Shopping in Dubai
The fact that Dubai is home to the world’s largest mall – and hosts scores of other, smaller but still gargantuan malls, as well as atmospheric souks and even a shopping festival – should leave you in no doubt that this city knows its retail. But these malls are much more than clusters of boutiques. They are cities within the city. In a place where it’s too hot to stroll outdoors for long, the shopping malls in Dubai are social hubs where locals meet for coffee, to eat and to have fun. You’ll find the movie theatres, bowling alleys, gyms, spas and restaurants of your shopping malls back home, but in greater numbers than you could imagine. Then there are the mega-malls which go to the next level featuring an assortment of attractions including aquariums, ski fields, ice-skating rinks and so on. Shopping in Dubai is not just something to do, it is an art form.
For Dubai shopping that’s a little more authentic, head to the old-fashioned souks, where traders will enter into a haggle for gold, carpets, electronics and artefacts. This city also loves art and throughout the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC) you’ll find serious collector galleries such as Christie’s, designer furniture boutiques and more.
Dubai Shopping Festival
Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is Dubai’s annual citywide shopping extravaganza which, almost impossibly, seems to get bigger and better every year. The event usually kicks off in late December and extends throughout January, which is worthwhile taking into account when planning your trip. Dubai Shopping Festival is not just a month-long celebration of not-to-be-missed sale prices, it’s also a big event on the Dubai calendar, with fireworks, live music, street performers and yes – lots of amazing retail experiences.
Our top picks
Financial Centre Road
When many people thing of Dubai shopping, they think of Dubai Mall. The 35-hectare mall is home to more than 1,200 shops, including Galeries Lafayette and the only Bloomingdales outside the US, as well as the region’s largest lolly shop, Candylicious. With an Aquarium and Under Water Zoo, an ice rink, a stunning waterfall and lake, its own gold souk and the spectacular Fashion Avenue of high-end brands, it’s no wonder Dubai Mall has been the world’s most visited shopping destination for years on end, with tens of millions of people passing through annually. What to buy in Dubai? No matter what you’re looking for, you’ll find it in Dubai Mall.
Mall of the Emirates
Al Barsha 1
Recently expanded, this massive mall is home to Ski Dubai, a 24-screen VOX Cinema, a Kempinski hotel, and a not-for-profit Community Theatre and Arts Centre. It’s also where you find Magic Planet, an entertainment zone for kids with fun-fair rides, a bowling alley, swimming pool and more. Here for the retail? Find Harvey Nichols and Marks & Spencer among a vast array of chain stores and boutiques.
Alserkal Avenue Arts and Cultural District
For the very best of cutting-edge contemporary Middle Eastern art, head to Alserkal Avenue in the industrial Al Quoz district, a collection of warehouses-turned-galleries where Dubai’s rising hipness is on show. Rub shoulders with sheikhs and the cream of emerging and established artists at exhibition openings, talks, panel discussions, auctions and community events. A host of unique textiles, sculptures, paintings and other creations tell stories of the region’s politics, history, myth and beauty in a uniquely progressive forum.
Diera Gold Souk
Sikkat Al-Khail Road, Deira
In a place that constantly changes and epitomises the cutting edge of modernity, the gold souk is an unmissable slice of old Dubai. Running for about 70 years since traders from India and Iran set up stalls, it’s now a dazzling, glittering collection of shops with windows dripping in gold jewellery and precious gems. It’s been estimated that about 10 tonnes of gold is here at any given time. Though gold is sold by weight at the current international price, you can still barter on individual items.