Dubai International Financial Centre: a shopping guide

An insider's guide to the Dubai International Financial Centre

In heart of the DIFC (Dubai International Financial Centre) is a high-end sanctuary for those seeking the finer things in life. Showcasing a variety of art galleries, premium restaurants, high-end hotels and luxury retail within an iconic architectural environment, the DIFC has become one of the Middle East's most sought after meeting places for business, culture, art, shopping and socialising.

Meander around the various business towers, terraces and lounges until you arrive at the Gate Village, the cultural heart of DIFC. An energetic enclave of gastronomical pleasures and fine art, this charming area houses some of the region’s most acclaimed art galleries, best restaurants and designer boutiques. It is also home to Christie’s and Art Dubai, each endowing creative exuberance to Dubai’s financial district.

A huge choice of speciality eateries

Cafe Florian

Delightful coffee houses and specialty restaurants such as Japanese restaurant Zuma, La Petite Maison (specializing in Southern French cuisine), Italian Café Florian and the upscale American restaurant and lounge Caramel complete the offerings that make the Gate Village the ultimate location for people who enjoy fine dining, art and luxury lifestyle amidst the shrewd nature of business. “When we first opened here, we were the first major restaurant and we believed that the DIFC would become the new centre of Dubai,” says Ajaz Sheikh, Director of Operations at Zuma. “Over time, more and more internationally known brands established themselves in the DIFC and surrounding areas. This is a testament to the continued investment in Dubai and the financial centre.”

Dubai International Financial Centre

Despite the economic changes of the past few years, DIFC continues to be a meeting spot for business men and luxury consumers. The Gate Village previously housed some of the region’s most sought after fashion boutiques such as Vila Moda, the multiband fashion boutique owned by Majed Al-Sabah, a Kuwaiti lifestyle retailer. The fashion side to DIFC has since been replaced by a continual host of world-class art galleries and high-end restaurants. “When I came to Dubai, Zuma was one of the few destinations restaurants here; DIFC was a fashion, art and dining destination along with the financial sorts,” says Sheikh. “Since then, the fashion part of the business has completely disappeared and more destination restaurants have popped up following on the success of Zuma.”

A fantastic place to meet friends and business partners

DIFC’s character is defined by its role as a central meeting place for both business and social life. “I believe that the DIFC is central to both business and social life in Dubai,” asserts Meaghan Horsman, Director of XVA Gallery. “Whilst things may have changed slightly over the last couple of years due to economic issues, the DIFC has maintained its status as a business district and a lifestyle destination.” A host of community events make the DIFC a continual place for business and cultural exchange. For example, Art Nights is a series of art-focused events taking place every few months whereby all galleries in the Gate Village are open for viewing, coupled with live entertainment and great eats in the surrounding vicinity. Similarly, at the Capital Club, the city’s premier private business club, a range of auctions, fashion and lifestyle events are held to bring together the region’s creative and business professionals within refined and elegant surroundings.

XVA Gallery Dubai

Designer shopping at Emirates Towers Boulevard

While the DIFC can no longer boast a stellar range of luxury brands, discerning shoppers can stroll just across the street to the nearby Emirates Towers Boulevard, a quaint and sophisticated place for elite shopping located under the corporate headquarters of Emirates Towers. Here, discover many high-end brands such as Gucci, Prada, Lanvin, Pomellato, Ermenegildo Zegna, Giorgio Armani, Cartier and Chloe. Literally a hop away from DIFC, Emirates Towers Boulevard provides a great escape for those eager for quick shopping on their lunch break or for a more lengthy perusal of luxury brands. Back at DIFC , there are a few speciality stores such as The Cobbler, a new bespoke shop featuring traditional craftsmanship, shoe repair services and accessories catered to the classic gentleman – a wonderful addition for those desiring hand-made products and artisanal quality.

The perfect destination to enjoy a business lunch

Those seeking the culinary delights will find a range of specialities to suit their palette. “For a more relaxed vibe post work, I head to Florian for a cup of tea and sit outside to people watch,” says XVA Gallery Director Meagan Horsman. “There are also lots of wonderful places which offer a business lunch. I like Café Bateel for a fresh salad if I am going out with colleagues. With clients, I adore La Petite Maison. The service is excellent, the décor divine, and the desserts heavenly. The various coffee shops and outdoor areas are great places to stroll and take a break during a busy day. In the evenings, each restaurant carries with it a special charm, although, as Sheikh puts it, “There is something about the mood in Zuma when it makes that transition from day to evening, enticing guests for after-work drinks and innovative Japanese cuisine.”

The multitude of luxury retail outlets, restaurants, art galleries and work offices are housed in an iconic structure expressing the core values of the DIFC. Designed in 2002, DIFC’s Gate Building is a contemporary interpretation of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The tower rises 15 floors above a podium housing parking and retail facilities and is composed of solid stone and stainless steel for the main arch, while transparent glazed elements form the open space at the centre of the construction. The building expresses the power, elegance and grandeur after which the DIFC and the city of Dubai have forged their identity.

Café Bateel, Gate Village, The Balcony 02, Tel. +971 (0)4 3231 833, www.bateel.com

Café Florian, Gate Village, Building 06, Tel. +971 (0)4 3231 833, www.caffeflorian.com

Caramel, Gate Village, The Balcony 03, Tel. +971 (0)4 4256 677, caramelgroup.com

La Petite Maison: Gate Village, Building 08, Tel. +971 (0)4 4390 505, www.lpmdubai.ae

The Cobbler: Level B1, Marble Walk, Tel. +971 (0)4 3255 336, www.difc.ae/cobbler-llc

Zuma: Gate Village, Building 06, Tel. +971 (0)4 4255 660, www.zumarestaurant.com

Other articles you may enjoy:

Dubai's best drop-in spas

Alserkal Avenue, Dubai: a guide

How to buy gold and diamonds in Dubai