City Guide: Dubai

Dubai is one of the biggest metropolises on this planet and is known for its many skyscrapers. At the same time, the city doesn’t have a lot of history. In this City Guide, I’ll explain why visiting Dubai is not for everyone and what you should see when visiting!

Dubai is one of those cities, which some people find amazing, while others hate it. It’s not that Dubai has the culture of a city like Paris and it definitely doesn’t come with historic importance of Rome. Nevertheless, Dubai made an appearance of the map for most tourists in the late 20th century, when the local government started heavily investing in rejuvenating the city, making it a global airline hub, a beach destination and a city full of skyscrapers. Today, Dubai is the idol for neighboring cities like Abu Dhabi or Doha. Nevertheless, Dubai still isn’t the perfect destination for everyone.

Dubai Creek and the Old Souq

If there is something that Dubai is clearly lacking than it is a proper Old Town. Sure, there’s an area that’s named Old Town, but it doesn’t feel particularly old to me. I’ve walked through the streets, but didn’t find many buildings that are noteworthy.

Dubai Old Souq

The only building that remained in my head is the Heritage House.

Dubai Heritage House

What’s interesting about this area near the Dubai Creek in the old part of the city are the many markets (called Souq). The most important and known one is the Gold Souq, where you buy jewelry of any kind.

Dubai Gold Souq

The Old Souq is another enjoyable market, which comes with a variety of different options, ranging from different clothes to scarves to food. However, I found it really annoying how aggressive the merchants are acting here. I was not only once “forced” to stop because I was “strangled” by a scarf around my neck.

When in Old Town, I’d recommend checking out the Dubai Creek, which is the artificial river flowing through town. It’s especially nice here as there is a small tower with a cute little harbor. You can also hang around the water here or stroll along the promenade for a bit.

Even though my amazement about this part of Dubai was limited, I’d still say that you should check out Dubai Old Town as it’s the most historic and somewhat different part of town.

Burj Khalifa and the Khalifa Lake

Speaking of differences, let’s get to the Burj Khalifa, which is a couple of kilometers away from the Old Town and part of a large complex of high-rising buildings, malls and other attractions. The skyscraper is quite fascinating, but I didn’t feel like paying a fortune to get up or dine in any of the outlets.

Dubai Burj Khalifa

The malls around the Burj are the typical bling-bling, which you’ll also find in any luxury mall in North America, Europa or even Asia or South Africa. The Khalifa Lake in-between the malls is quite nice though and is definitely a nice place to hang out for a while.

Dubai Burj Khalif Lake

Something I enjoyed quite a bit was the Botero Statue right on the Khalifa Lake, which looks quite funny with the Burj Khalifa in the background.

Botero Dubai

Who would have thought that the South-American artist would make it to a city like Dubai?

Dubai’s unique Jumeirah Beach

There are three things that make Dubai an important touristic destination: skyscrapers, shopping and the beach. The latter can be best spotted when visiting Jumeirah Beach, which you can access by using the metro and then changing to the tram as it’s located a mere 20 kilometers out of the city center.

Dubai Jumeirah Skyline

Jumeirah Beach actually feels like a town in itself and, once again, comes with a ton of high-rising buildings. All are modern and most basically look the same. The beach itself is quite nice and comes with beautiful sand and direct access to the (hot) sea.

You may also spot the artificial island ‘The Palm’, where even more luxury hotels are located. Speaking of luxury hotels, those are to be found all along the beach promenade, while skyscrapers behind mainly house apartments and some offices.

While nicely done with some artificial rivers and thus lots of water, I didn’t find Jumeirah Beach to be that fascinating.

Overall impressions of Dubai

I’ve just given you a quick glimpse of Dubai as there’s more to see: Basically more skyscrapers and a couple of artificial islands. I’ve walked around town for a few kilometers (it wasn’t that hot in April), but couldn’t really enjoy the city overall. While there are a few interesting corners and definitely some ‘wows’, I don’t think that Dubai is particularly charming. Staying at the Conrad Dubai was a joy, as usual, but when it comes to pure tourism, Dubai wouldn’t be my first choice to visit.

Have you been to Dubai? Feel free to ask anything or share your impressions in the comments!

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12 Comments on “City Guide: Dubai”

  1. A few of my friends are always telling me that I’d love Dubai and that I absolutely have to to visit, but I’ve never understood the appeal (and your post helps confirm my belief that it’s not the right destination for me… at least until I win the lottery!).

  2. I’ve been visiting Dubai for over 20 years and have seen the place evolve. I agree there’s nothing of real historical significance but the Souks (gold and spice) along with the Creek (boat trip) are worth a visit. You didn’t mention it but I much enjoyed going out into the desert and Dubai Marina. Dubai is what it is and it’s trying hard to create areas, such as City Walk which have a different, almost European feel. Dubai’s USP is its excellent hotels even though they are no longer the bargains they once were. Here’s the post from my most recent trip:-

    • Yeah I agree. Dubai hasn’t got one centre as such, it has clusters all of which have something to offer. I love the cafes at Citywalk

    • Thanks for your very interesting insights! Dubai is definitely developing and the luxury hotels are obviously great (prices are usually down in summer, but quite high in winter) 🙂

  3. Hmm interesting. How long were you in Dubai? I think you have to take Dubai for what it is, and not compare it to a European historical city. It’s a modern city that’s gone from desert to skyscrapers in 30 years! I’m surprised you didn’t go up the Burj Khalifa as that is an experience. I live in Dubai and have plenty of posts about how to spend your time there on my blog. It’s a shame you didn’t get to see the desert

    • Obviously, Dubai is very different to European cities and I really like taking cities for what they are (Hongkong for example is also nothing like Europe, but still high up on my list. The same is true for cities like Lima). I totally see why people love Dubai, but it just isn’t really my place. I’ll definitely check out your blog though and maybe I’ll enjoy some of the recommended places (and the desert) next time. The last times, I had just one or two days for sightseeing, so that’s always a little limited between business 🙂

  4. My sister in law is from Dubai. She always talk about how great it is. We been wanting for a desert safari for a long time now. Do you think December would be a good time. I would to visit the shopping bazaar over there. I am from India and we have bazaar of spice jewelry over in north India. But I never got chance to experience them.

    • I think December is a great time, especially temperature wise. It’s also an expensive time, but there’s hardly a better time of the year to visit.

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