Dubai

Dubai is party central for the Middle East. Expats here work hard and play hard, so there's no excuse for sitting in your hotel room watching reruns of Friends dubbed in Arabic. The city has action of every type—ultra-cool cocktail bars, beach clubs with day-into-night partying, desert terraces for sharing a glass of champagne, sports bars and pubs with monumental flat-screen TVs, and designer-label nightclubs where you can dance until dawn.

You may have to refinance your mortgage to pay for a serious night out in Dubai. Alcohol is served only on licensed premises—usually attached to international hotels—and the prices are often exorbitant. You have to be 21 to order drinks or stand in bar areas where alcohol is being served, and an ID will often be demanded. In addition, some popular clubs restrict entry to clients based on their appearance. People love to dress up in Dubai, so be sure to follow suit for your evening of clubbing; otherwise you may be left on the curb. Sandals are not allowed in clubs.

Live music is popular in the city, and tends to sit at extremes of the spectrum—cover bands perform in dive bars and mainstream international artists play for tens of thousands. Classic performance arts have had a thin presence, however recent years have brought welcome change thanks to the growing population, opening of the Dubai Opera House and the increasing quality of acts at venues like Madinat Theatre.

Movies have always been popular in the Middle East. Large multiplex centers show the latest blockbusters from Hollywood and Bollywood, as well as films from around the Arabic-speaking world. Here, going to the movies is a luxurious experience; theaters with food designed by Michelin-starred chefs, kids-only zones, and of course the latest in high-tech viewing, such as 4DX and IMAX.

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  • 1. Barrel 12

    Jumeirah Beach | Bars/Pubs

    Despite Palm Jumeirah's chichi image, there are plenty of casual bars and bistros, particularly on the trunk where the bulk of residential apartment...

    Despite Palm Jumeirah's chichi image, there are plenty of casual bars and bistros, particularly on the trunk where the bulk of residential apartment buildings are located. Barrel 12 might be one of the most unappealing (and practically invisible) establishments from the outside, but there's plenty of life past the front door. A sports bar at heart, this modern industrial space pulls a very diverse crowd with a range of happy hours and daily specials. Expect anything from steak nights to kids' afternoons, ladies brunch and "drunch" (a dinnertime fixed-price drinking session). There's an outdoor terrace over the water with palm canal views, making it a lovely sundowner stop. Drinks and food are well made and well priced (for Dubai). Friday brunch is a great value.

    Palm Views Marina East, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-552–4000
  • 2. Cocktail Kitchen

    Dubai Marina | Bars/Pubs

    An unassuming exterior leads visitors into one of Dubai's most serious drink havens. In this contemporary basement space you might forget you...

    An unassuming exterior leads visitors into one of Dubai's most serious drink havens. In this contemporary basement space you might forget you're in a Muslim country, as alcohol is revered and respected with fervor. Bearded bartenders in leather aprons carve ice off the block, don't shy away from using kitchen ingredients in cocktails, and tend to tell you what you want to drink rather than the other way around. Background music is contemporary. The menu is worth checking out, but the wait tends to be long for dining.

    Armada Bluebay Hotel, Cluster P, Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) , B1 level, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    56-828–0727
  • 3. Loca

    Jumeirah Beach | Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

    Styled by Heineken bar designer Ferry Tabeling, Loca is an industrial-styled, Tex-Mex themed beer haven. Apart from having a stack of options...

    Styled by Heineken bar designer Ferry Tabeling, Loca is an industrial-styled, Tex-Mex themed beer haven. Apart from having a stack of options on draft or in bottle, it's the only place in Dubai where you actually pour from a beer tap on your own table. The venue is very casual; T-shirts and shorts won't cause an issue here (as they do in many other venues in the city).

    Dubai Marine Beach Resort, Jumeirah Rd., Jumeirah 1, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-346–1111
  • 4. Lock, Stock and Barrel

    Burj Dubai | Bars/Pubs

    Eight thousand square meters of retro-garage-industrial space spread over two floors make up one of Dubai residents' favorite music venues....

    Eight thousand square meters of retro-garage-industrial space spread over two floors make up one of Dubai residents' favorite music venues. Local bands and acoustic sets occur at least three times a week, usually until late. Sometimes it's fairly relaxed—think sports on TV screens, pool tables, the roast of the day with a glass of red, or IPAs and buffalo wings. Most other times it's packed, either during their messy Friday brunch, riotous ladies night, or raucous game night. Service is not known to be the most attentive in Dubai, but just go with the vibe and you'll have a good time.

    Grand Millennium Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Rd., Barsha Heights, Level 8, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-514–9195

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 5. Music Hall

    Jumeirah Beach | Cabaret

    This might be a Lebanese import, but most would never know; teeming with multicultural excess, this place screams Dubai. It's modeled after...

    This might be a Lebanese import, but most would never know; teeming with multicultural excess, this place screams Dubai. It's modeled after a traditional theatre, complete with tiered seating (in booths) and red velvet drapes. From around 10 pm on, the curtains begin to part, and short acts progress through the evening. Anything from folk music, acrobatics, Arabic pop, tango, opera, Italian lounge music, and magic might be involved. You never know what to expect, but by midnight the whole venue will be jumping, even the skeptics. A night out here can be expensive, but worth it for those who want a kooky experience they won't find anywhere else (except perhaps Beirut).

    Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, Crescent Rd. W, Palm Jumeirah, Ground Level, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-448–9517

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Minimum charge or 450 dirhams per person for table bookings
  • 6. Provocateur

    Jumeirah Beach | Dance Clubs

    A spin-off of the club in NYC, Provocateur keeps things classy. Music is always electronic, acts are international, the crowd is elegant, and...

    A spin-off of the club in NYC, Provocateur keeps things classy. Music is always electronic, acts are international, the crowd is elegant, and reservations are always necessary. Interiors are decked in open booths, with steel and neon highlights and just a splash of greenery. The club is known for good service and happy party people. Be prepared to wear a hole through the soles of your Louboutins, but a hole in your wallet at the same time (some table reservations have a minimum spend of 5000 dirhams).

    Four Seasons Resort, Jumeirah Beach Rd., Jumeirah 2, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    55-211–8222

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: No admission, but table reservation with minimum charge required
  • 7. The Music Room

    The South Bank | Live Music

    This place is exactly what it says on the cover, no pretense or broken promises. It's a laid-back venue, full of grunge princesses and old rockers...

    This place is exactly what it says on the cover, no pretense or broken promises. It's a laid-back venue, full of grunge princesses and old rockers from all nationalities. There is a menu, but most come later for the music. Rather than being mainstream, the lineup usually consists of the best artists from their respective cities, and loyal fans will fill the room.

    Majestic Hotel, Mankhool Rd., Mankhool, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-359–8888
  • 8. Aji

    Jumeirah Beach | Piano Bars

    One of Dubai's first forays into Nikkei cuisine is also one of the prettiest overwater bars. The decor is what sells this place—someone has...

    One of Dubai's first forays into Nikkei cuisine is also one of the prettiest overwater bars. The decor is what sells this place—someone has spent a pretty penny on printed wallpaper, decorative fabrics, copper cutlery, and very fine glassware. The enormous space has an art nouveau slash Cubano beach side feel, and the cocktails fit the atmosphere: plenty of Pisco as you might imagine, with Japanese flavor injections of yuzu and matcha. You can throw the drinks back while enjoying a spread from their fusion sushi bar. There's a large terrace area leaning over the water, but then you'd miss out on the gorgeous interiors, a happy conundrum.

    Club Vista Mare, Palm Jumeirah, Units 6 and 7, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-552–0244
  • 9. Armani Privé

    World Trade Centre | Dance Clubs

    No other club in Dubai can compete with Privé when it comes to elegance. Where many of the clubs in the region are flashy, bold, and intense...

    No other club in Dubai can compete with Privé when it comes to elegance. Where many of the clubs in the region are flashy, bold, and intense, Privé hones it all down to a classy point, without losing any of the fun. It's a high-end night out, as you would expect, and the crowd will expect you to look as well-heeled as they do. Like the rest of the hotel, decor is monotone, sleek, and minimal, meaning the beauty of the clientele stands out. Tech is supreme; no expense has been spared when it comes to sound and lighting. Music genres range from night to night (e.g., R&B, hip-hop, house), and there are often international DJs bringing their own style to the decks.

    Armani Hotel, Burj Khalifa, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Blvd., Downtown Dubai, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-888–3308

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: No door charge, but table bookings require a minimum (3000 dirhams for a table of 6), Very strict door policy regarding dress code and gender (large groups of males are likely to be turned away)
  • 10. Atelier M

    Dubai Marina | Piano Bars

    Although strictly a restaurant, Atelier M has a very clublike feel on the rooftop, and opening hours until 2 or 3 am prove the clientele aren...

    Although strictly a restaurant, Atelier M has a very clublike feel on the rooftop, and opening hours until 2 or 3 am prove the clientele aren't just there to eat. It's a very classy venue, two levels of Gatsby-esque glamour and 180-degree views across the Dubai Marina. The rooftop hosts international DJs and Dubai's hottest cliques, and the venue is known in particular for its hip-hop night. Cocktails and champagne are order of the day (or night), so it's not usually a cheap evening out. There are often food and beverage packages available, though, so check their website for details.

    Pier 7, Marina Walk, Dubai Marina, 7th fl., Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-450–7766
  • 11. Bahri Bar

    Jumeirah Beach | Bars/Pubs

    Set among the rose-color barjeels of Madinat Jumeirah with splendid views across the complex, Bahri Bar is a good spot to slip off your shoes...

    Set among the rose-color barjeels of Madinat Jumeirah with splendid views across the complex, Bahri Bar is a good spot to slip off your shoes and relax. Rich earth tones and gold hues give the space a sumptuous feel, especially in the soft lighting after dark. From the terrace you can watch the abras (boats) ply the canals and listen to the distant bustle of the souk while making the most of your private vantage point. The tapas-style menu is perfect for a light dinner or snack to accompany your drinks.

    Mina A'Salam Hotel, , Madinat Jumeirah, Al Sufouh Rd., Al Sufouh, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-432–3232
  • 12. Barasti Bar

    Dubai Marina | Bars/Pubs

    Barasti might be the old dame of bars and nightlife in Dubai, but it's still going strong. It's grown from a pub set on a large wooden jetty...

    Barasti might be the old dame of bars and nightlife in Dubai, but it's still going strong. It's grown from a pub set on a large wooden jetty right on the water, through to a multilevel bar and club, with the largest live sports screen in the region, on-sand alfresco drinking spaces and plenty of room for international DJs and other live music. It shifts from a chilled-out venue to relax with a drink and shoot some pool, to dancing and general craziness depending on the evening. No matter the entertainment, the atmosphere is always easygoing and attracts all ages. Barasti also serves food and shisha.

    Le Méridien Mina Seyahi, Al Sufouh Rd., Dubai Marina, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-318–1313

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Usually free. Some acts attract a cover charge
  • 13. Bean There Bistro

    The North Bank | Cafés

    It might be called a bistro, but this eclectic space is also great for a quick beverage. Despite the coffee connotations in the name, most come...

    It might be called a bistro, but this eclectic space is also great for a quick beverage. Despite the coffee connotations in the name, most come for the cocktails, which hover less than 45 dirhams, even after happy hour. The interiors are decked in Indonesian teak, green tiles, and the odd plant-covered-wall. Outside there's a terrace where you can enjoy shisha. There's a full menu (including a very decent breakfast), but they shine with their small plates, perfect for nibbles with drinks.

    Millennium Airport Hotel, 45 16 St., Garhoud, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-702–8735
  • 14. Belgian Beer Café

    The North Bank | Bars/Pubs

    There's an excellent choice of boutique beers on tap and in bottles, and similar to what you'd find in Belgium, each beer has a specific glass...

    There's an excellent choice of boutique beers on tap and in bottles, and similar to what you'd find in Belgium, each beer has a specific glass for serving. The café's style is straight from Belgium, too, with wooden tables set in small booths around a long bar studded with brass. Casual brasserie-style food is served, including the obligatory Belgian moules-frites. There are plenty of good happy hours and brunch deals available, making it a reasonably priced option for a drink, especially considering its water views and skyline panorama.

    Crowne-Plaza , Crescent Dr., Festival City, Lobby Level, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-701–1127
  • 15. Boudoir

    Jumeirah Beach | Dance Clubs

    Opening in 2002, Boudoir was the first French lounge-styled club to open in Dubai (of course, without the Burlesque dancers). Think flocked...

    Opening in 2002, Boudoir was the first French lounge-styled club to open in Dubai (of course, without the Burlesque dancers). Think flocked wallpaper, chandeliers and gilded fretwork offset by glossy black furnishings. The champagne continues to flow freely here, just like it did at the Moulin Rouge in Paris's heyday. Lovers of Bollywood and Persian cinema flock to Boudoir, because it's known to have been a preferred venue for celebrities. You'll need to look the part, so dress to attract attention—plenty of bling, labels, and flesh.

    Dubai Marine Beach Resort , Jumeirah Rd., Jumeirah 1, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-345–5995

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Varies. Usually free for ladies and couples
  • 16. Brunswick Sports Club

    Burj Dubai | Bars/Pubs

    True to its name, BSC keeps it sporty, casual, and very, very laid back. There are plenty of TV screens to catch live action, and an indoor...

    True to its name, BSC keeps it sporty, casual, and very, very laid back. There are plenty of TV screens to catch live action, and an indoor "courtyard" with token greenery to give this place the feel of a Melbourne suburban pub and beer garden (Brunswick is an inner suburb of Melbourne, home town of the owners). The place is too small to host bands, but they do have a few DJs who tend to stick to soul and hip-hop, and their movie nights (complete with popcorn and bean bags) are fun way to spend an evening.

    Sheraton Hotel, Mall of the Emirates, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, Level 2, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    56-404–0685

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 17. Buddha Bar

    Dubai Marina | Bars/Pubs

    Part of a chain casting its net around the world, where better to establish a presence than in hot Dubai? The terraces of Buddha Bar overlook...

    Part of a chain casting its net around the world, where better to establish a presence than in hot Dubai? The terraces of Buddha Bar overlook the mouth of Dubai Marina and the comings and goings of the multimillion-dollar gin palaces (yachts or sailboats). Subdued lighting contrasts with flamboyant Asian sculpture and fiery red and golden hues. The large space is divided into varied zones, meaning there's room for a romantic tête-à-tête, or striking a pose for the public. After many years, Buddha Bar still attracts the über-cool and monied crowd.

    Grosvenor House Hotel, Al Sufouh Rd., Dubai Marina, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-317–6000

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Free
  • 18. Cafe Belge

    World Trade Centre | Brewpubs/Beer Gardens

    Providing a five-star aspect to after-work beers, Cafe Belge is a classier option for those who just want a simple drink without a rambunctious...

    Providing a five-star aspect to after-work beers, Cafe Belge is a classier option for those who just want a simple drink without a rambunctious crowd or hipster leanings. Interiors are classically Belgian, with high-polished brass and coffered wood offset by gleaming floors and chandeliers. There is an excellent range of beer from all over the world, but there's also plenty of champagne and wine by the glass to wash down with your oysters or moules-frites. The courtyard is bright and airy, despite being enclosed within the Ritz Carlton box that surrounds it, and has the wonderful ability to stay cool, even in the Dubai summer.

    Ritz Carlton DIFC, Gate Village, DIFC, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-372–2323
  • 19. Cavalli Club

    World Trade Centre | Dance Clubs

    Not for the timid, Cavalli club displays all the opulence, glamour, and materialistic notions that most people expect of Dubai. It's the kind...

    Not for the timid, Cavalli club displays all the opulence, glamour, and materialistic notions that most people expect of Dubai. It's the kind of place you need to buy a new designer outfit for, just to blend in. The ceilings billow with Swarovski; the soft furnishings growl with the prints and textures of the world's most exotic animals, and the crowd mewl and guffaw with the secrets and lies of Dubai society. You'll find a DJ here on most nights, but there are special events and live music; check their Facebook page for details.

    Fairmont Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Rd., World Trade Center area, Ground fl., rear entrance, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-332–9260

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Varies depending on night; usually includes food and/or beverage
  • 20. Cave

    World Trade Centre | Bars/Pubs

    Pronounced the French way, "cahve," this sleek venue takes its name from the wine cellars of France. The wine list often has more than 35 offers...

    Pronounced the French way, "cahve," this sleek venue takes its name from the wine cellars of France. The wine list often has more than 35 offers by the glass, and there is also an excellent selection of ports, sherries, and cognacs, perfect for vinofiles. The interior is modern bordello in style, with bedlike sofas and romantic nooks bathed in ambient green light. Rare for Dubai, the pork selection is excellent—there is always jamon Iberico being carved on the counter, along with other excellent charcuterie.

    Conrad Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Rd., World Trade Center, Level M2, Dubai, Dubai, United Arab Emirates
    4-444–7111

    Nightlife Details

    Rate Includes: Free

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