Discover Dubai’s neighbourhoods
A guide to the must-see districts in Dubai

Wondering where to find the best family-friendly activities, best lunches or hottest art galleries? We’ve done the groundwork for you with this guide to Dubai’s hottest neighbourhoods, packed with plenty to suit all travellers. Add these easy-to-explore districts to your Dubai holiday itinerary and experience the city like a local.

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Downtown Dubai & Sheikh Zayed Road

Heading into the heart of the city, it’s hard to miss Downtown Dubai’s key bragging rights and world-famous icons: The Dubai Mall (the world's largest mall and most visited shopping and leisure venue), Burj Khalifa (the tallest building) and Gevora Hotel (the tallest hotel) along Sheikh Zayed Road.

Record-breakers aside, visitors will find a score of family-friendly activities including the Dubai Fountain, the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, Dubai Ice Rink and Souk Al Bahar. The world-class Dubai Opera and its packed line-up of live performances is also found on Downtown’s palm-lined Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard, along with Burj Park, a favourite host of the district’s hottest festivals and pop-up events.

Old Dubai

The former centre of the city, collectively known as Old Dubai, encompasses all the neighbourhoods that hug either side of Dubai Creek. Deira is now best known for its gold and spice souks, and fresh food markets beside abra boat wharves. Just a short abra ride to the south side of the creek is Bur Dubai, which hosts some of the city's best unsung ethnic restaurants, with untold numbers of authentic Arabic, Moroccan and Lebanese menus waiting to be discovered.

Part of Old Dubai’s rejuvenation work, Al Seef highlights the district’s important historical relevancy as the city’s cultural hub.

Business Bay & Dubai Canal

The bustling locale of Business Bay can be found beside Sheikh Zayed Road and the city’s latest waterside attraction, Dubai Canal – a 3.2km long waterway that winds its way from the historic waters of the Creek in Old Dubai through Business Bay and into the Arabian Gulf.

Business Bay is home to five-star hotels and sleek office and residential towers, including The Opus by Zaha Hadid. It’s also a foodie hotspot, thanks to the opening of Bleu Blanc and Basta! By celebrity chef David Myers, complementing top lounges including The Eloquent Elephant, Treehouse Dubai and Iris. Dubai's one of a kind live masterpiece, La Perle by Franco Dragone, is also staged at the nearby Habtoor City.

Dubai Design District

A hub for creative minds, the Dubai Design District (d3) is a place for designers and artists to showcase their work. Dotted along the district are over 30 public art and design installations, including the iconic red ‘My Dubai’ logo.

Spend an afternoon discovering the best of d3, which features lifestyle boutiques, fashion ateliers, art galleries, unique restaurant concepts and regular pop-up community events centres around arts and culture. Take a closer look at impactful contemporary art at Gallery Ward and Citizen E, before shopping at The Lighthouse design store or Closet Case for designer Asian and European wares. Some of the most popular restaurants at d3 include Chez Charles, Molecule and Mum’s Table.

The Palm Jumeirah 

Perhaps the city's most recognisable district, Palm Jumeirah tops the lists of most visitors’ to-do lists. One of the world's largest man-made islands is home to another inimitable feature – the seashell-pink arches and turrets of Atlantis, The Palm hotel, visible to travellers driving up the island's main road.

High-end hotels are a drawcard, with international hotels such as Anantara, Fairmont and Waldorf Astoria represented along The Palm's trunk (otherwise known as The Golden Mile), outer Crescent, plus new launches such as the W and Five hotel. Even if you've chosen not to stay on The Palm, the iconic district is worth a visit for the fine-dining restaurants, luxurious spas, beautiful beach clubs and unfettered views of the Gulf’s waters.

Al Quoz

At first glance, Al Quoz appears like any other mid-city industrial suburb, with streets full of outwardly unremarkable warehouses. However, art lovers who take a turn down Alserkal Avenue will uncover Dubai's emerging culture hub. Spread over 500,000sqft, Alserkal Avenue features more than 40 concepts, including 20 permanent art spaces such as Salsali Private Museum, the region's first gallery for contemporary Middle Eastern art; Carbon 12 Dubai, which rotates exhibitions of international artists; and a high-energy calendar of upcoming art and culture events.

Hungry creatives can find inner fulfilment at one of Al Quoz's suitably inspiring cafes, including Lime Tree Cafe, vegan café Wild & The Moon, and the always-bustling Tom & Serg.

Jumeirah Beach

With a long stretch of shoreline that runs parallel to Sheikh Zayed Road, Jumeirah Beach is the address of a number of the city’s landmarks, including the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel, Madinat Jumeirah hotels and entertainment complex, Wild Wadi Water Park, plus the La Mer shopping and dining beachfront development.

Culminating at Jumeirah Beach Residences (known as JBR to the locals), the district is beside The Beach, one of Dubai's favourite family-friendly pedestrian malls. Visitors will find it too easy to spend an entire day – and indeed most of the evening – at The Beach, with hundreds of restaurants, retailers, and a cinema. A few steps away, beachgoers can roll out a picnic blanket, and nearby is an imaginative children's playground.

Dubai Marina

Take a tram up two stops from JBR (for AED5), or a short taxi ride (AED20-25), to the Dubai Marina Mall that sits front and centre of the impressive Dubai Marina district. Walk through to get to the docks, where there’s al fresco seating at most of the water-facing restaurants. See how the marina's waters reflect the surrounding high rises, including the twisting, 90-degree profile of the iconic Cayan Tower.

Here, most restaurants are open past midnight, and a merry-go-round and pop-up stalls are there to entertain the whole family to and from dinner. The Marina's gourmet project, Pier 7, is a destination for foodies: the tower rising from the middle of the pedestrian walk hosts seven very different, but equally delicious restaurants on each level.

Jumeirah Lakes Towers

Opposite the Dubai Marina is Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT), a maze of glass residential and office towers, and the green man-made lakes the district is named for. While formerly a relatively quiet area, JLT is known amongst residents for its selection of one-off cafes like Friends’ Avenue and family-run expat restaurants such as the well-regarded Thai kitchen Café Isan.

A recent boom of new dining start-ups including Italian eatery Via Vita, Vietnamese Foodies and social spot Nola has won JLT well-deserved attention from outside visitors. With lush lawns, interactive children's playground and regular community activities and neighbourhood celebrations, JLT is a great option for young families to stay and socialise.

Media City

A hub for the majority of the city’s publishing groups – think magazines, newspapers and major TV networks – Media City and its neighbour, Internet City, are also home to restaurants favoured by creative movers and shakers both in and outside work hours. Drop into 1762, a buzzing café with great coffee, creative to-go salads and sandwiches, and a selection of a la carte hot meals, or walk by the lake to Urban Bistro or Circle Cafe – side-by-side lunch spots offering fresh and healthy mains.

The nearby Media City Amphitheatre is one of Dubai's best outdoor venues, hosting everything from markets, to music festivals and sell-out rock concerts, and catered to by the Dubai Tram, to make an easy exit after the show. Bonus: Media One Hotel, with its spectacular 42nd floor views is just across the road for post-gig refreshments.