I had been eager to visit Dubai for a while prior to my first visit and now somehow we have managed 3 visits in the past 4 years. Dubai is a place that likes to advertise to the world that it is all singing and all dancing – it is a great place for a stop over but it also interesting to see that it is still very much under construction. Our first stay was the final leg of our honeymoon and the next trip was when I accompanied my husband on a work trip in 2016. This year we went for the Dubai World Cup which had been a bucket list item of ours for many years. My parents met us in Dubai (they were en route to England for a visit) which meant they could babysit whilst we had our first baby free outing. Given that we like the heat, this is a perfect destination for us. However, during our trip in June it was too hot, so I would personally avoid the height of summer and especially if you have a little one in tow. Here are the highlights of our visits and some useful information if you are planning on heading there yourself!
- Getting There | Dubai Airport is a travel hub meaning it connects many cities all over the world. It is the perfect destination to stop off for a few days and unwind before continuing on to your final destination. Next time you are planning a trip, check what the stop over options are and treat yourself to a few days in Dubai!
- Accommodation | We have stayed at a different hotel each time and to be honest they have all been excellent for different reasons. This is a quick overview of each of them.
- Fairmont Dubai – We stayed at this hotel most recently and booked rooms with access to the club lounge facilities. Our room was spacious, they provided a crib for the baby and the staff in the lounge were incredibly kind and accommodating to our young family. They would prepare special foods for her whenever we arrived and even packed up a box of bananas etc. to take away for the day (these was early weaning days when bananas were life). The manager of the lounge remembered my parents from their visit several years earlier – now that is customer service!
- Sofitel Downtown Dubai – A hip and funky hotel, my favorite things being the rooftop pool and the proximity to the Dubai Mall. The Mall was walking distance from the hotel and accessible by enclosed, air-conditioned walkways. If you visit during summer you will understand why these are necessary.
- Sofitel Dubai Jumeirah Beach – This hotel exudes luxury. We booked a club room and were treated very well with lots of special treats for example, check-in in our room and desserts and fruit baskets left during the evening turn down service. I loved the proximity to the beach from this hotel (it was right across the road) and there were shops and restaurants right on the doorstep.
- Food | During our first couple of trips to Dubai we really struggled to understand the food scene. Everything appeared to be catering to the tourists and was American chain type restaurants. On our last trip I started to find more unique restaurants and offerings, probably thanks to Instagram accounts I came across. These are the two most memorable dining experiences.
- Afternoon Tea at Burj Al Arab – One day I decided to have afternoon tea at Skyview Bar at Burj Al Arab. Whilst I dined on my own it is one of the best dining experiences I have ever had. A truly decadent experience and one not to be missed if you enjoy afternoon tea, champagne and an incredible view. For the full download on my experience, read ‘Sky High | Afternoon Tea at Burj Al Arab‘.
- Friday Brunch – In Dubai the weekend starts on Friday and Dubai is renowned for its Friday brunches (I wish I had known this on our first visit!). Many hotels and restaurants offer brunch and whilst it is called brunch, it is more of an afternoon occasion rather than a morning outing. This year we ate at Aji on The Palm. It was our first time on The Palm (a man-made island and an experience in itself) and the brunch was delightful and inexpensive. Our package included a selection of bottomless drinks, a main meal and a selection of other foods such as sushi which we could continue to order until we were full. Needless to say, we got out money’s worth! There are soooooo many brunch options to choose from and I would love to try another in the future. We were lucky as Mackenzie slept in the push chair for a good couple of hours – whilst they were accommodating to the babies needs, it would not be my first choice for a restless toddler. Some of the brunch offerings are really kid friendly with lots of activities, so do your research before you book.
- Activities | Whilst we love to travel, we don’t always do the usual tourist stuff or it can take us several visits before we do. Here are a couple of the activities that were memorable:
- Dubai World Cup – If you are a lover of horse racing then this event is no doubt on your list of things to do. A world class event with horses, jockeys and trainers from all over the world. The meet runs from later afternoon into the evening and the set up is spectacular. We bought Apron View tickets (online in advance) and we were happy with our selection. We secured seats in the grandstand (and importantly, in the shade) when we arrived, and had easy access to plenty of food and drinks. There were lots of catered / corporate box type tickets available but we decided against these due to the cost.
- Burj Khalifa – The tallest building in the world so naturally I was curious to check it out. You can access this building from the Dubai Mall and take an elevator to floors 124 & 125 to obtain a fabulous view over Dubai’s skyline, dessert and ocean. I visited early in the morning and it was not too busy which meant I was in and out quite quickly.
- Sea Plane – My husband is obsessed with planes and so we decided to do the city tour by sea plane on our honeymoon. An overview of Dubai from the sky is incredible and you can see the construction of all of the islands which I found fascinating. It was a little nerve wracking as the plane only had about 8 seats and the turbulence at times was a bit terrifying (although Troy thought it was amazing!) The tour has a hefty price tag but I definitely think it is worth doing if it is the kind of thing you would enjoy.
- There are still quite a few things I would like to do in Dubai but we have been unable to do due to the lack of time and Mackenzie being quite young on our last visit. Firstly, Atlantis The Palm looks incredibly and secondly, it sounds very cliche but I would love to do a camel ride through the dessert and have an Arabic dinner under the stars. This tour looks particularly good – click here.
Fave Things | Dubai is an incredible city to say the least, and there truly is something for everyone. Here are a few of the things that stood out to me as being special during my visits:
- Gold Souk – I caught a cab here from downtown. I believe it is accessible by metro but I was on my own and it was hot and I didn’t fancy being in the middle of nowhere on my own. If you are in the market for some gold or jewels then definitely head here and see what treasures you can find (it is equally interesting for a window shop even if you don’t want to buy anything). I bought some beautiful topaz earrings which I bartered hard for (bartering is allowed at these markets.) There are also lots of fake handbags etc. and some spice markets if you continue venturing. It is safe, but I would say to keep your wits about you whilst you are there.
- Dubai Mall – Every designer and brand you can imagine is under this roof, plus more! If you like labels and like to shop then this will be the equivalent of paradise for you. It is also worth mentioning that the baby change and breastfeeding facilities were excellent (and plentiful). There is the HUGE Dubai Aquarium which would be great to entertain the little ones in-between dragging them around the shops. There is a food court with lots of food options and we found a Waitrose downstairs which sold a lot of the baby food we buy in the UK (like Ella’s Kitchen pouches – my savior!).
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