From festive markets to tree lighting ceremonies, here’s your go-to guide to the UAE’s festive celebrations. It’s truly a magical time of the year. You’ll find firs outlining many a window, the malls buzzing with renewed fervour, hotels decking the halls with tinsel and holly and the entire city lighting up with festive cheer. The landscape changes every December with winter markets popping up across Dubai and restaurants serving everything from mince pies and mulled wine to turkey with all the trimmings. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll enjoy soaking it all up throughout December. Here we present a round up of the best things to see and do in the UAE this festive season. Are you ready to get into the spirit of things?
Souk Festive Market at Madinat Jumeirah
This winter festival at Madinat Jumeirah recreates the magic of the season with a setting reminiscent of a Christmas village in the European countryside – think Santa’s grotto, a faux snow park for the kids and stalls selling all kinds of tasty treats. Dhow cruises along the winding waterways of Madinat Jumeirah with Santa Claus and his elves add a local spin to the event while the North Pole train running through the market keeps things traditional. Ideal to get the whole family together, the Souk Festive Market runs from December 20 to 28 this year from 3pm onwards on weekdays and 1pm onwards on weekends until midnight. 04 3647555
Festive Market at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai
The quaint bakery at JW Marriott Marquis Dubai is where you’d want to be this season if you’re into traditional festive sweets and treats. Walk into La Farine Café & Bakery this month from December 4 to 26 and browse through the festive market at the venue, offering edible hampers that make for ideal Christmas gifts. Also enjoy the chance to sample seasonal cakes, hot chocolate, strawberry fondue and homemade waffles, freshly prepared at the bakery, all bound to fill the air with a heartwarming aroma. And do get the kids along as the life-size gingerbread house at the entrance will provide plenty of photo opportunities. 04 4143000
Festive Winter Fair at Reform Social & Grill
While you might have only December 1 to join in the celebrations at Reform Social & Grill’s annual Christmas fair, the event promises plenty of festive fun for the whole family. Bring the little ones along to meet Santa while you browse the stalls to shop for gifts and munch on mince pies. Didn’t make the date? Don’t fret. You can still catch the festivities running until December 24 with a special Christmas menu served every evening at the restaurant. 04 4542638
With applaud-worthy performances year after year, it comes as little surprise that the Jingle Bell Favourites concert at Dubai Opera has become a festive tradition. Returning to the stage for the third time from December 13 to 15, the show will once again offer a seasonal music extravaganza featuring a host of carols to get you into the festive mood. This year, The London Concert Orchestra Show Band, Capital Voices Choir, West End star soloists, Alison Jiear and Matt Little as well as a 48-member strong choir of pupils from GEMS schools in Dubai will take to the stage. Expect to hear all your favourites including Jingle Bell Rock, Frosty The Snowman and Silent Night. The Nutcracker and I is another show that’s sure to draw in the crowds. Watch this Christmas classic come to life on December 12.
Ripe Market at Umm Al Emarat Park
The lush green Umm Al Emarat Park in Abu Dhabi transforms every winter to host the city’s favourite outdoor fair. Ripe Market, returns this season for yet another exciting addition, presenting a spectacular display of organic wares and handmade trinkets produced by local artisans. The December edition will have a festive theme and as a visitor you can make your way around the marketplace, filling your basket with everything from tasty organic treats to bespoke jewellery, art pieces, home décor and toys.
Offering the only truly white Christmas setting in Dubai, Ski Dubai is the place to be for those experiencing snow withdrawal. Complete with decorative trees, lights and Santa’s grotto, a visit to Ski Dubai will drive all your holiday blues away, making the season feel as magical as it would back home. During the month of December, the snow park transforms into a cosy winter village and you can make the most of the activities on offer, from skiing down the slopes to interacting with adorable penguins.