The Insider Edit: Dubai

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A Northern Irish expat living in Dubai, Jayne Higgins offers her home-from-home guide to enjoying a fabulous trip to the United Arab Emirates capital. From sumptuous shopping malls to fine dining, and from beach clubs to stylish sky bars, the options are endless when it comes to experiencing Dubai’s many wonders…


DIFC (Downtown) is the best location if you want to be in the heart of the action. Check out:

  • Ritz Carlton DIFC
  • Four Seasons DIFC
  • Vida Hotel DIFC

Insider Tip: Many tourists tend to be advised by travel agents to stay in The Palm which is lovely, but it is far away from the buzz you’ll want to experience – and traffic in the area can be a nightmare. The Palm offers a resort vibe (you could be anywhere in the world) but to really experience a true ‘Dubai feel’, I suggest DIFC.

Ritz Carlton DIFC


Check out Social House at Dubai Mall (the biggest mall in the world) for dinner and enjoy the fountains outside the mall with beautiful views of the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world. The fountains start at 6pm and continue every 30 mins

Dine in Nola in JLT (you will need to make reservations) for a fun New Orleans vibe with live music most days

Dinner in Souk Madinat – a cool, casual but traditional location

Souk Madinat


* Request that your hotel makes your dinner reservation in advance

Zheng He’s for the best Chinese in Dubai, complimented by beautiful views–bars/zheng-hes/

Asia Asia at Pier 7 is in one word: UNREAL! The ultimate Chinese food in a supercool location

Visit the most popular restaurant in Dubai: Zuma DIFC

Nusr–Et Steakhouse at Four Seasons is worth a visit for its world-renowned chef alone

Something different? Visit Dinner In The Sky for panoramic views of Dubai marina. The menu is  provided by Le Meridian and the Westin Dubai Marina

Dinner In The Sky


Cove Beach: One of my favourites, this is the perfect chill-out: a quiet beach club with amazing views

Zero Gravity is similar to Ocean Club in Marbella. Often the hotspot for Hens & Stags

Blue Marlin on a Friday is the place to be – the party never stops!

Nikki Beach Club is impressive any day of the week, but be prepared to spend that little bit extra for the pleasure

Nasimi Beach, Atlantis The Palm – this is Dubai at its extravagant best. Ok, so not a lot of what you see here is real but the effect is one of total glamour!

Nikki Beach Club


Barasti is the most casual outdoor bar in Dubai. Always full of expats, it’s the place to be after dinner on a Thursday or Friday night around 11pm

Zuma has a bar above its restaurant which is always full of beautiful men and banker-types!

Indie DIFC is a really cool, very popular spot – perfect for pre-drinks to ignite the party spirit

At.mosphere at the Burj Khalifa is one to remember – enjoy a cocktail in the highest cocktail bar in the world!

Q43 in Media One Hotel epitomises expat life in Dubai – my local after-work bar. Plus they offer great ladies deals!

Bar 360 – personally, this is the best! One of the coolest venues, well anywhere, with some of the best views of Dubai’s amazing skyline. After drinks, head next door to Mahiki Club

WHITE is thee ultimate club… perhaps the most amazing outdoor nightclub in the world! However like most nightclubs in Dubai, it’s best to book a table (which is pricey but it’s worth it for the experience in itself)

Insider Tip: Every bar and restaurant in Dubai is located within a hotel, as no alcohol is served without a hotel ownership – so you can’t just stroll down the street and pick a restaurant or pop into a bar for a drink – hence booking is essential

Bar 360


Fume Eatery, Pier 7 offers probably one of the best value brunches in town

Saffron is one of Dubai’s most loved (or loathed) venues. Catering for a ‘party brunch’, it can get very messy indeed!

Bubblicious Dubai much like Saffron – you will be nursing a sore head the next day

Toro Toro offers something a little more chilled – and amazing Latin American Food

Fume Eatery, Pier 7


El Chringuito is the most ‘Instagram-able’ place in Dubai! The interior is full of eye-catching dream catchers, just waiting to be photographed. You can do a chilled lunch here or a lazy beach day

Club Vista Mare offers a beach front with a number of restaurants to choose from – my favorite is Aji (go on a Saturday for their excellent brunch)

Comptoir 102 is the place to dine at if you want an organic and extremely healthy lunch go to. A cool café with little bits and pieces of clothes and handmade jewellery to browse over while ordering your lunch

El Chiringuito


Dubai Mall is the biggest mall in the world. Any brand you can think of is in this mall selling every product it has ever made

Mall of the Emirates holds pretty much the same brands as Dubai Mall but is a lot less ‘touristy’. Most people who live in Dubai will avoid Dubai Mall and head to Mall of the Emirates instead

City Walk Dubai – outdoor shopping in Dubai is rare due to the heat, but depending on the time of year you visit I recommended visiting City Walk. A cool location, French designer concept store Le 66 is my favorite shop here

Dubai Mall

Extra Activities if you have time:

Desert Safari

Water Park at The Atlantis

Grand Mosque – Abu Dhabi

High Tea at the Burj Al Arab

Spa Day at Zabeel Saray


Taxis are the only thing that is dirt cheap in Dubai – and you will taxi everywhere!

FYI – remember strictly NO drinking on the streets. Bring ID (your passport) to get in everywhere, they ask for security reasons.

Dubai is not big, it is just long and is built along one main road: Sheikh Zayed Road. So getting from place to place is easy – everything is 12-18 mins away.

WARNING – these are not the UK taxi drivers you may be used to. Most taxi drivers do not know where to go and have little knowledge of locations, so before you get into the taxi make sure to ask do they know the location and have a map open on your phone. I have yet to get in a taxi where the driver knew the location.


A question I get asked often. Wear exactly what you would wear if you were heading on any sun holiday – the only place you are expected to cover your shoulders is Dubai Mall.



Jayne Higgins

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