Festive Guide 2018 | Abu Dhabi

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree.Roy L. Smith

The festive season is upon us once more, Marks and Spencer’s has fully stocked all things Christmas, trees are trimmed, flashes of red and gold decorate all the shops and I even saw Santa himself in the mall. Here’s my top tips for festive activities to get the best out of Christmas in the capital this year.

Christmas Shopping

Swiss Christmas Market – The popular 14th annual Swiss Christmas Market will be back at the Beach Rotana courtyard from 5th – 8th December. The free four-day family event is the perfect place to get everyone in the yuletide mood. The mini Swiss Winter Land will showcase local artisans in forty-seven cute Swiss wooden chalets selling their range of handicrafts, ornaments, gifts and festive gourmet treats including traditional raclette and fondue. Traditional Swiss folk songs and Christmas carols will playing as you indulge in hot chocolate and 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. The Lindt Christmas Brunch (reservation required) will take place on 8th December offering Swiss dishes and a visit from Santa himself – click HERE for all the information.

Timings: Wednesday 5th December 4pm – 9pm (opening ceremony at 6pm), Thursday 6th December 2pm – 10pm, Friday 7th and Saturday 8th December 11am – 10pm.

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The Galleria Winter WonderlandThe Galleria at Al Maryah Island will once again be transformed into a Winter Wonderland from 13th – 26th December. The Waterfront Promenade will house cozy winter cottages hosting a range of family-friendly activities including festive arts and crafts, live entertainment, sliding slope park, snow zone and train rides. Santa’s Grotto will be open from December 6th until 24th in the Great Room and don’t miss the Winter Wonderland Parade. Pop into the mall to pick a special designer gift for your loved one and try one of the indulgent hot chocolates at Godiva Chocolate Cafe.

Timings: Winter Wonderland from Thursday 13th – Wednesday 26th December (Santa’s Grotto will be open from Thursday 6th until Monday 24th December from 3pm – 10pm)


Pick up a real Christmas tree for that special pine aroma from ACE Hardware on Yas Island, 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. The store has trees (real and artificial) of all shapes and sizes but they are selling fast! There’s also 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 (highly recommend their iced Christmas cake bites).

Head to Marks & Spencer (Yas Mall, Marina Mall, Dalma Mall and Fetouh Al Khair Centre) for 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

Anantara Eastern Mangroves Get into the festive spirit early with the Christmas tree lighting in the lobby. Enjoy complimentary seasonal beverages and cookies, Christmas carols and a visit from Santa Claus with stockings filled with treats – 6pm – 8pm on Thursday 6th December www.anantara.com

Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi – The hotel’s own choir will perform carols live in the lobby starting at 7:30pm.  Guests are invited to enjoy mulled grape, eggnog, cookies and juices while the tree lights come on. Festive goodies and hampers will also be available for purchase – from 7pm on Thursday 6th December www.shangri-la.com/abudhabi/shangrila/

Jumeirah Etihad Towers – The hotel’s annual Christmas Lighting Ceremony will be accompanied by the tunes of the U.S. Air Force Central Command Band from 6pm on Thursday 6th December www.jumeirah.com/en/hotels-resorts/abu-dhabi/

Emirates PalaceStart your festive season in style at the Emirates Palace Grand Dome as the capital’s biggest tree lights up in all its glory accompanied by classic Christmas carols performed by the Brighton College Abu Dhabi Children’s Choir – 7pm on Sunday 9th December www.kempinski.com/en/abudhabi/emirates-palace

Sofitel Abu Dhabi – Festive treats and carols performed by the Heartist’s Choir along with a visit from Santa Claus – from 6pm on Sunday 9th December www.sofitelabudhabicorniche.com

Festive Activities

FestemberThe annual lifestyle and entertainment event is back in Abu Dhabi from 5th -9th December at a new location, the Waterfront Park next to the Louvre Abu Dhabi. Visitors can enjoy a programme of live music and entertainment, artisan retail opportunities as well as a variety of pop-up food and beverage options. A new attraction this year is the 30 metre long Illusinations Tunnel which plays with innovative and abstract forms, visual structures and an interactive rainbow of lighting. Festember will be open daily from 5pm to Midnight ( Adults AED 75, Children AED 25) – visit festemberad.com for more information and to book tickets

Carols in the DesertSing 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 7th 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 Winter Carnival – Yas Island will be transformed into a winter wonderland at the Yas Winter Carnival from 11th-15th December at Gateway Park South, Yas Island. Kick off your family Christmas celebrations with five days entertainment including nightly tree lightings every evening at 7 pm, a fun fair and carnival rides and watch the fireworks at 9pm each night. Lots of fun activities with Disney tunes, Christmas carols, a Winter Market to grab some gifts as well as festive food and experience snow falling in the UAE  where younger members of the family can build a snowman and enjoy a snowball fight at the Snow Play Zone. Entry to Yas Winter Festival is free simply register at www.wintercarnival.ae for your free passes.


Yas MarinaFestive Candy Land is a world of seasonal family fun at Yas Marina this festive season on Friday 21 & Saturday 22 December from 1pm to 7pm – visit www.yasmarina.ae/events/ for more information

Festive Market & Santa Chase – The Westin Abu Dhabi’s Winter Wonderland will return again to the hotel’s lawn with a festive market, live entertainment, arts and craft and the popular Santa Chase. This free family event takes place on Saturday 8th December from noon – 7pm

There are many Christmas Afternoon Teas available throughout December. My personal favourites are the Rosewood Abu Dhabi high tea served in the Majlis Lobby Lounge, the English-style Afternoon Tea with a festive twist at Al Meylas in the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi and the Polar Afternoon Tea at Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri, Abu Dhabi. Pre-christmas dinners and festive brunches are available throughout the capital too for those looking for extra pre-Christmas indulgence.

Christmas Day

Here’s a selection of the Christmas Day dining options on offer

Four Seasons Abu Dhabi – Celebrate Christmas Day in three of the hotel’s restaurants. All-day dining restaurant Crust will be offering traditional Christmas cuisine and family entertainment including a visit from santa.  Experience an Italian style ‘Bel Paese’ brunch and dinner at Cafe Milano or a steak feast from Chicago inspired Butcher & Still’s steakhouse Winter Night’s menu – click HERE for all the festive season dining options at the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi or telephone 02 333 2444


Emirates Palace Christmas Day Brunch at Le Vendome will offer a sizable spread of fine food from around the globe for all the family with special festive decorations, treats and beverages – click HERE for more information or telephone 02 690 7999

InterContinental Abu Dhabi – Enjoy The Marina Christmas Brunch with a selection of cuisine from the East to West. Pan-Asian Dishes from Cho Gao, Italian delights from Circo, Brazilian churrascaria from Chamas, children’s activities and a treat from Santa. Post brunch fun will continue at the Belgian Cafe while the DJ plays your favourite Christmas tunes – click HERE for all the festive programme or telephone 800 423 463

Roberto’s Abu Dhabi – Have a merry Italian Christmas at Roberto’s Abu Dhabi with gourmet treats such as Angus rib-eye, veal striploin, lamb cutlet and baby chicken along with a special selection of homemade desserts prepared by the talented pastry chef. Sit back and relax and enjoy a five-star experience – click HERE for Roberto’s Festive Season information or telephone 02 627 9009

Turkey Takeaways

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 offering this service. We tried it one year from Fairmont Al Bahr and sampled the Sofitel Abu Dahbi Thanksgiving offering this year.

Here’s some ideas of where to order your roast turkey with all the trimmings: Sofitel Abu Dhabi – AED 495 net per turkey (feeds 8 people) click HERE for all the information. InterContinental Abu Dhabi – AED 130 per kg click HERE for all the information. Anantara Eastern Mangroves – AED 450/550 (feeds 6/10) click HERE for all the information.

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 2018. All rights reserved. Additional photos used with courtesy of the respective venues. Featured imaged www.fourseasons.com/abudhabi/

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