Hotel Review: Palazzo Versace Dubai, Dubai in United Arab Emirates
Dubai is like a playground for hoteliers; no structure is too tall, pool too deep or decoration too expensive or over the top – if there’s a will, and a large bank account behind the project, there’s a way.
The latest edition to Dubai’s hotel studded shoreline is Palazzo Versace. This is the international fashion house’s second hotel, the first opening 16 years ago on Australia’s Golden coast. Those past 16 years were wisely spent by Versace, carefully planning every tiny detail to ensure luxury, style and sophistication abound in their latest venture. To list but a few of the hotel’s highlight, Palazzo Versace has four restaurants, a jazz bar designed by Quincy Jones, three pools, a Versace shop and is home to the first Versace branded and run SPA.
As you may expect from the fashion house, entering Palazzo Versace is a sensory overload. Designed to recreate a 16th century Italian palazzo, Palazzo Versace’s lobby is magnificent, as indeed is the whole hotel. Hanging from the high ceiling is the Golden Breeze Lighting Sculpture – a 3000 kg chandelier made of hand-blown glass in Czech Republic; the shape is inspired by Versace’s floral patterns and is designed with undulating surfaces to appear as if moving in a soft breeze. Below this delicate sculpture is a vast mosaic of Versace’s iconic logo, the Medusa’s head. Despite these eye-catching pieces, interestingly, one of the first things you’ll notice when entering the lobby is, unusually, the smell (in a good way); the hotel manager had one of Versace’s signature fragrances specially adapted to be channelled through the vents and fill the hotel – you are literally breathing in Versace. Despite the unadulterated ostentation of the lobby, with huge amounts of detail and a rainbow of rich colours, it remains sophisticated and exemplary model of refined Italian grandeur.
A few steps white Carrera marble stairs, is a bar area overlooking the main pool and bay beyond. Here lies the grandest and most elaborate mosaic in the hotel: beneath plush, baroque-esque seats, all upholstered in Versace fabric and designed exclusively for the Palazzo, is a 1.5 million piece, handmade mosaic replicating one of Gianni Versace’s original designs for the illustrious fashion house. Each piece of the mosaic was hand cut from naturally coloured stone by the renowned Italian mosaic company Fantini: the same workshop that created many of the mosaics in Gianni’s homes, including all of those in his Miami residence.
At once, the hotel’s pay homage to Versace’s illustrious heritage and celebrate its future; the décor is a mix of Gianni Versace’s original designs, showcasing his more, if this word can be applied to Versace, understated vision, and Donatella’s flamboyant and grand aesthetics. The mix of Donatella and Gianni’s drawings that line the hallways of the hotel perfectly reflects this; plus, if ever you need outfit inspiration, simply step outside your bedroom and borrow one of Donatella’s dress designs for Rihanna or Kate Moss.
Once you found your muse, head down one of the two Versace stores on the ground floor of the hotel. One sells their fashion line – this may be the first time you find yourself hoping the airline looses you suitcase – and the other retails their home collection, so should you see anything in the hotel you want in your own home, this is the place to come.
The hotel is spacious inside and out, especially considering that so many hotels seem to be built on top of one another in Dubai. Each wing of the hotel has its own outdoor pool (three in total) and lounge area with elegant recliners and canopied day beds. Shaded walkways connect the three areas, passing through beautifully landscaped gardens which enjoy unobstructed views of the Dubai Creek and skyline.
The hotel has 215 rooms, 69 of which are suites, plus an extra 169 residences for sale in case you find it hard to leave. Like the public spaces of the hotel, the rooms are elegant and sophisticated with marble-panelled bathrooms, silk ben linens and views over the bay.
No opportunity was missed to put the Versace stamp on the bedrooms’ interiors: from Medusa heads on bath robes, to more subtle inclusions that you may initially miss, such as the Italian Carrera marble flooring in the bathroom (a reference to Versace’s Italian origin), and the Greek key-patterned cornices in the bedrooms which replicate the border of the Versace logo and symbolise eternity. Each piece of furniture was designed and tailor-made by the House of Versace exclusively for Palazzo Versace Dubai. The curtains are Versace, the carpets are styled to match the fabrics, every chair and bed-head is upholstered in a Versace fabric and the beds are covered in specially-designed linens inspired by the trompe l’oeil wall mouldings that once decorated the palazzos of Italy’s elite; in either turquoise, blue or salmon with gold details, they are exquisite, both to view and sleep under.
The rooms are impeccably designed, both aesthetically and practically – to say the design team paid attention to detail is an understatement. For instance, Donatella insisted on having exceptional vanity mirrors in every room; incredibly well backlit mirrors are found in each room, making them perfectly equipped for getting ready for a night in the hotel’s restaurants and bars.
Of the hotel’s four restaurants, two are Italian. The first is Amalfi, an outdoor, poolside eatery in the west wing of the hotel. The chefs here use traditional, rustic cooking techniques to prepare authentic Mediterranean dishes, including healthy salads and crispy thin Italian pizzas.
The second, Vanitas, is a more formal restaurant serving classic Italian fare made with specially sourced ingredients; the fish here is delicious and a must during your visit. Like in the rest of the hotel, no cost has been spared to decorate the space and no opportunity missed to include the Versace logo. Versace collaborated with Rosenthal to create exceptional porcelain ware that is both elegant and undeniably Versace; a gold Medusa head stares boldly from the centre of the stylish blue and white platters. This room is perhaps the most successful at recreating an Italian palazzo; delicate trompe l’oeil motifs adorn the ceiling and walls, and a hand-painted fresco depicting a rural idyll painted by the Enrico Frangi Company from Milan, covers the entire far wall.
Should you want a break from the Italian culture, Giardino offers a variety of cuisines from around the world; have sushi for starters, masala for mains and profiteroles for pudding. While dining on foreign fare, be sure to check out the waiters’ and waitresses’ uniforms that were inspired by Jennifer Lopez’s Versace ‘jungle’ dress for the Grammy’s. Finally, there’s Enigma which, to use one of fashion’s favourite words, is ephemeral; every three months, a different Michelin-starred chef takes charge of the kitchens and creates an entirely new menu and dining experience.
The hotel also has four bars, the best of which is Q’s. Q’s is music legend Quincy Jones’ first ever bar, it serves a selection of cocktails with wonderfully witty names in an intimate, seductive setting that plays host to an ever-changing schedule of musicians featuring next generation stars, all chosen by Quincy himself.
Last but not least, there is the spa. I would happily take the seven-hour flight from London to Dubai, solely to come to Palazzo Versace’s spa; it’s a beautiful space and the staff are exceptionally friendly, helpful and most importantly expertly trained. This is the first spa designed and operated by the fashion house, and hopefully the first of many.
Located on the ground floor, the spa features dedicated male and female thermal suites each containing a spa pool, sauna, steam room, relaxation lounge, spacious changing facilities and a luxury Moroccan hammam sanctuary. There are seven luxurious treatment rooms and one exquisite spa suite complete with its own private Jacuzzi and monsoon rain shower. While following the same general aesthetic of the rest of the hotel, the spa’s interiors are more refined and subtle to create a relaxing and calming space with dark lighting, simple black Italian marble floors and elegantly understated, cream panelled walls in the changing area.
Their treatment list is long and varied; from spa-staples like facials, massages and manicures to specialised wraps, reflexology and hammam therapies, of which there are four to choose from.
The Palazzo is, or will be when the area is finished, in the centre of Dubai’s Culture Village on Dubai Creek. A major perk of this location for travellers is that it is less than a 20-minute drive from the airport, so you can get from passport control to pool in less than 30 minutes.
Although it is one of the oldest quarters of Dubai, it is one of the last areas to be developed. Versace is one of the first buildings, let alone hotels, to be built in the area, so has a vast amount of space in comparison to many other hotels in the city. Within a year or two the Culture Village will house the Mohammed Bin Rashid Library and the Dubai Museum of Middle East Modern Art (MOMEMA), as well as numerous other smaller galleries, restaurants and bars. It will be a vibrant area and at the heart of it will be Palazzo Versace Dubai.
Address: Area – Dubai – United Arab Emirates
Phone: +971 4 556 8888