One of the bigger, better, bonkers mega projects that first attracted the attention of the world’s media to Dubai, Palm Jumeirah is one of the emirate’s most iconic landmarks. A man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, comprised of a 2km long trunk and 17 fronds encircled by a crescent, it might not be the “eighth wonder of the world”, but it is an extraordinary feat and worth a visit simply to tick it off your bucket list.
When Sol Kernzner’s famed Atlantis, The Palm opened in 2008 with a launch party costing a reported £15 million and attended by an embarrassment of celebrities who were treated to a performance by Kylie Minogue and a pyrotechnic display featuring one million fireworks, there was little else to entice people to the Palm.
Thankfully, Atlantis has much to offer. You won’t regret an afternoon at its Aquaventure Waterpark, an hour or two diving or simply ogling the sea life in its Lost Chambers aquarium or an evening at Nobu, Ronda Locatelli or the recently opened Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen & Bar.
But the Palm is now a popular residential neighbourhood and many of the five-star properties that dot the island’s crescent offer a calmer atmosphere for residents and tourists looking for a more low-key experience.
Start early with a jog on the 3.2km running track in Al Ittihad Park, which offers more than 60 species of trees and plants, or an hour of kayaking or paddle boarding at Riva beach club. If you have chosen the latter option, you will be perfectly located to enjoy a healthy breakfast at Sophie’s, a popular organic café on the lower ground floor of the beach club.
Work off your scrambled eggs with an afternoon exploring on a bicycle hired from one of the island’s seven nextbike stations.
Having negotiated the outer reaches of the Palm, enjoy a cooking lesson at Anantara The Palm Dubai resort’s Spice Spoons cooking school, where Chef Li Helin will teach you how to prepare three authentic Thai dishes, which you can then eat for lunch. Or, if it’s the weekend, you might want to experience the famous Dubai brunch. Try chef Fernando Lima’s Brazilian brunch at Fairmont The Palm’s Frevo churrascaria, which promises succulent meats and Samba.
Relax with an afternoon of indulgence in Jumeirah Zabeel Saray’s Talise Ottoman Spa. After a traditional Turkish hammam treatment, administered on a marble slab beneath an exquisite domed mosaic ceiling, you can while away the pre-cocktail hours in the sauna, steam room or bobbing in one of two thalassotherapy pools.
One & Only The Palm‘s 101 is the most scenic spot for a sundowner, which can be sipped above the water while taking in the view of the Dubai skyline. Deciding where to eat dinner won’t be easy, but it would be hard to beat the Italian menu at Social by Heinz Beck at the Waldorf Astoria. Beck is one of the world’s most celebrated chefs, and his La Pergola restaurant in Rome has been awarded three Michelin stars.
For evening entertainment, there is only one place to go: Music Hall. Located at Jumeirah Zabeel Saray, the timeless cabaret club represents one of the best nights out in Dubai. Make sure you book ahead.
Virgin Atlantic operates direct flights to Dubai from London Heathrow.
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