Dubai is famous for many things and home to myriad record-breaking feats, but its architectural landscape is easily one of the city’s most stand-out features, as super-tall skyscrapers sit next to futuristic museums and unique buildings with sentiment behind the design.
It’s an architect and engineer’s playground, and this has given rise to a fascinating skyline with plenty of tales to tell.
Here are 28 buildings with the most interesting stories the emirate has to offer.
1. Burj Khalifa
2. Burj Al Arab
3. The Dubai Mall
4. Atlantis, The Palm
5. Dubai Frame
6. Museum of the Future
7. Gevora Hotel
8. Dubai Opera
9. Etihad Museum
10. Cayan Tower
11. Jumeirah Mosque
12. Jumeirah Emirates Towers
13. Wafi Mall
14. JW Marriott Marquis Hotel Dubai
15. Jumeirah Beach Hotel
16. Mall of the Emirates
17. Rose Rayhaan by Rotana
18. Princess Tower
19. Dubai Museum and Al Fahidi Fort
20. The Torch
21. Marina 101
22. The Opus by Omniyat
24. Al Rostamani Maze Tower
25. Address Sky View hotel
26. Solar Innovation Centre
27. Al Yaqoub Tower
28. The Gate Building
This isn’t just one of Dubai’s most famous buildings, but the world’s, as it’s the tallest skyscraper on the planet. From most vantage points in the city, you’ll spot the 828-metre, 160-storey tower glittering in the distance, looming over the skyline.
It opened in 2010, having taken six years, 22 million man-hours and about $1.5 billion to build, and has a number of other accolades to its name, including the tallest free-standing structure, highest occupied floor and outdoor observation deck, and elevator with the longest travel distance.
It was designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill, the firm also behind Chicago’s famous Willis Tower and New York’s One World Trade Centre.
It’s also starred in numerous big-budget movies, such as Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol.
Burj Al Arab
There are a few Dubai buildings that are instantly recognisable to an international crowd, including this sail-shaped luxury property, which is also the tallest all-suite hotel in the world.
It’s often referred to as a “seven-star” hotel, but those don’t exist. It is a five-star property, however, that’s gilded with 24-carat gold interiors and often welcomes a VIP guest list that’s included the likes of Justin Bieber, Roger Federer and Gigi and Bella Hadid.
The Burj Al Arab has also clinched some record-breaking titles, such as the most expensive cocktail at Dh27,321 ($7,439) and the largest Swarovski crystal chandelier, with its 21,000 crystals, worth Dh1.3 million.
The Dubai Mall
It’s not the architecture, but the vastness of this shopping mall that makes this building world-famous, and it’s only set to get bigger as expansion is still under way. At the moment, it has more than 1,300 stores and in excess of 200 dining outlets.
Customers from overseas will feel right at home, as brands from across the globe have set up shop in The Dubai Mall, from France’s Galeries Lafayette to America’s Bloomingdale’s and the UK’s Debenhams.
Other attractions at the centre include the Dubai Aquarium and Underwater Zoo, a virtual-reality theme park and an Olympic-sized ice rink. Outside, you can watch the choreographed Dubai Fountains, and look up at the Burj Khalifa.
Atlantis, The Palm
Not only does this globally renowned hotel have more than 1,500 rooms, but it’s also home to a record-breaking water park, celebrity chef-backed restaurants and an aquarium that’s home to more than 65,000 marine animals.
The five-star ocean-themed property, inspired by the myth of Atlantis, sits at the apex of Palm Jumeirah’s crescent. It was opened in 2008 and reportedly cost $1.5bn to build.
Its architecture incorporates classical Arabian influences, with semi-precious stones and fossilised shells used throughout the interiors and exterior.
Here, you will also find American glass sculptor Dale Chihuly’s first Middle East installation; a 10-metre-high sculpture that uses more than 3,000 pieces of brightly hued blown glass. The lobby also features eight hand-painted murals by Spanish artist Albino Gonzalez amid its 19-metre-high arched ceilings.