Few places in the world match the caliber of modern beauty that The United Arab Emirates have to offer. Earlier this year I was in Dubai for a two night layover while en route to the Maldives. Contrary to popular belief, staying in the heart of Downtown Dubai turned out to be one of the best decisions I’ve made. Conveniently located across the street from the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall, The Shangri-La Dubai is the epitome of sophisticated luxury and an embodiment of the wealthy Emirati culture. For those of you that are new to my page, (welcome!), I tell stories about my experiences at some of thetop hotels in the worldand give travel tips on scoring cheap flights and airfare. My travel principle is that if I find cheap flights and airfare, I splurge on accommodation. Throughout my page, my Instagram, and my Facebook, you will find an abundance of travel ideas and travel tips ranging from budget vacations, long weekend escapes, and super luxurious retreats. “Shangri-La” is a term coined by British author, James Hamilton, who named a fictional place in his novel, Lost Horizon, Shangri-La. The term is synonymous with earthy paradise … and The Shangri-La in Dubai is just that.
Prices start at $150 a night, making this a very affordable 5-star property.
Dozens of smiling faces from many cultural backgrounds greet you as you make your way through the opulent lobby of The Shangri-La Dubai. Everything in Dubai is sumptuous.If there is one thing I could say about the Shangri-La Dubai, it’s that I felt like a princess from the beginning to the end of my stay. The hotel is centrally located near some of the top attractions in Dubai like the Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Mall and, blending in with the other properties, The Shangri-La is a tall and sleek modern building with a large palatial lobby, two pools, and eight restaurants and bars. Yes, eight.
The property spoils its guests in many ways – especially with room views like this.
On the 42nd floor, the property boasts a beautiful infinity indoor pool (one of two), where you feel like you are literally swimming between buildings. The deck is no stranger to photographers that come out as early as 5 AM to catch the sunrise and, if lucky, the morning fog that leaves nothing but the building tops in sight. Luckily my jetlag got the best of me and I was able to catch the unbelievable cotton candy sunrise covering Downtown Dubai like a hood.
Also popular among hotel guests is the native ikandy Ultralounge which serves signature cocktails, shisha, and a live DJ – all under stunning views of the Burj Khalifa.
Foodies that visit The Shangri-La Dubai are truly spoiled when it comes to the dining selections. There are eight restaurants and bars on the property that undeniably suit a variety of tastes and moods. You can enjoy an upscale dinner with traditional cuisines from all over the world, or settle for a relaxing cocktail at the signature poolside ikandy lounge where the water is illuminated with bright coral pink and purple blends and the incredible Burj Khalifa stands tall above the bar.
Hoi An is a fabulous Vietnamese restaurant that pairs authentic flavorful dishes with an impressive wine selection. As a matter of fact, this is the only authentic Vietnamese restaurant in Dubai which brings in visitors from all over the Emirate to it’s doors.
The entire team at Hoi An is Vietnamese from the kitchen, to the servers, and to the hosts! Palms together and a small bow as you enter introduces you to the utmost traditional hospitality.
Breakfast certainly did not disappoint – an incredible variety of a la carte options were included in our room stay including food stations with freshly squeezed juices and shakes as well as a variety of meat, vegetables, omelet, and much more.
…and, of course, A LOT of dessert.
You can see quite a bit during your stopover in Dubai especially with Uber being so easily accessible. Here are a few of my favorite places that I highly recommend you visit especially if your trip is short. The below list is definitely do-able in just a few days however there is so much more to see and do in Dubai and in it’s neighboring Emirate’s.
The Madinat Jumeirah
You must not miss The Madinat Jumeirah; a magical Arabian oasis with waterway veins, incredible architecture, and unbeatable views of the Burj al Arab. Built to resemble a Sheikh’s summer home, The Madinat Jumeirah is the crown jewel of accommodation in Dubai. This resort town is open to the public and is well worth the visit – it is the largest resort in the Dubai Emirate and its surrounded by beautiful gardens, waterways, intricately crafted houses, a souk, and many restaurants. I recommend taking an “abra” (or boat) tour around the property because it is truly exquisite. It’s about 30 minutes away by car from Downtown Dubai and it is walking distance from the Burj Al Arab.
The Burj Al Arab
The best place to see the Burj Al Arab is definitely from the Madinat Jumeirah. Although extremely pricey, having afternoon tea there is a once in a lifetime experience. After all, it is the only 7-star hotel in the world. Unfortunately without a reservation you can’t get closer than this to the property. If you really want to splurge, check out Al Mahara, the underwater restaurant at the Burj Al Arab. I had the opportunity to go there the first time I came to Dubai and wrote about my experience here.
Dubai Miracle Garden
The Dubai Miracle Garden is the world’s largest natural flower garden with over 109 million flowers planted. Think of it as the botanical garden on steroids. It’s quite a unique place and if you enjoy nature and beautiful flowers then it is certainly worth the visit.
The Burj Khalifa & The Dubai Mall
If you stay at The Shangri-La Dubai, you will be lucky enough to wake up to beautiful views of the Burj Khalifa every day. Currently it is the tallest building in the world and it is absolutely unreal. The observation deck is definitely worth the visit at least once in your life – I went there and wrote about my experience here. Outside stands The Dubai Fountain which shoots water 500 feet into the air and dances to popular songs during it’s solo every night. Even if you don’t get a chance to go to the top of the Burj Khalifa – watching the fountains is a must. You can also snatch this Instagramable cotton candy at Candylicious, located inside the Dubai Mall.
The Dubai Desert
The Desert Safari tour is one of the top activities to do in The Emirates. While there are multiple options available, including an overnight tour, if you are on a short trip in Dubai, I suggest doing a morning half day tour which is typically about 4 hours long. There are a multitude of activities that you do during the tour including dune bashing, sand surfing, ATV rides, camel rides and more!
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque, Abu Dhabi
The Sheikh Zayed Mosque, or The Grand Mosque remains the number one place that I believe everyone should see at least once in their life. In my opinion, I would make the day trip out here before doing anything else in The Emirates. The beauty of the Grand Mosque is unparalleled with and I’ve never seen anything like it.
The Emirates Palace, Abu Dhabi
If you take a day trip out to Abu Dhabi, take a peek at The Emirates Palace, another one of my favorites that I wrote about here. Just when you think you saw it all, you come here and realize that your tour of jaw dropping architecture is, in fact, nowhere near over. A little bit of gold shavings on your morning coffee can’t hurt either.