Best area to stay in Dubai & 41 area guide from a local

by Danni B
View across Dubai with Burj Al Arab at the front

Dubai is a diverse city with each area having its own unique charm and characteristics. So deciding which area is best for you to stay in can be quite the conundrum!

Not to worry! With over a decade of calling Dubai my home, I bring a unique perspective to unveil the city’s hidden gems and guide you through the best areas to stay.

In this article, I’ll share all of my experience after years of being in Dubai to help you navigate the neighbourhoods like a local and know exactly which area will match the type of vacation you’re looking for! Choosing the right area to stay in is crucial for a truly memorable experience.

From the iconic landmarks of Downtown Dubai to the coastal elegance of Jumeirah, we’ll embark on a journey together to ensure your stay in Dubai is not only comfortable but an authentic reflection of the city’s rich tapestry.

So let’s get into the important information on key areas along with positives, negatives and recommended hotels for each area in Dubai.

Best Areas of Dubai Summary

Here’s a quick mini guide to give you a brief idea of the main popular tourist areas in Dubai and what type of traveller they’re best suited for.

1. Downtown Dubai

View from beneath the Burj Khalifa in Downtown Dubai

The city centre of Dubai, featuring the world-famous Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. This is one of the most popular areas for tourists visiting Dubai and features the iconic Dubai Fountain. If you love being in the centre of everything, this busy city location will be the perfect spot for you. It is however the most expensive.

Right next to Downtown Dubai is City Walk, DIFC and Business Bay. Often these hotels will also have Downtown in their name as their in close proximity to Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa. The Financial District has mostly luxury hotels with Four Seasons, Waldorf Astoria and Ritz Carlton all having locations here, while Business Bay is typically slightly more affordable while still being very close to Dubai Mall.

Attractions in Downtown Dubai Area

  • Burj Khalifa
  • Dubai Fountain
  • Dubai Mall
  • Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo
  • Address SkyView

2. Jumeirah

View of Jumeirah also known as Umm Suqeim featuring Burj Al Arab and Jumeirah Beach Hotel

If you love to be by the sea but also don’t want to be too far away from the centre of Dubai, Jumeirah is the perfect area for those wanting a luxury Dubai beach holiday. Many of the resorts here have private beaches for guests but this area isn’t for those wanting a cost-friendly trip.

Hotel options are limited in this area but you’ll find many luxury options such as Bvlgari, Four Seasons and of course the iconic Burj Al Arab.

Attractions in Jumeirah Area

  • Burj Al Arab
  • Jumeirah Beach Hotel
  • Jumeirah Mosque
  • Kite Beach
  • Jumeirah Beach
  • Madinat Jumeirah

3. Dubai Marina & JBR

View of skyscrapers in the north part of Dubai Marina from the Marina Walkway

Dubai Marina is hugely popular with British and European holidaymakers, offering a good mix of both luxury and more affordable accommodation options. The tram and connecting metro make it easier to get around as a tourist.

JBR is part of Dubai Marina and is a hugely popular hang-out spot with beach side restaurants and lively nightlife dotted down the strip. The waterways of the Dubai Marina also make it very beautiful and it’s the perfect area for those wanting a more laid-back vacation.

Blue waters is also just off the coast of Dubai Marina, where you’ll find Ain Dubai.

Attractions in Dubai Marina Area

  • Dubai Marina
  • JBR
  • Ain Dubai
  • SkyDive Dubai
  • Madinat Jumeriah
  • Dinner in The Sky

4. Palm Jumeirah

The iconic palm-shaped island is located off the maid land of central Dubai and has many luxury resorts along its fronds. These resorts are ideal for those who want a quieter escape that is away from the hustle and bustle. Though you can choose a more party-style hotel live FIVE Palm Jumeirah if you prefer an active nightlife.

If you choose one of the hotels on the end of the fronds, it can take quite a while to get back onto the main Dubai land. Both the iconic Atlantis and Royal Atlantis are further up on the Palm. However, these mega-resorts mean you needn’t leave the resort with their water parks, shops and array of restaurants to keep you entertained for days.

Attractions in Palm Jumeirah Area

  • Atlantis The Palm
  • Royal Atlantis
  • The View
  • Aura Sky Pool

Iconic Hotels of Dubai

Burj Al Arab – Jumierah

The Burj Al Arab, often hailed as the epitome of luxury and architectural magnificence, stands as an iconic symbol on the Dubai skyline. This extraordinary hotel, shaped like a billowing sail, is renowned as one of the world’s most exclusive and opulent establishments.

Situated on its own artificial island, the Burj Al Arab is characterized by its stunning design, unparalleled service, and lavish amenities.

With its seven-star reputation, it offers guests a truly indulgent experience, from chauffeur-driven Rolls-Royce transfers to sumptuously appointed suites with panoramic views of the Arabian Gulf. The Burj Al Arab is not just a hotel; it is a destination where luxury knows no bounds, elevating the concept of hospitality to new heights.

We’d most recommend this hotel for couples, as many of the onsite restaurants only allow older children.

Atlantis Palm Jumeirah

Atlantis The Palm is a world-renowned resort situated on the iconic Palm Jumeirah archipelago in Dubai. This extraordinary destination combines luxury, entertainment and marine wonders, creating an unforgettable experience for visitors. It’s one of the best hotels for families in the whole of Dubai.

With its distinctive pink towers and stunning architecture, Atlantis offers a range of lavish accommodations, including the iconic underwater suites that provide breathtaking views of marine life in the Ambassador Lagoon.

The resort is a haven for thrill-seekers with its Aquaventure Waterpark, featuring thrilling slides and river rides. Dolphin Bay, Sea Lion Point and The Lost Chambers Aquarium allow guests to interact with marine life, adding to the resort’s allure. Entry is free for hotel guests however marine experiences are an extra charge.

With an array of fine dining options, spa facilities and entertainment venues. Atlantis The Palm exemplifies Dubai’s commitment to combining luxury and innovation in the realm of hospitality.

Atlantis The Royal – Palm Jumeirah

Atlantis The Royal is a recent addition to the luxurious landscape of Palm Jumeirah in Dubai. The hotel made a dazzling entrance into the hospitality scene with a star-studded guest list and a headline-making concert by the legendary Beyoncé.

The Royal Atlantis boasts a modern and innovative design, setting it apart as a beacon of architectural excellence. Offering a luxury hospitality experience that Atlantis is known for around the world with upscale dining options and state-of-the-art facilities all inside the resort. Including Nobu Beach Club, a fusion of world-class cuisine and a sophisticated seaside atmosphere.

Armani Burj Khalifa – Downtown Dubai

Nestled within the iconic Burj Khalifa, the Armani Hotel Dubai, conceived by fashion icon Giorgio Armani, epitomizes the pinnacle of luxury and sophistication. Seamlessly marrying haute couture with hospitality, this exclusive hotel offers a unique experience characterized by the designer’s signature style. The accommodations, bearing Armani’s distinctive touch, provide a harmonious blend of opulence and comfort, set against the breathtaking backdrop of panoramic views spanning the city and beyond, courtesy of the Burj Khalifa’s soaring heights.

Located in the heart of Downtown Dubai, the Armani Hotel beckons guests into a world of culinary excellence with its collection of world-class restaurants. From stylish lounges to fine dining establishments, each venue is meticulously curated to deliver an exceptional gastronomic journey. Complemented by the Armani Spa and Fitness Center, offering a haven for relaxation and well-being, the hotel not only redefines luxury within the Burj Khalifa but also establishes itself as a premier destination for those seeking an elevated and personalized hospitality experience.

Address Sky View – Downtown Dubai

Photo from Address

Address Sky View is an architectural marvel in the heart of Dubai, offering a distinctive and sophisticated hospitality experience. Nestled in the bustling Downtown Dubai, this luxury hotel stands as a testament to modern elegance and innovative design.

With its twin towers linked by a stunning sky bridge and observation deck, Address Sky View provides breathtaking panoramic views of the iconic Burj Khalifa and the city skyline. Their observation deck features the famous glass slide you may have seen on Instagram or TikTok.

The 5 star hotel boasts luxurious and modern rooms though they are on the smaller side for Dubai. Guests can indulge in a range of dining options from signature restaurants, such as Ce Le Vi, to stylish lounges. You’ll find a world class spa and fitness facilities catering to the well-being of its guests. Address SkyView offers world famous hospitality, setting new standards in sophistication and service excellence.

This hotel is recommended for couples as their famous infitinity pool overlooking Burj Khalifa is an adult only pool deck and overall the hotel has a romantic setting.

41 Areas of Dubai Mini Guide

Below are the main areas of Dubai, the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall are located in the Northern part of Dubai along with Dubai Airport. The Arabian Sea runs along the west coast of Dubai and this west coast is where the most popular areas in Dubai are.

These areas really vary in terms of the lifestyle they offer, so while in many other cities, you may just want to be close to the city centre or downtown area. Dubai is more complex, as each of these areas acts as its own little hub of life.

For instance, if you live in Dubai Marina, you’ll usually stick to doing things around the South area and rarely go to the Downtown area in the north. So this is something to bear in mind when visiting or moving to Dubai.

There are other areas in addition to this but I’ve included mostly where there are hotels, tourist attractions and buildings for expatriates. There are quite a few areas in the North that are mostly housing for Emirati locals.

Here’s a quick summary of iconic monuments and main attractions in each of them.

Meydan – Where Meydan Racecourse is and Meydan Hotel. Famous for hosting The Dubai Cup, which is a famous horse racing tournament.
Jumeriah – Home to Jumeirah Public Beach and Jumeirah Mosque. Close to the sea, not as far from Downtown Dubai and less crowded compared to Dubai Marina.
Downtown DubaiBurj Khalifa, Dubai Mall & Dubai Fountain are here. The centre of Dubai and the most expensive area.
Business Bay – Next door to Downtown Dubai, so you can easily access the main attractions but at a more affordable price.
DIFC – Dubai’s Financial District next door to Downtown Dubai, Zuma, LPM and other famous Dubai restaurants are here but the area is pricey to stay in.
City Walk – Also close to Downtown Dubai, City Walk is a boulevard of shops and restaurants.
Dubai Creek – Dubai’s older district with many hotels overlooking the waterway and not far from Dubai Airport, more affordable than Downtown Dubai and not far from the souqs.
Diera – A much more affordable area, close to the Gold Souq & Spice Souq. It’s a more cultural area and not as clean or polished as the rest of Dubai. You’ll find many affordable South Asian eateries here.
Karama & Bur Dubai – Karama is part of Bur Dubai which is famous for its markets and where you find copies of famously named goods. Bur Dubai is south of Dubai Creek and offers cheaper accommodation with a less polished area. Lots of good affordable Indian food too in Meena Bazaar.

Barsha Heights – Close to Mall of Emirates, the area is a good location not from Jumeirah and in the middle between Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai. Lots of affordable hotels and good for the metro if you pick the right hotel.
Al Barsha – Mostly villas but some smaller boutique hotels, close to the Mall of Emirates which houses Ski Dubai. Not much to see and do in the area but offers good affordability and is in the middle between Dubai Marina, Palm Jumeirah and Downtown.
Umm Suqeim – Also referred to as Jumeirah but is the south part of Jumeirah, where Burj Al Arab, Madianat Jumeirah and Jumeirah Beach Hotel are located along with Kite Beach.
Palm Jumeirah – The iconic palm-shaped island with many luxury hotels and resorts on the island. Perfect for the quieter and more relaxed Dubai holiday.
Al Quoz – Mostly an industrial area but has art galleries, trendy hangouts and hipster-style cafes. Attractions are Alserkal Avenue & Oli Oli Children’s Museum.
Dubai Hills – Features Dubai Hills Mall, it’s a bit further back from the sea and isn’t yet as developed compared to other parts of Dubai. Mostly residential and you’ll need a car if you rent an apartment here.
Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC) – Further back from the main parts of Dubai but in a good central location for driving to attractions, not too far from Miracle Gardens and Dubai Butterfly Garden. Highly recommend renting a car if staying in this area and offers more affordable accommodation.
Motor City – Where Dubai Autodrome is located if you’re a fan of racing cars. Nice area that is more developed, has a few different malls and some good restaurants. A little bit further back and my recommended area choice (vs JVC or JVT) if you want to be further back and have more affordable accommodation.
Arabian Ranches – Mostly villas and a family area. Arabian Ranches Golf Club and there are a few equestrian clubs nearby also. Next door is Mudon and Dubai Hills. You are further out here so a rental car is needed as taxis will be expensive.
Arjan – Also known as Dubailand. Where Dubai Miracle Garden and Butterfly Garden Dubai are located and close to Motor City. A less developed area that is more affordable for accommodation.

Dubai Marina – One of the most popular areas for tourists as it combines nightlife and restaurants with the beach. JBR is here along with JBR The Walk. Great for those wanting to use public transport with the Dubai Tram that connects to Dubai Metro.
Blue Waters – Just off the coast of Dubai Marina, this area has nice resorts, restaurants and is home to the famous Dubai Eye or Ain Dubai.
Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT) – Not many attractions here but is opposite Dubai Marina and easily accessible to the Dubai Metro. Accommodation is usually cheaper here compared to Dubai Marina and you can use the metro bridge to walk across in Dubai Marina.
Jumeirah Village Triangle (JVT) – Next to JVC and is very similar to JVC but has a slightly easier layout for driving around in, not many hotels available in this area and mostly residential.
The Gardens – Ibn Battuta Mall is here and you’re closer to Abu Dhabi along with Dubai Parks & Resorts. A more affordable area and ideal for those who are planning an itinerary for this side of Dubai or Abu Dhabi.
Jebel Ali – Very large area with mixed use of residential and industrial, close to The Gardens and one of the last areas of Dubai towards Abu Dhabi. Jebel Ali Resort is one of the oldest in Dubai and was redeveloped into a huge resort with a golf course.
Jumeirah Golf Estates – Large golf course set further back from Dubai and hosts the Rider Cup, mostly residential area.
Dubai Investment Park (DIP) – Very far back close to Jumeirah Golf Estates, not much in the area however you can find very affordable hotels here. Definitely will need a rental car for ths area.
Emaar South – Was built in anticipation for Dubai Expo and close to Al Maktoum Airport however this area is really far away from everything.

Best Areas in Dubai Information

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina skyline in daylight with view of Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) and Ain Dubai
View of Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach Residence & Ain Dubai

Known as being one of the most Westernised areas in the whole of Dubai, this is a very popular place to stay for tourists due to all the attraction, plus the beach is close by!

Some of the key places include Jumeirah Beach Residence Walk (shortened to JBR Walk), Bluewaters and Marina Mall. There’s also lots of restaurants, hotels and nightlife.

The marina itself is beautiful and you can enjoy a long walk along the water of the marina. There are lots of restaurants too overlooking the beautiful views. It’s truly stunning at night time all lit up!

Dubai Marina is typically less expensive to stay on than Palm Jumeirah or Downtown. As there is a wide range of hotels to choose from, from hotel apartments to five-star beach resorts.

You are further away from Downtown so it’s one thing to bear in mind if you want more of a city-style break or plan to spend a lot of time going to Burj Khalifa or Dubai Mall. It’s also far away from the historic part of Dubai and the souqs.

One downside of the area there tends to be quite a bit of traffic coming in and out of Marina during peak hours. However the metro is here and it’s very well connected with the Dubai tram. You’re also close to Skydive Dubai if you want some adventure and you’re also not too far from Mall of Emirates or Palm Jumeirah.

Dubai Marina North is typically more expensive to stay in since you’re closer to all the attractions and closer to central Dubai. So it can be worth paying the extra to be in Marina North since you’ll save money on taxi fares.

Recommended Dubai Marina Hotels:
Affordable: Marina Byblos Hotel
Mid Level: Millennium Place Dubai Marina
Luxury: Rixos Premium Dubai JBR

Jumeirah Lake Towers

Situated opposite Dubai Marina, this makes a good location if you want to be close to Dubai Marina but have a luxury hotel at a more affordable price.

There are air conditioned bridges connecting both Dubai Marina and Jumeirah Lake Towers (or JLT for short) to the same metro stations as Dubai Marina. You’re just the other side of the Sheikh Zayed Road! So it is possible to walk across the bridges and jump straight on the Dubai Tram.

Jumeirah Lake Towers has lots of restaurants, cafes and hotels. The one downside is, it’s a little bit difficult to get in and out of with taxis or cars. This is due to the giant figure eight that runs around the buildings. However if you’re in a holiday apartment or hotel close to the Metro and plan to use mostly the metro, it’s really handy!

Similar to Dubai Marina. It is further away from Burj Khalifa, Dubai Mall and the Gold Souqs and Spice Souqs. So it really depends on what you want to do most days.

Recommended JLT Hotels
Mid Level: Movenpick Jumeirah Lake Towers
Luxury: Bonnington Jumeirah Lake Towers

The Palm

The Atlantis Dubai at night lit up

Palm Jumeirah is one of the most luxurious places to stay in Dubai with its iconic hotels such as Dubai Atlantis. It’s an ideal location for families or couples wanting a more secluded vacation.

The one disadvantage of the palm can be accessibility. Each of the branches that make up the iconic palm are called ‘fronds.’ Some of the fronds are quite long and depending which hotel you stay at, it can be a 20-minute journey just to get onto the main Dubai land. This is why it’s more ideal if you want a reclusive escape.

If you’re going to be spending most of your time exploring Dubai or wanting to go out every night, then I’d recommend a more central location. For relaxing on the beach holiday, this is one of the best locations in Dubai. You have the new Nakheel Mall, The Pointe and Golden Mile for shops, restaurants and cafes without ever needing to leave The Palm.

For a more party style, Atlantis has bars, clubs and restaurants while Five, also on Palm Jumeirah, offers more party vibes. Including a cool bar called Penthouse with a swimming pool and they’re well known for their pool party brunch.

Recommended Palm Jumeirah Hotels
Affordable: Aloft Palm Jumeirah
Mid Level: Five Palm Jumeirah (More of a party hotel)
Luxury: One & Only The Palm

Al Barsha

If you’re planning to hire a car or keeping things on a budget. This can be a great area since you’re in the middle of everywhere but you can have a much nicer hotel at an affordable price.

This area is pretty much in between Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai. Although there isn’t much for tourists in the actual area apart from Mall of Emirates, which is also home to Ski Dubai. It’s easy to get to Dubai Marina and Downtown from this area since you’re pretty much in the middle between the two.

There’s also quite a few affordable restaurants here and you can get a hotel close to the metro. Making Dubai even more affordable!

Recommended Al Barsha Hotels
Affordable: Citymax Hotel Al Barsha
Mid Level: Doubletree by Hilton Al Barsha
Luxury: Kempinski Mall of Emirates

Jumeirah & Umm Suqeim

Burj Al Arab 7 star hotel in Jumeirah Dubai

An area which is predominantly villas owned by locals, this luxurious area doesn’t have a large number of hotels. When compared with Dubai Marina but does offer beautiful beaches. Both public and private beaches.

It’s not as touristy as Dubai Marina or Downtown and the traffic is a lot less for getting in and out of the area. The famous Kite Beach is here and the Burj Al Arab. There are a few touristy places to visit such as Madinat Dubai and some stunning five star hotels. It’s also centrally located so is a great location if you’re wanting the best of both worlds.

Recommended Jumeriah Hotels
Mid level: Roda Beach Resort
Luxury: Mandarin Oriental Jumeirah

Trade Center

If you’re a party person, Trade Center is ideal since it offers a range of hotels and is close to Dubai’s thriving nightlife.

Close to Downtown and not too far from the historical parts of Dubai such as Al Fahidi Historical District. This area is a great area with a wide range of hotels, from city apartments to five star hotels. This is the opposite end of Dubai to Dubai Marina so again, this is another area where it depends on what activities you plan to do. The vast majority of bars and night clubs are here. You’re also closer to the gold and spice souqs. Along with Dubai airport.

Recommended Trace Center Hotels
Affordable: Ibis One Central
Mid Level: Four Points by Sheraton
Luxury: Jumeirah Emirates Towers

Downtown & City Walk

Perfect if you’re wanting a city style vacation. Home to the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. This area is perfect if you want to be in the heart of it all.

Due to being in the centre, it is also one of the most expensive areas to stay in. You’re a short ride away to the souqs, not too far from the airport and close to all the main tourist attractions. Including the famous Dubai Fountains. You’re also close to Dubai’s nightlight scene. Plenty of restaurants to choose from and the world’s largest mall.

One downside of being in the centre is traffic, especially during New Years Eve or when there are key holidays in the Middle East. This area also gets busy when there are holidays in other parts of the GCC. (Don’t know what the GCC is? Check out this article)

You’re also far from the Palm and Dubai Marina. Though you can walk to Dubai Mall and Burj Khalifa from most of the hotels or even stay in the iconic Burj Khalifa! So if you’re looking for a city break and not so much the beach, Downtown Dubai is for you!

Recommended Hotels
Affordable: Rove Downtown
Mid Level: Manzil Downtown
Luxury: Armani Hotel (Inside Burj Khalifa)

Business Bay

Close to Downtown, this area is more affordable than Downtown so is great for those who want a city escape but on a more affordable budget!

This area has many of the same benefits of Downtown Dubai and is situated next door. You’re just a short car journey or taxi from the Dubai Fountains, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. There’s a good selection of restaurants, nightlife and hotels. It’s not as lively as Trade Center but it does have some cool restaurants and places to hang out.

Recommended Hotels
Affordable: Park Regis Business Bay
Mid Level: Radisson Blu Dubai Canal
Luxury: The Oberoi Dubai


Skyline of Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC)

More popular with business travellers but also home to luxury hotels, such as The Four Seasons and Ritz Carlton. This is the swanky side of Dubai.

This area is next door to Downtown. In fact, DIFC has a similar feel to Downtown Dubai and offers the perfect city break. The hotels are to a beautiful standard here and due to the unique legal set up, it’s technically UK legal law here. Though you are still bound by UAE criminal law! It is Dubai’s Financial centre.

It will cost you the same price to stay here as Downtown but you’re close to the best foodie scene in Dubai. DIFC is known for its fine dining such as Le Petite Maison and Zuma. There’s also a lively nightlife scene here, popular with residents. So if you prefer the finer things in life, DIFC is the location for you!

Recommended Hotels
Mid Level: Gevora Hotel
Luxury: Waldorf Astoria DIFC


A more affordable area which is close to Dubai Airport and the historical district for those who love to explore a different culture.

This area is one of the most afforadable since it is the older area of Dubai and close to Dubai Airport. It is the opposite side of Dubai to Palm Jumeirah, Burj Al Arab and Dubai Marina. So if you’re wanting to visit the beach frequently, this area probably isn’t going to be ideal for you.

You’re close to some really cool attractions that aren’t too far away here such as Dubai Frame, Queen Elizabeth II and Dubai Garden Glow. There are also some lovely hotels here but the area is more mixed than the others due to the souqs. So if you prefer full on luxury, this area will probably not be the Dubai you’re expecting. However if you’re wanting to see the other side of Dubai and a chance to explore the history or ride an abra across the creek. This area is for you!

Recommended Hotels
Affordable: Premier Inn Al Jaddaf
Mid Level: Al Bandar Rotana
Luxury: Palazzo Versace Dubai

Where’s the best place to stay in Dubai?

If you’re wanting to be in the hub of everything or only have a short time, Downtown Dubai or Business Bay for a more affordable hotel is the best option. You’re close to Dubai Mall, Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain. If you wanting a luxury beach holiday then Jumierah, Palm Jumeirah or Dubai Marina will be the best options so you can easily access the beach.

I hope this article helps you to decide on which are you should stay in. I’ve even provided the search boxes so you can have a look at all the local hotels in each other areas. I hope you have an amazing time in Dubai and make sure you check out some of my

This blog post contains affiliate links, by using these affiliate links it doesn’t cost you any extra but I do earn a small commission which helps me to keep writing these informative blog posts for you!

For more articles check out:
Visiting Dubai for the first time? This article covers all the basics
What to wear as a woman in Dubai
3 extravagant days in Dubai; blow the budget luxury itinerary
The best malls in Dubai

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1 comment

Shalzmojo September 6, 2020 - 11:46 am

Love the shots of the buildings of Dubai- what gorgeous architectural wonders. You have compiled a great list here 🙂


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