72 Hours In Dubai: Where To Party, Shop And Eat
Get lit and shop like it’s hot…
I’ll admit; Dubai has never sounded like a dream holiday destination to me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan of guaranteed sunshine, world-class food and great parties, but I didn't understand why friends were moving there and why my entire Insta feed was sharing Dubai holiday snaps. It almost felt like this glitzy city with its extravagant hotels and skyscrapers in the middle of the desert was a bit unnatural... or like it was too good to be true.
I wondered if a luxury long weekend in the lavish version of what looked like a SimCity game could actually change my mind. Spoiler alert: it did.
If you’re after a wealth of (pun intended) Instagram opportunities including impressive skylines, golden sands and sunshine galore, Dubai should 100% be on your radar. Here’s our guide to making the most of your trip.
For ultramodern glam and sunshine all year round...
Here you’ll find a holiday destination on steroids – it’s hard not to admire Dubai for it’s fearlessly high and ultramodern architecture, palm-shaped islands and unimaginably huge shopping malls. It embraces the future and doesn’t take no for an answer.
Because of Dubai’s over-the-top reputation, you may have pigeonholed it as somewhere that’s completely unaffordable. Hold that thought, because there are definitely ways to swap your usual long weekend in Europe for an Arabian adventure without splashing out Kardashian-style.
Dubai’s direct flight time of around seven hours is enticing, especially when there's basically only two seasons: hot and BLOODY BOILING. Visit between November and March for bearable heat and less sweaty tomato face (and it just so happens that it's the perfect time to escape from the bitterly cold weather in the UK!).
For the party that doesn’t stop...
Contrary to what you may think about Dubai and its certain traditions, the destination is an open society when it comes to partying - there’s something for everyone who’s looking for a good time.
If you’re a fan of the Ibiza lifestyle, the real draw is Blue Marlin Ibiza hitting the UAE’s shores. The exclusive Balearic-inspired venue is an escape from the city – it’s situated on a calm and secluded private beach spot while offering the ultimate party experience. Enjoy hours of poolside posing in the infinity pool (which makes for some Instagrammable shots) or enjoy paddle boarding on the private beach if you’re feeling more adventurous.
Chill on a luxury day bed of dreams and be pampered to the max with yummy cocktails and a mix of Mediterranean and Japanese day-to-night dining (think fancy beach grub in the day and even fancier seabass ceviche, black cod and octopus carpaccio in the evening). DREAMY.
When the sun goes down, expect the relaxed beach vibes to switch to banging house and techno beats.
Catch world-class DJs like Âme, Stephan Bodzin and Skream work their magic on the decks and enjoy the buzzing atmosphere of the outdoor club. No wonder Will Smith and Jude Law have partied here!
Wanna see for yourself? Check out what went down when we partied at Blue Marlin Ibiza UAE on your behalf…
For a hotel haven in a handy location...
If there’s anything that Dubai isn’t short of, it’s fancy hotels. If you’ve won the lottery, feel free to splash out on Atlantis, The Palm or the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah (the most luxurious hotel in the world), but we found that Towers Rotana was perfect for those seeking luxury on more of a budget.
With an extensive buffet breakfast and a rooftop pool for the ultimate sunbathing spot, it’s a quiet haven while also being in a great location on Sheikh Zayed road in Downtown Dubai. Staying somewhere that's close to main attractions like The Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and the golden sands of Jumeirah Beach? Yes, please!
For shopping like it’s hot...
It may not be culturally enriching but for world-class shopping, Dubai is a retail haven. Once you’ve bronzed your bod in the day, head to the world’s biggest mall for some serious shopping (and some much-needed air con).
Stepping inside The Dubai Mall is like stepping into Narnia, except instead of eternal winter it’s eternal shopping. Fashion Avenue brings you the ultimate luxury brands, there’s an actual district that is devoted to luxury shoes (take my money) and there are HUNDREDS of high street stores – name a brand and we bet you it’ll be in there.
Once you’ve got your retail therapy fix (and bought half of Sephora), visit some of the surreal attractions inside the mall. There’s an Olympic sized ice skating rink (in a desert?!), a virtual reality park, and an Aquarium and Underwater Zoo where you can look at sharks and crocs (actual real-life crocodiles, not the ugly shoe brand) while you shop.
Don’t forget to head out onto a balcony to check out the dancing Dubai fountain on Burj Khalifa lake – it’s the largest choreographed fountain system that shoots up 500ft into the air and is nothing short of spectacular.
For a world-class luxury food and party mash-up...
Dubai has an exciting luxury food scene, which we learnt when we dined at Bagatelle - a fancy French restaurant with chic Parisian décor which offers to bring the classic “joie de vivre” way of life to Dubai. Oh, and there’s a unique twist: the restaurant is actually a ‘clubstaurant’ - the lights flash, the waiters get up and dance on tables and the drinks and lively tunes keep flowing.
Imagine this: being able to stuff your face with their famous truffle pizza, lobster linguine and Foie Gras sliders while the DJ plays everything from hip-hop, rap and R&B to old school 80s and 90s mixes. Sounds super fun, right?
Well it's REALLY fun, and it isn’t cheesy like it might sound – Bagatelle maintains an upmarket and classy vibe, the food is posh af and some of its global venues are renowned celeb hangouts. If you can’t make it abroad to one of its ten restaurants, you'll be glad to know that the brand is heading to London in the near future.
For living with your head in the clouds (quite literally)...
If you fancy living the high life (quite literally), turn your attention to the Burj Khalifa. It’s the world’s tallest building with unbeatable views to match.
Don’t bother paying the extortionate admission fee though – you can get an incredible view from the At.mosphere bar and restaurant on level 122, so save your money for a fruity cocktail with an impressive skyline in the background.
Our top tips: book a table by the window and be prepared for a minimum spend on food and drink. It is the tallest restaurant after all!