If all you have time for is a 2-day city break, then read on. Here I’ve compiled some suggestions so you can experience the best of the best in and around Dubai during your short stay. Be inspired!
The city covers a large area, having sprawled out along a highway that has become the main artery of Dubai. From one end to the other is over 60km, so when time is limited, you should make the most of your travel time.
I highly recommend doing the rounds first, then it will help you decide how best to prioritise the things you want to see and do. One way of doing this is by taking a tour.
City Sightseeing is the world’s best-known open top bus company, and they have an extensive network in Dubai to make sure you don’t miss a thing. The 48-hour passes offer the best value for money, and although the price might seem steep at 295dhs per adult, the reality is that taxi fares will soon rack up if you’re trying to go from A to B to C by yourself.
Offering 7 routes, including a boat trip and a night tour, this is certainly one of the best and most informative ways of getting to know the sights of the city.
Whatever you do, you must see the world’s tallest building, the world’s largest mall, and the world’s largest musical water fountains all in the same place. Standing side by side, the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall are two of the most famous sights in Dubai.
Between them are the magical dancing fountains, which sway to a different tune every 30 minutes from 6pm to midnight.
For a complete contrast to the modern cityscape, head to the old town area of Deira. Here you will see traditional wooden “dhow” boats, which still cross the Arabian Sea to take their wares to India and beyond.
The Dubai Museum is also in this area. Although compact, it has a good way of explaining the history and the early foundation of the UAE. Don’t leave without popping into the Gold Souk, where jewellery of every style dazzles everywhere you look. If you are looking to buy, you’ll get the best deal here. Don’t forget to bargain!
Take part in some fun outdoor activities. Depending on the temperature, you might want to consider visiting one of the water parks, such as Aquaventure at Atlantis. Here you can also swim with dolphins or with sea lions. The really daring can even book to dive in their Lost Chambers Aquarium with sharks!
For cooler days, head into the desert to take in the beauty of the dunes. Most companies offer sunset drives followed by dinner, which is a particularly peaceful experience, seemingly a million miles away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
Take time to relax. Every break, no matter how short, should allow time for rejuvenation. Dubai is one of the best cities for this with a combination of high end, ridiculously extravagant spas throughout the city, as well as a mountain of moderately priced, yet clean and relaxing beauty salons and massage centres.
For a spoil-yourself-rotten experience, head to Yas Beauty Spa at Souk al Bahar in Downtown Dubai.
For the best mix of quality and price, Dreamworks has won awards for many years in a row, frequently offering promotions and discounted treatments.
Shop ‘til you drop! With so many incredible malls to choose from, shopping in Dubai is an experience like nowhere else on earth. High street brands such as H&M, Mango, Zara, Abercrombie, and Victoria’s Secret stand side by side with luxury designer brands such as Jimmy Choo, Chanel, and Hugo Boss.
Not only that, but the malls usually have a surprising treat somewhere inside. Mall of the Emirates has the indoor ski slope, as well as meet and greet sessions with the resident penguins. Dubai Mall has an ice rink, as well as the largest mall aquarium in the world – where you can dive in the tank, hand feed the sharks and see a giant 14ft crocodile.
Who said malls are just for shopping?!
Eat & Drink
Arabic food is served as a collection of dishes that are shared around the table. Normally starting with a hot and cold “mezze” selection, it can include hummus, mouttabel, spinach fatayer, and meat kibbeh. These are automatically accompanied by flatbread, used for dipping.
After the mezze selection, there is normally a meat platter with a selection of grilled chicken, kofta, and lamb cutlets. Reem al Bawadi and Burj al Hamam are two of my top spots. For more information, menus, and independent reviews, as well as to book in advance, visit Open Table Dubai.
The idea of what is traditional to drink in Dubai varies based on where you are. Moroccan mint tea is featured on basically every menu, and this green tea is usually served sweet.
Turkish coffee is a short, strong black coffee sure to keep you wired for the entire night. I say night, because it’s normally considered an afternoon or evening drink.
On a hot day where you’re desperate for something a bit more refreshing, try mint lemonade or something fresh – such as watermelon juice.
It’s useful to remember that alcohol is not freely available. It is only served in restaurants and bars that are associated with hotels. Drinking in public outdoor places is also not allowed – sorry, no beer on the beach!
Get packing! You have an incredible 2 days ahead of you in this amazing city. And when you leave, you’ll know that you’ve only just started to scratch the surface. There is still so much more, just waiting to be discovered.
“A city is not gauged by its length and width, but by the broadness of its vision and the height of its dreams.” – Herb Caen