From its evocative desert landscapes and futuristic architecture, not to mention luxury shopping and Michelin-starred and standard restaurants, the city of Dubai, one of the seven United Arab Emirates, was designed for wow-factor travel moments. Dubbed the City of Gold – here, palatial seven-star resorts, quite literally ‘next-level’ dining, and spectacular experiences are all major draws. Thanks to its desert climate, Dubai is a popular destination for winter sun-seekers from the northern hemisphere, making it timely for Valentine’s Day and any potential romantic proposals that are in the works.
Below, some experiences, hotels and cultural attractions to consider.
Stay at the Iconic Burj Al Arab
Although no ‘seven-star’ hotel designation truly exists, Burj Al Arab would beg to differ. Shaped like the sail of an Arabian dhow and an icon of Dubai’s skyline, thanks to its 24-carat gold interiors and lavish suites, it’s a property where luxury seemingly has no limits. With a fleet of Rolls-Royce Phantoms, two top-rated Michelin-star chefs, 24-hour butler service, and Hermès amenities those looking to treat loved ones to a special stay will be hard-pressed to find anywhere that can exceed the guest experience provided at one of the world’s most decorated hotels.
Ride in a Hot-Air Balloon
Could it get more romantic than watching the sunrise while floating high above the Arabian Desert? Balloon Adventures Dubai doesn’t think so and regularly whisks guests away from their hotels at dawn to embark on such adventures. More than just a balloon ride, the award-winning company has designed several experiences, including a one-hour flight followed by vintage 1950s Land Rover transfer to a bedouin-style camp for a gourmet breakfast of smoked salmon and caviar. Ideal for anyone seeking a memorable way to pop the question, the private couples’ option includes breakfast and a wildlife drive through the Dubai Conservation Reserve.
Take High Tea in the Clouds
On the subject of sky-high adventures, dining in the world’s tallest building is a treat worth factoring in on a trip to Dubai. Located 442 meters above ground on the 122nd floor, At.mosphere serves breakfast and a ‘morning coffee in the clouds’ menu followed by lunch in the restaurant before switching to high tea in the lounge. After dark, it becomes a buzzy nightspot for dinner and dancing. Look for the entrance inside the Armani Hotel lobby, at the base of Burj Khalifa.
From the clouds to sea creatures. Thanks to its floor to ceiling views onto one of the world’s largest aquariums, Ossiano is perhaps the best known – and one of most Instagrammed – restaurants in Dubai. One of nine eateries inside Atlantis, The Palm, as one might imagine everything inside the hotel is opulently ocean themed. Packing some major wow-factor, Ossiano’s nine-course Tiffany & Co Valentine’s Day dinner (AED 25,000 or around $6,800) comes with Imperial Caviar, free-flowing Cristal Brut, and aquarium side seating for stingray views. Also included? A rose gold Tiffany bracelet and diver who can swim by holding a personalized message.
Shop an Arabian Bazaar
Dubai has long been considered a mecca for shopping, but if the designer stores and Old Souk feel overwhelming, hunt for fixed-price treasures to take home at Souk Madinat Jumeirah instead. Filled with everything from slippers to spices, some of the best local souvenirs to pick up at this Arabian bazaar meets modern marketplace include oud perfume and incense, gold jewelry and textiles, plus epicurean items like dates and spices. For romantic gestures, take an abra ride, the city’s most traditional mode of transport, around Madinat’s waterways or head to folly by Nick & Scott, whose rooftop bar offers a perfect view of Burj Al Arab.
Relax on an Island Paradise
Lauded for their breathtaking locations worldwide, One&Only The Palm on the white sands of Jumeirah Beach is no exception. Drawing from Moorish and Andalusian architecture, the opulent yet boutique property, whose grounds are punctuated by manicured gardens, pools and fountains, affords travelers a spa-like getaway from the bustle of the city. A jewel in the luxury global hotel brand’s crown, generously sized rooms and suites here feature Nespresso machines while bathrooms are stocked with Acqua Di Parma products. There’s a Guerlain spa, plus fine dining experiences, including Celebrities restaurant, helmed by chef Mauro Colagreco.
Downtime in the Desert
An oasis of serenity among the sand dunes, Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, is set in the heart of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Although reached in 50-minutes by car, it’s a world away from the skyscrapers and buzz of downtown Dubai – here, camel trekking followed by sunset cocktails is the order of the day. Horse rides can be arranged for experienced equestrians on Al Maha’s collection of pure-bred Arabian horses. For those seeking a wellness break, multi-night spa packages are also available. Each of the 42 suites here features a private pool – perfect for enjoying the splendor of the surrounding landscape and spotting Arabian oryx that roam the grounds.
Day Trip to The Louvre
With Jean Nouvel-designed Louvre Abu Dhabi on Saadiyat Island only an hour away by car (or 30 minutes by private charter with Heli Dubai) for culture lovers spending time in the city, it might be remiss not to pencil in a visit. A masterpiece of modern architecture, and the first collaboration of its kind between the Musée du Louvre outside France, the groundbreaking museum opened in 2017 and boasts a 600-piece collection showcasing everything from historical treasures to contemporary art. Take one of the just-launched yoga sessions under the dome – or for something different hop on a kayak tour – before looking at can’t-miss works by Matisse, Mondrian, and Monet et al. Next, head to the chic chandelier-lit outpost of legendary Parisian brasserie, Fouqet’s for fine French cuisine with an Emirati twist.
In addition to carrying health insurance, all travelers must take two COVID-19 PCR tests: one 96 hours before departure and a second test upon arrival in Dubai. Anyone showing symptoms must quarantine for 14 days at their own expense unless flying with Emirates, who will cover costs for its passengers. While the air border to Abu Dhabi reopened in December, all arrivals other than those on the green list must isolate for ten days. More information for anyone traveling to and through Dubai is available here.
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