En route to the Maldives last November, Dan and I spent four fabulous days in Dubai! Partly as a stop over en route, but mostly to see some of Dubai! It was our first time in Dubai, and given its location and good flight connections, I’m confident we will return. There’s a ton to do in Dubai and we had a difficult time deciding exactly what to do and how to fit everything into four days! For those planning a trip, here’s a recap of what we did during our four day stay. Feel free to replicate!
FIRST DAY IN DUBAI – 12.5 HOUR FLIGHT & ARRIVAL IN DUBAI!
Emirates’ direct flight from New York to Dubai departs around 10:30 PM and arrives the following evening, around 8:30 PM local time. After a very, very long flight, we finally arrived in Dubai shortly after sunset! Customs in Dubai, where we presented our COVID-19 negative results (a simple PCR print out in English – nothing like French Polynesia), was quick and easy and we soon had our luggage and were en route to our hotel, the Intercontinental Festival City. We arrived shortly before 10:00 PM and were excited to see the entire hotel was decked out for Dubai’s national day on December 2nd. Very fun.
At check-in, we were upgraded to an AMAZING suite overlooking Dubai, including the Burj Khalifa and Dubai’s gorgeous library. The suite included two bathrooms, a living room, a dining area, a mini kitchen, and a separate bedroom with walk-in closet! It was insane, and I think we were the only people on the floor (at least on our end). There was also a welcome basket of fruit and macarons waiting for us. Intercontinental’s Ambassador Status does have its perks!
Rather than relax in our amazing room, we rushed to the hotel’s Eclipse Bar for a very late dinner, since we hadn’t really eaten in a number of hours and it was US Thanksgiving! Dan opted for the local mezze platter, while I opted for the local pizza, lol. We also enjoyed a cocktail or two!
We called it a night after dinner, as we were exhausted after a full day of flying!
DAY TWO – FRIDAY BRUNCH IN DUBAI!!
We woke up pretty early on our first day in Dubai, just after the sun rose! We got some great pictures and a video (below) from our suite. We were actually up so early that we went to the gym before moving to the Executive Lounge for breakfast!
Due to our room category, we received access to the hotel’s Executive Lounge, which we visited for breakfast every day of our stay. For those unfamiliar, the Executive Lounge is a space for hotel guests staying in certain categories of rooms and includes daily complimentary breakfast, tea, and cocktails in the evening. We found this Intercontinental to offer a particularly good breakfast consisting of various foods on a small buffet, as well as hot made-to-order dishes, including Eggs Benedict!
Post-breakfast, we swung by the pool for a quick swim and lay in the sun. It was relaxing and not crowded.
I was verrry excited for this afternoon, as we were attending Dubai’s famous Friday Brunch!! Yes, the weekend in Dubai is Friday and Saturday, so many people do mid-day “brunch” on Fridays. After researching numerous brunch spots, a number of which were not fully operational due to COVID, we settled on the famous Traiteur Brunch at the Dubai Park Hyatt. We spent over three hours at brunch eating, drinking, and listening to a live band outside on Saturday! Its really a feel good party and a great way to spend a Friday afternoon! If you are in Dubai on a Friday, don’t miss this. Brunch was one of my favorite things that we did and since I loved it so much, I’ll be posting about just this in the next bit!
After brunch, which ends at 4:30, we napped at the hotel and ventured up to the Executive Lounge’s happy hour, where we enjoyed canapes and wine. The evening ended with shisha at the hotel bar/restaurant Vista, but that was a little fuzzy after our big day… LOL.
DAY THREE – THE BURJ KHALIFA AND A DUBAI FOOD TOUR
Our second full day in Dubai again started with an early wake up (still jet-lagged), breakfast, and a brief stint at the pool.
Post swim, we ventured to the Dubai Mall, one of Dubai’s famous shopping malls and also home to the Burj Khalifa! Here, we shopped for a bit, even going into one of my favorite French department stores, Galleries Lafayette! The Dubai Mall is a HUGE mall with lots and lots to keep one busy, everything from super upscale stores, to a “souk” all selling tourist things, to a crazy aquarium! Plan out your time if there are specific things that you want to see; one can easily spend an entire day at the Dubai Mall.
The Dubai Mall is also home to the World’s largest tower and Dubai’s most famous tourist attraction, the Burj Khalifa! We had pre-purchased tickets for timed entry to the very top floor of the Burj. Due to COVID-19, there was no wait and pre-purchasing tickets was probably not necessary. But during normal times, definitely pre-buy. We quickly made our way to the 148th Floor, the highest observation deck in the world, for fantastic views of Dubai and the Dubai Fountain. We also stopped by the 124th Floor for more views and eventually back down to the mall entrance level. Going to the top of the Burj Khalifa was exciting, but probably not necessary. Its kind of just like any other super tall building…yet very, very expensive. I plan to write a bit more detailed of a post on the Burj for those interested in visiting.
Our day ended with the most awesome food tour learning about Dubai, visiting the souks and trying traditional Emirati foods. We used Dubai by Foot for the tour, and it was seriously one of the highlights of our trip! Our guide was amazing and we really felt like we got a local feel for Dubai!
DAY THREE – VISITING A PALM & SAFARI-ING IN THE DUBAI DESERT.
Our third day in Dubai started with yet another lovely lounge breakfast and pool morning. Can’t get enough of those, especially with winter coming in the East Coast of US.
Post-breakfast and pool, we ventured to the Jumeirah area of Dubai, an upscale area very close to the famous seven star hotel, the Burj Al Arab. In Jumeirah, we had lunch at the most Instagrammable pink restaurant, The Flamingo Room! I could have spent all day there just sitting. The food was also really good, but not nearly as good as the cocktails at The Flamingo Room!!
This evening, we went on a “desert safari” with Arabian Adventures. A “desert safari” is basically a trip about 1 hour outside of Dubai where tourists ride in jeeps around the desert and then have a dinner in the desert with traditional (well, maybe traditional?) performers. The safari was quite fun and a definite must-do in Dubai, even if you are only in town for a short time!
DAY FOUR – SIGHTSEEING AND INDIAN FOOD
Our last day in Dubai again began with breakfast at the Intercontinental. Surprised? As in the past, breakfast was quite good and we were one of only a few people in the lounge. COVID cleaning protocols were on point, as they were the whole trip.
Post breakfast, we taxied to Al Al Fahidi, the historic (a/k/a tourist) district, to take a tour of the area and across the river to the souks. Lasting two hours, we saw a baby camel (!), a gorgeous wife, and the largest gold ring in the world on our tour. It was interesting, but a bit repetitive of our other tour. Al Fahidi worth a visit if you are a nervous traveler or have kids. Its very clean and made-for-tourists. A Disney Dubai so to speak.
Post-tour, we relaxed at the pool, officially checked out in the Executive Lounge, and partook in the Executive Lounge’s happy hour (they invited us even though we had checked out!).
This evening, we dined at Little Miss India, an Instagrammable Indian restaurant on one of the famous “Palms.” I mean I couldn’t leave a country so close to India without some Indian food! We went early to walk around a bit, which was meh. As I had read, you cannot tell you are on a “Palm” and the area near our restaurant was not super happening (probably due to COVID). Dinner, however, was excellent!! A delicious dinner to end our long weekend in Dubai!
After dinner, we grabbed our bags from the Intercontinental and departed for the airport, where we spent a few hours lounging in Emirates’ Business Class Lounge and drinking allllll of the free Moet! It was pretty great, even though the lounge wasn’t operating at full speed due to COVID-19. And just like that, 4 hours later we landed in the Maldives!
STEAL THIS TRIP
Intercontinental Festival City: English website. Located about 15 minutes from the airport, Festival City is a fun little area with a large mall and many Western chains. We upgraded to an Executive Suite, which provided us with access to the Executive Lounge (free breakfast, tea, and happy hour). Even without the Executive Lounge, the Intercontinental Festival City has other amenities open to all guests, including a pool complex, gorgeous views of Dubai, and a very fancy gym.
Traiteur Brunch: Dubai Creek Club Street Park Hyatt Dubai. 1:00 – 4:30 PM on Friday! Reservations highly recommended.
Dubai Mall: Good source for maps of the mall, events, and store listings.
Burj Khalifa: Official ticket site for Burj Khalifa. Tickets should be purchased in advance.
Dubai by Foot: We took the Flavors or Arabia Food Tour. It started at 6:30 PM, lasted about 3.5 hours, and cost 349 AED per person. Highly, highly recommended!
Arabian Adventures: We took the Evening Desert Safari, with an upgrade to the adult beverage package. The cost was approximately $138 per person.
The Flamingo Room: Open daily 12 – 4:00 PM and 6:00 PM to midnight. Indoor and outdoor seating.
Old Town, Dubai Creek, and Souks Tour: The second tour we took with Get Your Guide. The cost was $44 per person.
Little Miss India: Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah. Reservations recommended. Indoor and outdoor seating.
ON A BUDGET
We had always heard that Dubai was expensive, but we found it to be an affordable destination! Of course, Dubai is full of over-the-top experiences that cost a lot of money, but there are plenty of less expensive activities to occupy your time. Do your research, read local publications regarding free activities and events, and avoid the Palms areas. For example, Festival City, where we stayed, was quite reasonable. You can definitely do Dubai on a budget, you just need to do a bit of pre-planning!