Dubai seems to have been designed to be a modern utopia, so aesthetically pleasing is its array of gleaming skyscrapers and golden beaches. While its network of deluxe hotels, golf courses and resorts are a playground for the rich and famous, Dubai is equally popular with families and groups of holidaymakers who are drawn to its high-class shopping, extreme sports and almost unrivalled life of luxury.

The city has become famous for its legendary modern constructions, including the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world, the Burj Al Arab, its most luxurious hotel, and the artificial islands that stretch out into seas of brilliant blue. This is a place where everything has been carefully and lovingly designed, and a place that is constantly changing as it innovates and builds. As a result, Dubai is uniquely tailored to welcome and entertain its steady stream of sun-seeking visitors and travelling businesspeople.

Shopping is the favoured preoccupation of Dubai’s visitors and residents, and the Middle Eastern city is famed for its glitzy malls where people congregate to enjoy films, theme parks, restaurants and, of course, shops offering the very latest in fashion. Yet the city’s souqs – markets lined with more traditional stores – contain hidden treasures for a more exciting day of bargain hunting.

In spite of the heat, Dubai is a beloved destination of sports fans. Famously, the Burj Al Arab has the world’s highest tennis court on its roof, but while you’re unlikely to play there, you can find golf courses, indoor courts and soccer stadiums throughout the city. One of its most popular sporting events is the Dubai World Cup, a thoroughbred horse race held every March.

Whether you’re careening down the sand dunes of the Arabian Peninsula in a buggy, rising above them in a hot air balloon or skiing in the chilly snow centre to cool off, there are thrills to suit every taste. With no shortage of activities to choose from, don’t forget to relax. Spend a day on the beach sunbathing and swimming or wander the more sedate areas like the historic district of Al Fahidi or the informative Dubai Museum.

The constant flow of people in and out of Dubai make it a safe and accessible city for visitors, with a solid infrastructure of taxis and public transport to help you find your way around. Pick up a Nol Card, an electronic card that is required for travel on buses and the metro. For a novel way of crossing the creek that runs through the north of the city, hop on an abra, the wooden boat-buses that ferry passengers over the water.