The best winter markets to get that festive feeling flowing

If you’re still struggling to plug into those Yuletide vibes, a swift march around a Christmas market is usually enough to stoke up some seasonal spirit.

If that doesn’t work – expect to be visited by three ghosts of Christmas. Cause you a straight up Scrooge. With that in mind, here our some of favourite spots to separate the ‘hum’ from the ‘bug.’


Habtoor Palace’s, LXR Hotels & Resorts Festive Garden

Habtoor Palace, festive market, Christmas tree

The Festive Garden has sprung up within the glorious Versailles Gardens, in the grounds of Habtoor Palace in Business Bay. It’s rammed with so much chocolate box seasonal cheer, you could put a carrot on its nose and legitimately claim it was a snowman.

On arrival, you’ll find this winter wonderland is a family friendly one – listen for the whimsical toot of a choo-choo train, carrying its young cargo on a whistle-stop tour of its festive track. There’s a snowball fight zone, fake snow – real fun, gingerbread house making, mini golf, carol singing and a giant tree serving as a totem for all that is merry and Chrimbo.

Santa is taking a break from his North Pole workshop, and what we imagine by now are some pretty stressed out elves, to visit Habtoor Palace. Every day at 6pm, the serial mince pie eater with a belly like a bowl full of jelly (coincidence?) will be found sheltering in his LXR Hotels & Resorts grotto. He’ll be conducting meet and greets with the little ones, and adding some #sleigh to your Instagram feeds.

For the adults – a live band kicks off at 7pm, and there is a tantalising mix of traditional yuletide food and drink available. Great news for pet owners, because although a pooch is for life, not just for Christmas – it would be pretty un-festive to exclude them on that basis.

Festive Market, Habtoor Palace, LXR Hotels & Resort. 3pm-12am daily, until 21st December. 04 275 1542.


Marina Souq Christmas Special

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The perfect spot if you want to get a sizeable chunk of your Christmas shopping done in one place. Especially if you’re the type of person that says about gifts, ‘it’s the thought that counts, but….. I like nice things ok?’ We hear you. Marina Souq is a collection of fashionable boutique brands and pop-up retailers selling trendy trinkets, creative craft works, covetous couture and novel knick-knacks. Be warned shoppers, it’s on for one night only.

Free to enter. 9am-8pm 12th December only. Marina Souq Fish Market Jumeirah.


Yas Winter Carnival

Xmas Tree

Starting today! Load up those sleighs and brace yourself for a yomp across the arctic tundra – as ho ho ho, it’s off to Yas Island we go. There are days of free festive fun planned at Yas Winter Carnival, including pantomimes and princess shows, simulated snow fall, Christmas carol singalongs, farmers markets, carnival rides, a giant tree and fireworks. If you make the trip, and come back still not feeling festive then you, my friend, have a serious case of the humbugs.

Free. Until 15th December, Tuesday-Wednesday, 4pm-10pm. Thursday-Saturday, 4pm-11pm. Gateway Park South, Yas Island, Abu Dhabi. Register for FREE passes and parking at


Winter Wonderland at Wafi 


The popular Winter Wonderland at Wafi mall returns for another year of Yuletide themed entertainment. You have to buy tickets (AED 60) to have an audience with Santa in his grotto – but we hear he dishes out some pretty decent gifts, and a signed photo to commemorate the occasion. He’s also granting one wish a day from letters posted to Father Christmas’s in his special snow park letter box. Parents, we hope this serves as a strong good behaviour bargaining chip for the rest of December.

AED 60 for Santa’s Grotto tickets. 9am-10.30pm, until 24th December. Wafi Mall, Oud Metha Rd. 04 324 4555


It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, at Times Square Centre

Times Square

If you find yourself suffering from a case of the grinchies – there is one potential cure that’s easily procurable. Head along to Times Square Centre’s ‘It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year’ celebrations. Christmas cheer is supplied in the form of an arts and crafts station, a free-for-kids festive cinema, snow park, musical parade, game stalls – and of course Santa’s grotto. Access  is free for one child for every AED 200 spent in the mall.

Santa 12pm-6pm (one child visit for every AED 200 spent in the mall), other activations 12pm-8pm. Times Square Centre, Al Quoz. 4 341 8020


The Festive Market at Madinat Jumeirah

Madinat Jumeirah_Festive Market_4

It’s a late starter this year, taking place between 20th-28th December. But in terms of scale and range of entertainment, it’s certainly one of the biggest and most fun-filled in the region. Amongst all the awesome activities we’re looking forward to the absolutely Rudolfulous LED tree displays and, one of our seasonal highlights, seeing Santa on an abra.

20th-28 December. Daily from 12pm-11pm (3pm-11pm on Sunday 23rd and Wednesday 26th). Madinat Jumeirah. 04 366 8888. 


Jumeirah Creekside Hotel (opposite Irish Village)

JUMEIRAH CREEKSIDE FESTIVE MARKETSThe Jumeirah Group’s seasonal celebrations are spread around, with this cheeky little winter market at the Creekside Hotel. There’s a North Pole train ride, a horizontal bungee thing and obviously the omnipresent man in the red suit.

20th-28th December. The market will be open daily from 12pm-11pm (3pm-11pm on Sunday 23rd and Wednesday 26th). Santa visits at 5pm and 7pm. 


Dubai Festival City Mall

Wafi, markets, Christmas, winter markets, meet Santa Claus, snow in Dubai, Imagine light show, Dubai Festival City

You’ll be feeling festive at Festival City for sure! The mall has a host of events planned for December until 25th December. Santa Claus himself is touching down on the shopping centre’s helipad to unleash a winter wonderland of carolling, festive-themed IMAGINE laser and light shows and the promise of snow falling outside at Festival Bay. Apparently you’ll see lights on the whopper of a tree all the way from Business Bay Bridge too.

Festival City Mall. Meet Santa 3pm-10pm weekdays and 4pm-11pm weekends (From AED 50). Snowfalls are hourly and the special festive IMAGINE show stars after sunset.


ARTE The Makers’ Market

Arte market dubai

The creatives of the UAE meet under the roof of Dubai’s opulent Egyptian themed Wafi mall. ArtE is a great place to pick up off-beat presents made with love. Stalls change depending on which local businesses book in, but you’re sure to find that special something – from wood and leather work to jewellery and fashion. ArtE is one of the UAE’s longest running markets and vendors always up their game for the festive season.

Wafi Mall, Oud Metha Road, near Dubai Healthcare City Metro. 16th-22nd December, from 10am-8pm. More dates and locations on the ArtE Facebook page.

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