the sea” and sit amongst the classy establishment’s floor-to-ceiling aquarium. Off-site, the Wild Wadi Waterpark and Kite Beach are just around the corner and the Madinat Jumeirah souk just a short abra ride away.
Rates start from Dh5,512 (£1,166) per night
Cool off from the desert heat in the Bab Al Shams infinity pool (Bab Al Shams)
For a true Arabian experience, Bab Al Shams will provide you desert memories to treasure. A 45-minute drive from Dubai International Airport, this tranquil resort has gazelles, birds and an abundance of other wildlife. There are desert adventures such as camel rides, falconry exhibitions and nature walks to enjoy, along with plenty of traditional Arabic dining options. Each of the rooms reflects the Middle East in its design, and provides guests with desert or courtyard views to enjoy 24/7.
Rates start from Dh693 (£146) per night
The cool, clean lobby of Address Downtown (Address Downtown)
With the world’s largest shopping mall just a short stroll from the lobby, shopaholics will be in their element at this 220-room five-star hotel. Not only is The Dubai Mall on its doorstep, the hotel also offers some of the best views of the Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest tower) and Dubai’s spectacular dancing fountain. It’s also a 15-minute walk from the Dubai Opera. The recently refurbished property is chic and luxurious and has a dedicated spa and wellness floor along with an extensive range of dining options, including Turkish restaurant the Galliard.
The Rove Downtown offers some exceptional views of the Burj Khalifa and has the first hotel cinema in the United Arab Emirates (Rove Downtown)
Funky yet affordable, Rove Downtown has a trendy high-end backpackers vibe. A 20-minute drive from Dubai International Airport and across the road from The Dubai Mall, the 356-room hotel’s modern interior is a big part of its appeal. The lobby sets the tone for what’s to come with its “cabinet of curiosities” feature wall, which includes a bicycle hanging beside photographs amid colourful interiors. Rooms are compact yet fully equipped, some offering views of the Burj Khalifa, and there’s a rooftop pool and a café/restaurant. Cinema fans will be impressed by Rove Cinema, the first hotel cinema in the Emirates.
Rooms start from Dh260 (£55) room only
Kids will be in their element at The Palm Jumeirah's giant indoor aquarium (The Palm Jumeirah)
Families who don’t mind forking out will be in their element at Atlantis The Palm. The giant indoor aquarium and Aquaventure water park alone will be enough to impress the kids; while The Avenues shopping arm and restaurants such as Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Kitchen & Bar and Nobu will appeal to the grown-ups. One of the most recognisable and renowned properties in the UAE since its 2008 opening, The Palm Jumeirah has a landmark waterpark and interactive dolphin experience. Almost all of the 1,539 rooms on the property are interconnecting and all have Arabian Gulf, the Palm or city skyline views.
Rates start from Dh1,500 (£317) per night
Sports fans will be delighted with the views from the Meydan Hotel (The Meydan Hotel )
If you enjoy watching the horse races, this is the hotel for you. The 285-room wave-shaped property overlooks Meydan Racecourse – the home of the Dubai World Cup – providing a unique equestrian experience. Just 15 minutes’ drive from Dubai airport, it’s also well-located.
Room rates start from around Dh550 (£115)
Admire the city lights from Grosvenor House (Grosvenor House)
This sophisticated twin-tower hotel exudes elegance and is well-positioned within the Dubai Marina precinct, a 10-minute walk from the popular mile-long JBR promenade. Plush carpets, impressive furniture and marble flooring elevate the interiors, while the 750 rooms are spacious, modern and comfortable. There’s an outdoor pool, gym and spa in each tower, 10 food establishments and guests can access the private beach at Le Meridien Beach Resort and Spa, the hotel’s sister property.
Rates start from Dh930 (£196) per night