The Best Area To Stay in Dubai
Within a couple of decades, the largest city in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has been magically transformed from a fishing and pearl-farming village into one of the most modern metropolises on earth. Often just used as a stopover between long-haul flights, Dubai offers some Arabian charm among the deserts and souks (markets), but most travelers come here for the warm weather (which is scorching from May to October), English-speaking residents and Western-style malls, very competitive hotel rates, and abundance of activities from dune buggies to waterparks (which are especially good for families).
Stretching about 40km along the narrow, flat, and arid land from the airport to the Dubai Marina – and still connected throughout by the excellent metro – the city is jam-packed with places to stay in all price ranges. Most hotels are modern, upmarket, and good value, but some with notable Arabian-style charm and history and a few boutique guesthouses can also be found. However, very few budget-priced places are recommended.
Hotels catering to those staying a short while between flights are located near the airport and in the adjacent and more authentic neighborhood of Deira. Even better for short (or longer) stays is the charismatic area around Dubai Creek (which resembles a river). Alongside that waterway are the enchanting and historic districts of Al Fahidi and Al Seef, which have both been substantially renovated. Nearby, and with an appealing combination of old Arabia and new Dubai, are the areas of Bur Dubai and Bur Juman.
Modern-day Dubai stretches further southwest and incudes dedicated districts with unexciting names like Business Bay, Dubai Media City, and Dubai Internet City. These areas – and, in particular, the stylish Dubai Marina – are full of high-rise offices, 5-star hotels, and top-notch apartments. Beaches with family-friendly hotels and resorts facing shimmering white sands and glassy blue waters have been created at Mina Seyahi and along the city coastline called Jumeirah. And jutting out into the sea, the remarkable man-made island, Palm Jumeirah, houses some of the swankiest resorts on earth.
The Best Places to Stay in Dubai
- Best Luxury Hotels in Dubai
One&Only Royal Mirage • Bvlgari Resort, Dubai • The Oberoi, Dubai • Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers • Taj Dubai • Atlantis, The Palm
- Best Luxury Apartments in Dubai
Arjaan by Rotana – Dubai Media City • Dubai Marriott Harbour Hotel & Suites • Grosvenor House, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Dubai • Marriott Executive Apartments Dubai Creek
- Best Midrange Hotels in Dubai
Crowne Plaza Dubai – Deira • Hyatt Place Al Rigga • Hyatt Place Wasl District Residences • Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel
- Best Boutique Hotels in Dubai
Al Seef Heritage Hotel • XVA Art Hotel • Canopy by Hilton Dubai Al Seef • Park Regis Boutique Hotel
- Best Family Hotels in Dubai
Habtoor Grand Resort, Autograph Collection • Le Méridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina • Le Royal Méridien Beach Resort & Spa • The Ritz-Carlton Hotel • Swissôtel Al Ghurair • The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
- Best Budget Hotels in Dubai
Hampton by Hilton Dubai Al Seef • Premier Inn Dubai International Airport Hotel • Holiday Inn Express Dubai Airport • Ibis One Central – World Trade Centre Dubai • Le Wana Hotel • City Avenue Hotel
Best Areas in Dubai for…
- Best Area in Dubai for Sightseeing: Bur Dubai
Traveling to attractions can take up a substantial part of each precious day, so it makes sense to stay in an area that’s central and well connected by public transport. The older, inner-city suburb of Bur Dubai offers its own attractions such as authentic souks (markets). It is also convenient to Dubai Creek, which is lined with traditional boats and ‘floating restaurants’, and to the historic neighborhoods of Al Fahidi and Al Seef. To places further away, there are several stations for the metro service, which is extensive, comfortable, and reliable. Otherwise, the streets are lined with cheap and metered taxis.
- Best Area in Dubai for Nightlife: Dubai Marina
Dubai is more flexible than most countries in the region about alcohol, but authorities have zero tolerance with public drunkenness and drink-driving. Beer, wine, and, especially, spirits are among the most expensive on the planet because of local taxes, and mostly only served in bars or licensed restaurants at hotels or in nightclubs. Some of the city’s hippest bars and trendiest nightclubs are on the rooftops of the lofty high-rises along the exotic Dubai Marina.
- Best Area in Dubai for Food & Restaurants: Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
Many of the award-winning and most popular bistros are in hotels and resorts where menus are long, prices high, and service world-class. Among the several Thai, Indian, and Japanese restaurants, it is still possible to try some Middle Eastern cuisine – even in a reconstructed ‘oasis’ with belly dancing performances. The finest choice of eateries, with the added appeal of a beachside setting, is along the main streets between JBR and Dubai Marina.
- Best Area in Dubai for Families: Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
Dubai offers an extraordinary range of activities for families – from LEGOLAND to Aquaventure Waterpark – and many are within a short taxi trip of the lovely beach at JBR. Most hotels and resorts at JBR offer family-friendly amenities such as a children’s pool, kids club, and playground, and are within a short stroll of a fabulous range of eateries (see above). To explore further, a tram service loops around the area and Dubai Marina, and connects to the citywide metro.
- Best Area in Dubai for Beaches: Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
The extended city coastline called Jumeirah includes several public beaches plus one commandeered by resorts along the area loosely called JBR. All offer calm water and clean white sand, but beware of rip tides – so swim between the flags where lifeguards are positioned. Adding to the appeal of JBR are the range of places to eat (see earlier) and the trams that loop around the area and Dubai Marina and connect to the citywide metro.
- Best Area in Dubai for Outdoor Activities: Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
Several resorts around the JBR area offer water-sports from jet-skis and parasailing to paddleboats and kayaking, but the choice is not as wide or affordable as Bali or Thailand. Other activities more related to the Arab region, such as hot air balloons, quad bikes, and camel rides, can be arranged through hotels and travel agencies. These include transfers from any hotel in Dubai.
- Best Area in Dubai for History: Al Fahidi
Dubai’s oldest district has been heavily renovated but still retains a likable charm. The maze of lanes delightfully devoid of vehicles lead to Arabian-style buildings of ‘mud-bricks’ and wind-towers. Many have been beautifully converted to inviting galleries, museums, as well as guesthouses and cafés based around courtyards. Start exploring the area at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
- Best Area in Dubai for Vibe and Culture: Dubai Creek
Both sides of Dubai Creek – which resembles a river but is actually an outlet of the sea – nicely combine old Arabia with modern Dubai. Upmarket hotels, as well as a golf course and extended park, vie for precious water frontage with wharves for traditional dhow boats and terminals for abra water-taxis – all offering a historical allure and fascinating skyline. Best enjoyed along the vehicle-free path between the Sheraton and Radisson Blu hotels.
- Best Area in Dubai for Markets: Deira
One of the oldest and most atmospheric districts is home to several souks (markets), where almost everything is sold – although others also seemingly hidden along narrow alleys specialize in spices and gold. The souks are usually more authentic during the cooler early mornings. Haggling is obligatory, but note: ‘designer’ watches and handbags will be of dubious authenticity.
- Best Area in Dubai for Malls: Downtown
Emiratis, tourists, and expats just love shopping – and more so at modern malls than traditional markets. Most malls in Dubai are massive – often overwhelmingly so – and feature cinemas, games arcades, and vast food courts. On the edge of Downtown, The Dubai Mall, arguably the world’s largest, also has an ice-skating rink, aquarium, and even a real full-sized dinosaur skeleton. Downtown is halfway along Dubai and well-connected by metro to the other colossal and world-class options such as Mall of the Emirates and WAFI Mall.
- Best Area in Dubai for Transport: Deira
Almost everyone arrives in Dubai by air and those staying a while will probably use the very useful metro that stretches from the airport to Dubai Marina (and beyond). Deira is particularly useful because it: (1) is within a few miles by taxi or metro of the airport (but unaffected by plane noise), (2) has several metro stations, including a junction at Union Square for both lines, (3) is close to Dubai Creek, along which traditional abra water-taxis connect to the Bur Dubai and Al Fahidi regions, and (4) is packed with taxis, which are all metered and inexpensive.
- Most Romantic Area in Dubai: Palm Jumeirah Island
Some of the ritziest and priciest hotels and resorts on earth are spread across this remarkable island, which is man-made and shaped like a palm. Most offer intimate accommodations, including suites with jacuzzis, superb views, and romantic dining along the waterfront, which is particularly majestic at sunset. The island is also just a short trip by taxi, or monorail and tram, to the powdery-white beaches at Mina Seyahi and Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR), and all the boutiques, bars, and nightclubs along the fashionable Dubai Marina.
- Best Area in Dubai for First-Timers: Bur Juman
This inner-city residential area is only a short trip by taxi or metro from the airport, which can be important because so many flights seem to arrive/depart at awful times. Bur Juman is conveniently between modern-day Dubai, with all its malls and beachside bistros, and the older areas of Dubai Creek (lined with traditional boats and ‘floating restaurants’) and Deira (packed with markets). This extended district is also not as crowded with people as the older parts of the city or as clogged with traffic as the newer sections. Added attractions are the superb mall, an abundance of familiar fast-food outlets, and convenience of the excellent metro, including a junction for both lines.
- Safest Area in Dubai: Downtown
No area within Dubai is particularly unsafe but take the usual precautions – especially around the crowded markets and metro services. The trouble that most tourists get into is often self-inflicted: e.g. public drunkenness and inappropriate dressing. Overwhelmingly packed during the day with office workers and foreign business people, the area known as Downtown is spacious, modern, well-lit, and convenient (which ensures shorter trips by metro).
The 10 Best Neighborhoods in Dubai for Tourists
This likable and convenient residential area is close to the Dubai airport and nicely distant from the more touristy districts further down the coast. It offers more than enough amenities for tourists – often more likely to be locally-run supermarkets than malls – as well as souks (markets) dedicated to gold and spices. Mostly populated by Emiratis and resident workers from other countries rather than tourists and western expats, Deira has several stations for both lines of the excellent metro that stretches the length of Dubai and links to the airport. With plenty of budget accommodations, and a few more upmarket options, all the hotels listed below are less than 15 minutes from the airport, so it’s terrific for short stays between flights.
2. Dubai Creek
Wide enough to resemble a major river rather than a creek, it’s actually neither: just an outlet of the sea. One of the most historic and atmospheric districts, Dubai Creek is plied by traditional abra water-taxis and lined with ‘floating restaurants’. The few hotels along the water’s edge offer some of the city’s more varied views, while others may be just across the main road from the wharf with traditional dhow boats. Less than 15 minutes from the airport, this is the best option if staying a short while between flights. Also connected by the excellent metro to the airport and all the beaches and malls across Dubai.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Hilton Dubai Creek • Radisson Blu Hotel, Dubai Deira Creek • Sheraton Dubai Creek Hotel & Towers • Al Bandar Arjaan by Rotana – Dubai Creek
- Best Luxury Apartments: Flora Creek Deluxe Hotel Apartments • Marriott Executive Apartments Dubai Creek • Emirates Concorde Hotel & Apartments
- Best Moderate Hotels: Riviera Hotel • Best Western Plus Pearl Creek
Within ultra-modern Dubai, it’s so lovely and rare to stay somewhere historic – even if both of these areas have been substantially rebuilt and reconstructed. Still maintaining a lovable charm, Al Fahidi, the city’s oldest neighborhood, is filled with guesthouses, cafés, galleries, and museums within ‘mud-brick’ buildings along meandering lanes nicely distant from traffic. Al Seef is an amazing rebuilt ‘old Arab village souk’ (market) congested with shops and cafés also crafted from ‘mud-brick’. Both areas are wonderfully positioned alongside Dubai Creek: close to genuine old-style markets, about 1km from the excellent metro with connections across Dubai and the airport, and handy to the bus station for services across the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Heading further away from the older parts of the city on either side of Dubai Creek, these two areas still retain some history and charm before Dubai turns into dusty clusters of high-rises further down the coast. Bur Dubai is home to numerous mosques, several traditional markets, and the fascinating Dubai Museum within a 230-year-old fort. Adjacent and often ignored, Bur Juman offers a range of good-value hotels and familiar fast-food outlets, as well as a superb mall. Both areas are connected by the useful metro that stretches to the beaches, malls, and airport, and are within a short taxi trip of the bus station for services across the country.
- Best Luxury Hotels: Four Points by Sheraton Downtown Dubai • Grand Excelsior Hotel – Bur Dubai • Grayton Hotel • Burjuman Arjaan by Rotana – Dubai
- Best Luxury Apartments: Savoy Crest Hotel Apartments • Rose Garden Hotel Apartments – Bur Dubai
- Best Moderate Hotels: Park Regis Kris Kin Hotel • Jacob’s Garden Hotel
5. Business Bay and Downtown
Business Bay is clustered with office blocks, apartment buildings, and luxury hotels within an area called Downtown – probably because it’s about halfway along Dubai, although there is no real city center. Conveniently between old and new Dubai, Downtown is dominated by the world’s tallest building (Burj Khalifa), walkable to The Dubai Mall (arguably the planet’s largest), and bisected by the new Dubai Canal which connects to Dubai Creek. Downtown is also particularly easy to reach by the metro service that connects to the rest of Dubai and the airport.
Near the upscale Dubai Marina and monorail station for Palm Jumeirah Island, Mina Seyahi is a delightful expanse of calm water and white sand lined with world-class resorts. As well as areas just inland with less exotic names like Dubai Internet City and Dubai Media City, this part of Dubai is less crowded and less overbuilt than the Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) area and Dubai Marina, but still connected to both regions by tram. (These trams also link with the handy metro that connects to the rest of Dubai and the airport.)
7. Dubai Marina
Between Mina Seyahi Beach (see above) and the Jumeirah Beach Residence area (see below) is one of the city’s poshest addresses. Dubai Marina is overbuilt and overcrowded with high-rise apartments and hotels facing an artificial stretch of water lined with particularly inviting bistros, nightclubs, and bars. Trams loop around the area connecting all the cafés and shops along the Jumeirah Beach Residence area and linking to the metro which stretches across Dubai as far as the airport.
Jumeirah is the name of a very long stretch of city coastline that includes the public Jumeirah Open Beach, remarkable Madinat Jumeirah ‘old Arab village’, and very upmarket Jumeirah Beach Residence area. (Adding to the confusion, Jumeirah is also the name of a local chain of 5-star hotels.) Along a man-made island created by the Dubai Marina, JBR offers shimmering white sands and glassy blue waters, as well as water-sports, fabulous bistros and boutiques, and several top-class hotels and resorts – many ideal for families. Trams loop around the area, also connecting to Dubai Marina and the metro for the rest of the city and the airport.
This internationally-famous and man-made island sprawling across the water in the shape of a palm tree offers some of the swishest and priciest hotels and resorts on the planet – but few other facilities. It may, however, disappoint some: much of the island is dusty clusters of high-rises among construction sites and the unique design is impossible to appreciate from ground level – only on a helicopter tour and, to a lesser degree, by the monorail, which shuttles down the ‘trunk’ of the ‘palm’ – but not along its ‘fronds’.
As one of the world’s major transport hubs, many come to Dubai just to get a connection elsewhere. Actually closer to Sharjah (another city in the United Arab Emirates) than most of Dubai, the airport is less than 15 minutes by taxi or metro to the older and more interesting districts of Deira and Dubai Creek. For early departures and late arrivals, however, there is no shortage of airport hotels. All are wonderfully soundproofed and some provide free transfers 24/7, but very few places to eat, drink, or shop are within walking distance, so hotels provide everything needed. (The airport is also well-connected to the rest of Dubai by the excellent metro.)