DIFC Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: One of the most thriving and exciting neighbourhoods in Dubai, Dubai International Financial Center (DIFC) is so much more than just the business hub and financial district of Dubai.

It is home to a plethora of restaurants, bars, art galleries, gyms, and convenience stores right all at arm’s length. DIFC is modern city living, with high-rise towers, world-class restaurants and a sought after neighbourhood that is central and, for a lack of a better word, vibing.

DIFC Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News archives

There may not be large, leafy spaces in DIFC itself, but the lawns of the vast Zabeel Park are minutes away – and jogging enthusiasts can take on the track that runs around the whole park to keep fit.

More importantly, it’s the financial hub for the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia. DIFC has an independent, internationally controlled regulator and judicial system, as well as a common law framework, worldwide financial interchange, a tax-friendly regime, and a sizable corporate community.

The Centre’s vision is to drive the future of finance. Today, it offers one of the region’s most comprehensive FinTech and venture capital environments.

The now thriving neighbourhood was established in 2004 and today is one of the hottest destinations for locals and tourists alike for a fun night out.

Read about other great neighbourhoods

Where is it located?


DIFC is located on the East side of Sheikh Zayed Road, between Downtown Dubai and Zabeel Park. By car, Dubai Mall is a five-minute drive away, while the airport is around 15 minutes away.

The good:

  • Walking to work
  • Plenty of restaurants, bars, and other amenities on your doorstep
  • Close to Downtown, Zabeel Park, and Dubai International Airport.
  • Metro station within walking distance to get around Dubai quickly and easily

The bad

  • Expensive to rent
  • No schools in the area
  • Traffic congestion at rush hour

Getting there

Metro: Financial Centre and Emirates Towers (between Dubai Mall and World Trade Center)

Bus: 27, Gold Souq Bus Station, The Dubai Mall 45, Al Wasl – Zabeel 2

Taxi: There are plenty in the area, but demand is high, so it’s best to avoid rush hour.

Traffic: With the workforce rushing in and out, the roads are unsurprisingly busy during rush hour (between 8.45am and 9.45am – and again between 6pm to 7pm). If you want to move to or from the area, it is definitely best to leave a little earlier or later.

Parking: Self-Visitors Parking: First hour free and then Dh20/hour for each additional hour (or part of an hour). Visitors Valet Parking: Three hours free if you validate your ticket followed by Dh21 for each additional hour (or part of an hour).

What to see and do in DIFC


Zuma Dubai
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One of the longest standing DIFC restaurants is Zuma. To this day, they are unstoppable. Over a decade later, a seat at Zuma is somewhat difficult to get unless you book about five days ahead. They offer contemporary Japanese cuisine in the vicinity of the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa. The menu showcases a variety of dishes from its three kitchens: the main kitchen, the sushi counter and the robata grill. They offer a fantastic business lunch if you prefer to ‘fine dine’ for less. Their Ebisu Lunch Menu is a great way to experience a few different Zuma signature dishes for a great price of Dh137 per person. Lunch features a complimentary miso soup as well as two starters and one main course. If you are in a rush, or not so hungry, your next best option would be the Ebisu express, which includes one miso soup and one main course for Dh76 per person.

South Market

South Market at DIFC Gate
South Market at DIFC Gate Image Credit: Ahmed Ramzan/Gulf News

Gate Avenue at DIFC has recently launched a new dining destination called South Market, a casual food hall in the heart of Dubai. Unlike food courts that are made up of fast-food chains, food halls typically mix local artisan restaurants, butcher shops and other food-oriented boutiques under one roof. South Market is home to a combination of 15 gourmet kitchens and rotating artisan food kiosks offering cuisines from countries across the world. Weekends are a bit calmer. Eateries in the food hall include Jax Burger and Poutine, Bangkok eatery BKK Bistro, Modern Asian Desserts, which make a killer sweet milk bubble tea. There’s also Takoyaki, for Japanese street-food fare, or a bowl of cereal for lunch at Cereal Killer Café. Other eateries include Earth Kitchen, Burritos Beyond Borders, Katsu & Co and Spheerz Restaurant. There’s also an Egyptian fresh seafood spot called Bahiya, as well as Crab Market Restaurant.

Inspire Yoga Studio

inspire yoga
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One of the UAE's most loved yoga, Pilates and wellness centres, Inspire opened its studio in the heart of DIFC during the COVID-19 pandemic. The studio offers a variety of programs and activities for the community, hosted several successful outdoor classes in the park, on the mall rooftop and partnered with leading brands to bring yoga to the community. In addition, they’ve initiated animal welfare campaigns and more. Visitors to the studio can try signature classes such as Floating bliss with a sound bath, Inferno hot Pilates, Fit Flow, Warm flexibility flow, as well as classic yoga and pilates classes. Inspire is located at level 1, Zone D of Gate Avenue, DIFC.

LPM Restaurant & Bar - Dubai

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Internationally renowned LPM Restaurant & Bar is a DIFC institution having celebrated its 10-year anniversary last year. The award-winning menu has been created by LPM Chef Patron, Raphael Duntoye. It focuses on the authentic elements of Niçoise food to create an exquisite Mediterranean micro cuisine that is light, healthy and deliciously palatable, bringing a chic approach to French cuisine. The restaurant may be known for its relaxed South of France vibes with a hint of glamour, but the LPM bar showcases an eclectic atmosphere, with award-winning bartenders serving world-class beverages. Already known internationally for their famous Tomatini, LPM has just launched an experiential global cocktail menu to celebrate the life of influential French artist, writer, and bon-vivant: Jean Cocteau. Designed by the LPM Global Bar Manager Tibor Krascsenics – it has been one year in development has launched just in time to bring a ray of light and storytelling back to the global cocktail scene.


Robertos Dubai terrace
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Founded in 2012, the award-winning homegrown brand has firmly cemented itself in the upper echelons of the Dubai dining scene for modern Italian dining in the city. Roberto’s is located in the heart of DIFC in the Gate Village district. The venue features a lounge, open kitchen, indoor and outdoor seating, with two separate terraces that offer Burj Khalifa and Downtown Dubai skyline views. Their menu features dishes like Tuna Tartare with Avocado and Wasabi Cream, classic Burrata, Slow Cooked Roasted Octopus in addition to pasta dishes such as Homemade Fettuccine with Canadian lobster and Green Asparagus and Portobello Mushroom Risotto with Shaved Black Truffle and much more.


Gaia Patio
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One of DIFC’s recent additions and top restaurants in the area, Gaia is a home-grown Greek Mediterranean restaurant helmed by Golden Visa awardee chef Izu Ani. Inspired by Greek culture and the rituals of mealtime, GAIA brings people together to share food, experiences and conversations. The cuisine pays tribute to the simplicity of Greek cooking, using high-quality ingredients that balance the palate. With a humble approach, each dish showcases the true essence of Greek-Mediterranean cuisine. Featured on the menu is the Greek Salad, Watermelon Salad with Feta or Zucchini Salad with mint and pistachio. Mezze plates include Baked Feta with honey and nuts, Tiropita, a cheese pie with truffle, Prawn Saganaki and Grilled Octopus. Diners are encouraged to try the Seabream Carpaccio, a signature dish served with a choice of lemon oil, orange and bergamot and truffle dressing, as well as the Tuna Carpaccio with Black Truffle.

A world of art

DIFC Art Week

As high-quality art can stimulate creativity and new perspectives, DIFC’s s. Be inspired as you browse the collection of art galleries that call DIFC home. From the world-renowned Christies to the unique Tabari Artspace, DIFC is home to several art galleries that showcase a diverse range of artwork from around the world.

Shanghai Me

Shanghai Me
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The epitome of art-deco elegance, Shanghai Me is located in Dubai’s International Financial Center. Transporting guests to 1930s, the city’s golden era, a prosperous and indulgent place, filled with glamour, personality and culture. The cuisine is inspired by the culinary traditions of East Asia, the precision and practice of delicate dishes that have taken centuries to perfect. Featured on the menu at Shanghai Me are a selection of aromatic soups, dim sum and salads, as well as more signature dishes like Chicken Cups, Wok Szechuan Beef with Seasonal Vegetables and Shanghai Me’s Baked Silver Cod with Pickled Ginger, and so much more. Make sure you leave room for their famous giant fortune cookie.

Galaxy Bar

Galaxy Bar
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One of DIFC’s Hidden Gems, Galaxy Bar is known for its intimate space. Stepping through the velvet curtain, guests are transported into the deep, dark blue universe. The sumptuous interior is a temple to Athenian culture, with many design tropes that allude to the Parthenon: the sculpted bar, the terrazzo floor and the stars on the ceiling that represent the Athens night sky. Even their cocktail menu is inspired by the wonders of the galaxy, showcasing 12 unique serves – each an ode to a celestial being or constellation. The venue is so unique, they even had a historic win at the World’s 50 Best Bars Awards.

Three Hotels

Four Seasons DIFC pool
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DIFC is home to three hotels. The Waldorf Astoria DIFC, which is part of the Burj Daman and is housed from the 18th floor up to the 55th floor of the tower. The hotel itself is inspired by the 1960s iconic architecture, specifically the lifestyle and mid-modern style of that decade. The Ritz Carlton DIFC, which is home to a lavish indoor and outdoor pool as well as great F&B options life the 1920s inspired Cafe Belge. And the Four Seasons DIFC, which is closely located to Gate Village and offers a special overground glass pool and the option to dine at Mina Brasserie, a high-end spot offering great international cuisine.