The chic Raffles Hotel is one of the larger more obviously opulent hotels in the city. With its instantly-noticeable pyramid structure and stereotypical Egypt-inspired interiors, the hotel has been a landmark in the area since it was erected in 2007. The hotel is situated close to Bur Dubai, the new town centre, so it isn't too far from the Dubai Mall/Burj Khalifa complex. The structure has a shopping centre atmosphere which isn't unpleasant if you want to be left alone by staff to get on with it. Raffles is a great choice if you're here on business, but its facilities are varied enough to cater for families. Raffles is an upmarket hotel, so not ideal if you're on a budget, but great if you need to combine work and play due to its location close to the new centre and adjoined to the WAFI shopping centre. However, Raffles is a hotel where size matters - it will not leave you disappointed by its room sizes, that's for sure!
The hotel is located right in Bur Dubai, the new city centre. It isn't far from the Dubai Mall complex, where you will find the Burj Khalifa. However, as with most hotels in Dubai, guests need transportation to get to any of the attractions. Right on one of Dubai's main roads, Sheikh Rashid, the hotel is adjoined to the lifestyle WAFI shopping centre. It is 15 minutes away from the airport (traffic-depending).
Raffles is an upmarket hotel chain with hotels worldwide, from China to France, and from Cambodia to the Seychelles. The hotel has designated parking but this comes at an extra cost to be negotiated with the hotel directly. The hotel also has non-smoking rooms and connecting rooms, which come in handy if you are travelling as a family.
The hotel pyramidal structure is hard to miss as you approach the WAFI/Raffles complex. Stepping into the monumental lobby feels a little daunting at first, with its multi levels, fountains and sloping marble walls built to resemble an Egyptian king's tomb. And what an effort the design team has put it! The result is startling, and what's even more surprising, is that the hotel is 90% paintless. The large round pillars in the lobby were also all hand-carved especially. The enormous vases of fresh orchids help to soften the otherwise hard cold structure of the high-ceiled pyramid. Red carpet helps to emphasise the VIP status of most of the guests who stay here. To the far end of the lobby, close to the grand piano, is the coffee area, where there is plenty of seating either to conduct meetings or to curl up with a book whilst waiting for a taxi. The staff here is highly trained, and the doormen are unusually friendly - they will even remember your name every time they see you, which is worth the double take!
The entire hotel is also based on the four elements, fire, earth, wind and water, which is apparent in the decor. The design of the hotel has been carefully thought out - details, such as the traveller's palm sculpture into the walls of the lobby symbolise a coming home; the leaves spread from east to west reflect the sun's path from dawn till dusk. Once you have passed the lobby and you penetrate into the cool quiet corridors of the hotel, you'll find a range of facilities on offer such as the award-wining nightclub. The Amrita Spa, the outdoor swimming pool, the botanical garden, two indoor swimming pools as part of the fitness area, library, and there is even the option (at an extra cost of course) to hire your own butler or a butler just for the children! When it comes to dining, the hotel has several good quality options: there is the lobby bar, the pool bar, the champagne bar, cocktail bar, and four restaurants, which are detailed in the Food and drink section below.
The hotel looks bigger than it actually is with 246 rooms, making it an average size hotel for the city. The lead-in category rooms start at a mere 70m², so even if you only have the budget to get the smallest room here, space won't be an issue! The lead-in category is the signature suite, followed by Raffles club, diplomatic, landmark, presidential, penthouse and royal suites. The Raffles club rooms are basically the same as the signature but with the added bonuses of having 24-hour access to the club lounge as well as a personalised butler service and guests also get an espresso machine. The diplomatic suites come in at a whopping 160m²; for a one bedroom suite, it's roomy indeed! The added benefit, size aside, is the oversized balcony. If you are travelling with young children, this room is ideal if you do not want the extra cost of booking a second room. The landmark suite comes in at 204m² and just when you thought a hotel room just couldn't get any bigger, you've got the presidential suite at over 300m², the penthouse at 441m² and the royal suite at a mind-boggling 650m²! Raffles is surely a hotel where size definitely matters!
The rooms are adorned with Arabic influenced details and luxurious soft furnishings like heavy velvets sewn with sequins, or beautiful silk cushions. The rooms are all very cosy, as you will be able to see from the accompanying images. All rooms have a strong Middle Eastern influence in the design, which gives Raffles' rooms a strong luxury impact. All rooms have iPod docking stations, complimentary tea and coffee making facilities, free wireless internet connection, and large screen televisions. All rooms have balconies. Bathrooms all have separate bathtub and shower and are stocked with toiletries from the hotel's Amrita spa range. The aspect that we appreciated the most about the hotel is the fact that throughout the decor in every space, we felt like we were in the Middle East, which was like a breath of fresh air, since most hotels tend to look extremely western and more and more uniform, regardless of the hotel's location.
At the top of the glass pyramid, you will find the RED bar, which comes alive in the evenings. To catch a glimpse of the surrounding views make sure you get there before the sunset. The bar opens from 6:00pm until 2:00am or 3:00am (closed Mondays and Sundays). The bar is Chinese themed and offers a light Chinese cuisine menu of dim-sum that looks delicious. In the lobby, a British tradition that has been kept alive throughout many of Dubai's top-notch hotels is afternoon tea, which is served from 2:00pm to 7:00pm - the lobby bar is otherwise open throughout the day until late for snacks and refreshments. The Crossroads cocktail bar is also a great place to go for pre-dinner drinks; usually calm, don't go here if you are in the mood for a party! Relax in one of the armchairs on the patio overlooking the hotel's botanical garden and unwind as your nurse a cold gin and tonic or even a Singapore Sling, the cocktail for which the hotel is renowned. The hotel's main restaurant is called AZUR, and is open for all three meals. The restaurant offers a succulent spread presented as a mouth-watering buffet. The grill restaurant, Fire and Ice, serves a selection of grilled meat, poultry and seafood - one definitely worth trying out even if you aren't staying at the hotel! The restaurant is open for dinner only. If you have tried both previous options during your stay here and you still want to push the boat out a little further, then the good news is that you can! The award-winning Noble House restaurant serves fine Chinese cuisine and is located on the 17th floor. But this isn't like one of those all you can eat type places! At Noble House, it's all about combining theatre with excellent food, for rituals are at heart of this experience. And if the food isn't enough to sweep you off your feet, then you'll always have the views to gawp at! For something a little more relaxed, there is always the pool bar; open throughout most of the day for snacks and refreshments. For in-room dining, the room service kitchen is open 24 hours.
The hotel is a fair bit away from the nearest beach, which is in the Jumeirah area. You must allow for at least 20 minutes by car (depending on traffic).
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