There’s a certain undeniable pull towards the city of Dubai right now, one that’s increasingly developed in recent years. Luring visitors with its opulent hotels, world-class restaurants, and unparalleled shopping, Dubai has undoubtedly transformed itself into a must-see travel destination. Made up of unique architecture and complete with diverse natural beauty, it feels like there are so many new experiences to be had with the city’s huge assortment of things to do. With that in mind, we finally set out to the City of Gold to see what all the hype is about. And after only a week of exploration, we can concur–the city certainly lives up to its reputation. Discover some of our favorite places below, from the unique and unusual to the quintessentially Dubai. 

As one of the many small port towns on the Arabian Gulf, Dubai touts impeccable ocean views and resort experiences. Eager to soak up the sun and embrace the relaxing aspect of the city, we checked into the Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, the first Marriott Hotels resort in the United Arab Emirates. Located on the iconic Palm Jumeirah, the hotel offers the best of both worlds–unprecedented private beach access while still remaining a hop and skip away from downtown. 

Once there, we were greeted by the hotel concierge and a refreshing mocktail, made with sparkling water and lemon juice. And while the hotel just opened a few weeks ago, it’s already making a splash with its state-of-the-art amenities and premium restaraunts. If one thing is for sure–Here, glitz and glamour collide with contemporary touches that the esteemed hotel brand is renowned for. And as we wait for our room to be ready, we take in the rest of the Greatroom where other guests were enjoying the resort’s signature tea and coffee experience, complete with fresh pastries, cakes, and the iconic chocolate ravioli. 

Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, view from Executive Suite Balcony.

We started our morning with breakfast at Levantera, and got our much needed coffee fix. In addition to all the classic morning go-to’s–bacon, pastries, and fresh fruit–Levantera also featured special Mediterranean-inspired additions like curries, samosas, and prata. There was also an eggs bar where chefs made eggs any way on request. I opted for their eggs benedict with smoked salmon, which provided just the energy I needed to take on the day. After our meal, we took a quick morning stroll on the promenade in front of the resort. With the hotel sitting on the island’s golden Palm West Beach, we took in the spectacular views of the Arabian Gulf as well as the other restaurant offerings along the boardwalk. 

As no trip to Dubai is complete without a visit to the Dubai Mall, we made our trip over after breakfast. The mall is located in the city center, which is not on the Palm, but it’s still convenient to access for travelers. Many hotels in the area feature a free shuttle service to the mall every hour. And after ringing the concierge to ask about the schedule, we hopped on one of their shuttles and were there in twenty minutes. With over 1,200 stores, the mall has every store you could possibly want–from the major fashion houses (Loewe, Louis Vuitton, Chanel) to the brands dominating high street (Zara, H&M, & Other Stories). And while you’re out shopping, you won’t want to miss views of the Burj Khalifa, which at 2,722 ft, makes it the world’s tallest building. 

After exploring the mall for the first few hours, we made our way to the Time Out Market Dubai, which after opening outposts in New York, Lisbon, and Boston, just opened in Dubai last spring. Those who love to try new foods when they’re traveling can expect to find a plethora of hometown favorites, such as Masti, BB Social Dining, and Al Fanar. You can easily access the market from the mall with a quick walk across the Dubai Fountain Boardwalk, which has sights of the Dubai Fountain. The fountain comes to life at 1 PM and 1:30 PM and as it’s the largest fountain in the world, it’s definitely something you’ll have to plan for. 

The Al Fahidi historical neighborhood was our next stop after lunch. Located along the Dubai Creek, we easily got lost in the various art galleries, teahouses, and shops as we immersed in the city’s culture and architecture. You’ll definitely have to keep an eye out for the traditional wind towers (crafted from sandstone, teak, and sandalwood) that dot this area and are characteristic of the neighborhood. We stopped by the Arabian Tea House for a refreshing Mint and Lime juice and then popped into the XVA Gallery, one of the leading galleries in the Middle East that specializes in contemporary art. 

And if jetlag hasn’t taken you out yet, other honorable mentions include the Museum of the Future, Jumeirah Mosque, and the Bastakia Quarter. You can also visit the Al Shingdagha Museum, a historied perfume house where you can learn all about the ancient methods of perfume making.  

Inside Cucina.

After a full day of exploring the city’s cultural gems, we returned to the hotel for dinner at Cucina. The rustic trattoria, led by Italian-born chef Emmanuelle, delivers an authentic taste of Italy through homemade pasta and a flash-fried pizza. The space is homey, yet contemporary–pictures of farm life hang on the wall while in the back, there’s the restaurant’s own herb garden. The restaurant’s playful decor translate to the menu as well. To start off, we’re offered the opportunity to make our own bruschetta–chopping tomatoes that were already on the table (which we assumed were decor) and garnishing with olive oil and sticky balsamic vinegar. And while the Al Tartufo Pizza and Pappardelle al Battuto di Manzo were definitely standouts, you really can’t go wrong with any of the mains. Cucina also features wine on tap–red, white, and even rose options, which was an exciting addition to our dining experience. And as much as I’d hate to admit it, I have a bit of a sweet tooth and couldn’t resist the Chef’s Tiramisu, which was delightfully decadent and the perfect end to the meal. There’s also Gelateria by Cucina next door, if you’re in the mood for something frosty. They’ve got everything from the classic vanilla and chocolate to more unique flavors, like pistachio, avocado, and blue cheese. 

And while there’s plenty to do culturally in and around the city–if you’re looking for a leisurely vacation experience, resorts like, Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, provide everything you could possibly want in a relaxing vacation without having to leave your hotel. Situated along Palm West Beach, the resort is a beachside haven. You can lounge by the beach, take a dip in the pool, or even catch a drink at the swim-up bar. If you’re sitting outside in the afternoon, attendants will even bring complimentary ice pops to help you keep cool. 

View from Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

When lunch rolls around, you can take your pick of the ten other restaurants on the resort. For our second day, we opted to take lunch at the Myami Pool Bar & Lounge, a South Beach Miami-inspired restaurant right by the pool. The restaraunt features fun cocktails and American-inspired bites, but the Soft Shell Crab Roll was definitely our favorite. Overlooking Dubai’s Skyline and Arabian Gulf, the food and atmosphere made for the most perfect afternoon. 

If you’re an M Club member, there’s also a 24/7 lounge on the resort that provides an exclusive space to retreat, recharge, and refocus. The lounge provides everything from concierge services to complimentary refreshments. And for those who like to stay active during their vacation, guests can enjoy the 24-hour fitness center, fitted with treadmills, stairmasters, and other equipment. With floor to ceiling windows looking out at the Arabian Gulf, it’s probably the most beautiful place to work out. For a little more R&R, guest can also book facials, hot stone massages, and other treatments at the Saray Spa. 

Night views of Dubai from Marriott Resort Palm Jumeirah, Dubai.

Just before we said our farewell to Dubai, we made a trip to Above Eleven to take in the Dubai’s skyline one final time. The restaurant which is currently only open for dinner, presents a unique take on Japanese staples with a bit of Peruvian influence–our favorites were the Prawn Tempura and Del Mar to start and Lomo Saltado and Nikkei as mains. With breathtaking panoramic night views of the city, we found the restaurant to be a great option for those looking to go somewhere fun, but still staying close to the resort. 

Dubai is certainly a bustling and electric city that touts many exciting attractions to view. And as the city is rapidly developing, the list of where to stay, eat, and play is always expanding. While we could probably keep sharing our experience and recommendations, it’s definitely a city you just have to see for yourself.

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