Shangri-La Dubai review: classic Sheikh Zayed Road hotel with Burj Khalifa views

Shangri-La Dubai building at night

Since opening in 2003, the Shangri-La Dubai has long been one of the city’s grande dames — combining timeless elegance with a handy location near all the top sights. The five-star hotel is spread across 43 floors, including seven restaurants and bars, one of the UAE’s best club lounges and a quirky pool club with floating breakfasts.

But it is the views that really capture guests’ hearts. Rooms with floor-to-ceiling windows take in expansive vistas over the ever-changing skyline of Dubai, with the Burj Khalifa on one side and the vast Arabian Sea on the other.

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Although the surrounding neighbourhoods of Al Satwa and Al Wasl have waned in popularity over the years, the hotel’s location on Sheikh Zayed Road means easy access to all the must-visit spots. It’s just a 10-minute taxi ride to the sprawling Dubai Mall, while close proximity to the Financial Centre Metro station opens up effortless exploration of the wider city at a bargain price.

Shangri-La Dubai may not be the newest hotel on the scene, but that’s part of the charm. It’s a tried and tested haven of luxury that has carefully honed its approach over decades – and guests keep coming back for more.

Middle East Traveller checked in to the hotel’s Picture-Perfect Room to bask in those skyline views and experience classic service in a city renowned for its fast-moving hospitality scene.

The Hotel

After traversing the globe and experiencing the best of Europe’s luxury landscape, Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok embarked on a mission in 1971 — to infuse Singapore’s hospitality scene with the sophistication he cherished.

Shangri-La was born, and in the five decades since the group has opened more than 100 hotels in 78 destinations worldwide. But it was the unveiling of the brand’s Dubai property two decades ago that marked a pivotal moment, propelling Shangri-La beyond East Asia and into the Gulf region while also serving as a bridge to Europe.

Since then, the hotel’s Middle East presence has expanded to include properties in Abu Dhabi, with an exclusive kilometre-long private beach, and a waterfront retreat in the Saudi Arabian coastal city of Jeddah.

Shangri-La Dubai, ever popular with business travellers and increasingly with leisure visitors, remains the jewel in the crown.

The Arrival

Embarking on a swift 30-minute journey from the airport aboard Dubai Metro’s red line, the silhouette of the hotel’s sandy towers quickly emerges against the backdrop of Sheikh Zayed Road. Arriving a few minutes later at the grand entrance, our luggage is promptly whisked away by attentive hotel staff.

Stepping into the lobby, a soothing blend of creams and golds is complemented by marbled carpets in striking shades of red and purple. Natural light pours in through expansive windows, lending an airy ambiance to a space that extends across multiple floors.

The scene buzzes with activity, as business travellers and locals in pristine white thobes take meetings over sandwiches and cups of tea. Waiters glide by carrying trays with intricately crafted pastries, while a cake trolley navigates through elegant tables adorned with heavy glass and marble.

As night falls, the ambiance shifts to a warmer tone, with suspended lighting fixtures casting a soft glow over plush gold leather seats on the elevated carpeted lounge area. Local artworks and lush floral arrangements in ornate pots inject bursts of colour into the surroundings.

Behind sleek golden counters, staff stand ready to assist with check-in formalities, which are expedited through touch-screen terminals.

Although our room isn’t quite ready upon our early arrival before the official 3pm check-in time, we happily slink into one of the luxurious leather seats and savour a cup of Earl Grey as neighbouring tables indulge in tiers of treats for afternoon tea.

The Room

With a total of 302 rooms and suites positioned between floors 20 and 40, the hotel promises unparalleled views, whether you opt to look out over the sprawling skyline or tranquil waters of the Arabian Sea.

Stepping into the Instagram-focused Picture-Perfect Room, there’s a momentary pause as the drawn curtains obscure the anticipated panoramic cityscape. Yet, with the simple touch of a button, the room undergoes a transformation.

The curtains glide open unveiling the majestic Burj Khalifa, its shimmering facade casting a mesmersing reflection as hundreds of vehicles far down below paint light trails against an ever-changing lineup of skyscrapers.

But it doesn’t end with that stunning skyline. Inside, the room is full of thoughtful touches, such as a Polaroid camera to capture special moments against the city backdrop and a Briiv Air Purifier to keep the atmosphere pristine.

The opulent marble-clad bathroom – complete with high-end L’Occitane amenities – invites relaxation with its walk-in rainfall shower and deep-soaking bathtub, providing a sanctuary after a day of exploration.

When morning comes and the first rays of sun gleam over the city, the in-room breakfast, curated by the Executive Chef, is the final touch, ensuring that your day starts in the most luxurious way possible.

The Service

From the moment you step through the doors, service is spotless — a testament to the hotel’s two-decade dedication to perfecting its craft.

A standout spot is the lounge perched on the 42nd floor, an exclusive haven for guests residing in club rooms. Here, mornings start with a buffet breakfast, while evenings come complete with a delightful spread of complimentary cocktails and canapés.

But it’s not just about the offerings. It’s the genuine care shown by the staff that elevates the experience. From crafting personalised itineraries to dedicating time to connect with each guest, the attentiveness here surpasses the norm.

Say goodbye to the usual uninspired cheese platters and automated coffee you might find at other hotels —this is classic hospitality at its finest.

The Restaurants and Bars

The hotel has seven restaurants and bars, ranging from a bold and brash pool party lounge to a cigar hideaway and an all-day dining café with weekly theme nights. But the real gastronomic treasures are to be found tucked just above the lobby on the first floor balcony.

There, Shang Palace serves an exceptional menu of delicate dim sum (book the weekend brunch for three hours of all-you-can-eat specialities and unlimited drinks) as well as Cantonese specialities like Peking duck and torch-flambéed chicken buns.

The red and grey decor may be simple, although the walls are lined with an eclectic selection of antiques, but the Chinese cuisine is among the best you’ll find in Dubai. It’s a scandal that the place doesn’t have a Michelin star.

At the long-standing Hoi An, traditional lanterns hang at the entrance of a restaurant serving up made-to-order Vietnamese dishes fusing traditional flavours with contemporary culinary techniques.

Their nem hải sản spring rolls are teeming with shrimp and crab meat, complemented by black fungus, shitake mushroom, carrot, spring onion and coriander, with a crunch that is both satisfying and moreish.

For those with a preference for plant-based cuisine, the nem rau, a vegetable spring roll served with a robust peanut sauce, stands as a testament to the restaurant’s commitment to catering for diverse dietary requirements.

The Activities

The phrase ‘Shangri-La’ refers to a place of personal peace, enchantment and well-being — so it’s little surprise that the hotel has an exceptional spa where guests can escape from the hustle and bustle into candlelit rooms for a quick massage or a more in-depth program of treatments.

Drawing inspiration from traditional healing practices, the spa offers personalised treatments tailored to guests’ individual needs and desires. Go all-out with the signature Arabian Ritual, a lavish journey that starts with a full-body coffee exfoliation, followed by a decadent rose-infused Rassoul clay wrap, and ends in an aromatherapy massage to soothe the body and soul.

For skincare aficionados, indulge in one of seven bespoke facials featuring products from Margy’s Monte Carlo, an ultra luxury brand founded by Swiss beauty expert Margie Lombard who boasts more than 40 years of expertise.

After pampering bliss, unwind poolside at ikandy ultralounge — an idyllic oasis by day that transforms into a party scene full of vibrant pinks and palm trees as twilight descends.

Against the backdrop of the iconic Burj Khalifa piercing crystal-clear skies, the lounge area emerges as one of the hotel’s most Instagram-worthy spots (unless, of course, you’re staying in one of the Picture-Perfect Rooms).

Satisfy your cravings with a tempting menu of snacks including mac and cheese bites, buffalo wings, and curly fries topped with braised beef and pico de gallo. And for an Instagram shot that’s truly unforgettable, opt for lunch served on a floating platter.

Why Stay?

It may not be the newest hotel in the city, but this beloved fixture in Dubai’s hospitality scene continues to captivate discerning travellers with its timeless charm, impeccable service, and reasonable room rates.

From iconic views of the city skyline to a tranquil spa and exceptional restaurants, the Shangri-La Dubai offers a tried and true experience that transcends fleeting trends and leaves a lasting impression.

The Essentials

  • Rates: Deluxe Sea View rooms start at AED570 per night in low season on the advance purchase rate
  • Phone number: +971 4 343 8888
  • Website:
  • Address: Shangri-La Dubai, Sheikh Zayed Rd, Near Financial Metro Station, Dubai, United Arab Emirates