This post is part of a series of posts based on our recent visit to Dubai. While we saw many of the highlights, this series includes:
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You might not know the name of Dubai’s iconic sailboat shaped hotel, but surely you’ve seen pictures of it. The Burj Al Arab is one of the city’s most famous landmarks because of its unique architecture, the fact that it’s built on an island, and of course, its rumored “seven star” status. To be fair, the hotel doesn’t actually claim to be seven stars, and seven star ratings don’t actually exist in the hospitality world. The Burj Al Arab received its seven star acclaim from a British journalist who was so taken by its luxury that he could only describe it as worthy of seven stars. That label might have been the best thing to ever happen to the Burj because the hotel is now synonymous with the extreme excess and extravagance that characterizes Dubai.
If you want to visit the Burj Al Arab, you can only do so if you’re either a hotel guest or you have reservations to one of its restaurants. Essentially, be prepared to spend money for the privilege.
Mr. T and I decided we’d have tea time at the hotel since we love afternoon tea and one of the Burj’s many tea time offerings include tea at the Skyview Bar, which is on the top floor of the hotel. We couldn’t think of a better way to check out the hotel, enjoy the fab view, and sneak in afternoon tea.
The Skyview Bar offers a few seatings a day for tea time: 1pm, 1:30pm, 4pm, and 4:30pm. I made reservations a couple of months in advance and asked them for the seating time that comes with the best view. They came back with a 4pm reservation.
At 3:30pm we walked to the hotel excited for afternoon tea. Even though we had reservations, the reservation confirmation specifies that you’re only granted entrance 30 min prior to the reservation time. There were hoards of tourists outside the security gate taking photos of the hotel. We showed the security guard our email confirmation of the reservation and he let us in.
We walked up a long path to reach the hotel entrance.
On the left was a long stretch of beach – presumably the one that only hotel guests are allowed to use. On the right was the Wild Wadi Waterpark and the Jumeriah Hotel.
As we got closer, it was more obvious that the Burj Al Arab is on its own island.
For a luxury hotel the front entrance wasn’t anything extraordinary – no looming marble statues, grand staircases, or huge columns to greet guests. Instead, the bellmen were busy hailing taxis and opening car doors for those who were dropped off at the entrance.
The lobby has an imposing fountain display that sat in between two escalators and stretched all the way to the second floor. Since we went during the holidays, the hotel was also decked out with Christmas decorations.
There are two huge aquariums that border each escalator.
Once you get to the second floor, you can tell that the atrium is open all the way to the top of the hotel. Here’s the view when you look up at the atrium:
As we got off the escalator, there were dancing fountains in front of us and what looked like a seating area that was turned into a restaurant behind us.
We walked passed stores that sold watches and jewelry as we made our way towards the back of the second floor, which is where the elevator takes guests straight up to the Skyview Bar.
There was a lady who greeted us in front of the elevator. Since it was 20 min until our reservation, she told us to wait until 4pm to go up. I asked how I could get window seats at the top and she said that window seats cannot be reserved and are on a first come first served basis. So, I asked her how I could make sure I’d be one of the first up there. She smiled and said she’d let us up in 10 minutes then. Score!
Once we got to the top, we exited the elevator and found ourselves at the Skyview Bar’s reception area where the ladies checked guests confirmation letter and asked us to wait until our names were called.
The decor in the waiting area was… interesting. For a bar at the top of the hotel, I’d have expected to see sleek and chic decor. Maybe mood lighting or a white and black themed modern feel. Instead, it felt “spaceship-y” with its dated green marble countertop and a what resembled a computer board hanging above.
There was also a similar computer-board tunnel on either side of the waiting area leading to the actual bar.
Our names were called promptly and we were escorted to our table. Since we were one of the first to get there, the restaurant was empty but there were plenty of seats. In fact, I had no idea how big this bar was! Lucky for us, we were taken to one of six tables with the best view of the city.
In the distance, we could see the Burj Kalifa, the world’s tallest building, looming over everything else.
We could also make out The World Islands. We were pretty stoked at this point. Most of the tables don’t have direct views of the city. Some look out directly onto the Persian Gulf with a glimpse of the Palm Islands. While a view is better than not having one at all, the whole reason we booked afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar was for its glorious view.
Our waiter came and asked us if we had any dietary restrictions as well as poured us a glass of champagne. There was a menu on our table that described our courses as well as listed all the teas and coffees on offer.
Over the next two hours, we indulged in course after course with teas and coffees.
Even after our tea sandwiches were brought out, the waiter later came by and asked us if we wanted even more sandwiches. We were also able to order as much tea and coffee as we wanted. In all I had three varieties of tea. Mr. T had two teas and a very tasty macchiato. By the time the dessert courses came, we were stuffed! With the seemingly unlimited supply of food, there is no way anyone could leave hungry.
We lingered at our table and watched as the night fell over the city, a benefit of the 4pm seating.
In all, we enjoyed tea time very much! Our waiter was friendly and attentive. The food was decent, although admittedly it wasn’t the best food we’ve ever had… but it was good enough to justify the price of 465 AED (approx. $126 USD/pp) especially coupled with the awesome view we had. I loved that they were generous with the food and drinks as well – it was basically “all you can eat”. At the end of the meal, the waiter also brought over a box with chocolates for us to bring back which was a nice touch to round out the whole experience.
Would we go back?
Hmm… probably not, but it’s not because we didn’t love it! We just think experiences like this are best reserved as once-in-a-lifetime. I’d recommend it to anyone who is visiting Dubai and at all curious about the Burj Al Arab or someone looking for something extra special during their stay in Dubai. Also, if you’ve got the tea time reservations, make sure you get there early so that you can get the best window seats!
If you’re planning to go:
- Make reservations at least a month in advance so you get your pick of your date and time. Consider the 4pm seating if you want to see the sunset. You can make reservations by emailing them.
- They don’t reserve window seats so get there early since they are given out on a “first come, first served” basis.
- While you can’t enter the hotel more than 30 min prior to your reservation time, you are allowed to stay as long as you want afterwards.
- The dress code is smart casual. Gentlemen are requested to wear a collared shirt, full-length trousers or smart jeans and closed shoes. Ladies are requested to wear a suit or a dress, long or short skirt or dressy slack and top. Shorts, T-shirts, flip-flops, open and running, gym, tennis, basketball shoes, etc. are not allowed. While ladies are supposed to wear dresses or suits, I wore jeans and boots and didn’t have any issues getting in.
- Photos are allowed but videos are not.