Updated January 2023
While it’s true that Christmas in Dubai may not be as prominent as in other major cities such as New York or London, visiting the city during the month of December all the way to January will still get you in the holiday mood.
Immediately following the National Day of the UAE holiday on December 2nd, the emirate transforms itself into a Christmas wonderland to welcome the coming festivities. Almost overnight, the streets of Dubai are magically illuminated by colourful lights emanating from the many events, activities and shows taking place throughout the city.
So while snow may not fall on the desert anytime soon, the myriad of places to visit and things to do in Dubai and the UAE during Christmas promises an unforgettable end-of-year experience under the winter sun for you and your loved ones.
Dubai is home to one of the most diverse expatriate communities in the Middle East, and in terms of Christmas activities and celebrations, the city definitely does not disappoint. From Christmas shopping bonanza to Christmas-themed performances, Dubai offers everything for everyone.
Visit Christmas markets
Not a lot of people are aware that lively Christmas markets aren’t limited to countries like Germany or Switzerland. Case in point, Dubai regularly hosts these charming markets come to the start of December to just before Christmas.
Dubai’s most popular Christmas market returns in the middle of December and typically lasts for 16 days, during which everything related to traditional food, festive drinks and live music is presented along with a giant Christmas tree on the grand amphitheatre.
Expo City: Winter City
Last Christmas, the Mobility District, Surreal Waterfall, and Al Wasl Plaza transformed into a winter wonderland with cosy-looking cabins, Christmas markets, pine trees, entertaining funfair games, and a letter-to-Santa station from the end of November to early January 2023.
Queen Elizabeth 2
This floating Christmas market took place on Queen Elizabeth 2 cruise liner and is part of the winter wonderland Christmas extravaganza. Expect to find a unique selection of hand-made arts, crafts and Christmas gifts, as well as a wide selection of live cooking stations and live music.
Habtoor Palace Hotel
Next on the list of Christmas markets is one located at the Habtoor Palace Hotel Dubai. The Christmas market usually features stunning decorations complemented by modern and traditional festive activities, including the much-awaited lighting of the Christmas tree.
The 10-day long Christmas Market at the Dubai Opera features Christmas-related songs and ballet performances as well as a range of delicious sweet and savoury meals. Kids will definitely enjoy the candy-making station leading up to their meeting with Father Christmas himself.
Last holiday season, Hillhouse Brasserie not only hosted your Christmas brunch, but their winter market on December 3, from 10 PM to 6 PM, also included magical Santa performances, a gingerbread factory, letter-to-Santa stations, as well as Spinney’s Christmas tree farm,
Take part in the Dubai Shopping Festival
Starting from 15 December 2022 to 29 January 2023, you can take part in the fabulous Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF). This eagerly awaited family event is not only popular among UAE residents but also among shopping connoisseurs of the world.
Take advantage of the hefty discount
Music and fireworks are all great, but let’s talk shopping! What are we talking about here in terms of price slashes? Well, we have it on good authority that the price slash will be as high as 90 per cent in some cases. This unbelievable discount extends to major local and international brands and goods, including fashion, jewellery and electronics. Something to scream about, indeed.
You’ll find that numerous malls and stores are participating in the DSF. The Mall of Dubai, Mall of the Emirates, Dubai Festival City Mall, and Dubai Outlet Mall are only some of them.
What is DSF without its famous raffles! Buy a ticket and try your luck this year at winning exciting prizes in cash and kind.
Bets for the Nissan Grand Raffle start as low as AED 25 but can possibly win you a Nissan Patrol, X-TERRA, X-TRAIL, Kicks, or one of the 200,000 instant prizes. The INFINITI Mega Raffle too tempts you to spend AED 200 with the hopes of getting an INFINITI QX80 and AED 100,000 in cash every day. Besides these, the Dubai Shopping Malls Group (DSMG) is giving away AED 1 million in cash prizes to shoppers during the festival, with more than 17 malls participating in the campaign.
Christmas is also about worship
Last but not least, those looking to spend a quiet and contemplative moment will find a wide variety of churches available. Although the UAE is an Islamic country, Dubai offers a number of churches for nearly every single Christian denomination.
From Russian Orthodox Churches to International Baptist Church, from the beautiful Catholic Church in Downtown Dubai to the Evangelist Singing Winners Chapel, devoted Christians will find no trouble in finding an avenue for them to engage in solemn worship.
Apart from Dubai, Christmas is also widely celebrated in Abu Dhabi. There are probably more Christmas trees here than in any other emirates. Abu Dhabi simply loves celebrating Christmas, as reflected in the decoration of the city’s numerous shopping malls, hotels, restaurants and Christmas markets.
Swiss Christmas Market at the Beach Rotana
The Swiss Christmas Market brings the dazzling alpine Christmas tradition to Abu Dhabi. The four-day-long event features wooden chalets providing decorative gifts and culinary delights unique to Switzerland, such as raclette and cheese fondue. A collection of kids’ activities are also available.
Christmas gift hunting in Abu Dhabi’s excellent malls
Malls in Abu Dhabi are no slouch, even when compared to Dubai. Those looking to procure Christmas gifts for their loved ones will find themselves spoiled for choice due to the variety of available items offered by the various available shopping malls. From high-end shopping to obscure traditional items, Abu Dhabi provides an excellent shopping experience.
Christmas desert getaway
For a truly memorable experience, why not head out to the desert and spend your Christmas in a luxurious oasis? Like a royal palace straight out of the Arabian Nights. The Qasr al Sarab resort, located in the Rub al Khali desert, is hidden among countless sand dunes. But fret not; even with its seemingly secluded location, we guarantee Santa will be able to find and pay you a visit.