Most travellers to Dubai spend their days sightseeing, shopping in the city’s amazing malls or basking on the beaches in the sun, but there’s plenty more fun to be had after dark too with a burgeoning social scene buoyed by the presence of so many ex-pats. Depending on your type of thing the city has an eclectic mix of places to visit after the sun goes down.
Across the city you’ll find everything from colonial-style smoking lounges, hip hangouts, quirky bars and great live music hubs to rooftop venues, waterside watering holes, superclubs and even an Irish pub. Some places are ideal to start the night, others are good for capping it off. Here’s our roundup of eight interesting spots to include in an eventful evening of drinking, dancing and chilling in this most modern of desert cities.
Eventful evenings in Dubai, a mini-guide
The House Party Bar
One of a few novelty bars to crop up across the city recently, the House Party Bar on Fairmont Sheikh Zayed Road is a great place for a fun night with friends. Laid out like an American college house party, the bar features frat-style posters, drinks and décor with live DJs spinning uplifting tunes and classic party games like beer pong (in this case prosecco pong), table football, giant jenga and a ball pit to keep everyone entertained.
Tr!beca Kitchen and Bar
This laid-back bar channels the energy of New York’s trendy Tribeca neighbourhood with its industrial loft apartment style décor, furniture and artworks. Though contrived, the bar has an arty ambience and regularly hosts live music on its small stage including an open mic night Go Play The World every Sunday. Situated in the shiny modern Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) district, it offers an artistic platform for emerging talent in the local music and arts scene.
Chillout Ice Lounge
As a desert enclave, Dubai is sometimes swelteringly hot, even after dark. But if the smouldering heat gets too much, the Chillout Ice Lounge is the perfect place to cool off, with Arctic temperatures and frozen mocktails providing a startling contrast to the sun-baked location. Much like a Scandi ice bar, mood lighting illuminates the dazzling ice sculptures that decorate the place, and all the furniture is carved from blocks of ice. The Middle East’s first ice bar, it’s also the first in the world to serve up hot food and drink so you can enjoy a relaxed light supper and a cosy hot chocolate in a weird and wonderful location, or simply kick off your evening with an invigorating icy aperitif.
According to British ex-pats, many an evening in Dubai ends in the late-night bar at Rockbottoms which opens until three in the morning, serves cheap lime-green shots and sometimes gives out free pizza. It’s far from sophisticated but always a good laugh with plenty of intoxicated dancing, drinking and general merriment.
The Irish Village
A great antidote to the glitz and glamour that Dubai is sometimes associated with, the trusty Irish Village is a casual hangout; a huge welcoming place mimicking the look and feel of an Irish village with a beer garden and plenty of outdoor benches where you can sip on a pint and listen to live music. From fiddling Irish bands to big-name acts like Macy Gray, the pub regularly hosts gigs. Famous performers have included Sir Bob Geldof, Human League, The Pretenders, Paolo Nutini, The Wailers and Midge Ure to name just a few. Check the listings or just pop by. British band James is scheduled to play there this November 2018.
A series of wooden terraces, with a pool and bar right on the beach, Barasti Beach bar is a go-to for ex-pats and something of an institution on the Dubai social scene, especially with the recent closure for refurbishment of Palm Jumeirah’s lively Nasimi Beach (due to reopen later this year). The place has a laid-back inclusive vibe with three really big bars, live music on the middle terrace, shisha pipes available in a range of flavours and tasty bar food like triple-cooked fries and pizza. Barasti Beach has just started hosting pool parties on Thursdays, and it also doubles as a sports bar screening big international games.
In the heart of Dubai’s industrial Al Quoz arts district that centres on the Alserkal Avenue collective with galleries, creative spaces and pop-ups, The Fridge is the district’s live music and events venue based in a converted warehouse. It aims to nurture home-grown talent and holds one-off immersive events as well as gigs with curated programming and concert series, including weekly shows. A great excuse to explore this emerging area of the city, the latest events are listed online so you can see what’s on while you’re in Dubai.
Hendricks Bar at Four Seasons Dubai at Jumeriah Beach has become one of Dubai’s hottest cocktail spots since it first opened. Not for everyone but if you like the ambience and sophistication of an old-fashioned gentleman’s club, with cigars and gin cocktails on the menu, you’ll love Hendricks Bar where cocktails are muddled table-side by stylish bartenders.
Dubai, my hot tickets
Dubai is a regional hub for live music, bringing a whole host of international music stars to the Middle East as part of its international festivals and one-off shows at world-class stadiums such as the amphitheatre at Dubai Media City. It’s well worth checking the listings if you know when you’re going to be in town to bag hot tickets to see big names in smaller venues than elsewhere.