"The Palace" of Dubai. Literally.
CNN  — 

These days, Dubai is a pacesetter for world travel.

The Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest skyscraper, sets the scene for the quaint fishing port turned 21st century architectural destination. This building trend extends to its hotels and other lodging.

Not only a nice place to spend a night, these hotels are a feast for the eyes, too. Here are some suggestions on where to stay for a range of budgets:


Al Qasr

"The Palace" of Dubai. Literally.

Compared with the city’s glitzy Burj Al Arab and Atlantis The Palm Hotel, Al Qasr, which translates as “The Palace,” offers a distinctive Arabic flavor (Persian rugs and ornate oil lamps) without resembling Ali Baba’s grotto.

Step inside the lobby and the scent of freshly cut rose petals, which are scattered into a center pool, hits you square on, while rooms look out onto Arabesque waterways and the Persian Gulf.

Al Qasr, Dubai Marine Beach Resort & Spa, Opposite Jumeirah Mosque, Dubai 5182 United Arab Emirates, +971 4 366 8888

One&Only Royal Mirage

In Dubai, one One&Only isn't enough.

Despite the name, there are in fact two One&Only resorts in Dubai, both within a couple of miles of each other.

Celebrity favorite Royal Mirage is the more worthwhile of the two. Guests have included Michael Jackson and David Beckham, who’ve slept within the Arabian architecture, immaculately cultivated palm tree gardens and probably lounged on the crisp white beachside cabanas.

It’s also a great place for water sports – expert South African instructors offer wakeboarding and wakesurfing lessons in the calm waters right off the beach.

The Palace at One&Only Royal Mirage Dubai, Al Sufouh Road Jumeirah Beach, PO Box 37252, Dubai 37252 United Arab Emirates, + 971 4 399 9999


One of your few chances in the Middle East to wake up with a penguin. Kempinski Mall of the Emirates is a five-star hotel a shopper’s dream (it’s attached to Mall of the Emirates), and it looks out onto the most bizarre scene in the desert: Ski Dubai, one of the largest manmade ski slopes on the planet.

The hotel has crafted its suites accordingly, with chalet-style decor, Molton Brown hues and fake fireplaces.

From the bedrooms and dining room, visitors can see the piste, tobogganing track, chair lifts and even a gaggle of penguins flown in to live in the 22,500-square-meter fridge.

Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha Attached to Mall of the Emirates, Dubai United Arab Emirates, +971 4 341 0000


Amwaj Rotana Jumeirah Beach

Siren call to drinkers. Mind the rocks.

Though in the moderate range, you still get five-star accommodation at the Amwaj Rotana. For half the price of the luxury resorts, you get a room on JBR Walk, the area where locals show off their souped-up Jeeps and million-dollar Ferraris.

Here you can also kick back with a shisha pipe in the dozens of al fresco restaurants along the beachfront. Unlike most areas of the city, you can actually walk around.

Amwaj Rotana, The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Residence P.O. Box 86834, Dubai, U.A.E., Dubai 86834 United Arab Emirates. +971 4 428 2000


Citymax Al Barsha

Cheaper than some and in a good location 20 minutes from all areas of Dubai, these digs are small and squeaky clean.

Each room comes with international TV channels, fridge, kettle with tea and coffee, Wi-Fi and cleaning services. You have to buy your water from the vending machine down the hall. The bottles in the room aren’t replenished after check-in.

Don’t stay here for the decor; stay for the lively American-themed rock bar on the ground floor, where a blond bombshell singer (often in white Lycra) belts out everything from Nirvana to Cranberries covers.

Citymax Hotels Bur Dubai, Kuwait St and Mankhool Rd, Dubai Al Mankhool United Arab Emirates, +971 4378 2000.