alice in wonderland decorationsYou’ve sent all your cards, bought all your presents and watched The Snowman DVD a dozen times already, but it just doesn’t feel Christmassy yet. The fact that you are spending the festive period on a beach might have something to do with it – but never fear, we’re here to help you fill your stockings and put a twinkle in your fairy lights. Check out these festive events in Abu Dhabi to add a bit of wintery good cheer to end your year.
Markets & festive events
Visit Deerfields Mall to experience the family entertainment of the Winter Market. Not limited to Christmas but running from National Day until the end of December, it kicks off with 30 exhibitors selling everything from toys to art.
Free. Dec 2, 4-10pm. Marhaba Market, Deerfields Mall, Old Al Bahya, www.deerfieldsmall.com (02 501 0826).
Westin Christmas Market
A market packed with stall-holders selling quirky handicrafts and tasty morsels out on the Westin’s lawns. Shop and eat throughout the day before enjoying the “Santa Chase”, which always proves popular with kids and takes place from 3pm to 5.45pm.
Free. Dec 3, 10am-onwards. The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Sas Al Nakhl, www.westinabudhabigolfresort.com (02 616 9999).
Swiss Christmas Market
A little taste of the Swiss Alps down on the Rotana beach has become an annual tradition. Now in its 12th year, the market is organised by the Swiss Business Council and this year there are 40 wooden chalets serving food such as raclette and Swiss chocolate. There’s also music, plus decorative gifts and handicrafts.
Free. Dec 7, 4-9pm. Dec 8, 2-10pm. Dec 9-10, 11am-10pm. Swiss Christmas Market, Beach Rotana, Al Zahiya, www.rotana.com (050 824 2931).
Al Maryah Island
If you’re struggling to get into the festive mood, a trip to Al Maryah Island should sort you out. The Galleria kicks off Christmas on December 8 with Santa’s Grotto, where kids can make seasonal arts and crafts, enjoy face painting and write letters to Father Christmas. A marching band will be walking through the mall, too, and there will be performances of classics such as Jack Frost and The Nutcracker. Then, from December 15, Al Maryah Island Promenade will come alive with the Winter Wonderland. Cosy festive cottages, a skating rink and snow park will be set up, and characters from Disney’s Frozen will be roaming about. Interactive games will add another element of excitement, and live shows such as Alice in Wonderland and The Snowman will be performed.
Free. Open all day. Dec 8-30. Al Maryah Island, www.almaryahisland.ae (no number).
Once again this 50-plus year-old members’ club has a packed season of festive activities. Children and adult parties, a pantomime, a grotto and numerous foodie deals follow on from the Christmas market. Members and guests can enjoy a magic show, music, arts and craft displays plus seasonal food and drink.
Free. Dec 8-9. The Club, Mina Sadiyat, www.the-club.com (02 673 1111).
Ritz-Carlton Yule Log Market
One of the more niche markets of the season, but if you’re sweet of tooth, this is one not to miss. Browse a variety of mini yule logs prepared by chefs from the hotel’s Dolce Café and get personalised desserts to take away.
Free. Dec 8-Jan 3. 1pm-1am. Dolce Café, Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Al Maqta, www.ritzcarlton.com (02 818 8888).
Al Seef Resort Festive Market
Fashion, art and toys for sale and an appearance from Santa are the highlights of this craft market. There will also be family games, a choral performance and a grand lighting of the Christmas tree at around 5.30pm.
Free. Fri Dec 9, 2pm-8pm. The Walk, Al Seef Resort and Spa by Andalus, Eastern Ring Road, www.andalus.ae (800 263 2587).
Winter Village at Abu Dhabi Mall
An entire Winter Village has been set up with festive activities, traditional tree, workshops where children can make their own crafts, and a Santa meet-and-greet. There will be a pop-up market with handmade wares and creative accessories for the season.
Free. Dec 14-25. Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Zahiya, www.abudhabi-mall.com (02 645 4858).
The supercar theme park will be transformed into a wintery world complete with festive decorations, an ice-skating rink, a holiday village and fun games and shopportunities.
Park entry fee applies. Dec 16-Jan 7, 11am-8pm. Ferrari World, Yas Island, www.ferrariworldabudhabi.com (02 496 8000).
Christmas tree lighting
Jumeirah at Etihad Towers
Traditional carols, festive beverages and an abundance of cookies are promised at the tree-lighting to start the season of festive fun at this high-rise landmark.
Free. Dec 4, 6pm onwards. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche, www.jumeirah.com (02 811 5666).
Sheraton Abu Dhabi
The Christmas carols from Abu Dhabi school children make this one score high on the adorable factor. Plus, you know, cookies. The lobby tree is a great backdrop for a night of traditional entertainment, and some cracking selfies, too.
Free. Dec 7, 6pm-7pm. Sheraton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road, www.sheratonabudhabi.com (02 677 3333).
The St. Regis Abu Dhabi
Father Christmas is putting in a special appearance and there will be, for a fee, gingerbread house-making classes for kids. Look out for some wonderfully indulgent treats and more seasonal cheer than you could stuff in a stocking.
Free, (tree lighting), Dhs100 (gingerbread house). Dec 8, 6pm. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Tower, Corniche, www.stregisabudhabi.com (02 694 4444).
Why don’t more events have hot cocoa and homemade cookies? It is a question for the ages and one we’re happy to contemplate at the fantastic Emirates Palace tree-lighting. Always one of the most spectacular trees in the city, there will also be candles, music, roast chestnuts and mulled grape. Oh, and Santa will be turning up, so expect a little magic and some sparkle as well.
Free. Dec 8, 7pm. Grand Dome, Emirates Palace, West Corniche Road, www.kempinski.com (02 690 9000).
The entire hotel looks like a spaceship from the year 2872, so expect high style and plenty of sparkle on the Yas Viceroy tree. Drag your eyes away from the arboreal splendour and you can enjoy festive face painting, seasonal drinks and hot chocolate, plus a visit from Father Christmas.
Free. Dec 8, 6pm-8pm. Yas Viceroy, Yas Island, www.viceroyhotelsandresorts.com (02 656 0000).
Mulled grape, marshmallows in hot chocolate and a visit from Santa – the Crowne Plaza has thought of all the little touches to make the lights switch-on a special occasion. You can also see the large gingerbread house that the hotel’s culinary elves will be putting up between December 2 and 5.
Free. December 8, 5.30pm-7pm. Cappucino's, Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Hamdan Bin Mohammed Street, www.ihg.com (02 616 6166).
The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa
Christmas takeover at the Westin steps up a gear with a switch-on of a stylish tree. As well as the illuminations, a Christmas in The Park event will include children’s activities and performances by the ‘Sand of Music’ choir.
Free. Dec 8, 6pm. The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Sas Al Nakhl, www.westinabudhabigolfresort.com (02 616 9999).
Eastern Mangroves by Anantara
The hotel scores high on our beauty scale and we’re hoping the cosiness factor is turned up to the max at a tree-lighting ceremony that promises complimentary beverages, carols and a certain jolly guy in a red suit sporting a big beard. There will also be cookies and stockings full of treats.
Free. Dec 8, 6-8pm. Lobby, Eastern Mangroves Hotel by Anantara, Eastern Mangroves, www.anantara.com (02 656 1000).
Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi
One of the few paid-for tree lighting ceremonies, but all the funds raised are donated to UNICEF for water and sanitation facilities across Africa and the Middle East. The sparkling ceremony will be accompanied by Music Hub students and pianist Yana Welch on carol duty. Edible goodies ranging from mince pies to spiced breads will be served, along with some refreshing drinks.
Dhs50 (to charity). Dec 9, 4-7pm. Le Royal Méridien Abu Dhabi, Sheikh Khalifa Street, www.leroyalmeridienabudhabi.com (02 674 2020).
Abu Dhabi Golf Club
Enjoy a sumptuous roast turkey buffet as you’re serenaded with Christmas carols at this tree lighting event. There are also special activities for the kids.
Members: Dhs130, Dhs 80 (kids). Guests: Dhs170, Dhs95 (kids aged 12- six), free (kids under five). Dec 15, 6pm. Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Sas Al Nakhl, www.adgolfclub.com (02 885 3555).
The palm trees at this cool al fresco venue might not be what you picture when thinking of Christmas, but the fairy lights, lanterns and cool ambience are every bit as wintery as we would want right now. From Sunday to Thursday throughout the month there will be an array
of special offers, including street food and buy-one-get-one-free drinks.
Until Dec 31. Sheraton Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road, www.b-loungeabudhabi.com (02 677 3333).
Time Out Abu Dhabi’s Christmas Jumper party at McGettigan’s
Join us for a night of cheesy Christmas fun at the Time Out award-winning Irish bar. DJ Tim Cheddar and a live band will provide the musical entertainment, while there is a happy hour until 10pm and, probably, the biggest collection of festive knitwear in the land.
Free (complimentary drink with a festive jumper). Dec 10, 6pm-11pm. McGettigan’s, Al Raha Beach Resort, www.mcgettigans.com (02 652 4333).
Lemon and Lime Festive Mixer
There tends to be a mellow vibe at the Westin’s mixed drink lounge. Frequently listed as a top sundowner spot, it will take on a festive twist for a night with crafted Christmas beverages and seasonal snacks.
Dhs130. Dec 15, 8pm-late. The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, Sas Al Nakhl, www.westinabudhabigolfresort.com (02 616 9999).
There are a few Christmas parties at The Club, but we’re ready to be enchanted by Christmas Music from the Movies. Radio 1’s Danny Cee will provide a soundtrack of festive tunes from classic films and fancy dress is strongly encouraged.
Dhs150 (members), Dhs150 (guests). Dec 15, 8pm-2am. Mina Sadiyat, www.the-club.com (02 673 1111).
The uber-cool rooftop lounge gives a taste of what it must be like to spend an evening inside a Christmas tree bauble. We’d happily grasp any excuse for a visit here, and the festive bubbly mixed drinks classes are an opportunity for the resident mixologists to show off their skills.
Dhs84. Dec 15 and 22, 7-9pm. Yas Viceroy, Yas Island (02 656 0000).
Way up on the 62nd floor, this is one of the sleekest spots in the city. And on Christmas Day itself the crew are opening the doors for a bubbly Christmas. Sunset beats might not be the most traditional of festive soundtracks, but you’re not likely to hear many complaints from a chilled-out crowd. Look out for half-price happy hours between 5pm and 8pm.
Free. Dec 25, 5pm-late. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche, www.jumeirah.com (02 811 5666).
Christmas isn’t just about trees and lights being turned on. It’s about food. Lots of food. Here’s our round-up of some of the best places to get fed this festive season, including traditional dinners, indulgent buffets and chilled-out Boxing Day deals
Al Badiya restaurant
Experience Christmas in the desert, right on the edge of the Empty Quarter. This restaurant in Tilal Liwa Hotel is serving up a menu of festive favourites.
Dhs200 (soft drinks), Dhs275 (house beverages), Dhs100 (children aged six-12), free (children under six). 6.30pm-10pm. Tilal Liwa Hotel, Al Gharbia (02 894 6111).
An international buffet featuring everyone’s favourite roast turkey and Christmas desserts. Seafood fans will enjoy savouring the beautifully fresh oysters.
Dhs450 (soft drinks), Dhs650 (house beverages), Dhs750 (bubbly), Dhs200 (children aged four-12). 7pm-10.30pm. Qasr Al Sarab Desert Resort by Anantara (02 886 2088).
The Buon Natale dinner features a lavish Italian spread. You can either take your plate outdoors or sit inside as you enjoy the musical stylings of the pianist.
Dhs275 (soft drinks), Dhs550 (bubbly). 7pm-11.30pm. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 811 5555).
Indulge in French flavours this Christmas. A fancy à la carte menu awaits you as you discover how they do things in France.
Price varies. 7pm-11.30pm. Jumeirah at Etihad Towers, West Corniche (02 811 5555).
A three-course set menu is being served up at Safina. Your meal starts with a flavoursome foie gras, followed by a fresh lobster main, while dessert is an indulgent chestnut treat.
Dhs280 (soft drinks), Dhs420 (grape pairing for each course). 7pm-10pm. Saadiyat Beach Club, Saadiyat Island (02 656 3500).
Terrace on the Corniche
Christmas feasting doesn’t need to be restricted to brunch, lunch or dinner. Kick off the festivities early this year with the New York All-Day Breakfast.
Dhs250 (soft beverages), Dhs350 (house beverages), Dhs500 (bubbly). 6.30am-3pm. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Corniche Road(02 694 4444).
Christmas Day Dinners
Anantara Sir Bani Yas Island Resorts
Turn your Christmas dinner into a mini-break by travelling out to these scenic and secluded islands. At Savannah Grill, you can dine on a five-course set menu, or you can go for an Italian dinner at Olio Restaurant.
Dhs350 per person. 6.30pm-10.30pm. Sir Bani Yas Island (02 801 5400).
Azura Panoramic Lounge
Living in a country with year-round sun has its advantages, especially during the festive season. Make the most of the winter sunshine at Azura, where you can have your festive lunch outside while looking out over the water and Corniche.
Dhs250 (soft drinks), Dhs400 (grape, mixed beverages and house beverages), Dhs125 (children aged six to 12), free (children under six). 12.30pm-4pm. The St. Regis Abu Dhabi, Nation Tower, Corniche Road (02 694 4553).
This French brasserie is serving up a Christmas roast lunch in a relaxed and casual setting. It’s a bright and airy space amid the scenic Venetian Village, and there’s a stylish bar area for post-Christmas lunch drinks.
Reservations required. Dhs265 per person. 12.30pm-5.30pm. Venetian Village, The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 404 1931).
Café 28 Terrace
Abu Dhabi Golf is going traditional with its offerings this year. There’ll be a live carving station, roast turkey, pies and Christmas pudding. All while looking out over the greenery of the golf course.
Dhs199 (food only), Dhs399 (house beverages, for three hours). Ten percent discount for members. 11.30am-2.30pm. Abu Dhabi Golf Club, Sas Al Nakhl (02 885 3555).
Do things the non-traditional way with a pan-Asian meal ranging from Vietnamese and Chinese to Malaysian and Singaporean delicacies, all in a stunning setting.
Price varies. From 7pm. The Ritz-Carlton Abu Dhabi, Grand Canal, Khor Al Maqta (02 818 8888).
Park Bar & Grill
You’ve got two Christmassy options if you come to the Park Hyatt. If it’s lunch you’re after, there’s a festive buffet to tackle. But if the thought of walking to and from a buffet sounds like too much effort for December 25, there’s a five-course set menu for dinner.
Lunch: Dhs350 per person. 1pm-4pm. Dinner: Dhs500 per person. 7pm-11.30pm. Park Hyatt Abu Dhabi Hotel and Villas, Saadiyat Island (02 407 1138).
Continue the celebrations at this leisurely Boxing Day brunch with a sumptuous spread of festive eats and drinks.
Dhs290 (soft drinks), Dhs355 (house beverages), Dhs515 (bubbly). 12.30pm-4pm. The Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa Sas Al Nakhl (02 616 9999).
British pub grub and the Boxing Day Premier League games live on TV. It’s as simple as that and as brilliant as it sounds. If you like British pub grub and football, that is.
Dhs89 (one plate and one drink), Dhs189 (house beverages for three hours). 4pm-9pm. Crowne Plaza Abu Dhabi, Hamdan Street (02 616 6801).
Another bar option for Boxing Day. The Irish pub is serving up its à la carte menu, plus some extras like turkey sandwiches and the necessary Christmas treat of Quality Street chocolates.
Priced à la carte. Noon-3am. Al Raha Beach Hotel & Resort (02 652 4333).
Turkey is just the start of the offerings from this café in the Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana. You can also order your desserts from here. There are chocolate and vanilla sponge yule logs for Dhs100 each, or baked apple stollen for Dhs40 per 500g. Orders need to be placed 72 hours in advance.
Dhs310 (3-4kg turkey), Dhs410 (6-8kg turkey). Al Maha Arjaan by Rotana, Hamdan Street (02 610 6666).
Plan a Christmas feast around a six to seven kilo stuffed turkey, with all the trimmings, courtesy of this family-friendly restaurant. Just make sure you give them a 48-hour window to set things up for you. Then you can sit back, relax and really enjoy your Christmas Day.
Dhs700. Dec 24-26. Yas Marina (050 811 5414).
jones the grocer
Let the team take care of all the peeling, chopping and stuffing as you busy yourself with unwrapping all your presents. The gourmet food store is offering festive-goers all the mains and sides required to feed a mini army. Okay, maybe just eight to ten people.
From Dhs575 (72 hours’ notice required). Dec 24-26. Al Khalidiya (02 639 5883).
Give the chefs here 48 hours’ notice and they’ll cook you up everything you need for Christmas dinner. That, of course, includes roast turkey with stuffing, but not just that. There are also Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin, gravy and cranberry sauce. And they’ll even throw in a Christmas pudding and apple pie, too.
Dhs550. Aloft Abu Dhabi, Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre (02 654 5193).
Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche
Pop into the Sofitel (after giving them 48 hours’ warning) and you can pick up a roast turkey that will feed up to six hungry people. You can attempt to pass it off as one you cooked up yourself, but you’ll probably get rumbled.
Dhs495. Sofitel Abu Dhabi Corniche, Corniche Road East (02 813 7777).
Let the team at this swanky hotel do all the work for you as you sit back and enjoy the grand feast. The team of expert chefs are willing to rustle up the usual feast and even build you your own gingerbread house.
Starts from Dhs550. From Dec 8. Yas Island (02 656 0000).