Alserkal Ave., Al Quoz
This place is a design junkies dream. Even if you're not in the market for home décor, the sprawling showroom and its endless stock of unique furniture, lighting, and home cinema options is worth a visit. (The sales people are incredibly knowledgeable about the design world.) Ikonhouse also hosts occasional talks with noteworthy architects, technology innovators, furniture designers, and more.
The Gold & Spice Souks
Al Ras, Deira
Just across the creek from Al Fahidi/Bur Dubai—you can hop on a boat taxi for a ride—are the old city's souks. Both a quintessential Dubai experience and an incredibly touristy activity that many will say you must do while here, visiting the gold and spice markets can be overwhelming, so if you're going, steel your senses. Sellers are constantly calling out to passerby, trying to entice them to enter their storefront out of all the other nearly indistinguishable adjacent shops. It's standard to haggle—the original price is rarely what a customer pays—and you'll generally get a better deal if you ask for prices in the local AED currency. (Almost all the vendors take credit card, which is convenient.) That said, it's exciting when you find what feels like your treasure among the souks—the gold market is a mecca for gifts to return home with. You'll also see some primarily silver shops mixed in here, plus accessories, Arabian-style shoes and clothing. The spice market is a little quieter, and it can be interesting talking to some of the vendors about the diverse array of spices they have on hand. (Or,…
Burj, Dubai Design District
This concept store is a central point of the Design District, where Dubai's creative crowd works and hangs out. The space itself features a little dining area surrounded by a highly curated design space displaying ceramics, glossy coffee table books, and other knick knacks on plexiglass shelves (you can even get Mast chocolate here). The central dining space—which has a menu designed by Dubai-based chef Izu Ani—is always buzzing with lunch meetings.
Al Safa St., City Walk
Last year, Parisian concept store LE66 opened its first UAE outpost here, bringing their brand mix of more than two hundred designers—from Theory to Helmut Lang to Rachel Comey—to City Walk. The fairly large space houses menswear, home goods, and accessories, too. As a bonus, the store is open late (till midnight) on weekends.
The Odd Piece
Alserkal Ave., St. 8, Al Quoz
Arwa Hafiz, a Saudi entrepreneur and the woman behind The Odd Piece, clearly has an eye for vintage and modern finds alike. An expansive loft space in Alserkal Avenue, The Odd Piece is a haven for collectors, with gorgeous mid-century furniture placed among antique desk chairs, contemporary lamps, and all manner of home accessories, sourced from all over the globe. The Odd Piece shares their showroom with The Rug Company's handcrafted-in-Nepal, art-worthy floor decor.
Burj Khalifa, Downtown
A trip to the Dubai Mall is on every tourist's list, but the role of malls in local Dubai culture can't be overstated: This is a shopping center city—malls house so much of Dubai's food and family entertainment, particularly in the summer months when the temperature outside can be unbearable. The Dubai Mall is the crowning glory of them all, at 5.9 million square feet—grab a map on your way in, seriously. Geared toward kids, there's an aquarium, indoor theme park, Olympic-sized ice rink, and twenty-two screen movie theater. There are hundreds of places to eat, including the dessert-focused Parker's. As for retail, you can find it all here. The ground/first floor area of the mall called Fashion Avenue has all the big designer and luxury brands you could think of. Also worth seeing: the department store Level Shoes, which is 96,000 square feet itself (i.e. SO many shoes). On the second floor, there's an enormous, impeccable Kinokuniya, which is absolute heaven for bookophiles—there are more than half a million books here, plus thousands of magazines in multiple languages, and all the stationery and accompanying paper goods the heart…
The Blvd., City Walk
Like Los Angeles, Dubai was not born a walking city (you'll be hard pressed to find more high-end cars in one place anywhere else in the world), but a number of ventures are changing that, creating walkable pockets across Dubai, from JBR to the developing outdoor retail/food space known as City Walk. Like other shopping centers in Dubai, you'll find international and well-known brands like Diane von Furstenberg, Vince, Agent Provocateur, and outposts of US restaurants (like Bareburger) and fitness classes (Physique 57). A more homegrown Dubai shop in City Walk is Bambah, founded by the incredibly charismatic and warm Maha Abdul Rasheed. A vintage aficionado, Rasheed started the Bambah concept as a vintage shop, grew a loyal following (women fly in from Saudi Arabia specifically to see her), and re-opened in City Walk, selling her own line of embellished, flirty formal and cocktail separates. It's very cool to see local Emirati women shopping at Bambah and the different ways they style the pieces—as Rasheed explains, sometimes making her looks their own for entirely covered wedding outfits, or mixing and matching a bright crop top with a full, high-waisted…