Best experiences for living Dubai
From the desert to a trip on the Creek. All the most exclusive adventures offered by the city's best hotels
For today’s hotels, exclusivity doesn’t only mean extraordinary installations and luxury facilities, but also - and perhaps above all - the availability of experiences that allow visitors to enjoy the destination in privileged and unexpected ways. In particular, when the destination is a place as extraordinary as Dubai, where you can go from ancient to ultra-modern and from water to desert in the blink of an eye. So get ready for an unforgettable stay.
When a hotel is one of the city’s most celebrated sites, the opportunity for a visit is one of the most exclusive experiences possible in itself. The hotel in question is the Burj Al Arab Jumeirah, the “sail”, as it’s often nicknamed, due to its unmistakable silhouette, which stands out against the Gulf of Dubai. This record-breaking hotel is open not only to its own guests, but also to anyone wishing to marvel at its splendid spaces and learn its story by booking the Inside Burj Al Arab experience. The 90-minute visit is accompanied by a butler and even includes the Royal Suite, which has accommodated celebrities including Nelson Mandela, Justin Bieber and Lewis Hamilton, followed by the Experience Suite, where you can learn about some of the most famous events to take place on the Burj Al Arab private helipad, the site of epic occurrences more than 200 metres above sea level (in 2017 a boxing ring was installed for training sessions between the then world heavyweight champion Anthony Joshua and boxing guru Seb Eubanks). To round off the tour, try the famous 24 Carat Gold Cappuccino in the UMA Lounge, or another of their special drinks.
Staying with the Jumeirah hotel group, there’s also the spectacular Abra Tour, an excursion on the Dubai Creek on board an authentic traditional boat: a magical way to see the city from a unique perspective. There are several options, from a 20-minute tour to an hour for two people, including beverages or afternoon tea, or a tour at sunset, the most scenic time of day, with caviar or strawberries and chocolate.
Now we’ll look at the two Four Seasons hotels, which have partnered with Platinum Heritage to create The Great Desert Escape, an incredible and thrilling luxury cruise in the Arabian desert on board a Range Rover pickup. Guests are taken to the Private Heritage Desert Camp, where they can experience life in a Bedouin village, enjoy a genuine Arabic dinner prepared using local ingredients, savour the intoxicating aroma of gahwa coffee made over the coals, and try out the steps of an Emirati tribal dance. And all without sacrificing high-end comfort, like the Four Seasons beds in the Royal Bedouin tents, and the sight of the sunrise from a hot-air balloon. Finally, guests are treated to a traditional breakfast to conclude the great adventure. And if you’re staying at the Four Seasons Hotel DIFC and prefer city-based experiences? No sooner said than done: the Four Seasons team know how to design itineraries to suit all tastes, such as the tour for art lovers wishing to visit the top five galleries at the Dubai International Financial Centre (Empty Quarter, The Farjam Foundation, Opera Gallery, Tabari Gallery and Sconci Gallery), or a delicious and fascinating guide to choosing the perfect restaurant according to your zodiac sign from the countless options available. An example? the unexpected, spicy and aromatic dishes at Shanghai Me for Aries, the family atmosphere of Gaia for Cancer, and a classy dinner at Zuma, shared with a special person, for Gemini.
The Bvlgari Resort Dubai also has a few cards up its sleeve. At the far end of the resort’s Marina is the world’s first Bvlgari Marina & Yacht Club, which recreates the charm of a Mediterranean village in the heart of the Arabian Gulf. For guests staying in the resort there’s the Riva Experience, allowing them to explore Dubai on board a superb Aquariva yacht, with a choice of four itineraries: Marasi Marina, Dubai Canal and Burj Al Arab, Burj Al Arab and Palm Dubai, Dubai Canal and Old Town Dubai, Sunset and Jumeirah Bay Island. Then it’s back to the dunes for the Desert Safari Experience, a safari adventure with private camps, a personal chef and an astronomer to guide your observation of the stars and planets. Are you fascinated by the more traditional side of Dubai? If so, the Old Dubai Tour Experience is for you: wooden boats on the old Creek, with a tour of the gold and spices souks, the textiles market and the historic quarter. But if you’re more interested in fashion, try the Personal Shopping Experience, with exclusive access to the galleries of the Dubai International Financial Centre and The Dubai Mall. Meanwhile, for an adrenaline rush there’s the Helicopter Tour Experience: a flight lasting 10 minutes to an hour for truly unparalleled bird’s eye views of the city. Last but not least, a Maserati Quattroporte awaits visitors who choose the Abu Dhabi Tour Experience: from the Louvre Abu Dhabi to the Qasr Al Watan Palace and the magnificent Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque, one of the largest in the world.
Set in Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest tower, Armani Hotel Dubai offers guests in the Armani Signature Suite and the Armani Dubai Suite entry to the panoramic terrace on the 124th floor, called At the Top, complete with breathtaking views of the city. And at the hotel designed by one of the world’s top stylists, located close to the largest shopping mall in existence, there has to be an exclusive fashion-themed experience: guests can receive their purchases directly in their hotel rooms and rely on the expert guidance of a personal shopper in the Giorgio Armani boutique. Finally, history and adventure are also at the heart of the experiences offered by the One&Only The Palm hotel, with its Historical Old Dubai Tour - a journey in time on board a classic car in the historic Al Fahidi quarter, also known as Bastakiya, with a visit to the Gold Souk and its more than 300 merchants, and the legendary Creek, explored on a traditional Abra boat - but also a personal version of the Desert Safari in Dubai: a group or private full day tour in the desert, with camel ride, personalised menu, fresh date juice and traditional music and dance, followed by a night lit by stars and Arab torches, and a dawn ballon flight the following morning. If you prefer the water, you can choose windsurfing or kayaking, or a day of sea, fishing and relaxation on board a 48 or 75-foot luxury yacht or catamaran. Alternatively, if you’re in town with the family, try the Aquaventure Waterpark, with spectacular slides surrounded by water animals, two kilometres of rapids, a visit to the Lost Chambers Aquarium and close-up encounters at Dolphin Bay and Sea Lion Point.