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Review: Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre

After staying at The Ritz-Carlton, DIFC for one night, it was time to hop across the street to the second hotel of my trip to Dubai: the Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre.

I was excited for this stay because of a few reasons: not only had several friends recommended this hotel to me, but this would also be my first-ever stay at a Waldorf Astoria, which is the most luxurious brand under Hilton Honors.

As a Hilton Diamond member thanks to my Amex US Hilton Aspire Card, I was also looking forward to getting some more mileage out of this top-tier status level, and a gorgeous new Waldorf Astoria property (having opened only in mid-2019) seemed like the ideal place for that.

In This Post

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Booking

At first, I had only planned to stay at the Waldorf Astoria DIFC for a single night. I had the choice of booking this one-night stay for either around 800 AED ($280) or 52,000 Hilton Honors points.

On paper, based on the Prince of Travel valuation of Hilton Honors points at 0.7 cents per point (cpp) (CAD) or 0.5cpp (USD), it would’ve been optimal to pay cash for this stay.

However, as I mentioned in my video on “Should You Redeem Points or Pay Cash for Travel?”, I happen to be swimming in a large balance of Hilton Honors points thanks to the signup and referral bonuses on the Amex US Hilton cards, and I didn’t really have much of a definite plan for redeeming this large balance of points.

Since the points would just be sitting there indefinitely anyway, and since spending time Dubai can get very expensive very quickly, I decided to save some cash and redeem points for this stay instead.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Exterior

But the story doesn’t end there. My friend Tiezheng from Vicarious Voyager was supposed to arrive in Dubai the following day, and we had booked two rooms over at the Sheraton Dubai Creek.

It turns out his itinerary got delayed by a day, and I happened to be enjoying the Waldorf Astoria so much after my first night, that I decided to push back the Sheraton reservation and extend my stay here at the Waldorf by another night.

This time, I redeemed another 52,000 Hilton Honors points for the night, and the hotel was more than happy to let me keep the King Premier Suite I had been upgraded to as a Diamond member. (I ended up paying for a further upgrade on the second night, but we’ll get to that later.)

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Location & Arrival

The Waldorf Astoria is located at the eastern edge of the DIFC office and retail complex, occupying the 18th to 55th floors of the Burj Daman, a large skyscraper that also includes residential and commercial units.

The Dubai Mall and the Burj Khalifa are just a few minutes away by car, with Dubai International Airport about a 20-minute ride away.

From my previous home over at The Ritz-Carlton, I simply exited through to DIFC’s pedestrianized pavilion, took an escalator down one level through the shopping mall, and crossed the road to find myself at the Waldorf Astoria.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Exterior
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Entrance

Upon entering the building, you proceed down a long hallway before arriving at the first set of elevators, which will bring you up to the hotel’s lobby on the 18th floor.

The decor here in the lobby hallway already gives you a sense of what this hotel is all about: sleek, understated luxury with mid-century design elements galore.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Ground floor
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Ground floor

As soon as I stepped inside, I also took note of a brand-new high-end hotel scent – JW Marriott, St. Regis, Ritz-Carlton, and W hotels all have their signature scents, and now I was familiarizing myself with the Waldorf Astoria aroma for the very first time.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Elevators to lobby

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Check-in

Up to the 18th floor, and as soon as you turn left from the elevator bank, you’re greeted by a sight that will become commonplace throughout your stay: floor-to-ceiling windows with the Burj Khalifa towering outside.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – 18th floor lobby
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – 18th floor lobby

Approaching the check-in desks (which were fitted with glass panels), I handed the staff member my documents and confirmed that I’d be staying at the hotel for one night under my initial reservation.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Front desks

As a Hilton Diamond member, I had been proactively upgraded into a King Premier Suite, which I got the impression was the hotel’s standard suite upgrade for Diamond members.

(My previous requests for a further upgrade into the King Corner Suite, one category above the King Premier Suite, had not come to fruition.)

I was also informed that my breakfast would be complimentary in the Bull & Bear restaurant; however, Waldorf Astoria hotels usually do not offer a Club Lounge, and so as a Diamond member I was entitled to a 20% discount on dining and spa treatments at the hotel instead (excluding in-room dining).

With that, I took my keys to Room 3311 and headed to the second elevator bank, which provides access to the guest rooms on Floors 18 through 55.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Elevators to guest rooms

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite

Looking at the guest room hallways, I already knew that I was going to really enjoy this hotel: the emphasis on brass, bronze, and marble materials was very much to my liking.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Hallway

Entering the King Premier Suite, my first impression was that it’s much more reminiscent of a luxury apartment than a traditional hotel suite. The foyer is a very cozy space, offering a full-length mirror with a half-table and a walkway to the living room straight ahead.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite foyer

The living room consists of a few comfortable couches and a few chairs, all surrounding a beautiful marble coffee table and facing a wall-mounted television.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite living room
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite living room

Over on the far side of the room was a large wooden desk. At first glance, this seemed to me like it would be an extremely inspiring spot to work from, but it turned out to be a bit challenging to work here during the daytime because of the glare from the window immediately behind the desk. Perhaps the only real design flaw in the whole of the King Premier Suite.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite desk

Perched in the corner was the pantry and minibar, complete with a Nespresso machine. 

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite pantry
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite pantry

The suite offered some killer views of the Burj Khalifa, which made for an incredible sight as I sipped my morning coffee here by the window.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite views

As expected in a newly-opened hotel, the lighting and curtains were controlled through an electronic touch-panel. Meanwhile, universal power outlets were found by the desks, but not by the bedside tables, which was a little frustrating – although at least the bedside tables had USB charging ports.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite electronic controls

Heading back into the heart of the suite, we arrive at a short hallway leading to the powder room and the master bedroom. You don’t typically find hallways like these in most hotel suites, which are much more open-concept by nature, so once again I felt like I was staying in a luxury condo unit instead.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite walkway
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite powder room

The bedroom consisted of a luscious king-sized bed, a second television, an armchair, and a smaller desk, as if to address the inconveniently-placed desk in the living room.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite bedroom
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite bedroom

Then, through the walk-in closet area…

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite walk-in closet

…we arrive at the stunning bathroom, which is a real marvel to behold.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite bathroom
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite double sinks

A luxurious marble bathroom is a hallmark of any high-end hotel. The Waldorf Astoria DIFC clearly recognizes this and does not hold back in this regard, incorporating gorgeous slabs of white marble into each of the sinks, shower, bathtub, and toilet chamber.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite bathtub
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite shower
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite toilet

Overall, I must say that the guest room decor here at the Waldorf Astoria DIFC simply took my breath away like few other hotels have done in the past.

With mid-century style and architecture in mind, the interior designer’s command of mirrored surfaces, bronze accents, and marble finishes was simply perfect.

I’m tempted to say that the decor was ideally suited to my taste, but it would be more accurate to say that it expanded my taste with a unique combination of design elements that I hadn’t come across before.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Premier Suite bedroom

I’ve stated previously that the Westin Perth’s Executive Suite looked exactly like my dream apartment; well, the King Premier Suite here at the Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre has raised that bar, and I definitely plan to return for another stay within its cozy walls sooner rather than later.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite

With such positive impressions from the King Premier Suite, I was naturally very curious as to what the hotel’s larger and more expensive King Corner Suite would look like. After extending my stay for a second night, I decided to pay the upgrade fee of 500 AED ($175) to experience the King Corner Suite.

I’m not usually one to pay for an upgrade, as I generally prefer to “suite-talk” my way to nice complimentary upgrades on account of my hotel elite status instead.

But I was so genuinely impressed by the Waldorf Astoria DIFC so far, that the $175 upgrade felt pretty reasonable to me – and even better, I was able to move into the suite at 1pm and secured a 6pm late checkout the following day, meaning I’d have nearly 30 hours of time to spend in the King Corner Suite.

(Plus, it was certainly easier to justify the paid upgrade having redeemed points for the free nights initially!)

Compared to the King Premier Suite, the King Corner Suite is laid out much more in the mould of a regular hotel suite, with a large open-air living room and a bedroom adjacent to it.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite foyer

The foyer consists of the half-bath and a small table, before opening up to the extremely spacious living room. This was definitely one of those suites where I had far more room than I knew what to do with, especially on a solo trip.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite living room

One of my favourite parts of the King Corner Suite was the little library nook near the front of the living room. Once again, the hotel’s unique contemporary look was on full display – I just loved the ebony and bronze rods that were peppered throughout so many of the interior pieces.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite library nook

The living room is a striking space, consisting of an extended couch and a chaise longue, as well as a bold bronze-and-marble coffee table. Almost every time I looked closely at one of the furniture items, I couldn’t help but whisper under my breath, “I need this in my home…”

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite living room
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite chaise longue
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite living room

Through a set of double sliding doors, we arrive at the bedroom, which is similarly luxurious in terms of the square footage. Instead of a large stately wooden desk, the King Corner Suite offers a more chic mint-green style, which I still nevertheless enjoyed working from.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite bedroom
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite desk

Opposite the desk is a small couch, with the king bed and its surrounding pieces occupying the rest of the bedroom.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite couch
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite bed

(I mean, would you just look at that pulley-and-ball-bearing light fixture…)

The far side of the bedroom provides access to another beautiful bathroom, this time arranged symmetrically (with his-and-hers marble sinks) around a central soup bowl-style bathtub. 

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite bathroom
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite sinks
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite shower

Needless to say, I carved out some time to take a few long and warm baths in here.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite bathtub

The King Corner Suite offered views of the Burj Khalifa as well, although I had to crane my neck a little more since it was further along the far side of the building. As I understand it, there are some King Corner Suites directly facing the Burj on the opposite corner, and those suites would truly have the best views of the world’s tallest building.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – King Corner Suite views

While I was delighted to maximize my time in the King Corner Suite with a 6pm late checkout, I ultimately felt a little indifferent as to whether the $175 upgrade was worthwhile.

Yes, the King Corner Suite is larger and grander, but I also think there was something to be said for the coziness of the apartment-style King Premier Suite, too (which is the suite you should expect to be upgraded to as a Hilton Diamond member).

Next time, I’d like to stay for longer here at the Waldorf Astoria DIFC, and I think I’d be happy sticking with the King Premier Suite – although I wouldn’t rule out another one-night upgrade to indulge in the King Corner Suite either.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Breakfast

The Waldorf Astoria DIFC’s signature restaurant is known as Bull & Bear, paying homage to the property’s location in one of Dubai’s key financial hubs. I enjoyed breakfast here on both mornings.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Bull & Bear

Bull & Bear takes the glossy and shiny decor elements of the hotel and turns it up a few notches, as exemplified by the life-sized bronze sculpture of a bear fighting a bull in the centre of the restaurant.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Bull & Bear

Even before your first bite at breakfast, you’re already in a great mood, because the views are simply incredible. I mean, how’s this for a breakfast view?

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Breakfast views

As of November 2020, breakfast at the Waldorf Astoria DIFC is served à la carte, and Diamond members have a rather peculiar allowance: anything under “On the Table”, “In the Bowl”, and “Choose Your Eggs” is complimentary, but the rest of the breakfast dishes must be paid for separately.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Breakfast menu

Essentially, Diamond members get a free breakfast, but it only includes pastries, eggs, fruits, and either yogurt or muesli. Better than nothing, for sure, but it felt a little bit stingy compared to some of the carte-blanche breakfast benefits that other high-end hotel brands are offering these days.

Over the course of two mornings, I tried out the shakshouka and the Eggs Benedict, as well as both “In the Bowl” dishes.

Alas, I was nursing a pretty bad sore throat during this time, so my enjoyment of the dishes was limited, but I thought the egg dishes were pretty good, whereas the yogurt and muesli weren’t the best.

I also ordered the prawn gyoza as a separate item on the second morning, which I billed to my room for an extra 45 AED ($16) on the side.

However, when I was settling up the final bill upon checkout, the front desk associate said “Oh I’m so sorry, the breakfast should be complimentary for you as a Diamond member”, and I simply nodded in agreement. 😉

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Other Facilities

The Waldorf Astoria DIFC is a compact hotel, with most of its core facilities concentrated on the 18th-floor lobby level.

Walking past the front desks, you’ll arrive at Peacock Alley, the hotel’s classic bar and lounge – and what I would later learn to be an omnipresent feature in all Waldorf Astoria hotels around the world, a nod back to the brand’s roots The Waldorf and The Astoria hotels in New York City. 

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Hallway
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Peacock Alley

In keeping with the rest of the hotel, the Peacock Alley lounge is a visual masterpiece, and I continued to be mightily impressed by the wide range of stunning mid-century modern furniture on display.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Peacock Alley
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Peacock Alley cafe

At the far end of the space is a private cigar lounge, where you can retreat for a smoke or simply have a quiet moment to yourself in your posh surroundings.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Cigar lounge
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Cigar lounge

The fitness, spa, and pool facilities are also found here on the 18th floor. The Waldorf Astoria spa is located right next to the guest room elevators, offering a wide range of treatments including a hammam and flotation tank.

Spa treatments are 20% off for Hilton Diamond members, although I didn’t partake.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Waldorf Astoria spa

Instead, I hit up the fitness centre for a much-needed workout, given that all the gyms at home had been closed for a few months.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Fitness centre
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Fitness centre

Unfortunately, I found the hotel’s gym a little disappointing, as there really wasn’t a lot of space nor a lot of equipment. What’s more, the views weren’t great either, as this side of the building simply faces another skyscraper instead of the awe-inspiring views of the Burj Khalifa.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Fitness centre

After my gym visit, I decided to unwind by the outdoor pool for a while. I’d also describe the pool as just okay, rather than outstanding – my major complaint being a series of overhead girders that made it tough to get some proper sun.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Outdoor pool
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Outdoor pool

Other than that, the pool itself was large enough for swimming a few laps, and had a nice infinity’s edge that faced the St. Trop pool bar.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – St. Trop bar

There was also a heated jacuzzi tub, which was definitely too hot to use during the daytime, but seemed like it would be a fun place to gather during the evening hours.

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Hot tub
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Poolside seating

Finally, the ground floor of the Waldorf’s building also plays host to a few key amenities, such as a supermarket, a casual cafe, and a barber shop. Indeed, I went for a haircut during my stay here, and also picked up some essentials from the supermarket and some lunch at the cafe. 

Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Ground floor supermarket
Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre – Ground floor cafe

Conclusion

The Waldorf Astoria Dubai International Financial Centre was hands-down the best city hotel I’ve stayed at over the past year, and it’s certainly up there with my all-time favourite city hotels. 

This is of course a subjective opinion, but I don’t think I’ve ever been quite so entranced by the style of a hotel – whether it was the cozy spaces of the King Premier Suite, the expansive King Corner Suite, or the gorgeously appointed public areas, the visual identity was simply on-point in every way. 

Such was my enchantment with the hotel’s suites that I’m very much willing to overlook the weaker aspects – such as the smaller fitness facilities or the fact that the elite breakfast benefit is less generous than the hotel’s peers – in my glowing assessment of this stay.

What’s more, I also think the hotel’s price point represents very good value. Nightly rates typically fall in the region of $250–300 or 50,000–60,000 Hilton Honors points – not exactly cheap by Dubai standards, but quite attractive in exchange for the excellent experience you’re getting, and especially when compared to other luxury hotels in the city. 

Whether you pay cash, redeem points, or use your Hilton Honors free night certificates, I’d say that you’re getting a great deal here at the Waldorf Astoria DIFC, and I’d highly recommend giving it a try on your next visit.

For me, it’s definitely my go-to hotel in Dubai, and I’m already looking forward to the next time I’m lucky enough to settle into one of the King Premier Suites. 

Ricky

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