Get Ready to Be Treated Like Royalty at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi

emirates palace review
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It’s not every day we get to spend two days in complete and total bliss, but that was exactly our experience when we stayed the weekend at the iconic and impressive Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Literally every moment of our stay was perfection. From the minute we entered the massive maze lovingly referred to as “the Palace,” to the depressing moment we had to leave, we were treated like kings and queens – and princes and princesses for our youngest reviewers.

We felt like royalty walking around the lush Palace grounds, eating the most decadent meals, and having every single need met before we even knew to ask for it. Emirates Palace is officially a five-star hotel, however, the service, opulence, luxury, aesthetic, culinary offerings, manicured gardens, private beach, and lavish suites make this hotel a full seven-star experience in our books.

Home to The Spa at Emirates Palace – where among other health benefits, guests can receive an exclusive Emirates Palace Vita Drip, a meticulously formulated intravenous dose of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and antioxidants – Emirates Palace lacks in nothing when it comes to the comfort, well-being, and ultimate relaxation for each and every guest.

For us commoners, we have never felt more like royalty. Who knows, there might even have been a real princess staying at the hotel, as Emirates Palace is the singular destination for GCC royalty when they visit Abu Dhabi. But royal or not, if you’ve got any plans to visit Abu Dhabi, or even if you don’t, start making them and get thee to Emirates Palace. It will be the experience of a lifetime.

Emirates Palace Review
Photo: Courtesy of @wejlajessica

First Impressions

It’s a palace. We mean that very literally, by the way. It is a palace. Once you’ve oriented yourself to the expansive grounds and know what wing is in which direction – and you learn your quickest route to breakfast – knowing where to go begins to make sense. It just takes an hour to cross the property. But what a glorious hour that is!

The impressive gold, crystal, and mother-of-pearl dome that stands over 75 meters above you as you enter the first atrium, is your first real peak into just how monumental the Palace actually is. There are 114 domes in the entire property, which is the same number of surahs in the Qur’an, and 1,002 chandeliers. Around every corner are notes of Arabia: in the decor, the carpets, the furniture, and the colors. But it’s the luxurious details of gold that touch everything, even your cappuccino, that set the Palace apart as a destination of extreme elegance and opulence. The white sand beach and no-filter-needed turquoise waters, the yachts on the private marina, and the landscaped pools and lazy river that wrap around lush gardens and beautiful bridges add even more splendor to this one-of-a-kind destination.

As a newly acquired property of Mandarin Oriental, the East Wing has been going through a bit of an upgrade since lockdown last year. Once it’s completed, the West Wing will then begin renovations. We’re not sure what the final product will look like, or how it will affect the current feel of being immersed in Arabia, but we hear that plans include not just making the rooms more modern, but fusing together the current Arabian decor with signature Mandarin touches throughout. Knowing how meticulous and detail-oriented Mandarin is about their properties, especially the aesthetic, we have high hopes for the outcome and cannot wait to see it once completed.

emirates palace review
Photo: Courtesy of Emirates Palace

It's All In The History

Emirates Palace was built as an extended arm of the actual Palace in Abu Dhabi. It sits right next door, in fact, and was – still is – used by government leaders to host important guests, foreign dignitaries, and as mentioned, GCC royalty. In fact, on the 7th and 8th floor of Emirates Palace are individual royal suites dedicated and decorated for each country in the GCC, to be used exclusively when their royals visit. It must feel like coming home when they visit, as that suite has only ever been used by them. Staff do not even have keys to go up there, as their security liaises with government officials to be given the keys, and the royal suites are reached via a private, and secure, secret elevator.

On the 5th floor, each country also has a dedicated majlis, where they often meet with foreign leaders, guests, and we imagine, each other. The 6th floor holds the Presidential Suites where important guests, foreign leaders, and the occasional Hollywood stars make their home. Each Presidential Suite boasts three bedrooms larger than our entire house, and each bedroom is situated with its own en-suite bathroom, study, balcony, and living room, as well as one central dining room.

Emirates Palace Review
Photo: Courtesy of Emirates Palace

The Suite Life

Like everything else in Emirates Palace, the Khaleej Suite – where we stayed for two nights – felt like a palace in and of itself. The spacious suite boasted plush furniture, and rich curtains — which were airy and flowey as they gently flitted in the breeze from the open balcony doors during the day, and then heavy and luxuriant as they completely blocked out the light for a restful night of sleep.

The balcony wrapped around the entire suite and could very well have been an extension of the room, with multiple chaise lounges for savoring the pleasant sights, sounds, and smells. With a view looking over the private beach and Marina, we also spent a good amount of time watching the camels in the bedouin camp before us as they took turns resting and giving guests a ride down the beach.

The king-sized bed not only provided delicious sleep, but it was also the preferred location for the kids to crawl into in the middle of the night without anyone every feeling over-crowded which – as anyone with littles can tell you – is a huge plus. The bathroom was on a whole other level of luxury, with an abundant supply of the most aromatic Amouage his-and-her toiletries. Pair that with a couple of the chocolates that kept appearing in our room like a never-ending well of goodness, and it very well might have been Heaven.

However, we would be remiss if we did not mention the enormous spa-like bathtub, that perhaps took the supreme spot as the perfect location for the highlight of our stay: Family Tubby Time. Let’s just say, we all fit, and then some.

emirates palace review
Photo: Courtesy of @thehappytravellers

Beach Life

We spent our last day basking in the sun on the beach. The beachfront cabana was luxury at its finest, with drinks, snacks, fruit plates, and a variety of furniture perfect for relaxing. We tried them all, and can safely say that between the bed, the chaise, and the chairs, there really isn’t a wrong choice for letting go while looking taking in the pristine waters of the private beach. It was so comfortable that at one point we may have even drifted off on the bed to the lulling sounds of the gentle waves lapping on the shore.

The water was crystal clear, and jewel-toned like a sparkling gem ranging in shades from aquamarine, tourmaline, and a deep sapphire blue. The sun warmed our skin, and the water cooled it off, in a harmonious dance of perfect temperatures. We tried the kayaks and got a good workout in taking the little skiff all around, and we built numerous sand castles and mermaid tails to everyone’s delight.

Once the sun began to set, vivid colors soared across the sky. Bright pinks, oranges, and flaming reds took over the blue in a symphony of beauty, while we stood in awe as we soaked it all in. It was more beautiful than the finest painting, and not a picture we will ever forget.

Emirates Palace Review
Photo: Courtesy of Emirates Palace

Food Matters

Every morning, we were treated to a buffet breakfast with made-to-order dishes in the courtyard. Parents sipping hot coffee, while the kids run around playing tag, and all the while having the grandiose architecture of the Palace behind you, and the stunning natural beauty of the sea before you, is a perfect way to start the day. Alex Louw, along with his pets Loki the Falcon and Elvira the Owl, treat guests to a bit of a show with these beautiful Birds of Prey every morning, and in turn the property gets an ecologically-friendly solution to keeping the peskier birds at bay so their guests can eat breakfast in peace without the fear of aviary thieves.

If you want a bit of Afternoon Tea, Emirates Palace offers not one but two locations with vastly different experiences, but with the same delicious sweet and savory delights. Sit back and relax in the outdoors at Cafe by The Fountain surrounded by the stunning architecture of Abu Dhabi, just beyond the dancing fountain. The kids will be delighted with the sweets and treats, as well as the water show, and the gold on their ice cream will give them a royal shock. Gold-dusted cappuccinos, tiny sandwiches, and delicious varieties of beautiful, mini desserts – and an even more sumptuous Umm Ali that would make Grandma proud – made every heart happy.

Afternoon Tea at Le Café is another experience altogether. Presentation is key, with an extensive choice of teas that are brewed with precision on a gilded tea cart at your table. The elegant couches provide the perfect place to slowly sip the divine tastes of chamomile, jasmine, and Darjeeling, as well as enjoy once again, the delicious petit fours. But the proverbial cake was taken by the mini ice cream cones revealed in dramatic fashion encased in dry ice. The theatrical effect was an event in and of itself and surely not to be missed.

Dinner on the beach is an experience at BBQ Al Qasr under its lavish cabanas. With the sound of the crashing waves, the flickering flames of the candlelit walkways, and the mighty wind encouraging you to snuggle with your loved ones under the warm blankets provided, it was the perfectly cozy evening of merriment, nature, and delicious food. Known for its perfectly char-grilled meats and seafood, you can share a feast for carnivores with the family under the stars. We tasted some of the sea’s most succulent gifts: Lobster, Jumbo Shrimp, Salmon, Mussels, Scallops, and so much more, all grilled to mouth-watering perfection.

But nothing will top the meal we ate at Martabaan, the sumptuous Indian restaurant. The dining room was cozy and comfortable, with gorgeous chandeliers reflecting off the deeps reds and golds throughout. The food that was served was beyond exquisite. A contemporarily classic Indian restaurant by world-renowned chef, Hemant Oberoi – the hero who saved dozens of lives during the Mumbai terrorist attack on the Taj Palace in 2008, when he hid guests away in the secret VIP rooms – has created a masterful menu fit for, you guessed it, royalty. Beautifully presented, the flawless blend of spices and flavors erupted in our mouths, making for the most incredible meal from start to finish. Martabaan is fine dining at the highest level. From the aristocratic and elevated ambience, impeccable service, and the superlative execution of cuisine, we must say that Martabaan is by far one of the best restaurants we’ve had the pleasure of dining at in the UAE.

emirates palace review
Photo: Courtesy of @lydiaindubai
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