If you find that you have a layover in Dubai, make the most of your time in the United Arab Emirates and check a few things off your must-see bucket list.
You can almost smell the money when you step off the airplane and head into Dubai. After all, this is the hot spot and play-space for many millionaires and billionaires. From Dubai’s manmade Palm Jumeirah (an engineering marvel that is said to change the wave, temperature, and erosion patters in the Persian Golf); to the world-famous Atlantis, The Palm (boasting rooms with underwater views); to an indoor ski resort at Ski Dubai; to the sail-shaped Burj Al Arab Jumeirah (the most luxurious hotel in the world, where the Royal Suite goes for $24,000 per night), Dubai may hold the record for the city that has the most world records. It has the biggest mall, tallest building, tallest hotel (the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai), largest snow park, biggest fireworks display, largest flower garden, and on and on.
The No. 1 thing to see while in Dubai is, of course, the Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building, which stands 2,716.5 feet tall. The Burj Khalifa also has one of the world’s fastest elevators (with the longest travel distance), which travels at 22 mph. Standing with your nose to the glass, you’ll have dizzying panoramic views from the world’s highest outdoor observation deck. When you’re finished snapping photos, and if you can stand the heat, check out the Burj Club Rooftop. It features a gym, spa, swimming, and a view of the Dubai Fountain, the world’s largest choreographed fountain system set to music, located on the 30-acre manmade Burj Khalifa Lake.
For lunch and a bit of downtime, check out the neighboring Armani Hotel. The Armani Deli offers Italian contemporary cuisine in a super sleek atmosphere, with a view of The Dubai Fountain. There’s a large brunch menu and loads of pastry, bread and cheese options. The Armani Spa offers bespoke treatments and access to a lovely outdoor pool, a worthwhile indulgence in this hot and somewhat insufferable desert climate.
For traditional luxury hotel accommodations, check out the Shangri-La Hotel, which is ideally located near the Dubai International Airport, Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain, The Dubai Mall (home to the Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Dubai Ice Rink, and SEGA Republic), and downtown Dubai. Depending on when you arrive (I showed up at 6 a.m.), and how hungry you are, the Shangri-La Hotel has 24-hour in-room dining. Additionally, the Dunes Café and its open kitchen has casual international dining and Hoi An (my favorite) offers award-winning, authentic Vietnamese fare in a lively atmosphere.
At the end of the day, consider a massage treatment at Chi, the Spa at Shangri-La, which will help you relax after a busy day of exploring — or before getting on your departing flight.
If you’ve done all of the above and still have time, visit a gold souk (market) or spice souk, located near Dubai Creek. Check out the top six souks to visit, per Visit Dubai. Afterwards, go on a boat ride down Dubai Creek. If you find that you’re still hanging around the Burj Khalifa, visit the Souk Al Bahar, an Arabic-style shopping mall, which is located at the Dubai Mall.
This is, of course, not an exhaustive list, but it’s a good starting point for your first adventure in Dubai or if you only have a short amount of time to explore. Just remember one tip: bring and drink lots of water wherever you go — the desert heat is punishing.