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As home to a hotel, award-winning restaurants, a nightclub, and a few lucky Dubai residents, the Burj Khalifa is only accessible to the public via a ticket to the observation deck, but the surrounding area gives just enough freedom to roam around without invading anyone’s privacy. Located in Downtown Dubai, the entire area is filled with an array of world-class attractions; most notably, Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Boulevard, which comes to life during winter nights; the Dubai Opera, which just recently opened; hotels and residences that offer a peek into what life is like locally; and, of course, a multitude of dining options.
The best time to visit the area, and Dubai in general, is during the cooler autumn and winter months, when you can explore the city in comfortable temperatures. Although the Boulevard is accessible by car, having a walk around the area is the best way to see the local community and enjoy the scenery. The weather at this time of year will also be conducive to better photography, without the dust and humidity so pervasive throughout Dubai during the summer months.
The main tourist attraction and the most crowded area is the bridge connecting the Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar – making it also unfortunately the best place for a photo composition of the Dubai Fountain with the Burj Khalifa in the background. However, head right from the bridge towards the Burj and you will find a much more open, less crowded view of the fountain with the Souk Al Bahar in the background. Walk even further down and you will discover a 180-degree view of the fountain, a better view of the Burj and the real local view of the area.
Surrounding the Dubai Fountain, the Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar is a variety of cafes, bars and world-class restaurants all which overlook the Dubai Fountain and Burj Khalifa. You can grab a traditional Arabic coffee at Café Bateel, enjoy an international or Arabic breakfast at Social House, head to Abd El Wahab for a traditional Levantine meal or Baker and Spice for a choice of western cuisine. The area however has over 100 restaurants and cafes, so there is always something to choose from. Souk al Bahar is a great place for romantic dinners at Kanpai, or for catching a match at the seafood-driven sports bar Claw, or to have shisha and Arabic tea under the stars at Shakespeare & Co. The area is just as buzzing at night as it is throughout the day!
Let’s face it, the main attraction is seeing the city from the highest point possible. Make sure you book your tickets in advance as a spontaneous trip on the day will cost you twice as much. As you head up, you will discover the observation deck is on the 120th floor, and positioned to give you some of the views of land and sea, so take a moment to enjoy the incredible sights or grab a camera and capture it for posterity. The sun will do its job, giving you great light for all your photos from midday to sunset – so you can’t go wrong no matter what time of day you visit.