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...Read More

  • 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...Read More

  • 3. 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....Read More

  • 4. 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...Read More

  • 5. 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...Read More

  • 6. 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...Read More

  • 7. 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...Read More

  • 8. 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...Read More

  • 9. 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...Read More

  • 10. Double Decker

    World Trade Centre | Bars/Pubs

    From the moment you spot the suits of armor and red telephone box, you'll know where you are. Premier League soccer games are broadcast on the...Read More

  • 11. Irish Village

    The North Bank | Bars/Pubs

    A popular venue for a taste of the Emerald Isle, with an old-fashioned pint of Irish stout and a plate of stew and champ. Sports fans gather...Read More

  • 12. Nippon Bottle Company

    World Trade Centre | Bars/Pubs

    A Japanese speakeasy in a Thai hotel in Dubai? Why not? NBC is revealed behind a bookcase, and was one of Dubai's first hidden bars. Inside...Read More

  • 13. Rock Bottom

    The South Bank | Bars/Pubs

    Definitely a Dubai original, many overlook Karama Rock Bottom for its newer sibling in Barsha Heights. It's completely shabby and dated, but...Read More

  • 14. Seville's

    The South Bank | Bars/Pubs

    As with most of the popular bars in this part of the city, Seville's is no newcomer. Luckily the decor has held up well over the years, and...Read More

  • 15. Sky View Bar

    Jumeirah Beach | Bars/Pubs

    The finlike structure at the top of the stylish Burj Al-Arab Hotel has fantastic views along the Dubai coastline, no matter what time of day...Read More

  • 16. Zuma

    World Trade Centre | Bars/Pubs

    There are quite a few high-end Asian restaurants in Dubai that also house fabulous cocktail bars, (also of note, Okku, Hakkasan, and Play) but...Read More

  • 17. Aussie Legend's

    Bars/Pubs

    Aussie Legend's is an Australian-themed bar where the tubes (or beers) are cold and the TV always shows sports. Good beer, pool tables, and...Read More

  • 18. Chi@The Lodge

    Bars/Pubs

    is one of Dubai's oldest venues, but Chi is its latest manifestation. It has four interconnected areas, each with its own style—one of which...Read More

  • 19. Elegante

    Bur Dubai | Bars/Pubs

    Bur Dubai's largest club, is a multispace venue with a huge dance floor. The club has gimmicks, including state-of-the-art light shows and nitrogen...Read More

  • 20. Ginseng

    Bars/Pubs

    is part bar, part nightclub, part eatery, where you'll be surrounded by Asian style at this versatile venue. The dance floor hums to a great...Read More

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