The record-shattering city captivates with its blend of classic charm and 21st-century opulence
Begin with a breakfast of fresh pastries and top-notch coffee at Café Rider (cafe-rider.com), helmed by a team of founders and baristas from around the globe, including South Africa, Russia and the Philippines, reflecting Dubai’s remarkably diverse urban population. This cavernous café promises photo opportunities galore for social media enthusiasts, since it is set in a warehouse-like showroom filled with American-made motorcycles.
Visit Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai’s only mosque that’s open to non-Muslims, to absorb vivid information about the city’s religious traditions. Guided tours organised by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre of Cultural Understanding at this architecturally compelling venue are offered six mornings every week, Saturday through Thursday. Try to sample some camel milk chocolate and soft-serve ice cream at the mosque compound’s Majlis Dubai café before leaving.
Catch an abra (boat) ride to the Deira neighbourhood side of the city’s saltwater creek in the soulful heart of old Dubai to explore the renowned spice and gold souks, or traditional markets, where you’ll find hundreds of businesses eager to sell everything from saffron and sumac to bangles and bracelets. Remember to haggle for the fairest prices.
Return to the other side of the creek for lunch at Creekside (creeksidedubai.me), one of Dubai’s most atmospheric cafés, with an unassailable alfresco view of the creek. The food is deliciously distinctive, infusing contemporary recipes with local ingredients; try the French toast with hickory-smoked date jam, pistachio whipped cream and pomegranate syrup, or the zaatar-spiced flat bread with cumin ricotta cheese and confit tomatoes.
Check out the seaside: Part of the Jumeirah Beach is closed until 2016 for development, but there are still well-maintained public stretches that provide a pleasantly sunny stroll out in the open, with clean, white sands alongside calm coastal waters, perfect for a brief but convenient escape from the rest of the bustling city.
Admire Dubai’s modern accomplishments at the world’s tallest building, which broke all records when it opened in 2010: The 829.8-metre-high Burj Khalifa (burjkhalifa.ae) is understandably one of the city’s top tourist magnets. You can choose to capture photos of the iconic landmark for free from the ground or pay to ride the elevator up to the 148th-floor observation deck for memorably soaring views. Purchase tickets online in advance to beat the queues.
Indulge in a final round of retail therapy at The Dubai Mall, the world’s largest shopping mall (thedubaimall.com), with impressive attractions such as an aquarium and underwater zoo with over 33,000 aquatic animals. With more than 1,200 shops here (including internationally famous names like Bloomingdale’s and Galeries Lafayette), there’s no lack of restaurants, but visitors who want to savour a dinner of Emirati cuisine can try Milas (milas.cc) for char-grilled lamb kebab and yoghurt-marinated chicken. Remember to check out the majestic Dubai Fountain, which cost USD218 million to build outside the mall. A choreographed system shoots water up to 150 metres high in the air in the evening, accompanied by music and illumination by 6,600 lights.
End the night at the glamorous terrace of the 24th-floor Uptown Bar in Jumeirah Beach Hotel, which whips up cocktails laced with intriguing components like chillies, chocolate or even balsamic vinegar, all overlooking the glittering lights of this stunning metropolis.