Dubai is the shining star of the UAE and home to the world’s biggest everything! With so much to see, you definitely need a good week or else, multiple trips.
Visiting over a weekend, I tried to get a good overview of some of the different activities on offer in this architectural fantasyland.
Only skimming the surface of what Dubai has to offer, here’s what I got up to on a recent trip.
Kicking off my day in Deira, I met my friend Denise at the metro station. Immediately struck by the difference between old Dubai and the skyscraper-heavy area near the mall and the Burj Khalifa, Deira felt like a slice of the past.
Wandering through the souks, I was reminded of my time meandering the markets of Marrakech as we smiled at the vendors trying to catch our attention by referring to us as “Angelina” and “Shakira”.
Unable to resist the allure of the spice stalls, I picked up some curries and after speaking to one of the vendors, decided to try the Arabian Saffron Curry.
Elsewhere, I stocked up on Lavender Tea, while Denise was quite taken with a collection of different herbs and spices. Sampling some nougat, we realised that we were quite hungry and made our way from the textile souk back across the water on the Abra.
For the tiny sum of 23 cent, our short trip on the water taxi was so pleasant, especially in the April heat. After a lunch of calamari and falafel by the waterfront, I departed old Dubai for the more modern areas.
If you’re heading to Dubai with shopping on the brain, then I guarantee that you’ll find what you need here. I wasn’t doing any shopping myself, but still spent about 3 hours in the mall.
Unlike any shopping centre I had previously set foot in, the Dubai Mall is home to an aquarium, ice rink, fountains, and over 1,300 stores. The aquarium wall is pretty spectacular and you can also enter the Burj Khalifa from the mall.
If you want to hear classic tunes like “I can be your hero baby”, then you have to visit the Dubai fountain as the sun begins to set. With shows properly kicking off at 6pm, the music and lights are almost as impressive as the water. I say almost, because, let’s be real, how often do you experience a fountain like that?
I was so mesmerised after the show that I didn’t notice 30 minutes go by and another start. They change up the movements and music for the shows so you could happily sit and take it all in numerous times without getting bored.
I didn’t have much time to walk along the marina, but managed to stroll for a good 30 minutes before the heat became too much. A beautiful walkway, it would be the perfect place to hang out at night, or at least once the sun subsides in the evening.
Feeling quite small, the skyscrapers tower above you as you walk along the boardwalk, passing shops, restaurants and a number of small sail boats. Our apartment for the night was located on the marina and the view of the city from the balcony was just incredible.
It was so amazing to visit the tallest building in the world, definitely not something you can do every day and a great way to end my first visit to the UAE. It was such a clear, sunny day too so the view from the 125th floor of the Burj Khalifa was absolutely perfect (and a little insane).
Pictures can’t really capture the sheer sensation of standing on top of the world. It’s almost bizzare to be so high up that you can’t even see people and cars look like ants. The one thing that really stood out was the fountain, which is a testament to its size and the spectacular nature of the water show, especially when witnessed from above.
Sunset Brunch at Pure Sky Lounge
If anyone ever tells you that €100 is too much to spend on brunch, tell them to experience sunset brunch in Dubai. While initially gobsmacked at the luxurious nature of brunch in Dubai, my friend assured me that it would be unlike any brunch I had previously experienced in Europe. And boy, she wasn’t wrong. Unlimited drinks for 3 hours, tapas style pan asian cuisine starters and main courses, not to mention desserts.
As my friend Gráinne had phoned ahead and informed them that it was my birthday week, we also got a sufficiently embarrassing sing song by the whole rooftop (many of whom were also celebrating birthdays) and balloons on my table. A major sunset whore, the views over Jumeriah beach and the ferris wheel were just spectacular.
And an added bonus, later when it got a bit chilly, warm blankets were promptly supplied. Perfect if you’re as sensitive to the cold as me. From here I got a great view of Jumeriah beach, and I’ll definitely need to take a beach day here on my next visit.
Old Dubai Restaurant
While in Deira, we popped into a restaurant by the waterfront for a catch up and break from the intense heat. Rehydrating with some water and a cup or two of Arabic tea, we dined on generous portions of Fried Calamari, Falafel, Lamb Tika and Arayes Kofta.
More than satisfied, our lunch fuelled us up for an afternoon of wandering through the souks and exploring the Dubai Mall.
Shakespeare and Company
I’m a big fan of the English playwright and the famous Paris bookshop of the same name, so when I heard there was a cafe chain in the UAE inspired by William Shakespeare, I knew I had to visit.
Taking a break from my strolls around the massive Dubai Mall, I sipped on a coffee and munched on pistachio and chocolate macarons in the mall’s branch of Shakespeare and Company.
Transporting visitors back to the past with the decor and menu, I could have stayed here for hours reading my book and practising my best people-watching skills.
My friend Gráinne lives in Abu Dhabi and had stayed in hotel apartments on the marina before, so she can take all the credit for finding the Dusit Residence along the marina.
Our spacious two bedroom apartment came complete with a kitchen and living area, not to mention the incredible balcony. I wished we were staying here for more than one night. It served our needs perfectly and is a great base for exploring the marina, Jumeriah beach and beyond.
M by Millennium Hotel
Located near Dubai Mall and not too far from the airport, I stayed in the location-perfect M by Millennium Hotel the night before my flight. Having prepaid for a standard room, I was delighted to receive a complimentary upgrade to a business class room when I arrived – the perks of travelling alone on a quiet day!
Situated on the 23rd floor, there were some pretty amazing views from my room as I packed to return home. After a week exploring Dubai and Abu Dhabi, I was feeling too exhausted to leave my room for food, opting for room service relaxation. The next morning, I hopped into a taxi outside the hotel following a smooth check-out and set off for the airport and my journey back to Dublin.
Emirates offers two daily direct services between Dublin and Dubai and while their economy class has all you would need on a 7-hour flight, if you have the opportunity to upgrade yourself to the award-winning airline’s business class, I would highly recommend it.
Boarding the aircraft for my night-time flight, I indulged in a glass of Veuve Clicquot champagne and happily accepted the mattress that would add an extra layer of comfort when I decided to sleep.
A star effect decorated the ceiling and gave the perfect illusion of sleeping under the stars. But first, before sleep could come, I answered my stomach’s growls and tucked into the fine dining on offer to business class customers travelling with Emirates.
From seared tuna to chocolate almond cake, along with multiple glasses of wine, I was well and truly ready for sleep following dinner and a screening of The Greatest Showman on the aircraft’s impressive ICE entertainment system.
Letting my air hostess know that I would happily be woken for breakfast, I settled in for a dreamy sleep in the sky. Breakfast service kicked in about an hour or two before we landed. Feeling well rested thanks to my lie-flat bed, I happily and rather hastily devoured the fruit, croissants and coffee.
After a week in the UAE (read about my time in Abu Dhabi here), it was, unfortunately, time to return home.
Getting to the airport nice and early, I checked into the Emirates Business Class lounge at Dubai airport. After having two dinners (consisting of Middle Eastern and Indian cuisine), I stumbled upon the Moët and Chandon champagne lounge for a pre-flight tipple.
Despite being ridiculously full and already wondering how I would possibly eat lunch on board my flight, I just couldn’t say no to the canapés in the bar, as well as a glass of champagne of course.
After boarding, I sipped on champagne (yes, I’m aware there was a lot of champagne consumed that day) and worked my way through my movie bucket list on the return flight.
Though unfortunate enough to experience some turbulences on the way back, my biggest concern was that my wine glass would spill. Sensing some nerves during a particularly bumpy period, my air steward generously gave me a much needed top up of wine (anything to feel even more comfortable in business class right?)
Lunch was an authentic taste of the Middle East, with a vibrant Arabic Mezze prolonging the holiday feeling and temporarily pushing thoughts of the real world far from my brain.
Following a roast chicken main course, I managed to find some room for an indulgent slice of almond chocolate cake once the afternoon tea options were presented to me.
Throughout my flight, I noticed that the international staff were incredibly friendly and welcoming. One Irish stewardess struck up conversations with people from the same county as her and a giggling couple were kept well treated with glasses of wine.
For me, I had a little snooze as the sun started to set so as to be fully able for the working week the next day, and also because I just love a good lie-flat bed on a plane.
My time in Dubai was short but sweet. A good taster, I will definitely need to return again in the future as I only skimmed the surface of all this dazzling city has to offer, from safaris and sky diving to ice-skating, skiing and world-renowned restaurants.
Sarah has always had a great love of travel, food and photography. Following her journalism degree at DCU, she developed a passion for travel writing while living in Spain.
Named Best Break Out Travel Writer at the 2018 Travel Media Awards, Sarah loves exploring new places and sampling the local cuisine. Working with TheTaste.ie combines her love of food and travel.
A big people person, especially when it comes to hearing other people’s stories, Sarah loves interviewing chefs, food producers and more.