Travel Update: What’s New in Dubai

Courtesy Palazzo Versace

The Palazzo Versace hotel opens in the United Arab Emirates’ biggest city—plus pool, beach, spa, and other hotel news.

Fashion designer Donatella Versace finally opened Palazzo Versace (rooms from $870; 971-4/556-8888; palazzoversace.ae), a decadent property that took 12 years to complete. It’s located on Dubai Creek in the Dubai Culture Village, which is still mostly a construction site. The hotel has 215 guest rooms and suites (and 169 condos ranging from one to six bedrooms and starting at $1,880). Each room is outfitted in Versace everything—furniture, linens, rugs, bath products, even minibar china.

Donatella’s vision was to bring Italy to Dubai, and so she has—in the form of 1.5 million Italian mosaic tiles (it took 2½ years to hand-lay the lobby’s tile floor); 393,700 feet of Versace fabric (some archival prints as well as new hotel designs such as the falcon, Arabian horse, and peacock); 400,000 Italian pebbles for the driveway; and 12,000 pieces of Italian handmade furniture. It’s Donatella’s world, and guests are simply living in it.

The sixth-floor Grand Suite, which has a walk-in wardrobe and a balcony overlooking the creek and the main pool, is $835. (The two $25,000-per-night Imperial Suites have two bedrooms, span two stories, and include a full-length rooftop pool. It’s the suites’ little details that truly impress, like a fashion-designer-approved closet, a large vanity area with Hollywood makeup lighting, and a “playroom” that can even be outfitted with a live falcon.)


The exterior of Palazzo Versace, overlooking Dubai Creek. Courtesy Palazzo Versace

The handwoven hallway carpets are beautiful, but will they withstand rolling suitcases and foot traffic? The pastel silk bedding is sinfully gorgeous, obviously, but how durable will it be?

There’s plenty else new in town. On the beach, the Jumeirah brand opened Jumeirah Al Naseem (rooms from $435; 971-04/366-8888; jumeirah.com) in December. It has 430 rooms and is located within the massive Madinat Jumeirah Resort. The interior design plays down the brand’s Arabian roots and is more light and airy than its sister properties. Still, I can’t imagine high-high-rollers opting for any Jumeirah property other than the one right across the waterway from Al Naseem: the world-famous Burj Al Arab (rooms from $3,000; 971-4/301-7777; jumeirah.com). BAA has a new pool terrace, and its Al Mahara restaurant recently debuted a collaboration with British Michelin two-star chef Nathan Outlaw.

The two One&Onlys—the Royal Mirage (rooms from $700; 971-4/399-9999; oneandonlyresorts.com) and The Palm (rooms from $900; 971-4/440-1010; oneandonlyresorts.com)—are not new. (The former opened in 1999, the latter in 2010.) They are, however, hard to top, their spas especially (which is saying something since hotel spas are a thing in Dubai). The Palm just updated its wellness center; it now features all Guerlain products.


The Giardino all-day restaurant at Palazzo Versace. Courtesy Palazzo Versace

Downtown business travelers should note that the Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre (rooms from $420; 971-4/506-0000; fourseasons.com) unveiled itself in March 2016, and the St. Regis Dubai (rooms from $325; 9971-4/435-5555; stregisdubai.com) opened in April 2016 at the still-under-construction Al Habtoor City. Both are near the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, and the world’s largest shopping center, the Dubai Mall, an area that is close to some burgeoning cultural sites: the new $330 million Dubai Opera house, said to rival the Sydney Opera House, and the up-and-coming design district. Another good find in the neighborhood is the Dubai Mall outpost of the food truck Salt (its original location is a hike, on Kite Beach), which pays homage to Dubai’s favorite food trend of the moment: the American hamburger.

What remains unique about Dubai is how travelers can spend their mornings doing such wild activities—skiing indoors at the Mall of the Emirates, going to the 148th-floor observation deck at the Burj Khalifa, watching the camel races at Al Marmoum—and then return to their hotels for a world-class pool, beach, or spa afternoon. Tack on a night 45 minutes outside the city at Al Maha, a Luxury Collection Desert Resort & Spa (rooms from $1,500; 971-4/832-9900; al-maha.com)—opt for a sundowner camel trek and sunrise dune bashing—and is there any larger-than-life destination bigger that’s better?