Gleaming out of the desert, Dubai is literally an urban oasis. It also happens to be one of the most thrilling and cosmopolitan cities on the planet – a place where East intersects with West, and where contemporary chic meets millennia of tradition. Steel and glass skyscrapers, almost impossibly tall, give the city a futuristic skyline, while the shopping malls are so gigantic you can explore them for days. Bright sands and diamond-speckled waters make it a haven for sun-worshippers, while the bars and restaurants throng with well-heeled business travelers and tourists alike.
Things to see
Shoppers will be in their element when visiting the city. A veritable cathedral of retail, Dubai Mall forms a major part of the Downtown Dubai complex, so – as well as giving you the opportunity to explore hundreds of big name stores and designer boutiques – you can also head for the Dubai Aquarium, home to more than 400 sharks and rays, and also see the light shows and dancing water jets of Dubai Fountain, which can reach up to 500 feet in the air. Another huge draw for shopaholics is the Mall of the Emirates – of course, this being Dubai, there are more than just stores here as well. Kids will love the fairground rides which the complex also houses. Elsewhere, Jumeirah Beach is one of the great sunbathing destinations of the UAE, and the park there features over 12 hectares mingling grassy fields and sandy stretches, as well as picnic tables, sports facilities, and snack kiosks. One building you have to see while in Dubai is the instantly iconic Burj Khalifa – the tallest man-made structure of all time. Whoosh up this needle of steel to take in gobsmacking views from the floor-to-ceiling windows of the observation deck. If you have time, you might also want to go on an idyllic boat ride down Dubai Creek.
Hotels in Dubai
The phrase "high-end" doesn't quite cover some of the hotels in Dubai. The five-star accommodation here is among the most majestic in the world. Sumptuous silks and linens, four-poster beds of deepest mahogany, as well as butler service, ivory-white spas, and views of the Arabian Gulf will make any guest feel like a celebrity (or royalty, for that matter). While the city is not renowned for being a cheap place to visit, there are also some good hotels in Dubai suited to smaller budgets – though you may have to stay a little further out from the action of central Dubai.
Where to stay
The Dubai Mall and Downtown Dubai area is a very popular place to stay – booking a Dubai hotel here will put you right in the thick of Dubai's vibrant atmosphere, and it'll make carrying home your shopping much easier. If you're here for the sea, then one of the hotels on Jumeirah Beach is for you – many of these have private beaches which lucky guests can take advantage of. For an even more immersive experience you can check in to a hotel on the Palm Jumeirah archipelago, which juts right out into the stunning blue sea, and where some of the complexes boast their own aquariums and water parks.
How to get to
Dubai International Airport is the major gateway to the area, with flights coming from a wide range of major cities across the world. It's only around 3 miles from Dubai. Flights from across the Middle East and Africa also fly into Sharjah International Airport, which is around 10 miles from Dubai – although traffic congestion can mean the journey by road takes longer than you might expect.