Everything you need to know about visiting Abu Dhabi in December
We are yet to complete updating this guide for 2022, the information below reflects events and COVID situation during 2021
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 of red, green, white & black.
Next up, comes the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix at Yas Marina Circuit which brings a mass of international visitors. 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. 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.
For anyone wanting to sing some good old fashioned carols there are carol services in church and out in the desert. 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 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
COVID-19 restrictions are still in place in Abu Dhabi. Face masks must be worn in public and social distancing measures must be adhered to. Restaurants can currently only take table bookings for up to 10 people.
Annual Events in Abu Dhabi
- 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 – 2021 marks 50 years since the unification of the United Arab Emirates. (Public Holiday) – learn more here.
- Abu Dhabi Grand Prix – 9 to 12 December 2021- the biggest event of the year on the Abu Dhabi sports calendar, the Grand Prix comes with a variety of other entertainment including the after race concerts. This year’s line up includes British rapper Stormzy and Scottish singer-songwriter Lewis Capaldi as well as the internationally renowned Foo-Fighters.
- 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. 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 has become a showcase of local culture. This year the event runs from 18 November 2021 to 1 April 2022. 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 December. For more details click here.
- The Al Hosn Festival will run from November 25th until December 4th 2021 and celebrates the UAE’s Heritage, craftsmanship and art. The festival also showcases contemporary culture and provides a platform for artistic experimentation and engagement. For more details and to book tickets click here.
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 in 2020. We are currently waiting for updates from most venues but this is what has been confirmed for 2021 so far:
- Breakfast with Santa at Le Royal Meridien. Join the big man in red whilst indulging in a delicious breakfast at the cosy Royal Meridien. Nine dates will be available this year between the 4th and 23rd December. Tickets can be purchased at Virgin Megastore or here.
- Winter comes to Italian Street at Ferrari World on the 5th November and will stay unt in the 8th January. There will be festive shows as well as gingerbread decorating workshops (book in advance to avoid disappointment).
- There are Christmas trees galore at Warner Brother’s World’s Winter Spectacular running from the 4th November until the 6th January.
- Theatre by Erth have got Christmas 2021 wrapped up with the UAE’s favorite children’s entertainer Magic Phil and his Jolly Jingle on the 12th and 13th December. The whole family can enjoy the Christmas production (pantomime) of Cinderella between the 16th and 27th December. Adults looking for a festive fix can also join in with ‘The Festive Songbook’ on the 28th and 29th December. For more details click here.
- 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 2021 is NOT a public holiday in the UAE, but this year it will fall on a Saturday. All shops and businesses will trade as normal for a Saturday. Restaurant brunches book up early (restricted with tables of 10) and takeaway turkey offerings are likely to be highly popular this year.
- 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.
Other special events in Abu Dhabi December 2021
In addition to annual cultural festivals and winter events there are numerous other interesting things going on for sports fans.
- From the 16th -18th December 2021, you can catch Andy Murray and many other tennis super stars playing at the 13th Mubadala World Tennis Championships at Zayed Sports City. Learn more here.
- From the 16th -21st December, the 15th Fina World Swimming Championships (25m) will be taking place at the Etihad Arena. Learn more here.
Suggested Abu Dhabi Activities in December
December is the perfect month for experiencing the UAE’s desert. Take on 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 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, 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 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
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 under candlelight. (TBC)
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.
- Find the latest Abu Dhabi COVID-19 Guidance here.
- 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:
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