“Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends.” Margaret Thatcher
It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, just without the brisk winter mornings and dark evenings us Brits are more accustomed too. Tis the season to be jolly, drink hot chocolate in those seasonal red cups, eat mince pies, untangle strings of fairy lights and watch Love Actually and Elf on repeat. Christmas has snuck up on us once again so here’s my top tips for festive activities to get the best out of Christmas in the capital.
Swiss Christmas Market – The popular annual Swiss Christmas Market will be back in situ at the Beach Rotana courtyard from 6th – 9th December. The free four-day family event is just so lovely, the perfect place to get everyone in the yuletide mood. The mini Swiss Winter Winterland will showcase local artisans in cute wooden chalets selling their range of handicrafts, ornaments, gifts and festive gourmet treats including traditional raclette and fondue. With traditional Swiss folk songs and Christmas carols ringing in your ears indulge in some Lindt chocolates, decorate some gingerbread and get involved with the Christmas themed arts and crafts, don’t forget to look out for santa too.
Timings: Wednesday 6th December 4pm – 9pm (opening ceremony at 6pm), Thursday 7th December 2pm – 10pm, Friday 8th and Saturday 9th December 11am – 10pm.
The Galleria Winter Wonderland – You might just see some (fake) snow in Abu Dhabi at The Galleria, Al Maryah Island when it’s transformed into a Winter Wonderland from 14th – 26th December. The waterfront promenade will be awash with festive cheer, the winter village will house a number of stalls with a variety of gifts along with performers and musical performances. Santa and his elves will be receiving young visitors in the Grotto. Looking for a special gift for your loved one? Pop into the designer stores in the mall before trying one of the delicious hot chocolates at Godiva Chocolate Cafe.
Timings: Winter Wonderland from Thursday 14th – Tuesday 26th December (Santa’s Grotto will be open from Thursday 7th until Sunday 24th December)
Christmas Market and Santa Chase – Experience the magic of Christmas at The Westin Abu Dhabi’s Christmas market and santa chase on Friday 9th December. The hotel’s lawn will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland packed with retailers as well as family activities. Sing Christmas Carols, build a gingerbread house and experience snow falling in the desert (seeing is believing).
Timing: 12 noon – 7pm
Tryano, Yas Mall – Tryano, the high-end department store in Yas Mall has gone all out on its holiday campaign with stunning festive window displays and beautiful bespoke oversized Nutcrackers. UAE artists have designed different nutcrackers with the colourful statues displayed throughout the store and under the oversized Christmas tree on the lower ground floor entrance lobby. Shop for unique gifts, designer bags and shoes as well as beauty, perfumes and a whole range of childrenswear.
Location: First and Ground Floor, Yas Mall, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Opening Hours: Weekdays 10am – 10pm, Weekends 10am – 12am
Don’t forget the real Christmas tree for that true festive feel and pine aroma, my tree last year lasted well into the New Year despite the air conditioning and a cat who was intent on wrecking it at every opportunity. ACE Hardware on Yas Island will be once again stocking trees of all shapes and sizes as well as all manner of Christmas paraphernalia including a great assortment of lights, ornaments and decorations. Spinneys/Waitrose also stock real trees, Christmas blooms, cakes and confectionary. Head to good old Marks & Spencers (Yas Mall, Marina Mall, Dalma Mall and Fetouh Al Khair Centre) for some your traditional iced Christmas cake, mince pies and other British favourites. IKEA also has a fab selection of candles, baubles, wrapping paper and Swedish inspired decorations.
Christmas Tree Lightings
BU! – Kick your celebrations off early with BU! located on level 4 of The Hub at WTCAD. Lashings of mulled wine, christmas cocktails and festive entertainment are all on offer at BU!’s tree lighting on Sunday 3rd December from 7:30pm – 9:30pm.
Jumeirah Etihad Towers – Let the season’s festivities begin at Jumeirah Etihad Towers on Wednesday 6th December with the lighting of their beautiful christmas tree in the Lobby lounge. Festive treats and refreshments will be served from 5:30pm, tree lighting 6pm.
Emirates Palace – The largest and most extravagant tree in the emirate will be lit up in all its glory at the Grand Tree-lighting Ceremony on Thursday 7th December 2017 from 7pm. Mulled wine, Christmas cookies and carols performed by the Brighton College Abu Dhabi Children’s Choir are guaranteed to get everyone feeling festive.
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island Resort, Abu Dhabi – If you can’t make it to the Emirates Palace have no fear as the St. Regis Saadiyat is also holding its Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on 7th December from 6:30pm. Carols from the choir and a visit from santa are guaranteed as the lobby lights up with Christmas cheer.
Fairmont Bab Al Bahr – Traditional eggnog, Christmas carols and a visit from santa will mark the occasion of the Fairmont’s Tree lighting ceremony in the Lobby Lounge on 10th December from 6pm onwards
Carols in the Desert – Sing carols by candlelight in the desert at this annual free community event organised by St. Andrew’s Church. Follow the convoy of 4×4’s (off road vehicles are not essential) into the dunes to join in with the festive sing-a-long on Friday 8th December. The event starts at 4pm, communal bbq fires will be lit at 5pm. Anyone planning to join needs to bring their own food, drinks, chairs, warm clothing, blankets, torch and singing voices. Click here for all the information.
Yas Marina – This festive season Yas Marina will be transformed into a winter wonderland with two weekends of family friendly events. On 8th and 9th December take the kids to see santa arriving by boat, meet the resident elves for arts, crafts and games, join in for storytime and post those all important letters to the man in red. Pick up some festive treats at the Winter Market on 15th & 16th December, join in the snow-ball fights and building of a snowman! Yes, you read that right build an actual snowman in the desert!
Tree Lighting Ceremony – 8th & 9th December 2pm to 6pm Winter Market Extravaganza – 15th & 16th December 2pm to 9pm (for more information about the market contact firstname.lastname@example.org)
There are many Festive Afternoon Teas throughout December. Try the Majlis Lobby Lounge at the Rosewood Abu Dhabi or sample the Christmas themed Afternoon Tea at Al Meylas in the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi. Festive Friday Brunches on 22nd December are perfect for those looking for extra pre-Christmas indulgence, for something a littledifferent try the Italian Andiamo Friday brunch at Roberto’s in The Galleria.
Four Seasons Abu Dhabi – Celebrate Christmas Day in style at Crust, the hotel’s all-day fine dining restaurant located on the first floor, we went last year and are returning this year too. Smaller, so therefore more intimate Crust will be offering festive specials and entertainment to make for a memorable day. Thecarving and live cooking stations will be complemented by table service, a themed buffet, fabulous festive desserts and of course a visit from santa.
Christmas Day from 1pm – 5pm AED 300* with soft drinks, AED 400* with house beverages, AED 650* with champagne. (AED 125* children (6-12 years), AED 50* (5 years and under).
Emirates Palace – Let the Emirates Palace chefs cook you a sumptuous Christmas feast to remember at Le Vendome restaurant. Expect all your festive favourites and so much more at the grand buffet, extra special treats for the children and of course the customary visit from the man in red.
Christmas Day from 12:30pm – 3:30pm AED 450* inclusive of soft drinks, AED 600* inclusive of wine selection, AED 700* with free flowing bubbly
The St. Regis Saadiyat Island, Abu Dhabi – The festive brunch at Olea is an indulgent affair but it’s busy so be prepared to queue. Live cooking stations offer variety of options from the traditional turkey to Mongolian, Indian, Italian and seafood choices. Leave room for the desserts and and the splendid selection of cheese and port, sit back and relax and enjoy the live entertainment on offer.
Christmas Day from 1pm – 4pm AED 250* Children’s brunch with drinks (under 5’s eat for free), AED 500* inclusive of soft beverages, AED 600* inclusive of house mixers, AED 700* with house mixers and Louis Roederer champagne.
BU! – Grab some family and friends to enjoy a four-hour Pan-Latin Christmas feast at BU!(this menu is aimed at 8 people or more but contact the restaurant for options for fewer guest). Expect turkey with all the trimmings including the obligatory brussel sprouts followed by apple crumble and chocolate cake accompanied by festive cocktails and drinks .
Christmas Day from 12:30pm – 4:30pm and 7pm – 10pm AED 375 per person for Christmas Feast with beverages, AED 275 per person for Christmas Feast only.
The Sportsman Arms – Famed for it’s delicious roasts The Sportsman Arms is offering an American/Irish style Christmas brunch for those looking for a more relaxed affair. Starters of New England clam chowder, duck carpaccio are followed by a selection of mains including of course the traditional turkey (a whole turkey for your table can be ordered in advance) with all the trimmings. Don’t expect to see Christmas pud on the menu though but instead there’s a ginger and bourbon trifle, Boston Cream pie and mini mince pies. To see the full menu and vegetarian options click here.
Christmas Day from 12pm – 3pm or 5pm – 8pm AED 55/85 Children 5-8/8-14 (under 4’s free), AED 195 with unlimited soft drinks, AED 295 with house beverages and AED 345 with prosecco.
Those looking to take some of the hassle out of celebrating at home can order roast turkey and all the trimmings from many of the hotels (we tried it successfully one year). Obviously this is just my personal guide and a mere snapshot into the hundreds of festive activities that are going on throughout Abu Dhabi during December.
Additional information and photos provided by the respective venues. All views are my own © Jo Brett 2017. All rights reserved. Featured image used courtesy of Pinterest and Swiss Christmas Market photo used with courtesy of www.swissbcuae.com
*All prices are subject to 10% service charge, 6% tourism fee and 4% municipality fee.