With its beautiful beach, sprawling pool, grand architecture, and inventive restaurants, the Ritz-Carlton is the perfect family friendly hotel in Abu Dhabi
In recent years the Emirate of Abu Dhabi has increasingly been stealing attention away from its famous neighbor Dubai. We love both, but in my opinion Abu Dhabi is a place that can’t be missed if you’re visiting the Middle East. While Abu Dhabi has the glass skyscrapers that define the modern United Arab Emirates, it is also full of traditional Emirati culture and home to many world class attractions.
We had come to the UAE to relax and absorb some sun after a long Dutch winter. Being located on the Persian Gulf, the city has quite a few hotels which offer the beach resort experience, and this is exactly what we were after. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi checked all our boxes. The Ritz-Carlton is one of our favorite brands, and this property had a stretch of sand as well as the usual immaculate pools, gardens and amenities. Even better, the one thing we really wanted to see was just outside, the Grand Mosque. Despite being so close to one of Abu Dhabi’s main attractions, the hotel is located in a quiet part of the city. To be honest I can’t tell you too much more about the area, as we only left the hotel twice – once to go across to the Mosque and once to the Louvre. That probably tells you all you need to know about how much we liked the hotel!
That said, let me explain why we enjoyed our stay so much. The hotel is very grand, and as well as all the western comforts, it has a touch of exotic to it. When you walk in you’ll notice the ornate chandelier hanging in an open space at least three stories high all decorated with marble, glass and other shiny accoutrements. The soft yellowish glow of the desert light floods in through the glass and for a second you feel like you’re in the middle of an sprawling desert, inside a magnificent palace. The instant WiFi connection and friendly faces asking if you’d like tea or a cappuccino snap you back into reality...But for that brief moment upon entering the hotel we felt like we were somewhere that only existed in our imagination.
Our room was extremely large, and consisted of a living room, an adjoining bathroom, a master bedroom and an ensuite. Axel had his own little section of the living room, complete with cot, and as every parent will know, extra space like this is much appreciated when you are traveling with kids. Everything was beautifully decorated and very comfortable, but it was the views which made it truly memorable – we could look out directly on to the Grand Mosque. Just take a look at our pictures and you will understand how beautiful this architectural masterpiece is.
Despite spending so much time within the hotel grounds, we never had trouble filling our time. It is definitely worth having access to their club as it is one of the best spots on the property. Located on the top floor, the floor to ceiling windows make the space bright with natural light, and it is a perfect spot if you’re looking for a place to catch up on work for a few hours! The food is great too, and they have a yummy and substantial breakfast buffet, meaning that you don’t have to hang out in the crowded main restaurant. They serve food throughout the day and although the hotel restaurants are too good to miss, it was nice to have other options. We would spend cocktail hour in the lounge at sunset, enjoying some light bites and wine before dinner. The space is also kid friendly so Axel was more than welcome!
There are eight different restaurants at the hotel, and having sampled many of them we can safely say that they are all quality places to eat. One restaurant in particular -- Li Jiang -- really grabbed us however, so much so that we had dinner there twice as well as a brunch. Li Jiang specializes in South East Asian food and its menu read like it had been designed especially for us. We had a chat with the chef and went for a selection of Vietnamese and Thai dishes. We then came back to try another load, and our favorites of our dinner visits were the fried prawns, sautéed morning glory and Thai beef salad.
Brunch there was just as good, and it featured all the best dishes from their dinner menu. There were skewers, sautés, and salads (and I got the chance for a second helping of my favorite Thai beef salad). On top of this there was a pho station, and the wines flowed. With nowhere particularly to go, we were able to sit back and take our time to enjoy it all. Everything was delicious, and even Axel was on his best behavior.
Between meals, we spent much of our time at the pool. This is yet another part of the hotel which they have set up beautifully, and their cabanas make it all that more relaxing. You can rent one, so that you have your own private space and then have the option to have fruit or cheese trays delivered there, or even a full meal. One of our best days was spent in one of the poolside cabanas. It involved nothing more strenuous than ordering lunch and taking Axel for a little swim (before taking him back to our shelter for a nap).
The pool is just steps away from the hotel’s rooms, but a few steps more will take you to the beach. While Abu Dhabi is not synonymous with beaches, it was actually very nice and we enjoyed spending some of our time there. There is also a spa and a fitness center if you want to mix things up a bit, and a kids club aimed at four to twelve year olds.
We have already admitted that we didn’t get out much, but we can wholeheartedly recommend the two things we did see. The Grand Mosque was as spectacular as we had hoped, and we recommend going in early evening and staying until the sun sets. This time of day is a lot cooler and the Mosque is less crowded. Our other trip was to the recently opened Louvre Museum. It has many artworks on loan from its parent institution in Paris, and the architecture of the building alone make it worth visiting.
This was one of our first trips together as a family, and it turned out to be the perfect place for this type of vacation. The setup is very conducive to kids, without being aimed at them in particular. The property itself if beautiful and the relaxation options are endless. You can go out and explore the gardens, make it a pool or a beach day, or head out to visit the Louvre or Grand Mosque. If you’re looking for a relaxing spot that can cater for the whole family, than look no further than this.
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