Dubai places to drink: Six of the best sky bars

The Observatory at Marriott Hotel Dubai

AED25 ($9) a beer is a price almost unheard of in Dubai, where alcohol is heavily taxed and virtually unavailable outside hotels. But such is life from 5-8pm each day as The Observatory's 52nd-floor digs go green on their infamous happy hour prices. It adds up to heady crowds of ex-pats and tourists, and some raucous sunsets. Later, the bar can look a little bit like a war zone, the dark furnishings not enough to black out echoes of the earlier rush. But even then the prices are reasonable and the views – across the Palm and Marina – among the best in the city. See marriott.com/hotels/travel/dxbhr/.

Uptown Bar at Jumeirah Beach Hotel

It's almost a surprise to find Uptown perched atop the family-friendly Jumeirah​ Beach Hotel. But this bar is something else. Uptown's wide terrace and relatively low 24th storey setting has you part of the scene rather than separate to it: the beaches curl off to the north, the downtown metropolis on the horizon blinking away in the haze. Or you can turn to your left and take in the iconic Burj Al Arab instead. Service is friendly and attentive, and the cocktails (beginning at around AED65) expertly constructed. Keep an eye out for the bar's themed nights, to make it easier on your wallet. See jumeirah.com.

Iris Dubai at The Oberoi

Iris swaps the Dubai obsession with opulence for something breezier and more inviting. Think bright colours, wooden fittings, and open ceilings. The 27th-floor views perhaps aren't as good as some, but that's all made up for by the little things: the decor, the service (on a packed night a waiter cheerily suggests we place-hold an already reserved table) and some impressive artwork adorning the inner walls. Prices are typically Dubai – beers around AED50 ($18); cocktails in the AED50-70 ($18-$25) range – and the internal route to find the place is comically labyrinthine. But it's all worth it once you get there. See irisdubai.com.

At.mosphere at Armani Hotel, Burj Khalifa

While At.mosphere's strict dress code is entirely understandable – at a whopping 122 floors up in the Burj Khalifa it's the highest restaurant and bar in the world in the tallest building in the world – the surly way in which it's sometimes enforced probably isn't. Still, the experience at the top more than makes amends. Once there you can either turn left for the lounge, which packs jaw-dropping views down the coast towards Jumeirah Beach, or right for the restaurant, with its eastward facing outlook over Dubai's newer developments. Either way, the food and drinks are exquisite, service a finely tuned mix of personal and professional. Just be aware that prices match the altitude. The bar comes with at least an AED250 ($90) minimum spend per person (depending on where you sit and the time of day you visit), while the restaurant carries an AED350 ($123) minimum spend, the set-price lunch menu we enjoyed offering two courses for AED450 ($159). Still, treat this as an occasion destination and you won't be disappointed. See atmosphereburjkhalifa.com.

Neos, The Address, downtown Dubai

Outsized and opulent (much like The Address, the hotel atop of which it sits), Neos' 64th floor windows offer a slap bang view of Burj Khalifa​, while the Dubai Fountains (also the tallest in the world) can be seen sloshing away down below. It says a lot, then, that the view inside is almost as fascinating: grand, mirrored surfaces, beautiful furnishings, beautiful people. The friendly, efficient service keeps up with the experience, and even the drinks are reasonably priced (for Dubai). See theaddress.com.

Bar 44 at Grosvenor House

Out of all the sky bars in Dubai, none balance ambience, service and stunning views quite like Bar 44. The main room, with its curved bar, wood-panelling and detailed fit-out, retains its subdued and inviting atmosphere even when the staff get a pump on. But move around to the lounges and it's something else: couples sunken into romance among plush leather sofas while taking in the wide-windowed nighttime views of a swollen D 94. All this and the prices are more than reasonable, a beer setting you back just AED42 ($15). See bar44-dubai.com.

The writer was a guest of Dubai Tourism, with airport transfers and transit provided by Arabian Adventures.

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