Christmas markets to visit in Abu Dhabi and Dubai, from Winter City to Yas

It's time to get into the festive season at these outdoor events

Winter City will return on December 15. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Although it doesn't snow in the UAE – naturally, at least – there are plenty of other ways that mark the arrival of the festive season.

One of them is the many Christmas markets and winter festivals that spring up. As the temperatures cool, it's the ideal time to enjoy the outdoors at one of the many destinations in Abu Dhabi or Dubai.

Whether it's a family-friendly affair or simply a gathering with friends, there are plenty of holiday-themed events happening this month.

Here are the festival and market highlights.

The Green Planet at Winter Wonderland

The indoor tropical rainforest is turning its outdoor nature park into a Winter Wonderland. There is an eco-friendly simulated snowfall at the biodome and outdoors in the nature park. Children can participate in a Santa’s workshop, where they can decorate a Christmas card on sustainable materials and write letters to Saint Nick, who will make an appearance at 11am, noon, 4pm and 5pm. On January 7, one letter to Santa will be chosen to make someone’s wish come true.

Until January 7; 10am-6pm; Dh69; City Walk;

Winter Wonderland at Souk Madinat Jumeirah

Souk Madinat Jumeirah is getting ready to transform into a winter wonderland on December 15. Expect an Arabian marketplace, Santa’s Grotto and performances. Children can meet Mr and Mrs Claus at Souk’s amphitheatre, where they can share their holiday wish list, participate in themed arts and crafts workshops and catch performances by drummers and jugglers. There will also be performances by the Snow Queen and her friends at 5pm, 6pm, 7pm and 8pm.

Until December 25, 4pm-10pm, free entry; Madinat Jumeirah;

Yas Winter Fest

The five-day Yas Winter Fest begins on Wednesday. It will include a daily tree lighting ceremony, plus mini musicals that feature songs from the Disney film Frozen such as Do You Want to Build a Snowman? and Let It Go.

There will also be appearances by a magician, a juggler and a visit from Santa Claus. Visitors can join rides, visit an artificial snow park with a maze and a slide or explore Santa Land, which offers the chance to decorate ornaments and write a letter to Saint Nick.

Wednesday and Thursday, 2pm-11pm; Friday to Sunday, noon-11pm; December 6 to 10; Dh15 per child, Dh25 per adult; Gateway Park South, Yas Island;

Winter Wonderland at Snow Abu Dhabi

Snow Abu Dhabi at Reem Mall has been transformed into a Winter Wonderland. There are different tiers of meet-and-greet packages with Santa, including a surprise gift made by his elves such as hot chocolate, fleece gloves and a printed photo of the occasion. There is also the opportunity to have breakfast with Santa at the Lodge, with dining options such as snowman pancakes and hot chocolate.

In addition to the meet and greet, there are also rides and attractions, such as Troll Bowl, where visitors can get inside an inflatable ball that rolls down a snowy slope; Flight of the Snowy Owl, a suspended rollglider – an aerial roller coaster-zip line – that travels around the park; and Drift's Downhill Run, where guests can slip and slide down a lane on sledges.

Sunday to Thursday, 10am-10pm; Friday and Saturday, 10am-midnight; until December 25; packages start at Dh150; Reem Mall,

Winter Garden at Habtoor City

Habtoor Palace Dubai is already celebrating the festive season with the return of its Winter Garden. The family-friendly event is open to pets as well. Expect an array of food stalls, a children’s play area, festive-themed decorations and live entertainment.

Tickets cost Dh25 per person to enter, which are redeemable as food and beverage vouchers. Tickets can be booked through the Loyal by AHG app.

Daily, 4pm-midnight; until January 31; Dh25;

Madinat Jumeirah Festive Market

Dubai's festival market at Madinat Jumeirah Fort Island will open on December 15. It will include family activities such as the North Pole Train, a four-lane bungee and a Venetian carousel. Children will also be able to take Abra rides with Santa or decorate their own gingerbread houses.

There will also be festive food and beverage options, a live band and an 11-metre Christmas tree. For those looking to shop, a festive market will open at Jumeirah Mina A’Salam.

Monday to Thursday, from 3pm; Friday to Sunday, from noon; December 15 to January 7; free entry; Madinat Jumeirah, Dubai;

Winter City at Expo City Dubai

Expo City Dubai will be transformed into Winter City from December 15, just in time for the holidays.

Visitors can expect Santa’s House, a magical mock-up of where Father Christmas lives and works; Frosty’s Farmhouse, where elves will be hosting workshops for children to learn more about sustainability; and Mrs Claus’s Bakery; where children can decorate Christmas cookies shaped like polar bears or penguins.

There will also be an area to write letters to Santa using eco-friendly materials and an area called Santa’s Toy Factory, where elves will teach children about how to create their own sustainable toys using recycled materials.

Daily, 3pm-11pm; December 15 to January 7; Dh20 for adults, children aged 12 and under go free;

Updated: December 09, 2023, 1:09 PM