Dubai has earned a name for itself as a leading shopping destination in the Middle East, with a vibrant blend of modern malls, trendy boutiques and traditional marketplaces competing for attention.
The most impressive selection of brands under one roof can be found at The Dubai Mall (pictured above). With over 1,200 stores, including high-end haven Fashion Avenue, the mall is a destination in its own right, luring high-profile fashionistas such as Bella Hadid and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, among others, through its doors. Be sure to check out anchor stores Bloomingdale’s and Galeries Lafayette Dubai, which has a dedicated glamour area showcasing dresses by designers like Alberta Ferretti, Carolina Herrera, and Jason Wu. And if you need a mid-spree entertainment break, an impressive list of attractions await, including the Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo and an Olympic-sized ice rink.
Another power player, Mall of the Emirates has a hands-free shopping service so you can drop off your buys at designated points and have them delivered directly to your hotel. It’ll free you up to continue exploring its four floors, anchored by UK department store Harvey Nichols – Dubai, and the Fashion Dome, which is home to a choice selection of coveted brands.
Along Dubai Creek, Dubai Festival City is the go-to mall for mid-range brands like Banana Republic and COS. Take time out from browsing its 400 stores for an fresco coffee break, dhow boat ride or to watch the nightly fire, light and water show.
At the other end of the city, fronting a vibrant waterfront residential area, Dubai Marina Mall is peppered with trendy high-street brands such as Ted Baker and Mint Velvet, and has a great collection of restaurants – many with outdoor terrace seating that’s ideal for those who want to watch the yachts bobbing in the water.
The only themed mega mall in the city, Ibn Battuta Mall pays architectural homage to the travels of the legendary Arab explorer of the same name with a succession of interlinked spaces reflecting global culture, from China to India. Wander through the dedicated exhibition before trekking through the 400-plus stores and cluster of food courts.
You can drop off your buys at designated points and have them delivered directly to your hotel
For shopping on a more manageable scale, stop by some of the city’s suburban mini malls. Start at the aptly named The Mall, opposite Burj Al Arab on Jumeirah Beach Road, which is home to 55 hand-selected retailers, including French fashion brand Escales and Boho Beachwear.
Further along the road is Sunset Mall, home to the popular Rivaage boutique, which plays host to international designers such as Badgley Mischka, Vera Wang and Vivienne Westwood.
Hugging a corner spot on Al Wasl Road is the boutique Galleria Mall at which hip stores, like trendy Californian beachwear label Beach Bunny and Saucettte (the kidswear offshoot of hugely successful homegrown brand Sauce), cater to a well-heeled clientele.
In recent years, the city has also spawned a number of outdoor retail destinations, from plush European-style boulevards to artisan markets selling mementoes you can’t find anywhere else. The Beach at JBR blends a boho chic market vibe with holiday accessories-oriented stores from the likes of Hamac and Sauce-on-Sea, bordered by a picture perfect esplanade packed with eateries.
A little farther inland at the junction of Al Wasl and Al Safa, City Walk is a style hotspot with a profusion of funky designer-centric boutiques like Karl Lagerfeld, Michael Kors, M Missoni, Paule Ka and Whistles among others, as well as the upmarket Parisian department store Le BHV Marais.
This stretch of real estate is also home to BoxPark, an urban retail destination made up of repurposed shipping containers showcasing contemporary hipster fashion alongside one-of-a-kind labels such as handcrafted evening gown and kaftan artisans Atelier des Artistes.
Bargain hunters should take the 30-minute taxi ride out of town to Dubai Outlet Mall to snag some previous season high-street style hits for less. If you’re more a fan of Paris Fashion Week than Primark, The Outlet Village in Jebel Ali is just the ticket. Three department stores and more than 125 top brands including DKNY, Tom Ford, Jimmy Choo and Armani can be found inside its Tuscan inspired interior – simply take the shuttle bus service from Jumeirah,
Al Barsha or Dubai Marina.
Of course, bespoke tailoring at affordable prices is a speciality in Dubai, with a custom outfit high on the wish list for holidaymakers. You can have a made-to-measure suit or dress whipped up in just a few days. The traditional go-to areas for sharp tailoring are Karama – Dream Girls is a long-standing favourite – and nearby Bur Dubai, where Parmar Tailors comes highly recommended.
Discovering the ambient souks is a fantastic way to round off your shopping tour of the emirate. The Deira side of Dubai Creek is home to a clutch of authentic souks hidden within a maze of winding alleyways. Put your best bartering skills to the test at the glittering Gold Souk before heading to the nearby Spice Souk to scoop up some aromatic spices from the overflowing hessian sacks.
You can have a made-to-measure suit or dress whipped up in just a few days
For a more polished experience, head to Souk Madinat Jumeriah, which has been designed in the style of an authentic Arabian marketplace, and explore the labyrinthine lanes lined with stands, barrows and stalls selling jewellery, oud and other trinkets.
As your holiday draws to a close, be sure to arrive at the airport with plenty of time to spare as the shopping at Dubai Duty Free is seriously impressive. It’s the perfect place to grab a last-minute gift or keepsake.