Dubai: Hotel Guides

Best for… Spa: One&Only Royal Mirage

OneOnly Royal Mirage

Spread regally along 1km of private white-sand beach, the One&Only Royal Mirage is one of Dubai’s most exclusive hotels. It’s also one of the city’s most romantic, boasting luxuriant gardens dotted with fountains and ponds, palm trees prettily illuminated with fairy lights and courtyards strewn with carpets and cushions. Sumptuous rooms boast marble bathrooms, canopy beds and balconies, while some of Dubai’s most atmospheric eating can be enjoyed at Maghrebi restaurant, Tagine, decorated with tribal kilims, mother-of-pearl inland furniture and Moroccan lanterns. However, it’s the hotel’s spa and traditional Oriental hammam – Dubai’s first – which are a magnet for many guests. Recline on a heated slab in a steam-filled room to a soundtrack of trickling water or re-energise with a body wrap of ginger, liquorice and mustard seed, a guaranteed cure for jet lag.

Al Sufouh Road, Jumeirah


Best for… Budget: Orient Guest House

Orient Guest House

One of Dubai’s most affordable hotels also happens to be one of its most delightful, located on one of the labyrinthine lanes of the Historic Bastakiya/Al Fahidi neighbourhood. Established by Persian merchants from the southernmost part of Iran known as Bastak, the quaint quarter is home to old coral and gypsum courtyard residences with handsome wind-towers. The intimate Orient Guest House is one such charmer, with just 11 traditionally decorated rooms set around two courtyards. Rooms are furnished with four-poster beds, striped Bedouin cushions and wooden chests. While the guesthouse lacks extensive facilities, there are art galleries, cafés and small museums and souks within a few minutes’ stroll. Don’t miss an educational Cultural Breakfast at the nearby Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, where you can connect with locals while feasting on Emirati food.

Historic Bastakiya Area, Al Fahidi Street


Best for… Luxury: Burj Al Arab

Burj Al Arab

Inspired by traditional old wooden dhows, the trading boats that still ply the seas around the Arabian peninsula, the distinctive Burj Al Arab was commissioned by Sheikh Mohammed, Prime Minister and Ruler of Dubai, who said he wanted a building as iconic and memorable as the Eiffel Tower and Sydney Opera House. And they gave it to him. While Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, has stolen its thunder in recent years, the 321-metre-high Burj Al Arab remains one of the world’s most recognisable structures. Located on a man-made island off the coast of Jumeirah’s white-sand Umm Suqeim Beach, the sail-shaped seven-star hotel put Dubai on the tourist map and is still a must-see – and a must-stay if you’re feeling flush. Its ostentatious décor isn’t for everyone, but the impeccable service and extravagance – there’s a private butler for every one of its 202 two-storey suites – remain unparalleled.

Jumeirah Road, Umm Suqeim


Best for… Romance: Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa

Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa

The desert is on Dubai’s doorstep and, for most visitors, the way to experience it is on a four-wheel-drive desert safari. For romantics, we recommend skipping the tour and escaping to dreamy Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa instead for some ultra-luxurious glamping. Eco-friendly Al Maha is located within the Dubai Desert Conservation Area, which means there’s none of the desert safari’s ‘dune-bashing’. Rather, your low impact 4WD tour treads softly, cruising quietly among the apricot-coloured desert sands to give you an opportunity to observe rare Arabian birds and wildlife, such as the handsome oryx and elegant gazelles, which during early morning and late afternoon might even wander up to your private plunge pool for a drink. The Bedouin Suites, with tent-like canopies, are decorated in a sumptuous colonial style with sweeping vistas. While there’s a superb restaurant, private villa dining overlooking the spectacular desert is more romantic.

Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve, Al Ain Road


Best for… Food: InterContinental Dubai Festival City

InterContinental Dubai Festival City

Since its opening, this stylish, new-breed InterContinental has attracted fashionistas as much as foodies for its chic, spacious, high-tech rooms and its location beside the glamorous designer boutiques of Dubai Festival City Mall. Equally, gourmands from around the globe check in for one of Dubai’s finest restaurants, Reflets par Pierre Gagnaire. One of the great masters of innovative French cuisine, Paris-based multi-Michelin starred Gagnaire closely oversees the restaurant and crafts the menu; he visits Dubai often, so don’t be surprised if he wanders over to ask how you enjoyed his signature côte de bœuf. Dress up and allow a whole evening to linger over the creative degustation menu. After, enjoy bubbles at sexy Eclipse champagne bar, which boasts stunning bay and city views. The legendary Lebanese seafood restaurant Al Sultan Brahim is fantastic for lunch or dinner, while the hotel’s Anise, with its live cooking stations, is one of the few all-day-diners we’d really recommend.

Dubai Festival City, Deira


Best for… Family: Jumeirah Mina A’Salam

Jumeirah Mina ASalam

With its old Arabian-style architecture and enchanting 1001 Nights-inspired décor, staying at Mina A’Salam hotel feels almost fairy tale-like at times. As is the Bedouin custom, guests are greeted at the door with dates and coffee by Emirati staff in their national dress, while performers play traditional music in the plush lobby lounge that does wonderful Arabian-style afternoon teas. The public spaces and spacious rooms are decked out in Oriental lanterns, Persian carpets and brass Aladdin-style coffee pots and the like. Guests move around the winding waterways on abras (traditional wooden boats), much to the delight of kids. There’s a long palm-lined beach and an adjoining shopping centre, Madinat Jumeirah, with dozens of restaurants, cafés, fast-food outlets, and theatres. Dubai’s best waterpark, Wild Wadi, is right across the road, too – the perfect pastime for children, who will also love the complimentary Sinbad’s Kids Club: housed in 1,178 sq metres of pure play area, with a jam-packed activity schedule. Big families should book the Malakiya Villas.

Jumeirah Road, Umm Suqeim


Best for… Business Jumeirah Emirates Towers

Jumeirah Emirates Towers

If you’re in Dubai to do business, checking into a state-of-the-art suite at the award-winning Jumeirah Emirates Towers is a no-brainer. These striking twin towers are not only slap-bang in the centre of the city’s business district – with the Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC) on one side and the Dubai World Trade Centre and International Convention and Exhibition Centre on the other – but the hotel building itself is also home to many government offices, not least that of Sheikh Mohammed, the PM and Ruler of Dubai. The hotel lobby lounge is always abuzz while deals are done at The Ivy, on the ground floor shopping boulevard, or in the hotel’s own Alfie’s and The Rib Room restaurants.

Sheikh Zayed Road, Trade Center 2


Best for… Design: Manzil Downtown Dubai

Manzil Downtown Dubai

This modish boutique property in a decade-young development ironically called ‘The Old Town’ is marketed as an upscale business hotel. While the handsome lodgings are handy to Business Bay and the Downtown Dubai developments, its location opposite the monumental Dubai Mall (and Burj Khalifa) has made it a magnet for shopaholics and fashion fans. One of the first hotels in a modern Arabian style of design that melds contemporary minimalism with the traditional Arabesque – think Moorish arches, mashrabiya screens, Oriental lamps and geometric patterns – it remains chic ten years on. Rooms are crisp and clean looking yet warm and comforting, with views of the Burj Khalifa from the exterior accommodation or the courtyard and stunning swimming pool from the interior rooms. The casual Courtyard café offers Mediterranean and Arabic cuisine, while the industrial-chic Fümé is a fantastic all-day eatery and bar specialising in comfort food and cocktails.

Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai


Best for… Cool: Armani Hotel

Armani Hotel

When Italian fashion designer Giorgio Armani opened his first hotel in Dubai, it said a lot about how far this Middle Eastern metropolis had come. That it was in the city’s most architecturally audacious building, the sky-scraping Burj Khalifa, made perfect sense. But while the hotel’s location in a city famous for its excess and flamboyant style might lead you to expect show-stopping design in line with one of his flowing, flouncy, haute couture evening gowns, the décor is elegant and restrained, more like a classic Armani suit. Expect lots of texture and neutral colours – black, grey, white, beige and cream – strikingly illuminated wood-panelled corridors, bespoke fabrics in linen, silk and satin, big walk-in wardrobes and Armani bathroom amenities. All rooms offer jaw-dropping views of Dubai, and there are three restaurants, of which the Armani/Ristorante is the must-dine, as much for its round booths as its contemporary regional Italian cuisine. Guests also get access to Armani/Privé, Dubai’s most fashionable nightclub.

Burj Khalifa, 1 Emaar Boulevard, Downtown Dubai


Best for… Views: Park Hyatt Dubai

Park Hyatt Dubai

The white-washed, low-rise Park Hyatt Dubai is one of the city’s most relaxing resorts. Designed in a modern-Arabian style, it boasts minimalist rooms in cream and beige, with a subtle ‘sun, sea and sand’ style, evident in the touches of blue, textured carpets that look like desert dunes seen from above, and black and white photographs of old dhow boats. All rooms offer restorative water views of Dubai Creek, the luxuriant gardens of Creekside Park on the opposite shore and boats bobbing in bay upon which the hotel wraps around. The property is located next to Dubai Creek Golf and Yacht Club. If the gentle sound of water lapping isn’t soothing enough, there’s an alluring palm-lined swimming pool and the superb Amara Spa for some serious pampering. The hotels award-winning restaurants have long been some of the city’s best, including the French bistro, Traiteur, and the authentic Thai Kitchen, while The Terrace bar down on the waterfront is one of Dubai’s finest spots for a sundowner.

Dubai Creek, Deira


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