Festive Guide 2019 | Abu Dhabi

I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know. Where the treetops glisten and children listen, to hear sleigh bells in the snow.”  White Christmas

The festive season is upon us once more, doesn’t it seem to come around quicker every year! You have decorated your tree, you have eaten your first mince pie and bought presents so now it’s time to enjoy everything festive the capital has to offer at the most wonderful time of the year. 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 15th annual Swiss Christmas Market will be back at the Beach Rotana courtyard from 4th – 7th December. The free four-day family event is the perfect place to get everyone in the yuletide mood with local artisans 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 Saturday 7th December offering Swiss dishes and a visit from Santa himself – click HERE for all the information.

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

The Galleria Winter WonderlandThe Galleria at Al Maryah Island will be transformed into a Winter Wonderland from 5th – 24th December. There will be a Narnia-themed maze and gingerbread-themed Candyland as well as dedicated activities and play zones for children. Meet Santa in his Grotto from 3pm – 9pm daily in the North Atrium (present receipts of AED 25 from any store in the mall, to enter and take home a printed photo of your Santa experience). Pop into the mall to pick a special designer gift for your loved one and try an indulgent hot chocolate at Godiva Chocolate Cafe www.thegalleria.ae/events/winter-wonderland/

Yas Mall – Head over to Yas Mall for all those last minute gifts and pop into to Santa’s Grotto that will be open from Thursday 12th December until Christmas Eve. There will also be a festive market selling exclusive gifts www.yasmall.ae 

If you haven’t already picked up a real Christmas tree for that special pine aroma visit ACE Hardware, the store has trees (real and artificial) of all shapes and sizes but be warned they are selling fast (top tip – if going to Yas branch ask to go to the outside storeroom to choose your own tree). They also have 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 branches throughout the capital 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.

Don’t forget some festive pampering too – get 20% off your lash and brow treatments at Twiink Studio in Al Muneera until 31st December 2019 with promo code AEB20 – click HERE for more information. Party nails are a must too so pop by any branch of Tips and Toes in the capital for some Christmas and New Year sparkle and some festive nail art.

close up of christmas decoration hanging on tree

Christmas Tree Lightings

Jumeirah at Saadiyat Island – Enjoy mini mince pies, hot chocolate and Christmas carols at the lightening of the sustainable hotel’s alternative gold Christmas tree. Thursday 5th December at 6pm.

Sofitel Abu Dhabi – Delicious festive treats and a chorus of Christmas carols from the Heartist’s choir along with a visit from Santa himself. Thursday 5th December from 6pm.

Emirates Palace – Get into the festive spirit with at the grand Dome that will be filled with classic Christmas carols performed by Brighton College Abu Dhabi Children’s Choir and seasonal treats. The magnificent Emirates Palace tree will be lit with thousands of twinkling lights. Tuesday 10th December 2019 at 7pm 

The Galleria – The Galleria Al Maryah Island’s official Tree Lighting Ceremony on will take place on Wednesday 11th December at 6pm. Santa will fly through the air in The Galleria’s Central Atrium before he lights up the 12 metre festive tree at Santa’s Grotto. Carols will be performed by singers from the American Community School. 

Rosewood Abu DhabiCelebrate this Festive Season in style at the Rosewood’s Christmas Tree Lightening Ceremony and enjoy singing Christmas carols on Wednesday 11th December from 3pm – 6pm.

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Anantara Eastern Mangroves – Visit the the Pool Deck to see the hotel’s Christmas tree lit with sparkling lights and ornaments galore and watch as Santa arrives by boat. Enjoy complimentary seasonal goodies and choral performances. Monday 10th December from 6pm – 8pm 

Festive Activities

Carols in the Desert – Join the hundreds of people who 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 6th 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.


Festive Storytime – Join Abu Dhabi’s favourite magician at Virgin Megastore at The Galleria Al Maryah Island between 6pm and 8pm for a festive storytime reading of Tom Fletcher’s (of McFly fame) hit ‘There’s an Elf In Your Book’. Magic Phil will entertain everyone with his games and tricks. The event is free and open to the public www.thegalleria.ae/events/festive-storytime-virgin-megastore/

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 7th December from noon – 7pm www.fairwaysabudhabi.com/festive

Yas Winter Carnival – The capital’s largest free festive celebration, Yas Winter Carnival will be back at Gateway Park South, Yas Island from Tuesday 11th until Monday 16th December from 2pm – 11pm. Yas Island will be transformed into a winter wonderland with snow falling on the hour every hour and children can build a snowman and enjoy a snowball fight in the snow zone. The giant Christmas tree will be lit every evening at 7pm and there will be a winter market to shop for gifts open every day from 2pm. Other activities include a gingerbread making, funfair, kidszone, live music and entertainment daily from 2pm as well as a nightly firework extravaganza every evening at 9pm. Entry to the Yas Winter Carnival is free, simply register at www.wintercarnival.ae for your free passes.

Winter Spectacular at Warner Bros. World™ Abu Dhabi – The theme park plaza will feature a fun show will some of the favourite characters dressed in the finest festive outfits from Friday 20th December 2019 until Saturday 4th January 2020 www.wbworldabudhabi.com/en/events/winter-spectacular


WinterFest at Ferrari World Abu Dhabi – a magical festive celebration filled with festive activities and attractions from Friday 20th December 2019 until Saturday 4th January 2020 www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com/en

There are many Festive Afternoon Teas available throughout December. My personal favourites are the Rosewood Abu Dhabi festive high tea served in the Majlis Lobby Lounge, the classy high tea at Al Meylas located at the Four Seasons Abu Dhabi and the traditional Festive Afternoon Tea at Le Café located at the Emirates Palace 

Christmas Day 

Four Seasons Abu Dhabi – Three of the hotel’s restaurants are offering Christmas Day celebrations. All-day dining restaurant Crust will be offering traditional Christmas cuisine and family entertainment including a visit from santa.  Experience an Italian style ‘Viaggio in Italia’ brunch at Cafe Milano or a holiday meat feast accompanied by live music at Chicago inspired steakhouse Butcher & Still – 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 Vendôme Brasserie will be offer guests their favourite Christmas foods from around the globe with special festive decorations, treats and beverages – 12:30pm – 3:30pm. Prices start from AED 450 per person. Click HERE for more information or telephone 02 690 7999

COYA Abu Dhabi – Enjoy a South American style Christmas at COYA Abu Dhabi’s who will be offering a special Peruvian inspired festive menu with dishes such as corn fed chicken, lamb shoulder along with many others and a sweet treat of yule de chocolate as well as festive mixed beverages. The dishes are available to order separately with main dishes starting from AED 280. Click HERE for the festive dining options and booking conditions or telephone 02 306 7000

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.

The Abu Dhabi Edition – Pre-order a traditional, home-style roast turkey complete with all the tasty trimmings such as pickled red cabbage, roast root vegetables, duck fat potatoes, sprouts & chestnuts, bacon wrapped sausages, cranberry sauce & bread sauce. Serves 6-10 people (turkey size approx. 4-6KG) AED 900. Click HERE to order or telephone 02 208 0000


Also offering this service are Emirates Palace AED 850  (6 kg feeds 6 -7 ) or AED 950 (10 kg feeds 10 – 12) – click HERE, Four Seasons Abu Dhabi – Turkey AED 270 per KG and Roast Beef AED 400 per KG – click HERE to order. Sofitel Abu Dhabi – AED 495 per turkey (feeds 8 people) click HERE to order. Anantara Eastern Mangroves – AED 450 small roast turkey (5kgs – 6kgs)/AED 450 small roast turkey (8kgs – 9kgs)/AED 20 Holiday Extras – click HERE 

This is 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 2019. All rights reserved. Additional photos used with courtesy of the respective venues.

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