Winter Sun and Cultural Fun in Dubai

A stay in the Atlantis hotel is just one of many delights in Dubai
A stay in the Atlantis hotel is just one of many delights in Dubai | Photo by Aldo Loya on Unsplash

Editorial Manager

One of the best-known winter sun destinations for European travellers is Dubai. The emirate is seen as a clean, safe option with sunshine virtually guaranteed all year round. However, there’s also a perception it can be a little dull. But, with a growing focus on cultural activities to accompany the lavish excesses, now might be the time to consider a trip to this part of the United Arab Emirates.

EXPO 2020 – extended into 2022 because of the global pandemic – highlights how Dubai is at the centre of creativity in the region. The incredible event allows the near-200 participating countries to host their own stands and bring a small flavour of what you can expect when travelling to their respective nations. It could have been a dull affair run by corporations, but thanks to a high level of curation the EXPO is one of the most popular attractions in the UAE. Locals have been given time off work to attend and school children are visiting as part of their curriculum.

British designer Es Devlin created this futuristic pavilion for EXPO 2020

International celebrities and dignitaries, including Prince William, have also attended. Dubai is one of the 7 emirates, or states, that make up the United Arab Emirates and has always been a popular spot for high-profile travellers and, as such, has a reputation for being expensive. But the EXPO is deliberately aimed at attracting a wide audience, both globally and locally, and many people from around the world will visit before things end on 31 March.

This is all in keeping with the diverse make-up of Dubai. There are more than 200 nationalities living and working here and people reside in one of the many distinct neighbourhoods. Some of these areas are well known to outsiders, but others remain off the radar. There’s something special about each, so here’s a quick look at the places to visit on your next trip here.

Visitors were treated to extraordinary architecture at EXPO 2020

A guide to the neighbourhoods of Dubai

The neighbourhoods of Dubai cover all bases. There are the celebrated hotels and beaches that are perfect for lazy holidays, where your only concern is which book to read on the lounger. But there’s also a great arts and crafts side that is rapidly emerging if you’re looking for a more cultural escape.

You’ll discover a diverse array of attractions in Dubai

Downtown Dubai

The buzzy and stylish Downtown district leads to Sheikh Zayed Road, one of the main access points to Dubai. Here, you’ll be surrounded by the famed city skyline, which includes the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. If you’re interested in shopping, this is also where the biggest and best malls are located.

The distinctive Museum of the Future is a welcome addition to the area. There is a real commitment to turning the city into a sustainable hub in the UAE, and you’ll find more about the ongoing efforts promoted here.

The Museum of the Future is a must-visit during your time in Downtown Dubai

Old Dubai

Visitors often overlook the Old Dubai quarter in favour of the bright lights of the modern city, but if you want to see what Dubai looked like a mere 50 years ago then take a walking tour here. Trying the authentic street food is a must – the flavours combine Indian, Arab and even European influences.

Visiting the smaller museums in this lesser visited area is also a great way to escape the crowds and learn more about the incredible rise of Dubai from a small fishing port to one of the most glamorous destinations in the world.

Tour Old Dubai to see how quickly the city has transformed

Jumeirah Road

Another hotspot for foodies is Jumeirah Road. There’s a nice mix of new restaurants and well-known local eateries here with plenty of ways for families to work up an appetite. Wild Wadi Waterpark is a popular way to cool off and Kite Beach is, unsurprisingly, home to kite surfers performing spectacular tricks almost everyday.

If you’re craving Ibiza-style beach clubs, you’ll find that vibe in the best party sports here. Sun loungers and decadent poolside drinks are part of the norm along this stretch of Dubai coastline.

Get your thrills by kite surfing along the Jumeirah Road coastline

Business Bay

Business Bay has an austere, formal name but it’s a spot where all aspects of arts and culture are found. Cinema Akil is the first arthouse cinema in the region and there’s plenty of independently produced gifts to buy here too.

If you’re not staying in the area, this is also one of the growing number of locations accessible by the fast Dubai Metro service. The reliable trains are an eye-catching addition to modern Dubai and a smart way to get the lay of the land.

Head to Business Bay for cultural delights such as the Lawrie Shabibi art gallery

Dubai Marina

If you’re keen on adventure and don’t want to go dune-bashing – the local pastime that sees large 4×4 vehicles crash around the desert – then the Marina is the best place to get your kicks. Thrillseekers can take on urban ziplines, mind-blowing watersports and vertigo-inducing slides and this is also home to one of the newest major attractions in Dubai.

Ain Dubai, the tallest observation wheel in the world, stands more than 250m (820ft) tall and is an incredible way to view the city. You can also see the vast man-made islands that have become a symbol of Dubai’s expenditure in attracting visitors from all parts of the world.

Get your kicks at Dubai Marina, home to adrenaline-fuelled activities

Palm Jumeirah

The best known of these islands is Palm Jumeirah. If you want to make a statement and experience ultimate luxury, then this is where you want to stay. Shaped in the form of a palm tree, the island is full of five-star hotels and the popular Nakheel mall is packed with designer stores.

Various beachfront mansions have been sold to celebrities and the super rich. If you can picture it, the trunk is home to more affordable apartments and if you can’t get onto the main island then sky-dive over it for the best view in Dubai.

Discover decadent Dubai with a luxury hotel stay on Palm Jumeirah

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