Not long ago I had the opportunity to have afternoon tea at the Skyview Bar on the top floor of the Burj Al Arab in Dubai. It was quite an experience, even for a non-tea-drinker like myself.
But unfortunately, it wasn’t a cheap experience. The hotel regularly sees room rates from $1,000 USD per night up to $27,000 USD per night (!), so I wasn’t exactly expecting a cheap few hours. There are actually several afternoon tea options at the hotel. The one I chose was the most expensive option, at the top of the hotel with what promised to be some of the best panoramic views of the city. The total was AED 425, or just about $115 USD. Yeah, it’s a ton of cash, but how often am I in Dubai, right?
Note: I tried getting a reservation for lunch at one of the restaurants but it was booked solid my entire stay in Dubai. Plan WELL in advance, and note the food is ridiculously expensive.
The front of the Burj Al Arab
Walking up to the Burj Al Arab is pretty cool. It’s the 4th tallest hotel in the world, and it definitely looks like it’s that big. Note the round helicopter pad/tennis court sticking out at the top of the building. There’s some awesome pictures of Roger Federer and Andrei Agassi at the top. Gives me the willies just seeing how high up they are. Google it!
Upon entry, you immediately see why this hotel is so expensive.
I was in Dubai in the Summer. The hot part of the Summer. It was 105 degrees Fahrenheit and extremely humid, so I couldn’t wait to get inside. As soon as I did, I was greeted by some dancing fountains, golden pillars, royal blue ceilings, and white walls (couldn’t come up with an expensive-sounding description for white). Honestly, this hotel looked gorgeous. It was one of those buildings where you kind of just stand and look around for 10 minutes in order to appreciate everything before you move on.
Looking at the ceiling was impressive as well.
Looking directly upwards, you see the ceiling of the building about 600 feet up. I’m not sure, but this has got to be the largest atrium of any hotel in the world. And again, the colors are just amazing to look at.
A look from the top of the fountains down to the entry doors.
Going up the escalator to the second main floor wasn’t much different. There were more fountains and artwork and all kinds of things that catch your eye and make you wonder how much it all costs (about $650 million when it was built, btw). The view downward gives you a better idea of the other colors used in the carpet and even the fountains themselves.
But now, on to the tea. After some sight-seeing around the hotel and a not-so-quick elevator ride to the top of the hotel, I arrived at the check-in area of the Skyview Bar. The place was mostly empty, though it definitely started to fill up as we finished up.
TIP: Be sure to book your tea reservation well in advance of your trip. Space has been known to fill up well ahead of time.
The Skyview Bar, which was pretty empty when I got there.
Again, I love the colors. The entire room was colored and accented with blue/green/aqua colors, which fit really well considering how great the view of the water was. It’s worth noting that the Skyview Bar is not a full 360 degree room. The room takes up half, or less, of the entire floor, but it’s still plenty to provide views of the city and the water.
The floor-to-ceiling glass windows provided some great views.
As I mentioned, the views were pretty great. They would have been even better if it weren’t for a bit of haze, but we still had some good visibility. In the picture above you can see the Palm Jumeirah island, which is a man-made island in the shape of a palm tree, in the distance.
A close up of the Palm Jumeirah island.
I know the picture above doesn’t really add much value here, but I wanted to show it for two reasons. First to show that the haze does affect the view if you’re looking into the distance. Second, in the center of this picture, on the far end of the island, you can see a shadowy figure of what looks to be a castle. No, it’s not Sleeping Beauty’s castle at Walt Disney World in Orlando (too hazy to see that far). It’s actually the “Atlantis, The Palm” hotel, which is modeled after the “Atlantis, Paradise Island” hotel in the Bahamas.
We were also able to barely see The World islands in the distance. Too far and too much haze to get a decent picture, but it was cool knowing it was there. For those that don’t know, they’ve built a series of man-made islands in the shape of the countries and continents of the Earth, and each island was sold individually. It’s really quite impressive what this country has managed to build.
The view of the city.
Looking the other direction you see the city itself. Besides the hotel in the foreground, there’s really not much to see. Even within several miles of visibility there are no trademark, monster-sized Dubai buildings in sight. This wasn’t a big deal at all to me, but be wary of this if you were hoping/expecting to see a spectacular city view.
Oh yeah…I came here for tea! On to that…
Our tower of tea snacks.
We were given a very small drink menu that included a few different teas, cappuccinos, and a few other random options. I mentioned I’m not much of a tea drinker, so I opted for the “sparkling juice” which really wasn’t that great. Along with the drink came a very cool looking tower of snacks for the tea. As you’ll notice, the tower is shaped like the hotel, which was a pretty nice touch.
There were various pastries, biscuits, cookies, and cakes on the several layers. None of them were that great, at least not to my taste. Perhaps my palate isn’t as refined as a tea-drinker’s would be, but I know a good pastry when I have one, and these weren’t it. There were a lot of them, though…way more than even two guys who just dropped $115 each to eat pastries could finish. I’m not sure if groups of 3+ get a single tower or not, so definitely inquire if you plan to bring a large group.
The service was not what I expected it to be, especially for a room that was only at about 20% capacity. It seemed like there were only a couple of servers, and besides taking our drink order and bringing the food tower to our table, they didn’t really even ask us how things were. We didn’t have any issues with our food, but I could see how it might become difficult to get a hold of your server if the room were full (which I hear is usually the case).
After spending a couple of hours having tea and enjoying the view (and really, just milking the time to get my money’s worth), I decided it was time to finish up. We paid and headed back down the elevator to the main lobby for a few last looks around before leaving the hotel.
Your guess is as good as mine as to whether or not the floor is real gold.
And, of course, what kind of report would this be without a couple of quick pics of the parking lot out front.
When I walk out and look left I see…
Whoever drove that BMW sure must have been embarrassed!
And when I turn to the right I see…
So I asked the valet to pull up my black Audi R8 and then headed back to my hotel…kidding! Who am I trying to fool…I actually WALKED up to the hotel and had to walk back since they restrict entry to drive up to the hotel. A taxi dropped us off at the gate, which seemed like a quarter mile walk to the hotel, and we made the same walk back to catch a taxi on the main road. And yes, it was hot.
One other note regarding the tea. It was “suggested” that we wear semi-formal attire to attend the afternoon tea in the Skyview Bar. I did, but noticed several others that were much more casual. Dress casually at your own risk, however. I know I’d hate to get turned away for my appointment after coming from so far away to see this place.
All in all, it was a good experience and I got some great pics and cool views out of it. If you don’t care for the views at the top or the tea and crumpets, then by all means skip the afternoon tea up top. There’s still plenty to explore at the hotel and it’s worth a visit just to look around the lobby and pool area. The people watching isn’t too bad either (it’s fun to figure out how a person is so insanely wealthy (or just insane?) that they can afford this hotel).
Important Note: They don’t just let anyone walk up to the hotel. You have to have “business” to be there, meaning either you have to be staying there or you have to have an appointment at a restaurant or for tea. They verify your appointment at the front gate (a quarter mile away from the hotel itself), so bring a confirmation of some sort just in case.
And no, there are no hotel loyalty points that could get you any free nights at this hotel. Cash is king in this oil rich country, and staying at this hotel will require you to drop a few G’s in order to say you’re one of the few who stayed there overnight.
What was your experience like at the Burj Al Arab? Are you one of the few that stayed here overnight?