Dubai insider: Boutique bliss

Flash the cash in the mega malls, check out the homegrown design talent and barter in the souks 

Known as the fashion capital of the Middle East, seasoned shoppers won’t be disappointed by the emirate’s blend of plush malls, designer labels, and homegrown brands. Here, you’re just as likely to invest in a limited-edition accessory as a keepsake from the ambient souks. 

The most impressive selection of brands under one roof can be found at The Dubai Mall. With over 1,300 stores, including those at high-end haven Fashion Avenue, the mall is a destination in its own right, luring 80 million annual visitors through its doors. It’s easy to feel a bit lost the first time you visit, so keep an eye out for anchor stores Bloomingdale’s and Galeries Lafayette Dubai, which will signal how far around you’ve walked. For haute beauty buys, head to Perfumery & Co, which brings the region’s passion for fragrances to life. There are plenty of ways to break up your spree, from seeing the marvellous marine animals at Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo to sipping coffee at one of the cafés overlooking The Dubai Fountain (the terrace at Maison Assouline gets the thumbs up from us). 

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Desert magic, Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Another power player, Mall of the Emirates, which is a short drive inland from Burj Al Arab, has four floors of shops to browse, anchored by the absolutely fabulous department store Harvey Nichols – Dubai. Head to the Fashion Dome for a peek inside the designer boutiques and take advantage of the hands-free shopping, which invites you to drop off your buys at designated points and have them delivered directly to your hotel. It’ll free you up for an invigorating snowboarding session at Ski Dubai.  

Along Dubai Creek, Dubai Festival City is the go-to mall for mid-range brands like Banana Republic, COS and the Middle East’s biggest Zara, along with high-end department store, Robinsons. Take time out from browsing its impressive roster of stores for an al fresco coffee break, dhow boat ride or to watch the nightly fire, light and water show.

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Galeries Lafayette

If you get a thrill from bagging a bargain, we say take the 30-minute taxi ride out of town to Dubai Outlet Mall in Dubailand to snag some previous season high-street style hits for less. If you’re more a fan of Paris Fashion Week than Primark, the Tuscan-inspired The Outlet Village in Jebel Ali is where high-end brands such as Coach, Giuseppe Zanotti and M Missoni await, complete with affordable price tags.

For something on a more manageable scale, check out the city’s suburban mini malls. One of our favourites is Galleria Mall in Jumeirah, which has a small yet perfectly curated collection of boutiques including Zayan The Label and S*uce Rocks, for a taste of how the well-heeled locals dress. 

“Urban hotspot City Walk has a profusion of funky, designer-centric boutiques”

Your shopping trips needn’t be confined to indoor malls, however, as the outdoor retail scene is continuing to grow, so you can make the most of the sunshine while splashing the cash. Urban hotspots include City Walk, across the highway from Downtown Dubai, which has a profusion of funky, designer-centric boutiques like Diane von Furstenberg and Karl Lagerfeld alongside chic department store Le BHV Marais and Level Kids (a fashiony-fun childrenswear store for little ones). Just around the corner, on Al Wasl Road, is the hip BoxPark, at which stands a number of repurposed shipping containers showcasing contemporary fashion, homeware and art. Over at The Beach at JBR you can hit the shops to a backdrop of stunning coast. Pick up some new swimmies and duck into The Boutique at The Beach, a funky pop-up store that spotlights up-and-coming designers. One-of-a-kind boutiques can also be found at La Mer in Jumeirah, which is home to a cool collection of stores, such as LA Rags and Trina Turk.

Souk Madinat Jumeirah - Interior Shopping Single Walkway
Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Affordable tailoring is a speciality in Dubai, with more places capable of whipping you up a made-to-measure outfit than you can wave a needle and thread at. The traditional go-to area for a cluster of tailors all in one place is Karama, where Dream Girls is a long-standing favourite. The family-run Parmar Tailors is another much-loved tailoring institution, offering custom-made suits from its Bur Dubai and Jumeirah Lakes Towers workshops. If you need someone to come to you, Suited and Booted offers a handy mobile tailoring service for men and women, with more than 300 fabrics to choose from. 

Perhaps one of the most rewarding shopping experiences for travellers, however, is wandering through the labyrinthine souks, which are brimming with the sights, sounds and aromas of a bygone era. Take the abra from Bur Dubai across Dubai Creek to the Deira side where you’ll find the glittering Gold Souk and vibrant Spice Souk. Simply scoop up some aromatic spices from the overflowing hessian sacks. 

For a more polished experience, head to Souk Madinat Jumeirah, which has been designed in the style of an authentic Arabian marketplace, and explore the lanes lined with barrows and stalls selling jewellery, oud and other keepsakes that’ll serve as a treasured reminder of your trip.

Main image: Level Shoes, The Dubai Mall