Hotel Insider: Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown – review of Dubai's first certified boutique hotel

The art-centric hotel depicts Dubai's heritage through a new lens and offers an authentic welcome to everyone, pets included

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Having opened in October 2020, Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown has since been named the first boutique hotel in the UAE.

The Dubai Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing awarded the hotel its boutique classification in February, recognising the unique character, stylish design and personalised service on offer.

The National checked-in to see what all the fuss was about.

The welcome

Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is an art-led place to stay in Dubai. Courtesy IHG Hotels & Resorts

Located directly off Marasi Drive, Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is a cleverly designed refuge in the heart of busy Business Bay. Look up before you enter the lobby to see a beautifully-curated piece of Arabian art that sets the scene for what is an art-led stay. Inside, a huge piece of multimedia art by Turkish-born, Los Angeles artist Refik Anadol takes centre stage, its fluid visuals representing a never-seen-before depiction of the city's elements. The striking artwork is only slightly overshadowed by the staff's super friendly welcome.

The neighbourhood

The hotel's Downtown Dubai location has both pros and cons, the main drawback being that it is located directly on one of Dubai's busiest overpasses – and cars come hurtling across the bridge well above the recommended speed limit. This makes venturing out of the hotel on foot slightly peril-filled. That said, once you make it on to the surrounding sandy lot, you're just a 10-minute walk from The Dubai Mall and Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Boulevard in one direction, and a two-minute walk to the Dubai Canal in the other.

The safety measures

Each of the hotel's floors is dedicated to a local solo artist. Courtesy IHG Hotels & Resorts

Having opened in the middle of the global pandemic, Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown was able to prioritise safety measures across the property. It employs the IHG Clean Promise which is a partnership with Cleveland Clinic and includes several sanitising stations, deep-cleaning with hospital grade disinfectants and social distancing signage. I don't feel unsafe at any point during our stay – restaurant tables are spaced well apart, and the lobby and hotel corridors are wide enough to be able to give a wide berth to passers-by.

The room

A junior suite at Hotel Indigo Dubai Donwtown cements a sense of location fused with a modern twist. Courtesy IHG Hotels & Resorts

This art-focused hotel is beautifully designed and the rooms exemplify this. Inspired by curiosity, drawers and dressers look like old travelling trunks, there's a nod to venturing to new places via shipping references printed on the walls and the vibrant colours of the rugs, soft furnishings and accessories are reminiscent of far-off lands.

A locally designed surrealist mural spans the wall behind the bed and makes for a fantastical talking point, and I can't help coveting the gorgeous mashrabiya-style wardrobes. There's plenty of space including a separate workstation and designer armchair for making the most of the view of the Dubai Canal from the floor to ceiling windows. The spa-like bathrooms have their own luxury vibe and you could easily spend hours inside the mother-of-pearl shower.

The service

Staff are in-the-know with the concierge explaining more about the hotel's art initiatives – which include collaborations with local organisations, the Alserkal Cultural Foundation and the Fatima Bint Mohamed Bin Zayed Initiative. Everyone is happy to engage, and the housekeeping staff come and go without intrusion. There's also a sense of camaraderie between the staff who genuinely seem happy to be there. This is even more impressive given that when we visited, the hotel had only been open for a few weeks.

The scene

Hanging pods at the 25-metre infinity pool. Courtesy IHG Hotels & Resorts

One of Dubai's newest downtown spots, the 269-room hotel attracts the city's cool crowd who flock to it for its edgy design, amazing views and excellent coffee by way of home-grown roastery, Cafe Rider.

It's also popular with pet owners as it's one of only a handful of hotels in the city where dogs are welcome to sleep over.

Instagram fans flock to the 25-metre infinity pool for its enviable views of the Dubai Frame and its poolside pod-style swings. The fitness suite and yoga studio are open 24 hours and the lobby has plenty of spots for working, mingling or simply absorbing the ambience.

Hotel Indigo properties are designed to be "neighbourhood" hotels and this outpost in Dubai certainly manages to capture this ethos with stories of Emirati culture and heritage interwoven throughout the hotel, such as each floor acting as a solo exhibit for a local artist.

The food

There are three spots to dine at. Orange Feels Bar & Shisha Lounge is the poolside option that serves a fitting-range of refreshments alongside healthy bites and sharing meze dishes. Off The Wall is a cocktail bar that also serves Pan-Asian small bites; it is decorated with graffiti art works and industrial interiors.

Open Sesame is the hotel’s main restaurant and where we opted to eat. The menu is Mediterranean-influenced with a focus on local ingredients.

Colourful tiles adorn the entrance of Open Sesame. Courtesy IHG Hotels & Resorts

We started with the baby marrow tzatziki with charred zucchini (Dh38) and the fresh tomato and feta (Dh42) topped with jalapenos for an added kick. For mains, our first pick of Persian marinated lamb chops were unavailable, so we opted for the grilled rib eye (Dh120) instead, which quelled any initial disappointment. We also had the meaty chargrilled tiger prawns (Dh138). For dessert, the chef recommended the vegan chocolate cake (Dh50) – even for non-vegan guests. It's a moreish mousse-like platter served with wild berries that dispels any dessert-related guilt given that it's plant-based. Bakala Jooos wasn't quite ready during our visit but is part juice-bar, part bookstore and part art hub with pieces from the Alserkal Cultural Foundation for sale and on display.

Highs and lows

Bakala Jooos is part juice bar, part book store and part art hub. Courtesy IHG Hotels & Resorts

Entirely unassuming from the outside, the inside of this hotel is a delight. Fusing tradition and modernity with hyper-local influences such as Satwa's cultural melting pot, the Dubai Creek's decades-old yarns and the emirate's pearl diving past, the hotel captures a side of the city in a way that it hasn't been showcased before. The only downside is the slightly unfinished surrounding area – which isn't ideal if you're staying with your dog and need to take them for a walk.

The insider tip

The fact that the hotel is genuinely dog-friendly is a highlight. 

Bring your dog along. Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown is one of the best pet-friendly hotels we’ve visited in the UAE with each pooch being provided with a comfy dog bed, their own dog toys and access to almost all levels of the hotel including the Orange Feels Bar & Lounge and the terrace at Open Sesame.

The verdict

It’s easy to see why this abode has been named Dubai's first boutique hotel. In a way quite like no other property in the city, Hotel Indigo Dubai Downtown manages to simultaneously cement a sense of location while fuelling guests’ imagination for future travel. Staff go out of their way to engage with guests and the fact that it is dog friendly is the icing on the cake.

The bottom line

Room only rates at Hotel Indigo start from Dh231 ($63), excluding taxes. There's a flexible booking policy with free cancellation until 6pm the day before arrival. Standard check-in is from 3pm and checkout is at noon. Hotel Indigo Downtown Dubai, Marasi Drive, Business Bay, Dubai;

This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time. Services may change in the future.