t’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas across Dubai and we could not be more excited as trees are decorated and lights are hung in anticipation of one of the biggest family events on the calendar. Festive music has been pumping out of speakers across the city for weeks while vast fortunes are being spent on pressies for kids both young and old (who said you can’t buy a super soaker for your 35-year-old uncle?). So, to ensure you don’t miss a thing over the festive period, we’ve wrapped up the city’s top Christmas fairs, festivals and parties, including the big bash at the Irish Village, the city’s top winter markets and our very own Christmas jumper party (make sure you book a babysitter for the latter, it’ll be a kid-free zone and a whole load of fun!).
Atlantis The Palm's festive village
Loosen those belts because Poseidon's Court has been transformed into a Santa's Elf Workshop of delicious treats. If you like festive cakes, mince pies and cookies (and let’s face it, who doesn’t?), head over to Atlantis from December 1 to marvel at tasty treats including lavish gift hampers and gingerbread houses. Children can join in with activities such as glitter tattoo-making, gingerbread house crafting and sand art. There is even a chocolate river (just don’t let the young’uns do an Augustus Gloop).
Free, Fri Dec 1-Mon Jan 8, 10am-10pm, Atlantis The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 426 2000).
Al Habtoor City's Winter Garden Market
Where else in the world but this madly flamboyant city would Santa arrive for a festive fiesta in a red Bentley? That’s right, ol’ Saint Nic will trade Rudolph’s red nose and his traditional sleigh for a luxury car ahead of the tree-lighting ceremony at this new(ish) hotel complex at the site of the old Metropolitan Hotel. You can enjoy seasonal eats, beverages and entertainment for children plus retail and food stalls. And a fancy-pants Father Christmas perfect for Instagram.
Free, Sun Dec 3, 8pm, Al Habtoor City,Sheikh Zayed Road (04 435 555 77).
Christmas Jumper Soirée at the Black Lion
Eastenders, pie and mash, gentrification… ever wanted to spend your festive season the East London way? Then don’t expect any of that. Instead, pull on your best Christmas jumper and head to this Dubai watering hole inspired by the English capital’s East End. Best-dressed wins a bottle of bubbly, just make sure the little ones are tucked up in bed before you pop the cork.
Free, Wed Nov 29, 6pm-3am, H Hotel, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 359 2366).
Christmas tree lighting at Bab Al Shams
Dubai’s “gateway to the sun” becomes the entrance to festive frivolity out in the desert at one of the emirate’s most distinctive resorts. Squint your eyes and the white sands could be the snow of the… nah, who are we kidding? You won’t mistake this remote spot for the North Pole, but you might be surprised at how Christmassy you and the family feel at the resort’s festive-themed Al Forsan Garden area. Carols, free festive bites including gingerbread, winter pies and cookies, hot chocolate and mulled grape will help there, too.
Free, Friday Dec 8, 5.30pm-7.30pm, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort & Spa, Al Qudra Road (04 809 6100).
Christmas tree lighting at City Seasons Hotels
Watch on in wonder as the tree is lit up in the chic lobby of this Deira hotel. Christmas carols, mocktails and finger foods will be served while children will receive gifts from Santa Claus, even if they haven’t exactly been perfectly good this year...
Free, Thur Dec 7, Al Nakheel Lounge, City Seasons Hotel, Deira (04 294 2777).
Christmas tree lighting at The Irish Village
The festive season doesn’t start in Dubai until the Irish Village’s resident Christmas elf flips the switch on one of the city’s most popular tree-lighting festivals. Pop on your Santa hat and clear your throat for a Christmas carol sing-along with the Irish Village’s excellent choir before stuffing your face with home-baked mince pies and seasonal mulled beverages. Don’t forget your daftest festive jumper to be in with a chance of winning a package for two for the Irish Village’s New Year’s Eve Party, too.
Free, Monday Dec 4, 7pm-10pm, Irish Village, Garhoud (04 239 5000).
Dubai Winter Festival at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre
Places in Dubai at which you can have a snowball fight are few and far between, but not only can you do just that at this outdoor festive fest, you can also build a snowman. Fine, don’t believe us, that’s more snow for us to throw. This year, this massive festival will also feature a snow slide which is open to all ages (why do the kids have to have all the fun, eh?), a Search For A Star event (perfect for your all-singing, all-dancing offspring) and “Dubai’s largest pub quiz”, along with a party garden for adults, with a Lucky Voice karaoke booth and tips and toes festive nail art. See you there – we’ll be the ones making a perfect snow angel.
Dhs55-150 (adults), Dhs30-55 (children). Wed Dec 6-Sat Dec 9, 2pm-10pm, Dubai Media City Amphitheatre, www.dubaiwinterfestival.com.
Fairmont The Palm’s Christmas tree lighting
You might want to nudge your boss now if you were planning on braving the trunk of the Palm Jumeirah for the Fairmont’s annual Christmas tree-lighting ceremony, which packs hundreds of guests into the hotel’s lavish lobby ahead of the event’s 5pm start. The Safa Community School Choir will provide the live singing, while Dubai 92’s Catboy will own the mic. Step out onto the Mashrabiya terrace for mulled grape and other festive drinks while taking in the Dubai Marina’s stunning skyline. A perfect start to Xmas.
Free, Wed Dec 6, 5pm, Fairmont The Palm, Palm Jumeirah (04 457 3457).
Family Winter Fairs at Reform
One of our favourite homes-away-from-home for Christmas-loving expats always pulls out all the stops during the festive season. It’s a veritable family affair this year as parents – between bites of great grub – can take the little ones to visit Santa’s Grotto before perusing the festive market stall and sneekily buying some last-minute gifts.
Free, Sat Dec 9, noon-7pm, Reform, The Lakes (04 454 2638).
Festive fun at McGettigan’s
The Irish bar at the World Trade Centre kicks off the festive season with its Christmas Lights Party on Wednesday November 29. Get there early for free home-made mince pies and mulled grape. The JLT branch of the mega-bar brand will also host its annual Christmas Jumper Party on Thursday December 14. You might want to leave the kids with the grandparents for that one...
Free, Wed Nov 29, 6pm, Dubai World Trade Centre, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 378 0800).
Festive Ladies’ Nights at Lucky Voice
The karaoke bar at Grand Millennium Hotel in Barsha Heights will host two evenings for girls who wanna have fun on Tuesday December 12 and 26, including unlimited beverages, half-price dining for all ladies and free karaoke pod taster sessions. Lucky Voice will also host a Christmas Karaoke Brunch every Wednesday in December from 8pm to 11pm. Don’t worry, your wonderful hubby will look after the little ones while you do your best Mariah Carey impression.
Free, Tue Dec 12 and 26, 8pm-1am, Grand Millennium Hotel, Barsha Heights (800 58259).
Festive Market at Madinat Jumeirah
Want to ride in an abra with Santa? Of course you do. The man in red will traverse the waterways of the Madinat to reach the resort’s annual Festive Market, from December 15 to 27. Inspired by a traditional German Festive Market, this 1,750sqm winter wonderland will feature at its centre an interactive LED Christmas tree featuring different festive designs. Tuck into roasted chestnuts and seasonal beverages while the young ones enjoy a North Pole train, giant snowball and two-lane bungee jump. Santa will appear daily at 5pm and 7pm (what a busy fellow he is).
Free, Sun-Wed 3pm-1am, Thur-Sat noon-1am, Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim (04 366 8888).
Great British Christmas Ball
The British Business Group hosts this seasonal celebration in the grounds of the British Embassy, where UK expats can tuck into a traditional Christmas dinner (complete with yule log) to the music of the Swing Revue and DJ Marky Mark. Gents should don black tie, while ladies should wear wedges or flats at this adult-only event.
Dhs600, or Dhs5,750 for a table of 10, Thurs Dec 7, 7pm to 1am, Royal Lawn, British Embassy, Bur Dubai (04 336 2222).
H Dubai’s Tree-Lighting Ceremony
The H flips the switch to illuminate the huge tree in its award-winning lobby on December 12. A choir will serenade you as you sip on mulled grape or hot chocolate while tucking into festive snacks. Feeling lucky? The H will also stage a prize draw, which might just land you an early Xmas present.
Free, Tue Dec 12, 7pm-9pm, Sheikh Zayed Road (04 501 8888).
Harry Potter live symphonic orchestra
If there is someone out there who doesn’t like Harry Potter, we have never met them. And now fans of the bespectacled young wizard can spend a festive evening at the Dubai Opera for a live performance of the magical score from Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, the first film in the cinematic series based on JK Rowling’s books. From December 7 to 9, the Czech National Symphony Orchestra will perform John Williams’ unforgettable score as a high-definition showing of the beloved film is displayed on a 40ft screen. This is unmissable for fans of the wizarding world, whatever their age, and a belting early present ahead of the Big Day. The Dubai Opera will also stage Jingle Bell Favourites, a family concert of carols and much-loved Christmas classics performed by London Concert Orchestra Show Band, Capital Voices and West End soloists.
Dhs175-600, various showings, Thur Dec 7-Sat Dec 9, Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, firstname.lastname@example.org.
La Farine festive market
A life-sized gingerbread house? Hansel and Gretel had better get out of our way because we think that is a must-see. This delicious dwelling – hopefully minus the witch from the Brothers Grimm fairytale – will be open outside the cafe’s entrance in the JW Marriott Marquis Hotel from December 4. Its sweet and spicy aroma will prove a distraction for festive market-goers who can buy Christmas hampers and sample seasonal cakes, hot chocolate, strawberry fondue and homemade waffles.
Free, Mon Dec 4-Tue Dec 26, JW Marriott Marquis Hotel, Business Bay (04 414 3000).
Mövenpick Ibn Battuta’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony
A 20ft Christmas tree will tower over the hotel’s Al Bahou Grand Hall, lighting up an event that will feature carols, themed Christmas beverages and the promise of some culinary surprises to mark the beginning of the festive season, too.
Free, Tue Dec 5, 5pm, Movenpick Hotel Ibn Battuta (04 444 0000).
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at Ductac
Christmas means panto time and this year, a real family favourite will take to the stage in Dubai. Ductac’s 11th pantomime production follows the success of Cinderella in 2015 and Peter Pan in 2016. It will see a blend of experienced professional actors and technical crew from the UK with UAE-based performers and a youth chorus. It’s the perfect family night out in our eyes.
Dhs90-180. Various times, Wed Dec 20-Fri Dec 29, Centrepoint Theatre, Mall of the Emirates, email@example.com (04 341 4777).
Swim & Tonic tree-lighting ceremony
This pool bar with great views of the Dubai Canal and the Burj Khalifa has decorated a Christmas Wish Tree with hundreds of wish cards painted by students from the International German School – and wishes from three lucky students will be chosen to come true. The school choir will perform as mulled grape is served, while festive stalls sell Christmas cookies, stollen and other Christmas goodies. Afterwards, the hotel will host a festive movie night at The Backyard, with A Charlie Brown Christmas showing at 8pm. Tickets for the showing are Dhs50. The tree will be lit up at 7pm.
Free, Tue Dec 5, 6.30pm-8pm, Steigenberger Hotel, Business Bay (04 369 0000).
Time Out Dubai’s Christmas Jumper Party
’Tis the season to be jolly well daft. And there is no better way to look silly during the festive period than to pull on a jumper that looks like the Ghost of Christmas Fashion Faux Pas has designed it. So search your wardrobe for your kitschiest knitwear and head down to our free festive bash as those who turn up wearing a Christmas jumper will be rewarded with a free mulled grape or house beverage. DJ Tim Cheddar is on the ones and twos and there will be two-for-one deals on drinks, snacks and karaoke until 9pm. Take part in a lip sync battle and belt out your favourite festive hits with Christmas karaoke.
Free. Thursday December 7, 6pm until late. Lucky Voice, Grand Millennium Dubai, Barsha Heights (800 58259).
Winter Garden Market at St Regis Dubai
A bucket of Christmas will be poured all over the lush St Regis Dubai Gardens, transforming them into an enchanted winter wonderland with twinkling lights and festive décor. Food and retail stalls plus a load of activities for children will be in place throughout the festive season, climaxing with the tree-lighting ritual on December 3 – an evening of magic and light, with carol singing, live entertainment and holiday treats. Perfect,
Free. Tree-lighting Sun Dec 3, 6pm-8pm. Winter Garden Market Wed Nov 29-Tue Dec 26, 5pm-11pm Sun-Thur, 3pm-11pm Fri & Sat. The St. Regis Dubai, Business Bay (04 435 5555).