Community Guide: DIFC
Dubai International Financial Centre, also known as DIFC, is a major part of Dubai’s central business district, a vast area that includes corporate offices along the main highway of Sheikh Zayed Road, the Emirates Office Tower, part of Downtown Dubai and the Dubai World Trade Centre, which was previously the city’s financial nerve centre. DIFC is also an integral part of the newly announced Dubai Future District, which will become a focal point of innovation and economic development.
DIFC was envisioned to be the financial capital of Dubai and is one of the key financial centres of the Middle East region. Its commercial offering includes offices as well as coworking spaces, providing flexible options for firms of any size. Banking institutions, wealth management firms, fintech firms and real estate brokerages are the main commercial occupants of the district, along with retail and dining outlets.
DIFC operates under its own legal and regulatory system, overseen by the DIFC Authority and DIFC Courts. It is a preferred place of business for international financial institutions for this reason, as all of their legal and broader administrative affairs can be managed through one central governing body.
Living in DIFC
For those who want to live close to the workplace and want to be in the heart of Dubai’s busy commercial centre, DIFC is a fantastic choice. It offers high-quality and well-designed apartments in DIFC with every major amenity you need at your doorstep or at most, a five-minute drive away. They are very well-priced property investments, offering a comfortable amount of space (a three-bedroom would be anywhere from 2,000 to upward of 3,500 sq ft) and some of the city’s highest rental yields.
These are some of the key residential options in the district.
Central Park Towers
Sitting on the western edge of DIFC and quite close to the neighbouring Downtown district, Central Park Towers consists of a 45-storey Office Tower and a 47-storey Residential Tower. It is ideal for the busy professional, with a range of studios and one to three-bedroom apartments. There are also a select number of duplex, triplex and penthouse units available. A multi-level podium between the tower contains shops and restaurants, including a Spinneys supermarket for all your shopping essentials.
One of the tallest skyscrapers in DIFC at 80 storeys and a height of 328 meters, Index Tower features offices on its lower levels with apartments starting at the 31st floor onwards. The top seven floors of the tower are taken up by duplex and triplex penthouses, which are among the most exclusive units in the city. Index Tower has been awarded ‘Best Tall Building in the Middle East & Africa’ and is very cleverly designed so that its apartments are shaded from direct sunlight and are energy-efficient. The lobby design also incorporates open spaces and a water feature to create a cool, well-ventilated atmosphere from the moment you walk in.
This is a stunning mixed-use complex with a roughly F-shaped footprint comprising a residential and office tower, a hotel and a glass-walled podium housing restaurants and shops. The tallest of the towers is 65 storeys high and as Burj Daman is located at the far end of DIFC, it enjoys a panoramic view that encompasses the entire district and the stunning Dubai skyline.
Officially known as the Al Rostamani Maze Tower, this building is located on the outskirts of DIFC and alongside the bustling Sheikh Zayed Road. It is split between 25 office floors and 24 residential floors that comprise one and two-bedroom apartments plus duplexes and penthouses near the top. What truly makes Maze Tower stand out is the feature for which it is named - two immense vertical mazes etched into the front and the rear facades of the tower. Each of the mazes is distinct and was designed by renowned puzzle designer Adrian Fisher. Amidst the glass and concrete towers of DIFC, Maze Tower offers an experience that is entirely unique.
Although DIFC is a business district, it is home to some of the most vibrant cultural and leisure attractions in Dubai. When you live at DIFC, you will enjoy immediate access to these destinations.
Architecture is an important facet of DIFC. Each of its buildings is quite distinctive, and the district features a mix of imposing stone buildings as well as contemporary glass-fronted structures. The most iconic landmark within DIFC is the DIFC Gate, a stunning square arch formed out of two 12-storey office towers topped by a three-level covered bridge. This is the entryway to the district, fronted by a beautiful lawn and cleverly framed by a series of low-rise buildings to make it stand out. The lawn is often used as an event space, especially during special occasions. Even when there are no events, it serves as a relaxing green complement to its surroundings.
A cluster of ten interconnected low-rise buildings located next to The Gate, Gate Village is the social heart of DIFC and is reminiscent of high-end districts in New York. The highlight of Gate Village is the large podium that binds all the buildings together and contains a plethora of leisure options. Some of the very best restaurants in Dubai, including La Petite Maison, Cipriani, Boca and Zuma, are located here. Gate Village is also home to the DIFC Art Galleries, including Cuadro, the Opera Gallery and The Empty Quarter, showcasing contemporary artwork and photography from regional and international artists. Within this space you will also find The Capital Club, a members-only business club with exclusive benefits. This exceptional blend of art, culture and gourmet dining is not something you will find anywhere else in Dubai.
This vast walkway, which has been under construction for over a year and was unveiled earlier this month, connects every building in DIFC seamlessly and expands on the offerings that you will find at Gate Village. At present, Gate Avenue contains a shopping centre with some high-end clothing stores and bespoke tailors, plus cafes and casual dining restaurants. Divided into four distinct zones, it will bring on board several more eateries, add indoor and outdoor art spaces, and will have one zone exclusively for residents with special facilities.
Another key component of DIFC that adds to the district’s prestige is the presence of acclaimed five-star hotels such as the Waldorf Astoria (which forms one of the towers at Burj Daman), Four Seasons and Ritz-Carlton.
Some of the best restaurants in Dubai are located within Gate Village, a fact that makes DIFC a very popular nightlife destination. Even after business hours, people flock to this district because of the exceptional array of fine dining options available to them.
La Petite Maison
Known more commonly by the abbreviation LPM, La Petite Maison brings a slice of the Riviera to the heart of Dubai with dishes inspired by the cisnes of Southern France and Italy. Even the decor takes its cue from classic French restaurants, with everything from the table decor to the authentic French paintings on the walls designed to create an unforgettable ambiance.
For lovers of Italian haute cuisine, it doesn’t get better than Cipriani. But it’s about more than just the food - Cipriani has several restaurants across the world and each one sports a completely different style of decor. The Dubai outlet features an elegant nautical theme, as if you were dining at the Captain’s table of an upscale passenger ship. Warm wood tones combine with the richest cool blues, and even the staff are dressed like a ship’s crew.
Since being founded 18 years ago in London, Zuma has become a firm favourite among diners across the world. The Dubai outpost, which opened in 2008, is no exception and is considered to be one of the finest restaurants in the city thanks to its delightful modern twist on Japanese cuisine. It carries the brand’s signature contemporary Asian design aesthetic and features a two-storey dining room, two lounges and a private dining room for a more intimate and exclusive experience.
Mint Leaf of London
Though not a part of Gate Village, Mint Leaf of London is one of the star dining attractions at DIFC and one not to be missed. The restaurant presents authentic and classic Indian dishes in a wholly new way, making it a revelation even for diners who have grown up on Indian food. The beautiful dark wood interiors add an extra sense of refinement and the views over the Burj Khalifa and Downtown skyline give it a sense of urban flair, making it unlike any Indian restaurant in the city.
Offering a stylish take on Mediterranean street food, Boca has a variety of Spanish, French and Italian dishes on its menu. Several of them are served sharing-style, ideal for a group of colleagues at a corporate lunch or for an after-work meal. The restaurant has a relaxed, lively atmosphere that extends out to a lovely private terrace that creates the sensation of an outdoor European cafe without all the hustle and bustle.
In less than a decade of operation, Roberto’s has become one of the go-to options for Italian fine dining in Dubai. The restaurant has won several awards and is known not only for its sumptuous food, but also its vibrant atmosphere. The principal dining room is light and airy, making it perfect for a gathering of any size. Alternatively, you could enjoy a more intimate setting in the stage lounge, which makes use of dark colours and low lighting for a very stylish look, and also features live music. Alternatively, you have the main lounge with a terrace overlooking the Burj Khalifa, or a private terrace for an exclusive meal.
Intersect by Lexus
A unique dining concept by one of the world’s most well known car manufacturers, Intersect only has three locations in the entire world - New York City, Tokyo and Dubai. While you might expect the restaurant to be automotive themed, it instead goes for a contemporary arthouse vibe with its blend of warm and cool tones, wide columns that double as bookshelves and an intriguing ceiling design that takes its inspiration from the desert dunes. While the atmosphere is casual, the presentation of the food and the level of service are pure fine dining.
DIFC benefits from very ideal positioning in the city. It is essentially at the crossroads of what is considered to be Old Dubai, from the World Trade Centre heading towards Deira, and New Dubai, expanding along Sheikh Zayed Road towards Dubai Marina. With its proximity to Dubai’s most important highway, DIFC affords easy connections whether you are commuting to work, heading to the beach, dropping the kids off at school or going to the airport.