Dubai has become known for extravagance and luxury. One visit here can provide more than a handful of once-in-a-lifetime experiences, from extreme adventure to meals to remember. We spoke with Julie King, Director, Dubai Tourism, Australia and New Zealand who has represented Dubai in the Australian market for 8 years and lived in the destination for 14 years prior to that, to get an expert take on how to make the most of a holiday in Dubai.
For once-in-a-life-time experiences:
Only in Dubai can you watch the sunset from the world’s tallest building, skydive (or fly!) over the world’s largest man-made islands, ski in three places in one day (desert, water and snow!). Make sure that these experiences make it on your bucket list:
Fly in a Hot Air Balloon over the Arabian Desert
The Arabian Desert is best viewed from a hot air balloon 914 metres in the sky The sweeping views of the desert are only made better when you spot the Arabian wildlife running across the dunes. Spring for a sunrise breakfast in your hot air balloon and watch as the sun rises with a hot-hued glow.
Swim with sharks at Atlantis, The Palm
The Palm's famous Shark Safari invites all visitors to safely explore their Shark Lagoon in Aquaventure Waterpark - no SCUBA experience required! Children older than 8 years of age are welcome as well. The adventure begins by putting on a special helmet and continues with the exploration of a gorgeous underwater world.
Attend a meal to learn about Dubai’s culture hosted by an Emirati at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding
The SMCCU opened in 1998 in the Al Fahidi Historic District to educate visitors on the UAE traditions and culture. Breakfast is hosted here every Monday and Wednesday at 10am, lunch is hosted every Sunday through Thursday at 1pm; these traditional Emirati meals allow free flowing conversation between guests and an Emirati host to understand more about local customs.
Ride the longest urban double zipline in the world with XLine Dubai at the Dubai Marina
Catch your thrills flying among the skyline of this shining city. Your path lies between one of the Amwaj Towers, across the marina, and ends at the Dubai Marina Mall for a total stretch of one kilometre. If you're travelling with someone, ride together, as two people can zipline simultaneously.
Experience a Royal Ottoman Hammam treatment at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray
A hammam is a traditional Turkish bath - colloquially known as 'heaven on Earth'! At the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray's Talise Ottoman Spa, treatments range from luxurious to unbelievably luxurious. The Royal Ottoman treatment begins with a soak in the hammam, body polish, scalp massage, hair treatment, and honey mask for complexion treatment. It's the height of glamour and an invitation to deep relaxation.
For unbeatable views:
Some of the best vantage points in Dubai for the best views of the city include At The Top, Burj Khalifa, Skyview Bar - Burj Al Arab, Dubai Frame or on a Seaplane tour with SeaWings.
There are also many hotel restaurants and bars with panoramic views around the city. Examples of these are not limited to JW Marriot Marquis, Pier Chic at Madinat Jumeirah and At.mosphere at Burj Khalifa.
For a culinary adventure:
As the region's gastronomy capital, there is always a new culinary experience to discover in Dubai. To put it in numbers: Dubai has over 6,000 restaurants catering to over 200 nationalities. Begin with street eats in Deira, a beachside breakfast on Kite Beach, and rooftop dining in Dubai Marina.
But it's actually brunch where Dubai really shines. The Friday Brunch is Dubai's most famous gastronomic institution. They're typically held at the hotels around Dubai and offer sumptuous feasts for 3 hours, often with live entertainment. From incredible buffets to live cooking stations, it's a unique culinary experience not to be missed.
Alternatively, a wide range of authentic Emirati cuisine can be sampled at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding (SMCCU) or local restaurants such as Al Fanar, Seven Sands and Milas. Frying Pan Adventures also have an exceptional Middle Eastern Food Tour.
For more of King's advice on how to respect the culture as visitor in Dubai, read her etiquette overview here.