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Dubai’s extraordinary shopping mega-malls

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Last updated: 07 April, 2024

In a desert city where summer temperatures nudge 50°C, Dubai’s 60-plus shopping malls serve a similar function to city parks – vast open spaces where citizens can gather in comfort to wander and mingle, as well as to dine and shop.

The bigger malls also serve as entertainment hubs, with everything from cinema complexes and kids’ edutainment zones, to giant aquariums and regular live events. Even if you’re not a shopper, a visit to a mall is a quintessential Dubai experience – and one of the city’s favourite pastimes.

Don't miss

For many, the must-see mall attraction is the aquarium in Dubai Mall, where shoppers can stroll past a vast acrylic tank (11m high and 51m long) housing everything from giant groupers to sharks and rays. For a fee, you can walk through the aquarium tunnel, or try your hand at scuba diving among the fish.

While you’re there

Outside Dubai Mall, and at the foot of the world’s tallest building, is a large man-made lake that springs into life every 30 minutes throughout the day, when a series of powerful, synchronised fountains leap and cascade to a rousing playlist of music.

Over on Jumeirah Beach, visits to Souk Madinat Jumeirah can be combined with an abra tour along the warren of canals surrounding the replica souk. It’s not an authentic souq, but it’s enchanting nonetheless. Boats depart every 20 minutes until 11pm.

Who to go with: tour operators

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Dubai Mall

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Dubai Mall

Experience

One of the world’s largest malls, at the foot of the world’s tallest building – a veritable city within a city. The mall includes 1,300 shops, a vast aquarium, ice rink and cinema, and SEGA Republic. Next door is a modern souk and a lake with spectacular dancing fountains directly beneath the Burj Khalifa.

Good for age: 4+

Ibn Battuta Mall

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Ibn Battuta Mall

Experience

This themed shopping mall lies beyond Dubai Marina and is split into six separate courts that trace the travels of famous Arabic scholar-traveller Ibn Battuta. Look out for story boards throughout and other oddities such as replica ships and life-sized elephants. There’s an IMAX theatre too.

Good for age: 4+

Mall of the Emirates

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Mall of the Emirates

Experience

This labyrinthine mall holds around 1,000 outlets and is one of Dubai’s most popular. The top attraction is Ski Dubai, the famous indoor ski run and snow park. If you don’t fancy skiing, just grab a coffee and watch the surreal snowy scene through huge windows.

Good for age: 4+

Mirdif City Centre

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Mirdif City Centre

Experience

Yet another vast mall, this one is located just south of the airport and on a similar scale to Mall of the Emirates. In place of a ski run, there’s an aerial assault course and indoor skydiving centre, alongside a great ‘edutainment’ zone for kids.

Good for age: 4+

Wafi Mall

  • Dubai, United Arab Emirates (UAE)

Wafi Mall

Experience

Shaped like an Egyptian pyramid, and themed as such throughout, the highlight of this mall is the beautiful reconstructed Souk Khan Murjan, which lies beneath the modern mall. The souk is full of stained glass, decorative details and artisan wares. Stop for a Middle Eastern lunch in the attractive courtyard of the Khan Murjan restaurant.

Good for age: 4+

Logistics

Price: Free
Minimum age: 0
Age suitable: 4+
When: All year around
Duration: -

Getting there & doing it

All of Dubai’s shopping malls have extensive (free) car parks and taxi drop-off points. The bigger malls, such as Mall of the Emirates and Dubai Mall, are also stops on the Dubai Metro. Dining facilities are extensive – the bigger malls have numerous food courts and hundreds of restaurants. Malls in Dubai are open late – people tend to spend their evenings here.

When to do it

Shopping malls in Dubai are open all year round, seven days a week, typically from 10am to midnight.

In the hotter months, the malls are a great way to escape the heat of the afternoon, though they’re buzziest in the evening, when locals gather to meet friends and dine out. The most popular malls can be uncomfortably busy on Fridays.