Glamorous and futuristic, Dubai is one of the world’s most spectacular destinations, and genuinely like nowhere else on earth. Where once stood a modest trading port, this gleaming metropolis has risen from the sands of the United Arab Emirates seemingly overnight — becoming the fastest-growing city in the world.
Sharing architectural similarities with Shanghai; Dubai’s awe-inspiring skyline glimmers like a jewel far above the city streets. From the soaring Burj Khalifa to the renowned Burj al Arab hotel, the Infinity Tower to The Palm Islands; the city is awash with man-made wonders that echo the UAE’s obsession with fashion, style and all things opulent.
Peel back the city’s ultra-modern façade, however, and you’ll reveal a rich tapestry of cultural wonders. Dubai’s heritage is rooted in Bedouin folklore — and traditional storytelling, poetry and dance events celebrating this inspiring culture can still be found across the city. The city’s myriad of bustling souks, where gold and spice vie for your custom amid the pleasant aromas of frankincense and shisha, are another cultural highlight — providing an enchanting feast for all the senses.
For those travelling to Dubai as part of a luxury escorted tour from Scenic, here we offer recommendations and advice on what to see, where to eat and, of course, where to shop, in this illustrious city.
Gleaming bright on the shores of the Persian Gulf, Dubai is a wonder to behold for those visiting the city for the first time. The city’s ultra-modern aspect is best viewed from above, so we’d whole-heartedly recommend a visit to the Observation Decks of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.
Ascending 555 metres to the 148th level of this revolutionary structure, you’ll enjoy spectacular panoramic vistas, not to mention a range of complimentary luxuries. The Burj Khalifa Observation Deck is complemented by an interactive life-size screen, which helps you to identify other landmarks across the towering skyline of the Emirate.
Once you’ve savoured the transcendental outlook at the top of Dubai, descend to street level and revel in the glamorous bustle of the city. Those interested in the history and culture of Dubai shouldn’t miss The Dubai Museum, which is housed in Al Fahidi Fort — the oldest existing building in the city. Here, you can experience what life was like before the first discovery of oil. The museum features individual gallery spaces recreated to reflect authentic Arab houses, mosques and souks, each providing valuable insight into the forgotten culture of the region.
If you’d prefer to explore Dubai’s flourishing art scene, why not pay a visit to the Third Line gallery. Dubbed one of the Middle East’s most exciting contemporary arts spaces, the Third Line Gallery houses distinct works by over thirty artists from across the UAE, including Ebtisam Abdulaziz and Emiratis Lamya Gargash. The gallery’s curators are keen to raise the profile of contemporary Middle Eastern art, and regularly host exhibitions overseas in cities like Cologne, Basel and Paris.
As you’d expect from a city seemingly obsessed with high fashion, style and cultural extravagance, Dubai is awash with great places to eat and drink. From traditional Middle Eastern cuisine to the utmost in contemporary Western dining, the city has a bounty of gastronomic treats just waiting to be uncovered. No matter what your culinary inclinations, the city has a restaurant serving every national cuisine from across the globe — perfect for those feeling picky.
Given its coastal position, Dubai is no stranger to fresh seafood. One of the best places to sample Dubai’s oceanic cuisine is Pierchic; an opulent seafood restaurant twice voted the city’s best by TimeOut. Located at the end of a long pier jutting forth into the Persian Gulf, Pierchic serves an array of Mediterranean-infused dishes amid wonderfully opulent surroundings. We’d recommend the Grilled Sea Scallop with Tapioca Pearl and Vanilla & Bergamot Butter for start, followed by the Poached Lobster Thermidor with Dijon Mustard Sauce and Roasted Cauliflower for a delicious main course.
For a wholly different dining experience, pay a visit to the Arabian restaurant of Al Hadheerah. Located close to Dubai Airport this charming restaurant is surrounded by sand dunes, making it difficult to spot from the roadside. Inside, Al Hadheerah benefits from an intimate atmosphere, and is cleverly designed to recreate the traditional Arabian dining experience. Seated beneath the stars, and surrounded by roaring fire pits, you’ll enjoy authentic Arabian cuisine whilst being entertained by belly dancers, swordsman and acrobats on horseback — a truly unforgettable culinary journey.
For centuries, the people of Dubai have shared a collective pastime — shopping. From ancient souks selling jewellery, rugs and spices, to high-end designer outlets offering the finest garments money can buy; it’s possible to buy everything and anything in this majestic city. No matter what your holiday spending budget, a shopping spree is an absolute must during your visit to Dubai.
And where to start your retail odyssey in the Emirate? Try the Dubai Shopping Mall, a colossal shopping precinct which remains the biggest and best retail centre in the city. More akin to a roofed city than a traditional shopping centre, this four-storey mall features over 1,000 stores, an aquarium, waterfall, and an Olympic size ice skating rink. Among the multitude of high street names there are several luxury designer brands, including Galleries Lafayette and the only Bloomingdale’s to exist outside of the US. Serious shoppers, step this way.
If you’d prefer a more traditional shopping experience during your stopover in Dubai, pay a visit to the Bur Dubai Souk. World-renowned for its vast collection of colourful textiles and fabrics, many of which were sourced in India and the Orient, this traditional bazaar serves to pay homage to the glory days of Dubai’s retail heritage. Expect bartering aplenty in this colourful, vibrant and bustling marketplace.
If this stopover city guide has piqued your interest in a visit to Dubai, why not consider a luxury escorted tour with Scenic? Transporting you to the heart of wonderful destinations across the globe, our escorted tours allow you to travel in complete luxury whilst savouring cultural highlights and unforgettable experiences.
To find out more, visit our Escorted Tours page or call us on 0808 159 4589.