Dubai Travel Guide

With its futuristic skyline and ambitious architectural landscape, it doesn’t take long to see that Dubai is a city of superlatives. The biggest this. The tallest that. At times dubbed a Disneyland for adults, there’s no denying this evocative desert city is a veritable playground, overflowing with engineering wonders, diverse cuisine and designer boutiques. And with the 2020 World Expo on the horizon, Dubai’s limitless verve isn’t slated to slow down anytime soon—meaning there’s never been a better time to visit this multicultural mecca of design and innovation. That said, we would be remiss not to mention that homosexuality remains illegal throughout the United Arab Emirates. As a gay tourist, you are unlikely to encounter any problems, provided that you avoid all public displays of affection. With that in mind, discover the best this ritzy Middle Eastern city has to offer with our definite gay Dubai guide.

Where to stay in Dubai

Before booking your Dubai hotel, it’s important to call to mind our above note that homosexuality is illegal. As a result, many hotels will require gay travellers to reserve a room with two single beds (as opposed to sharing a king or queen.) That said, international five-star brands tend to be the most accommodating to gay travellers—and our Dubai gay scene guide purposefully includes the most luxurious hotels where you are less likely to encounter discrimination. If upon arrival your bed preference is changed, we do not recommend arguing with the assigned sleeping arrangements—this is an unfortunate circumstance of visiting a locale where homosexuality remains illegal. Now, without further ado, here are our favourite upscale, Dubai hotels for a memorable gay getaway.

Photo: Rishab Lamichhane

Photo: Rishab Lamichhane

Mr. Hudson highlight image

Al Maha is an oasis of luxury tucked away amidst the sweeping sand dunes and lush palm groves of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

One of Dubai’s most uniquely captivating hotels is the Al Maha, an oasis of luxury tucked away amidst the sweeping sand dunes and lush palm groves of the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. Embrace your inner Bedouin via sunset camel rides or wildlife safaris, all the while knowing a private, temperature-controlled plunge pool awaits at the end of a long day. Canopied suites pay homage to the hotel’s unique desert surroundings, with opulent Oriental carpets and Arabian antiques adorning each of the 42 rooms. Cheers to the day’s adventures with a sundowner and panoramic views at the Terrace Bar, or unwind with an organic treatment at Al Maha’s award-winning spa. Located on the iconic Palm Jumeirah, One&Only The Palm is a 90-room boutique hotel that exudes romance and exclusivity from its sunny beachfront locale. The Andalucian design weaves indisputable Arabian influences throughout, with mashrabiya lattice panels, picturesque archways, and gleaming marble floors adorning the shared spaces. Rooms are spacious, furnished with king-sized beds, luxurious bathtubs, and private balconies. Add to the mix a mouthwatering menu created by esteemed triple-Michelin-star chef Yannick Alleno, and we’d forgive you for never wanting to leave this intimate Dubai hideaway.

One&Only The Palm

One&Only The Palm

Located in twin high-rise towers that overlook the spectacular Dubai Marina, The Grosvenor House is an indisputable Dubai landmark. Inside the soaring building, expect stylish contemporary decor that feels decidedly sophisticated. Each tower boasts its own pool, though avid sun-seekers should take advantage of the complimentary pool and beach access at sister property Le Royal Meridien. When hunger strikes, head to the hotel’s acclaimed Buddha Bar, a buzzing nightspot that fuses Far-Eastern flavours with bespoke cocktails. The lounge’s sparkling Dubai views and world-class DJs only add to the next-level dining experience. Hotel Bulgari brings refined Italian design to sought-after Jumeirah Bay Island in a swanky, Mediterranean-meets-Middle East retreat. Think handcrafted Italian furniture, Arabescato marble walls, impressive Bulgari lamps, and a custom-designed brise soleil. The decadence continues at Il Ristorante, the brainchild of three-Michelin-starred chef Niko Romito. Come for modern takes on classic Italian cuisine paired with sparkling marina vistas. Discerning gay travellers seeking the first-class indulgence beyond compare should look no farther than the Armani Hotel Dubai. Occupying the eighth floor of Burj Khalifa—the world’s tallest building and an undeniable architectural wonder—Armani promises an unparalleled look at the beating heart of downtown Dubai, in all her opulent glory. The hotel is pure elegance and reflects Armani’s refined attention to detail and signature design aesthetic.

Bulgari Hotel & Resorts

Bulgari Hotel & Resorts

i

Recommended hotels in Dubai
Powered by Booking.com
Bulgari Hotel & Resorts

Bulgari Hotel & Resorts

What to do in Dubai

Dubai is a city of ambition and innovation, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in its extravagant urban landscape. The best way to explore Dubai’s audacious architecture is via a private tour. From the unique Palm Jumeirah Island to the record-holding Burj Khalifa to the eco-friendly Swiss Cheese building, this Dubai architecture tour provides an exciting, in-depth look at Dubai’s most famous buildings—and their significant role in redefining modern architecture. While on your Dubai sightseeing tour, keep an eye peeled for the futuristic Dubai Opera House, a multipurpose theatre just in front of the Burj Khalifa. The unique building can be transformed into a theatre, a concert hall, or an event space, depending on the performance. Grab tickets for large-scale production, or opt for a drink on the rooftop bar after touring the excellent facility.

Dubai Opera House | Photo: Bacila Vlad

Dubai Opera House | Photo: Bacila Vlad

Mr. Hudson highlight image

Dubai is a city of ambition and innovation, and perhaps nowhere is this more evident than in its extravagant urban landscape

History buffs won’t want to miss the Etihad Museum, a compact but comprehensive look at the history of the Emirates. The ultra-modern museum was constructed to honour the formation of the United Arab Emirates and lies where the seven rulers of the seven Emirates first came together at The Union House in 1971. Inside, exhibits preserve and display the heritage of the UAE; don’t miss the Founding Fathers Hall, which includes fascinating, large-scale photographs and biogs of the Founding Fathers. From here, continue on to the Jumeirah Mosque, a spectacular white stone mosque with soaring minarets and an intricate central dome. Prioritizing an ‘open minds, open doors’ policy, this is the only Dubai mosque accessible to non-Muslim visitors. Join a guided tour by the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding for an introduction to Islam, the region and the architecture—with no questions off-limits.

Continuing with the best things to do in Dubai, The Dubai Miracle Garden is 72,000-square-meters of record-breaking, kaleidoscopic, topiary magic. Each year between mid-November and mid-May, the Dubai Miracle Garden brings a new concept and design experience to visitors, including some 70 flower varieties, fabulous floral sculptures, and towering vertical gardens. It’s bold and extravagant—and when you remember these botanical works of art are blooming on desert land—a legitimate marvel.

Photo: Denis Harschi

Photo: Denis Harschi

Miracle Garden | Photo: Валентина Цибульская

Miracle Garden | Photo: Валентина Цибульская

What to see in Dubai

Perhaps surprising for a desert locale, a quintessential Dubai thing to do is spend a lazy day soaking in the sun on any one of the city’s picture-perfect beaches. Jumeirah Beach Park is highly sought-after for its Blue Flag certification and boasts a leafy park area along with soft golden sand. Watersport enthusiasts won’t want to miss Kite Beach, one of Dubai’s best spots for kitesurfing, kayaking and otherwise soaking in magnificent views of the Burj Al Arab. Or try the lesser-known Sunset Beach, which offers excellent surfing when the swell is up, or simply a quiet spot to while away a day, your toes buried deep in the sugar-fine sand.

One of Dubai’s hippest areas is Alserkal Avenue, a former industrial compound turned hub for the contemporary arts. You’ll find some 15 galleries throughout the three rows of warehouses; of these, Carbon 12 and Green Art Gallery are two fan-favourites. Then there’s the Dubai Design District, better known as d3. This is Dubai at its trendiest, with pop-up exhibitions, fashion shows and a growing community of creative, forward-thinking designers at its heart. A smattering of chic cafes and concept boutiques round out the experience. While exploring Dubai, you’ll find many streets awash in colourful graffiti and vivid works of art. La Mer is ‘an ode to urban creativity,’ perhaps most famed for its beloved mural of a child with heart-shaped sunglasses and the message: stay cool. City Walk is home to large-scale paintings from some of the most renowned global street artists, including pieces by D*Face, RONE and Blek Le Rat. Over on Jumeirah Beach Road, vivid murals in quiet alleys pay tribute to rich Arabian culture, such as depictions of children playing traditional games.

beach-sea-coast-vacation-swimming-pool-palm-693956-pxhere.com

Jumeirah Beach Park

Al Seef is a relatively new development project which aims to marry the traditions of Old Dubai with the ultra-contemporary Dubai of today

Al Seef is a relatively new development project which aims to marry the traditions of Old Dubai with the ultra-contemporary Dubai of today. The street is split into two distinct areas; one side makes heavy use of modern shipping container buildings, while the other replicates the narrow alleyways and nostalgic market stalls of yesteryear. Nearby you’ll find the lovely Al Fahidi Historical District, a restored heritage area that dates back to the early 1900s. Amble through a labyrinth of narrow lanes, past sand-coloured buildings, where a treasure trove of art galleries, craft shops, museums, and cosy cafes await.

Al Seef Park | Photo: knt

Al Seef Park | Photo: knt

Where to eat in Dubai

For glittering views of Dubai Marina, head to any one of the seven restaurants nestled inside Pier 7. Each level offers a signature flavor, from Asian to Arabic to British pub classics, and a circular design ensures unparalleled Arabian Gulf vistas from nearly any al-fresco seat. Of the restaurants on offer inside, we can’t get enough of Asia Asia and its glamorous lounge and upscale take on Spice Route-inspired cuisine. Any gay Dubai travel guide would be remiss not to mention Social by Heinz Beck, a scrumptious Italian restaurant that brilliantly blends classic Italian staples with innovative ingredients. Don’t miss the fagotelli carbonara, a dish for which three-Michelin-starred chef Heinz Beck is deservedly famous. COYA is a vibrant Peruvian restaurant bringing the spirit of the Incas to the Middle East. Handcrafted furniture and original artwork were flown in from Peru to create the colourful aesthetic that testifies to the brand’s Latin American roots. Come for the playful yet down-right delicious cocktails (Popcorn Sour, anyone?) along with fresh seafood and Peruvian-Japanese fusion dishes.

Folly by Nick & Scott proves you can enjoy a fine dining experience without all the pomp and circumstance regularly associated with haute cuisine. Located in Souk Madinat Jumeirah, this welcoming restaurant and intimate terrace serve up inventive European cuisine presented in small, delectable plates meant for sharing. Each dish is based around only four ingredients, allowing the refined flavours to shine on their own. For a real treat, opt for the Tasting Menu—the wine pairing is well-executed and worth adding on. Another restaurant that nails the laid-back luxury ambience is Flamingo Room by tashas. No detail has been left unaccounted for, from the stylish marble champagne bar to the Baobab-inspired hanging installations to the divine salmon-pink hues, all of which give us serious 1970s Miami glamour vibes. The extensive menu largely revolves around South African-inspired seafood dishes; the pan-seared line fish is delightful. Those who can’t stop ogling at the highly Instagrammable decor won’t want to miss the collective that celebrates sensuous, cutting-edge African style and decor.

Pier 7 | Photo: Nizam Abdul Latheef

Pier 7 | Photo: Nizam Abdul Latheef

Mr. Hudson highlight image

Folly by Nick & Scott proves you can enjoy a fine dining experience without all the pomp and circumstance regularly associated with haute cuisine

Arabian Tea House, previously known as Basta Art Cafe, is a Dubai legacy. Squirrelled away in the peaceful Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, this dreamy tea house oozes with old-world charm. White rattan furniture, billowing curtains, bright blue benches, and moody lighting set the scene for a leisurely afternoon spent sipping any one of the 150 teas on offer. Mythos Kouzina & Grill is an alluring taverna; with its whitewashed stone walls and bright nautical decor, it feels pulled straight out of the Mediterranean. The food is just as authentic, with staples like Graviera cheese imported directly from the Greek islands. The grilled octopus is divine, but leave room for the loukoumades, or sweet dumplings drizzled in Greek honey.

Friday brunch is an institution in Dubai, a cherished—and boozy—way to begin any weekend. Of all the hotspots around town, Al Qasr Hotel is one of the most fantastic places to indulge. Laid out over two restaurants and with live outdoor cooking stations in between, expect everything from an Aperol spritz bar to custom quesadilla to sizzling paellas and revolving sushi belts. Live music adds to the ambience, so plan for an extended brunch affair to fully take advantage of the large variety on offer.

Photo: Gerard Richard

Photo: Gerard Richard

Shopping in Dubai

While typically a shopping mall wouldn’t make our Mr. Hudson-approved list of bespoke shopping experiences, Dubai approaches its malls with the same panache as the rest of its grandiose architecture; malls here are bigger, better and bolder than their global counterparts. This is especially true of the Dubai Mall—one of the largest malls in the world, and a definite Dubai must-visit. Come for the massive aquarium, Olympic size skating rink, a plethora of luxury shops or even to check-in for your Dubai flight (you can drop off your baggage and everything.) Once you’ve experienced the Dubai Mall in all her glory, head to The Cartel Concept Store for a more intimate, personalized shopping experience. Founded by May Barber, this carefully crafted showroom features up-and-coming international designers, with a special nod given to creative statement pieces. From valet service upon arrival to in-house stylists ready to offer outfit advice, The Cartel delivers one of Dubai’s most sophisticated menswear shopping experiences. Then there’s O Concept Store, a lifestyle boutique that fuses fashion and art to attract designers, artists, and discerning gentleman who appreciate the more beautiful things in life. The space purposefully feels pulled out of the 1950s, with gold piping and floor-to-ceiling mirrors, though menswear and lifestyle collections skew towards the ultra-contemporary.

Dubai Mall | Photo: Mostafa Meraji

Dubai Mall | Photo: Mostafa Meraji

Dubai Mall | Photo: Moon

Dubai Mall | Photo: Moon

From valet service upon arrival to in-house stylists ready to offer outfit advice, The Cartel delivers one of Dubai’s most sophisticated menswear shopping experiences

Equal parts award-winning cafe, sun-dappled terrace, and luxury homeware and furniture boutique, Comptoir102 takes Dubai concept stores to a whole new level. Come to discover bohemian-inspired treasures from around the globe, many of which are one-of-a-kind pieces—and all of which celebrate exquisite craftsmanship and design. The on-site organic cafe is an ideal spot to refuel after a long day of Dubai shopping. Finally, don’t miss a visit to at least one of Dubai’s illustrious souks, or traditional Arab markets that offer everything from gold to spices to textiles to perfumes. They’re bustling, crowded, and can be a complete sensory overload, but they also deliver some of the most authentic and traditional Dubai shopping experiences. Those who know their way around a kitchen won’t want to miss the spice souk with its vibrant bags of saffron, rose hips, and dried limes. The textile souk is the spot to pick up gorgeous fabrics in all colours and materials, along with hand-woven souvenirs. Expect to haggle.

Spice Souk | Photo: Nikhita Singhal

Spice Souk | Photo: Nikhita Singhal

Photo: Robert Bock

Photo: Robert Bock

Dubai nightlife

It’s no secret that Dubai’s glitz and glamour extend to its buzzing nightlife scene. But before heading out for a decadent night out on the town, it’s critical to remember that Dubai has strict alcohol laws that tourists must abide by. Drinking alcohol or being under the influence in public places is illegal; don’t crack open that beer on the beach, and keep things classy if you’re indulging in a few cocktails. Non-muslims and tourists can enjoy alcohol in licensed bars and restaurants, most of which are tucked away in International hotels. One of our favourites is Gold On 27, a glittering cocktail bar is hidden on the 27th floor of the famous Burj Al Arab Hotel. Nearly the entire bar is adorned in gold leaf, from the textured walls to the barstools to the tables. Drinks are as extravagant as the atmosphere—expect the price tag to match. Equally as luxurious, Cavalli Club is one of Dubai’s premier nightlife venues, attracting an award-winning line-up of DJs and a star-studded roster of celebrity visitors. Dripping in low-hanging Swarovski crystal chandeliers, dress to impress at this long-running Dubai institution. Dubai’s foremost rooftop bar could very well be Level 43 Skylounge, a stunning open-air terrace that towers 155 meters above buzzing central Dubai. The plush lounge promises uninterrupted, 360-degree views, with delectable drinks to match.

Photo: X

Photo: Chris F.

Mr. Hudson highlight image

Dripping in low-hanging Swarovski crystal chandeliers, dress to impress at Cavalli Club, a long-running Dubai institution

It’s no secret that temperatures in Dubai can soar to over 40 °C. One of the best anecdotes to beat the heat is a laid-back afternoon-turned-evening at one of Dubai’s beach bars. For pool dips punctuated by toes in the sand dancing, head to Barasati—one of Dubai’s most sought-after beach clubs for over 20 years. It’s a popular spot with tourists and expats alike for its tiki-inspired central bar and mammoth TVs streaming sports games. Then there’s Zero Gravity, a chic beach bar that feels reminiscent of any VIP spot you’d find in Ibiza. The 39m infinity pool is the piece de resistance; don’t be surprised if afternoon Happy Hour turns into late-night lounging. Finally, for a curious yet undeniably fun evening of eclectic musicians and performances, head to The Music Hall. This late-night theatre venue combines dance, cuisine, nightlife, and musical performances to create an entertaining, diverse multicultural experience.

Photo: Robert Bock

Photo: Robert Bock

Special Selection

Exclusive Mr Hudson offers

Subscribe to our newsletter

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing.