The Coolest Things to Do in Dubai Now
In Dubai, everything is over the top. Lexus cars are the standard Uber transport, indoor skiing is possible at the Mall of Emirates, and astounding displays of gold jewelry casually decorate store windows in Old Dubai’s Gold Souk. The city is constantly changing, with new, over-the-top experiences to try all the time. So how do you keep up? We've done the leg work for you and rounded up the coolest things to do in Dubai now.
SEE: Go on a Desert Safari
For a feel of the local lands, sign up for a desert safari. Many tour companies offer a range of adventures––some more luxurious than others–but we love the one with Arabian Adventures. You'll take a Land Cruiser into the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve––a preserve dedicated to protecting the local eco-system, including animals like gazelles and vultures––followed by a camel ride to a Bedouin-style tent for a private Arabic dinner before leaving the open sky for the city lights.
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VISIT: D3, Dubai's Design District
Dubai’s Design District, known locally at D3, was inaugurated only three years ago, but it quickly attracted the city’s creatives, from startups to fashion brands to destination restaurants. Stop into F7 to peruse wears from up-and-coming international designers, then check out Frame, a Japanese lifestyle shop selling everything from ceramics to clothing to skateboards. Other highlihghts: the newly-minted Nightjar Coffee, which roasts its own single origin beans in-house, and Akiba Dori for some of Dubai’s best Neapolitan pies.
RELAX: Have a Beach Day
Within this sprawling desert, it’s easy to forget that Dubai is set on the Persian Gulf. And while the city isn’t exactly Ibiza, it has a great beach club culture once the summer temps drop and the outdoors become bearable again. When that time comes, snag a lounge chair at Summersalt, within the ancient Arabian-designed Madinat Jumirah, one of Dubai’s newer luxury beach clubs. Dip into the Arabian Gulf or the property’s infinity pool, snack on a wagyu burger or salmon tacos, and note that the vibes pick up during the afternoon when the resident DJ kicks in.
PARTY: Friday Brunch
The first thing you should know about Dubai and nightlife, or really daylife, is that the workweek runs Sunday to Thursday. And boozy Friday brunch (which is like Saturday brunch for the rest of the world), is a major thing. Most restaurants offer various set menus, we love the one at New York City export Miss Lily’s. For just over $100, the colorful Jamaican eatery and rum bar serves bottomless cocktails like spicy margarita and frozen strawberry daiquiri, alongside blueberry coconut pancakes and one of the city’s best cheeseburgers.
RELATED: The Best Hotels in Dubai
SWEAT: Dubai's Hottest Workouts
Dubai takes its fitness seriously. Just look to the numerous Classpass-esque programs like GuavaPass, and the new slate of sleek studios. Hip hot yoga studio Dryp––painted millennial pink, yoga mats included––debuted this past spring offering popular classes like yoga sculpt, vinyasa, and a 60-minute express sweat session. To kick it up a notch, try megaformer pilates and TRX classes at Reform Athletica housed in a bohemian-chic, two-floor townhouse.
EAT: Get Transported to Japan
Much of Dubai’s food culture involves major international brands like Zuma, Bagatelle, and Cipriani, many of which incorporate a Dj-fueled nightlife atmosphere. So, finding a restaurant with high-quality cuisine, attention to detail, and a subdued environment is surprisingly hard to find. Enter Hoseki, a five-month-old, 10-seat traditional Japanese omakase sushi counter run by chef Masahiro Sugiyama, formerly of Tokyo’s one Michelin starred Sushi Kanesaka, within the stunning Bulgari Resort. Not only is newbie Hoseki serving the city's––and probably the Middle East’s––only authentic Japanese sushi, it's also introduced Dubai to the omakase (or chef’s choice) concept, built from exceptional, seasonal Japanese fish flown in two to three times per week from Japan.
EAT: Hang with the Locals
There’s no better way to understand where in the world you are than passing up Dubai's flashier restaurants in favor of authentic, homestyle cooking spots. Dubai is a melting pot of cultures––with residents from Lebanon, Turkey, Egypt and beyond––and the local restaurants reflect that. Two we love: for a delicious take on modern Afghani food run by three Afghan sisters, try Kishmish; the no-frills local Persian kabab institution Ostadi Kebab is the go-to for juicy grilled meats. For a deeper dive, sign up for a food tour via operators like Intrepid Travel and Frying Pan Adventures.
RELAX: Go to the Spa
With its Ottoman Empire-inspired decor, Jumeirah Zabeel Saray stands out as one of Dubai’s most luxurious properties, and its expansive, marble-clad wellness center, Talise Ottoman Spa, is the best in the city. At its core is a stunning Turkish Hammam, and guests can sign up for over-the-top treatments like Turkish coffee scrubs or a gold body mask. For brighter complexion, head to Palazzo Versace, outfitted by the famous Italian fashion brand. It's the only Dubai property offering face treatments by English facialist to the stars, Linda Meredith. Try one of the two oxygen numbers for a deep hydration boost, or consider the vampire facial from uber chic, newbie skincare clinic Maison Lutétia.
STAY: XVA Hotel
The bar for luxury lodging in Dubai is high; after all, it’s here that the world’s only self-proclaimed seven-star hotel is located. And while the city counts major international brands like Fairmont, Four Seasons, and a forthcoming outpost of Mandarin Oriental––alongside local operators like Jumeirah Group––for a more bohemian, and highly Instagrammable stay, check into XVA Art Hotel. Set in Dubai’s historic Al Fahidi neighborhood, XVA––which also functions as a contemporary Arabian/Iranian art gallery plus cafe––channels a magical, wanderlusty Middle Eastern aesthetic, with the property’s 15 rooms uniquely adorned via a rustic white-washed look, and hand-loomed textiles. Don't miss lunch in the courtyard (we recommend the za’atar-dusted Arabic omelet with onions, tomato, and feta; or roasted carrot hummus with warm puffy pita for dipping.)
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