When in Dubai, it’s all about glitz, glamour, and luxury. There is shopping that offers not only the world’s largest mall, but also all the top designer labels, more Michelin-starred restaurants than you can throw a wooden spoon at, and then there are the hotels. Amazing hotels.
You know that feeling, when you walk into a hotel lobby and simply stop dead, looking up and all around, your jaw-dropping and the neck craning? Those types of hotels.
I have been lucky to have spent six years in Dubai, and while my days were taken up by work and the school runs, I still spent a lot of time in hotels, because this is where you find the best restaurants, meet friends for brunch, or spend the weekend by the pool and on the beach. I have, since I left, visited many times, and got to not only visit but also stay in some superb hotels, so here I have compiled some that tick many boxes, from completely over the top luxury to elegant and non-intrusive luxury, from those with the best brunches to those with added extras, such as a fun water park. Something for everybody, but all at times with an eye-watering price tag.
So, whether you are lucky enough to travel on a luxury budget, are saving up for a special occasion, or just like to look at what is out there and dream, these are for you. Please note that you will see mention of Jumeira(h) throughout this article and this can either relate to the hotel group Jumeirah, or to the neighborhood of Jumeira.
1. Burj Al Arab Jumeirah
Without a doubt, the Burj Al Arab is Dubai’s most iconic hotel. Sitting on its own small island, the sleek sail-shaped hotel is known for its decadent luxury. Be it that everything that looks like gold, is indeed gold and that the glittering ceiling of the in-house restaurant is the largest Swarovski-crystal-studded ceiling in the world, or that the lobby boasts a 590 foot, or 18-story, tall atrium complete with fountains and aquaria, everything about this hotel is mind-blowing.
You can stay in rooms costing just over $1000 per night, or in the Royal Suite, where you won’t see much change from $20,000, but you will be able to enjoy the stunning spa 490-feet above the surrounding sea, rest your head on one or two of the 17 types of pillows on the pillow menu, or even visit the onsite turtle hospital.
Pro Tip: You can get a look inside and behind the scenes of this amazing hotel during a guided hotel tour, which allows you to snoop around without spending a fortune.
2. Atlantis, The Palm
Twin of the Atlantis Hotel on Paradise Island in the Bahamas, the Atlantis The Palm, Dubai is a huge hotel resort at the end of the manmade island called The Palm Jumeirah. In the lobby, an enormous glass sculpture by Dale Chihuly welcomes you, you have countless top restaurants including the lovely Nobu in house, and there is even a luxury shopping mall. Most noticeable is the region’s largest aquarium, in which you can go for a dive and swim with sharks, but which also has a handful of underwater suites with windows, too, making for a quite unique view. Other rooms and suites either look out over the Palm Island or the Arabian Gulf, unless you opt to stay in the utterly decadent Royal Bridge Suite, which spans the two sides of the hotel, and looks out to both views, and offers three bedrooms, a library, a lounge, a 16-person dining room, around the clock butler and chefs, on just under 10,000 square feet. A snip at $30,000 per night.
Pro Tip: Don’t miss out on the Aquaventure water park, reportedly the largest in the world. The steepest of water slides, lazy rivers, and enough fun for the whole family, to go at least twice.
3. Bulgari Resort Dubai
The Bulgari Resort Dubai is proof that luxury can be completely understated, yet omnipresent. The Italian luxury brand Bulgari does not only design desirable jewelry and watches but also has a hand at the elegant layout and interior décor that, together with a superb location and incredible restaurants onsite, will make you not want to leave the resort. Here the design is minimalist and unpretentious, yet luxurious. And it is the little touches that make a stay so memorable: You will receive a woven beach bag personalized with your initials to use — and keep for later. You can hop into a Tesla car with batwing doors with the driver taking you to the restaurants across the in-resort marina; the balconies, with super-comfortable chairs and lounges, are huge, and you get little chocolates from the in-house chocolatier to sample and take away with you (if they last that long), and the minibar looks like an old-fashioned travel trunk.
Pro Tip: Onsite is a superb Italian restaurant, run by a Michelin-starred chef, and the excellent Yacht Club restaurant, which is perfect for lunch. Don’t miss the truffle pizza for starters — it’s so yummy.
4. Jumeirah Al Qasr
The Al Qasr, The Castle, is probably my favorite luxury hotel in Dubai, for many reasons. The drive up to the entrance alone takes your breath away, and once you get out of your car by the fountain where golden horses frolic and enter the lobby with its palatial 1001 Arabian Nights arches and enormous flower arrangements, luxury will have swallowed you up. Add the lush garden setting with canals on which you can ride in an abra, a traditional boat, and the lovely beach with views across the iconic Burj Al Arab, the traditional wind-tower design of the villas, and it’s pretty nice. This is where you get a Friday brunch like no other, and this is also where my favorite restaurant in Dubai, Pierchic, is located perched at the end of a pier with stunning views along the coast.
Pro Tip: This hotel is part of four luxury hotels all nestled within steps from each other, all owned by the Jumeirah group, so you have a plethora of restaurants and facilities to choose from.
5. Palazzo Versace Dubai
After your personal Bentley car has transferred you from the airport to the Palazzo Versace Dubai and you have taken in the typically Versace gold and swirly decor with the emblematic Medusa’s head in evidence everywhere, even in the pool, you will appreciate the different setting for this luxury resort. Instead of along the Arabian Gulf, you’ll find the Palazzo Versace by the Dubai Creek, the manmade inlet of water that winds its way around Dubai, with many an iconic building alongside it, and the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, famous for its countless flamingos, practically on the doorstep. Despite its city location, you have three superb pools fringed by palm trees, and cozy cabanas dotted around for privacy. A selection of restaurants, including one by Michelin-starred chef Mansour Memarian, allows you to dine off Versace fine tableware and, should you feel you need more Versace design in your life back home, there is a shop selling sumptuous interior décor. Despite its opulence, this is one of the more affordable luxury hotels in Dubai, with prices starting at around $350 per night.
Pro Tip: If the various pools are not enough, you can get a free VIP pass to the Nikki Beach Resort and Spa, for a day on the beach.
6. Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai
The Mandarin Oriental has a reputation that goes before it, and the Dubai property does not disappoint. Set along a private beach with rooms offering views either of the Arabian Gulf or the stunning Dubai skyline, this property will make you gasp as you walk under lit metal trees in the lobby, all the way down to the beach. You are greeted by staff donning blue Fedora hats and frock coats and navigate the garden across teak walkways and bridges to the cabanas and five outdoor pools. For fitness freaks, there is also a noted Outrace and Technogym with numerous classes on offer as well, from a beach boot camp to boxing and yoga and dance.
Pro Tip: The hotel is perfect for a city and beach break, as you are steps away from the neighborhood of Jumeirah, full of cafes and small shops, as well as close to the city center, yet you wouldn’t notice it in the resort when enjoying the beach setting.
While you choose where to stay in Dubai, consider these things to do: