How to Spend a Long Layover in Dubai

I have a lot of friends who travel “back home” often. Many times the flights go through Dubai which is an enticing long layover. I don’t know of a better layover city than Dubai, besides maybe New York City. Before I get into my recommendations for a Dubai layover, let me say that if you’re traveling through that city in the summer time, stay in the airport. Don’t even try it.

If you are stopping through during one of the cooler months (and I use the term cooler loosely), see if you can make it a 2-day layover to make the detour worth it. Here are some recommendations (with star ratings) from a girl who practically lived in Dubai for four years.

Global Village***** We like to describe Global Village as the single best shopping experience in the world. This is the only place I can take Saleh to shop where he doesn’t complain after 20 minutes. Global Village is an open-air, fancier swap meet with separate shopping areas representing dozens of countries from around the world. At each destination you will find food, clothing and other unique items from the country. You will be surprised by the many impromptu performances highlighting the culture of some of the destinations as well.

Dubai Mall Fountain***** This is awesome because you have to walk through the largest mall in the world, walk by the largest indoor aquarium in the world, then go outside and stand under the tallest skyscraper on the planet. There you are treated to a magnificent water show (2nd largest, boo) that runs every half hour in the evening and plays to popular songs from a range of cultures.

Dubai Gold Souk*** This gets 5 stars if you actually have money to shop. But chances are you will just do some window shopping and enjoy the spectacle. The gold market is an alleyway of gold stores on either side with elaborate displays in the windows. It’s said that this is the cheapest place to buy gold. If you must walk away with something, there’s hope.

Turkish Village Restaurant**** First, Turkish food is always amazing. Second, this restaurant in Jumeirah, right across from the Jumeirah mosque is our favorite restaurant in Dubai. The service is impeccable. They always treat us like family. I can’t really recommend one thing, but I’d say as you walk through to your seat, be nosey and see what looks good on other people’s table and ask your waiter what they have. It works every time.

Mall of the Emirates*** Dubai has the world’s only indoor ski resort and you can see it in Mall of the Emirates. While you’re there, there are numerous high end and basic restaurants, coffee shops, and dessert options where you can sit and watch people pass by. You will hear guests speaking multiple different languages as this mall is a major tourist destination.

Ibn Batutta Mall*** Batutta Mall is actually more unique than the above mall in my opinion. There’s a cool Chinese themed area that people love to congregate around. But the single best reason you should visit the mall is it has one of the coolest Starbucks in the world!

Day Trip to Abu Dhabi**** If you have the time and transportation, drive an hour and a half to Abu Dhabi and visit the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. You will not regret it. I’m sure you’ve seen it on your friends’ social media feeds, but you haven’t see it until you’ve seen it. The drive is pretty cool as well if it’s your first time driving through the desert. The dunes are magnificent and you will probably come across wandering herds of camels at some point.

Atlantis Hotel on the Palm Jumeirah**** You’re on a man made island in the shape of a palm tree! If that’s not enough to get you there, the Atlantis is fabulous. There is an indoor aquarium that’s pretty cool. There is also a gold vending machine inside the hotel. If you’re a fan of seafood, grab a seat at the world famous Nobu restaurant. You can also skydive over the palm, no lie. YOLO!

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