Dubai is, simply put, a shopping mecca. Home to the world’s largest mall, as well as many more smaller, but still impressive centres, it attracts bargain hunters and luxury shoppers alike. Moreover, in a place where the overbearing heat means staying outside for too long really isn’t an option, Malls have become more than places to shop. In fact one has an indoor ski slope with real snow! If such riches are overwhelming, there are other more tame options, like the quaint souks and smaller malls with a range of quirkier boutiques.
The Dubai Mall is undeniably the city’s top shopping destination, not just because of its variety of stores, but because it’s also the world’s largest mall (at least in terms of land area). With over 1,200 shops open, visitors are spoilt for choice here. From retail outlets and department stores to restaurants and cinemas, you’ll find almost every type of mall facility inside. The Dubai Mall is also home to several unique leisure and entertainment centres such as The Emirate A380 Experience, The Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, The DubaiDino, and the Dubai Ice Rink. The entrance to the ‘At the Top’ experience of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building, is also located on its lower ground level.
Featuring over 560 international brands, more than 90 restaurants and cafés, and a 14-screen cinema complex, the Mall of the Emirates is every shopper’s delight. This impressive structure is also home to the Dubai Community Theatre & Arts Centre as well as Ski Dubai, the Middle East’s first indoor ski resort, so there is always something on offer to capture your attention.
As the exceptional Souk Madinat Jumeirah proves so well, not every shopping experience in Dubai has to be inside a modern mall environment. This one-of-a-kind shopping centre was designed to look and feel like an ancient Middle Eastern marketplace, transporting visitors to another world – at least for the duration of their shopping spree. With waterfront restaurants and cafés, winding alleys filled with boutiques selling various wares and souvenirs, and architecture that nods back to older times, this centre clearly offers a different shopping experience in Dubai.
As the world’s largest themed shopping mall, the Ibn Battuta Mall offers a retail therapy experience that’s quite different from all the other centres in Dubai. You’ll still find many of the usual retail stores and outlets here – over 275 of them, in fact – plus around 50 restaurants inside. But what really makes a trip here special is that it’s divided into six main sections: Andalusia, Egypt, India, Tunisia, Persia, and China. Each section represents the regions explored by the historical figure Ibn Battuta, whom this mall was named after, and features its distinctive cultural designs and atmosphere. This effectively provides visitors with a multi-cultural shopping experience with each visit.
ARTE, otherwise known as The Artisans of the Emirates, is a local group of artists and craftspeople, who sell their arts and crafts in markets held in different parts of Dubai. You’ll find a wide variety of artwork in pieces in these markets, from paintings and handicrafts to jewellery and various accessories. Catch the ARTE markets on select days of each month in the Times Square Centre, the Green Community, or the Al Hamra Mall. Make sure you check the collective’s calendar ahead of time to schedule your visit.
This fantastical place stands out against the hyper-modern malls this city is famous for. Located in the city’s commercial district, Diera, this souk has been running for almost a decade. It all started when traders from India and Iran set up stalls, and has today, become a maze of over 300 retailers selling gold jewellery and precious gems. Next door to the market is the Dubai Fish and Vegetable Market, which offers an alternative shopping experience.