A local's guide to the coolest neighbourhoods in Dubai

Aug 2 2019, 4:00 am

Welcome to Dubai — a modern oasis where the Arabian desert meets the warm seas of the Persian Gulf.

From ancient spice souks to palm-shaped islands and record-breaking architecture, the city’s neighbourhoods offer visitors so much to explore. Take a step into the Middle Eastern metropolis as we guide you through the coolest neighbourhoods in Dubai.

Bur Dubai


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Located along the south bank of Dubai Creek, Bur Dubai is home to the majority of Dubai’s important historical attractions. Here you can walk through the city’s last remaining historic neighbourhoods, formerly known as the Bastakiya Quarter. The labyrinth of lanes, built in the early 1900s by wealthy textile and pearl merchants from Bastak, Iran, offer a glimpse into the once-sleepy seaport of old-world Dubai.

Meander the narrow, winding alleyways past sand-coloured buildings topped with wind towers — the traditional AC of the Middle East. Wander deeper through the lanes to discover museums, shops, cafes, and galleries aplenty.

Within easy reach, you’ll also find a handful of historic mosques and the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding, a place for visitors to get a better understanding of the culture and customs of the UAE. By then, you’ll have worked up an appetite — satisfy your hunger with an authentic dinner at one of the many nearby Arabic, Moroccan, and Lebanese restaurants.

Dubai Design District (d3)


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Dubai Design District, better known as d3, seemed to pop out of nowhere and go on to become one of the coolest neighbourhoods in Dubai. As the name suggests, here you’ll find a destination dedicated to all things design, fashion, and the arts. From runway shows to concerts and pop-up exhibits, the area is a bustling hub for creatives of the region.

Grab a coffee and check out the numerous public art and design installations, or head to a nearby gallery to explore the latest exhibit. To cap off the day, take in Dubai’s stylish citizens while dining al fresco at one of the district’s many unique restaurants.

Al Quoz


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At first, Al Quoz appears to be an ordinary industrial suburb with streets of massive warehouses. But venturing down Alerkal Avenue proves to be worth the hype, providing a unique setting for Dubai’s emerging culture hub.

Spread over 500,000 sq. ft., Al Quoz is a renowned cultural neighbourhood of Dubai best known for its contemporary art galleries, non-profit organizations, and independent stores — including a flood of stylish cafés regularly overflowing with hipsters.

A regular rotation of exhibits, concerts, and cultural events and markets have turned this previously meh ‘hood into one of the coolest in town.

Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) and Dubai Marina


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Adjacent to the Palm Jumeirah lies the Dubai Marina. Inspired by Vancouver’s False Creek, the Dubai Marina was the city’s first all-high-rise residential neighbourhood and bears an uncanny resemblance to Daily Hive’s hometown of Vancouver, right down to the handrails on the seawall.

Popular with locals, residents, and tourists alike, Dubai Marina’s charming waterfronts are lined with skinny condo towers and a growing number of al fresco restaurants that stay open into the wee hours of the night. Pier 7, the Marina’s idea of foodie heaven, hosts seven unique restaurants on each level of the tower that rises from the middle of the pedestrian walk. Here, you’ll catch a stunning view of the Cayan Tower’s iconic twisting profile.

Across the Marina, you’ll find Jumeirah Beach Residence (or as the locals know it, JBR), a neighbourhood of apartments conveniently located by one of Dubai’s most popular public beaches. Strolling along the Walk is a great way to take in some graffiti murals and modern art pieces while enjoying a stunning view of the Persian Gulf.

Deira (Dubai Creek)


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Visiting Deira is like stepping back in time. Located on the northern bank of the Dubai Creek, the small port was historically the commercial centre of Dubai due to its convenient location along trade routes. The recent development of areas further down the coast have dimmed Deira’s commercial importance, but the neighbourhood stays true to its origins of days gone by.

The Dubai Creek area feels different from any other place in the city — namely due to the lack of neck-craning skyscrapers in the immediate area. Instead, traditional wooden boats (abras) ferry passengers across the creek. There, the rustic streets of the Gold and Spice Souks await. Whether you’re in the market for fine jewelry, exotic spices, or a shawl in every colour, you’ll find all that and more at these traditional Arab markets.

Take some time to wander the stalls, and don’t be afraid to haggle a little. (This is a local’s guide, remember?) Feeling like something new? Sample some camel’s milk or an Arabic coffee, both commonly enjoyed in the UAE.

The Palm Jumeirah


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What would a guide to the coolest neighbourhood in Dubai be without a mention of the Palm Jumeirah? As one of the world’s largest man-made islands, the district is (rightly so) one of the city’s most recognizable regions. A solution to the area’s shortage of beachfront, the development was created by taking land from the seabed to build new communities. NBD.

The date palm-shaped island and its 17 fronds are mainly a self-contained residential district which is closed to visitors, but a ride on the monorail will take you down the trunk and the Atlantis hotel, giving epic views of shallow lagoons and private villas along the way.

Hop off once you’ve hit the pink arches of Atlantis and you’ll find plenty of fine-dining hotspots, beach clubs, luxury spas, and unparalleled views of the Persian Gulf from the boardwalk.

Downtown Dubai and Sheikh Zayed Road


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No trip to Dubai is complete without exploring the heart of the Emirate: downtown Dubai. Along Sheikh Zayed Road you’ll find the world’s largest mall (The Dubai Mall), Burj Khalifa — the world’s tallest building, and the Gevora Hotel, the tallest hotel on the globe. Are we noticing a trend here?

Downtown Dubai is a great place to stay, given its central location and wide array of nearby activities (see above). Shop til you drop at the Dubai Mall, take in a show at the Dubai Fountain or stop by the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo. Ice skating in the desert more your style? Head to the rink located inside the Dubai Mall — no, that’s not a joke.

For the adventurous, there’s the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building and a global icon of engineering. Visit the world’s highest observation deck for a once-in-a-lifetime bird’s eye view of the spectacular city’s skyline.

Jumeirah Beach


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Jumeirah Beach encompasses a long stretch of pristine shoreline that’s home to a number of the city’s most recognizable landmarks, namely the iconic Burj Al Arab hotel. Spend a day exploring the restaurants, gardens, and waterways of Madinat Jumeirah Resort, all while enjoying stunning views of the sail-shaped hotel. Wild Wadi Water Park and the popular public beachfront parks are also honourable mentions.

Media City


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Media City is a hub for — you guessed it — the city’s media organizations and is also home to one of Dubai’s best outdoor venues. A concert or a festival at the Media City Amphitheater is a guaranteed good time, especially with the promise of top-notch post-show eateries in the neighbourhood.

Which of Dubai’s neighbourhoods are you most excited to explore? Let us know below!

Katherine BertrandKatherine Bertrand

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