It may not be snowing here in the UAE, like you'll find at traditional Bavarian Christmas markets, but that doesn't mean you can't get in the festive spirit with some seasonal shopping across the emirates.
From festive souks to all-out German-style Christmas markets, here's where to get your festive fix in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Ras Al Khaimah …
Aspen's Christmas market
With a name like Aspen Lounge, leaning into all things festive comes naturally to Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates' eatery, which is hosting a Christmas market. From Tuesday, December 3 to Wednesday, January 8, you can pick up a gift for friends and family or treat yourself to a present or two from the stalls brimming with festive treats. With traditional sweets, freshly baked mince pies, cookies, gingerbread houses and decoratively packaged hampers, shoppers will soon get into the festive spirit.
Tuesday, December 3 to Wednesday, January 8; Aspen Lounge, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates, Dubai; 04 341 0000; www.kempinski.com
Christmas at Dubai Opera
Dubai Opera is hosting its first Christmas market. Little ones will be able to meet Father Christmas and there will be a selection of shopping opportunities and festive treats to buy. Plus, pop-up performances by the National Youth Orchestra and Gems Choir.
The market is free to visit from daily until Saturday, December 14. Santa's grotto will be open for meet and greets on December 12 and 13, from 6.30pm until 8.30pm.
Wednesday, December 4 until Saturday, December 14, 4pm-10pm from Sunday to Wednesday, and 4pm-midnight from Thursday to Saturday; free entry; Dubai Opera, Downtown Dubai, Dubai; www.dubaiopera.com
Festivities at Dubai Festival City Mall
Dubai Festival City Mall is transforming into a winter wonderland from Thursday, December 5 until Sunday, December 29. Throughout the festive period, visitors can watch the 20-metre-tall tree be lit every day at 6pm, there will be hourly live performances from the Festive City Singers, and a Santa’s Grotto, open between 6pm and 10pm every night. The mall will also be home to the largest festive market in Dubai. Spread across 6,000 square-metres there will be Christmas food on sale and arts and crafts to buy - perfect for gifts.
Thursday to Sunday, December 5 to 29, free; Dubai Festival City Mall, Umm Ramool, Dubai; www.dubaifestivalcitymall.com
A seasonal souk at Bab Al Shams
Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa will be hosting its annual tree-lighting ceremony on Friday, December 6, from 6pm to 7.30pm. The luxury desert resort invites guests to its lush gardens and scenic views at the Al Forsan Garden, for an event full of celebratory cheer, winter goodies, a seasonal souk and beverages. Admission for children is Dh50, with free entry for accompanying adults.
Friday, December 6, Dh50 for children, free for adults; Al Forsan Garden, Bab Al Shams Desert Resort and Spa, Dubai; www.abalshams.com
Habtoor Palace's festivities
Habtoor Palace's Versailles Gardens will be transformed into a winter garden this weekend, from Thursday, December 5 until Tuesday, December 24. On opening night, the market will be giving out free minced pies and mulled drinks, and the kids’ choir at Emirates International School Jumeirah will be performing at 6pm. Doors open at 5pm and the Christmas tree will be lit at 6.30pm. Pets are welcome and there will be a mini-train, crazy golf and a snow-fight zone to thrill the little ones. To add to the winter cheer, a variety of kiosks and food stalls will serve warming food and drink, from Dh25 for beverages and Dh30 for snacks.
Thursday to Tuesday, December 5 to 24, 5pm-10pm; free; Versailles Gardens, Habtoor Palace Dubai, LXR Hotels and Resorts, Sheikh Zayed Rd; 04 435 5555
Christmas at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah
A Christmas market is running at Hilton Dubai Jumeirah this weekend, with more than 20 stalls offering a wide range of Christmas goodies, gifts and decorations with artisanal food and drink available.
Friday and Saturday, December 6 and 7, 10am-4pm; Hilton Dubai Jumeirah, JBR, Dubai; 04 318 2319
Madinat Jumeirah's German-style market
The Souk Festive Market at Madinat Jumeirah allows you to experience a traditional German market sans coats and gloves. The decor is dominated by a 36-foot LED Christmas tree, while a Venetian carousel stands alongside. Festive food and music aside, the market will keep Santa’s little helpers busy as they take on traditional abra boat with Mr Claus himself, enjoy a giant snowball zone, create gingerbread houses and experience a journey on the North Pole mini train.
Friday to Saturday, December 13 to 28; 3pm to late (from noon on weekends, and December 24 and 25); free; Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai; www.jumeirah.com/en/offers/festive-market
The 'QE2' Christmas market
Browse a unique selection of handmade arts, crafts and Christmas gifts with the Arte Makers Christmas Market on the decks of the 'Queen Elizabeth 2'. There will also be a wide selection of live-cooking stations showcasing the best of the season’s produce as well as festive beverages and more.
Saturday, December 14, 10am-2pm; free; 'Queen Elizabeth 2', Mina Rashid, Dubai; www.qe2.com
The Mandarin Cake Shop
It's not technically a market, but The Mandarin Cake Shop will be selling all of your festive favourites, including skillfully decorated Christmas cakes, petit gateaux, gingerbread houses and panettones. Guests can splash out for loved ones by gifting them a festive hamper packed with Christmas biscuits, chocolates, panettone and other seasonal treats.
Ongoing, daily, 9am-11pm; The Mandarin Cake Shop, Mandarin Oriental Jumeira, Dubai; 04 777 2223
Attend the Yas Winter Carnival
Running with its "winter wonderland" theme, the six-day carnival is teeming with activities, including a snow play zone with a snow slide and snowman-building paraphernalia; a winter market with fashion accessories, art prints, jewellery, home decor, toys and other festive gifts; plus gingerbread-making, face-painting and roaming magicians and carnival rides to keep children entertained. There will also be a daily tree-lighting ceremony at 7pm and a daily fireworks show at 9pm. The main stage will host school choirs, live music and performances such as The Princess Show and The Nutcracker.
Wednesday to Monday, December 11 to 16; 2pm-11pm; free; Gateway Park South Yas Island, Abu Dhabi; www.wintercarnival.ae
Ras Al Khaimah
Dome Lounge market
To mark the festive season, the Hilton Ras Al Khaimah is hosting a Christmas Market in its Dome Lounge, filled with sweets, treats and nibbles. Peruse offerings such as traditional shortbread and Italian panettone, while the resort’s bars will also be serving up Christmas-themed beverages from Dh45, to help get you in the spirit of the season.
Daily from Friday, December 6, 11am-11pm, until Tuesday, January 7; free entry; Dome Lounge, Hilton Ras Al Khaimah Resort & Spa, Al Maareedh Street, Ras Al Khaimah; www3.hilton.com