Visiting Dubai? Palazzo Versace is a remarkable achievement

In the capital of luxury, designer brands and supercars, Sara Lawrence is surprised to find a Dubai hotel that’s more substance than style

In Dubai, where excess has no boundaries and understated is a dirty word, the second Palazzo Versace has found a natural home. Donatella opened her first hotel on Australia’s Gold Coast in 2000 and this latest, tucked away on The Creek in Dubai’s still-under-construction and rather dubiously named ‘Cultural Village’, in November 2016.

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I’m aware that writing Dubai and Versace in the same sentence suggests a monstrosity of bling, a beyond-OTT behemoth stuffed full of vapid internationals wearing medusa head medallions and diamond encrusted sunglasses. The original brief was simply ‘the most luxurious hotel the Middle East has ever seen’ and, according to the marketing blurb, it’s reminiscent of nothing less than a 16th-Century Italian palace.

At first glance, the neoclassical-style architecture of the sprawling 215-room building complete with vast mosaic-tiled lobby, crazy-high ceilings and grand East and West wings, does indeed stand out against the omnipresent mirrored skyscrapers. Indeed, it is rather beautiful and understated in comparison.

A scan of the inside also makes it immediately apparent that everything – and I mean everything – leaves you in no doubt about which fashion designer this hotel belongs to. No potential for a branding opportunity is overlooked. The Versace Greek key pattern is on the railings outside, etched in navy underneath the cornicing, runs along the corridor carpets upstairs and appears on every glass. All home furnishings are, naturally, upholstered in signature House of Versace patterns. The staff uniforms match the walls of the restaurants. Crockery is by Rosenthal and you won’t have a cup of coffee or any food that’s not served on fine china decorated with iconic Versace scenes. Puddings come complete with edible gold medusa medallions. Hell, even the pool is branded with a huge mosaic. None of this should work but somehow it does and it’s not long before you start coveting cushions, giant urns, and maybe a matching robe from the on-site home concept store.

The spa is something else. The 1,000 square metres of pure bliss is decorated with turquoise mosaics, marble and mother of pearl details against grey walls and white birch wood. There are male and female relaxation areas, a suite with a private Jacuzzi for couples, seven spacious treatment rooms, a dedicated nail studio and hair salon, two hammams, saunas, steam rooms, ice fountains and vitality pools. There is an astounding array of face and body treatments including advanced age-defying facials using ultrasound and galvanic technologies, Kundalini soul nurturing, oil-free Thai and tension-releasing Ku Nye massages.

Donatella has created an exquisite celebration of the visual arts associated with her brand at this hotel and the results are astounding

Clients experience old Middle Eastern ancestral beauty customs such as steaming, massaging and scrubbing alongside the application of the most up-to-date wellness science. In a world saturated with wonderful spas this is the best of the best and the ultimate package is the all-day experience, which includes meals and comes with a chauffeur-driven Maserati to pick up and drop off. The 24K treatment includes a 24-carat gold dust massage and the Gold and Caviar facial involves a mask with 24-carat gold trace elements followed by intensive green caviar products from Dr Burgener of Switzerland.

Dining in all outlets is phenomenal and the service first-rate, as they must be to compete with the Dubai food scene. Enigma brings in the world’s best chefs on three month rotations; Vanitas is a top-level Italian in a stunning room and Giardino serves extensive buffet breakfasts and lunches, and a lobster brunch on Fridays. Head to Q’s bar (dress code: glamorous) for drinks and sublime jazz singers hand-picked by Quincy Jones, also on rotation. Boredom is not an option here.

Bedrooms come in salmon, beige or turquoise colour-schemes with parquet floors. Bathrooms are marble and mosaic-filled delights with on-point lighting. There are bays for the yachts which PVD hope will arrive when they start to sell the exclusive residences attached to the hotel.

The MOMA museum just outside the hotel is nearly completed, bringing culture to this village. In the meantime, Donatella has created an exquisite celebration of the visual arts associated with her brand at this hotel and, it has to be said, the results are astounding. The queen of Versace has somehow pushed this whole city, built on the concept of luxury, to up its game.

It’s a remarkable achievement. 

This five-star hotel has 215 rooms and suites, and 169 residences – each designed exclusively by the House of Versace. A deluxe room costs from £840 per night based on two sharing on a room-only basis, excluding taxes. For more information, please email info@palazzoversace.ae or call +971 4556 8888. Palazzo Versace

Three healthy things to do while you’re in Dubai

Because you can't stay in the hotel all holiday...

Farmer’s Market

On the Terrace Remarkable as it may seem, there is fresh, local, organic produce available at affordable prices in this desert location. Founded by the organic café and deli Baker & Spice Dubai, you can buy seasonal vegetables, fruit, herbs, eggs, honey and more direct from the farmers at this community initiative in Bay Avenue Park from November to May. It runs on Fridays from 8am – 1pm and most of the items have been picked or collected that morning. This would be a great market anywhere in the world but to find it in  the middle of a metropolis like Dubai is, frankly, astonishing. 

Heavenly Spa at The Westin Dubai, Al Habtoor City

In a city of large spas this rivals the biggest at 4,000 sq m, covering the entire length of the sixth floor. It features high ceilings and huge windows, looking out at the city skyline and iconic downtown area including views of the Burj Khalifa. Heavenly offers a range of renewal experiences within 20 treatments rooms across separate male and female areas and has saunas, steam rooms, hammam rooms and wet areas with hot tubs, sensory showers and heated loungers. There is also an extensive fitness area and popular yoga studio. 

Ice rink in Dubai Mall

We all know about the ski slope and vast aquarium in the Dubai Mall but less known is the Olympic-sized, international competition standard ice rink. Unleash your inner Torvill or Dean by taking lessons in figure skating, ice hockey, disco or mega skate sessions. Public skating sessions run every day in an hour and 45-minute slots from 10am to late in the evening. Two-hour disco sessions are also held in the evenings. Individual and group lessons should be booked in advance and the necessary equipment for all ages and standards is available to rent. The rink also hosts Emirates Ice Hockey League games that can be watched from the mall balconies above. 

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