This post is all about the biggest and the tallest and the fastest and the best. Maybe that offends you- maybe you’d prefer reading about something understated, something low-key and modest- that’s cool… but this is not the post (or the holiday) for you. Switch off now. The UAE has a lot of money and they’re not afraid to brag about it. If the UAE were a person, it would probably be Kanye West. Just sayin.
The Burj Khalifa is the world’s tallest building. It soars majestically at 830 metres and completely dwarfs the city around it. It is one of the best attractions Dubai has to offer and you shouldn’t miss it (It is pretty hard to miss it).
from the base
Nerdy fact: The building was originally called the Burj Dubai (Dubai Tower- inspired I know). However, in order to fund its completion during the global economic crisis, the government were forced to seek multibillion dollar bailouts from Abu Dhabi. The building was renamed Burj Khalifa after UAE president, Sheikh Khalifa for his crucial support.
Armani Residence apartment, Burj Khalifa
Another nerdy fact: The Burj is also the first world’s tallest structure to include residential space (just imagine this being your address!). Developers put 900 luxury apartments out to let on opening, 825 of which remained unoccupied a year later. There has been an upsurge in occupancy more recently- possibly a result of the recovering economy and (in my own opinion) the appearance of the tower in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (I had a newfound respect for Tom Cruise after discovering he did his own stunts in that dizzying scene 130 floors up).
Want to go? You need to book the Burj Khalifa At The Top Experience. I’m here to make that easier:
Book in advance! If you do it online, it costs 100Dhs (about €20); if you just show up , it costs 400Dhs (about €80). Pre-booking makes good economical sense. You can book up to 30 days in advance and the best time to go is at 5 pm because you have plans afterwards (yes you do- I’ll get to that in a minute). Peak times like this book up quickly so get on it (Thanks for this tip Tim!). I’m telling you this from the safety of having reserved my primetime places already.
You’ll turn up at your allotted time and start your tour. You know how it goes- there’s a multimedia presentation chronicling Dubai’s history and the construction of the Burj Khalifa. You’ll find out tons more nerdy facts and be escorted around on a travelator by a super-friendly all-knowledgeable guide. I might just be the only person left in the world to get excited about guided tours and multimedia presentations.
If guided tours don’t turn you on, don’t worry. After that bit is over, you board (is that the right word? board?) the fastest elevator in the world- travelling at a speed of 10 metres per second, it takes a mere 60 seconds to reach the 124th floor.
The observation deck is an architectural dream of floor-to-ceiling glass walls, providing a 360 ° view of the city, ocean and desert.
You should typically leave about an hour for the whole At The Top Experience, but you can linger as long as you like before making your descent for Dinner.
Dinner- that’s what comes next.
The Burj Khalifa is conveniently located right beside The Dubai Mall- the biggest shopping mall in the world (but of course). The Dubai Mall is home to something like a million restaurants and cafés. Okay, I just googled it- it’s actually only 150. I haven’t tried them all (working on it), but Social House comes personally recommended.
Marie and I on our last visit
They have an extensive menu, but seem to get everything just right. I love the bustling unpretentious ambience and all the little details- cutlery in tin cans, hanger menus and tiny pots of homemade this and that as accompaniments.
When it cools down in the evening, the whole side of the restaurant is sort-of folded away to transform part of it into a veranda and create an overall outside-inside feel. Grab a table outside and be all set to watch the fountain shows that start at 7 pm.
Dubai Fountain is another record-breaker: the world’s biggest musical fountain (seeing a pattern here?). Designed by WET (the creators of the famous Fountains of Bellagio in Las Vegas), it is illuminated by 6,600 lights and 25 colour projectors and shoots water 150m in the air (the equivalent of a 50 story building). Performances to light and music take place daily from 6 pm to 10 pm (11 pm on weekends). Spectacular.