Dubai city guide - Cruise International

Dubai city guide

By Liz Jarvis | 29 Feb 2016

More and more cruise lines are calling at Dubai – and it’s the perfect destination for a cruise-and-stay adventure, says Liz Jarvis

Skyscrapers in Dubai's Financial District

Skyscrapers in Dubai’s Financial District

With its gleaming skyscrapers reaching into the clouds, Dubai is a sophisticated, thriving city, boasting breathtaking architecture, superb restaurants, nightlife and shopping.

Originally a small fishing settlement, it started to flourish at the end of the 19th century after the emirate declared foreign traders would be exempt from paying tax. Today, while the skyline is decidely modern it’s possible to find elements of ‘old’ Dubai in the historic Dubai Creek area and the Al Fahidi neighbourhood, with its intriguing restored merchants’ houses, art galleries and cafés, as well as the Fort, which was built from coral rock in 1787, making it the oldest building in Dubai.

It’s well worth spending a few nights in Dubai so you can appreciate everything it has to offer; the cruise terminal is located at Port Rashid, six miles from the city centre.

The Mina A'Salam pool at the Madinat Jumeirah

The Mina A’Salam pool at the Madinat Jumeirah

What to do

Apart from soaking up the rays on the pristine beaches, watersports and incredible shopping, an absolute must-do is a trip up the 555m-high Burj Khalifa (the world’s tallest building), which gives you a fantastic view of the skyscrapers below.

It’s also well worth taking a wooden boat or abra taxi ride across Dubai Creek for a taste of traditional life. Golfers will be in their element with many excellent courses on offer.

If you want to see the sand dunes or go for a camel ride, take a desert safari. The annual Dubai International Film Festival is held every December at the Madinat Jumeirah and attracts movie stars from all over the world.

A spice souk in Deira

A spice souk in Deira

Where to shop

Dubai is known as the ‘shopping capital of the Middle East.’ Take a stroll through the Gold Souk, just for the experience, even if you don’t want to buy any – it’s fascinating, as is the adjacent Spice Souk, where you can find anything from cinnamon and dried fruits to frankincense. Fashion-lovers should flock to the Dubai Mall, which is home to just about every major fashion brand, while the Mall of the Emirates even has an indoor ski slope.

Where to eat

You’re spoiled for choice; Dubai has a thriving culinary scene with some outstanding restaurants. For outstanding views in an exceptional setting it would be hard to beat At.mosphere at the Burj Khalifa, which also serves excellent cocktails.

When to go

July and August are the hottest months of the year, so aim to visit in October to May.

An Arabian Deluxe Room at the Madinat Jumeirah

An Arabian Deluxe Room at the Madinat Jumeirah

Where to stay

With its incredible location on a pristine private golden beach (and views of the Burj Al Arab) the five-star Madinat Jumeirah is quite simply one of the most elegant resorts in Dubai. Designed to recreate the atmosphere of an old Arabian town, it’s really three hotels in one, each with their own atmosphere, and offers superbly-appointed accommodation, including gorgeous ‘summerhouses’ with views of the gardens and their own courtyard and villas; there are also plenty of swimming pools to choose from, sports facilities, a spa and an excellent kids’ club. Restaurants throughout the resort are superb, particularly the new Arabian-inspired Hanaaya, which has waterfront seating, and the hotel’s brunch is legendary. It also has its own enchanting waterway system so you can travel around by boat, adding to its authentic charm, and there’s even a turtle sanctuary, as well as a fabulous souk and several boutiques (rooms from £323 a night,

Getting there

Emirates fly to Dubai from London Heathrow (