Where to go this Christmas in Dubai

We’re counting down to the festive season with a Santa sack full of events

Festive music is blasting from speakers across malls, and parents are rushing to grab the best prezzies for little ones. Trees are decorated, lights are hung and we can all look forward to some of the biggest family events of the year – it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas in the UAE. We’ve wrapped up the city’s biggest parties, markets, tree lightings, festivals and more – because it’s time to celebrate and be merry.

Watch Christmas trees get all lit up

Dubai
Fairmont The Palm

The annual tree-lighting ceremony features complimentary festive delights and beverages.
Wednesday December 5, 5pm-7pm. Fairmont The Palm lobby (04 457 3457).

Sheraton Mall of the Emirates Hotel
Join Santa for a grand tree lighting complete with homemade treats, spiced beverages and carols.
Dec 6, 7pm. Sheraton Mall of the Emirates Hotel, Al Barsha (04 772 353).

Steigenberger Hotel Business Bay
Head to this tree-lighting ceremony at Swim & Tonic for Christmas carols by the International German School Choir, plus a visit from Santa, festive food and drinks stalls.
Dec 5, 6.30pm-8pm. Al Abraj Street (04 369 0000).

The Irish Village
Kids are more than welcome at this traditional Christmas tree lighting, with two choirs and carols as well as mulled grape and home-baked mince pies.
Dec 3, 7pm-10pm. Next to the Dubai Duty Free Tennis Stadium, Garhoud (04 282 4750).

Towers Rotana Dubai
Visit and get into the festive spirit over some irresistible goodies and Christmas carols, led by the hotel choir, The Aspens and last year’s social media Christmas carol competition winners.
Dec 9, 7pm. Towers Rotana Dubai (04 312 2201).

Abu Dhabi
Emirates Palace

A candlelit Grand Dome, songs, festive spirit and special surprises, you can expect all of this and more at Emirates Palace’s tree lighting, where it will sparkle with thousands of twinkling lights. Don’t leave without  having a chat with Santa Claus and letting him know what’s on your Christmas list.
Dec 9, 7pm. West Corniche Road (02 690 9000).

Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi

The tree lighting ceremony at Park Rotana’s lobby will showcase a stunning tree as the resident choir fills the air with carols. Little ones get treats and a surprise visit from Santa. The hotel’s chefs will also prepare some treats for the occasion.
Dec 11, 5.30-8pm. Eastern Ring Road (02 657 3333).

Sofitel Abu Dhabi
At this tree lighting ceremony, not only will you find delicious treats and sing along to your favourite carols performed by the Heartist’s Choir, but Santa Claus will drop in to surprise the kids, while mum and dad shop the festive goodies available at Le Café’s gingerbread house. 
Dec 9, 6pm. Corniche Road East, Abu Dhabi (02 813 7777).

Turkey takeaways

Dubai
Al Nafoorah

Go for an Arabic twist this Christmas with a takeaway festive feast from Al Nafoorah. Sides include sautéed vegetables, roast or mashed potatoes and oriental rice with minced lamb and fried nuts.
Dhs650. December. Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road festiveturkey@jumeirah.com.

Perry & Blackwelder’s
For a classic US experience, dig into this takeaway turkey from Perry & Blackwelders. You’ll get a roast turkey – in wither 6kg or 11kg – as well as sides of roast or mashed potatoes, brussels sprouts, boiled cabbage, grilled corn and carrots.
Dhs495 (6kg), Dhs650 (6kg with trimmings), Dhs850 (11kg and trimmings). Daily througout December. Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim festiveturkey@jumeirah.com (04 366 6197).  

Segreto
Take an Italian twist on your roast turkey with this swanky Madinat eatery. Side options include lemon green beans, brown butter carrots, honey-roasted parsnips, Brussels sprouts, roast and mashed potatoes.
Dhs525 (6kg), Dhs575 (6kg with sides), Dhs845 (9kg with sides). Daily througout December. Souk Madinat Jumeirah festive-turkey@jumeirah.com (04 432 3232).

The Great British Festive Roast
Created by the team behind The Ivy and Rivington Grill, the ultimate Great British Roast is tailormade for expats craving a traditional British festive roast with all the trimmings. The package features a boneless roast turkey breast and stuffed legs with extras including mince pies, desserts and crackers. Sides include gluten-free cocktail sausages wrapped in veal and non-veal bacon, braised red cabbage and more. For dessert, there’s a traditional Christmas pudding or sticky toffee pudding.
From Dhs399. Throughout December. Collection from the Jumeirah Emirates Towers, Sheikh Zayed Road festiveturkey@jumeirah.com.

Abu Dhabi
Emirates Palace

There are many hampers to choose from at Le Café Retail, including a sweet collection priced at Dhs750, so if you have a sweet tooth you know where to go. Then there’s the turkey…
From Dhs850. Dec 9-25. West Corniche Road (02 690 9000).

Four Seasons Abu Dhabi
There are many festive goodies to buy from the Four Seasons, but they also cook up a mean turkey – and it’s quite affordable.
From Dhs250. Al Maryah Island (02 333 2222). 

Sofitel Abu Dhabi
Now you’ll have more time to spend with friends and family. Your turkey takeaway will come ready to be served with all the sides and trimmings.
Dhs495. Corniche Road East (02 813 7777).

The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal
The Ritz’s Giornotte restaurant chefs will take the hassle out of turkey time, preparing a festive dinner for you with just a 24-hour notice that includes the stuffing, giblet gravy and root veggies.
Dhs650. Dec 21-Jan 2. Al Maqta (02 818 8282).

Parties, markets and activities

Dubai
Amwaj Rotana

If a festive goodies atrium sounds like your kind of celebration, you’ll find treats for takeaway such as yule logs, mince pies, Christmas pudding, stollen, homemade gingerbread houses and other confectionery at this one.
Prices vary. Dec 5-Jan 6. The Walk, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 428 2000).

Habtoor Palace

This enchanting winter wonderland will be brimming with dazzling decorations and holiday carols in the beautiful Versailles gardens. Activities include everything from fun rides for little ones to delicious Yuletide delights. You’ll find daily entertainment and a Santa arrival, too. Yep, Santa’s always on the list.
Free. Open daily 3pm-midnight. Dec 4-21. Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Al Habtoor City (04 275 1542).

JW Marriott Marquis
A life-size gingerbread house at La Farine Café & Bakery and the sweet and spicy aromas of the festive market – this is all just to set the scene for what you can expect at JW Marriott Marquis’ celebration. You’ll get to try delicious seasonal cakes, hot chocolate, strawberry fondue and homemade waffles.
Free. Dec 4-26, 10am-10pm. Business Bay, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 414 0000).

Le Méridien Dubai Hotel & Conference Centre
Younglings get to build and decorate gingerbread houses with the help of some friendly elves. They will also take part in exciting activities, munch on yummy treats and celebrate with entertainment and a daily visit from Santa himself.
Dhs25 (kids aged 12 and under). Dec 12-24, 4pm-8pm. Airport Road, Garhoud (04 702 2455).

Luigia
The Italian restaurant is known for its extra family-friendly vibes, and it’s launching special set menus for the season that include dishes made for sharing such as pizza petals, fried sardines and more. Luigia will also host kids’ movie nights at its in-house cinema. How cute is that?
From Dhs200. Throughout December. Rixos Premium JBR, The Walk (04 349 6950).

Media One Hotel
At the hotel’s festive market, you’ll find everything from gingerbread goodies, to Christmas gifts for your loved ones at the M12Go counter.
Prices vary. Dec 2-31, 9am-5pm. Media City (04 427 1000).

Raffles Dubai

Cooking classes take on a new format at Raffles Dubai, which will be hosting gingerbread house workshops at Raffles Salon, the festive heart of the hotel. There will also be a live pianist and a hand-painted, wall-sized advent calendar counting down to Christmas.
Free. Thu and Sat, throughout December. Wafi City, Oud Metha (04 324 8888).

Reform Social & Grill
Be quick to visit this one, it’s on until Saturday, December 1 and it’s as family-friendly as ever. Shop for gifts, watch tricks by a magician and get the kids to write letters to Santa before meeting the man himself – if you haven’t already...
Free. Dec 1, noon-6pm. The Lakes Club, Emirates Hills (04 454 2638).

Souk Madinat
Looking for a massive market to satisfy your festive shopping appetite? Head to Souk Madinat Jumeirah for a traditional German market including food stalls as well as abras through the Madinat waterways steered by Santa and his elves. There is also a snow zone for children, a gingerbread house making station and a play area. That’s not to mention the huge Christmas tree, which will be decorated and lit up bringing a festive feel to the whole of Madinat Jumeirah.
Free. Thu Dec 20-Fri Dec 28, noon-late. Sun 23 and Wed 26, 3pm-late. Souk Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, wwwjumeirah.com.

Abu Dhabi
Cascade Dining

Hala Bil Winter translates into “welcome winter” in Arabic, and the capital’s Cascade Dining will be welcoming the cooler weather with open arms with weekend events featuring Christmas-themed roaming characters, lively games, contests, challenges and quizzes, plus face painting, parades and workshops for kids. The event is free if you spend Dhs20 at any of the dining outlets too.
Dhs20 (per child). Dec 7-29, Fridays and Saturdays 2pm-8pm. Yas Mall, www.yasmall.ae.

Park Rotana, Abu Dhabi
You’ll get to re-live your memories from the festive season and the kids will make theirs at ParKafe, where you’ll find everything from the traditional roasted turkey with all the trimmings and gingerbread houses, to Yule log, Christmas pudding, chocolates and more.
Prices vary. Eastern Ring Road, www.rotana.com/magicalseason (02 657 3333).

The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

The Yule Log Market at The Ritz’s Dolce Café will be filled with festively-adorned mini yule logs in traditional flavours which you can have on the spot or take home.
Prices vary. Dec 3-Jan 3, 2pm-7pm. Al Maqta Street (02 818 8282).

The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa

This festive market is quite a special one as kids get to chase Santa instead of mum, and we like the sound of that. The Westin events lawn will turn into a Winter Wonderland packed with vendors and activities for the whole family, including entertainment by local dance schools, a petting zoo, cookie decoration and more. There’s also a wish tree where little ones can buy you a surprise gift for Dhs100. 
Free entry. Dec 8 noon-7pm. Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Sas Al Nakhl (02 616 9999).

Yas Marina
Candy stores are always tons of fun, but a festive candy haven sounds even better. Yas Marina’s Festive Candy Land will be a magical event filled with treats and mesmerising decorations, where families can celebrate and choose from nine restaurants which will be serving up their best dishes for this very special season.
Free. Dec 21-22, 1pm-7pm. Yas Marina, www.yasmarina.ae.

For the kids

Dubai
Christmas fun at Accents Restaurant

Treat your kids to an afternoon full of sweet treats and delights where they’ll learn how to make gingerbread houses. Try to resist the takeaway cakes, minced pies, pudding and cookies. Must not give in.
Dhs99. Saturday December 8 and 15, 12pm to 2pm. Lobby Level; InterContinental Dubai Marina (04 446 6654).

Family Christmas fair at Fairmont Falcons Kids’ Club
Head to this family-friendly Christmas fair where kids can meet Santa, decorate gingerbread houses and have fun creating special moments.
Dhs280 (kids aged three-15). Sat Dec 22, 2pm-4pm. Fairmont The Palm (04 457 3331).

Gingerbread house-making at Nosh

Kids will get their very own custom aprons and make some of the prettiest houses in town. We can’t wait.
Dhs99. Saturday December 8, 3pm to 6pm. Mövenpick Hotel Jumeriah Lakes Towers (04 380 0000).

Kids’ gingerbread-decorating class at Al Habtoor
Want to be able to sit back and relax while someone else makes the Christmas bakes? Well, take your kids to a gingerbread-decorating class and you could do just that. They’ll be taught how to perfect the presentation of a gingerbread house, ready to be brought home and devoured. Booking is required.
Dhs165. Dec 15 & 22 2pm-5pm. Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Al Habtoor City (04 275 1542).

Santa’s workshops at Fairmont Falcons Kids’ Club

You’ll find festive fun by the stocking-load for the little ones here comprising of craft sessions, entertainment and much more.
Dhs140 (kids aged three-15). Sun Dec 23-Mon 24, 2pm-4pm. Fairmont The Palm (04 457 3331).

Abu Dhabi
Build-your-own gingerbread at The Ritz Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal

Kids aged four to 12 can visit Dolce Café and create magical gingerbread houses out of treats such as marshmallows, candy sticks, candy floss and more.
Dhs175 (per gingerbread house). Dec 9-30, daily 4pm-5pm, 6pm-7pm (except Fridays). Al Maqta Street (02 818 8282). 

Surprise-filled gingerbread house at Sofitel Abu Dhabi
Festive magic and treats await at this gingerbread house. Oh I really, really want to build a gingerbread house, it could be a lovely home for a little mouse.
Free. Dec 9-Jan 3. Corniche Road East, Abu Dhabi (02 813 7777).

Snowman building at The Lobby Lounge
Do you want to build a snowman? Well, the kids can at The Lobby Lounge, they can even make a gingerbread house. Book an afternoon tea and they get the class for free too.
Dhs65 (per child). Dec 24. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 811 5555).

Take-home gingerbread house at Emirates Palace

Little ones will get to make their own gingerbread houses to take home at the palace, all with the big chefs’ help of course.
Dhs245. Dec 15. West Corniche Road (02 690 9000).

Just enjoy the show

Dubai
Jingle Bell Favourites

Kick-off the Christmas countdown with this family concert of carols and much-loved classics performed by The London Concert Orchestra Show Band and Capital Voices Choir. Hits include Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty the Snowman, Baby It’s Cold Outside, Silent Night, Santa Claus Is Coming To Town, Winter Wonderland, Let It Snow and many more.
From Dhs175. Times vary. Dec 13-15. Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, wwww.dubaiopera.com.

The Nutcracker and I
For one night only, one of the most enchanting Christmas scores ever comes to Dubai on Wednesday, December 12. Tchaikovsky’s beloved tale is brought to life with hand-drawn digital animations projected onto a gauze that dance across the screen alongside a real-life ballerina. The incredible fusion of reality and technology will be elevated with a live pianist playing Sugar Plum Fairy, of course.
From Dhs125 (adults), Dhs62.50 (kids under 12). Two shows 6pm & 8pm. Dec 12. Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, www.dubaiopera.com.

Abu Dhabi
Ferrari World Winterfest

Wondering how the cool kids will be celebrating? The theme park is gearing up for the festive season and there’s loads in store in store for you and the kiddies to check out. Bjorn the animatronic polar bear will be there to greet you with some of his “moves”, and you can expect tons of magic-filled shows featuring fairytale characters going ice skating and more.
Free. Dec 14-Jan 5, 4pm-10pm. Yas Island, www.yasisland.ae

Winter Wonderland

There’s so much in store at Al Maryah Island’s Winter Wonderland, but we can’t wait for the live stage shows featuring some of the season’s most festive characters, and followed by meet and greets with six princesses from popular children’s fairy tales including Snow White and Rapunzel. Finally we’ll get to meet them... There will also be roaming performances featuring everything from winter ballet to a special appearance from Santa and his elves.
Free. Starting Dec 13, 4pm-10pm. Al Maryah Island, www.almaryahisland.ae.

Boxing Day 

Dubai
Al Bayt

There’s nothing quite like an afternoon tea on Boxing Day to let the festivities sink in. Head to this palatial spread and nibble on finger sarnies and cakes to round off your Christmas celebrations.
Dhs190 (adults), Dhs90 (kids aged six-11), free (kids five and under). Dec 24-Dec 26, 2pm-6pm. Palace Downtown Dubai, Downtown Dubai (04 888 3444).

Epona
If you wake up fresh and early on Boxing Day, it’s time to crack on with the festivities with a special brekkie. Set in the panoramic landscape at the Dubai Polo and Equestrian Club, it’s a family breakfast the kids will love, and they’ll even get free pony rides.
Dhs120 (adults), Dhs60 (kids aged six-11), free (kids five and under). Wed Dec 26, 8am-11.30am. Dubai Polo & Equestrian Club, Arabian Ranches (04 361 8111).

Maison Mathis
If you’re all Christmas-ed out and just want to settle down a bit, it’s time to head to this Arabian Ranches spot.
Dhs163 (food only). Sunday December 26, 7am-2am. Arabian Ranches, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Road (04 450 1313).

Abu Dhabi
Abu Dhabi Golf Club

A traditional Boxing Day meal, this feast will feature roast meats, including chicken, beef and lamb, plus all the trimmings. Available for both lunch and dinner.
Dhs130 (non-members), Dhs110 (members). Wednesday December 26, 11.30am-3pm; 7pm-10pm. Sas Al Nakhl, Khalifa City A (056 536 2230).

The Patio
An outdoor family Boxing Day celebration, The Patio will bring out picnic baskets filled with festive treats. All packages are for two adults and two children and include beach access.
Dhs350 (soft drinks), Dhs400 (house beverages), Dhs550 (bubbly). Wednesday December 26, noon-11pm. The Westin Abu Dhabi Resort & Spa, Khalifa City (02 616 9999).

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