Where to Stay in Dubai in Winter when Cool Weather Makes it Walkable
Where to stay in Dubai in winter doesn’t have to be limited to the beach. The cooler weather calls for walks in Old Dubai, creekside strolls, getting lost in the souks, gawking at art, picnics in the park, and urban explorations.
A seaside hotel with a swimming pool is always a good decision in Dubai, especially in the warmer months when you won’t find yourself out of the water for long.
In winter in Dubai, when the weather is cooler and the city is walkable, you should widen your choices. Consider hotels in the historic heart of Dubai, creekside accommodation, and properties located in parts of the city that warrant urban explorations – hotels that you might not normally consider for these reasons if working on a tan is your top priority.
These are the hotels we recommend for a stay in Dubai in winter:
Where to Stay in Dubai in Winter
Heritage Hotels in the Heart of Old Dubai
Dubai’s historic Bastakiya quarter (bewilderingly renamed ‘Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood) dates back to the 1890s when Persian merchants from Bastak, on Iran’s southern coast, built beautiful courtyard houses made of coral and gypsum with handsome wind-towers.
In the heart of the labyrinthine little Bastakiya quarter, where narrow lanes are dotted with small museums and art galleries, stylish XVA Hotel is located in one of the most beautiful of courtyard houses.
Home to Dubai’s oldest and most respected contemporary art gallery, the chic little boutique hotel attracts independent travellers and creative types more interested in exploring Old Dubai and the city’s art scene side than luxury shopping malls.
The seven rooms are decorated in what I call ‘Arabian Minimalism’, designed by local and regional designers and artists, from Karim Rachid to Zayan Gandour. When it comes to where to stay in Dubai in winter, XVA is our top pick.
The hotel is a brilliant base for discovering the history and culture of Dubai, both in the Bastakyia and beyond. It’s a stone’s throw from Dubai Museum, which compellingly brings the city’s history to life, and Al Fahidi Fort, which houses the museum and is the city’s oldest structure. Prior to its construction everything was made of barasti (palm frond).
Off Al Fahidi Street, Bastakiya
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Orient Guest House
Orient Guest House is another no-brainer when it comes to where to stay in Dubai in winter. Located in two splendid merchant houses with windtowers, on another breezy lane, Orient Guest House is handily located at the entrance to the Bastakiya, not far from XVA and two minute’s walk to the Museum.
Orient Guest House oozes history. Furnished with four-poster beds and brass studded wooden chests, the 11 rooms are decorated in a traditional style that melds Arabian and Indian influences. There is a courtyard café, a rooftop terrace with old quarter views and a lounge decorated like a majlis (a traditional meeting room), with striped Bedouin cushions on the floor and Persian carpets.
While Orient Guest House doesn’t have much in the way of facilities (no swimming pool, sorry), there are cafés, galleries and small museums on the hotel’s doorstep, and the lively textile souk is a fascinating five-minute stroll away.
Beyond the souk there’s another pleasant amble along the Dubai Creek waterfront to Shindagha, the site of Dubai’s earliest settlement, and the charming Dubai Heritage and Diving Village. Head into the backstreets not far from the hotel and there’s an infinite array of eateries dishing up delicious local street food and traditional fare from around the region.
Opposite Al Musalla Post Office, Al Fahidi Street, Bastakiya
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Sumptuous Sleeps for Creekside Strolls
Hilton Dubai Creek
Designed by architect Carlos Ott, the Hilton Dubai Creek was the coolest Creekside address for many years, especially after Gordon Ramsay’s restaurant Verre opened. Dubai’s first proper fine diner, we remember the excitement its launch generated. How things have changed!
While Verre is no longer there, the Glasshouse Brasserie is still going and Table 9, which opened in 2011 in Verre’s wake by Ramsay chefs, Nick Alvis and Scott Price, and then helmed by Darren Velvick, warrants a meal.
The rooftop pool is small, but it’s worth settling onto a sunbed and ordering a cocktail to drink in the spectacular vistas at sunset. Rooms are smart, comfy and spacious, but once again the main attraction is out the window. Book an Executive Room for Dubai Creek views.
If money is no object reserve the penthouse Executive Creek Suite with panoramic Creek views. Once lucky to be upgraded, we were so gobsmacked we called friends in Abu Dhabi and insisted they drive down for the night. They did and we ordered dinner in from Verre. It was very memorable.
But when it comes to where to stay in Dubai in winter the big appeal is the location. While it’s a hellish walk most of the year, in winter you can take a 15-minute stroll to the waterfront and dhow wharves.
The old wooden dhow boats that dock along Dubai Creek ply the Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean and have done so since the 1830s when the Al Maktoum tribe established free trade to lure merchants to the burgeoning pearling settlement that would become Dubai
Baniyas Rd, Deira
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Sheraton Dubai Creek
Even closer to the dhow docks, no other hotel rooms in the city have views that match the Sheraton’s magnificent vistas of cobalt-coloured Dubai Creek and the action on the water, the Old Dubai skyline punctuated by mosque minarets and windtowers, and in the distance the towering skyscrapers of new Dubai and lofty Burj Khalifa.
Located in one Dubai’s most iconic architectural edifices, the Sheraton Dubai Creek is Dubai’s oldest five-star hotel, built in 1978. After various renovations over the years, rooms are fresh and elegant but a stay here is really about the views. The excellent Japanese restaurant and superb Indian restaurant Ashiana by Vineet, overseen by Michelin-starred Vineet Bhatia, are bonuses.
While the higher rooms have panoramic vistas, book a low floor Creek View room and you’ll feel like the dhows, wooden abras, water taxis, shiny white cruisers, and sleek yachts are just outside your window.
But when it comes to where to stay in Dubai in winter, the reason is outside. From the Sheraton you can take one of the city’s most fascinating strolls alongside the dhow docks, checking out all the crazy stuff that the stevedores load onto the old wooden boats, from cars to washing machines. One day we joked that it was everything but the kitchen sink, when of course we spotted a kitchen sink.
Keep walking and you’ll eventually arrive at the Spice Souk, across the road, where after inhaling the heady aromas, you can dip into the back streets to visit some of the city’s historical sights, such as Heritage House, and the Gold Souk.
Baniyas Rd, Deira
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Lodgings for Getting Lost in the Souks
Hyatt Regency Dubai
Another of the first generation of Dubai’s hotels – there are great stories associated with its early history, including how journalists during the first Gulf War used to call in reports from the safety of the second floor rooftop pool – the Hyatt Regency may be an oldie but it’s still a goodie.
Rooms are modern and minimalist, but once again, the real attraction is the city skyline outside and the bustle down below. Book a higher floor Club room with Arabian Gulf and city views. While the superb Persian restaurant here has closed, the excellent Japanese restaurant, Miyako, remains.
If you’re travelling with kids, you can keep in the winter spirit, by taking them to the adjoining Galleria Mall, where there’s an indoor ice-skating rink, as well as shops and a cinema. Can’t ice skate? There are professional trainers on standby to offer lessons.
Located on the Deira corniche (seaside promenade), the hotel is a stone’s throw from Deira Fish Market, a 15-minute walk away and definitely worth a look, and the glittering Gold Souk, another 5-minute stroll from here, making it a top choice for where to stay in Dubai in winter.
One of my favourite things to do was to wander through the Gold Souk after dark to gawk at the gob-smacking jewellery store window displays of gold bangles and ornate necklaces worn at weddings. Grab a spot on a bench for some people-watching – everything from ancient Afghani guys moving merchandise on overloaded carts to African women in colourful caftans haggling for gold.
Off Al Khaleej Rd, Deira
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Accommodation for Urban Exploration
Jumeirah Mina A’Salam
This enchanting beach resort, pictured above, with its Arabian-inspired architecture and exotic interiors that are like something out of One Thousand and One Nights, is another one of our top picks for where to stay in Dubai in winter – partly because of the weather.
While winters in Dubai used to be perfect many years ago – cool, clear and dry with unbelievably blue skies – these days there’s a chance of fog, wind, grey skies, rain, and even floods if it rains hard enough.
This hotel offers the best of both worlds – a fantastic stretch of sand out front plus wonderful public beaches nearby, but it also has loads of indoor activities at the hotel (a spa, restaurants, bars) and the adjoining Madinat Jumeirah complex which has a theatre, air-conditioned souk, dozens of restaurants, cafés, fast-food outlets, and bars to occupy you. Guests travel to adjoining Madinant Jumeirah and neighbouring Al Qasr Resort along winding waterways on traditional wooden boats called abras.
The resort itself is just exquisite, decorated in Persian carpets and Oriental lanterns, with beautiful urns and brass coffeepots and copper Aladdin-style lamps about the place. Emirati greeters welcome guests at the door with cardamom coffee and dates and performers play traditional music in the sumptuous lounge where you can savour an Arabian-style afternoon tea.
But another reason I love this resort is its location at the very end of Jumeirah Road, which runs parallel to the coast and its miles and miles of sandy beaches (public and private). During the cooler winter months you can walk down the drive and right by the Burj Al Arab and Wild Wadi water park, and then keep strolling past the wave-shaped Jumeirah Beach Resort (hang a left immediately after) to explore the low-rise suburb of Um Suqeim 3.
Like Satwa (below), scrawny chickens also scratch around the sandy streets, but here they do so in a suburb of big cream villas that are generally home to big Emirati families. The number of cars parked in the driveway gives an indication of the size of the family.
Crimson bougainvillea spills over walls and there are stainless steel water coolers on the footpaths (help yourself). The gorgeous public beach at the end of the street here is where most of the photos of Burj Al Arab are taken. Go ahead and grab a snap but also take in the local colour.
Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, Jumeirah Rd, Umm Suqeim
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Arabian Courtyard Hotel
Back in Bur Dubai, opposite Al Fahidi Fort and Dubai Museum, is the 4-star Arabian Courtyard Hotel. It’s not only well located for Old Dubai wanders through the Textile Souq and along the waterfront to Shindagha and the Heritage and Diving Village, it’s also handy for heading back behind the hotel to explore the Meena Bazaar that gives this area its name.
The classic rooms have Indo-Arabian touches, but the Deluxe Museum View rooms are much more spacious and comfortable, with views of the fort and minaret of the Grand Mosque. They also have Heritage Rooms in a different building.
The hotel is home to one of our favourite Indian restaurants in Dubai, Mumtaz Mahal, which offers authentic Northern Indian and a nightly Indian band and dancers that are hugely popular Indian expats who come to make requests and sing along.
There’s plenty of good food in the surrounding streets too, including Special Ostadi, which is a 10-minute stroll away. As you explore the neighbourhood you’ll quickly realised why it’s dubbed Dubai’s ‘Little India’. In the surrounding streets, you’ll find everything from sari shops to stores selling Bollywood movies, making this a fun choice for where to stay in Dubai in winter.
Al Fahidi St, opposite Dubai Museum, Bur Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Jumeirah Emirates Towers
Slap-bang in the centre of the business district, with Dubai International Finance Centre (DIFC), Dubai World Trade Centre and Dubai International Convention and Exhibition Centre as neighbours, this swanky five-star is situated in two striking twin towers, one of which houses this luxury five-star hotel.
Frequently awarded the title of Dubai’s best business hotel, the lobby is always abuzz with men in suits and crisp white dishdashas discussing stocks and share prices over coffee. The deal discussions no doubt continue over dinner at restaurants such as The Rib Room and Lebanese restaurant Al Nafoorah, purported to be the favourite lunch spot of Sheikh Mohammed, the PM and Ruler of Dubai, whose offices are in the adjoining tower.
We’ve long been fans of The Noodle House in The Boulevard, a luxury shopping centre at the base of the hotel tower. There’s also a branch of London’s Hakkasan here and the outstanding Zuma is in nearby DIFC. Alta Badia bar at the top of the building is also compelling for the people watching as much as the vistas.
While we love the hotel for its state-of-the-art rooms with views and access to so many terrific restaurants, when it comes to where to stay in Dubai in winter we’ve included Jumeirah Emirates Towers because of its location
Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary, a tidal estuary with saline lagoons, is close by and the winter months are the best time to view the migratory birds. There are two hides with telescopes, open to the public, where you can observe permanent population of pink flamingos and see other birds, including broad-billed sandpipers and pacific golden plovers. See the UAE Birding site for more details.
The hotel overlooks fascinating Satwa, and while you couldn’t do it for most of the year, in the cooler winter months you can explore this laidback, low-rise neighbourhood on foot. We love Satwa. It may only be five minutes from the affluent suburb of Jumeirah, but it’s worlds away.
This is a working class suburb with endearingly dilapidated low-rise houses with gates painted with palm trees and chickens scratching in the front yard. Hole-in-the-wall Afghani bakeries sell hot bread pulled from the oven and multicultural teams of residents play cricket and volleyball matches on sandy vacant lots on their days off.
It’s a 40-minute stroll through the backstreets to Satwa Road, which has a bustling souk vibe, and Satwa Roundabout, where you’ll find iconic eateries such as Ravi’s and Pars Iranian Kitchen. But it could just prove to be the most interesting 40 minutes of your Dubai stay and you can only do that walk in winter.
Sheikh Zayed Road, Bur Dubai
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Perfect Hotels for Picnics in the Parks
Located in Oud Metha, it may seem like Raffles is in the middle of nowhere, but it actually has terrific access to Deira, Old Dubai and the Bastakiya, Satwa, Jumeirah and the beaches, and Sheikh Zayed Road and Za’abeel Park.
Now, we’re not suggesting you walk the 90 minutes from Raffles Dubai to Za’abeel Park, which is the location of the lively scene on our Winter in Dubai post. But this gorgeous green space is just 10 minutes away by taxi (outside of peak hours, which should be avoided) and you’ll get to walk enough when you’re there. The sprawling park is a whopping 51 hectares!
While the park has a low-impact jogging track and excellent sports facilities, we love the lakes and ponds and gentle undulating hills, which are ideal for picnics. Picnicking is something that you definitely can’t do during the hot months, which is why this is another of our best picks when it comes to where to stay in Dubai in winter.
Raffles adjoins Wafi Mall, which is home to some superb restaurants, including Asha’s, Thai Chi, and Seville’s, along with Wafi Gourmet. This is where you need to go for picnic supplies. Dubai’s best deli, it has glass counters of mouth-watering Arabic specialties and snacks. Grab some juicy olives, pickles, peppers stuffed with white cheese, freshly made muttabal, baba ganoush and hummus, crispy Lebanese pastries, shawarmas, and baklava, and you’re set.
As for the hotel, once you get over the idea of an Egyptian-themed hotel in Dubai, this is a superb property with two of Dubai’s finest restaurants – TOMO, which offers authentic Japanese, and Solo Bistronomia and Vino Bar, recently awarded Dubai’s Best Italian by Time Out.
More tasteful than the pyramid-shaped exterior suggests, the sumptuous marble-clad lobby has mashrabiya panels, ottoman-style sofas, enormous urns, and pillars featuring carved reliefs. The Egyptian theme isn’t as strong in the super-spacious rooms, each of which comes with a butler, although there are motifs on the carpets.
Sheikh Rashid Road, adjoining Wafi Mall, Oud Metha, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
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Grand Hyatt Dubai
Also located in the Bur Dubai suburb of Oud Metha, not far from Raffles Dubai and Wafi Mall, the Grand Hyatt hotel is within walking distance of Creekside Park – just a 10-minute stroll away.
An oasis in an increasingly concrete-jungle of a city, the lush palm-shaded Creekside Park is our favourite Dubai park. This gorgeous green space sprawls along the lovely waterfront, all the way from Al Garhoud Bridge to Al Maktoum Bridge. While it’s a welcome haven in the hot and humid spring, summer and autumn months, it’s an absolute delight in Dubai in cool weather, making the hotel a top contender for where to stay in Dubai in winter.
If you’re travelling with children, there’s a cable car, kids playgrounds, the excellent Children’s City, kiosks, cafés, and beaches, though swimming the Creek is not recommended. What we do recommend is a stroll and a picnic, and once again, you can get your picnic supplies from Wafi Gourmet (see our Raffles listing for details).
The Grand Hyatt also has shady gardens (15 hectares of them) and several swimming pools. Boasting 674 elegant rooms, with stunning city skyline views, it is a giant hotel, but its facilities are also on a large scale.
There are 13 bars and restaurants, including longstanding venues that win awards year after year, such as Awtar (one of Dubai’s best Arabic restaurants), Peppercrab (Singaporean), Andiamo (Italian), and Manhattan Grill (steakhouse). And when you want to get out Oud Metha and neighbouring Karama are dotted with modest local eateries serving authentic Middle Eastern and Indian food, and are fascinating areas to explore.
Al Qataiyat Rd, Bur Dubai
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Pictured above, Jumeirah Mina A’Salam, Madinat Jumeirah.
Have you been to Dubai or do you live there? What are your top recommendations for where to stay in Dubai in winter?