From mesmerising futuristic architecture to spectacular hotels set on glorious white sand beaches, plus guaranteed sunshine, dazzling Dubai is a grown-up holiday paradise.
The Emirate city may have a reputation for being full of luxury hotels and fancy restaurants, but there are plenty of tricks for visiting on the cheap. In fact, one man bagged Dubai flights for £64 to join his friend for a getaway, not to mention there's a clever flight hack if you're after a free stay in one of its five-star hotels.
Dubai is surprisingly family friendly and with the launch of a raft of great summer deals including “kids go free” offers, there’s never been a better time to visit.
Here’s our ultimate guide to help you get more bang for your buck, from five-star hotel stays to gourmet dining and visits to top attractions.
Where to stay
Dubai knows how to do luxury accommodation and this summer families will find a warm welcome at many of its glittering resort hotels.
Sitting on a half-mile stretch of private beach in Jebel Ali, looking out to the Persian Gulf, there’s a range of activities, from mini golf to wakeboarding and horse-riding at five-star JA The Resort.
There’s savings of up to 40%, while children can stay, dine and play in the Pirates & Mermaids Kids Club for free, for bookings until August 31. A room for a family of four in July starts at £149 per night with up to £42 daily food and drink credit.
On the banks of Dubai Creek and home to two beachfront lagoons, the Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club and a range of restaurants, the five-star Park Hyatt Dubai has something for every member of the family.
Children under 13 stay and eat for free for stays until August 31. In July, a room for a family of four starts at £198 per night.
Set at the tip of the iconic Palm Island, five-star Atlantis, The Palm is a city within a city with 35 boutiques, and an array of dining options including restaurants of celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay and Nobu Matsuhisa. It’s also home to Aquaventure, the world’s largest waterpark.
Children under 14 stay for free for stays until September 30 if booked by August 31. An Ocean Queen Room in July starts at £281 per night with daily free entry to Aquaventure and The Lost Chambers Aquarium.
Chic, fun and affordable, award-winning Rove Hotels has nine three-star properties dotted across the city including Dubai Marina, City Walk and downtown Dubai. Children stay and eat for free for bookings until August 31. A night at Rove at the Park in July starts at £40 based on two adults and one child sharing.
Best things to do in Dubai
Standing 2,717ft high and with 160 storeys, the Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building and a top attraction. The skyscraper also holds the record for the fastest double-deck lifts, whisking you up at 33ft per second to Level 125 for breathtaking views over the city.
Until August 31, two children under 12 get free entry when accompanied by two adults (admission for two adults £72, atthetop.ae).
Let your children’s imaginations run wild at Expo City Dubai. This future-facing city’s attractions include the falcon-shaped UAE Pavilion and Terra – The Sustainability Pavilion, an immersive journey into the ocean’s depths and through the forest’s roots, exploring how we can protect and preserve our planet. Free entry for under-12s until August 31 (one-day Attractions Pass £26.40 adults, expocitydubai.com).
Learn about Emirati customs and culture by booking one of the daily programmes offered by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding ranging from a traditional meal in a restored wind-tower in the Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (£32 adults) to a visit to the Jumeirah Mosque (£7.70 adults). Under-sevens go free until August 31. You can find out more on cultures.ae.
Best free activities
On Jaddaf Waterfront, along the Dubai Creek, Jameel Arts Centre is a stunning urban space showcasing modern and contemporary art from local, regional and international artists.
In the industrial area of Al Quoz, Alserkal Avenue is one of the city’s most celebrated cultural districts – think London’s Shoreditch or New York’s Meatpacking District.
This major art hub housed in a former warehouse plays host to galleries, exhibitions, workshops, film screenings and festivals, with many free to enter.
Where to eat in Dubai on a budget
Dubai’s fine-dining scene offers an eclectic range of cuisines in high-end venues – with eye-watering prices. But by taking advantage of budget-friendly business lunch menus, you can savour a gastronomic experience that won’t break the bank, with two courses costing as little as £21.50.
Featured in the first-ever Michelin Guide Dubai published last year, Amazonico in the Dubai International Financial Centre serves delicious South American dishes as part of its business lunch set menu (Mon-Fri), around £32 for four courses.
In the heart of the Financial Centre, Michelin Green-star Boca’s Spanish-influenced business lunch offers a menu of tasty dishes using seasonal and locally sourced ingredients (Mon-Thurs), two courses £25 or three courses £30.
Go Greek in elegant Avli by Tashas, also in the Financial Centre, whose lavish business lunch could include chicken souvlaki and a decadent dessert (Mon-Fri), £28 for three courses.
Head to Souk Al Bahar, for a taste of the best of Dubai’s restaurants at Time Out Market, buzzing with local chefs serving up signature dishes from some of the city’s foodie gems. Take in views of Burj Khalifa and The Dubai Fountain from the wraparound outdoor terrace. Dishes from around £6.50.
Pool and beach days
If you’re looking to escape the heat and cool off in the water, it’s worth splashing out on a pool and beach pass when you can recoup the admission charge in food and drink.
Casual yet stylish beach club, Bla Bla Dubai at Jumeirah Beach Resort offers infinity and spa pools, cocktails and poolside dining against the stunning backdrop of the Dubai Eye.
From £88 for a double sun lounger Mon-Fri or from £110 Sat-Sun, which is fully redeemable for food and beverages.
At Coco Lounge in Media One Hotel, Dubai Media City, enjoy the vibe and the club music relaxing by the pool for the whole day and redeem the £21 admission on Latin American/Japanese cuisine and cocktails. Open daily from 10am-7pm.
Fluid Beach Club at the trendy beachfront hotel Th8 Palm offers fully redeemable pool and beach access daily. Chill in the infinity pool area complete with sunbeds and parasols as you soak up views of the marina skyline and Palm Jumeirah itself.
From £43pp on weekdays and £54pp at weekends, refundable to use for food and drink.
Download The Entertainer app to capitalise on the range of two-for-one vouchers, together with thousands of offers on food and beverages, hotels and packages and more than 1,000 attraction and leisure offers as well as brunch, shopping, spa and salon discounts. theentertainerme.com
Dubai Pass is an all-inclusive pre-paid card that gives cash-free access to 33 top attractions with savings of up to 60%. Prices from £99.50 adults, £93 children (three-12). You can get yours at dubaipass.ae.
Head to visitdubai.com for the full list of deals and offers – and you can also find the Kids Go Free deals here.
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