Downtown Dubai - pros and cons

Page update - Oct 21, 2022

The Downtown area is the heart of Dubai and the largest construction project in the emirate. Three of Dubai's main attractions with the prefix "the most" are located there: the tallest building in the world - Burj Khalifa, the largest shopping mall in the world - Dubai Mall, the world's largest singing and dancing Fountain of Dubai.

The Downtown is the smallest area of the city of Dubai - only 1 square mile (2.5 square kilometers), a rectangle about 1x1 mile (1.5x1.6 kilometers). This area was given for the construction to the Emaar Properties company, which was created in 1997 under the Downtown area project. Most of the shares of Emaar Properties belong to the Government of Dubai.

Construction on Dubai Downtown began in 1998 and is still in progress. All of the largest structures have been completed and are functioning and the area has acquired its planned appearance.

The total investment in the project has already amounted to more than USD 20 billion. A huge amount, but for the UAE is not a record as the Yas island in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi cost more than USD 40 billion.

The slogan of the project is "The Centre of Now". And the Downtown area has indeed become the tourist center of Dubai. The vast majority of tourists in Dubai visit the Dubai Mall and see the Dubai Fountains.

Where is located and how to get there

The map below shows the city of Dubai and the location of the Downtown area, which is marked in red and the number 3.

The Downtown area is about 10 miles (16 kilometers) drive from the airport and 8 miles (13 kilometers) from the Deira area.

The easiest way to get to Downtown is by subway. The Burj Khalifa / Dubai Mall station of the red (first) line of Dubai Metro. For the actual Dubai Metro map, please refer to our review "Metro Dubai - map and fares".

The covered air-conditioned pedestrian bridge, called "Metro Link" or "Sky Bridge", leads from the metro station to the Dubai Mall. The length of this bridge is 2,700 feet (820 meters). The interesting thing is that you do not even have to walk on it as there are horizontal escalators inside.

It is convenient to use this bridge to get to Dubai Mall and from there to Burj Khalifa by a special passage or on foot to any object of interest in the Downtown area.

It is not advisable to arrive in the Downtown area by cab or rental car. The only major thoroughfare in Dubai City is Sheikh Zayed Road. There is always a big traffic jam on Sheikh Zayed Road in front of the Downtown area. The alternate routes are congested and you can get stuck for a long time. In a cab, the passenger pays for standing in traffic.

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Map of the Downtown

The area is bounded by Al Saada Street to the northwest, Burj Khalifa Boulevard to the southwest, Al Asayel Street to the southeast, and Financial Center Road to the northeast. The result is almost a regular rectangle. See map near, click to enlarge the map to full screen.

The map shows hotels in yellow, landmarks in green: 1 - Burj Khalifa, 2 - Dubai Mall, 3 - Dubai Fountains, 4 - The Souk Al Bahar, 5 - Dubai Opera, 6 - Metro Station, 7 - Burj Park, 8 - Burj Plaza, 9 - Sheikh Mohammed Boulevard, 10 - Armani Hotel, 11 - The Address Dubai Mall Hotel, 12 - Address Boulevard Hotel, 13 - The Palace Downtown, 14 - Hotel Vida Downtown, 15 - Hotel Manzil Downtown.

An interesting point is that any real estate within these boundaries costs 1.5 times as much. Similarly, hotel rooms within the Downtown district are 1.5 to 2 times more expensive. We'll talk about the hotels in detail a little later in this review.

The man-made Burj Khalifa lake and the fountains in it (number 3 on the map) are in the center of the Downtown area. The Burj Khalifa Tower (number 1 on the map) and the Dubai Mall (number 2 on the map) are nearby. The wide Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard is passing around this center.

The boulevard is not circular but an arc. Emaar has not stated this, but there is an opinion that it is a crescent-shaped configuration with a star in the center. However, the opinion is quite controversial, because the star and the crescent are Turkish symbols and are not recognized as official symbols of Islam.

In any case, the closer to the center, the more expensive hotel rooms are. Let's talk about the hotels in detail, because many tourists want to stay within walking distance of Dubai Mall or watch the Dubai Fountains from the room window.

Do you want to stay in a hotel right in Downtown?

It's possible, but not everyone can afford the price. There are a total of seven full-service hotels in the Downtown area.

An important point! There are really only 7 full-fledged hotels in the Downtown area, and they have about 1,500 rooms. However, if you look at the official statistics of the Dubai Tourism Authority, they write much more - 13,800 rooms (13,779 to be exact)!

How is that possible? The point is that the hotels in the neighboring Business Bay district are also added to the statistics, and there are a lot of big hotels there, and mostly the five-star hotels. By the way, the JW Marriott Marquis hotel, the largest in Dubai (1,608 rooms) is located in the Business Bay area. That's why there is such a difference.

Armani Hotel Dubai 5*.

Located in the Burj Khalifa Tower, it occupies floors 1 to 8, 38 and 39. A total of 160 rooms designed by Giorgio Armani himself. See room photos near, click on the photo to enlarge to full screen.

The hotel has three restaurants: Italian ARMANI/RISTORANTE, Japanese ARMANI/HASHI, Indian ARMANI/AMAL.

There are: SPA-center, exclusive Italian sweets store Armani/Dolci, Armani/Fiori flower store, Armani/Galleria store - watches, bags, jewelry, perfume, Armani/Prive night club.

The price of a standard room for two guests is from USD 550 per night.

The Address Dubai Mall Hotel 5*.

This hotel adjoins directly to the Dubai Mall. Naturally, there is a direct entrance from the hotel to the Dubai Mall. There are 224 rooms.

There is only one Na3Na3 Arabian restaurant. Guests use it only for breakfast. The rest of the time it is easier and more interesting to go to any cafe or restaurant in the Dubai Mall.

For guests there are: SPA-center, a large outdoor pool overlooking the Burj Khalifa, CABANA bar with snacks and cocktails.

The price of the simplest room for two guests is from USD 350 per night.

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The Address Boulevard Hotel 5*.

The building of this hotel is across the street to the north from the Address Dubai Mall Hotel. A covered pedestrian bridge leads from the hotel to the Dubai Mall. The hotel has 186 rooms.

There is only one restaurant, called THE RESTAURANT, but it is very large. There are several rooms of different cuisines of the world, a buffet, and VIP-rooms in one institution. There is a swimming pool, a SPA and a fitness center.

The price of the simplest room for two guests is from USD 350 per night.

The Palace Downtown Dubai 5*.

This hotel, like the previous two, belongs to The Address chain. The Palace Downtown is located on a small peninsula in the Burj Khalifa Lake and offers its guests exclusive places to watch the Dubai Fountains show.

The hotel has 242 rooms, some of which overlook the Dubai Fountains, some of which overlook another part of Lake Burj Khalifa (without the fountains), some of which overlook The Old Town Island quarter.

There are three restaurants: Argentine ASADO, Arabic EWAAN, and Thai THIPTARA with a beautiful view of the Dubai Fountains.

The hotel offers SPA and fitness centers, and an outdoor pool (pictured above, click on the photo to enlarge).

The price of the simplest room for two guests is from USD 370 per night.

Vida Downtown Hotel 4*.

This hotel is located in the southernmost part of the Downtown district, outside of Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard. The hotel has a total of 156 rooms.

There are three restaurants, and their set is the most interesting of any hotel in Downtown. 3in1 is a Mediterranean restaurant, La Serre is a bistro restaurant with a special VIP room, where guests are cooked to order by the chef himself, Downtown Toko is a Japanese and Chinese street food cafe.

Large outdoor pool and gym are at the guests' disposal.

Double room rates start at USD 225 per night.

Manzil Downtown Dubai 4*.

This hotel, like the previous one, belongs to the Vida chain and is located in the south of the Downtown district behind Sheikh Mohammed Boulevard, about 200 meters (650 feet) east of the Vida Downtown Hotel. There are 197 rooms.

There are three restaurants. The Courtyard has Arabic and international cuisine in an Arabian style and the Boulevard Kitchen has Middle Eastern cuisine. The third place is very interesting, it is called Nezesaussi Grill, an abbreviation of the names of New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. It is a sports bar with a selection of cuisines from these countries.

The hotel has a heated outdoor pool and a gym.

The price of a double room starts at USD 275 per night.

Rove Downtown Dubai 3*.

This hotel is mentioned on the official website of the Downtown district, although geographically the hotel is behind Financial Center Road, that is, clearly outside the Downtown district.

The hotel has 420 rooms, most are modest - 280 square feet (26 square meters). Prices start at USD 100 USD per room per night.

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Conclusions about the hotels

It is expensive to stay in a hotel within the Downtown area. Theoretically, you can "catch" a promotion or special offer at the Vida or Manzil hotels for USD 150, but such opportunities are rare.

If you can't afford the prices, or just don't think it's wise to pay a lot of money for a room, look out for hotels right on the edge of the Downtown district. For example, the Rove Downtown or the M Hotel Downtown by Millennium, where rooms start at USD 100. Another option is Mondo Living - Executive Towers or City Premiere Hotel Apartments, which cost from USD 100 and can be booked through popular hotel websites.

And do not forget that the Downtown area is far from the sea, and you will have to take a cab to a beach. Maybe, it would be more convenient to book a hotel on the coast for such a price, and go to Downtown as needed?

Places of interest in the Downtown

Burj Khalifa Lake and Fountains

The man-made 30 acres (12-hectare) Burj Khalifa Lake is located in the heart of the Downtown district. The largest dancing and singing fountains in the world have been playing an unforgettable show in the lake every day since 2009.

6,600 light sources and 75 powerful colored projectors, the total luminous flux - 1.5 million lumens, the length of the main arc of the fountains - 900 feet (275 meters), the maximum height of the jet from the main water cannon - 500 feet (152 meters), the fountains raise up to 22,000 gallons (83,000 liters) of water into the air simultaneously. Viewing the show is free!

There is a paid way to see the fountains - buy a boat ride on the Burj Khalifa Lake. The price is 65 dirhams. Look for the current exchange rates in our review "The currency of the UAE".

Read more in our review "Dubai Fountain".

The Burj Khalifa Tower

The tallest building in the world, and this record has been held since 2008. The height is 2,716 feet (828 meters), 163 full floors, 57 elevators, including two-floors, 76.6 acres (31 hectares) of the total area inside, the highest elevator is 1,653 feet (504 meters), the highest restaurant in the world - At.mosphere at the 122nd floor.

But the main thing for tourists is the observation deck "At the Top" on the 148th floor and 1,820 feet (555 meters) high.

Read more in our review "Burj Khalifa".

The Dubai Mall

The largest shopping and entertainment complex in the world. It has 3,767,000 square feet (350,000 square meters) of shopping space, 1,200 stores, more than 200 cafes, restaurants, and fast-food outlets. Read our review "The Dubai Mall".

In addition to the stores, the Dubai Mall houses:

- Oceanarium with a giant observation glass Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo;

- The world's largest candy store Candilicious;

- The Dubai Mall's calling card is The Pearl Diver's Waterfall. See the photo near, click on the photo to enlarge;

- An authentic dinosaur diplodocus skeleton 23 feet (7 meters) high;

- Dubai Ice Rink;

- KidZania Children's Center.

Souk Al Bahar

Souk Al Bahar translates as "sailors market". It is a shopping center stylized as a traditional oriental bazaar. The architects of the Downtown district thought it should contrast with Dubai Mall. Souk Al Bahar is located 330 feet (100 meters) south of Dubai Mall across the bridge.

Souk Al Bahar is small, with around 100 small stores and 22 lakeside restaurants. We can recommend these restaurants as one of the best places to watch the Dubai Fountain show.

Just behind the Souk Al Bahar market begins The Old Town Island neighborhood.

The Old Town Island

Despite the name, it is not an island in the literal sense of the word, that is, not surrounded by water. It is figuratively "an island of the old town in the ocean of modern Dubai". It is a neighborhood of low-rise buildings, ultra-expensive villas, boutiques, restaurants, and the Palace Downtown Hotel.

The Dubai Opera

It was inaugurated on August 31, 2016, with a concert by Placido Domingo. It is a modern theater for 1,900 spectators. The building is interesting to look at as its walls are made entirely of glass. See the photo near, click to enlarge.

If you want to see the concert, prepare from 300 dirhams.

Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard

It is a wide boulevard 2.1 miles (3.5 kilometers) long. Along the boulevard are fashionable stores, expensive restaurants, company offices and residential buildings. Until 2015, it was called "Emaar Boulevard", renamed in honor of the Emir of Dubai - Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

The main attraction for tourists on the boulevard is the double-decker Dubai Trolley. It is a tourist attraction, not an element of the public transport system. Right now (note: this page was updated in 2022) its route is only 0.6 mile (1 kilometer) and only 3 stops near The Address, Vida, and Manzil hotels.

In the future, it will run throughout the Downtown area. What makes this streetcar notable is that it runs on hydrogen. The project cost Emaar 500 million dirhams.

On the boulevard, tourists see two notable sculptures. The first is called "Al Sidra" by Kuwaiti sculptor Sami Mohammed Al-Saleh. The second is "Horse 2007" by sculptor Fernando Botero, a 1.5 ton bronze sculpture. Tourists have a mixed impression of these sculptures.

DownTown Slide

This slide is 23 feet (7 meters) high and 100 feet (30 meters) long. You land on a soft carpet. It is located at the Burj Plaza. You can ride it for free.

Burj Plaza

It would be better to call it a "plaza" rather than a square, as it is only 0.8 acres (0.33 hectares) in size. Sometimes mass events or corporate parties are held there. The only tourist attraction is the already mentioned DownTown slide.

In the future, it is planned to open a virtual reality center Aurora Gaming, and then the Burj Plaza will become much more interesting.

Burj Park

A small park measuring only 3.7 acres (1.5 hectares). However, it is difficult to call it a park, because we are used to seeing trees in the park. Burj Park has one row of trees, a large lawn, and cubic shaped stones.

The Emaar advertisement says that Burj Park is ideal for watching the Dubai Fountain show. In fact, it is far from perfect. You can see the fountains from there, but from the side, that is, only see the show of the one westernmost fountain.

What we recommend to see in Downtown

If you have one day to explore the Downtown area, then you only have enough time to see the main attractions: the Burj Khalifa Observation Deck, the Dubai Fountains evening show, the Dubai Mall. This set of attractions will cost AED 500.

If you have two days we recommend: buy a ticket to Dubai Mall Aquarium, see The Pearl Divers Waterfall and Souk Al Bahar market, book a boat ride on the lake. This set of activities will cost 685 dirhams.

If you have more time, go to Sheikh Mohammed Boulevard, ride the streetcar, go to the local stores, see the Dubai Opera building.

Free option: Dubai Mall, Candylicious store, the aquarium glass viewing, The Pearl Divers Waterfall, the fountain show, DownTown slide, Dubai Opera. In this case, spend only for the subway ticket.

Good to know

- If a hotel in Downtown seems unaffordable, try looking at prices during the month of Ramadan, when there are huge discounts on accommodation. However, a vacation in the UAE during Ramadan has important features, which we told you in the review "Ramadan in the UAE";

- If you do decide to vacation in Downtown or the surrounding area, you will most likely need to choose the beach where you will go swimming. Read our review "The best beaches in Dubai";

- If you are going to water parks or amusement parks, then read our review "How to buy tickets to Dubai parks cheaper".

Have a great holiday in the Emirate of Dubai, and read our interesting pages about the UAE (see the pages list below).


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