Travelling to Dubai for business? Here's where to sleep, eat, shop and soak in the city's top attractions between meetings.
If you're visiting Dubai for work rather than play, you'll most likely find yourself Downtown. To help you hit the ground running, this guide points you in the direction of amazing hotel options with easy access to conference venues, deal-closing dining spots and a few more essentials for a stress-free trip. Plus, tips on fitting in visits to Dubai's must-see sights while you're at it.
What’s in Downtown Dubai?
The modern heart of the city and an emerging cultural hotspot, Downtown Dubai is a glossy hub strung with striking architecture, promenades, glistening waterways, mega-malls, must-see attractions and quality dining. But play isn't its only forte. The area, nestled between Old Dubai and Business Bay along Sheikh Zayed Road, is a gateway to some of the city's top conference venues, industry events and business hubs including Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC), Dubai World Trade Centre and creative enclave Dubai Design District.
Catering to those on a budget and anyone looking to live the high life, Downtown has it all.
If value for money is the name of your game, the 3* ROVE Hotel Downtown is well placed to meet this requirement. Offering 2pm check-out even if you don’t ask for it, this funky, cosmopolitan abode is situated within eyeline of the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall.
Another brand worth keeping an eye on is Vida Hotels & Resorts, which boasts two properties downtown – the self-titled Vida Downtown and the Manzil – both considered 4* comforts. Both offer dining and meeting facilities on-site, while the rooms offer a distinctly “Arabesque flair” as it’s called.
Of course, Dubai is synonymous with luxury and Downtown is loaded with classy options. Take the W Dubai Al Habtoor City, which offers a room menu featuring names including the Spectacular Room, Marvellous Room and Fabulous Room. A rooftop Wet Deck offers a sizeable swimming pool with cabanas, cocktails and a poolside snack menu.
More familiar brands such as the JW Marriott and Oberoi are also in town, while if you’d like to be positioned right beside the Dubai Canal, the Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay is the German brand’s first in the city and one of the newer options, where you’ll find a traditional German bakery on-site. The pinnacle of Downtown are its flagship properties located in the heart of the district, including three 5-star The Address properties, The Palace Downtown and of course, the Armani Hotel. Envisioned by fashion icon Giorgio Armani, this hotel occupies 11 floors of Dubai's iconic skyscraper, Burj Khalifa and features a private entrance especially for guests.
The best deal-closing lunch spot
An off-shoot of Italy's Michelin-starred L'Enoteca Pinochiorri, Florentine fine-diner The Artisan by Enoteca Pinochiorri in Dubai's DIFC has all the charm of an experienced closer. A myriad of swanky dining spots tempt execs in Dubai's financial hub, but the suited and booted flock here for the discreet seating, regal grey colour scheme and simple but standout Italian fare.
Forget showy displays of molecular gastronomy – quality produce is the star here, making the restaurant's value felt by foodies and traditionalists alike. The business lunch is swift without feeling hurried and starts at just AED120 ($33) for two courses.
One of the top restaurants you’ll find Downtown is the simply titled Loui’s. It will be hard to find a table with a better view, looking directly out at the Burj Khalifa and Dubai fountains. The menu at this hotspot mixes up Sushi with Lebanese cuisine, making for an interesting combination.
If you’re a bit art-inclined, creative minds will find their muse at Pavilion - something of a workspace-style cafe where you can just as easily set up your laptop and settle in for a session at your most productive as you can come for a hearty meal with friends, clients or work colleagues. This outlet also hosts a program of film screenings and other cultural events over the year.
Few restaurants in Dubai can claim to be able to see the whole city from your table - that claim alone belongs to At.Mosphere. Perched on Level 122 of the Burj Khalifa, this Dubai mainstay quite literally takes the concept of fine dining to new heights. The menu features a number of international twists on common and popular cuisine including John Dory and Beef Tenderloin, while a number of multi-course menus, each paired with a different wine make up the headline act.
Where to stay fit
New York spin import Flywheel knows that a little healthy competition is what makes go-getters tick. Open seven days a week, this indoor cycling craze in Downtown Dubai measures your performance against your fellow riders and broadcasts the results in real time as you spin.
In addition to 45-minute cycling classes, they also offer barre-based workouts, meaning you won't have to skip strength day. On top of that, the studio also provides complimentary cycling shoes and towels, so you can shop more and pack less.
Of course, nothing beats an old-fashioned run and Downtown Dubai is perfect to get your body in sync with your mind, ready for a productive day. Loaded with visual highlights, you’ll need to keep your mind focused on your workout in order to avoid stopping to admire the sights awaiting you around every turn.
One of the city's most pedestrian-friendly areas, there's no better way to seek out Downtown Dubai's sights than on foot. If you're pressed for time, hire a ByKy push bike at the automated stations on Emaar Boulevard and cruise the promenade, taking in the Burj Khalifa and the stunning architecture of Dubai Opera, designed to mimic a traditional Arab dhow or boat, as you go.
No trip is complete without a hit of retail therapy at The Dubai Mall, one of the largest in the world and home to everything from French department store Galeries Lafayette to stylish footwear brands Jimmy Choo and Manolo Blahnik.
For a staggering bird's eye view of the city, pencil in a session at the Burj Khalifa's observation deck At The Top to get a unique perspective of this beachside desert metropolis, 148 floors up. Back on solid ground, don't miss the luminous Dubai Fountain, which lights up to spectacular effect at set times each night, grooving in sync to retro tunes.
While most of Downtown Dubai can be accessed on foot, the Dubai Metro is an inexpensive option (tickets start from AED3 – less than US$1) and it stops at the city's main business hubs, including the Burj Khalifa, DIFC, Business Bay and Dubai World Trade Centre.