Whether you’re planning on educating yourself on the culture and traditions of the Emirates while you’re visiting the UAE capital, or prefer to spend quality time shopping at one of the bustling shopping malls, one thing’s for certain: you’re going to need somewhere to lay your head when the days of discovery are done. If opulence is a necessity in this regard, take a look at this rundown of the best luxury hotels in Abu Dhabi.
All that glitters probably is gold at this landmark hotel, which often hosts global dignitaries and A-list celebrities. As opulent on the inside as it is palatial on the outside, Emirates Palace is best known for its liberal use of gold – walls, ceilings, ice creams, cappuccinos and facials all get a bling makeover. This 394-room palace exudes Emirati charm – think domes and Islamic architecture – and boasts plush regal furnishings, manicured gardens, landscaped pools, a private beach, a theatre and a gigantic spa. The dining landscape is just as indulgent, with high-end restaurants like Hakkasan (Asian) and Mezlai (Emirati cuisine) among the venues on offer. There’s a vast kids’ playground with a lazy river and a family pool, too.
This mesmerising resort in Rub Al Khali – the world’s largest sand desert – was designed to reflect traditional Bedouin forts of yesteryear. Located on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, a two-hour drive from the city centre, the 10-year-old property has 140 rooms, 14 suites and 52 pool villas, all of them full of Arabesque luxury, from the Egyptian cotton linens to the marble decor and bespoke art. Each room provides guests with desert views and has a deep soaking bath, rain shower and even a pillow menu. The pool is divine, and there’s a kids’ club and a desert-facing spa, too. When you’re not soaking up the rays or climbing the dunes, there are plenty of activities to try, as well as standout dining options to enjoy like the Bedouin camp-style restaurant. The breakfast spread is expansive and of excellent quality, too.
This beachfront property from Turkish-grown hospitality brand Rixos Hotels is in good company on Saadiyat Island, an exclusive coastal strip located 20 minutes from the central business district and just down the road from the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Built to resemble an Ottoman Palace, this relatively new 378-room resort – the only all-inclusive hotel in the emirate – exudes opulence. The dazzling suede interiors in emerald greens, royal blues and turquoise tones elevate the palatial style of this rich space, as do the chandeliers that glisten overhead. There are eight international restaurants on-site, as well as a dedicated shisha lounge, an expansive private beach, a luxurious Turkish-inspired day spa with traditional hammam and ice cave and a kids’ Aqua Park with a wave pool.
A 20-minute speedboat ride from the mainland, this is the only resort in Abu Dhabi where all the guests arrive by water. Barefoot luxury at its best, the resort has 34 villas, houses and estates, each designed to foster a coastal-getaway vibe. Guests have their own pools to splash about in and bicycles to assist them in getting around the island, which takes an hour to traverse end-to-end on foot. Couples and families will love it here – there’s a surf wave pool, an outdoor cinema and a cosy book cellar nook to keep all the family amused. For those seeking an even more luxurious experience, there are over-water floor-to-ceiling-glass spa suites, and foodies are given a choice of six restaurants and bars. Day trippers are welcome, too – the Friday brunch is a particular draw.
Easily one of the most recognisable hotels in Abu Dhabi thanks to its colourful, patterned facade, this 34-storey building adjoins the city’s most luxurious shopping mall, The Galleria, on Al Maryah Island. Part of a pedestrianised area that connects the hotel with the main island, the Four Seasons is typical of the global brand to which it belongs, with glitzy chandeliers, fresh flowers, luxe furnishings and locally inspired artworks. The property is slick and stylish, with 48 different kinds of marble used in the design. Apart from its centrality – 10 minutes’ drive from the Corniche and within 25 minutes of the airport – the 200-room hotel not only boasts luxurious accommodation (the beds are exceptionally comfy) and an impressive selection of restaurants; it also has a rooftop pool, a bar and a double-storey spa.
The regal dual staircase at the entrance, signature butler service, Remede Spa and monthly helipad soirées make this one of the city’s finest properties. The 283-room hotel on the Abu Dhabi Corniche also boasts a ‘floating’ three-bedroom, two-bathroom suite that’s decked out with gold ceilings, floor-to-ceiling windows and 19 chandeliers. The luxury interiors mirror those of the St Regis flagship property in New York – all Art Deco opulence – but display local touches like Islamic motifs carved into the designs. At the Nation Riviera Beach Club across the road, guests can enjoy the private beach, lap pool and dedicated kids’ club. Its position within walking distance of city attractions like the Founder’s Memorial and Qasr Al Watan (the Royal Palace) make this an ideal base for those looking for centralised luxury. Try a signature bloody mary at the St Regis Bar at the end of a long day of sightseeing.
Gloriously stylish and one of just two hotels in the twinkling Al Bateen marina district of the city – within walking distance of the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Centre and a range of cafés and restaurants – this Ian Schrager-designed hotel brings a unique boutique style to the emirate. A red carpet leads you into a lobby that’s more akin to a luxurious living room than an entryway: a warm and cosy welcome in a glowing peach-toned space, drawn together by a spellbinding kinetic art installation. The three-storey standalone Annex complex is a unique entertainment space, and the trio of restaurants – Market at Edition, the Oak Room and Alba Terrace – come under the direction of British celebrity chef Tom Aikens, his first culinary foray in the emirate. The Abu Dhabi Edition is ideal for couples, although families are also catered for.
Glass-encrusted walls and mesmerising water features set the scene for what’s inside this luxurious sea-facing tower on Al Maryah Island, the island that connects the emirate to the cultural precinct. Typical of the global Rosewood brand, this 189-room hotel oozes luxury, and is individual yet inspired by the culture of the city in which it resides. The building is designed to look like a falcon folding its wings, inspired by the Middle Eastern art of falconry, a hunting sport that is an integral part of the region’s heritage. An ethos of sophistication and comfort continues from the rooms to the communal areas, right through to the selection of quality eateries and even the underground wine cellar, which has more than 1,000 premium labels and a warm, cosy atmosphere.
One of the Shangri-La hotel’s most impressive assets is the impressive view of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. Its location on the banks of the historic Al Maqta waterway that separates Abu Dhabi from the mainland – amid a cluster of other five-star hotels and a traditional souk – is a luxury in itself, as is the fact that no other hotel in the capital has its own abra boats and meandering waterway to ride through. The infinity pool here is spectacular and guests who book into the suites also have access to a free butler service. Among the 213 rooms, there are also six four-bedroom villas with their own private pools. The hotel is just 10 minutes’ drive from the airport and 15 minutes by car from the Corniche.
A pristine beachfront and one of the most photographable pools in the emirate elevate the level of luxury at this seaside resort. Set on prime real estate on Saadiyat Beach, with uninterrupted views of the Arabian Gulf, the Park Hyatt was the first hotel to take up residence on the beach strip that now hosts a handful of five-star properties, and in doing so set the tone for luxury accommodation in the exclusive enclave. The 306-room resort projects understated luxury with furnishings in fresh whites, creams and beige tones. Rooms are open plan with spacious terraces, sea views and first-class amenities, the design taking cues from Arab traditions. Within minutes of the central business district and Louvre Abu Dhabi, the resort is family-friendly and has a beautiful adults-only Artarmia Spa with its own lap pool.
This Venetian-style semi-circular grande dame boasts huge landscaped gardens, a private beach and a large Bedouin-inspired spa. Positioned on one of the city’s oldest waterways, just over 10 kilometres (six miles) from the airport and with some of the best views of Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, it’s full of sparkling interiors, including glistening statement chandeliers, plush lounges and marble flooring. There’s a pianist and a regal staircase, and all 447 rooms offer stunning views and contemporary interiors, not to mention 400-thread-count linens and Asprey toiletries. A destination in its own right, the main building is a short walk from Venetian Village, a waterfront leisure centre offering additional dining options, and a great jumping-off point for exploring some of the other great restaurants in Abu Dhabi.