In a city of eye-catching, luxury five star hotels, figuring out where to stay in Dubai can be an overwhelming task. Trust me, I was so confused that I booked my hotel just five minutes before my speedboat transfer left my resort island in the Maldives for the airport in Malé, where I’d fly to Dubai just a few hours later (I do NOT recommend this method of booking hotel, but I’d be lying if I said this was my first time cutting it so close).
It’s important to note that Dubai is absolutely not a walking city. It’s perhaps actually the least walkable major city I’ve been to, Los Angeles being a close second. I don’t recommend booking a hotel thinking that you’ll walk to tourist attractions. Instead, think about booking a hotel that offers the most convenient transit options or most reasonable drive to attractions on your Dubai itinerary (driving across the city can take forty minutes or more). Figuring out where to stay in Dubai is key to making sure your trip there is as seamless as possible. When booking a hotel in Dubai, here’s a few neighborhoods you should know about.
This is hands down, my number one recommendation for where to stay in Dubai. It’s also the top recommendation of a friend of mine who’s a local. Why? Dubai is a decentralized city, however Downtown Dubai remains a relative city center. The area itself is anchored by The Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa, and Dubai Fountain.
Luxury lovers are in luck: this neighborhood is saturated with your choice of top five star, luxury hotels. This makes Downtown Dubai one of the most expensive neighborhoods to stay in, but it’s well worth the price tag. Most major tourist attractions are within a 20 minute drive from this neighborhood, making navigating the city fast and relatively inexpensive. Downtown Dubai is also one of the only truly walkable neighborhoods in Dubai, for those that like to explore.
For a unique dining experience, make a reservation at At.mosphere restaurant. Located at the top of the Burj Khalifa, At.mosphere is the tallest restaurant in the world. If you’re looking for a more casual, local dining experience, check out Time Out Market’s Dubai location.
DOWNTOWN DUBAI HOTELS
Combining Arabian design and modern luxury, the Palace Downtown is located on Burj Khalifa Lake, with stunning views of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain. Guests can walk just a few minutes to Time Out Market for a taste of Dubai’s local restaurants, or stay in to enjoy one of the hotel’s many restaurants and spa. When I return, The Palace Downtown is absolutely going to be at the top of my list.
The Address Sky View is perhaps best known for its rooftop infinity pool with unobscured views of the Burj Khalifa. With a clean, contemporary interior, this hotel allows the view shine. Located near the edge of Downtown Dubai, the Address Sky View is a great option for those looking to stay in Downtown Dubai proper, without staying right on the lake. If you’re traveling to Dubai seeking views of its skyscrapers, this is the hotel for you.
For those looking for a similar experience in the heart of Downtown Dubai, consider the Address Downtown.
Although I wouldn’t consider this the best hotel in Downtown Dubai, the Armani Hotel is worth a mention as it’s the only hotel located in the Burj Khalifa itself. Guests can enjoy beautiful views of the Dubai Fountain, while staying in the tallest building in the world. If you’re seeking a unique dining experience, head upstairs to At. Mosphere.
BUSINESS BAY DUBAI
The up and coming Business Bay neighborhood is just a stone’s throw from downtown (seriously, taxi was usually $3-5 to get between the two). Downtown Dubai still reigns superior, however its opulent hotels can get pricey quickly. As Business Bay is more of a financial district, hotel prices stay more reasonable, but don’t lack in luxury.
The good: Downtown Dubai is incredibly hectic! The tourist traffic frankly resembles Times Square, even near midnight. Business Bay is almost something of an oasis, comparatively. The neighborhood is so quiet and relaxed that you’d never know it was just a few minutes from the heart of downtown.
The bad: Keep in mind that because Business Bay is an emerging neighborhood, you’ll likely encounter construction views as development is happening rapidly and frequently.
Although the neighborhood doesn’t have much to do (doesn’t have anything to do, truthfully), it makes up for it in convenience. The area is very safe, and still very central, making it a great pick when considering where to stay in Dubai.
BUSINESS BAY HOTELS
The Oberoi Dubai
The Oberoi is my choice hotel in Business Bay. Every moment spent there felt like luxury. Staff is incredibly attentive, and has great eye for detail. Rooms are spacious and soaked in sunlight (a welcome change from my cave-adjacent apartment). I knew I was going to enjoy my stay at the Oberoi from the minute I saw my room’s large walk-in closet, and nightly turn down service. For my full review of The Oberoi click here. To view The Oberoi Dubai’s current room rates, click here.
This hotel was recently rebranded and upgraded, and is now one of the top hotels in Business Bay. Defining contemporary luxury, St. Regis Downtown Dubai guests can choose a view of the Dubai Creek Canal, or the Burj Khalifa. Also included in the stay is butler service, as well as access to an infinity pool, amongst other signature St. Regis luxury amenities.
BUR DUBAI AND DEIRA: THE HISTORIC DISTRICT
Dubai’s historic district is synonymous with affordable hotels. While it’s tempting to want to book one of the $40/night chains, if you can afford it, I’d recommend selecting a different neighborhood. Just 20 minutes driving from Downtown Dubai, Bur Dubai, Deira, and Al Bastakiya are phenomenal to explore during the day, but their distant location makes them less than convenient.
This neighborhood is by far my favorite to wander in. While in the neighborhood, stop by the Arabian Tea House for a taste of traditional Emirati cuisine. Then, stroll through Al Fahidi Historical District (Al Bastakiya), and learn about Dubai’s culture and religion at the Sheikh Mohammed Center for Cultural Understanding. Admire the tile exterior of the Ali Ibn Ali Talib Mosque, then take a traditional abra across the river and haggle at the souks.
Even though these neighborhoods are typically synonymous with budget hotels, a few of the most unique hotels in Dubai are located in Al Fahidi Historical District. Here, travelers can stay in traditional Arabian houses converted to a hotel.
Keep in mind that Bur Dubai and Deira generally receive mixed reviews for becoming a bit shady at night. These neighborhoods have a reputation past sunset as the city’s unofficial red light district.
If you’re a budget traveler, Bur Dubai and Deira might be the best choice for you. You’ll get to stay in the Dubai’s cultural center, while staying budget-friendly.
BUR DUBAI AND DEIRA HOTELS
Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai, Curio Collection by Hilton
Located in Al Fahidi Historical District, Al Seef Heritage Hotel Dubai is far from your average Hilton hotel. This resort spans over several traditional Arabian mud houses. Channeling the local roots, this unique hotel in Dubai is best for the traveler looking to immerse themselves in history and culture. Click here to see more.
XVA Art Hotel
Also in the heart of Al Bastakiya is XVA Art Hotel. This design focused hotel aims to combine history and heritage into a “designer haven.” The hotel is located in the former home of the Seddiqi family, a prominent name in luxury watch retailers. Even if you don’t stay at this hotel, stop by for a stroll through its rotating art gallery. See current room rates here.
The Palm certainly is fascinating from above, but on the ground, isn’t necessarily quite as impressive. Staying in Palm Jumeirah is best recommended for travelers looking to stick with a resort and beach club itinerary. If you’re looking to see the Palm, check out the monorail, which can give you a view of the Palm’s stem for just around a dollar. New to the Palm is the recently opened observation deck, where tourists can view the Palm from above. At the end of the Palm is a shopping development, where the majority of restaurants on the Palm are located.
PALM JUMEIRAH RESORTS
Perhaps the most instantly recognizable hotel on The Palm, Atlantis is widely regarded as one of the top luxury resorts for families in Dubai. Located in the center at the end of the Palm, Atlantis is home to oversized rooms, a waterpark, and an aquarium. All inclusive options are available at this beachfront resort in Dubai.
Experience a taste of Thailand at this beachfront resort on The Palm. Anantara The Palm Dubai is home to Thai-inspired water villas nestled around lagoon-style pools. Located on The Palm’s eastern crescent, this five star hotel can be found as low as $113 when booked in advance.
Not to be confused with Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah is nestled between the Palm and Downtown Dubai, on the coast. Overall, the neighborhood is very residential. As a result, as you sort through hotel results you may notice that in Jumeirah, some hotels are located in condominium complexes. The Jumeirah neighborhood is broken up into three segments: Jumeirah 1, Jumeirah 2, and Jumeirah 3. In Jumeirah 1, you’ll find affordable chain hotels such as the Crowne Plaza and Mercure. In Jumeirah 2 and 3, you’ll find major luxury beach resorts such as the Four Seasons and Mandarin Oriental.
Keep in mind that Jumeirah is large! Traveling between Jumeirah 1 and Jumeirah 3 is 15+ minutes in a taxi, or a walk over an hour long (couldn’t be me in that Dubai heat, but it wasn’t for lack of trying).
Jumeirah is home to Jumeirah Mosque, one of the few mosques in Dubai open to the public. Walk a few blocks nearby to Satwa, where you’ll find buildings covered in intricate Iranian mosaic. You’ll also see the stunning Imam Hussein Mosque, an Iranian-style mosque also open to the public. Jumeirah is the best place to stay for tourists looking to balance proximity to attractions and budget, as hotels in Jumeirah tend to be affordably priced compared to Downtown Dubai, The Palm, or Business Bay.
Located in Jumeirah 1, this airy 5 star hotel can be found as low as $46. Guests can enjoy marble bathrooms, an expansive pool, and contemporary room design. Click here for current room rates.
Best for travelers looking to spend their vacation relaxing at a resort, the Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach is perfect for luxury lovers. The beachfront property features sun soaked rooms with private balconies, 10 restaurants, and stunning views.
Looking for the best things to do in Dubai? Click here to read about some of my must-go attractions and restaurants.
WHAT TO WEAR IN DUBAI
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