Dubai’s population of 3 million is connected north to south by the iconic Sheikh Zayed Road. Lined with architectural marvels, this main artery will take you from Dubai’s border with the emirate of Sharjah all the way to the UAE’s capital of Abu Dhabi.
With the sun rising or setting, the Downtown skyline’s construction silhouette highlights both the speed the city is developing and a sure sign this guide will need to be updated regularly.
Welcome to the 2nd instalment of #myDubai Guide: The Beating Heart!
WTC, DIFC & SZR.
Dubai’s World Trade Centre (WTC), Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) & Sheikh Zayed Road (SZR) make up the Central Business District. Exhibition space, conference centres, performance space and international banking HQs are found here.
WTC and DIFC are clearly defined with each having their own metro station while SZR is loosely referred to as the stretch between WTC and Dubai Mall. It’s not the entire stretch of Sheikh Zayed Road.
Surrounded by 5-star accommodation, outstanding restaurants, clubs and bars, the metro’s red line runs straight through the centre so transport from one end of Dubai to the other is seamless.
Play (#1 Sheikh Zayed Road, WTC. Ph: +971 4336 4444)
On the H Hotel’s 36th-floor, Play redefines dining. With views of the coast, an East meets West menu and plush decor, Play encourages diners to have some fun with the menu and discover new flavours.
With a substantial Raw Bar, Play’s seafood offer is tweaked daily with availability.
Intersect by Lexus (Gate Village 7, DIFC. Ph: +9714 355 9524)
Intersect by Lexus is a design concept from cars to culinary masterpieces. Focusing on fresh, and organic where possible the proof is in the tasting. Follow this link for details of this out of the box restaurant.
McGettigans Pub (Building 8, Sheikh Zayed Road, WTC. Ph: +971 4378 0800)
Adjacent to the exhibition halls, concert arenas and WTC metro station, McGettigans’ menu ingredients are sourced locally from markets and growers, except the pork!
McGettigans have battled the lengthy, and costly process of securing a licence to operate a pork kitchen.
An all-day breakfast menu with real pork bacon and sausages finishes at 6 pm, so no matter what you get up to the night before you can still hook into a “big breakfast”.
40 Kong (#1 Sheikh Zayed Road, WTC. Ph: +971 4336 4444)
As the name suggests, 40 Kong can be found on the 40th floor of the H Hotel through a separate entrance. (to the right of the hotel’s main entrance)
This outdoor venue has magnificent views of the CBD, Old Town and the Arabian Gulf. With opening hours from 7 pm to 3 am and a twisted little cocktail list, 40 Kong is a perfect spot for nightcaps.
Long’s Bar (Towers Rotana Basement, Sheikh Zayed Road. Ph: +971 4 343 8000)
Long’s Bar is a Dubai institution. Hide down here from the heat mid-summer and milk the Happy Hour from 12 noon until 8 pm. Not only a long bar but a long happy hour too.
There are screens for sports fans, tables for pool champs or you can simply sip on a coldie at one of the longest bars in the world.
Level 43 Sky Lounge (Level 43, Four Points by Sheraton Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road. Ph: +971 56 414 2213)
There are conflicting views globally of Dubai’s over the top investment in bling architecture, but seen up close and personal it would be a hard nut who wouldn’t appreciate the detail, engineering and diversity of the skyline.
At Level 43 Sky Lounge you’re right in the thick of it with views north and south of Sheikh Zayed Road and the spectacular architecture of downtown Dubai.
Save 20% with your Starwood Preferred Guest membership on a cocktail or 3 and ponder whether you’re a Dubai convert from this lofty locale.
Dubai Garden Glow (Area B, Gates 6 & 7, Zabeel Park at World Trade Centre Roundabout. Ph: +971 52 478 5605)
Dubai Garden Glow is a recreation park for kids of all ages (yes, I mean adults too). This glow in the dark garden is made up of 10 million energy saving bulbs and yards of recycled luminous fabric.
Joining Dubai Garden Glow last season, Dinosaur Park displays more than 100 animatronic Dinosaurs.
For more info check out this video from Dubayat TV.
Dubai Frame (Area C, Gate 4, Zabeel Park. Ph: 800900 UAE only – Contact Centre 24/7)
Dubai’s newest attraction, Dubai Frame was opened January 1st, 2018. Framing Old Dubai to the north where we visited in #myDubai Guide Part #1: The Historical Hub! and new Dubai along Sheikh Zayed Road to the south, a tour inside the frame takes you through Dubai’s past, present and future.
Open from 10:00 am to 07:00 pm, this video from Khaleej Times shares details of the experience and ticket prices. Check the website for savings on single entry tickets, transport with entrance, and combo attraction tickets.
Take to your favourite booking site, use your preference filters and check the options against the metro line map.
For those looking for comfort, convenience and wallet-friendly rates, Rove Hotels are for you. The WTC location is a short walk to the exhibition halls and metro, while the DIFC location has access to Gate 7, DIFC and a short walk to Dubai Mall.
Downtown, Business Bay & Dubai Canal.
Downtown is pinpointed by its famed beacon – Burj Khalifa (currently the world’s tallest building). At Burj Khalifa’s feet is Dubai Fountain (the world’s largest choreographed fountain) and Dubai Mall, yes you guessed it, the world’s largest shopping mall. 😉
Business Bay borders Downtown and is growing at a rate of knots. Centrally located with easy access to the metro’s red line and the Dubai Canal water taxi and ferry system, getting to both ends of Dubai is simple. On Dubai Canal, marinas, restaurants, bars and new hotels are opening regularly.
Downtown’s accommodation is at the high end, while hotels in Business Bay and on the Canal offer this central location a more accommodating price tag.
In our busy “must see and do everything” lives, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown is the perfect location to multi-task. To #eat, choose a restaurant with a terrace so you can also view the choreographed dancing fountain and the dizzying heights of Burj Khalifa.
The Atlantic (3rd Floor, Souk Al Bahar. Ph: +971 4442 5662) Surrounded by the Dubai Fountain with spectacular views of Dubai Opera and Burj Khalifa, The Atlantic is a pescatarian’s paradise. The franchised sister restaurant upholds the same “Ocean to Plate” philosophy as Chef Donovan Cooke’s original Atlantic in Melbourne (Australia). Seafood arrives fresh daily and is joined by locally sourced produce where possible. If it’s on the menu, the confit salmon is a must!
The doors have closed at The Atlantic but don’t worry, we have an alternate venue for you with similar views and a delightful menu.
Karma Kafé (Level 3, Souk Al Bahar, Downtown Ph: +971 4423 0909)
Brought to you by the people behind Buddha Bar, Karma Kafé is a lounge bar and restaurant with a pan-Asian menu.
Sushi, sashimi, salmon ceviche and tuna tartare are complemented by gyoza, duck pancakes, wasabi prawns and Thai curries.
The menu is extensive, the cocktail list superb and you still have those views of Burj Khalifa and Dubai’s Dancing Fountain.
You’re welcome! 😉
Abd El Wahab (3rd Floor, Souk Al Bahar. Ph: + 971 4423 0988)
Named for the original restaurant’s street in Beirut, the rambunctious service at Abd El Wahab is as enjoyable as the Lebanese fare.
Tuck into iron-rich grilled chicken livers smothered in pomegranate and lemon. You’ll find all the dips, bread, grilled meats and salads you’d expect, but at Abd El Wahab you also have the magnificent terrace views.
Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera (Dubai Opera, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown. Ph: +971 4362 7312)
Sean Connolly’s unpaid apprenticeship at the Hilton in Leeds attests to his passion for food.
Now with TV programs broadcasting in 35 countries and restaurants in Sydney, Adelaide and Auckland, Sean Connolly has set up in one of Dubai’s prime locations on top of Dubai Opera.
An emphasis on simple dishes using the freshest available ingredients is evident on the menu. Our particular lure is Thursday night’s Oyster Happy Hour – freshly shucked oysters are available at 5 dirhams per piece between 7 & 8 pm. Don’t be late.
What was once a fairly limited choice of dining options (with alcohol) in Business Bay, has now become a dining destination and it’s still growing.
With the completion of Dubai Canal, new hotels have opened their doors and with them, their restaurants.
Bhar (3rd Floor, Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Marasi Drive, Business Bay Ph: +971 4512 5511)
Bhar (Arabic for Spice) has Chef Mohanad Alshamali at the helm steering you on a Middle Eastern culinary journey. His Syrian roots shine through the menu while he adds a contemporary twist to family recipes.
Take in the Dubai Canal view from the terrace while enjoying 3 hours of Happy from 5:00 pm.
Bhar’s +961 Brunch is on Friday evening from 19:30 until 23:00 (AED 350 with booze 250 without) and there’s a Business lunch weekdays (Sun – Thurs) that’s AED 90 for 3 courses & free flow soft drinks.
Cuisiñero Uno (2nd Floor, Steigenberger Hotel, Al Abraj Street, Business Bay Ph: +971 4431 7816)
Come as you are to this lively Tapas Restaurant & Bar, a hidden gem on Dubai Canal. You’ll meet CEO & Culinary Director, John Buenaventura when he pops out of the open kitchen to see how you’re enjoying yourself.
John and his sister have recognised a gap in the dining options in Business Bay and have created a funky, inclusive vibe surrounding a delicious Latina menu.
Happy hour daily from 3:00 pm with the odd shot of tequila thrown in and your set to take in the views of Dubai Canal from the terrace or the antics in the kitchen from inside.
The Eloquent Elephant Gastropub (Ground Floor, Taj Dubai, Burj Khalifa Street, Business Bay Ph: +971 4438 3131)
The first “pub” in Business Bay, EE has had an award-winning menu since opening. Beef cheeks with sweet potato mash and honey parsnips along with Miso Cod fillet served with Asian greens remain on the menu to avoid a riot while others are replaced or tweaked seasonally.
4 hours of Happy begin at 3:00 pm daily, but if that’s not enough happiness for you then head there at 12:00 noon on Saturdays for 7 hours. You may need that after Friday’s “Crunch” Brunch where they ply you with unlimited artisan beverages and you can indulge in anything and everything from their à la carte menu between 12:30 – 4:00 pm.
Prime 68 (Level 68, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Business Bay Ph: +971 4414 3000)
On a clear night, this 68th-floor steakhouse has views of the entire city. A fabulous location for date night or head there for their James Bond-inspired Friday brunch. Read more about brunch here.
The magnificent floor to ceiling windows almost overshadow the chic interior, but once you’ve ogled those views for a while you’ll come back to reality and see this venue is dressed to impress.
The state of the art chargrill/ oven combo in the kitchen you won’t see, but you will taste what it can do with the steak I urge you to order. (note: non-meat-eaters are catered for too!)
Before arriving in Dubai the first time, you may have questions about the alcohol laws. #myDubai Guide Part #1: The Historical Hub outlines laws and dry days.
Have no fear, if you’re one for an afternoon tipple or the odd glass of wine you’re well and truly catered for. Below are 5 tried, tested and regularly frequented venues. There are hundreds more for you to find for yourself.
Atmosphere (Level 122, Burj Khalifa, enter through Armani Hotel Ph: +971 4888 3828)
Let’s face it, you’re paying for the view here, but what a view! From the 122nd floor, you’re in the highest bar in the world. The idea is to arrive around 5:30 pm for sundowners and see the sunset over the Arabian Gulf.
Reservations are for 3 hours and a minimum spend per person is expected. Window tables are at a premium.
Bar stools don’t have the minimum spend requirement but reservations can’t be guaranteed. Take a risk, make the reservation and see what happens. This is a bar in Dubai (on a clear day) that is not to be missed.
Iris Dubai (Level 27, Oberoi Hotel, Business Bay Ph: +971 56 951 1442)
A semi-rooftop experience, Iris Dubai guarantees fabulous views of Downtown. Open from 5:00 pm until 3:00 am, Iris is perfect for a cocktail pre-dinner or a couple of night-caps, post.
Live music Sundays and Tuesdays, a DJ the rest of the week, an enticing menu and a 4 hour Friday Brunch – pop into Iris any time and it’s sure to be fun.
Treehouse (Level 3, Taj Dubai, Burj Khalifa Street, Business Bay Ph: +971 4438 3100)
It may not be in the clouds, but Treehouse on Taj Dubai’s outdoor terrace still has outstanding views. This multi-award winning bar is, IMHO, one of the best in Dubai.
Choose a bar stool or chill between the trees on comfy lounges with table service.
With artisanal cocktails prepared by acclaimed mixologists, surrounded by the resident DJ’s lounge beats and shisha scented atmosphere, a few hours at Treehouse may turn into an entire evening.
Poppy (First Floor, Renaissance Downtown Hotel, Marasi Drive, Business Bay)
Joining the global Speakeasy genre, Poppy is a hideaway in the Renaissance Hotel on Dubai Canal. With clever cocktails, impeccable service and a funky soundtrack, what more do you need?
Café Artois @ Bridgewater Tavern (Lobby Level, Entertainment Wing, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Business Bay Ph: +971 4414 3000)
An al fresco bar offering a solid range of brews, decent happy hour pricing and a BBQ menu, Café Artois is a great pitstop while on your walk/ ride/ jog along Dubai Canal.
Views of Dubai Canal Waterfall with its motion-sensor stop-start mechanism from your picnic table are hypnotic. Ponder crossing the canal for all that Al Habtoor City has to offer in St Regis, Westin & W Hotels or just order another beer and kick back and relax.
At the Top (Level 148, 15 & 124 Burj Khalifa, Downtown Ph: +971 4888 8124)
Mentioned previously, but worth mentioning again, an engineering feat of enormous proportions, Burj Khalifa is an icon to admire from afar as well as “At the Top”. The 555-metre high outdoor observation platform is not quite at the top but it’s close enough.
Dubai Fountain (Ground level between Dubai Mall, Souk Al Bahar & Burj Khalifa Ph: +971 4362 7500)
Again, at the foot of Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain is a Downtown focal point. Performances at 1:00 & 1:30 pm Sun – Thurs, 1:30 and 2:00 pm Fridays and in the evening at 30-minute intervals from 6:00 pm to 11:00 pm every night.
For an up-close & personal Dubai Fountain experience book an abra.
Dubai Mall Entertainment Zones (Dubai Mall, Downtown. Ph: 800 38224 6255 UAE only)
Dubai Mall may now be the world’s largest shopping mall but it’s also full of entertainment.
Kidzone, Dubai Aquarium and underwater zoo, Cinemas and the Emirates A380 simulator are hits with kids of all ages.
The new VR Park with its 20 different virtual reality experiences will have the whole family entertained. Fancy being in an episode of The Walking Dead? At VR Park it will become your reality.
Dubai Opera (Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, Downtown Dubai Ph: +971 4440 8888)
Dubai Opera has a continuous line-up of, not only opera but local and international performers. Check the program here.
La Perle by Dragone (Al Habtoor City. firstname.lastname@example.org)
At Al Habtoor City on Dubai Canal, a purpose-built aqua-theatre showcases La Perle by Dragone. Often offering Earlybird or special event ticket pricing, La Perle is one show not to miss.
For more on this exceptional performance, follow this link.
Dubai Canal (From Jumeirah to Dubai Creek. RTA Ph: 800 9090 UAE only)
Between October and April, cooler temperatures allow for outdoor activities. Make the most of bicycle hire and ride the Dubai Canal. From Jumeirah Beach to Dubai Design District (D3) it’s a flat easy ride right beside the Canal.
D3 incorporates technology, interior & exterior design, fashion and the arts in one innovative and creative hub.
Dubai Water Taxis and Ferries tour Dubai Canal’s entire length. More for sight-seeing than a mode of public transport, Dubai Ferry is a cruisy way to enjoy the views from Dubai Creek to Dubai Canal Station. Continue the journey by changing to the Dubai Marina or Al Ghubaiba (Old Town) ferries. Check RTA for transit times here.
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary (Ras Al Khor Road, Ras Al Khor Ph: +971 4606 6822)
Since 1985 Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary has been a home for 450 species of fauna and 47 species of flora. Wading through it, flying over it and nesting within it, are up to 25,000 migratory and resident birds.
Just 3 km from Burj Khalifa as the crow flies, a day spent at Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary will soon have you shopping for self-focusing binoculars and a bird reference book.
Dubai Mall (Dubai Mall, Downtown. Ph: 800 38224 6255 UAE only)
This mega-mall has had a recent extension connecting Fashion Avenue and increasing the high-end fashion offer.
Multi-level shop fronts make for dramatic window impact, and as one local journalist put it, “This is apt, as window shopping is all many of us will be able to do in the high-end area of the world’s largest mall.”.
Receiving 100 Million visitors annually, Dubai Mall offers multi-entertainment zones as mentioned in #explore, along with international department stores, speciality stores, multiple dining options and day spas.
Farmers Market on the Terrace (Bay Avenue Park, Business Bay Ph: +971 4427 9856)
From November to May the Farmers Market on the Terrace spoils you for choice with affordable, fresh, local, organic produce.
Direct from farmers, this community initiative brought to you by the people behind Baker & Spice, allows dialogue and development for a more sustainable future for the region.
Goat cheese, honey, coffee, seedlings and all the fresh veg you could possibly consume, the market also has cooking demonstrations utilising the fresh produce sold on the day.
Open Fridays (and sometimes Saturdays) from 8:00 am until 1:00 pm or until sold out. Check their Facebook page for updates.
No less than seven hotels surround Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar Downtown. A complete indulgence is found in the 50-odd floors of the Burj Khalifa at Armani Hotel and at the other more affordable end of the spectrum check out Rove Downtown.
Taj Dubai’s views of Downtown are superb. Renaissance Downtown, Steigenberger Hotel, the newly completed Radisson Blu, the Oberoi and JW Marriott Marquis, all have views of Downtown and Dubai Canal. Not to mention, Al Habtoor City with the St. Regis, Westin and W Hotels across the canal.
Take to your favourite booking site and see who’s offering the best deals.
For general information on visiting a Muslim country please follow this link back to #myDubai Guide Part #1: The Historical Hub! Here you’ll find details on sensibilities, respectable dress, the weather and the laws around alcohol.
Coming up next in #myDubai Guide, Part #3: Jumeirah’s face-lift. Until then, paraphernalians, do the things you love….
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