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When it comes to Dubai, most people think they know it all. Big department stores, check. Zuma, check. The Atlantis Dubai, check. But you don’t know what the city has to offer unless you take the time out to dig deeper. Like strolling into a local designer’s boutique that is off the tourist radar or dining at a café inside a concept store only the locals would know of. So we took it upon ourselves to create an insider’s guide to the top things to do in Dubai.

Retail Therapy

Bambah

Bambah, Dubai. Dubai travel guide

This seriously cool Dubai-based label has also been seen on numerous Bollywood celebrities including Priyanka Chopra and Jacqueline Fernandez. With silhouettes inspired from the glamourous 1950s, founder Maha Abdul Rasheed’s designs exude femininity. Expect to find tops with oversized bows or exaggerated ruffles and stunning full-skirted evening gowns and dresses.
Where: City Walk Phase 2, The Boulevard, Building 13

Boutique 1

Whether it’s a pair of the trendy Jacquemus heels that you’ve been eyeing, a Lisa Marie Fernandez high-waisted bikini, or Petar Petrov’s tailored trousers; Boutique 1 has you covered. Located in the quieter side of the mall, with an eclectic mix of emerging and established designers, shopping here is a lot less overwhelming than in one of the larger multi-designer department stores.
Where: Level 2, Mall of Emirates

Symphony

Symphony Dubai. Dubai travel guide

One of the prettiest multi-designer boutiques, Symphony features some of the best Middle Eastern labels like Maison Rabih Kayrouz and an exceptional range of international designers. And being inside this store is all about the experience. A little ‘karak chai’ cart is placed at the entrance to welcome each customer. Clothes are hung on dull gold rails according to the colours with a generous amount of space between each outfit. Little wooden tables are placed throughout the space displaying interesting clutches and statement shoes. On the second floor you can find Kadi, a unique gift wrapping service, and a perfume counter with Chambaud perfumes. Spend an afternoon here admiring cutting-edge fashion followed by some indulgence at their chic, Two at Symphony café. We recommend trying their best seller dessert, the Pistachio milk cake.
Where: Ground Floor, Fashion Avenue, Dubai Mall

Maison Assouline

Maison Assouline Dubai. Dubai travel guide

The publishing house, famous for its high-end coffee table books on fashion, art and lifestyle, just opened its first concept store in Dubai and it’s way more than just a bookstore. A contemporary version of a ‘cabinet de curiosités’, the space boasts floor to ceiling bookshelves with iron ladders and two long library tables dating back to 1905 sourced from the British Library. Vintage Goyard and Louis Vuitton trunks, and 19th century artefacts and antiquities bought from various auctions are elegantly housed throughout the store and are also available for purchase. Head sculptures, commissioned specially for the store, are placed on top of a red book shelf that displays their ‘Ultimate Collection’ books. Order a mocktail or a cup of tea from their in-house café, The Swans Bar, pick a book, and forget the rest of the world.
Where: Ground Floor, Fashion Avenue, Dubai Mall

Grooming

Maria Dowling Salon

Known as the ‘Queen of Colour’, Maria Dowling has a cult following among the who’s who of the city. So if you’re due for a colour, we recommend saving it for when you’re in Dubai. Although getting an appointment with Maria herself might be tough, her talented team of hair colourists and stylists will do an equally fantastic job.
Where: Ground Floor, Al Meena Residence

1847 for Men

1847 for men. Dubai travel guide

With multiple outlets in the city (including Dubai Mall’s fashion avenue), for almost 15 years, 1847 has been the go-to salon and spa when it comes to men’s grooming. Boasting elegantly designed interiors and an extensive list of premium grooming services; this is where you need to go to unwind or get ready for a night out. They also have a VIP room equipped with a wide screen TV, an apple TV, and a library where you can get multiple treatments in absolute privacy – talk about a grooming haven.

Dining

Il Borro Tuscan Bistro

Il Borro. Dubai travel guide

Launched by the Ferragamo family at the Jumeriah Al Naseem hotel, Il Borro serves up the most authentic Italian cuisine. Using only the finest ingredients, the restaurant sources their produce locally as well as imports them from the family’s Il Borro estate in Tuscany. The interiors are warm and the menu consists of simple, traditional dishes that are bursting with flavour especially the handmade tagliatelle with parmesan and Umbrian black truffle.

Where: Ground Floor, Jumeriah Al Naseem hotel

Gaia

Gaia restaurant Dubai. Dubai travel guide

Gaia is currently one of Dubai’s latest hotspots to be seen in. On the menu is some seriously good Greek food with a strong focus on fresh fish and sea food. And we recommend their raw sea bream which is thinly sliced and comes with three dressings (mandarin, truffle. and lemon and olive oil). To top it off, their caramel apple cheesecake will probably be the best thing you’ve ever tasted.
Where: Gate Village Number 4, DIFC

Abdel Wahab

Although there are countless Lebanese restaurants in the city, no one does a hummus with pine nuts and meat, and a mouthwatering mixed grill like they do at Abdel Wahab. With three different branches, the Souk Al Bahar outlet tops our list with its unparalleled view of the iconic Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall fountains.
Where: Souk Al Bahar, Pier 7 (Dubai Marina), Mirdiff City Centre

Something extra

Maria Tash

Maria Tash Dubai Store. Dubai Travel guide

Maria Tash, fine jewellery designer and the go-to piercing artist for Hollywood celebrities, has finally opened a boutique in Dubai and it offers unique experience in body piercing from the navel and up. Creator of the #curatedear concept, which involves multiple piercings in a single ear, the in-house stylists will guide you on which part of the ear to pierce and help you pick jewellery as well. The artists are handpicked from all over the world and are extremely talented. Using only 14k or 18k gold, every piece is nickel free and oh so pretty. We reckon a piercing (or two) would make for an interesting souvenir.
Where: First Floor, Fashion Avenue, Dubai Mall

Hanadi Merchant Habib

A girl with an unhealthy obsession with Gucci shoes, Habib loves anything and everything fashion. A fashion writer by profession, she’s also addicted to working out at her favourite studio, Physique 57. In her spare time, she’s usually hanging out with her little daughter, and that often includes playing dress up.