Best Place to Stay in Dubai?
The best place to stay in Dubai is the InterContinental Dubai Festival City. I’ve stayed at several different hotels in the UAE and this one is my new favorite.
Here are my top five reasons why the InterContinental Dubai Festival City is the best place to stay in Dubai:
- Service is top notch
- Rooms are ultra modern
- Vista Bar & Terrace overlooks a nightly laser light show and Dubai Creek
- Walking distance / adjacent to Dubai Festival City Mall & restaurants
- Excellent bar next door called the Belgian Beer Cafe
Here’s the story of my night in Dubai and an overview of the hotel…
Service & Check In
The service is 5-Star at the curb. We were treated like kings.
The hotel was an extremely welcoming sight to me and my crew on this particular occasion.
Well, four grown men had been wedged into my buddy’s Ford Mustang for the ride to Dubai. Don’t get me wrong—It’s a very nice car. But, it’s designed for two people. The back seat is designed for purses and briefcases. It is not designed for two adults.
As we peeled ourselves out of the hot-rod sardine can, it was apparent that the ride had been worth it. The InterContinental looked like the perfect place to unwind and stretch out after a day of traveling through the desert.
The gentlemen working the front door had our bags secured and the car off to the valet in efficient time. While my friend checked us in with the pretty girl at the front desk, I decided to take a tour of the lobby level with my Sony RX100 V camera.
Off to the left in the lobby area, there is a restaurant called Anise. It’s open from 6:30 AM to 11:30 PM. The place has a WIDE range of International food served buffet style. There are several cooking stations for made-to-order dishes.
I didn’t get to eat at Anise, but I can tell you it’s a nice restaurant for a hotel. The only reason I didn’t try it out was because we had too many other things on the schedule. Had I stayed a second night, it would have been a priority. The next visit I’ll make sure to give it a run and update this review.
The presentation of the food is quite charming. The staff, including the cooks, are very friendly and the atmosphere is welcoming.
Vista Bar and Terrace
I stumbled into the back patio bar which overlooks Dubai Creek on the right and Festival City Mall on the left.
A brief conversation with the waitress revealed that a show of some sort was about to kick off. That’s all it took to get me to sit down and have a drink. I started off with a nice cold Heineken.
Quick story off topic: You know, whenever I find myself in and around the rich and famous, I always order a Heineken. It’s a classy order and much more appropriate than palming a can of Budweiser while trying to mingle. Do I really care? No, there’s never any shame in my drink orders. I’ll drink a piña colada in a bar full of rugby players and enjoy it. But, I do like to blend with the crowd at venues where I have to exhibit good behavior. A good tip is that if you’re a beer drinker and find yourself among wine connoisseurs or people richer than you, go with a Heineken. Make sure you order the Heineken in a bottle and not off draft. This choice of beer won’t give away the fact that you’re a broke travel writer who lives out of his backpack in Southeast Asia. Back to the review…
The show turned out to be a laser, light, water, and fire presentation called Imagine. Here’s what the Dubai Festival City website says about the show:
“IMAGINE is Dubai Festival City’s record-breaking new attraction, which offers unique sensory experience, harnesses the power of light, water, and fire, combined with giant aqua screens, 30 fountains and surround sound to connect with audiences and produce a show like never seen before.”
The show is definitely worth watching. Make sure you pay close attention to the mist.
I recommend you check in, freshen up a bit, and head down to Vista Bar and Terrace for a couple of drinks before going to dinner. Get a table near the railing on the left. People tend to gather next to the rail to take photos so if you’re sitting in the middle of the patio, your view might be obscured.
Belgian Beer Cafe
Next door to the hotel is a restaurant and bar called the Belgian Beer Cafe. When you exit the front lobby, go left. It’s just a couple of doors down.
The theme of the cafe is pretty cool. I’ve never traveled to Belgium so I can’t actually say that it reminds me of the country.
It has a cozy, pub, tavern atmosphere to the interior. They also have a patio area with outside seating.
My buddy went with the Saturday special called the King of Prawns for 220 AED. The dish comes with a kilo of Tiger Prawns, four slices of bread, a dipping sauce, and salad. Two drinks are included with the price of the meal. The special is served from 6-11 PM according to the sign out front and changes daily.
I chose the Draught Beer Tasting Tray. It’s 88 AED for the tray, but you can get an order of Belgian Fries along with it for 108 AED. It comes with five draft (draught) beers in fair-sized glasses. The Belgian Fries were enough that I didn’t need to order any additional food.
The comical issue is that the beers aren’t put in order according to the menu.
The waitress kindly explained to me which beer was what, but after she left I immediately forgot. To make matters more complicated, you get to choose five beers but there are six listed on the menu.
I can’t remember which ones I ordered.
On the menu, they’re listed as:
- Stella Artois
- Leffe Blonde
- Leffe Brune
- Kriek Belle-Vue
- Stella Cidre
The beers are presented and served out of order on the tray.
Just to stir the drama, I suggested to her that the bartender should put the beers in order as they’re listed on the menu. She explained that they couldn’t do it that way. The waitress assured me that she knew which beer was what and would remind me anytime I needed her to. The girl was very friendly and you can’t fault her for the policy, anyway.
When you travel the world, sometimes things just perplex the hell out of you.
Why can’t they put the damn beers in order so I know which one I like the best? Then, I might order a full glass of that particular beer! I’m here to drink. I don’t want to solve puzzles or play the memory game.
Anyway, I love the Belgian Cafe and recommend you have a drink there.
For the Management of the Belgian Cafe… To avoid confusion among us beer drinkers you need to fix the issue with the beer tasting tray and here’s how: Change the tasting tray to include all 6 beers listed on that page of the menu and serve them in order. I don’t care if you start from left to right (English) or go from right to left (Arabic) on the tray. Problem solved. :)
Eclipse Champagne Bar
On the 26th floor of the InterContinental Dubai Festival City is the Eclipse Champagne Bar. Now, I wouldn’t bore you with mentioning another bar except that there’s an interesting story about this place.
We got off the elevator and were a bit confused as to which way to turn for the bar. Either we’d had a few too many already, or the little signs seem to conflict themselves. I remember that one pointed left and the other to the right.
My buddy Pablo decided to venture on while the rest of us waited at the elevator for one more man to arrive.
Pablo disappeared down the hallway and out of sight.
When we went to find the bar, the hallway dead-ended into some chick’s office. She’s a beautiful girl, dressed executive like, in an office behind a glass wall and glass door. To the immediate right was what appeared to be a small service elevator.
Perplexed, we did what I would have to assume every first-time customer to the Champagne Bar does. We opened the girl’s office door and said:
“Is this the bar?”
She politely pointed to a small, white square button on the wall next to the “elevator”. She said quietly…
“Just push the button.”
With a push of this magical and nondescript button on the wall, the “elevator” door slid open to reveal the Eclipse Champagne Bar!
We just laughed because the process felt like we’d entered a speakeasy back in 1920s America. Had she asked for a password, it would have really felt authentic.
The question is this: Is that beautiful girl working in the glass office an executive of the hotel? If so, she’s got the worst luck on getting assigned an office with a view. There’s no way she can get anything done because tipsy bar patrons keep asking her where the Eclipse Champagne Bar is located! Or, could it be that her specific job is to direct guests to the bar? This is a mystery that I’ve got to solve on my next trip. If you go there, please ask this lady what the deal is and send me an email.
The atmosphere of Eclipse Champagne Bar is best described in one word:
The music is low and monotonous. The lighting is red and dim. The view from the 26th floor is awesome!
I think the lighting is dim by design because it allows the lights of the city to be the main focus and backdrop. The city lights pop like the stars do when you’re camping in the mountains.
As we took our seats, we walked by a gentlemen dressed in local clothing. The guy looked to be in his sixties or older. He had a long beard and well, looked a lot like a guy named Osama… That’s not the story though. I’m just setting the stage so you can picture this guy in your mind.
When I first lay eyes on this character, I loved him. He had ten bottles of Heineken on his table. Hell yeah! That dog (loving term for brother) seemed to know how to party. He was staring at those Heineken bottles like he’d just smoked a joint two miles long.
However, the admiration for his partying quickly turned to dismay. As we sat down near the guy, I realized that all ten bottles of Heineken were full! For some reason, this joker had ordered ten cold bottles of Heineken, had the bartender pop the tops on each one, and place them in a row on his table. He was just staring at $200 dollars worth of beer slowly getting warm and going flat. It killed me.
I wanted to talk to the guy. I wanted to know more about him and find out the real story. Had he just lost a ton of money on a business deal and was depressed? Did his girlfriend leave him? Was he so damn rich that it was cheap entertainment to waste good beer? Or, was he just plain crazy? I’ll never know. If I had it to do over, I would have introduced myself to see what was going on in his world.
The Eclipse Champagne Bar is a bit smoky, so if you’re not into cigarettes this might not be the place for you. The drinks are on the pricey side as well, but hey, this is Dubai.
However, I recommend you at least have one drink at Eclipse. It’s a nice little experience you don’t want to miss.
The Rooms at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City
The rooms are ultra modern. Our room had a nice table, couch, lighted wardrobe, huge LCD tv mounted on the wall, and ample lighting.
The exterior wall is composed of panoramic windows which makes for a great view. The restroom has a full window as well.
When I went to take a shower, I couldn’t figure out how to lower the darn blinds. After my buddy and I conducted a quick search, we found two buttons on the wall that lowered and raised the motorized blinds.
Our room was equipped with a fully-stocked mini-bar and refrigerator.
Complimentary dental and shaving kits are provided for your convenience. The restroom is nice because it has a separate water closet off to one side. The other side has a shower area which includes a full bathtub.
We had no complaints about the room. Just make sure you ask the bellhop to show you where the buttons are that lower the blinds in the restroom.
Recommendations for Your Stay at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City
- Make sure you ask for a room with a view overlooking the city
- Catch the light show while having a drink at Vista Bar & Terrace
- Eat at Anise Restaurant
- Have drinks and a meal at The Belgian Cafe
- Have one drink at Eclipse Champagne Bar
- Book your room on Agoda.com for the lowest rate
My Opinion on What Makes a Good Hotel
I travel constantly.
I’ve stayed in 5-Star hotels and I’ve stayed in hotels with no electricity or running water.
I’ve come to this conclusion:
The most important thing about a hotel is the overall experience.
You can stay in a tent and as long as the overall experience is good, you’re a happy customer. You can stay at the Taj Mahal but if you have an overall bad time, you will not go back.
Listen, there are many nice hotels in Dubai. Most of them have clean rooms, good service, swimming pools, etc.
I’m recommending the InterContinental Dubai Festival City because of the overall experience I had during the 18 hours I spent there.
Drop me an email or a comment down below and let me know about your stay at the InterContinental Dubai Festival City.