Everything you need to know about visiting Abu Dhabi in December
Abu Dhabi is a truly magical place to be in December. National Day festivities are always a colourful and exciting way to kick off the month, with the whole country painting itself in the national flag colours of red, green, white & black.
Schools locally break up early to mid-December, and plenty of hotels and shopping malls can be found decking the halls. You can experience festive markets as well as full-on “winter wonderlands”.
A festive brunch in a nice hotel is an absolute must if you’re here over Christmas itself, or you can join in one of the many tree-lighting ceremonies, Santa Chases, or gingerbread house-making classes across the city.
There are carol services in church and out in the desert for anyone wanting to sing some good old-fashioned carols. Or, for a much more local traditional experience, why not attend a camel beauty pageant? You heard right; read on!!
Abu Dhabi Weather in December
Abu Dhabi’s average daytime maximum temperature in December is a pleasant 24.7°C (76.5°F), with highs as much as 31.6°C (88.9°F) and average lows overnight down to 20.1°C (68.2°F).
In December, you should expect sea temperatures on average of 24.9°C (76.8°F). Maximum sea temperatures are expected of 27.4°C (79.3°F) through to a minimum of 22.5°C (74.4°F) by month-end.
In general, you should expect mild, sunny days, but rainstorms are not out of the question in December. Whatever time of year you visit Abu Dhabi, you will still want a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses – you can find our full packing list tips for Abu Dhabi here.
Weather information sourced from the National Centre of Meteorology Climate Report 2003-2019 for Abu Dhabi Corniche and seatemperature.org
Abu Dhabi special events in December 2023
We are still updating this monthly guide to Abu Dhabi events for 2023 – dates and details below may still reference 2022
Annual Events in Abu Dhabi During December
- Commemoration Day – 1 December – a day of respect for those who lost their lives serving the UAE (Public Holiday).
- National Day – 2 & 3 December – 2023 marks 52 years since the unification of the United Arab Emirates. (Public Holiday) – learn more here. There will be fireworks in a variety of locations, including at The Emirates Palace, Yas Bay, Al Maryah Island, Bawabat Al Sharq Mall and the Sheikh Zayed Festival. There are also likely to be fireworks on Abu Dhabi Corniche, although these are yet to be confirmed.
- Al Dhafra Festival – A traditional Bedouin Festival held in Abu Dhabi’s Western Region, near the town of Madinat Zayed. Events range from Saluki racing and falconry to the much-converted – Camel Mazayna, finding the region’s most beautiful camels. This really is one of the country’s most exciting and intriguing cultural events – you can learn more here.
- Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival – Held nightly on the outskirts of the city in a purpose-built showground, this annual event showcases local culture. This year the event runs from 17 November 2023 to 17 March 2024 (TBC). Learn more here.
- The Mother of the Nation Festival will bring a variety of live acts and other entertainment to the Corniche between the 9th to the 18th of December 2022. 2023 TBC. For more details, click here or jump over here to book your tickets.
Winter Festivities in Abu Dhabi
There’s usually a huge array of Christmas events held in Abu Dhabi in December, from the Santa Chase event at the Westin to the annual Swiss Christmas Market, various tree lighting ceremonies, the Winter Wonderland showcase on Al Maryah Island and a big Christmas event on Yas Island.
Sadly, COVID meant that many events were cancelled over the last few years. We are currently waiting for updates from most venues, but this is what has been confirmed for 2022 so far:
- Stock up on Christmas goodies and enjoy a visit from Santa at Le Royal Meridien craft market on the 3rd of December.
- Breakfast with Santa at Le Royal Meridien (TBC). Join the big man in red whilst indulging in a delicious breakfast at the cosy Royal Meridien.
- ‘Winterfest’ comes to Ferrari World on the 12th of November and will stay until in the 8th of January. There will be festive shows, arts and crafts, and gingerbread decorating workshops (book in advance to avoid disappointment).
- There are Christmas trees galore at Warner Brother’s World’s Winter Spectacular, running from mid-November to early January (exact dates TBC) .
- Theatre by Erth has got Christmas 2022 wrapped up with ’Santa’s Invitation’, an exciting adventure based on one little girl’s quest to meet Santa running from the 4th to the 7th of December 2022.
- Be whisked away on an Arabian adventure at Theatre by Erth as they present ’Aladdin’. A traditional British pantomime with a middle eastern twist. Running from 20th-26th December 2022.
- NB Christmas Day, Sunday 25th of December 2022, is NOT a public holiday in the UAE, but this year it will fall on the weekend. All shops and businesses will trade as normal for a Sunday. Restaurant brunches book up early, so make sure that you book in advance. There’s a good up-to-date guide here on what to expect in Abu Dhabi over Christmas.
- New Year’s Eve – celebrations across the city on 31 December! Events and numbers this year, though, are expected to be limited due to social distancing measures you can find a detailed guide to what’s happening for New Year’s Eve in Abu Dhabi here.
Other special events in Abu Dhabi in December 2023
In addition to annual cultural festivals and winter events, there are numerous other interesting things going on in the capital this December:
- The Lion King will continue to run at the Etihad Arena until the 10th of December. New dates have been released so grab tickets here.
- From the 16th -18th of December 2022, you can catch world number 1, Carlos Alcaraz and many other tennis superstars playing at the 14th Mubadala World Tennis Championships at Zayed Sports City. Grab your tickets here
- The BLAST Premier World Final will take at the Etihad Arena on the 17th and 18th of December, with the world’s eight best Esports teams competing for prizes worth $1 Million.
- American rapper, singer and songwriter Post Malone will be appearing at Etihad Park for one night only on Saturday, 3 December.
Suggested Abu Dhabi Activities in December
December is the perfect month for experiencing the UAE’s desert. Take a night time desert safari which includes dune bashing, camel rides, sandboarding, henna painting and traditional music around a Bedouin camp.
There are many companies that offer this service with pickups from central Abu Dhabi hotels or other pick up points, a few to try:
Day trips from Abu Dhabi in December
A great time of year for heading further afield in the cooler weather, so why not arrange a camping trip into the Liwa Desert?
Explore the UAE’s vast empty quarter
Do it in style and stay overnight in Qasr Al Sarab or join a more rustic group of campers who will take you deep into the dunes and past Liwa’s historic and hidden forts.
Historic Al Ain
Open during the winter season, take a step back in time at the Jebel Hafit Desert Park, and explore the UNESCO sites of Al Ain, followed by glamping or BYO camping site options at the foot of Jebel Hafit, the tallest mountain in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Alternatively, as mentioned above, a day trip out to the Al Dhafra Festival is one of the most unique and rewarding cultural experiences not to be missed. You will need to hire your own car and probably get slightly lost in the desert but it’s a wonderful and unique experience you’ll never forget – a detailed guide here on how to get there and what to expect as a tourist.
Abu Dhabi with Kids in December 2023
This is definitely the kids’ time of year in Abu Dhabi! From Mall Santas and festive winter wonderlands, our top pick for an action-packed outing is Ferrari World. During December, as well as their fabulous fun adrenaline rides with an Italian motoring theme, they run Winter Wonderland, full of extra shows and events over the December school holidays.
Close to the city, many new leisure facilities have opened on Al Hudayriat Island, including Circuit X with a skate park, high ropes course, BMX track and splash park – timed slots by age groups on weekends so even your littlest ones can join the fun. There’s also a free beach and cycling track here, the newly opened heritage trail and even some glamping options, just a stone’s throw from the city.
For more nature experiences, check out Jubail Mangrove Park, on the outskirts of the city between Saadiyat Island and Yas Island enjoy the wonders of the mangroves in this boardwalk park, or take a kayak to get up close for this amazingly tranquil experience.
For something fun & unique outdoors, anyone is welcome to join in with the St Andrews Church Carols in the Desert. A convoy of cars takes you around 30 minutes away from the city to the beautiful dunes for a fun family night of barbeques and singing by candlelight (TBC for 2022).
Before you go… Important things to consider when planning a trip to Abu Dhabi
- Pop into our essential planning information page, it includes everything you need to know about getting around Abu Dhabi, a handy guide on what to pack as well as top tips for first-timers on the dos and don’ts, laws, and customs in the UAE.
- Find the latest Abu Dhabi COVID-19 Guidance here.
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here:
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