By Christine McCabe  www.theaustralian.com.au

Staying in the Old Town promises a pleasing change of pace for visitors to gleaming, high-rise Dubai.

No matter that this Old Town is only about three years young, its sandstone coloured walls and exotic arabesque detailing speak of One Thousand and One Nights or a set from Raiders of the Lost Ark.

Along with a tidy souk and charming oasis-like landscaping, the Old Town is home to the 242-room, low-rise Palace Hotel, a serene and refreshingly unflashy accommodation option for Aussies enjoying a stopover.

One of five hotels operated in Dubai by The Address group, The Palace perches on the edge of the surreally blue Dubai Lake (featuring a dancing fountain) with views of the Burj Khalifa, the world’s tallest building.

The hotel is at the heart of Dubai’s Downtown precinct, linked to the Souk al-Bahar, allowing guests to stroll to restaurants, cafes and the 1200 shops of Dubai Mall.

The Palace’s handsome guestrooms, featuring dark timber detailing and rich fabrics, are well appointed, with comfortable king beds, free Wi-Fi, coffee-makers, and large and luxurious bathrooms stocked with Penhaligon’s bath products. Each room has a balcony overlooking the needle-topped Burj Khalifa, the lake or the Old Town island.

The day spa exudes an Arabian Nights vibe with an Oriental Bath House, hammam slab, monsoon showers and steam rooms, while the fitness centre offers the services of a personal trainer.

The palm tree-lined, temperature-controlled swimming pool is particularly charming, fringed with Arabian tents or cabanas for a spot of late afternoon lounging after a day’s shopping.

The hotel is home to one of the city’s better Middle Eastern restaurants, Ewaan, overlooking the pool. There’s a definite souk vibe to the decor: heavy chests arrayed with piles of dried spices, Moroccan lanterns, dark furniture, lattice screens and mysterious private dining nooks shrouded by heavy curtains. The coffee is strong and the shish tawook excellent. At breakfast, make a beeline for the meze table for delicious potato kibbehs and cheese sambouseks.

Where The Palace is all Moorish arches and pleasure pools, its sister property, The Address Downtown, the group’s flagship, is a more modern option, reminiscent of a Las Vegas pad, with a soaring, contemporary lobby and very cool wraparound pool.

It’s located in the same Downtown precinct, a short stroll from The Palace, which is handy if you fancy popping up to the level-63 Neos sky lounge for a quick snifter.

Christine McCabe was a guest of Wildlife Safari and Emirates.

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