Dubai is a big fan of shopping. Like, a big fan. It’s one of the best destinations in the world for luxury goods, and depending on what you’re after, you can score pretty nifty discounts on a lot of products here compared to back home. So we’ve pulled up our sleeves and whipped up an easy guide to Dubai shopping.
All in all, there’s more than 60 (!) malls in Dubai alone, so we thought we’d do you a favour and narrow it down to just the best malls, outlets, and souks worth dropping some serious dirhams on. We’ve also gone and answered some of your most frequently asked questions too, which should save you a Google or two. You’re welcome!
Why is Dubai famous for shopping?
Because they have a lot of shops.
Seriously! A huge chunk of the world’s fanciest (and biggest) shopping malls can be found in Dubai. In fact, it’s home to the world’s biggest shopping, dining, and entertainment complex – the Dubai Mall. Which is right next door to that other really big thing, the Burj Khalifa. Shopping is practically a national pastime here (and a really great excuse for chilling in high powered air conditioning all day).
Is shopping cheaper in Dubai than the UK?
Yes and no – it depends what you’re looking for.
Some things, like electronic goods, tend to be quite a bit cheaper in Dubai. Jewellery, especially gold jewellery, is much cheaper (and of better quality), and big brand watches can be bought with a decent discount, especially if you haggle the price. Perfume is a big thing here too, so you can often find good deals for incredible scents aswell.
You won’t find much of a difference in price when it comes to clothes though – in fact, you might just find many of the designer brands actually increase in price due to steep import taxes, but this isn’t always the case. Dubai is known for some pretty insane sales, where it’s definitely possible to buy designer, even on a limited budget. You can get some good deals on handbags, but this is more likely to be on the (very well-made) knock off versions, rather than the real thing.
Should you haggle in Dubai?
Definitely! Dubai is all about the haggle, especially in the souks. That’s the fun of shopping here! Most vendors factor in price bumpers precisely because they expect you to haggle – and depending on your skills you can slash prices by 50%! In the gold souk, the price of the gold is set by the day’s international rate – posted throughout the souk – and determined by its weight, so the intricacy and craftmanship of the jewellery is where the haggling comes in.
Do I need cash in Dubai?
Nearly everywhere in Dubai takes international cards these days, but as in most cases it’s always a good idea to bring a little bit of cash with you for emergencies – and whilst many places do accept card payments, smaller business and food and market stalls might still take only cash.
It also depends on what you’re planning to do in Dubai – if you have a hankering to do some gold jewellery hunting at the souks, then it might be a good idea to bring cash too. Haggling is a no brainer, but you might just get a further discount still if you pay in cash.
Malls in Dubai
The Dubai Mall
The biggest shopping destination in the world when you combine all of its shopping, dining and entertainment options, the Dubai Mall is a behemoth of things to do. Actually, there’s so much going on here you might actually forget about the shopping bit. Well, maybe. There is over 1200 retailers here, running the gamut from high street (think H&M) to seriously high fashion over in the Fashion Avenue area.
Shopping aside, there’s an Olympic-sized ice skating rink here, the Dubai Fountains, as well as a full-on aquarium – just because. People come to Dubai just to visit this mall, which we reckon says everything you need to know.
Find it on Financial Centre Road – Downtown Dubai
The Marcato Mall will have you tripping, thinking you’ve accidentally wandered into an Italian piazza. All cobbled stone streets and Italian Renaissance-style facades, this mall is a much more manageable size, with just under 200 shops to peruse. Thanks to a great big glass atrium above you, the space is filled with natural light, making a trip here feel more like a passeggiata (that’s Italian for a really nice walk) than a shopping session.
Oh, there’s also a slide to take you all the way back down to the ground floor if you don’t fancy taking the lift. Go on, then.
Find it on Jumeirah Beach Road, Jumeriah 1
Mall of the Emirates
This one gives The Dubai Mall a run for its money. While it might have fewer shops (it’s still got over 500!), it’s got a whole bunch of entertainment options to rival its bigger neighbour. There’s Ski Dubai, a cinema complex (with VR shows), and Magic Planet – an arcade with rides and simulations. We especially love the great big metal atrium roof that makes you feel like you’re in a European railway station.
Find it at Interchange 4, Sheikh Zayed Road, Al Barsha 1
If you like your malls with a theme, you’ve got more than just the Mercato Mall to play with. WAFI Mall is all about Ancient Egypt. Yep. We’re talking obelisks, giant sphynx statues, hieroglyphs… the lot. With a few more retailers than Mercato, you can even shop at Matalan! Yeah, we were surprised too.
There’s fashion, jewellery, electronics, home goods, and more here, but it’s also home to Khan Murjan, a souk-style market that recreates the atmosphere of a traditional Arabic marketplace. Definitely don’t miss the Pyramids Rooftop Gardens if you’re there on a Sunday – the space is converted into an outdoor theatre for their ‘Movies Under the Stars’, showing both classic and modern films.
Find it on Oud Metha Road in Wafi City
On the complete other end of the spectrum is City Walk, a mega contemporary mixed-use development that combines shopping, dining, entertainment, and residential elements. It’s got both high end and high street clothing, and absolutely loads of dining options, from Asian to Italian to Lebanese. There’s a cinema here, and Honey Bee Nursery. There’s even a Canadian University Dubai campus here!
Find it at Al Wasl and Al Safa Road Junction, Sheikh Zayed Road
Outlets in Dubai
Dubai Outlet Mall
Located in the Dubailand district, away from the hubbub of the city along the Dubai-Al Ain Road, this outlet’s got over 240 retailers that offer discounts (we’re talking 30-90%!) on products from various brands – both international and local. Fashion, footwear, accessories, home goods, electronics – all here, from mid-range to high end. You can get discounts here year round, but it gets especially chocka when seasonal sales and special events roll into town.
There’s some entertainment here to be had too – they’ve got a multiscreen cinema and dedicated children’s areas. It might be a little more out of the way than other malls, but there’s a shuttle service you can catch from loads of spots around the city.
Find it on Dubai-Al-Ain Road (Route 66)
The Outlet Village
In Jebel Ali, close to Dubai Parks and Resorts and the Dubai World Central airport, the Outlet Village is specifically focused on the fancier stuff – luxury and designer only, here. But that does make it one of the prime spots for getting premium brands at seriously discounted rates. Adidas, Calvin Klein, Armani, DKNY, Roberto Cavalli, Tommy Hilfiger, and more.
It’s a fun place to be in too – like Mercato, they’ve gone crazy for the Italians here. It’s designed to look like an Italian marketplace, inspired by the medieval town of San Gimignano.
Find it in Jebel Ali, near Dubai Parks and Resorts
Souks in Dubai
Gold, Spice, Textile and Perfume souks
These are the classic souks – traditional markets – and a must-visit if you’re visiting Dubai for the first time.
In Deira, you’ll find the Gold Souk, one of the most famous markets for gold and jewellery in the world. There’s more gold here than you’ll know what to do with, but there’s plenty of silver, diamonds, and other precious stones chucked in for good measure too. Jewellery is especially popular here, and the quality and price of the gold is better than you’ll find in most other places. And remember, it’s all about the haggle! You’ll also find the Spice Souk here, where it’s all about mountains and mountains of beautiful (and beautiful smelling) spices, herbs, dried fruits, nuts, incense and more.
Across the creek, in the Al Fahidi district, is where you’ll find the Textile and Perfume souks. The Textile Souk is where you’ll find fabrics, clothing, and traditional garments, both ready-made and specially tailored. A pashmina makes for a pretty good souvenir, but it’s also really handy to have to keep your shoulders covered when visiting religious sites. A visit to the Perfume Souk, meanwhile, is a no-brainer, because they love perfume in Dubai. You can get a good sniff of a wide selection of traditional Arabic perfumes and essential oils, as well as unique blends and personalised fragrances – we don’t know about you, but a personalised perfume sounds like the fanciest souvenir around.
If you’re not so sure about your haggling skills, then the Souk Madinat is a good spot to be if you still want to get the feel of a traditional market. It’s got the same nooks and crannies, and plenty of narrow, labyrinthine lanes to wander through. Plus, when you’re done, you can have a drink by the waterside and enjoy the view of the Burj Al Arab in the distance. Sold!
Find it on Al Sufouh Road
Souk Al Bahar
Another modern take on a traditional Arabian marketplace, the Souk Al Bahar is just a stroll across the bridge that spans the Burj Lake at the base of the Burj Khalifa. Downstairs you can browse dates, fragrances, jewellery, and souvenirs (no haggling needed), whilst upstairs is one of the best spots to have a drink or sit down for a meal, all with a mega view of the Dubai Fountain – talk about the best seat in the house.
Find it in Downtown Dubai, on Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Boulevard