Not just once upon a December. Every single December in Dubai is one to remember with a glut of activities, events, concerts and jolly good festive activities that truly make this the most wonderful time of the year. From Christmas Markets and dazzling drone shows to daily fireworks and some of the most scintillating NYE parties and cinema pop-ups, there are tons of things to do in Dubai this December.
December is when it begins to look a lot like Christmas in Dubai. Each year, the city goes all out to bring us some of the dreamiest Christmas Markets and winter wonderlands that can give Austrian and German traditional festive markets stiff competition. Of course, we do it with typical Dubai bling and superlatives and a dash of Arabian Night vibes, with 52-foot-tall Christmas trees, Santa Claus riding in on Abra boats, turkey and cranberry shawarmas and more. Find the full list of Christmas markets here.
Flying drone taxis will take us two more years, but there are exceptionally creative drone shows to capture our attention. The Dubai Shopping Festival (DSF) is back for its 2023-2024 edition with the hugely popular drone shows lighting up the skies at two waterfront destinations every evening. Over 800 drones fitted with LED lights will create 3D patterns and shapes in the sky telling Emirati fairytales and depicting what Dubai could look like in the future. Find more details here.
8. Grab a Cardigan and warm up in the glow of this Taylor Swift Candlelight concert
Popstar Taylor Swift’s iconic anthems and ballads get an instrumental makeover by a string quartet at a Candlelight Concert. You can cosy up at this pre-Christmas concert on December 23 at the Madinat Jumeirah where the Majlis Al Salam Ballroom will be lit up by a sea of LED candles. The setlist for this musical night will see favourites across the many Swift eras, from Love Story, Enchanted and Blank Space to the more recent Snow On The Beach, Cardigan and Anti-Hero. Get your tickets here
9. End 2023 on a sweet note at the Hatta Honey Festival
Hatta, the beloved mountain town on the outskirts of Dubai is hosting the annual Hatta Honey Festival from December 27 to 31. Beekeepers from across the UAE will buzz in and offer visitors the chance to learn more about beekeeping, types of honey, and the elements that impart distinct flavours to the natural sweetener. Find more info here.
10. Step into ancient Egypt at this immersive show about Queen Hatshepsut
The pyramids and rich culture of the ancient Egyptian civilization come to life in Al Quoz at this immersive show called ‘Hatshepsut: The Woman Who Would Be King’. The Queen Pharaoh’s fascinating life is narrated through immersive 270º projections at Kanvas Dubai, a multifunctional art space. You’ll journey through the customs, momentous accomplishments and events that shaped Hatshepsut’s rule. Get tickets here
11. Walk through stunning light installations
The annual Dubai Lights festival is running until January 14. Gleaming light installations created by talented artists, designers, architects and studios from around the world dot specific destinations in Dubai and feature different themes. Don’t miss neon light decorations at Al Seef, Gold Souk, D3 and Palm West Beach. The Dubai Creek Abras will be strung with glowing lights and it’s your chance to pictures with giant inflatable Anooki cartoon sculptures that have been travelling the world. Find details here.
12. Attend a bangin’ good concert by EDM artist Nucleya
Award-winning Indian electronic music producer Nucleya is bringing the party to Zero Gravity on December 23 as part of the Winter Music Fest line-up. Known for his eclectic blend of EDM beats set to trippy visual displays, expect to bounce to killer beats of tracks like Bass Rani, Let’s Nacho, Bakar Bakar and Kaana. It’s time to wave your arms in the air and leave all cares behind. Tickets from AED 150 are available here
13. Travel to Japan at the new Salt pop-up camp
Homegrown burger joint Salt’s annual winter pop-up camp is one Dubai residents eagerly look forward to. This year, the viral pink outdoor camp outside the Museum of the Future has adopted a Japanese theme with vibrant matcha green decor, scrummy Japanese cuisine, entertainment by live samurai dancers, calligraphy artists on-site creating special souvenirs and more. You’ll still get to see the iconic airstream trailer, campfire tents and camel’s traipsing around DIFC. Find more details here.
14. Enjoy a free alfresco movie night under the stars
JLT Park’s annual Cinema Under the Stars screenings are back for the winter season, transforming the green space in the middle of JLT’s concrete jungle into a vibrant movie theatre. The free showings include an exciting line-up of holiday classics, family-friendly animated flicks and more. Find details here.
15. Watch free fireworks daily for a month
DSF is a wellspring of delight that never runs dry – after drone shows and light displays, you can look forward to spectacular fireworks every day until January 14. Get the full list of locations and timings of these pyrotechnic shows here.
16. Rock out to a Chris Brown concert
R&B crooner Chris Brown is taking to Coca-Cola Arena on December 22 for a special performance. The Grammy Award-winning artist will belt out all-time hits like Forever, Yeah 3x, and tracks from his new album called 11:11. Jamaican-American rapper Sean Kingston (Fire Burning, Beautiful Girls ) and Emirati rapper EZOW (BANDZ) will be joining him at this gig so it’s going to be an evening of chart-topping music you can dance the night away to. Get tickets here.
17. Get busy at rappers Sean Paul and T.I.’s concert
On December 30, it’ll be cold outside but the Temperature will rise inside Coca-Cola Arena as Jamaican rapper and singer Sean Paul performs with American rapper T.I. The music heavyweights spit rhymes and create an electrifying ambience ahead of NYE with singles like Buggati, Get Busy, Temperature and more. Get tickets here.
18. Head over to the Speed Music Fest featuring Jonita Gandhi and Ali Zafar
Desi music fans should catch Bollywood singer Jonita Gandhi and Pakistani singer-actor Ali Zafar on December 23 at the Speed Music Fest in Coca-Cola Arena. Groove the night away to hits like The Breakup Song, Sun Re Sjaniya. Mariyam Kisat – Dubai-based RJ and winner of the Voice Of UAE competition will be opening for these renowned musicians. Get tickets here
19. Feed your soul at The Spot’s Soul Brunch
The Spot has been ensuring Dubai parties like its NYE all year long. Their fabulous Soul Brunches at Papa Downtown – one of Dubai’s most beautiful restaurants – is hosting a soiree to remember for its last round of 2023. Clink those glasses for one last hurrah on December 23 and December 30. Get tickets here.
20. Drop by the new Cinema Akil pop-up at 25Hours Hotel
Cinema Akil, the only independent arthouse cinema in the GCC has a temporary seasonal branch set up in place at 25Hours Hotel in One Central. Cinephiles no longer have to schlep out to Al Quoz for their dose of celluloid culture. The open-plan theatre created inside a pavilion will be open until May 2024 open daily from 12pm to 1pm with free screenings four times a week. Christmas weekend is your chance to watch Home Alone with screenings on December 24, 28 and 31. Find more details here.