Back in February 2020 pre-pandemic, I spent nine days on holiday in Dubai visiting one of my very best friends Katie who lives there. At that point she had lived there for just over a year, and therefore was very clued up with knowing the best places to go. Excluding my two travel days each side, our itinerary for my seven full days there was honestly second to none, so I felt it worth a blog post in case it brings any inspiration to anyone else spending a week in Dubai!
Day 1, Saturday:
Mall of the Emirates, Kite Beach and Burj Al Arab, Souk Madinat
Where to start in Dubai, if not at a mall! The malls in Dubai are huge and notoriously fancy – almost tourist attractions in themselves – but also places where locals hang out, Arabs included. On my first day, we visited the Mall of the Emirates which bizarrely has its own ski resort where you can actually ski down slopes… quite a novelty in the middle of the desert! Katie and I didn’t ski ourselves but I can definitely understand the novelty of snow in such a hot country!
After spending the morning exploring the mall, we then walked to Kite Beach for the afternoon. To be honest I was surprised by how nice the beach was – for some reason I had never thought about Dubai having nice beaches, but it had plenty! This beach had lots of food and drink spots, although not selling alcohol as per the law. After a couple of hours of sunbathing, as the sun started to set, we walked along Kite Beach to the Burj Al Arab, the only 7 star hotel in the world. Realising the sunset was setting quicker than we could walk, we then caught a taxi to the further along the beach Souk Madinat which was this beautiful posh Arabic souk with restaurants along a river. Katie and I found a table with an amazing view of the Burj Al Arab across the water, and had dinner and a few cocktails. A perfect first full day!
Day 2, Sunday:
Day Trip to Abu Dhabi
I will actually write more about this day trip in a separate blog post, because it was so good it needs more writing space! As a short summary, we went as part of a group organised tour, and visited The Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, Jumeirah at Emirates Towers, and The Presidential Palace. It was amazing – you could really see the difference in culture between the more liberal Dubai and the more traditional Abu Dubai. To be continued in another post..!
Day 3, Monday:
Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa
‘Dubai Mall’ is another huge mall, but this one has an aquarium as the main attraction. Although like the ski slope, it was a cool novelty, I really didn’t love the aquarium – it didn’t feel right to watch the fish swim in circles around their small tanks when they should be in the ocean. The tanks were big, but definitely not big enough for the size or amount of sharks and rays in there. We left the mall to have a break, sit and have a coffee in one of the outside cafes, overlooking a large pool with fountains.
This mall also holds the entrance to the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. We bought a ticket to the 124th and 125th floors, which is the general viewing platform. You buy a ticket with a set time, so when deciding whether to go up during the day or night so we decided to pay a little extra to go at sunset, so we got the best of both worlds, a day and a night viewing! The sunset itself wasn’t great unfortunately, but it was really good seeing both the day and night view – the day view shows the vast extent of the desert, whereas the night time shows the extent of the city lights. Both are equally impressive from such a height! Bizarrely there are gaps underneath the glass of the viewing platform, it would be so easy to drop something through there – I hung on to my phone tight!
Day 4, Tuesday:
Zero Gravity Beach Club
Some friends of friends we were with had a skydive booked, so on the Tuesday morning, so we headed to Skydive Dubai first thing and watched our friend fall from the sky. We then went back to our apartment, got ready and had some drinks, before heading back to Zero Gravity Beach Club which turns out is right next door to Skydive Dubai! Tuesday is ‘Ladies Day’ so us ladies got free entry, so we split between us the cost of the entry for the boys. To mark the occasion, they were painting faces with glitter and sequins which is always fun! We spent the day at the Beach Club, drinking cocktail jugs in the sun. Ladies Day continues all day on Tuesdays in Dubai, so in the evening we went to a couple of bars and got free drinks vouchers, free entry etc – can’t complain!
Day 5, Wednesday:
Dubai Marina, JBR beach, Dinner at the Palm
We started the next day with a long walk around the marina, which was actually really pretty – full of identical skyscrapers along a river. We stopped for lunch at the marina, and then slowly walked back to JBR beach where our accommodation was. We spent the afternoon chilling by the pool, swimming up to the pool bar, and then sunbathing on the beach. Later that evening we had dinner at the Palm, artificial land shaped as a palm tree. There were tons of restaurants and bars which were really nice – dinner and drinks in Dubai are very expensive, thankfully we used Katie’s 50% off discount card to make it affordable!
Day 6, Thursday:
Visiting Old Dubai, Souk and Creek
The following day, Katie and I took a taxi to Old Dubai and walked around the markets. This was one of my favourite mornings of the whole trip, because I love anything cultural/ historic. Old Dubai feels like how things would have looked like before the oil money rolled in and the skyscrapers were built – way back when! We walked around a ‘traditional’ Arabic market (still more focused towards tourists than locals) where you have to haggle for everything. I’m not very good at haggling but I absolutely love markets! I bought a load of tourist-y bits such as a lovely kimono, a handbag, and a few cute little purses with sequin camels on them. Once we left the market, we then took a traditional boat across the creek, which gave us a nice view looking backwards at Old Dubai. I enjoyed it so much, because it felt more of a cultural activity than most in Dubai.We took a taxi all the way back to our accommodation, and spent the afternoon sunbathing on JBR beach.
Day 7, Friday:
Saffron Brunch at Atlantis The Palm
For the last day, to end the week on a high, we did one of Dubai’s famous brunches, in the famous hotel Atlantis on the Palm. It was £65 (at 50% off) for all you could eat and drink in four hours. The amount of choice of food and drink was just insane, you could get literally anything you possibly wanted. The room was absolutely huge, the biggest brunch I have ever seen – hundreds of people in one room. Our table was actually outside which was perfect for me wanting some last minute sun, less perfect for hours of eating and drinking! After the brunch, we went back to our apartment to play games, and then that evening we went out to a beach bar/ club. Was definitely feeling it the next day on the flight home!