Dubai has a fast-growing reputation as a paradise for shoppers and foodies, thanks to its plethora of shopping centres – from affordable markets to luxury malls – and an endless list of dining destinations – from lip-smacking bites at roadside shacks to world-class restaurants. Dubai truly owns it. 

Home to people from more than 200 nationalities living and working in harmony, Dubai is a smorgasbord of different tastes and lifestyles. Here, people find comfort by going on shopping and culinary journeys. As the city is akin to a map that’s constantly updated, there’s always something new waiting to be discovered. 

In 2014, the world’s largest and most-visited Dubai Mall alone welcomed 80 million visitors who indulged themselves in the 1,200 retail stores, including two anchor department stores – Galeries Lafayette and Bloomingdale’s – and more than 200 food and beverage outlets.

The mall, which is an integral part of Downtown Dubai and directly connected to the Burj Khalifa, is currently under massive expansion, as it seeks to outdo its own previous record. This time, by aiming to go beyond 100 million visitors.

Still in the part of the mall that is the flagship mega-project of Emaar Properties, visitors can cross the Dubai Fountain to get to a distinctive shopping precinct, Souk Al Bahar, which is a modern take on traditional Arabian markets.

Souk Al Bahar features jewellery shops, accessory outlets and a healthy collection of home-grown boutiques and labels where visitors can buy traditional Arab clothing and handicrafts. It also offers a rich array of denim brands.

Souk Al Bahar, which means ‘market of the sailor’, derives its name from its souk-style architecture with a unique waterfront location on Burj Lake. Visitors can enjoy the elegant interior design that presents natural stone corridors, high archways and subdued lighting which bestows the cafés and restaurants there with a romantic and intimate dining experience. 

As you make your way through Souk Al Bahar, be sure to stop by the highly recommended BiCE Mare Restaurant. The most popular Italian eatery on location, BiCE Mare offers contemporary fine dining with the best selections of antipasto, pasta, risotto, angus beef and seafood. Its alfresco dining area is popular among foodies seeking sumptuous dishes and to breath-taking views of Downtown Dubai, such as Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain shows.

Another shopping escape in Dubai is City Walk, nestled in a prestigious neighbourhood on Al Safa Street and in close proximity to Sheikh Zayed Road and the sophisticated Jumeirah Beach Road.

Aside from being commissioned as a place for street artists to create site-specific works in a slice of its area, City Walk with its urban living concept is an ideal outdoor destination that provides the ultimate lifestyle experience with its unique mix of innovative retails and upscale gourmet outlets. 

City Walk is a great destination for lovers of fine chocolate. You’ll find, for one, the chocolate emporium Boutique Le Chocolat. The first and only multi-brand retail experience selling chocolate, Boutique Le Chocolat is inspired by the Paris Salon du Chocolat. Here, shoppers are treated to exceptional ingredients and the best forms of chocolate craftsmanship.

Visitors looking for the best atmosphere to enjoy their morning coffee or gather with friends, should head to The Brass, a local community coffee house offering a combination of the East and West cultures, apparent from the etched brass pots and trays of Arabian hospitality and the original brass roasters of classic European coffee houses.

Also at the City Walk, diners would delight in Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet. This interactive food hall and dining destination provides a convenient, stylish and sociable way for visitors to dine and shop. The restaurant has six different open-kitchen concepts: Le Café, Le Grill, L’Asian, L’Indien, L’Italien and Le Sushi.

In addition, Galeries Lafayette Le Gourmet also boasts two culinary hubs that provide unique experiences for visitors. Le Marche allows visitors to shop for the best-in-class cheese range from Europe, the finest halal cold cuts from Spain and Italy and fresh local produce from organic and home-grown farms, alongside seasonal fruits and vegetables from Europe. La Mezzanine serves as a great venue for events, product launches, cooking classes from the culinary team, birthday celebration, team buildings and blogger spots.

Mediterranean-themed restaurant La Postreria is another good option for foodies to enjoy both lunch and dinner. The restaurant, initially crafted by designer Juan Morandeira and Chef Ruben Romero in 2006, serves typical Spanish and international cuisines in a beautiful comfort and classy design for both formal and casual dining.

Those who prefer dining in a more upscale, elegant setting can head to The H Hotel on Sheikh Zayed Road. Situated at the lobby level, Delphine Restaurant can take visitors to casualness ambiance of Californian roots with the quiet sophistication of its Arabian surroundings. Its open kitchen offers an array of international specialties such as Italian pastas, burrata, homemade gnocchi, pan-seared Salmon and lime cheesecake.

But if your appetite will only raise at the sound of gentle ocean waves and the view of pristine and beautiful beach scenery, just go to Plaj Restaurant at the Jumeirah Zabeel Saray on the West Crescent of Palm Jumeirah. Here, you can enjoy a variety of pizzas, pastas and Italian-inspired snacks while soaking up the sun and enjoying a dynamic atmosphere. At night, the restaurant serves seafood and healthy Italian-inspired fares on the beach overlooking Palm Jumeirah.

Dubai may have a reputation for luxury, but that’s not to say that the options it offers are limited.

To complete your exploration in Dubai, shoppers can take a stroll through the cobbled alleys of the city’s ancient souks and bazaars. The Spice and Gold Souk in the area of Al Fahidi is another of Dubai’s original covered markets that has been selling gold since the 1940s. This lattice of streets is jam-packed with gold and jewels displayed in the windows of more than 300 shops.

You can also disembark on the Deira side of the Creek and take in the mixed aroma of spices, herbs, dried limes, frankincense and mystery ingredients as sellers spill out of hessian sacks.

When you reach the Textile Souk, you’ll be dazzled by a rainbow of silks and satins, velvets and voiles set against the backdrop of shoppers bargaining over textiles, spices, dates and displays of gold.

If you’re looking for an experience that combines tradition and luxury, try visiting Madinat Jumeirah. This shopping and dining centre is inspired by an ancient Arab citadel. Aside from being a shopping hub and home to 44 restaurants and bars, Madinat Jumeirah also houses two luxury hotels which pay tribute to Dubai’s Arabian heritage.

Top up your experience with a night out on the desert, Arabian-style, by visiting Al Hadheerah. Part of Bab Al Shams Resort & Spa, this establishment is located 45 minutes away from Dubai International Airport and the city of Dubai.

Here, culinary enthusiasts are treated to lavish cuisines displayed at its ten live cooking stations, as well as Middle Eastern cuisines from the Emirates, Egypt, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Morocco, Oman and Iran. The restaurant also serves a mixture of international and oriental desserts.

While dining, guests get to enjoy live performances such as traditional belly dances, Tanura performance, Debkeh dance and live music from Arabic singers. A henna artist as well as live heritage camel caravan and horse show are also available.

That’s not all. Arabian aroma from an exclusive selection of shisha flavours await with its allure. Guaranteed, you’re up for an unforgettable night out under the stars.

Sari Widiati

Sari Widiati

Sari has been an arts and culture enthusiast for many years. She has written extensively on the arts, travel, and social issues as Features Writer at NOW! Jakarta.