Where to stay in Dubai- A guide for every traveler

Estimated reading time: 14 minutes

Wondering where to stay in Dubai? From the glamorous Downtown and Palm Jumeirah to the more affordable Bur Dubai and Deira, these are the best areas to stay in Dubai.

Burj Al Arab Hotel Dubai/Image credit: Turag photography/Unsplash

Dubai is the city of extremes. With an array of world-class attractions, leisure options, and tourist activities, this concrete jungle caters to different tastes and styles and never disappoints its guests. No matter if you’re on a romantic getaway or a business trip, Dubai has the perfect accommodations to suit your needs. Even though the city is known for its extravagance, budget-friendly hotels are also plentiful.

However, aside from the budget, the location of your accommodation plays a very important role in shaping your experience.

One thing you might consider is that Dubai is a large and spread-out city that stretches over 40 kilometers (25 miles) along the Persian Gulf coast. To give you an idea, it is seven times larger than Madrid. However, unlike many European and Asian cities, a lot of Dubai is not walkable. While many neighborhoods and places appear to be close on the map, they are actually separated by several kilometers. Even if you want to, there is no walkable area connecting the various places.

In addition, while Dubai’s public transportation network is fairly comprehensive, it largely covers the strip of Sheikh Zayed Road, which runs parallel to the coastline through the heart of the city. As a result, if you are not near the highway and far from landmarks, you will probably need a taxi to get around.

The most convenient and reliable transportation option to get around the city is to book a Blacklane limousine service in Dubai to anywhere you would like to go. When you download the Blacklane app, you can have local, professional chauffeurs ready for you within minutes.

Now your transportation is sorted, there’s one more thing you have to solve – where to stay in Dubai.

We put together a guide to help first-time visitors as well as business travelers find the best areas to stay in the city of gold.

Our top picks:

  • Best area in Dubai for first timers: Downtown Dubai
  • Best Area in Dubai for Nightlife: Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
  • Best Area in Dubai for Foodies: Dubai Marina
  • Best Area in Dubai for shopping: Downtown Dubai
  • Best Area in Dubai for Outdoor Activities: Palm Jumeirah
  • Best area in Dubai for beach lovers: Jumeirah
  • Best area for business travelers: Business Bay
  • Best budget friendly area in Dubai: Bur Dubai
  • Best Area in Dubai for experiencing Emirati culture: Al Seef

Map of Dubai neighborhoods

Best area in Dubai for first timers: Downtown Dubai

Dubai locals and residents call Downtown Dubai the ‘center of now’, which means everything from shopping to sightseeing is at your fingertips. If you are traveling with your family, this place will keep everyone happy. This lustrous skyscraper-clad area is home to the city’s (if not the world’s) most famous attractions including Burj Khalifa, the Dubai Mall and Dubai Fountain. During cooler months a stroll along Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, which is the most famous street in Dubai, with its numerous fine dining restaurants, high end boutiques, and luxurious hotels, would be an unforgettable experience. If you are on the quest for an artistic experience, Dubai Opera is just steps away. And if you’re looking for places to go in Dubai’s vibrant nightlife scene, Downtown Dubai is the be-all, end-all of party neighborhoods for first timers in the city.

Burj Park Dubai/Image credit: Agnieszka Kowalczyk/Unsplash

Home to five-star plus hotels including The Armani Hotel Dubai, The Palace Downtown Dubai, and The Address Dubai Mall, Downtown Dubai is one of the most luxurious addresses in the city. It is also centrally located and provides easy access to public transportation. Other popular areas like Al Barsha, Business Bay and Old Dubai are within a short distance. You are also in close proximity to Dubai International Airport.

Best Area in Dubai for Nightlife: Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)

The first thing you might imagine when you think of Dubai is white sand beaches backed by skyscrapers, and that’s exactly what Jumeirah Beach Residence looks like. Besides being home to some famous landmarks including The Beach and The Walk, JBR is one of the hottest places in Dubai to enjoy nightlife.

The Beach JBR. Image credit: Nick Fewings/Unsplash

You can spend the day at The Beach, a laid-back beachfront that offers a variety of thrilling adventures and watersport activities such as skydiving and jet-skiing. Evenings are the best time to linger on The Walk, where you can take a relaxing stroll and indulge in shopping. There is no shortage of open space venues and rooftop bars here. Ferraris and Lamborghinis line the streets, while lights and music fill the air.

JBR offers a variety of accommodation options, but it is more on the expensive side. The area is well-connected and has its own tram stations at both ends of the community. Also, there are two metro stations nearby. Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers are the closest neighborhoods.

Best Area in Dubai for Foodies: Dubai Marina

You’ve probably seen lots of pictures of Dubai tourists posing by a winding water canal with a block of skyscrapers in the background. This Instagrammable spot is Dubai Marina. Located next to JBR, it is one of the city’s most buzzing and happening neighborhoods.

Dubai Marina/ Image credit: ISCO/Unsplash

Apart from being home to the modern and chic Marina Mall, and the Xline Dubai, it is also known for its al fresco dining venues. From sun-filled terraces and dining high above the city in the Flying Cup, to cheerful quick bites, even the fussiest eater can find something to delight. There are many vibrant eateries along the water canal and if you are looking for a special culinary experience treat yourself to a sunset dinner cruise with Xclusive Yachts. However, the highlight of dining options is Pier 7. Home to not one or two but seven different fine dining restaurants on seven floors, Pier 7 serves cuisine from around the world and boasts panoramic views of Dubai’s skyline. The building itself is an architectural monument.

Dubai Marina is more of an upscale neighborhood. There is a good mix of accommodation choices, including waterfront resorts and high-end suits, as well as more affordable but still high-quality hotels.

Unlike some other parts of the city, Dubai Marina is a pedestrian-friendly neighborhood, and you can walk to different destinations within the area. It is also a well-connected area and has two dedicated metro stations as well as several tram stops. All in all, its central location provides easy access to other parts of the city.

Best Area in Dubai for shopping: Downtown Dubai

Dubai’s downtown is a shopper’s paradise and never ceases to amaze visitors. It is a non-negotiable fact among Dubai visitors that there is no shopping location in Dubai, or even in the world, that can match the incredible offerings of The Dubai Mall. With more than 1,300 outlets and stocked with everything from uber-luxurious brands like Chanel and Louis Vuitton to athleisure favorites like Lululemon, to timeless pieces from Tiffany & Co., this place is a wonderland of shopping. The mall hosts some of the finest department stores including the upscale Parisian Galeries Lafayette and the iconic Bloomingdale’s.

There are also sports, art, and entertainment areas at different corners of the mall. The incredibly comfortable multiplex has over 200 eateries serving international cuisine. There are several famous attractions in the mall, such as the Dubai Ice Rink, the Dubai Aquarium, and the Underwater Zoo. The Dubai Fountain is set directly outside the mall at the foot of the glittering Burj Khalifa.

On the lakeside of the Dubai Mall’s outdoor area and opposite Burj Khalifa you can find the charming Souk AL Bahar. Built in the traditional Arabesque style, this mall is home to dozens of quirky boutiques as well as several artisan stalls and an array of restaurants and cafés. Unlike the buzzing Dubai Mall, Souk Al Bahar offers a tranquil and traditional Middle Eastern atmosphere. It is the perfect place to find antiques, Arabic perfumes, handcrafted items, oriental sweets, and special souvenirs to take home.

The popular Time Out Market has taken up residence in the souk since 2021, featuring 17 best homegrown eateries. Dining at Souk AL Bahar is particularly exceptional because of its location on the water of Burj Lake. Many restaurants offer stunning views of the fountain show, which starts at 6 p.m. every day. Also, many restaurants have beautiful views of the sparkling Burj Khalifa.

Gallery One, one of the largest high-street art retailers in the UAE, and Mazaya Shopping Center are also among other shopping destinations in Downtown Dubai.

Best Area in Dubai for Outdoor Activities: Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah is Dubai’s sun-seekers’ favorite. As one of the first major tourist attractions in the UAE, the engineering marvel is home to scenic venues, royal hotels, and ritzy retail. Known as the eighth wonder of the world, staying at Palm Jumeirah is an experience that embodies luxury in a waterfront setting. From the adrenaline-pumping water slides at Atlantis Aquaventure Waterpark to swimming with dolphins at Dolphin Bay to speedboat rides and paddling around the Palm, there are plenty of watersport activities to enjoy here. The Pointe, a newly opened leisure venue with the largest choreographed fountain in the world, is located at the very tip of the spine of the Palm.

Shopaholics will also not be disappointed at The Palm. Aside from the lavish Nakheel Mall, the island features top name-brand boutiques, high-end department stores, and an array of locally made artisan items. Your taste buds are sure to love the abundant options of authentic cafes and eateries serving local and international favorites.

Since it is an island, most accommodations offer uninterrupted sea views, in a serene setting with direct access to the beach. For transportation between the mainland and the island, visitors can take a water taxi or a bus taxi, which is also a fun way to explore the area. Another popular mode of transport is the Palm Monorail, which runs the entire length of the Palm and connects to the metro.

Palm Jumeirah is famous for attracting wealthy travelers who seek to indulge themselves with no limits. While the experience is worth it, if you are traveling on a budget, you may want to consider other places.

Best area in Dubai for beach lovers: Jumeirah

There are lots of Jumeirahs in Dubai; Palm Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Residence, Jumeirah this, and Jumeirah that, which can often be very confusing! Here we are exclusively talking about the Jumeirah Beach area, which has an extensive white sandy beach and is located along the Persian Gulf’s shore. This is a picturesque destination that offers unraveling views of the sea along with the city’s skyscrapers. The area is home to several famous public beaches in Dubai including Kite Beach, Al Sufouh Beach, and La Mer. The famous Wild Wadi Water Park with a variety of exciting rides and slides is also located in this area.

Like other parts of Dubai, Jumeirah also comes with an array of multicultural dining options. From traditional Arab cuisine to the famous Salt Bae, you can find everything to satisfy your taste buds.

The area is home to the chic Mercato Mall, the outdoor Madinat Jumeirah Souk, and Jumeirah Plaza which are definitely worth a visit for those seeking retail therapy. Apart from providing world-class shopping experiences, these malls offer the real taste of the city, from handcrafted local fare to gifts and souvenirs and everything in between.

In addition to its vibrant seaside atmosphere, this classy waterfront community is known for its proximity to Dubai’s key attractions including Safa Park and The Dubai Mall. Though sitting on its own island, the monumental Burj Al Arab is also located in this area.

There is a huge variety of hotels available on Jumeirah Beach, catering to all budgets and requirements. Although there is no dedicated metro station in the area, there are numerous bus routes that connect to metro stations.

Best area for business travelers: Business Bay

To Dubai residents, Business Bay is like Manhattan, a place to see and be seen. It was created to meet the needs of local and international businesses. As well as large global names, there are many SMEs and established local businesses in the area. Other business hubs of the city such as Dubai World Trade Center, and Dubai International Financial Center are within close proximity. 

Staying in this area can turn your business trip into an escape. From top entertainment venues to high-end hotels, restaurants, and retail outlets, this community has everything you’d expect from a contemporary residence. The Dubai Water Canal is the perfect place for a peaceful walk after a busy day of meetings. This trendy spot is lined with cafes and restaurants and stretches 6.4 km through Business Bay from Old Dubai’s Creek. And if you are still looking for more, Downtown Dubai with all its offerings is just next door.

The area has an abundance of residential towers and hotels. As a result, you can find something that fits your budget. Additionally, Business Bay has a central location and is well-served by Dubai’s public transport system, so you don’t have to worry about commuting.

Best budget friendly area in Dubai: Bur Dubai

All the areas mentioned above are part of the ‘New’ Dubai. However, areas like Bur Dubai, Deira, AL Karama, Al Nahda, and Al Garhoud are major parts of ‘Old’ Dubai. While New Dubai with all its glitz and glamor showcases the progress and evolution of the city, Old Dubai reflects the culture and history of the Emirate.

The community is home to historical sites including Dubai Museum, Dubai Heritage Village, and Fahidi Historical District. The iconic, blue-tiled Iranian Mosque, along with the Hindu Shiva Temple, and Dubai’s Grand Mosque, were the city’s religious centers that had become tourist attractions over time. 

Though it is not as upmarket as other parts of the city, Bur Dubai is in the heart of old Dubai, and aside from being a haven for history buffs, it is ideal for budget travelers. There is no shortage of dining and shopping options in the area. It is a culinary treasure with lots of Asian street food choices. It is also home to the Burjuman shopping center, which is one of Dubai’s biggest malls. The Dubai Frame, Al Seef Dubai, and Dubai Creek are among the top tourist destinations nearby and Jumeirah Beach is just 20 minutes drive away.

Bur Dubai is one of the city’s most well-connected areas. The community is served by six metro stations and several bus stops. It can also be reached easily via Sheikh Zayed Road.

Best Area in Dubai for experiencing Emirati culture: Al Seef

Al Seef is a newly developed waterfront leisure district in Dubai located directly on Dubai Creek. In the past, Dubai Creek was home to the only port in the city and had a crucial role in shaping Dubai’s pearl diving industry, and Al Seef is all about glorifying that era.

Al Seef Dubai/Image credit: Sheraz Shaikh/Unsplash

A unique feature of Al Seef is the combination of contemporary style and historic aesthetics from the 1900s. From the small gift stalls to Starbucks Café and the hotels, almost every building in Al Seef has a rusted and old-school look, giving a sense of Dubai’s past. Here you can find an array of shops selling Arabic perfumes, carpets, jewelry in oriental styles, Emirati costumes, ornaments, traditional handicrafts, and handmade souvenirs created by regional craftsmen.

The fusion of tradition and modernity is everywhere in Al Seef, and even more so in the food. Whether you are looking for innovative street food or are in the mood for a royal treat, you’ll find the best of both in Al Seef.

There are a couple of hotels in the area, such as Al Seef Heritage Hotel, which is designed in the traditional Emirati style, and Hampton by Hilton. Both of these places are flashy, and if you’re looking to splash out on your trip to Dubai, these will do you nicely. However, nearby areas like Deira and Bur Dubai offer plenty of reasonably priced accommodations with decent amenities.

While the area is just steps away from the metro station, you can take advantage of the surrounding waterways and take a water taxi or a private yacht to reach your destination. Al Seef is also only a short drive away from Dubai International Airport, making it an ideal destination for frequent travelers and tourists.