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Your guide to Dubai's neighbourhoods and landmarks

Dazzling Dubai is famous for its ultra-luxurious hotels and dizzying skyscrapers, but how much do you know about its different neighbourhoods? Here, we take a look at what each has to offer.

Your guide to Dubai's neighbourhoods and landmarks

Famous for its spectacular skyscrapers and luxurious lifestyles, glittering Dubai is a cosmopolitan city that offers more than just its famous attractions. Its varied districts house everything from the wealthy hotels it's famed for to traditional souks and busy waterfronts.

So, it'd be a shame to visit Dubai without experiencing several of its neighbourhoods - after all, you don't want to miss your chance to discover other sides to this world-famous city. Here is a quick guide to each, which will will show you at a glance what to expect in each area - and what you shouldn't miss:

New Dubai

Best for: Classic Dubai luxury.

Notable landmarks: Palm Jumeirah, Atlantis hotel, Dubai Marina, Dubai Marina Mall.

New Dubai is perhaps the area that best fits the city's image of grand hotels, pristine beaches, fine restaurants and luxury at every turn. However, it actually has all these things and more, with the area encompassing everything from the famous man-made Palm Island to Dubai Marina, Media City and more. The main areas within New Dubai are:

  • The Palm

    A sun-soaked land of beach clubs and high-end hotels, Palm Jumeirah is one of the most famous parts of the city - and one of the most popular among tourists. This is one of the world's largest man-made islands, created to help increase the city's coastline and to act as a hub for luxurious holidays. The addition of the spectacular Atlantis hotel, a landmark that's as famous as the island itself, helps to make this one of the most visually striking areas of the city. Come here and it won't just be the view on the approach that strikes you, but the glorious uninterrupted views across the Gulf from the luxury beach clubs too.

  • Media City

    Contrasting Palm Jumeirah is Media City, a business area that, as its name suggests, is home to the city's media hubs, including newspapers, magazines and TV studios. For visitors, however, the real appeal lies in its collection of excellent restaurants and live music venues. What's on at the Media City Amphitheatre is particularly worth a look, being one of Dubai's very best outdoor venues.

  • Dubai Marina

    Luxury abounds at Dubai Marina, where inviting al fresco restaurants line the waterfront. Dubai Marina Mall provides the gateway to the front, and is, as you'd expect with the city's excellent reputation for shopping, a worthy attraction in its own right. Also worth noting is the area opposite the marina - Jumeirah Lake Towers. With its quiet cafes and children's playground, it's a great spot for families.

Downtown Dubai (Sheikh Zayed Road area)

Best for: Exploring Dubai's most famous sites.

Notable landmarks: Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall, Dubai Fountains, Dubai Aquarium.

Downtown Dubai, or the Sheikh Zayed Road area, is home to some of the the city's most iconic buildings - including the world's tallest building the Burj Khalifa. Not content with being home to one superlative, it's also home to the biggest shopping centre on the planet, the Dubai Mall. So, the area is an absolute must-visit if you're keen to tick off a few of the city's famous names.

Sheikh Zayed Road itself is Dubai's major artery, and as well as being a vast highway, it's the heart of modern business in Dubai, and as a result is packed with skyscrapers - the first of which only arrived in 1979. These skyscrapers also take the form of hotels and house everything from art galleries to nightclubs, as well as luxurious apartments. However, the stand-out feature is, of course, the Burj Khalifa, which is 828 metres tall.

The area immediately around the Burj Khalifa is Downtown Dubai proper, and it's where you'll find the Dubai Mall, with its 1,200 stores and host of entertainment options, as well as the famous Dubai Fountain. Set in the heart of a giant lake and backed by the Burj Khalifa, this spectacular fountain dances to a height of 150 metres.

It's worth bearing in mind that Downtown Dubai is also home to some smaller, lesser-known spots, like Al Quoz. Head to Alserkal Avenue to discover some 20 permanent art spaces - this is one of the most interesting up-and-coming art districts in the city.

Jumeirah

Best for: Relaxing on the beach and waterparks.

Notable landmarks: Burj Al Arab, Mall of the Emirates, Jumeirah Mosque.

Once just a beach, Jumeirah has expanded significantly to cover a large area - and, somewhat confusingly, it overlaps with other major areas of Dubai. For example, it leads into Palm Jumeirah, which is usually considered part of New Dubai. As a rule of thumb, Jumeirah can be considered the coastal area west of Dubai Creek.

Its highlights include Beach Road, which winds it way along the waterfront past restaurants, resorts and shops, and is a great spot for strolling. Also on your list of must-sees should be the Burj Al Arab - another building that typically makes it on to the list of the city's greats. Designed to look like a sail, this luxury five-star hotel is one of the most famous landmarks of the Jumeirah landscape.

In this part of the city you'll also find the Jumeirah Mosque, which deservedly enjoys a reputation as the most beautiful in the city. Wild Wadi Water Park, meanwhile, and the Mall of the Emirates are some of the most popular leisure attractions.

Bur Dubai

Best for: Experiencing old Dubai.

Notable landmarks: Al Fahidi historic area, Dubai Museum/Al Fahidi Fort, Bur Dubai Souk.

Standing on the west side of Dubai Creek is Bur Dubai, one of the city's most historic areas. Home to souks, excellent restaurants offering authentic global cuisine, and the city's finest museum, it's a great place to get a sense of how Dubai has evolved since its early days.

This is arguably best done in two places - the Al Fahidi historic district, and Dubai Museum, each of which are real highlights of the area. Well restored, the historic district is full of narrow lanes containing craft shops, cafes, art galleries and more, making them a joy to explore.

Dubai Museum, meanwhile, can be found in Al Fahidi Fort - considered to be the city's oldest structure. Dating back to approximately 1800, the fort has held several roles throughout its history, including a home for local rulers and a prison. Becoming a museum in the 1970s, it now stands as the finest place to learn about Dubai's evolution from a fishing village to one of the most important tourism destinations on the planet. Plus, it tells its story in a really engaging way - as you explore, you'll walk through a mock souk, discover life in the home and learn all about Bedouin life in the desert.

While you're in Bur Dubai, it's also worth stopping by Dubai Souk - a covered souk that's best visited on Friday evenings, when it's at its liveliest.

Deira

Best for: Experiencing old Dubai, visiting souks.

Notable landmarks: Deira Gold Souk, Dhow Wharfage.

Together with Bur Dubai, Deira makes up the area commonly known as Old Dubai. It is connected to Bur Dubai via Al Seef Road, where you can catch a water taxi (abra) across to Deira. This bustling, somewhat chaotic-feeling part of the city is one of the most atmospheric places to explore - especially when you visit the souks.

The souks are, arguably, what Deira is most famous for. In the Spice Souk, you'll be able to smell the heady scent of all kinds of exotic spices, incense and sheesha mingling in the air. The Gold Souk, meanwhile, is packed full of glittering displays of jewellery - typically sold at excellent value. It's also worth stopping by the Deira Fish Market, which is the largest in Dubai and is a great place to get a sense of Dubai's past fishing trade. Come early in the morning or the evening to see mountains of fish being traded.

Don't forget to stroll along the Creek too, where you can see colourful dhows loaded with goods ready to trade - a practice that has been carried out on dhows here since the 1830s.

Laura Rawlings

Laura Rawlings

Enthusiastic Family Juggler

A family-focused traveller that seeks out the best experiences for my growing travelling party,...

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