christmas tree in Dubai Burj Al Arab

Dubai at Christmas – Visitors Guide to the Festive Season

by Dubai Travel Planner

Christmas? In a Muslim country? You better believe it!!

If you’re seeking out a northern hemisphere winter holiday in the sun but don’t want to miss out on the fun and festivities of Christmas, Dubai could just be the destination for you!!

Christmas in Dubai is not a public holiday but is widely celebrated by the large expat community and tourists.

So other than the reassurance that the shops will still be open on Christmas Eve (and Christmas Day!!), what should you expect in Dubai at Christmas? We’ll take you through everything you need to know to plan your trip at this special time of year at get you in the Christmas spirit:

Weather in Dubai at Christmas

In late December, you should expect wonderful mild weather – average daytime highs of 26°C/78.8°F and seawater temperature of 25.6°C/78°F.

Rain is not unheard of in December, but certainly don’t expect a long string of dreary grey days. Fog can be an issue in December, particularly in the early mornings.

You can find our complete guide to Dubai weather in December here.

fog sitting over skyscrapers in downtown Dubai
Fog is a common occurrence in winter, it usually burns off by mid-morning

The wonderful weather in December, combined with the fact it is also school holiday time in Dubai (along with most of the world), means that the week from Christmas to New Year in Dubai is one of the busiest of the year. You can expect hotel & AirBnB prices to skyrocket, and in some cases, your first choice of accommodation may not be available – so book early if you have December in Dubai on your agenda.


Celebrating Christmas in Dubai 2023

Christmas festivities in Dubai, generally speaking, start as soon as National Day events have concluded (the weekend around 2-3 December and run throughout the month of December). This year, with the overlap of COP28 in early December, the start date of some events has been pushed back to mid-month.

From your classic shopping mall Santas to Christmas tree lightings at most of the city’s top hotels, you will not escape the jubilant atmosphere of Christmas celebrations in Dubai.

Winter City

Expo City will again be transformed into Winter City for the Christmas season, from 15 December 2023 to 7 January 2024.

Al Wasl Plaza takes centre stage, with a 52 ft Christmas Tree and a festive village, including Santa’s uniquely recycled house, Frosty’s Farmhouse, Santa’s Toy Factory, Mrs Claus’ Bakery, and Letters to Santa among the popular activities on offer.

To truly experience the spirit of Christmas in Dubai, from 20 to 25 December, join a nightly Carols by Candlelight performance. This simply magical performance with a light show occurs under the Al Wasl dome – Santa & Mrs Claus will also make a special appearance at this event.

What does it cost?

A new pricing structure has been introduced for 2023. It remains free for those under 12 and People of Determination, but note the following staggered pricing policy now in place for kids 12+ and adults:

  • 15 – 19 December 2023 AED 20
  • 20 – 24 December 2023 AED 50
  • 25 December to 7 January AED 20
  • Carols by Candlelight is separately ticketed, AED 75 (includes Winter City entry)

Event Timing

  • Winter City Daily 3:00 pm to 11:00 pm (15 Dec – 7 Jan 2024)
  • Carols by Candlelight 7:30 pm to 10:00 pm (20 – 25 Dec 2023)

Learn more at expocitydubai.com

Winter Wonderland at Ski Dubai

A Dubai classic winter experience that never disappoints can be found at Ski Dubai. Home to one of the city’s most popular Santa Grotto at Mall of the Emirates, not just Santa meet and greet’s with a Christmas goodie bag and a hot chocolate included.

You can also enjoy fun adventures in the snow park, including Snow Movies, snowman building and breakfast with Santa. Packages start from 150 AED for a standard meet and greet or AED 550 for a Family Pass.

(NB Due to the cold conditions, entry to Santa’s Grotto starts from 2 years of age)

Timing

  • Tickets go on sale mid-November for dates 1-25 December (time slots get snapped up FAST!)

Learn more at skidxb.com/christmas 

Want to make it extra special? Add on a stay at the Aspen Ski Chalets at Kempinski Mall of the Emirates. Ranging in size from a one-bedroom chalet up to the three-floor, three-bedroom ski chalets, each sleeps between two to six guests, overlooking the slopes of Ski Dubai.

Santa’s Grotto at JBR

Found at the popular beachfront venue The Beach in JBR, Santa will be making appearances every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 8-25 December 2023 from 4:00 PM onwards.

You just need to spend AED100 at The Beach, JBR and come to the photo booth stationed near our favourite family brekkie spot in Dubai, Eggspectations.

TBC if Winter Wonderland is returning to The Walk, JBR.

Santa Grotta at the beach JBR
Santa’s Grotto at The Beach, JBR | Image Supplied

Festive Garden at Madinat Jumeirah

Madinat Jumeirah’s Festive Market returns from 15 December 2023 to 7 January 2024. With festive food and drinks, fun activities for the kids, and seasonal live music, this is always one of the best places to enjoy the holiday season in Dubai, at one of the city’s most iconic locations.

Held at Madinat Jumeirah Fort Island, some of the highlights include a 36 ft tall Christmas tree, a live band playing festive music and Christmas carols, a North Pole train ride and a classic Venetian Carousel among the German-style Christmas market huts.

Don’t miss gingerbread house making, live entertainment and decorated abra rides. It’s the perfect place to pick up a special gift with a local touch and seasonal treats you might be craving from home!

  • Free to attend; activities cost extra
  • Weekdays 3:00 PM to late, weekends Midday to late.

Learn more here

Christmas tree at the Madinat Jumeirah festive market in Dubai with Burj Al Arab hotel in the background

Winter Garden at Habtoor Palace

This long-running Dubai Christmas event (dates for the winter holiday season 2023-24 TBC) takes place on the the Al Habtoor City rooftop. The venue is transformed for the winter season into an enchanting winter garden. Expect dazzling decorations, carols, street artists, acrobats, mulled wine, gingerbread, and even Santa Claus will make an appearance.

Weekdays from 4:00 PM until 12:00 AM and 1:00 AM on weekends. Entry AED 25. TBC.

Learn more at alhabtoorcity.com.

Winterfest by McGettigans at Dubai Media City

We await information if this event will be run again in Christmas 2023.

In the meantime, check out all their Festive events happening throughout December, including Brunch and Drunch packages and Christmas Eve and Christmas Day lunches.

Winter District

A great new festive season event At Jumeirah Emirates Towers, the event will run from December 14 to January 5, 2024.

We are expecting market stalls, kids activities, food trucks and a Santa’s Grotto. Stay tuned as we discover more of what will be on offer – follow on Instagram here!

Dubai Garden Glow – all winter

Although not entirely a Christmas event, the wonderfully enchanted setting of Dubai Garden Glow makes the perfect attraction to visit around Christmas for a magical evening.

Global Village

We don’t have the Christmas 2023 details just yet, but there is always a tree lighting ceremony held and festive events observed at this global showcase venue in December each year – learn more about Global Village here.

Grotto on the Green

Part of the Els Club, this festive family event in Dubai will occur on Sunday, 10 December, from 2:00 pm to 5:00 pm. It is free entry, but you’ll need to buy tokens for activities – Learn more here.

Dubai Santa Run

One of the best Christmas events in Dubai to get you in the spirit, this family fun event will take place on Saturday, 9 December 2023, with a new venue at West Beach, Palm Jumeirah.

Due to its increasing popularity, all participants must register in advance. Kids are from AED 49 (or free with an adult); Adults are AED 125 to participate, or book the whole family and get free hotel parking at the Hilton.

There are 1km, 2.5km and 5km events, the chance to meet Santa himself and prizes on offer for best dressed.

Learn more at raceme.ae


Christmas Shows in Dubai 2023

What better way to enjoy Dubai during Christmas than attending a festive show? In addition to the special Dubai Christmas markets and events we’ve listed above, these shows are bound to put you in the festive spirit for the most wonderful time of the year!

Kids’ Christmas Shows in Dubai 2023

In addition to the above shows, you’ll find the following events in Dubai, especially for families with younger children:

Free Evening Shows in Dubai

These events run throughout the year but are particularly special to enjoy at Christmas time (and make for a great cheap night out in Dubai!)

  • DSF Drone Show – Bluewaters/JBR – part of the Dubai Shopping Festival. This twice-nightly show is due to return to the skies over the popular beachfront area of Dubai from 8 December 2023 to 14 January 2024. There’s a show at 7:00 pm and repeated at 10:00 pm.

Christmas Day Brunch Dubai 2023

If you think being in Dubai on Christmas Day means you will miss out on a traditional Christmas dinner, then think again!

Many hotels and restaurants in Dubai will provide a hugely extravagant lunch with all the trimmings – the only real question is – what’s your budget? From pub feasts to 5-star luxury, here’s where you’ll get Christmas dinner in Dubai.

We are still confirming if all these brunches are running in 2023 – some details may still relate to 2022

Budget Christmas Brunch in Dubai

Less than AED 250 per head with house drinks

  • Claw BBQ – JBR
  • Irish Village – Al Garhoud and Studio City (+ see Christmas Cracker event above)
  • O’Leary’s – Hilton Dubai Creek, Deira

Mid-range Christmas Brunch in Dubai 2023

AED 250 AED to AED 500 per head with house drinks

  • Belgian Café – Dubai Festival City
  • BiCE Ristorante – Hilton Dubai Jumeirah
  • Bistro Des Arts – Dubai Marina
  • BOCA – DIFC
  • Boardwalk, Casa de Tapas & Lakeview – Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club
  • Cascades – Fairmont Dubai
  • Crown & Lion – Byblos Hotel, Barsha Heights
  • Indya by Vineet, La Strega, Rhodes Twenty10 & Zengo – Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa
  • JA Hatta Fort Hotel – Hatta
  • Café Artois, Kitchen6 & Prime68 Steakhouse – JW Marriott Marquis
  • McGettigan’s JBR – Hilton Dubai Jumeirah
  • Bread Street Kitchen & Bar, Nobu, Seafire Steakhouse & Bar & WHITE Beach & Restaurant – Atlantis The Palm
  • Picnic Pantry – Crowne Plaza Dubai Festival City
  • Publique – Souk Madinat Jumeirah
  • Pure Sky Lounge & Dining – Hilton Dubai the Walk
  • Raffles Dubai – Raffles Hotel, Oud Metha
  • Spark by Caramel – DIFC
  • Trader Vic’s JBR – Hilton Dubai The Walk

Luxury Christmas Brunch in Dubai 2023

AED 500 AED+ per head with house drinks

  • Manava – Sofitel Dubai The Palm
  • Reform Social & Grill – The Lakes, Emirates Living
  • folly by Nick & Scott – Souk Madinat Jumeirah
  • Geales, Maya Mexican Kitchen + Bar & Brasserie 2.0 – Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa
  • Hakkasan – Atlantis the Palm
  • Hidden Brunch – Taj Hotel, Business Bay
  • Il Ristorante Niko Romito & Yacht Club Restaurant – Bulgari Resort Dubai
  • Marina Social – Intercontinental Dubai
  • Rhodes W1, Siddharta Lounge, Sloane’s, Toro Toro – Grosvenor Hotel
  • Traiteur – Park Hyatt Dubai
  • Winter Wanderlust Brunch – JW Marriot Marquis

Church Services in Dubai Christmas 2023

Dubai is a proudly tolerant city when it comes to religion, and there are several different denominational churches in Dubai.


More Happening in Dubai Over the Winter

For a complete picture of what happens in Dubai over the winter, including many more seasonal events, pop over here for our Dubai winter guide.

We also have month-by-month guides for what’s happening in Dubai:

November | December | January | February | March

Keep your eye out as we update our guide to New Year’s Eve in Dubai! Be warned: top venues book out fast, so you will really need to plan ahead. Seeing the most famous site, the Burj Khalifa, is a ticketed event only.

Heading elsehwere in the Emirates? You can find a detailed guide on what’s happening in Abu Dhabi for Christmas here

More FAQs About Dubai At Christmas

Does Dubai celebrate Christmas?

Whilst Dubai in the United Arab Emirates is a Muslim country, it is also very open and tolerant, where all religions are free to celebrate special occasions. Christmas is no exception, and although Christmas Day (25 December or 7 January for Orthodox Christians) is not a public holiday, it is very widely observed in the retail and hospitality sector.

Can I get a photo with Santa in Dubai?

Yes, absolutely. Several of the venues we mention in this article about Dubai at Christmas will have Santa photo opportunities for your children.


Before you go… More important things you should know when planning a trip to Dubai

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