Each of the World’s great cities has it’s iconic structure. Paris has the Eiffel Tower, London has Big Ben, Barcelona has the Sagrada Familia. For Dubai, this icon is the Burj Khalifa.
Standing at 829.8 m tall, this is the world’s tallest structure – dwarfing the surrounding ultra modern skyscrapers. Not only that, it holds miriad other accolades; tallest free standing structure in the world, highest number of stories in the world, highest occupied floor in the world, highest outdoor observation deck in the world and the elevator with the longest travel distance in the world. In short, this is one impressive building.
The tip of the Burj Khalifa can be seen from 95km away so it is no surprise that my first sight of Dubai when driving from the airport was its needle-like spire jutting out above the surrounding skyscrapers – all huge in themselves – making them look like mere toys.
I was hoping to keep my Dubai trip on a strict budget as it can be an expensive place to visit. However, after the previous few weeks in Sri Lanka where food and accommodation was cheap, I didn’t mind one big spending splurge. I don’t plan on heading back to Dubai any time soon so this could be my only chance to ascend the world’s tallest building. A once in a life time opportunity. I bit the bullet and bought a ticket to the 148th floor – At The Top Sky.
Arriving almost half an hour late for my time slot (I seriously underestimated the time it would take to get from the beach to the Dubai Mall – Seriously Dubai, you only have one metro line?) I was ushered past the queue of people waiting for tickets and was seated in the Sky Lounge. As well as allowing you access to the 148th floor, the SKY package is somewhat of a VIP experience. You are able to skip the long queues and are left to wait in the SKY lounge – a room full of plush sofas where you are served Arabic coffee and dates while you wait. When it is time to ascend the building the guides escort to the elevators, bypassing the queues of people with standard tickets. I’m not usually one for luxury or VIP experiences so I felt a little uncomfortable swanning past the people waiting while they looked on (at the same time resisting the urge to shout “Enjoy your wait suckers!”).
At the 148th floor observation deck the VIP treatment continued as we were met with fresh juice and canapes before walking through to the viewing area. Words can’t do justice to the panorama we were greeted with through the floor to ceiling windows. Awe-inspiring, astonishing and breathtaking are just a few. From the street the sky scrapers of Dubai tower over you impressively but from this height they look tiny, really giving you an idea of how high you are. I searched out Dubai’s famous landmarks – The Burj Al Arab, The Palm, The World archipelago – all looking minuscule from this height. There is apparently a half an hour limit to the time you can spend at the 148th floor but no one seemed to mind as I remained up there, mesmerised by the scenery.
I didn’t get bored of the view, no one would, but thought it was time for me to make my way down to floors 125 + 124. As the elevator opened I was thrust in to a pretty large crowd of people, this floor was much busier. Up at the 148th floor there were maybe 30 people, down here there were hundreds. It was a struggle to get close to a window for the view as people set up camera tripods or claimed their viewing spot to watch the sunset. I get that people want a good photo or video but seriously, setting up a huge f-ing tripod right in the way of the window is incredibly selfish. What is wrong with some people?
The outdoor observation deck was a little quieter allowing me to get the perfect view of the city’s sprawl as it spread in to the yellow desert. The view from the higher floor is better but this was nothing to sniff at, all the superlatives I mentioned there apply just as much here.
I stayed to watch the sun go down, managing to squeeze in between the crowd to get a window spot. It wasn’t the orange and red iridescence sky of a beautiful sunset but more like the sun fading in to the dusky haze of the desert, extending the shadows of the skyscrapers across the city below. As day faded in to evening, the city lit up and below me I could see the Dubai Fountain starting it’s light and sound spectacular. The crowd started to dissipate as people filed towards the elevators and I was left to myself, captivated by the illuminated metropolis of Dubai.
Was it Worth it?
If you are in Dubai, then yes, I think it is well worth visiting the Brj Khalifa. The tickets are expensive but when else will you get the chance to stand atop the world’s tallest structure?
However, in all honesty, the SKY experience is probably not worth the extra £40. It’s nice to skip the queues and get VIP treatment and the lack of crowds on the 148th floor make the experience a little more serene. The thing is, the view isn’t that much better from the higher viewing platform. If you’re on a budget or don’t want to fork out the extra money, i’d suggest buying a ticket for the 124th floor.
Open 7 days a week, 08:30-22:00.
Last entry 45 minutes prior to closing
When is the Best time to Visit?
Obviously the view from the observation deck is spectacular no matter what time of day you choose to visit but for something a little more special, get there around sunset. Although you won’t always see dramatic coloured skies as the sun goes down (more likely the sun receding in to the haze of the city), the fading sunlight does give the city a beautiful dusky hue.
If you have plenty of time to spare and don’t mind lingering on the observation deck, it can be worth purchasing an earlier ticket and sticking around until the sun goes down. This way you can see the city in all of it’s day time glory , watch the sun go down and then see the lights of the skyscrapers as evening approaches.
The main entrance to the Burj’s observation deck is located on the lower ground floor of the Dubai Mall. It’s pretty much essential to buy your tickets in advance as the queue enter can get pretty huge, snaking around the lower floor of the mall. Tickets can be purchased both online or in person at the mall and I recommend you do this a day or two in advance as the most popular time slots tend to sell out.
When you book your tickets for the Burj Khalifa you will have two choices. The lower observation deck known as At The Top is located on the 124th floor and allows you to take in the views of the city from 52 meters (1,483 ft) above the earth. At The Top Sky is on the 148th floor at 555 meters (1,821 ft) and will cost you an extra 200AED (~£40) during non-prime hours or 300AED (~£60) during the prime sunset times.
Tickets are sold in half hour increments with prices varying depending on the hour of day. If you don’t mind spending a fair amount of time at the Burj it can be worth getting the cheaper tickets and sticking around until sunset as you can stay up on the 124th floor for as long as you like.
I’m not sure how strict they are on entrance times as I arrived half an hour late but was still ushered in to the attraction when I arrived without any issues.
|TICKET TYPE||AT THE TOPLEVEL 125 + 124||AT THE TOP SKYLEVEL 148 + 125 +124|
|Non-prime hours||08h30 – 15h00 and
18h30 until closing
|18h00 until closing|
|Adult (12 years +) General Admission||AED 125||AED 350|
|Child (4-12 years) General Admission||AED 95||AED 350|
|Prime hours*||15h30 – 18h00||Opening until 17h00|
|Adult (12 years +) General Admission||AED 200||AED 500|
|Child (4-12 years) General Admission||AED 160||AED 500|
|Adult (12 years +) Immediate Entry Admission||AED 300||N/A|
Allow yourself enough time to get there. When then metro arrives at Burj Khalifa/Dubai Mall station you will still be around a 15 minute walk from the actual mall and a little further still from the entrance to At The Top (even longer if you get lost in the mall like I did).
Have you been up to the top of the Burj Khalifa? Let me know what you thought in the comments
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