Dubai Design District, also known as d3, is a multi-purpose development of shops, galleries, restaurants, bars and nightclubs, plus offices. It is a hive of creativity year-round, but it truly comes alive in mid-November when Dubai Design Week is on. Five days of activities, events, exhibitions, panel discussions, talks and more take place, as impressive structures and installations go up to mark the occasion. Art enthusiasts and industry decision-makers from across the world descend on the district at this time, but there are plenty of reasons to visit d3 at any time of year.
Here’s where to eat, shop and get inspired, whenever you visit.
Art and design
Naturally, the focus in d3 is on design, whether that’s fashion, lighting or furniture. There’s a great mix of international, regional and local talent on show. Italian luxury brands sit alongside Emirati firms with a focus on social impact. Fatima bint Mohamed bin Zayed Initiative sells hand-knotted carpets, embroidered furniture and local handicrafts that show off the traditional skills of the Afghan people. Armani/Casa is opening soon, offering a peek at Giorgio Armani’s home line. The area also features luxury lifestyle brand Christopher Guy, and Nakkash Gallery, an interior design practice first founded in Dubai by Lebanese architect Wajih Nakkash in 1983.
As for art, there are galleries scattered throughout d3, including Art Hub, an exhibition space for artworks inspired by UAE culture, and Sconci Gallery, which offers a look at a wide range of works, from 17th-century pieces to modern-day creations.
But it’s not just what's inside the shops and showrooms that counts – d3’s buildings and pathways are dotted with artworks, installations and creative elements at every turn.
After you've picked up something for the home from the design showrooms and art galleries, there is still plenty to discover around d3 when it comes to fashion. It’s the home of Amato, the UAE’s first globally renowned couture fashion brand, founded by designer Furne One and textile expert Rashid Ali.
It’s also home to Frame, which claims to be the Middle East’s first boutique dedicated solely to Japanese lifestyle and culture. This includes everything from craft items to clothes, vinyl to vintage – even gourmet foodstuffs and toys. For a more eclectic selection, there’s The Lighthouse, a Mediterranean restaurant and concept store that has a carefully chosen selection of items by designers from across the world, all of them minimal, functional and timeless. This includes homeware items, travel accessories, stationery and more.
Food and nightlife
Once you’re done with retail therapy, there are plenty of places to refuel. Want a light bite for breakfast or lunch? Then 1Life is the perfect pit stop for a salad or sandwich, or cake and coffee. For something livelier, Akiba Dori is a good choice. Neon-lit and inspired by anime culture in Akihabara, Tokyo, it offers well-priced drinks, Japanese street food and the intriguing fusion that is a Tokyo-Neapolitan pizzeria. More authentic Japanese food is available over at YUi (part of Frame), which specialises in ramen. Here, the noodles are made on-site and the broth is simmered for ten hours.
Other popular foodie options at d3 include French-inspired contemporary brasserie Chez Charles, fusion-focused Molecule and cosy Indian spot Mohalla.
For a taste of Middle Eastern cuisine, there’s Mum’s Table, where traditional recipes are used to create comforting Syrian cuisine. There’s also the Kitchen, which has a medley of regional favourites on the menu, from falafel to fatayer and foul.
In terms of nightlife, while many of these restaurants incorporate their own bars, and offer a range of drinks deals throughout the week (happy hours, ladies’ nights, and so on), the area’s best after-hours spot is Base Dubai. This nightclub is often host to performances by internationally renowned musicians – from Jason Derulo to Jennifer Lopez – and of course a big crowd of beautiful people.