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 of the month with the whole country painting itself in the national flag colours Red, Green, White & Black.
Next up, the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit, then the festivities continue well into December as “Winter” is celebrated everywhere. Schools locally break up around mid-December and plenty of hotels and shopping malls can be found decking the halls, experience festive markets through to “winter wonderlands”.
A festive brunch in a nice hotel is an absolute must if you’re here over Christmas itself, or join in one of the many tree lighting ceremonies, Santa Chases, Carols in Desert or gingerbread house making classes across the city. Or for a much more traditional experience, a camel beauty pageant? You heard right, read on!!
Abu Dhabi weather in December
Abu Dhabi’s average day time 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
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, it will be quite a different year for Abu Dhabi in December 2020. Events and group gathering are not permitted so many favourite events from Christmas markets to the Grand Prix (with crowd attendance) have been cancelled.
We have left much of the annual event information here in case you are planning a visit for December in the future, it really is one of the best times of year to be in Abu Dhabi, but also the busiest so there’s no harm in booking early.
- Commemoration Day – 1 December – a day of respect for those who lost their lives serving for the UAE (Public Holiday).
- National Day – 2&3 December – 49 years since unification will be marked in 2020. The 49th celebration will be much quieter than usual due to social distancing measures much will be celebrated virtually. Watch out as 2021 is shaping up to be a huge one for the country’s 50th Anniversary! (Public Holiday) – learn more here.
- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – 11 to 13 December 2020 – usually the biggest event of the year on the Abu Dhabi sports calendar, however, 2020 will see the event take place behind closed doors and much of Yas Island will be closed off and quarantined for the event, race teams and officials only. Start planning now for 2021, due to be held 3 to 5 December.
- Winter Festivities – all month– 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, Winter Wonderland showcase on Al Maryah Island and a big Christmas event on Yas Island. Sadly, the vast majority will not occur in 2020. There’s a good up-to-date guide here on what IS open and what to expect in Abu Dhabi over Christmas.
- NB Christmas Day 25 December 2020 is NOT a public holiday in the UAE, but this year it will fall on a Friday which is locally the weekend. All shops and businesses will trade as normal for a Friday. Restaurant brunches book up early (restricted with tables of 4) and takeaway turkey offerings are likely to be highly popular this year.
- 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 through to the much-converted – Camel Mazayna; finding the region’s most beautiful camels. The event IS going ahead in 2020 spread over a longer period to allow social distancing, however, the public cannot attend in 2020. Look out for this in 2021 though as it 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 has become a showcase of local culture and IS going ahead in 2020. Running from 20 November 2020 to 20 February 2021. Learn more here.
- 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 but you can find a detailed guide to what’s happening for New Year’s Eve in Abu Dhabi here.
Suggested Abu Dhabi activities in December
December is the perfect month for experiencing the UAE’s desert. Take on a night time 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 pick up points, a few to try:
Day trips from Abu Dhabi in December
A great time of year for heading further afield, 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 the historic and hidden forts of Liwa.
Historic Al Ain
Open during the winter season, take a step back in time at the Jebel Hafit Desert Park, explore the UNESCO sites of Al Ain, followed by glamping or BYO camping site options at the foot of Jebel Hafit, the tallest
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 – 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. (Cancelled in 2020 – we suggest you attend the Sheikh Zayed Heritage Festival instead)
Abu Dhabi with kids in December
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. Awaiting confirmation for 2020 events.
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 walk 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 under candlelight. (Cancelled in 2020)
Before you go… Important things to consider 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.
- Don’t forget to pack your travel insurance!
- Discover the best places to stay in Abu Dhabi, or bag a bargain on your accommodation here: