Why go? For couples looking to offset spoiling relaxation with a good dose of culture, a visit to this Arabian metropolis is a must.
Honeymoon style: With photogenic views of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, a kilometre long private beach and its very own souk, the Shangri-La Abu Dhabi cocoons honeymooners for days on end, until they feel ready to venture out to the cutting edge museums and galleries that are shining a light on this Arabian jewel.
Set the scene: There is the distinct feeling of arriving in a faraway land as you pull up to the this grand, water-facing hotel. The seething heat, elaborate Islamic architecture and magnificent palm trees framing it prompts a heady mix of excitement and awe. A member of the team wearing traditional white kandura welcomes guests with coffee and dates before showing them to one of the hotel’s splendid 213 rooms and suites. Whiffs of cardamom and rose water hang in the air and a romantic and rather opulent scene of arches, marble and pillars unfolds – as befitting the world’s third wealthiest country.
Rooms: The rooms ooze traditional charm with beautiful ogee arches and voile curtains billowing gently in the breeze. Every room in the hotel has a private balcony – a more-than-appealing prospect given the mesmerising views across the calm water of the Sheikh Zayed Mosque.
The palatial layout of the rooms and bathrooms ensure getting ready is a delight, as opposed to a chore. Where so many other hotels can fall short (wifi that’s impossible to connect to, only two hangers in the closet, air conditioning that requires a masters degree in engineering to operate) the Shangri-La has every luxury covered. Expect double sinks, illuminated make-up mirrors, generously-sized bath tubs, gorgeous L’Occitane products, and a vast wardrobe that caters to all sartorial whims. Any questions or requests are dealt with smoothly and graciously using a Whatsapp concierge service (the response time is rapid). The Shangri-La Abu Dhabi is the sort of hotel where you will return after a day at the beach to find your swimsuit carefully hung up to dry by a thoughtful member of staff.
Food and Drink: As well as seven restaurants and bars, the hotel hosts a collection of gourmet pop-up events throughout the year featuring well known chefs, many of whom carry Michelin stars. The events are known as the Culinary Master Series and are responsible for the hotel’s reputation as a fine dining hub in the city. From mouth-watering Cantonese cuisine at Shang Palace (signature plates include the whole roast Beijing duck) to an Instagrammable buffet at Sofra Blvd (be sure to visit the chocolate fountain and ice cream station for pudding), foodie couples will revel in the variety and the sheer standard of the dishes.
Couples can request a romantic candlelit dinner on the hotel’s private beach, for ultimate privacy. These typically involve perching on cushions scattered across Arabian carpets with shisha and a bespoke menu accompanying hair-raising crimson sunsets over the Khor Al Maqta. Venturing beyond the hotel, the hotel’s team can organise an underwater breakfast experience at the Abu Dhabi National Aquarium, only a five minute walk away from the hotel. Hint: this would also be a great spot for a proposal!
The Story: Known as the cultural heart of the United Arab Emirates, Abu Dhabi has invested vast sums into developing its cultural and arts scene, and it shows. From the staggering Louvre Abu Dhabi to the Sheikh Zayed Mosque and the Qasr Al Hosn the city has become a warren of architectural marvels and cultural delights. The capital is also consistently ranked as one of the safest places in the world, making it ideal for families and couples who can exhale and focus on exploring.
Family-friendly: Rather than an afterthought, family-friendly elements are woven into this glorious Arabian hotel, from the children’s pool area and tasty menu options (ideal for any fussy eaters). Parents of little ones will be delighted to learn that food for children under the age of six is complimentary, and those with children under 12 only pay half price on the hotel’s all-day dining restaurant. During school holidays, Christmas, and Easter the Shangri-La conjures up various activities and workshops to keep children entertained (while parents take a well-deserved time out on the sun loungers).
Spa: CHI, The Spa boasts some of the most spacious treatment suites in the world and makes the most of the region’s bounty, using all-natural ingredients such as camel’s milk from the Dubai desert, hydrated lemons from Fujairah and solar salts drawn from the Arabian Sea for its treatments. A 60 minute couples massage (a highly recommended hour of flawless bliss) costs around £265 GBP.
Location: The Shangri-La Qaryat Al Beri is a pleasant 15-minute drive from Abu Dhabi International Airport and 20 minutes from the Corniche and the city centre. It is located within the Qaryat Al Beri complex, a little kingdom unto itself which includes the Shangri-La Residences, CHI the Spa and traditional market, The Souk. Be sure to take a traditional abra (wooden boat) from the hotel to the nearby souk.
Getting there: Etihad Airways operates daily direct flights from the UK and Ireland including three direct flights a day from London Heathrow. The flight time is just over seven hours and, if you’re lucky enough to be able to treat yourself to a business class ticket, your honeymoon (and marriage) will get off to an unforgettable start, with high altitude glasses of Champagne and smart restaurant-grade service.
Rates start from £150 per night per couple, including breakfast, parking and late checkout Shangri-la.com .Etihad Airlines return business class flights start at £1,810 direct from London Heathrow, Etihad.com
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