UAE showdown – Abu Dhabi versus Dubai for a luxury break

So you’re ready for a splurge and the UAE takes your fancy. Dubai has the reputation but Abu Dhabi is snapping at its heels and enticing people away from it’s (slightly) more flashy neighbour just a short drive away. Which emirate gives you the most bang for your buck in terms of luxury without needing the spending power of a small oil-rich nation?

In this article we’ve picked out six of the best hotels in each place to help you decide where to lay your head on that high quality pillow. In terms of value for money Abu Dhabi definitely beats Dubai, but then Dubai does offer some serious ‘wow’ for your wonga.

We’ve tried to pick a range of different accommodation in each UAE city; but rest assured that every place here will give you an unforgettable experience. The question is exactly what kind of experience you are looking for – a beach resort, a desert retreat or a UAE twist on a safari lodge?


Photo credit: Avatarmin via photopin cc

In the right corner, the defending champion – Dubai

  • Burj Al Arab Jumeirah – no list is complete without this self-proclaimed “seven-star” icon. The prices are eye-watering but if you really want to go overboard, this is the place to maybe justify that second mortgage
  • Grosvenor House Dubai – combining a location near the beach (although you’ll need to use its sister hotel Le Meridien nearby, see below) with serious luxury and some of Dubai’s best fine dining, this is perhaps our favourite
  • Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa is a huge, modern hotel complex on the wonderful Jumeirah Beach. It also has one of the best spas in Dubai
  • JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is the tallest hotel in the world, as well as being as luxurious as you could need. Get a high floor room just so you can boast about it…
  • Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa is the perfect escape from the city when it all gets a bit much (it will…) Even if you just lounge by the pool all day it’s worth the journey
  • The Address Montgomerie Dubai is the address for golfers. Combining 5-star luxury and an 18-hole championship golf course, you’ll be in 7th heaven


In the left corner – the contender, it’s Abu Dhabi!

  • Anantara Eastern Mangroves Resort & Spa is just 15 minutes from the airport yet feels a world away – built in the city’s protected wetlands the setting is unique and the facilities truly luxurious
  • Emirates Palace, is Abu Dhabi’s response to the Burj Al-Arab in Dubai. Not to be outdone, the Emirates Palace awards is also a “seven star” establishment. It’s a lot more affordable, but those two extra stars do bump the price up above the rest of the Abu Dhabi properties here
  • Al Sahel Lodges is a smaller proposition with just 30 villas situated in the Arabian Wildlife Park – home to leopards, gazelle and oryx
  • Shangri-La Al-Maqtaa is just a tad over the top with its canals and gondolas and palace stylings but with a private beach, no less than five pools and its own shopping mall you might not even need to venture outside the complex
  • Hilton International, West Corniche is ideally situated on one of the best parts of the beach and is more family-frindly than a lot of Hiltons. It has its own private beach and offers plenty of water-based activities
  • Al Yamm Lodges by Anantara is another type of beachfront resort, where you can view pink flamingos from your ultra-modern villa

So there you go – our money’s on Abu Dhabi in this one, but only by a whisker. Why not combine both into a short but oh-so-indulgent break?

Andy Higgs
Andy Higgs

I know what it's like to go from being a crazy backpacker without a care in the world, via being a vaguely sensible parent to being an adventurer once more. In other words, evolving into a Grown-up Traveller.

Like everyone else, I love to travel, have visited a lot of countries and all that but my big thing is Africa.

I also own and run The Grown-up Travel Company as a travel designer creating personalised African itineraries for experienced adventurers

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