More insider guides for planning a trip to Dubai
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey. Note that our writer visited pre-pandemic.
When the less well travelled ask Dubai expats how they cope without bars, they often choke on their Dom Pérignon. Dubai is awash with world-class bars and discreet watering dens. In observance of cultural sensitivities, polite euphemisms are used in publication: ‘hops’ means lager, beer or ale; ‘grape’, wine; ‘bubbly’, prosecco or champagne; and cocktails are referred to as mixed drinks. Learn the code and unlock the door to local nightlife. Happy hours are ecstatic, often reducing Dubai’s exorbitant alcohol tariffs by half, and on ‘ladies’ nights’ selected drinks are free for women. Join the party, or meditate on a sunset at one of the emirate’s more sedate havens with sand between your toes.
Siddharta Lounge by Buddha-Bar
Grosvenor House Dubai is good at creating bars. Start at Siddharta Lounge, named after Buddha (Siddhārtha Gautama) and offspring of the hotel’s popular Buddha-Bar; it’s decorated with enough Buddha busts to stock a Habitat. It could feel clichéd if it wasn’t so classy. Behind golden ropes manned by a black-tie doorman, an elevator delivers guests to two al fresco decks, with sofas, bar stools and bleacher-style seating, one overlooking the city, the other the sea, with an indoor restaurant in between. Balearic beats suit the mood and the drinks menu is extensive, with a guide to its many speciality sakes.
Contact:00 971 4 317 6000; siddhartalounge.com
Opening times: Sat-Wed, 5pm-12am, Thu-Fri, 5pm-12.30am
Nearest metro: Dubai Marina
Getting in: Reservations recommended
The Jetty Lounge
Islamic archways frame a view of a jetty at One&Only Royal Mirage, its deck studded with guiding lights leading eyes to the Arabian Gulf. From here, with prior reservation, you can hop on a boat to sister property One&Only The Palm, where the 101 Lounge, elegantly poised over the water, will compete for your attention. But first get lost in the The Jetty Lounge’s mellifluous chill-out tunes, its maze of white cube furniture scattered across decking and sand, and its choice of five premium champagnes. The soft drinks options are impressively varied, too, with smoothies, shakes, iced teas and freshly made lemonades.
Contact: 00 971 4 399 9999; oneandonlyresorts.com
Opening times: Daily 2pm-2am
Nearest metro: Palm Monorail Gateway Station
Getting in: Reservations required
Jumeirah Beach Residences
Lock, Stock & Barrel, JBR The Walk
This is possibly Dubai’s most Instagram-friendly sports and entertainment bar, with an industrial American design and walls of repurposed stereo speakers and mobile phones. LS&B presents sporting action on big screens and live bands on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Monday’s acoustic sessions are mellow, while the late Friday sessions see DJs pump out chart-toppers and club classics. Other diversions include pool tables for hire, pub grub and the occasional inflatable sumo suited wrestling matches, but perhaps the greatest attraction is affordable drinks, with daily happy hours from 4pm to 8pm and free tipples for ladies on Tuesdays.
Contact: 00 971 4392 7120; lsbdubai.com/jbr
Opening times: Mon-Thu, 4pm-3am; Fri, 1pm-3am; Sat-Sun, 2pm- 3am
Nearest metro: Dubai Marina
Getting in: Reservations recommended; must be 21 or above with valid ID required on entry
The gin menu reads like a phone directory at this tropical-looking Indian bar-restaurant with cobalt blue walls hung with gilt framed canvases and a huge stained-glass elephant head protruding from behind the bar. Music varies with the days of the week; Monday is Gin and Jazz night, with live performances by local cover bands paying homage to Lauren Hill, Frank Sinatra and Nina Simone; Tuesday is ladies’ night with Eighties and Nineties tracks to sing along to, and so the set list goes, covering genres from hip-hop to deep house, all mixed with a hint of Indian fusion.
Contact: 00 971 4 344 4384; mastidubai.com
Opening times: Thu-Fri 12pm-2am, Sat-Wed 12pm-12am
Getting in: Dress code is casual chic
The Rooftop at Folly
Dubai’s expats like to keep this bar a secret. It’s not the sort of place tourists stumble across, tucked away in Madinat Jumeirah resort above Folly, a restaurant ran by Gordon Ramsay progeny Nick Alvis and Scott Price. From The Rooftop’s vantage point, views of the medina-like Madinat Jumeirah unfold, snaked by canals ferrying guests in traditional wooden boats beneath the shadow of the landmark Burj Al Arab. A resident DJ plays deep house, while friendly bar staff stir up signature cocktails. Try the Ginger Sour for fresh ginger shaken with fennel seed syrup and whisky – a worthwhile investment at AED 55 (£11.85).
Contact: 00 971 4 430 8535, folly.ae
Opening times: Daily 12pm-2am
Getting in: Free entry; dress code is smart-casual
Level 43 Sky Lounge
In the canopy of Dubai’s urban jungle of mirrored skyscrapers, imposing signage and street lights, Level 43 delivers a dose of tranquillity with its soft ultraviolet glow and Café del Mar-style music. It lacks the pretention lurking in similar sky bars and serves classics such as Singapore Slings with light bites of sashimi, maki rolls and more substantial mains. Popular with budding photographers, this open rooftop bar is also one of the city’s best vantage points for neon-streaked shots of the busy Sheikh Zayed Road by night; let staff know in advance if you intend to bring a tripod.
Contact: 00 971 56 414 2213; level43lounge.com
Opening times: Daily, 2pm-2am
Nearest metro: Financial Centre
Getting in: Reservations are only accepted Sat-Mon and Wed; must be 21 or above; dress code is smart-casual
Bearded bartenders perform cocktail-spinning stunts with colourfully-inked arms in this Canadian bar and restaurant that muddles 19th century-style portraiture with wall-mounted antler-topped animal skulls to create an Americana-Victoriana setting. The playlist skips from obscure Oregon rock bands to British icons such as The Smiths and Radiohead, and late weekend sessions are undertaken by à la mode DJs, often flown in from overseas, such as Hoxton Radio regulars Orange Soda. A supper of lobster poutine and southern fried chicken will soak up powerful brews such as the smoky tincture-spiked Tobacco Manhattan and the scrumptious Snickers Old Fashioned.
Contact: 00 971 4 560 1700; weslodge.ae
Opening times: Daily, 5.30pm-2am
Nearest metro: Business Bay
Getting in: Reservations recommended, dress code is smart-casual
This is one of Dubai’s ‘secret’ bars: you’ll find Poppy – a cosy, dimly lit, chocolate-coloured speakeasy specialising in cocktails – behind a door marked ‘private’, though it doesn’t seem that much of a secret on Thursday evenings, Dubai’s busiest night for after-work drinks with the UAE weekend falling on Friday and Saturday. Part of Gypsy Chef David Myers’ Dubai portfolio, it’s located above Basta!, one of his two restaurants at Renaissance Hotel Downtown. Vinyl forms part of the decoration and is played on the decks with tunes straight out of the Sixties.
Contact: 00 971 4 512 5555; poppy-dubai.com
Opening times: Daily, 6pm-3am
Nearest metro: Business Bay
Getting in: Must be 21 or above, and able to find the door…
DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre)
Occupying the first floor above Rainer Becker’s restaurant, Zuma Dubai’s bar is consistently winning accolades. Most recently it placed on the World’s 50 Best Bars list, a runner-up at 69th place, but notably the only bar in the UAE to get to a mention. With expertly crafted cocktails, among them the Japanese Old Fashioned made with Zuma’s secret bitter, and above-par bar snacks (the salmon and tuna tartare with Sevruga caviar is sublime), it’s busy most nights. DIFC’s post-work crowd can afford the bar tab and big spenders attract beautiful people. It’s a winning formula with local DJs spinning dance tracks.
Contact: 00 971 4 425 5660; facebook.com/zumadubai
Opening times: Daily, 12pm-1am
Nearest metro: Emirates Towers
Getting in: Reservations essential; dress code is smart
Roger Moore’s Bond would have made beautiful movies here, frolicking among this bar’s sheepskin throws and bubble chairs. Vintage musical ephemera includes old transistor radios, gramophone players and framed vinyl from hit parades past. In the early afternoon, the playlist is smooth, with a cocktail of jazz, soul, soft rock and blues from the early Seventies, and by night The Doors, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd pick up the pace. The whisky-based signature drink, called Smoke on Water thanks to Deep Purple’s chart-topper, helps evoke nostalgia.
Contact: 00 9714 602 1814; seventyseventy.thepromenadedxb.com
Opening times: Daily, 5pm-2am
Nearest metro: Deira City Centre
Getting in: Dress code is smart-casual