While there is always plenty to see and do in Dublin, during the Christmas season the attractions are multiplied. It is true that you will not find the best possible weather, but I assure you that you will forget about the temperatures during your visit.
During Christmas, the cities of Northern Europe have a special charm. In Dublin, the December holidays are lived with a special intensity and the streets are filled with lights. The Christmas spirit is also present in the pubs, which are transformed into movie sets.
1. Admire the Christmas lights
If you visit Dublin in November you will witness the Christmas lights switch on. Until early January, the city is dressed in light and its monuments and buildings are transformed into a palette of colors.
The city council organizes urban routes to enjoy the spectacle. The Dublin Winter Lights is environmentally friendly: it has more than 150,000 low-consumption LEDs and does not use diesel generators.
The routes touch bridges (Millennium Bridge and Beckett Bridge), the port (Capital Dock), government buildings (Mansion House, City Hall and Custom House), squares (Barnardo Square and Merrion Square), the famous Trinity College and other Dublin buildings. For more info, I recommend you to take a look at the official website of the City Council.
2. Discover Dublin Christmas from the bus
Can you imagine getting to know the city in comfort and escaping the typical Christmas cold while enjoying a tea tasting with a snack? I'll tell you one thing: it is possible, as you can book a classic bus tour of Dublin with tea.
Approximately 1 hour and a half, this experience includes commentary so you won't miss any detail of the city's landmarks, monuments and history: Guinness Brewery, St Patrick's Cathedral, Trinity College, O'Connell Street, Phoenix Park, Merrion Square or St Stephens Green. In addition, it will leave you speechless with all the lights and decorations typical of this time of year.
An original way to tour the city and immerse yourself in one of its traditions: tea time.
3. Let yourself be dazzled by a dance show
Do you want to enjoy an Irish evening? In that case, I recommend you to book a traditional dance show and Christmas is an ideal date for it because of the festive atmosphere that characterizes this time of the year. You will discover the traditional Irish dances as well as the indigenous instruments (Bodhran, Uilleann pipes, Harp...). In addition, if you dare, you can join the dance.
But I admit that I love this plan because you also have the option to enjoy a traditional Irish dinner, with typical dishes such as Guinness stew or chocolate cake with Baileys.
The show, lasting about 3 hours, takes place in a typical Georgian style house of the eighteenth century, so you will also immerse yourself in the local architecture.
4. Celebrate Christmas with a gastronomic tasting
Another ideal way to celebrate Christmas is with a food tour of Dublin, an experience that will turn you into an Irish food connoisseur.
For no more and no less than 3 hours, you will visit typical food stores and restaurants with a professional local guide and taste the most typical products and dishes of the country.
In addition, this activity has a plus, and it is planned for small groups, in order to get the most out of it. So if you are looking for a personalized plan, here it is!
5. Discover Belfast and the Giant's Causeway
Christmas is also an ideal time to take a trip to Belfast and the Giant's Causeway. Together with a tour guide, you'll explore two of Ireland's most popular destinations.
The 12-hour tour will take you to one of the most beautiful coastal landscapes in the world, made up of 40,000 basalt columns. And, of course, on your tour of Belfast you will discover its most important monuments such as the Peace Wall, which separated the Catholic and Protestant neighborhoods, and the Titanic Museum, where you will delve into the history of the legendary ship.
In addition, as you can imagine, the transportation is done in an air-conditioned bus to escape the cold that characterizes Ireland at Christmas time.
6. Warm up with a Hot Toddy
The Hot Toddy is a winter drink and a home remedy for the flu. If you travel in winter, you will see how thousands of Irish people flock to the pubs to enjoy the concoction made with whiskey, honey, cinnamon, star anise and lemon zest.
In Dublin you can find a Hot Toddy almost anywhere and yet in some pubs they brew it to perfection:
- The Stag's Head. A narrow passageway hides a classic of the Irish capital. Its wooden interiors create a cozy atmosphere embellished with stained glass windows, crystal chandeliers and wooden barrels (Dame Court 1).
- Kehoes, the pub where time seems to have stood still. It retains the mahogany furniture and advertising posters of yesteryear (South Ann Street 9).
- The Bank Bar and Restaurant, one of the most peculiar bars of the city. The building was designed by William Henry Lynn - a renowned Victorian architect - and once housed a bank. It is within walking distance of the Molly Malone statue (College Green 20/22).
- L. Mulligan Grocer. It is off the beaten path in an area that will be talked about a lot in the future. In addition to a Hot Toddy, you can enjoy a good local beer here. I recommend trying a pint of Bay Ale (a Galway red ale) or Boom, an IPA with notes of lychee, kiwi, mango and caramel (Stoneybatter 18).
- Mary's Bar & Hardware, a pub linked to the independence struggles. At the beginning of the last century, the revolutionary leader Michael Collins used to hold meetings at the Wicklow Hotel at this same address (Wicklow Street 8).
7. Take a Christmas pub crawl tour
Dublin is the home of pubs. The wet and windy weather is an ideal excuse to have a pint of Guinness and yet there are more reasons to enjoy the famous dark beer. Undoubtedly, one of the things to see and do in Dublin
During the last month of the year, many pubs change their skin by dressing up with typical Christmas decorations.
- Hole in the wall, "The Most Christmassy Pub In Dublin". You will recognize it by the famous Santa Claus exclamation - "Ho, ho, ho" - on its facade. It is located near Phoenix Park (345/347 Blackhorse Avenue).
- The Ginger Man, Dublin's most curious Christmas lights. It is quite popular among students due to its proximity to Trinity College and some university residences. Take the opportunity to warm up with a Guinness pie (Fenian Street 39/40).
- Sinnotts. It houses a collection of original pictures and prints by artists such as James Joyce, Yeats and Oscar Wilde. During the Christmas season, trees, stars and other decorations brighten the place (South King Street).
- The Dawson Lounge, the tiniest bar in town. Don't be fooled by its sober facade, the interior hides an undeniable Christmas fantasy (Dawson Street 25).
- Strawberry Hall, another Dublin classic. Just opposite the pub you will find a food truck serving wood-fired pizza (Lower Road, Astagob).
8. See the living nativity scene at Trinity Cathedral
Traditionally, in the days leading up to Christmas, a living nativity scene is organized in the Cathedral of the Holy Trinity (Christ Church Cathedral). Actors recreate the nativity scene with the help of a couple of donkeys.
This activity takes place in the afternoon -from17:30 to 19:30- and if you want to participate you will have to book in advance. To do so, I recommend you consult the church's website.
9. Treat yourself to an afternoon of theater
Do you know the Christmas Pantomimes? If you don't know, it is a typical Irish custom that consists of an adaptation of classic tales or stories. Unlike traditional shows, it involves audience participation and includes songs, dances and jokes. In short, a pantomime or panto is a musical comedy intended for family entertainment.
In Dublin, you can see them at The Gaiety, a Victorian-style theater opened in 1871 (South King Street). You can also enjoy the show at The Olympia Theatre (Dame Street 72), Liberty Hall Theatre (Eden Quay 1) or The National Concert Hall (Earlsfort Terrace).
Pantomimes are very popular during the Christmas season and I recommend booking tickets in advance.
10. Test your skating skills
Despite its location in Northern Europe, Dublin and ice skating have never had a close relationship. Fortunately, in recent years the discipline has been gaining popularity and frozen rinks have begun to appear in the Irish capital.
Here's a list of the ice rinks operating from late November and early January:
- Blanchardstown Centre, a shopping center with more than 150 stores and a host of bars and restaurants. It is located on the outskirts of Dublin and can be easily reached by bus (lines 17A, 37, 39, 39A, 76A, 220, 236, 238, 239 and 270). It has a large main rink and a smaller, separate rink with fun penguin-shaped skating aids, ideal for the little ones to learn!
- Swords on Ice, the winter circuit in the north of the city. Again, it is located near a shopping center: the Swords Pavilions Shopping Centre (Malahide Rd, Swords Demesne). Children under the age of 12 pay around €14 while adult admission costs approximately €17. Special family rates are also available.
- South Dublin On Ice, the ring at the foot of Tallagh Stadium. The rink measures about 600 m2 and is open to all ages, from beginners to experts. It is a bit far from the center, but the Dublin streetcar network "Luas" (the Irish word for "speed") stops near the soccer area. Just take the red line and get off at Tallaght - The Square (Whitestown Way, Oldbawn).
- Dundrum on Ice, 500 square meters of ice with handrails on the sides for novice skaters (Dundrum Town Centre, Sandyford Road).
11. Stop by the racecourse on December 26th
St. Stephen's Day is the patron saint of horses and various races are held on the same date. It is a Christmas classic worth seeing to experience something typical.
The closest races to Dublin take place in Leopardstown, an equestrian center about 15 kilometers from the center. The races usually last four days starting on December 26.
If you don't have a car, you don't have to worry about anything. The local light rail network (LUAS) connects Dublin's Old Town with Leopardstown. To get there, just take the LUAS to Central Park and then walk for about 15 minutes. On race days, the race center provides a free shuttle to take you from the LUAS stop to the entrance gate.
12. Meet Santa Claus
If you travel to Dublin with children you can treat them to a special experience: a meeting with Santa Claus. Vintage Tea Trips organizes activities for the little ones that conclude with a Christmas gift.
Afterwards you can enjoy a cup of tea in their double-decker bus. The hot drink is complemented by scones, sandwiches, cakes and savory snacks.
13. Try the Christmas pudding
Every country has its typical holiday recipe and Ireland is no different. On the island, Christmas pudding, a fluffy sponge cake with dried and candied fruit and citrus zest, is eaten every December 25.
It is usually flavored with cinnamon, brandy or other liquors to achieve the right moisture. Unlike the American pudding, its Irish counterpart is a cake and not a custard.
The first mention of this dessert dates back to the 14th century and at that time it consisted of a kind of porridge-like porridge, nothing to do with today's recipe! According to folklore, some of its ingredients are linked to the Christian tradition: the brandy would be a symbol of the Passion of Christ while the sprig of holly used in the decoration would be a nod to the crown of thorns of Jesus.
In the Irish capital you will find Christmas pudding in different restaurants and bakeries. However, if you want to hit the nail on the head, you can turn to the creations of Scéal Bakery, a bakery within walking distance of St. Patrick's Cathedral and the Teeling whiskey distillery (Fumbally Lane, Merchants Quay).
14. Shop for the latest gifts on Grafton Street
It is Ireland's main shopping artery and a must stop for any fashion victim. You can enter River Island (clothing for women, men and children), Disney, Life Style Sports (sportswear), Brown Thomas (cosmetics, shoes, clothing and bedding), Weir & Son's (historic Dublin jewelry) and Kilkenny Shop (crafts).
Other shopping options include George's Street Arcade (South Great George's Street), Dundrum Shopping Centre (Sandyford Road) and Hodges Figgis (56/58 Dawson Street).