We've been talking about visiting Dubai for almost half a decade. Our Dubai itinerary was mainly limited to layovers rather than luxury vacations with desert safaris and 5-star hotels. We seemed to have always prioritised other destinations and tell ourselves that we will return soon. Well, five years later, we finally did our Dubai vacation and enjoyed a luxury Dubai itinerary for a long weekend. Although we already celebrated our 2 year wedding anniversary with an amazing Norway road trip, we decided to extend our celebrations and indulge in a long opulent weekend in the Middle East.
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Travel to Dubai
With so many great places to visit in Dubai you can see why we were so excited about our holiday. We flew to Dubai from Budapest with Emirates Airlines. It wasn't our first time flying with them so we sort of knew what to expect from the flight. We didn't fly business as the trip itself was less than 6 hours. We did, however, fly Economy Premium for the extra leg space. Dubai is a major hub and you'll find that many airlines stop here for a layover. We've been told it can get so busy, it can take hours to clear the immigration. We arrived late at night, and we were lucky to encounter zero queues.
Once we passed immigration we found our private chauffeur waiting to take us to our hotel. The chauffeur guided us to a top of the line BMW with luxury backseats, newspapers, chargers for our phones, wifi, luxury chocolate covered dates and still and sparkling water. We were pretty tired from the trip and loved the special treatment. After all, this was our cheeky luxury Dubai vacation we've been planning for so long.
Staying at InterContinental Festival City
After a 30 minutes trip from the airport, we arrived at our hotel, the InterContinental Festival City. The moment the chauffeur pulled over in front of the hotel's driveway, several staff members opened our doors, welcomed us to the InterContinental and took our bags. They graciously led us to the concierge for check-in.
Since we were already expected at the hotel, the check-in was a breeze. A few minutes tops and we were on our way to the room. Our suite was facing the pool, the river and the beautiful Burj Khalifa. First of all, the room was huge. The bed was incredibly comfortable and, of course, as part of the InterContinental promise, we had access to a pillow menu. We ordered the Japanese Igusa pillows. Order yours next time you stay at the InterContinental, and you will have the sweetest dreams. It's so comfortable.
The room had a large window which offered these incredible views of Dubai. It was romantic, dreamy and out of this world. Our bathroom was also very large with large cupboards, a rainforest shower and a luxury bath right next to another huge window. The setup screamed romantic bubble bath with epic sunset views over Burj Khalifa.
As we were part of the InterContinental Ambassador club, we were automatically upgraded to a club room and we had access to the club lounge which offers special breakfast with a view, daily drinks and canapes during tea time.
Our Dubai Itinerary
Our Dubai itinerary was packed with awesomeness but mainly revolved around food. This trip was about relaxation, treating ourselves and have a true luxury experience. Dubai is like the Las Vegas of the Middle East, a playground with impeccable service, quality food and incredible sights. I mean, have you seen their buildings? These guys know how to build. You can clearly see Dubai is a rich city, where locals live like royalty.
Day 1 in Dubai
Breakfast at the Club Lounge
We started the day with an amazing breakfast in the Club Lounge. The staff was perfect, very friendly and really happy to recommend vegan and vegetarian options. We looked around the buffet and also asked for soy coffee and hot breakfast. If you travel vegetarian, we recommend the Shakshouka eggs for breakfast.
A trip to the desert
Fed and happy, we made our way to the concierge to book a chauffeur to take us to the Red Dune. It took about an hour to get to the starting point for the desert safari. Same as before, the car was incredible, with wifi, snacks, luxury seats and plenty of water.
We didn't book a tour, we decided to venture out on our own to feel the desert and take some pictures. Now please remember that we only walked for 20 minutes and we could see the car in sight. Don't venture out on your own without a guide or a safari tour as it can be very dangerous.
Once we got back from our quick photo shoot in the desert, we went to have lunch at Choix, located in the InterContinental.
Lunch at Choix par Pierre Gagnaire
Choix par Pierre Gagnaire offers the perfect choice to indulge one's senses in French culinary food. Being primarily known for its patisserie options, you can imagine the crazy choices of incredible desserts. Think of an array of perfectly crafted cakes which look too good to be eaten. The lunch menu offers a variety of goodies, including artichoke hearts (delicious), finger foods, fish-based mains and exquisite garnitures. We finished lunch with a tray of mini cakes to try a little bit of everything. We were spoiled for choice, with accompanying cocktails to match every course we enjoyed.
Romantic Afternoon Together
We took the afternoon off to just enjoy a quiet time in our room. We wanted to admire the sunset together and have a glass of bubbly together. We wanted to celebrate our two year marriage anniversary. We promised ourselves to not invest in items but experiences together. Make memories, take pictures and create photo albums and scrapbooks which will remind us of our incredible journey together. We won't remember the items we bought but will remember the time we laughed, hugged and kissed in a classy hotel room overlooking the Burk Khalifa.
Afternoon Tea at The Club Lounge
Just before dinner, we decided to check out the Club Lounge and see their drink menu and canapes. Every evening, the menu changes, so you are guaranteed to be spoiled for choice. As an added bonus, you can see those incredible views over Dubai at night from the lounge. Such a vibrant place full of colour. Exotic, charming and almost too luxurious for all our senses to process it all.
Dinner at Pierre’s Bistro & Bar
Alas, dinner time and we made our way to Pierre’s Bistro & Bar located in the InterContinental. On the website, they advertise it as a sensorial nightlife experience and let us tell you: it was one of the most memorable dining experiences we've ever had. Are you ready for this? Honestly, this experience deserves a whole article on its own. Chef Pierre Gagnaire is a well known iconoclastic chef at the forefront of the fusion cuisine movement. In 2015, he won the Best Chef in the World award.
The dinner itself was divine. We had a dedicated sommelier who advised us on drink & food matches made in heaven. The chef prepared an array of vegan dishes for us, so we were excited to try them all. Every single dish was cooked to perfection and made look amazing. Pierre’s Bistro & Bar offers cocktails from all around the world so we decided to pair our meal with cocktails rather than wine.
When people ask us what we loved most about our Dubai vacation, we do say it was the Pierre’s Bistro & Bar. This evening meal was the highlight of our Dubai itinerary. We made friends with one of the waiters who was from Kyrgyzstan and had so many amazing stories to tell. We can't recommend this place enough.
Day 2 in Dubai
Breakfast at the Club Lounge
We started the day bright and early, with a delicious breakfast at the Club Lounge. We were surprised to see the staff remembering us, asking us questions about our time in Dubai thus far. The food was just as incredible and the service beyond perfect. We ordered hummus and olives with a couple cups of coffee. Since the previous day was about luxury food in Dubai, we decided to have a day dedicated to luxury shopping. As such, we had breakfast with a well-known fashion adviser prior to a personal shopping experience.
Personal Shopping Experience
No Dubai itinerary skips shopping. With smaller VAT than other countries in EU, Dubai is considered cheaper and better for fashion addicts. Their malls are insane, you can spend days exploring them, going from shop to shop. The InterContinental is linked to Robinson's department store, where our personal shopper took us for an immersive fashion experience. We walked around, talked about preferences, checked various outfits and tried them on before buying what we loved the most. It was a lot of fun to have someone recommend items and get tailored advice to you personally. I ended up trying a lot of things I never thought I'll look good in, and learned to be more adventurous with outfits.
Lunchtime at Burj Khalifa
Once we finished with our shopping experience, we asked one of the hotel's drivers to drive us to Burj Khalifa. We wanted to take a few pictures with the building and get to see it up close. We didn't have lunch at the end, but we went around for a nice walk. Then we visited the Dubai Mall for an hour to see a few things here and there and buy souvenirs for our loved ones.
Afternoon Tea at The Club Lounge
Once we arrived back to the hotel, we went straight for the Club Lounge again to enjoy complimentary drinks and canapes. We sort of skipped lunch so we wanted to eat a bite before dinner. Our afternoon was relaxed. We spent time talking to one another, taking it easy. It was so exciting to be away from our office and laptops. We celebrated our 2 year anniversary with champagne and love.
Dinner at Vista
Evening came and we made our way to Vista, a tapas bar located in the InterContinental, with amazing views of the river and the singing fountain. We decided to stay out, even though it was quite warm still. The food at Vista was great, although not as impressive and satisfying as Choix or Pierre’s, or even the Club Lounge. However, the drinks were great, hence we'd recommend Vista for beverages and views rather than food for dinner. Throughout the evening we enjoyed a few fountain performances, yet another quirky thing you can find in Dubai.
Dubai is definitely a luxurious playground for adults, for those looking to splurge and indulge for a few days.
After spending our last night in the InterContinental, we had breakfast at the Club Lounge and checked out. We loved our luxury Dubai itinerary. We are outdoorsy people who prefer the quiet of the mountains, so it was unusual for us to celebrate our anniversary in UAE. That's why it worked so well because it was incredibly different and totally indulgent. We recommend a Dubai vacation if you want to surprise your partner with a top-notch, luxury trip. Dubai is great during Autumn and Winter, so you can escape the harsh cold & snow and spend some time by the pool in Dubai. There are lots of fun things to do, no matter your budget, including tailored adventures for couples or families with kids. Above all, we recommend Dubai to couples looking to have a unique romantic weekend together.
Practical information: Our trip to Dubai was sponsored by the InterContinetal, however, this article was written at our own personal accord and not part of any marketing campaign. As such, you can rest assured that all opinions are truly our own and not influenced in any way. We were very impressed with the hotel, food and service and had an amazing anniversary together. We tipped all staff generously and covered certain services we wanted to experience together (e.g. trips to and from Red Dune and to and from Burj Khalifa).