Dubai remains one of the most popular holiday destinations in the world. Once part of a busy hub terminal in the United Arab Emirates, the desert city has grown in stature and is now considered a bucket-list trip in its own right. Here are 11 reasons why you should plan to visit this dynamic city in 2021.
There are a number of new openings, festivals and events happening across Dubai in 2021. We’ve picked out some of the best, along with a range of hotels that will help you plan now to travel later. What makes 2021 a particularly exciting prospect is the combination of delayed 2020 projects sitting side by side with scheduled openings in the new year, meaning you’ll have more reasons to visit the city.
Expo 2020 Dubai
This six-month-long event was scheduled to start in October 2020, but it will now take place from 1 October 2021 to 31 March 2022. The theme of Connecting Minds, Creating the Future will be at the core of the event, and the place of Dubai itself on the global stage will be examined.
This World Expo will be the first one in the Middle East, Africa and South Asia (MEASA) region, and the largest event ever staged in the Arab world.
Expo 2020 is the first one in the Middle East Courtesy of Dubai Tourism
Dubai Shopping Festival
If you’re after a retail-therapy experience, the Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is the perfect way to kick off 2021. It will take place across the city, with events that everyone can take part in – even if you’re not interested in shopping. The DSF starts in late 2020 and will run into the first part of 2021.
Missippi’s rooftop hub
Missippi’s Pool Bar and Social Hub is a fun, new-age urban oasis on the rooftop of the Avani Ibn Battuta Dubai Hotel. Combining colourful elements of Bali, Tulum and Miami, the venue serves a selection of globally inspired bites, creative cocktails and other drinks. This new venue is typical of the type of fun destination you’ll be able to find in Dubai next year, with the city residents already enjoying spectacular views long into the night.
Dubai is a foodie paradise. The best chefs in the world are drawn here, with new restaurants opening regularly, and the cuisine is truly international, with more than 200 nationalities calling Dubai home. The Dubai Food Festival will celebrate some of the best local dishes and food from around the world, and several exciting new ventures – including Michelin-star chef Daniel Boulud’s first restaurant in the region – will keep food lovers coming back for more.
Brasserie Boulud is chef Daniel Boulud’s first restaurant in the Middle East Courtesy of Dubai Tourism
Experiencing Ramadan in a Muslim city is a great way to learn more about the annual month of fasting that most Muslims take part in. While no one will expect you to fast if you don’t want to, you’ll be invited to join in iftar – breaking of the fast at sunset. Dubai comes alive at night during Ramadan, with Emiratis taking the opportunity to celebrate before the fasting begins again just before sunrise. Ramadan 2021 will start in mid-April and run for a month.
Ramadan 2021 will start in mid-April Courtesy of Dubai Tourism
The 14th edition of Art Dubai will once again shine a light on the extensive collections and artists from the wider region. Numerous galleries take part each year, but even if you can’t attend the event in March, the art fair has year-round programming that you can enjoy. In Dubai, the art scene grows year on year, with grand projects such as the Theatre of Digital Art allowing visitors to experience classic works in contemporary ways.
Museum of the Future
One of the most anticipated new museum openings in recent years, the Museum of the Future is set to become one of the most recognisable buildings in Dubai, if not the world. The exciting design is complemented by the curated exhibitions inside, dedicated to innovation and science. Designed by Shaun Killa in the shape of a torus, with its roundness representing the earth and the sky and the empty middle signifying the unknown, it’s already one of the world’s most complex buildings. The exact opening date is yet to be finalised, but construction is in the final stages.
When complete, the Museum of the Future will be one of the most recognisable buildings in Dubai Courtesy of Dubai Tourism
On Bluewaters Island, Ain Dubai is the world’s largest Ferris wheel. The 210m (689ft) tall ride will be able to hold 48 capsules, each accommodating up to 40 people, and give passengers the chance to see the breathtaking Dubai skyline in all its glory, including views of the Burj Khalifa and Palm Jumeirah. To give you an idea of the scale of the structure, each spoke holding up the wheel is longer than a football pitch.
As if to confirm the fact that Dubai is keen to hold as many of the world’s largest attractions in one place, here’s another one. The Palm Fountain at the Pointe in Palm Jumeirah became the world’s largest dancing fountain when it opened in October 2020. Its 3,000 multicoloured lights illuminate jets of seawater from sunset until midnight, every night. The spectacular shows are set to the tune of Arabic and international songs.
Escape to Hatta
Not many visitors travel away from the city centre of Dubai, which is a shame when you have great options nearby, such as Hatta. When you’re surrounded by tall buildings and tarmac roads, it’s easy to forget that this is a desert region, but 90 minutes away is the majesty of the Hajar Mountains, which will remind you exactly where you are. Adventurers have known about the Hatta enclave for a while now, as the area is home to some extreme sports.
Go zip-lining in Hatta Courtesy of Dubai Tourism
Theme parks and water rides
Dubai has a number of thrilling water rides and theme parks that have become something of a trademark of the city. There are Lego- and Bollywood-themed adventures across Dubai Parks and Resorts, so there’s something to cater to every taste here. New for 2021, Trident Tower will add 12 new rides for thrillseekers to experience.
Dubai has a theme park and water ride to pique anyone’s interest Courtesy of Dubai Tourism
Places to stay in Dubai
Home to more than 700 hotels, Dubai can cater to every taste and budget. While new properties are opening all the time, here is our selection of highly recommended places to stay that offer a perfect way to experience this incredible city.
The Renaissance Dubai Downtown is a luxury option that really does have it all. From excellent views to a location in the heart of Downtown Dubai, it’s one of the most complete hotels you can find anywhere in the city. It’s an ideal hassle-free stay, with many amenities at hand, in an easy-to-reach part of town.
Sitting in the historic Al Jaddaf region, the FORM incorporates design elements from the dhows (traditional sailing vessels) that travel up and down the waterways of the nearby canals. There are fascinating contemporary touches throughout, some of which are playfully hidden in plain sight. You can also book experiences directly through the hotel that take you onto the water to enjoy Dubai’s classic sunset views.
Aiming to fill a void among the large spread of hotels in Dubai, the XVA Art Hotel provides a relaxing daytime spot where you can also spend the night. The venue was created as a forum for local artists to show their work in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, and now, it’s one of the best places to overnight in the city.
JA Hatta Fort Hotel is a great place to stay if you want to explore an area of Dubai that not many people think of visiting. While there are some relaxing options on this list, this one is tailor-made for adventurers. The mountains are spectacular and easily reached by car, offering another unique element to your stay in Dubai.
We mentioned taking a trip out of the city as a thing to try in 2021. Hatta is an area that will give you a glimpse of what it looks like away from the skyscrapers and tarmac. The luxury trailers here are a mixture of glamping and cabin retreats, with the selling point being a night under the stars.
In keeping with what you might expect from a trip to one of the most glamorous cities in the world, Al Maha Desert Resort and Spa offers all the comfort of the big central hotels in Dubai but lies in a secluded desert reservation. You’ll be able to enjoy your morning coffee while taking in the sight of camels galloping across the sandy plains.
A stylish and affordable option is a rare find in Dubai, but Rove Downtown exceeds expectations on both fronts. There’s also the Rove Le Mer if you want a beach experience in the city, but the underrated Downtown area is well worth exploring, too.
Dubai’s skyline can be confusing to understand from the ground level. The sheer scale of it is impressive, but you need to get yourself a room with a view of the city to take it all in. Ideally situated in Downtown Dubai, the luxurious Address Sky View is a great option for first-time visitors to the city, as it lets you orient yourself with ease.