Where to stay in Dubai: Best areas in Dubai compared (+ map)

Looking for advice on the best place to stay in Dubai? With so many glamorous hotels and fascinating places to visit, it can be hard to narrow down the best area to stay in Dubai.

The city of Dubai is also the capital of the Emirate of Dubai and the most populated city in the United Arab Emirates. And it’s huge. The many landmarks in Dubai are spread out across the city and travel times can take up quite some of that precious travel time.

So, narrowing down the best area to stay in Dubai is crucial to make your Dubai itinerary work. That’s why our in-depth comparison zooms in on every district and lists the pros and cons of each while also highlighting some of the best Dubai hotels. This is the only guide you need to make an informed decision on where to stay in Dubai.

Infinity pool and ocean views of one of the best places to stay in Dubai and Madinat Jumeriah


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Best areas to stay in Dubai in a nutshell

Before we dive in, we’d like to make you familiar with the layout of Dubai city. It’ll help you visualize the different areas in relation to some of Dubai’s top attractions and geographical landmarks such as Palm Jumeirah or the Creek. We’ve also put together an overview of the driving times to and from the main resort areas in Dubai as well as to the major landmarks. Last but not least, you’ll find a selection of our favorite Dubai hotels per area.

Map of the areas in Dubai

Map coming soon

A layout of the city is essential to narrow down the best area in Dubai to stay. That’s why, for your convenience, we’ve created this interactive map that mentions all of the areas in Dubai that we’ll zoom in on further down in this article. You can just continue reading to discover every area or you can click the Dubai area of your choice to navigate directly to an in-depth overview of that specific area.

Driving distances from and to the major areas in Dubai

The tourist areas such as Downtown Dubai, The Pointe at Palm Jumeirah, La Mer, JBR, Bluewaters Island, Al Fahidi, and the Dubai souks are pedestrian zones. It’s getting to them that requires transportation. And you’ll soon realize that, when it comes to getting from one Dubai area to another, Dubai is not a walkable city. Most roads are simply not equipped to accommodate pedestrians.

Car is king in Dubai and traffic is at full speed day and night. That’s especially true for the Sheikh Zayed Road which runs parallel to the coast. In addition to the road traffic, there’s also a solid metro network.

So yes, pinning down the best place to stay in Dubai is a crucial step in planning your Dubai trip. You don’t want to stay in Downtown Dubai while your main focus is beach time. To help you decide on where to stay in Dubai, we’ve researched driving times from and to the most important Dubai landmarks.

Driving times from the various Dubai resort areas to the major landmarks

Best places to stay in Dubai

Now that you know the lay of the land and understand it’s so important to narrow down where to stay in Dubai, it’s time to zoom in on the best Dubai areas for visitors like yourself. Find out what the atmosphere is and what there is to see and do in every arrondissement. We’ve also listed the pros and cons for each and highlighted some of our favorite places to stay. Let’s dive in!

Places to stay in Dubai: Marina + JBR

The Dubai Marina is home to Jumeirah Beach Residence, a thriving coastal community with residential apartment towers and hotels that appeals to locals and visitors alike.

Right in front of Jumeirah Beach Residence – aka JBR – you’ll find The Walk, a 1.7-km (or 1.05 mi) strip lined with shops, cafés, and boutiques. It’s parallel to The Beach, a bustling beachside promenade lined with amazing restaurants and boutiques. It overlooks JBR Beach and, towards the south, leads the bridge that connects JBR to Bluewaters Island.

The northernmost side of Dubai Marina connects to the base of Palm Dubai.

Two girls walking toward the Beach at JBT, where some of the most family-friendly Dubai accommodation can be found

Things to do and places to see in Dubai Marina and JBR

  • Indulge in the most delicious dates at Cafe Bateel.
  • Sink your toes in the soft white sand of JBR beach.
  • Challenge your friends at the Aqua Fun water park.
  • Check out the magnificent street art along The Walk.
  • Hit the shops at Marina Mall or one of the JBR promenades.
  • Enjoy dinner on the outdoor patio of one of the many restaurants overlooking JBR beach as well as the Ain Dubai Ferris wheel.
  • When night falls, show off your best moves at one of the clubs and bars.

Conclusion: Dubai Marina and JBR are the best areas to stay in Dubai with family. Beach bums and bon vivants will love it here too. Dubai Marina is also the best area to stay in Dubai for nightlife.

Restaurant patios at The Beach at JBR

Pros and cons of staying in Dubai Marina and JBR

Pros:

  • The vacation vibe! It’s a fun neighborhood with the beach as well as many shopping and dining outlets at your doorstep.
  • It’s a very walkable and pedestrian-friendly area with wide sidewalks.
  • Dubai Marina and JBR are very well connected. The closest metro stop is number 23 (Dubai Marina) on the red line of the Dubai metro. There’s also the Dubai tram that rides within the area and connects it to the Palm gateway, from where you can take the monorail to explore Palm Jumeirah.
  • It’s perfectly located if you’re looking to explore both Dubai and Abu Dhabi. It’s the one tourist area in Dubai that’s closest to Abu Dhabi which makes the best possible travel base for a day trip to Abu Dhabi.

Cons:

  • Dubai Marina and JBR are located furthest away from Dubai International Airport.
  • It’s not the best location to stay in Dubai if your focus is sightseeing and culture because of the distance to the Heritage District and Downtown Dubai.
  • The hotels in this Dubai area are not the most affordable.
The Beach at Jumeirah Beach Resort in Dubai which is a great place for a first time visit to Dubai

Where to stay in Dubai’s Marina and JBR district

This Dubai area is home to several delightful hotels and resorts. Some, such as the Amwaj Rotana – the only all-inclusive hotel in this part of the city – are located at The Walk while other resorts offer a private beach. Most beachfront hotels can be found on the northern end of Dubai Marina. There’s also a handful of delightful resorts in the northernmost Mina Seyahi neighborhood, right next to Dubai Media City and Dubai Internet City.

Here are the top hotels in Dubai Marina and JBR as well as one fabulous apartment.

Places to stay in Dubai: Downtown

The Downtown Dubai area is located south of Bur Dubai and only covers about 2 km2 (or 0.77 mi2). But don’t let its size fool you, because the ever-bustling heart of Dubai city is home to many top attractions. The number one place to visit is of course Burj Khalifa, the crown jewel that defines the skyline. If you plan on visiting the world’s tallest building, then make sure to book your At the Top tickets in advance.

Other highlights include the mesmerizing Dubai Fountain show that takes place at Burj Lake, the Dubai Opera,and The Dubai Mall. This last attraction is more than just a shopping Walhalla: it also houses an impressive aquarium, an Olympic-sized ice skating rink, and many more fun activity centers.

Nearby places to visit include the Museum of the Future, the Dubai Garden Glow, the Dubai Frame, and the Dubai World Trade Centre.

Highrise buildings around Burj Lake in Downtown Dubai

Things to do and places to see in Downtown Dubai

Conclusion: Downtown is the best area to stay in Dubai for sightseeing, shopping and entertainment as well as for a stopover.

Downtown Dubai is the best location in Dubai to stay for entertainment such as the Dubai Fountain and the Dubai Mall's activity zones

Pros and cons of staying in Downtown Dubai

Pros:

  • Located at the center of the action when it comes to Dubai’s landmarks and top attractions.
  • Within easy reach of the Heritage district as well as the Jumeirah 1 and 2 beach resort areas.
  • Fastest connections to the most popular Dubai desert safaris. We opted for the Platinum Heritage tour and our desert experience was truly magical.

Cons:

  • One of the most expensive areas to stay in Dubai.
  • Quite a drive from Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina.
Swann boats at Burj Lake in Downtown Dubai

Where to stay in Dubai’s Downtown district

Many amazing hotels dot the Dubai skyline, one more spectacular and luxurious than the other. Since the main attractions in Downtown Dubai are all concentrated around Burj Lake, you might as well pick a hotel that looks over this area’s bustling heart.

Here are the top hotels in Dubai Marina and JBR as well as one fabulous apartment.

Places to stay in Dubai: Palm Jumeirah

Next up is an area that sparks the imagination more than any other: Palm Jumeirah. This artificial palm-shaped archipelago is hugged by a crescent with a total length of 11 km (6.8 mi). It’s home to a series of luxury resorts and a boardwalk that runs over its entire length. The crescent is connected to the crown of the actual palm shape through a tunnel and a monorail.

The palm-shaped part of Palm Jumeirah is where you’ll find several gated communities as well as Nakheel Mall and the Golden Mile Galleria. At the crown of the Palm, you’ll also find a wonderful shopping and dining destination known as The Pointe. It’s where you can admire Palm Fountain, the world’s largest performing fountain (not to be confused with Dubai Fountain which is one of the main attractions of Downtown Dubai).

Palm Jumeirah as seen from the Ain Dubai Ferris Wheel

Things to do and places to see in Palm Jumeirah

  • Have fun at the Aquaventure water park.
  • Visit the Lost Chambers Aquarium.
  • Take in the View at the Palm from level 52 of the iconic Palm Tower.
  • Enjoy a lazy day at the beach.
  • Try out one of the water sports activities on offer.
  • Shop till you drop at Nakheel Mall.
  • Enjoy dinner with a view of the sensational Palm Fountain at The Pointe.

Conclusion: Palm Jumeirah is where to stay in Dubai for beach bums and water sports enthusiasts.

Sunset views from the entrance of Kempinski Palm Jumeirah

Pros and cons of staying in Palm Jumeirah

Pros:

  • The resorts are nothing short of amazing. If lazy beach days are what you’re after, then this is the place to be.
  • An array of water sports to choose from. Many Palm Jumeirah resorts have their water sport activity center and one even has a diving center.
  • The proximity to the amazing Aquaventure water park which is part of the spectacular Atlantis The Palm resort.

Cons:

  • Driving distances can be quite long, especially when the resort of your choice is located at either outer end of the crescent. If you want to combine your beach days with plenty of sightseeing activities, it’s best to stay close to the crown of Palm Jumeirah.
  • The dreadful jellyfish blooms. It happens all too often that visitors book a glamorous resort with an amazing private beach only to discover that the warm ocean waters are taken over by jellyfish. Luckily, some resorts in Palm Jumeirah have netting in place to keep them away.
Palm Jumeirah is best location in Dubai to stay for beach time

Where to stay in Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah

With so many fabulous beach resorts to choose from, it’s hard to pick a favorite. While the resorts at the outer ends of the crescent are amazing, these are quite a drive away from the Palm Gateway. So, in addition to the degree of pampering and affordability, distance could be a good criterion to take into account.

Here are the top hotels in Palm Jumeirah as well as one fabulous apartment.

Places to stay in Dubai: Al Fahidi Historical District, Dubai Creek & Al Seef

If you’re looking to discover the soul of Dubai, then the Heritage district is where to go. The Al Fahidi Historical Neighborhood, the city’s oldest standing residential area also known as Al Bastakiya, offers a glimpse of the traditional lifestyle. It’s part of the wider Bur Dubai area located at the southern bank of Dubai Creek.

Explore the history of Dubai from the mid-19th century, when the Emirate was an important stop along foreign trade routes, up until 1971 when the Emirati tribes united. Old Dubai is where you’ll find museums, tea houses, and cultural societies that introduce you to the rich Emirati heritage.

End your day at the Al Seef district which is a newer development that captures the traditional Dubai spirit and pays tribute to its old-world charm. Al Seef’s inviting creekside location is the perfect place to spend the evening. Head to the promenade at sunset to watch the abra cross Dubai Creek before heading to the Al Seef Heritage Souq.

Al Khayma restaurant in the Al Fahidi area of Dubai

Things to do and places to see in the Historical District

  • Admire the traditional ochre-hued buildings with their barajeels and high air towers that served as traditional air conditioning.
  • Explore the maze of winding pathways.
  • Head to the Arabian Tea House for traditional refreshments.
  • Visit the Majlis Gallery which is Dubai’s oldest art space.
  • Experience true Emirati hospitality at the Sheikh Mohammed Centre for Cultural Understanding.
  • Visit the Dubai Museum which is located in the 18th-century Al Fahidi Fort.
  • Indulge in a traditional Emirati meal at either the Al Khayma or Bastakiya Nights restaurant.
  • Visit the Shindigha district.
  • Shop for souvenirs in one of the Dubai souks. The Textile souk is located at the Bur-side of the Creek. To reach the souks on the opposite side of Dubai Creek, in Deira, you’ll need to take an abra. There you can visit the Dubai Gold Souk, the Spice souk, and the Perfume souk.

Conclusion: The Historical District is the best area to stay in Dubai for culture, history, and souks.

Al Fahidi rowing boat at a historical place Dubai

Pros and cons of staying in Dubai’s Historical District

Pros:

  • Proximity to Dubai International Airport as well as to Downtown Dubai.
  • This area offers the unique opportunity to get to know Dubai beyond its glamorous cover.

Cons:

  • The accommodation offer is still being expanded and therefore the choice of hotels is rather limited.
  • This area is located pretty far from Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, and JBR.
Souk at Al Seef in the Historical District of Dubai

Where to stay in Dubai’s Historical District

This area has only recently been developed so you won’t find more than a handful of hotels. Plus, since this is further away from the major landmarks and the beach, it only appeals to culture buffs. And, well, since the majority of tourists don’t fall into that category, it might never become a Dubai tourist magnet. But it shouldn’t, either, at least in our opinion. It’s a discrete corner of Dubai and that’s exactly what we like about it.

The Al Seef Heritage Hotel offers modern accommodation in an authentic setting. No better place to discover this area.

Granted, the Historical District might not be the best location in Dubai to stay during your entire trip. Spending a night or two in this area is plenty to delve into the Emirati heritage.

Here are the top hotels in Dubai’s Historical District as well as one fabulous apartment.

Mid-range hotel in the Historical District

Apartment in the Historical District

Places to stay in Dubai: Jumeirah coast

Jumeirah is a popular coastal area in Dubai and is divided into 3 sectors. Geographically speaking, it stretches out from Bur Dubai in the northeast up to Umm Suqeim in the southwest. Then again, the Umm Suqeim beaches are often loosely considered to be part of the Jumeirah coastline as well. That’s why we’ll follow this line of reasoning and discuss this coastline as a whole.

Jumeirah 1 is where to find one of Dubai’s most kids-oriented resort areas known as La Mer. It’s a chic coastal town known for its beautiful beaches, colorful cabanas, fun fair, Laguna Waterpark, and a series of family-oriented restaurants. Other highlights in this northern part of Jumeirah include the Jumeirah Mosque, Pearl Jumeirah island, and the Italian-themed Mercato Mall. La Mer is one of the best areas in Dubai to stay with family.

Jumeirah 2 is home to the prestigious seahorse-shaped Jumeirah Bay island with its posh Bulgari Resort while Jumeirah 3 is known for its public beaches and Sunset Mall.

And then there’s Umm Suqeim with its top attractions. It’s where you’ll find the iconic Burj al Arab hotel, the Wild Wadi Waterpark, and the ever-alluring Madinat Jumeirah complex with its gorgeous luxury hotels. This is one of our all-time favorite places to visit in Dubai.

Jumeirah coastline with the eye-catching Burj al Arab seven star hotel Dubai

Things to do and places to see on the Jumeirah coast

Conclusion: Jumeirah is the best area to stay in Dubai for first-time travelers, shopping, and beach fun without compromising on location.

Madinat Jumeirah canal

Pros and cons of staying in Jumeirah

Pros:

  • The central location. Staying on the Jumeirah coast means that can enjoy luxurious resorts and amazing beaches while still being located relatively close to Downtown Dubai as well as Palm Jumeirah Island and the Dubai Marina area.
  • Shopping options galore thanks to the malls in this area and the proximity of even more shopping destinations such as the renowned Mall of the Emirates in the Al Barsha area or the more recent Boxpark and City Walk.

Cons:

  • This is not the most budget-friendly area when it comes to accommodation in Dubai. The hotels on the Jumeirah coast are among the most exclusive in Dubai.

Where to stay on Dubai’s Jumeirah coast

The list of fabulous hotels in this chic area is long: the Bulgari Resort, the Four Seasons Resort, the Mandarin Oriental, the legendary Burj al Arab, and many more. And then there’s the latest addition to the Madinat Jumeirah site, the Jumeirah Marsa Al Arab, which is set to open in 2023 and looks nothing short of spectacular.

With so many luxurious properties along the Jumeirah coast, it can be pretty challenging to find a more affordable hotel. But we’ve researched for you. Here’s a selection of our favorite hotels on the Jumeirah coast as well as one fabulous apartment.

Places to stay in Dubai: The desert

With all the glitter and glamour taking place along Dubai’s coastline, one might forget about the roots of Dubai. The desert is where to go for a unique experience that perfectly complements the beach and city vibe.

All it takes is a 30-minute drive from Dubai to find yourself in the most tranquil desert landscape. That’s where you’ll find the Al Qudra oasis, part of the Al Marmoom Desert Conservation Reserve. It’s known for the two heart-shaped interconnected lakes known as the Dubai Love Lake. Another highlight is the Saruq Al Hadid archaeological site which dates to the Iron Age. The Al Qudra oasis is free to enter.

A second desert destination located nearby is the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve. This one is gated and only a handful of concessionaires have the privilege of operating in this fragile desert ecosystem. We were lucky enough to discover this gorgeous desert retreat as part of our Platinum Heritage desert tour. What a unique experience it was!

Quite a bit further from Downtown Dubai and close to the Omani border is where you’ll find Hatta. This once-so-modest desert town is being developed into a new tourist hotspot with many exciting hotel openings and even a cable car project in the pipeline. Mountainous Hatta is the perfect destination for outdoor enthusiasts.

Sunset views in the Dubai desert

Things to do and places to see in the Dubai desert

Conclusion: The Dubai desert is the best area to stay in Dubai for couples and adventurous families.

Magical desert camp in the Dubai Desert Conservation Reserve

Pros and cons of staying in the Dubai desert

Pros:

  • Explore a different side of Dubai.
  • Partake in a range of outdoor activities.
  • Step foot in a desert conservation reserve.
  • The most spectacular sunrises and sunsets.

Cons:

  • The desert is located away from the sightseeing action.
  • Mid-day can be too hot to enjoy the landscape and activities.

Where to stay in Dubai’s desert

It all depends on your expectations. If you’re looking for a tranquil and romantic escape, then there’s a handful of luxurious resorts that guarantee a memorable escape in the most sensational setting. But if it’s action you’re after, then you’ll be delighted with the choice in glamping and camping options.

Here are the top hotels and glamping sites in the Dubai desert.

That’s it for this in-depth guide on where to stay in Dubai. Have you been to this glamorous Emirate before? Then we’d love to hear all about your favorite area to stay in Dubai! If you’re yet to discover it then, by now, you should have a good idea of which Dubai area is right for you. If so, then don’t forget to book well in advance. And hey, why not bookmark or pin this page on where to stay in Dubai for future reference?

Palm Jumeirah is where to stay in Dubai for palm-fringed hotel pools and palm trees and sandy beaches
Downtown Dubai with its Burj Park and the skyline is one of the best areas to stay in Dubai

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