Dubai’s reputation as a glossy city of superlatives and luxury often precedes it, but, while some of this is true, the city is also home to a thriving and growing creative and cultural scene. At the heart of this revolution is a community of artists, creators and entrepreneurs from across the globe working to transform this image and establish Dubai as a cultural hotspot. At the heart of this revolution is Alserkal Avenue, located in the city’s slightly gritty and intriguing Al Quoz neighbourhood. What was once an industrial area is now a maze of 40 warehouses hiding art galleries and artists in residences, artisanal cafes and coffee shops, artisan studios, wellness clinics, dance studios, chic workout spaces and creative incubators. Wandering the dusty lanes and dipping into the array of delightful and surprising studios is a fantastic way to spend a morning or afternoon, and weekends seeing Dubaians and travellers head to the lanes for trendy workouts and exhibitions and to enjoy charcoal cappuccinos and workshops. Read on for the complete guide to the best things to do, eat, see and shop in Alserkal Avenue.
What to do in Alserkal Avenue
Explore its calendar of events
Alserkal Avenue has a packed calendar of exhibitions, workshops, performances, tours and screenings, along with pop-ups from local and international artisans and activations like Alserkal Art Week. Summer 2023 is all about art and its many forms, and on at the Avenue is ‘Follower’ an exhibition of site-specific works by artists close to the Avenue and the region. Stranger Fruit is another event currently on at the Avenue, detailing living through the recent unrest in Iran and its aftermath and effect on society. The work of Iranian artist Dorsa Asadi, it features thought-provoking creations, which are housed at the Green Art Gallery. Other exhibitions on throughout the summer include Fragile, Handle with Care by Giampiero Romanò – devoted to antique frames and mirrors – and ‘A Country Without a Door or Windows’ – a series of 200 miniature drawings displayed inside pocket matchboxes by Bady Dalloul.
Enjoy an arthouse experience at Cinema Akil
As the GCC’s first arthouse cinema, Cinema Akil is a legendary institution, pioneering cinema across the UAE and bringing critically-acclaimed, lesser-known arthouse films from around the world to the region. After years of hosting pop-ups across the UAE, the cinema opened a permanent site in Alserkal Avenue in 2018, and has since grown into not only a cinema, but a cult cultural destination in itself. Through film, Emirati-Bahraini founder Butheina Kazim’s mission is to promote education and awareness of the cinematic arts. The cinema is also home to one of the best chai spots in Dubai, Project Chaiwalla. Co-founded by her brother Ahmed Kazim, the all-day diner serves karak and street food inspired by the streets of Delhi and Bur Dubai.
Warehouse 68, cinemaakil.com, @cinemaakil
Find a cool co-working space
Alserkal Avenue naturally lends itself to co-working as a hub for entrepreneurship and creativity and home to plenty of artsy spaces, common areas, coffee shops and even an Alserkal Arts Foundation Common Room. The Avenue even runs a co-working initiative, and its lanes are equipped with wi-fi. The co-working spaces at the Avenue include A4 Space WH 4, Common Room in WH 51, Kave in WH 20, Pekoe Tea & Bread Bar in WH 59 Techarc and WH 25.
Where to eat in Alserkal Avenue
Nightjar has been drawing those passionate about their coffee to Alserkal Avenue since it opened, thanks to an in-house roastery and their commitment to long-term relationships with the farms from which they source their coffee beans. Part roastery, part eatery, part party hangout, this trendy hipster-like cafe delivers more than just a delicious cup of coffee – but also an extensive menu of all-day breakfasts, salads and light plates described as ‘food inspired by Al Quoz’. Must-tries include the fluffy ricotta pancake stack, Comte cheese toastie, scrambled eggs on paratha, avo sourdough toast and juicy pulled ox cheek Benedict. Wash it all down with a cup of cold-brew or nitro coffee on tap, ‘freaky geeky’ mocktail or pour over.
Warehouse G62, nightjar.coffee, @nightjar.coffee
Entering the experimental dining venue Le Guépard in Alserkal Avenue feels like falling down the rabbit hole into Alice’s Wonderland. While the design-focused new eatery is set to be known for its modern international cuisine, it’s also the perfect spot to stop for a stylish coffee. Located at the front of the warehouse venue is a reservations-only coffee shop with gleaming flooring, panelled walls, palms and plush colourful seating.
Wild and the Moon
100% organic, homemade and gluten-free, Wild and the Moon is a favourite with the urban wellness crowd and a popular spot post to head post-workout. The European cafe – an import from Paris – is bursting with European charm and has stripped-back minimalist decor, a warehouse chic aesthetic and plenty of hanging plants, creating a little oasis within the dusty lanes of Alserkal Avenue. The menu features cold-pressed juices, smoothies, salads, superfood bowls, soups, nut milks and desserts.
Street 8, H-77, wildandthemoon.ae, @wildandthemoon
Pekoe tea & bread bar
Perfect for a quick pit-stop between shopping and dipping into galleries, Pekoe tea and bread bar is a charming hole-in-the-wall teahouse and small-batch Asian bakery. There’s indoor and outdoor seating, and the interiors are Scandi minimalist chic with many earthy wood touches. There’s a full breakfast menu of items like egg dishes, acai and smoothie bowls and pancakes with innovative toppings, alongside all-day artisan pastries. The brand’s bread and butter, however, is its artisan teas and ceremonial-grade matcha, which are available in-store in innovative blends or to purchase and take home.
Unit 59, mypekoe.com, @mypekoe
Kaykroo – Palestinian Bakery and Susuru
Kaykroo is a UAE-based innovative food-tech start-up leading the region’s cloud kitchen network. Launched in September 2020, the brand now has 25 cloud kitchens and brand residences across the UAE and Saudi Arabia, with brands including Manoushe Street, The Palestinian Bakery, Susuru, Society Pizza, OBG Burger, Good Day, Mashrou’ Shawarma, The Good Bowl, and more. Visitors to Alskeral can sample delights from the Palestinian Bakery and Japanese Susuru at two food kiosks on the site.
Where to shop in Alserkal Avenue
The Edit is a concept store and lifestyle space focusing on sustainable fashion, beauty and design. Along with selling cool and creative wares, it has a cafe and gallery space which hosts events and pop-ups.
The Odd Piece
The Odd Piece is one of Dubai’s most unique and creative homeware shops, and a treasure trove for acolytes and design lovers alike. Founded by Arwa Hafiz – an advocate for Middle Eastern art and design – the warehouse space sells everything from restored antique pieces, furniture and colourful crockery to more madcap items like ceramic life-size tigers. Hafiz and The Odd Piece team source vintage pieces from across the world, notable in souks, antique stores and exhibitions in France, Italy, Turkey, Morocco, and South Africa.
Found online and in Dubai’s Alserkal Avenue, thegoodlife is a haven for sneaker lovers and collectors, stocking a highly curated edit of saught-after sneakers from the world’s top brands. The studio also works to educate and promote a passion for footwear.
Indian leather master Nappa Dori is one of the leading producers of high-quality accessories and luggage. Blending contemporary design and materials with heritage craftsmanship, Nappa Dori pieces are described as eclectic modern icons, with the brand firmly rooted in Indian origins and crafting timeless pieces like accessories and luggage.
The Jewel Teller
The Jewel Taller takes fine jewellery craftsmanship to the next level, with hand-illustrated techniques, wax model making, CAD and 3D printing, gem cutting, engraving and stone setting. The studio and gallery invites guests to not only shop its in-house fine jewellery collections but to tour the atelier and see how its sparkling designs come to life.
Inspired by European cities like Paris and Rome and perfected in Dubai, Âme brings flowers, fashion, art and design from around the world to the lanes of Al Quoz. The light and airy warehouse studio is filled with the fragrance of fresh flowers and offers flower-arranging classes, private consultations, unique bouquet dressing and gift wrapping. Enjoy a coffee as you design your own dream bouquet, or book onto one of the workshops or short courses run in collaboration with local designers, stylists and artists.
Wellness at Alserkal Avenue
Inspired by the cult movement of Soul Cycle in the USA, Crank is the UAE’s premium spinning studio. At its Alserkal Avenue outpost, the brand has crafted a fitness community and runs indoor cycling and boot camp/strength training classes.
Founded by Czech yoga teacher and entrepreneur, Shimis Yoga is a unique and contemporary yoga concept. The stylish studio offers dynamic Vinyasa flow classes in dark heated rooms, encouraging calorie burn and energising guests with endorphin-pumping music and neon lights. Other classes include Hatha, Vinyasa, Yin, Jivamukti and Pre/Postnatal yoga, and the studio boasts a bright and airy wellness cafe and boutique selling Alo Yoga gear and other accessories.
DNA Health & Wellness
DNA Health & Wellness focuses on prevention, optimisation, longevity and rejuvenation. The wellness studio brings vitamin IV therapy, acupuncture, food testing and nutrition programmes to the Avenue, along with offering annual comprehensive health screenings and curating bespoke weight loss programmes for clients. In addition, the studio operates a ‘Chi Room’, where visitors can explore Sound Healing, Meditation, Breathwork and escape from the demands of everyday life while embracing holistic healing.
Joint Space brings physical therapy and movement to Alserkal Avenue with an experience that comprises science-based physical treatments and medicine, movement practices and movement coaching, educational workshops, seminars and talks. The movement space and clinic offers osteopathy, Physiotherapy, and movement coaching and has an on-site chiropractor.