Come December, there seems to be an unofficial contest to see who can erect the tallest, most densely decorated Christmas tree in the whole of Dubai. Hotel lobbies are where you’ll find the winners, complete with clusters of gift-wrapped boxes and gingerbread houses bigger than some London flats. Book well in advance to join one of the fabulously over-the-top festive feasts and parties, hosted throughout December, with the extra trimmings on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Whether you’re seeking a Christmas getaway or some winter warmth, a festive break in Dubai awaits.
Atlantis, The Palm
Famed for elaborate displays, the Atlantis, The Palm goes all out during the festive season with no fewer than 27 trees adorned with 7,500 decorations and half a mile of fairy lights. A pop-up Festive Village, easily identifiable by the giant gingerbread house so big it requires 435kg of icing, is supervised by elves proffering candy canes, and Christmas Day lunch is served across 10 restaurants. Guests seeking an unforgettable New Year’s Eve gala dinner can head to the Asateer Tent where around AED 2 millions’ worth of champagne is guzzled as part of the “free-flow” packages. The Imperial Queen room rate also includes complimentary access to club lounge facilities, Aquaventure Waterpark and The Lost Chambers Aquarium, should families (or couples) need a short break from the festivities.
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Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
If you’re an unequivocal winter sun-seeker with a family dreaming of a white Christmas, this hotel is an absolute gift. It’s home to Dubai’s only ski chalets which have been created to reflect Aspen mountain lodges (think faux stone fireplaces, butler service) and overlook the emirate’s indoor ski park – an enormous 4,500-square-metre snow-filled freezer complete with slope runs, chair lifts, sledding and tobogganing. During Christmas, there’s even a grotto – but when the snow gets irksomely cold, just pop to the opposite side of the hotel for cocktails in the sun by the pool.
JA The Resort
Like a Christmas miracle, JA’s Winter Wonderland – complete with Christmas-themed rides, games and lots of live entertainment – will appear overnight on the croquet lawn, from December 6 to January 7. A tree-lighting ceremony with carollers (complimentary for in-house guests), will take place at the Winter Wonderland on December 15, while Christmas Day brunch will be served in Palmito restaurant by the pool at JA Palm Tree Court, one of the resort’s three hotels. And as the chef delivers roast turkey, Santa brings the gifts. On December 31, revellers can return to Palmito for a New Year’s Eve gala dinner (£357 per person) with fireworks and bags of entertainment.
The Ritz-Carlton, Dubai
Ritz-Carlton’s exemplary afternoon tea gets a festive twist beneath the sparkling chandeliers of its lobby. And sparkling is certainly the theme, with the option to add two hours’ bubbly drinking to the experience. Nibble on the likes of truffled egg and asparagus or roast turkey and cranberry sandwiches before smearing your cranberry scone with Devonshire clotted cream and devouring gingerbread choux buns, streusel, panettone, stollen and mince pies. From December 6-31 the tea is available every day, 12.30pm-5pm, with the additional treat of live music on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
The details: Afternoon tea from £38pp; £19 for children aged six-11, free for under-fives – adults can add £30pp for two-hours of free-flowing sparkling wine (ritzcarlton.com). Read the full review here.
Le Royal Meridien Beach Resort & Spa
Christmas Eve brunch at Brasserie 2.0 is a blast. With a live bland belting out chart hits, it’s not long before everyone is moving and mingling. Party hats, crackers, Christmas pudding and a dedicated cheese station await, as well as festive canapés, sushi and sashimi, mountains of seafood and roast turkey with all the trimmings. The party starts at 7.30pm – make sure you bring your dancing shoes.
Polynesia-inspired Lapita hotel is part of action-packed Dubai Parks & Resorts, of which Bollywood, Legoland, DreamWorks and Motiongate are the themes (so anticipate seasonal greetings from Kung Fu Panda and Shrek during Christmas parades). On December 25, family-friendly Kalea restaurant will serve a Christmas Day buffet from 1pm-4pm with a visit from Santa and a troop of carol singers to serenade cheery diners. New Year’s Eve celebrations will take the form of a Polynesian beach feast, held outdoors in Ari Garden from 8pm to midnight on December 31 (£108 with drinks per adult; £39 for children).
Grosvenor House Dubai
World-famous Buddha-Bar is hosting an alternative to the traditional Christmas Day celebration. The special festive edition of the smouldering bar-restaurant’s Seventh Heaven Brunch will serve up three hours of fashionable Asian and Mediterranean dishes, from starters to desserts, with free-flowing drinks, live music and entertainment, from 1pm to 4pm. It’s a fancy occasion so be sure to dress up.
The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi Beach Resort & Marina
Celebrations at this fun, family-friendly resort on Jumeirah Beach begin on Christmas Eve with a night feast at Mina’s Kitchen. Hold your reindeers, though, as the Westin’s most regaled seasonal soirée is the Bubbalicious Christmas Brunch, where patrons can indulge in three hours of champagne and a bounty of food across three restaurants: Mina’s Kitchen, Sui Mui and Baba. At this family celebration, Santa comes on a camel and after brunch you can play the day away at the hotel’s Cyclades-inspired Jungle Bay water park.
Please note that prices refer to the lowest booking.com rates in December 2021 and may fluctuate depending on room type and availability.
These are unusual times, and the state of affairs can change quickly. Please check the latest travel guidance before making your journey.