48 hours in Dubai

By Elle Blakeman

Photography by Naufal MQ/Getty Images

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March 2017

Nowhere does excess like the glamorous, beach-lined Emirate of Dubai. A heady mix of innovation, culture and pleasure for pleasure’s sake – Dubai is often referred to as a playground – you’ll be spoilt for choice. Elle Blakeman shares her recommendations for an adventure-packed weekend.

Day one test

Evening – Make your escape TEST

TEST As the weekend in Dubai runs from Friday to Saturday it’s best to catch a late Thursday flight – the 21:50 from London Heathrow touches down at Dubai International Airport at 08:35 the next day.

Top tip: Cabs are easily the best way to get around the city, and are surprisingly cheap.

09:30 – Room on the Palm

You’ll want to check into a hotel on the Palm, a collection of manmade islands just offshore from the mainland offering scores of private beaches. For all-out glamour, go to the One&Only The Palm. Boutique by Dubai standards, with just 94 rooms and suites, this is a stylish oasis that will instantly put you into Dubai’s opulent mentality – think marble bathrooms, Michelin-starred restaurants and oversized daybeds on a private beach. For five-star luxury on more of a budget, Sofitel Dubai offers huge rooms, each with balconies overlooking another private stretch of beach and no less than six pools.

A weekend highlight for locals and visitors alike, Friday brunch – think sushi and free-flowing fizz rather than toast and coffee – is served at pretty much every major hotel

11:00 – Shake it off

Shake off the jet lag and get a lay of the land with a stand-up paddle boarding session at Monty's Rowing School. Located at the very tip of the Palm, it’s the perfect place to take in its iconic sights, including the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab.

  • Have a go at stand-up paddle boarding at Eden Beach Club

    Standing ovation

    Seeing a boost in popularity in recent years, SUP (stand-up paddleboarding) has its roots in Hawaiian culture and provides a great core workout – as well as getting a better view from higher above the waves.

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  • A Sculptures in waterfall at Dubai Mall © Getty

    Gallery hop

    The Dubai Mall is the largest shopping centre in the world and covers the space of 50 football pitches.

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  • Urban Picnic at Vida Downtown Dubai

    Picnic by the pool

    Do brunch Dubai style at this sleek Downtown Dubai hotel. Expect poolside DJ sets and treats such as cherry pie and jam jar salads.

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12:00 – Brunch time

A weekend highlight for locals and visitors alike, Friday brunch – think sushi and free-flowing fizz rather than toast and coffee – is served at pretty much every major hotel. Bubblicious at the Westin is one of the best and liveliest, where you can indulge in fresh lobster, crab and sushi while enjoying limitless Champagne for around £150 per person. For those looking for something a little more relaxed, the Urban Picnic at Vida Downtown Dubai serves picnic-style food and unlimited house drinks by the pool as the DJ plays chilled house music.

15:00 – Shop till you drop

You won’t want to eat again for a while, so take the chance to burn off those inevitable brunch calories at The Dubai Mall, the world’s biggest shopping mall housing an aquarium, underwater zoo, ice rink, indoor theme park alongside over 1,200 shops.

17:30 – Bird’s eye view

Make your way over the road to the Burj Khalifa – the tallest building in the world, dominating the skyline at 830m – and head for the observation desk to watch the sun set over Dubai, taking in 360-degree views from the desert to the ocean. Advance booking is advised, as it’s popular time to visit.

19:00 – Dancing in the moonlight

As night descends, wander over to Souk Al Bahar, which is walking distance from the Burj Khalifa. There are several places to dine here but the newly opened Atlantic, an ‘ocean-to-table’ restaurant complete with raw oyster bar, is the one to book. Ask for a table outside so you can take in the views of the towering skyline in front of you and enjoy a front row seat for the famous dancing fountains below. From here, you can also get great views of the new Dubai Opera, a spectacular feat of engineering, built in the shape of the traditional Arabian dhow.

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22:30 – Inside out

Follow in the Dubai local’s ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality and stop off for a nightcap before calling it a day. As you’re downtown, jump in a cab and head around the corner to the Treehouse in the Taj Hotel. The rooftop bar attracts the beautiful crowd with its lush greenery and extravagant décor – think fireplaces and candlesticks that wouldn’t look out of place in an Italian palazzo – alongside mixologists who shake up smoked cocktails.

Day two

9:00 – Sitting on the dock of the bay

Not far from the Palm is the Dubai Marina, where you can sit and watch as the boat trips and yacht owners gently make their way across the water in front of you. The chic, deli-style Baker & Spice serves dishes made with local, seasonal produce such as focaccia bianca with roasted aubergine and feta, and is set right on the waterfront.

10:30 – Art attack

Head over to relatively new Alserkal Avenue in the Jumeirah region where converted warehouses play host to contemporary art galleries, cool fashion boutiques, performance art and pop-ups all vying to be a part of the emerging culture of modern Dubai.

13:00 – Off to the Hamptons

Nearby along the Jumeirah Beach Road sits the elegant Hamptons Café – the perfect place to grab a relaxed lunch. It’s set over three floors, each with a different view – be sure to ask for a table on the rooftop where you can overlook the immaculate Jumeirah Beach below.

15:00 – Travel back in time

After lunch, make your way to the Dubai Museum, housed in the Al Fahidi Fort, the oldest building in Dubai dating back to 1787. See what everyday life was like in the Emirate before the days of oil and globalisation, with an exhibit on pearl diving, recreations of historic Arab houses and souks, and artefacts from all over the East.

  • Kick back on the private beach at One&Only The Palm

    Life’s a beach

    The Palm is the ambitious brainchild of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid al Maktoum. The artificial island covers a space of about seven million square metres –making it the largest man-made island in the world.

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18:00 – All that glisters

Wander along the Dhow Warfage waterfront – where you’ll catch a glimpse of Dubai’s trade history in action – over to the Dubai Gold Souk in Deira, which comes alive at night. While you’re unlikely to find a total bargain anymore, it’s great fun and you can pick up some lovely pieces if you look – just be prepared to haggle.

20:00 – Share and share alike

Toast your last night in the city at The Boardwalk. Nestled on the shores of Dubai Creek, this elegant restaurant offers a menu of fresh fish and seafood, while the terrace setting – with colourful lantern-lit dhows drifting slowly along the creek beside you – is simply unforgettable. You might even catch a firework display around the Creek if you’re lucky.

22:30 – One for the Road

For a final taste of the Dubai highlife, head to the Cielo Sky Lounge, where international DJs hit the decks on the stylish roof terrace almost every night of the week. From here, you’ll get a final Instagram-worthy snap of the skyscrapers of Downtown and the twinkling boats moving softly over the Creek.

Day three

06:30 – Run for it

If you’re feeling energetic you can run – or walk – the full length of the newly-opened boardwalk around The Palm to stretch your legs before you jet off.

10:05 – Homeward bound

This flight gets you back to London at 14:15 on Sunday, giving you enough time to rest in time for work on Monday.

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