Where to Stay in Dubai First Time: 8 Best Areas

In this blog post, I will help you to find where to stay in Dubai for first-timers, for families, couples. I’ll also give you the list of the best areas to stay in Dubai (with a video and map), best hotels in Dubai for all budgets (including the hotel where I stayed), and safest places.

Located in the Persian Gulf, just 86 miles north of the capital Abu Dhabi and bursting with world-class attractions, Dubai is a wildly popular tourist location.

Home to the world’s only seven-star hotel, the Burj Al Arab, Dubai is particularly popular as a luxury destination. Dubai may not be the most budget-friendly city in the world.

Where to stay in Dubai first time?

The best areas to stay in Dubai for first-time tourists are Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Bur Dubai, Deira, Jumeirah Beach, and Al Barsha. These are popular locations, offering a wide range of hotel options for all budgets.

Downtown is the best overall area to stay in Dubai for first-timers due to its central location, wide range of hotels for every budget, and proximity to iconic attractions like Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall. Staying here offers easy access to major sights, restaurants, shops, and bars.

Downtown Dubai is the best place for iconic landmarks, Palm Jumeirah is the best area for luxury resorts. Dubai Marina is the best location for visitors seeking a vibrant waterfront experience, and Bur Dubai and Deira is the best neighborhoods to experience the city’s rich history.

Jumeirah Beach is the best place for beach lovers, Al Barsha is the best area for shopping and entertainment options, and Trade Centre is the best base for business travelers.

Dubai is known as a city of exclusive hotels and private beaches, but don’t worry if you can’t afford the high-end price tags. There’s plenty of affordable luxury to be found here too, so even budget travelers can enjoy a trip to Dubai.

To book hotels, I recommend spending 5 to 7 days in Dubai if you are visiting Dubai for the first time. This is good amount of time to see all the different aspects of Dubai, from the modern skyscrapers to more traditional areas of the city, and the desert.

Where did I stay in Dubai?

When I visited Dubai, I stayed for 5 nights in the Downtown area at the Ramada Downtown Dubai. It has a prime location right next to Dubai Opera, 10 mins walk to Dubai Mall and Souk Al Bahar. It offers views of the Burj Khalifa and Dubai Fountain. There are also free shuttle services to Jumeirah Beach Park and Dubai Mall. I had Very good breakfast and a spacious room.

💖 Best Area for first-timers:Downtown Dubai
💎 Best luxury hotel:Sofitel Dubai Downtown
🏨 Best mid-range hotel:Rove Downtown
💰 Best budget hotel:Ibis World Trade Centre

Map of areas and neighborhoods in Dubai:

Where to Stay in Dubai First Time Map of 8 Best Areas
Where to Stay in Dubai First Time Map of 8 Best Areas

Best areas to stay in Dubai for first-time tourists:

1. Downtown Dubai


Downtown Dubai is the best overall place to stay in Dubai for first-time travelers due to its wide range of accommodation options and proximity to the city’s most iconic attractions such as Burj Khalifa, Dubai Fountain, Souk Al Bahar, and Dubai Mall.

Known as The Centre of Now, Downtown is the heart of Modern Dubai and a hub of sights, sweeping skyscrapers, hospitality, best restaurants, and luxurious shopping.

Downtown is a mixed-use complex that was created by Emaar Properties, with an estimated cost of US$20 billion, covering an area of two square kilometers featuring world-class assets.

The star of the show is the 828-meter Burj Khalifa. Well known for being the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa houses a luxury hotel, high-class restaurant, and a 555-meter-high viewing platform. If you want to experience the best panoramic views in the city, you have to visit the Observation Deck of Burj Khalifa. 

In front of the tower is Burj Khalifa Lake. The lake is home to the world’s largest choreographed fountain, Dubai Fountain. Make sure you take the time to witness one of the 30-minute fountains shows complete with music and lights. It’s particularly spectacular at night. 

Just across from the fountain is the Dubai Opera. This hypermodern music venue hosts some of the city’s best concerts and shows. Make sure to book well in advance if you want to attend an event here, as tickets can sell out fast.

As a city renowned for the luxury and excess that residents and tourists alike can revel in, it is no surprise that the city center is a hotspot for shopping. In fact, this is where you will find Dubai Mall, the largest shopping mall in the world.

Dubai Mall is a huge shopping center right next to the Burj Khalifa and houses more than 1,200 retail outlets, Dubai Aquarium & Underwater Zoo, and an Olympic-sized Dubai Ice Rink.

If you are looking to buy traditional items, head to Souk Al Bahar, a traditional market-inspired mall. Located on the lakeside by Dubai Mall, this waterfront location souk is home to more than 100 retail stores and 22 restaurants.

The Downtown is also home to the 3.5 km long Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard, which is one of Dubai’s most famous streets. The boulevard is home to some of the best restaurants and cafes in the city.

Downtown has plenty of restaurants, bars, and shops. You can eat, drink, and enjoy watching Lamborghinis and Ferraris on the street.

A short walk from Dubai Mall, you will find Burj Park where they can relax, and enjoy the views of all the skyscrapers of Downtown Dubai.

Downtown Dubai also offers vibrant and exotic nightlife. This party spot has a few luxurious nightclubs and more along the waterfront.

As the heart of a city known for wealth and excess, this is where you will find many of Dubai’s best luxury hotels and best dining. The hotels in Downtown are expensive, not ideal for those on a budget, this area is best for those looking to splurge.

Being so centrally located, and many of the highlights are within easy reach, Downtown Dubai is the best area to stay in Dubai for three nights, two nights, or one night. It offers excellent public transportation, good shopping, nightlife.

Best places to stay in Downtown Dubai for first-timers:


2. Palm Jumeirah

Palm Jumeirah

One of the most photographed areas of Dubai is its remarkable man-made islands, better known as Palm Jumeirah. The entirely artificial archipelago is a wildly popular location for tourists looking to indulge in a luxury beach vacation.

Each frond of the palm-tree silhouette is lined with beaches, so there’s no shortage of golden sand to relax on. The majority of the hotels are located along the outer crescent.

This is where you can find some of the best luxury resorts in Dubai such as the famous Atlantis The Palm with particularly stunning sea views. 

Meanwhile, the fronds are populated by smaller villas. Whilst many of these are private residences, others are rented out as holiday homes to those looking for a more independent stay in Dubai.

Palm Jumeirah is dotted with various beach clubs, providing ample space to relax with a cocktail by the beach during the day. By night they transition into nightclubs, turning the resort into a thriving party scene. If nightlife is important to your vacation, this is a perfect location for you.

Palm Jumeirah has many family-friendly activities, such as:

  • the Atlantis-themed Lost Chambers Aquarium on the outer crescent at Atlantis, where you can wander various underwater tunnels with more than 65,000 marine animals, including 14 species of sharks and rays swimming around you. 
  • the Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis, a great place for a more exciting day out. It is a thrilling water park that boasts a range of slides and rides including a zip-line. 
  • the Dolphin Bay at Atlantis The Palm, an amazing experience you will ever have with dolphins. You can stand in shallow water, enjoy a scuba dive alongside dolphins, sea lions.

You can also take a guided Dubai Palm Cruise Tour, enjoy incredible views of the Palm, and have a chance to take a photo in front of Atlantis The Palm’s iconic silhouette.

There are also many outdoor water activities on the beach, you can take a standup paddleboard lesson, kayak tour of Palm Jumeirah, and windsurf lesson by SeaYou. The lessons are for both beginners and experts and can be used with the Go Dubai Card.

Whilst Palm Jumeirah is a few miles outside of the main city, it is connected straight to Downtown Dubai by the Sheikh Zayed Road. Leading right through the heart of Bur Dubai, you can easily visit all the top attractions despite staying far from the crowded city center.

The luxury hotels here offer family-friendly amenities such as a children’s pool, kids club, own private beach, outdoor swimming pool, free wifi, easy access to Dubai’s business districts.

Best places to stay in Dubai in Palm Jumeirah for first-time tourists:


3. Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina

Dubai Marina is right next to artificial Palm Jumeirah. If you are planning to spend your stay in Dubai relaxing on the beach, but don’t want to break the bank on the expensive hotels of the palm, then Dubai Marina makes an excellent option. 

The Dubai Marina Beach is a long stretch of soft golden sand, perfect for soaking up the sun. You won’t need to worry about getting bored though, as there are plenty of water sports on offer to keep visitors of all ages entertained. 

There is plenty of shopping to be done in and around Dubai Marina. The 390,000 square feet area of Dubai Marina Mall has more than130 outlets with the best of big-name brands, designer boutiques, and top-quality restaurants and cafes all in one place.

If you don’t feel like walking all the way around the marina, you can travel around on the handy Dubai Tram instead. Dubai Marina is the only area of the city where the trams operate, so it’s a particularly unique experience. 

Many of the best hotels are clustered in the Jumeirah Beach Residence area. The Jumeirah Beach Residence stretches along the west side of the marina, meaning the hotels here offer waterfront views of both the Arabian Gulf and Dubai marina.

If you are looking for somewhere to take a romantic walk, take a stroll around Dubai Harbour and Dubai Marina Walk. The Dubai Marina Walk offers seven kilometers of waterside pathways. Lined with palm trees, trendy cafes, eateries, shopping outlets, restaurants, it’s a fantastic way to take in the sunset.

The Dubai Marina Walk fountain is a great place to take photos. There is also an event at Cobblestone Boulevard on weekends and Covent Garden Market from October to April.

Dubai Marina also boasts the award-winning marina, Dubai Marina Yacht Club, with many exclusive bars, restaurants on a 3.5km man-made canal. It’s a boater’s haven by day and a lively nightlife waterfront destination by night. You can book a romantic dinner cruise on the traditional-style wooden dhow boat.

For a fine dining experience, head to Pier 7 with seven different restaurants on each of its floors that will satisfy all tastes.

If you love art, Gallery One is a must-see that displays amazing artworks. You can buy beautiful gift boxes to bring home.

To experience a breathtaking free-fall, you can try Skydive Dubai and enjoy amazing aerial views of Dubai’s top attractions. It’s an extraordinary experience!

Best places to stay in Dubai Marina for first-time travelers:


4. Bur Dubai

Bur Dubai is one of the best areas to stay in Dubai for first-timers who want good public transport on both Red and Green metro lines, and cheaper accommodations compared with the Downtown area. If you book a hotel here, you are still in a central location, with lots of attractions that are easily reachable.

Bur Dubai, also known as Old Dubai, is one of the oldest neighborhoods in The emirate of Dubai, located west of the bustling Dubai Creek. Bur Dubai is where you can find the famous Dubai Frame, Al Seef, and many authentic souks.

As a seafront city, when considering where to stay in Dubai, many people automatically think about sea views. However, the sea is not the only water view available in Dubai. The Dubai Creek that surrounds Bur Dubai is an underappreciated, and more budget-friendly, alternative.

Bur Dubai is where you find Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood (Bastakiya Quarter), one of the most prominent heritage sites in the UAE. The historical district is characterized by narrow streets and alleys.

You will see traditional houses made of coral stone, teak wood, sandalwood, and palm fronds with barajeel wind towers on top of the houses, 19th-century equivalent of air-conditioning.

Aside from historic buildings, there are plenty of museums clustered throughout the old town. There are the Coins Museum, Coffee Museum, and the Dubai Museum housed in the 1787 Al Fahidi Fort, and various modern art galleries including the XVA art gallery and the Majlis Gallery.

One such museum is the Sheikh Mohammed Centre For Cultural Understanding. This cultural center was established to educate visitors on the local traditions and customs. It’s a must-visit for anyone interested in learning about the traditional culture of Dubai.

Old Dubai stretches along the creek in various fragments. The Shindagha historic district further west along the river is where Dubai is believed to have first been found. Here you can find the Heritage Village, an open-air museum displaying local artisan and craft traditions. 

To travel to this area, you can use Dubai Metro, you can stop at the Ghubaiba or Al Fahidi station. If taking a water taxi, search for the Bur Dubai abra station or the Al Ghubaiba marine transport station.

It’s not only historical culture and attractions that can be enjoyed here. Bur Dubai is the best area to appreciate the contrast between old and new Dubai. Aside from the view of new Dubai from the streets of the old city, there are plenty of contemporary attractions right nearby.

Museum of Illusions is a quirky art museum at the heart of the old town. Full of trick rooms and sets designed to trick the senses, it’s the perfect place to take some deceptive photographs. 

Further south in Zabeel Park you can find the splendid Dubai Frame. In addition to taking some ready-framed sunset photos through the center hole, visitors can travel to the top of the 150-meter tower to take in panoramic views of Dubai. The light shows are held here in the evening.

Bur Dubai is also a great place for shops and dining with the vibrant Meena Bazaar area, Dubai’s Little India, and Textile Souk.

Best places to stay in Bur Dubai for first-timers:


5. Deira


Deira is a large area north of Dubai Creek, home to a large Dubai Creek waterfront residential, Festival City. It’s bounded by the Sharjah, Dubai Creek, and Arabian Gulf.

Outside of the central area of downtown Dubai, Deira is somewhat more residential than the greater Bur Dubai area. The benefit of this is that hotels here are often cheaper than in the city center. 

There’s no need to worry about being too far separated from Downtown Dubai, however. There are plenty of bridges and tunnels crossing Dubai Creek to the city center.

With the well-connected Dubai Metro system, you can easily make your way around all the attractions of the downtown area. 

Whilst Deira is still developing as a tourist destination, that’s not to say that it is without attractions of its own. The iconic Deira Clocktower is a hypermodern monument that you would never guess was designed and installed over half a century ago, long predating Dubai’s rapid expansion. 

There are also a good few interesting museums here, appealing to a wide range of interests:

  • The Heritage House Museum, built in 1890 by Matar Saeed bin Mazina, a wealthy Dubai merchant. You can learn about a wealthy UAE house 100 years ago with its traditional furniture and household items.
  • the Museum of the Poet Al Oqaili, located on the narrow lanes on the edge of the Spice Souq, you can also see furniture, household items from the end of the 19th century.
  • the Women’s Museum offers a look at the unique situation of the women of the United Arab Emirates throughout the country’s history.  

If you enjoy shopping, there are plenty of opportunities to do so here. In recent years, modern shopping malls have been built all over Deira, and there are also many more traditional souks (markets) to visit. 

The Dubai Gold Souk is a particularly unique market. Featuring a number of shops and stalls selling an array of different gold pieces, this is a fantastic example of the kind of opulence and excess Dubai is renowned for. 

The nearby Old Souk is a more traditional alternative. The stalls here offer various wares you would expect to find in a Middle-Eastern bazaar. From rich spices and street food to colorful furnishings and lanterns, this market is the perfect place to pick up some unique souvenirs.  

You will find bags of frankincense, cumin, paprika, saffron, sumac, and thyme at Deira Spice Souk.

Of course, one of the major conveniences of staying in Deira, and Al Garhoud, is being so close to Dubai International Airport. It’s home to the Emirates Aviation College, the Emirates Airlines head office, and the well-known restaurant complexes of Century and Irish Villages.

Another must landmark is the Grand Mosque, one of the world’s largest mosques.

Other things to do and see in Deira include visiting the Karachi Darbar, Mumbai Masti Juice Centre, George & Dragon Pub, the Sheraton Dubai Creek, Maktoum Bridge, the Dubai Creek Golf Course.

If you are only staying in Dubai for a couple of days, or even just on a layover, Deira is ideally located. You can sleep within a few minutes of travel of the airport, whilst the impressive public transport system lets you explore Downtown Dubai with just a short journey.

Best places to stay in Dubai in Deira for first-time visitors:


6. Jumeirah Beach

Jumeirah Beach

Jumeirah Beach is an 11 miles beach strip that stretches south from Bur Dubai to the new developments around Dubai Marina. In Jumeirah Beach is a great place to stay in Dubai for beach lovers, family with kids.

The area around Jumeirah beach is absolutely packed full of restaurants and cafes, sure to keep everyone happy.During the day you can stay refreshed with trips to the various dessert, frozen yogurt, and ice-cream parlors, or grab lunch at one of the beachside burger bars.

For dinner, you will have a wide range of restaurants to choose from. With cuisines from around the world on offer, you will be sure to find something to appeal to everyone. If you are traveling with children, you can rest assured that even the fussiest eaters will be catered for. 

If relaxing on the sand starts to get dull you can take advantage of the various water sports available along Jumeirah Beach, La Mer Beach, and Mercato Beach.

There are also Jumeirah Open Beach Park with a children’s play area, Wild Wadi Water Park, Laguna Waterpark, and Umm Suqueim Park. Featuring various rides, slides, and aquatic toys, it makes for a fantastically fun family day out.

Of course, it’s not just sun, sea, and sand to be enjoyed here. Jumeirah Beach is just a short journey from all the sights and attractions of the city center. A short trip to Dubai’s excellent public transport system will have you at the heart of downtown in minutes. 

In fact, Jumeirah Beach makes the best location to appreciate the stunning Dubai Skyline. Especially at night when you can really appreciate the twinkling city lights. Hotels here are almost guaranteed a stunning view of either the city or the Arabian Gulf.

If you don’t fancy having to travel into the city center to enjoy some sightseeing, there are some attractions closer to the beach. The beautiful Jumeirah Mosque is located within walking distance of the northern end of the beach. 

Built entirely from white stone, the mosque is particularly stunning in the sun. Although it was built in the 1970s, Jumeirah Mosque is designed in the traditional medieval Fatimid style. Non-muslims are welcome to take a guided tour as part of the ‘Open Minds, Open Doors’ cultural program.

The only seven-star hotel, Burj Al Arab is the world’s most luxurious hotel on an artificial island and close to Jumeirah Beach. The hotel has 199 luxury suites with a rain shower and a Jacuzzi in each suite and award-winning restaurants.

Best places to stay in Jumeirah Beach for first-timers:


7. Al Barsha

Al Barsha is a residential suburb around the Mall of the Emirates, right next to Palm Jumeirah and Dubai Marina. Whilst it is not the typical first choice for new visitors to Dubai, Al Barsha certainly has plenty to offer guests. As a more homely area, there are plenty of accommodations for families and children in this area.

The Mall of the Emirates is a shopper’s paradise famous for its indoor ski slope. it offers direct access to Dubai Metro, Ski Dubai, two 5-star hotels, the Sheraton Dubai Mall of the Emirates and the Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, and the largest VOX Cinemas theatre in the Middle East.

Catering to its varied residential population, you will find plenty of high-quality restaurants and bars. This is a better place to try to mingle with the locals than the overcrowded and tourist-heavy city center. 

You can spend your days wandering around the various shopping centers and family-run cafes, getting a feel for what everyday life is like in Dubai. Alternatively, there are several large public parks to enjoy. If you are traveling with children, there is plenty of space for them to run off their energy.

The Dubai Miracle Garden is a beautiful urban park to explore. Composed of various manicured lawns and gardens, and including a plane as a garden ornament, there’s a new floral surprise to discover around every corner.

For a fun family day out by the sea, you could head to the nearby public beach. Or you could try Wild Wadi Waterpark for a bit more excitement. You can spend all day exploring the various rides and pools. Some of the taller slides offer beautiful views over the Arabian Gulf.

With Dubai Media City nearby, this is a good location to stay in Dubai if you are in the technology industry. Dubai Media City is a hub of tech companies and industry events are often held here. 

Also known as Dubai Internet City, the bars and hotels of Dubai Media City are a good networking opportunity. 

Best places to stay in Dubai in Al Barsha for first-timers:


8. Trade Centre

Trade Centre

Immediately north of the main downtown area, the Trade Centre (also known as Dubai Financial Centre) is Dubai’s primary business district, stretching along the Sheikh Zayed Road. If you are planning to stay in Dubai for a work trip, it’s very likely that you will be wanting to stay somewhere in this area. 

Many of Dubai’s most prominent skyscrapers and architectural wonders are located here. One of the most significant is Dubai World Trade Centre Skyscraper. The World Trade Centre is a busy conference center hosting frequent events and is a key aspect of the city’s business community.

With so many wealthy businessmen constantly passing through the area, there is a big market here for hospitality and entertainment. After a long day of meetings and conferences, most want to unwind with a drink and a good meal, and the Trade Centre caters to that well. 

Here you will find some of the best restaurants in the city, along with some of Dubai’s top bars. If you are looking to take advantage of Dubai’s vibrant nightlife, this is a neighborhood to consider. Various rooftop bars along here offer a particularly beautiful view of the city lights.

There’s plenty to keep you busy here during the day too. The Museum of the future is a particularly unique building, designed to house a museum dedicated to innovation and invention. 

Meanwhile, just north of the Trade Centre is Zabeel Park. The park is full of attractions including the Dinosaur Park, the Dubai Garden Glow illuminations, the Stargate, and the Frame. Dubai Garden Glow is the largest theme park in the world, a great place for families with young children.

Nearby, The Dubai Sports World is the UAE’s largest indoor sports venue. The indoor stadiums spanning over a colossal area of 25,000 sqm, DSW allows sports enthusiasts to rent pitches and courts and play their own matches.

Modhesh World (MW) is one of the region’s largest indoor entertainment and amusement facilities offering a multitude of activities catering mostly to families with children.

As an area known to have many rich and powerful visitors passing through, you will find many of Dubai’s best luxury hotels here. This is a neighborhood catering to those with plenty of money to spend, so it’s not ideal for budget travelers. 

Best places to stay in Dubai in Trade Centre for first-time tourists:


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To summarize, Downtown Dubai, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, Bur Dubai, Deira, Jumeirah Beach, Al Barsha, and Trade Centre are the best places to stay in Dubai for tourists and first-timers. They offer easy access to major attractions, and a wide range of accommodations for all budgets.

Personally, I recommend Downtown Dubai as the best overall location in Dubai for first-timers because it is home to many city’s most iconic attractions and it is hub of restaurants, shopping, downtown is the heart of modern Dubai. 

About Author: Linda Smith

I'm Linda Smith, the Hotel Expert, an experienced travel blogger who passionate about traveling. I'm here to share with you all my travel experiences and tips. I cover a wide range of travel topics, specializing in sharing information about the best areas, neighborhoods, and hotels in each city. I hope all these things will make your travel easier.

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