Dubai can be tricky to write travel guides for; the minute you leave, somewhere new to visit, eat or stay pops up! As well as some new highlights, there are a few stalwarts of the tourist scene that shouldn’t be missed and parts of “old” Dubai which will hopefully never change. Here is my definitive guide on how to spend 48 hours in Dubai (spoiler alert: you’re going to need more time!)…
Breakfast is a big deal in Dubai and so many places do it fabulously! Baker & Spice in the Souk Al Bahar is a popular option and serves amazing fresh juices. Their Turkish eggs are a highlight and it is in a fantastic location. Head outside and you can’t miss the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. I challenge you to get a selfie with the whole thing in! You need to head inside the Dubai Mall, largest mall in the world (Dubai is all about winning!), to access the Burj if you want to head up – but make sure you book tickets online before you go.
It is hard not to get distracted by the shopping opportunities in the mall, so allocate some time for this. There are also plenty of free sights to take in on the way round: a fountain, the aquarium tank (you guessed it – largest in the world!) and the Dubai Dino. Eat at the Cheesecake Factory and share portions, I’ve never managed to make it to the actual cheesecake!
Grab a taxi and head over to the Bur Dubai souk (ask for the fabric souk), spend a while getting lost here and then head to the creek side. Get on an abra (small traditional water taxi) with locals and tourists and enjoy the view as you cross the busy waterway. You’ll land in the main souk. The first area is spices and if you keep heading into the alleyways you’ll reach the gold souk, which is really worth a visit.
Cross back over on the abra and walk along the creek edge (North West) and you’ll come to some tiny restaurants with tables on the water edge serving Middle Eastern food and shisha. Grab a table here, choose a shisha flavour, and soak up the atmosphere for the evening.
Head to Tom & Serg in the industrial area of Al Quoz. This space is now also home to independent restaurants and some great art spaces. If you are into this scene, drop in to Alserkal Avenue, where many local and international artists have studio spaces and there are often fashion pop-up events. If you are looking for something more active, put on your swimsuit and head for Wild Wadi waterpark or Kite Beach for a swim and some sun.
Hold off on lunch and do afternoon tea instead. Book inside the Burj Al Arab if you fancy splashing out (you can’t get inside without booking), or the lobby of the Al Qasr hotel. Dress up – it’s fancy!
If you aren’t done shopping the Mall of the Emirates is nearby and the indoor ski centre is worth seeing.
For the evening head to the Observatory in the Marriot hotel, Marina area, for a gorgeous view. Their Happy Hour makes the delicious cocktails affordable and the food is perfect for sharing. It might be cliché but Barasti is still one of the best nights out in Dubai. Dressed up or straight from the beach, this place welcomes all. Spend the night dancing on the seafront with the futuristic skyline behind you.
Head to the Sheik Mohamed Centre for Cultural Understanding for a traditional Emirati breakfast. Not only will you sample the area’s cuisine, which is surprisingly hard to find, but a local will discuss Emirati food and traditions with you. This needs to be booked ahead (worth it) so check the website for details. And if you find yourself in town on a Friday you must do brunch! Dress up and book Bubbalicious at the Westin for a party or the Mina-a-Salam for amazing food and a more chilled vibe. Finally, you can’t leave Dubai without being a proper tourist – book a trip out into the desert for dune-bashing, camel rides, a bbq and the standard sunset-in-the-desert photos.
Words By: Lydia Morgan