When beginning to write about Dubai, it’s almost customary to include the words “skyscraper”, “City of Gold”, “record-breaking” and so on. However, what if we could paint a cooler picture of the glitzy city without using any of those words? Indeed, instead of the usual spots that you’d find on a ‘things to do in Dubai’ list, we show you some of the offbeat ways you can experience Dubai?
Challenge accepted. Read on for a list of the most underrated joints to eat, feel, and see in Dubai!
Parked in the gritty Al Quoz area, Courtyard is a buzzing art and community centre complete with a gallery, a theatre, photography studios, a business centre and more. It’s the cooler alternative to coworking spaces by miles but even without the excuse of work, we’d recommend spending a couple hours admiring the 10 surreal buildings that flank the courtyard. Grab a coffee and sandwich at Boston Lane while you’re there.
Aussie coffee and cheer hit Jumeirah in the form of this lovely brunch and café spot. Our contributor Nicole says it’s best known for it’s “frustratingly delicious” weekend specials, so you know where to go on a Saturday morning! She also recommends Orientea, their delivery concept that brings all-vegan Asian food to your doorstep. Sounds like a dream if you ask us!
It’s a well-known fact that the UAE takes pride in its horse-riding heritage and, by extension, it’s horses. And there’s no better way to admire these magnificent beasts than by getting up and close at the Al Jiyad Stables. Novices and pros alike can indulge in a few hours off horse-riding. Here’s a sneaky tip from our contributor Marina, to spend more time with the horses: bring them some apples or carrots.
The entrance to Poppy looks nondescript but don’t let that fool you — behind that door is a speakeasy that does chic and romantic with equal flair. We’d recommend going at least for your evening aperitif because their fresh-to-order cocktails are—there’s no other phrase for it— to die for. Set yourself up by the low-level bar counter to watch the magic unfold right in front of you.
If you have a spare day to spend, head over to this beautifully conceptualised island near Sharjah. It might look small, sure, but every corner has a purpose and a special experience — here a butterfly house, there a literature pavilion to browse through, and to centre it all, a café. It’s a delightful merger of art, nature and culture that you shouldn’t miss when you’re in the UAE.
Being Dubai’s first-ever arthouse cinema, this is the place to be if you’re an indie production fanatic or just want to appreciate good art. The cinema showcases a carefully selected array of independent art films; when the screen is off, the space turns into a kitschy workspace that’s sure to get creative juices flowing. Head to project Chaiwala for a post-work, pre-movie bite or two.
If you’ve come to the desert with hopes of seeing an oasis, you’ve found it. Al Faya is a luxury hotel and spa plumb in the middle of the dunes, with five gorgeous rooms that pack some serious mod cons. Cross the street—or the sandy equivalent, rather—to hit up the de-stressing saltwater spa and the swimming pool that opens up to deep blue skies. It’s a tad out of the way from Downtown Dubai, but worth the diversion as you’ll see if you head out.
Now, this right here is a real institution in Dubai. It’s where surfers from Dubai head to when they’re in need of some wave therapy. Hit the waves with your board or sign up for a class if you’re a novice — either way, you’ll be in great company. Don’t forget to stop by the cafe because they have the best açai bowl in town, hands down.
We’d recommend interspersing these with your top-of-mind traveller attractions because they have a charm of their own. Experience Dubai in its entirety, and truly immerse yourself in its melange of cultures and madcap capers. Hit up the alternative side of town you’ve got to experience.
There’s more where all that came from — download the Urbanaut app to find more hidden gems!
Header photo by Emilie Farris on Unsplash