Why book? It's the only hotel in the world designed inside and out by the late, Pritzker-awarded architect Dame Zaha Hadid, so there’s no better way to experience her work than within this immersive work of art. Buzzy and curvaceous, it’s now attracting the city’s jet set.
Set the scene: Surrounded by the skyscrapers of Business Bay and in the shadow of neighboring Downtown Dubai, this (relative) low-rise stands tall thanks to its boundary-breaking design. ME beats with the thrum of the city’s creative crowd, attracted by the innovative surroundings, music and colorful restaurants and bars, and swish couples who book in for an otherworldly urban escape or a playful evening out. Walking the corridors, you’ll find and more mysterious VIPs with security posted outside their suites than families.
The backstory: Since Hadid first revealed The Opus tower in 2007, the ME Dubai within it has been one of Dubai’s longest-anticipated openings. The often-delayed, complex property—every curved glass panel of the undulating void is unique—was worth the wait. True to the ME by Meliá brand, there’s a focus on art and curated exhibitions alongside Hadid’s specially designed furniture.
The rooms: Like stepping onto the bridge of a super-slick spaceship, the monochromatic guest rooms flow around you with curved walls, wavy furnishings, puddles of plush rugs, and a bathroom that verges on trippy. Suites, with their spacious living rooms, are excellent for entertaining, while two distinct styles of standard rooms help set the scene for how relaxed or mischievous you want your stay to be. For a Burj Khalifa view, book a room that looks east.
Food and drink: Outdoor Deseo is a trendy draw at supper, serving seasonal local fish and Latin American dishes in a tropical space dotted with colorful rugs, lanterns, and brass palm fronds— succulent squid-ink tempura prawns are well matched to the setting. When poolside, it’s difficult to ignore the anticuchos meats sizzling on the nearby grill; order a skewer of well-flavored wagyu. Sample all manner of gin and tonics at garden-like Botanica, which may have the prettiest ceiling in town. We just hope you like truffle—it’s more a blizzard than a dusting that gets shaved on top of any dish featuring the fungus.
The neighborhood: You don’t have to go far to expand your dining options, with an outpost of London’s Roka and homegrown The Maine Land Brasserie in The Opus building. Cross the street and stroll along the Dubai Canal’s waterfront promenade, lined with cafés and yachts sailing back from an afternoon on the Persian Gulf. Although you’re relatively close to tourist hotspots such as Burj Khalifa (a few minutes’ drive away or a 20-minute walk), the immediate area is a bit quiet and still being developed, typical for new Dubai neighborhoods.
The service: Kitted out in comfy Adidas sneakers, the staff—many of whom are from Spain—are easygoing and friendly. Service is personal with touches of personality—like the thoughtful and fun quotes that are written on your bathroom mirror.
Eco effort: During lower-occupancy seasons, one wing of the hotel will be shut down and its lights kept off.
Anything left to mention? If you’ve spent the day on your feet (or the evening before toe-tapping to the music of the live DJ, saxophonist, and guitarist in the atrium), make your way to the pool. A dip in the cooling waters will help, but it’s the spa staff who make the rounds in the afternoon offering generous foot massages that really does the trick.
For the 25th edition of the Hot List—Condé Nast Traveler’s picks of the year’s top hotel and industry openings—these four winners represent the best of the best.
Originally Appeared on Condé Nast Traveler