There isn’t a more magical time to visit Ireland than at Christmastime. In particular, Dublin at Christmas is full of beautiful holiday lights all over the city and plenty of festive activities going on. If you’ve ever wanted to travel and celebrate Christmas somewhere else, this is the place to be.
You can entertain yourself during Christmas in Dublin by shopping at holiday markets, watching carolers sing songs, or even doing a Christmas pub crawl (are you really that surprised?). While December in Ireland is a bit cold, all you need to do is bundle up (read my Ireland packing list for winter before) and head out to explore.
Once you book your flight and figure out where to stay in Dublin (while there are plenty of hotels, Dublin bed and breakfasts might be a fun place to stay this time of year), it’s time to plan your itinerary! Here are some of the best things to do in Dublin at Christmas.
The Best Dublin Christmas Events
While this time of year is a bit more expensive than November in Ireland, Ireland in December is a magical place to be, as there is something special about spending the festive season in Dublin. Below are the top events to include in your trip to Dublin at Christmas time.
Tip: Read this Dublin Pass review to find out whether it’s worth it and how to get it.
1. Attend Carols by Candlelight
If you’re ever stuck wondering what there is to do in Dublin at Christmas, look no further than the praiseworthy Carols by Candlelight. Hosted at the National Concert Hall, it’s a magical combination of carols and seasonal classics.
Attend a sublime concert performed by the Mozart Festival Orchestra — who’ll be wearing full 18th-century costumes, no less. As for the voices that will serenade you, the world-famous Guinness Choir acts as the annual heralds of this fantastic spectacle.
You’re guaranteed an evening filled with music and splendor, all to the calm setting of candlelight. Add to that the fact that it takes place in one of Ireland’s most beautiful concert halls, and it’s a feast for the senses.
Event Details: Carols by Candlelight happens on the 23rd of December, with ticket prices starting at €19.50 ($19.00).
2. Go on a Christmas Walking Tour
To delve into everything that makes Dublin during Christmas a winter wonderland, there is no better way than by going on a Dublin highlights walking tour. The best part is that most tours include a local guide who’ll gladly share tales and jokes about an Irish Christmas.
A Christmas walking tour will take you through the city’s cobbled streets draped in magical festive decorations. You’ll get the chance to see the ‘moving crib’ in action, admire live busking musicians, and grab a drink at a traditional Dublin pub.
You’ll want to add this to your itinerary if you have at least three days in Dublin.
Event Details: Book a fully customizable Christmas private walking tour. These tours kick off in late November and run until 23 December.
3. Indulge in a Traditional Dublin Christmas Market
A typical Christmas custom in Europe is the massive Christmas markets in countries such as Germany. Dublin, however, does cater to those yearning for some marketplace fun, although at a small scale.
Dublin in winter, especially during Christmas, showcases several of these festive fairs. Each offers eager visitors stalls selling handmade crafts, seasonal gifts, and of course, delicious food. Let’s be honest – nothing gets you in a Christmas mood quite like one of these. It’s also very easy to walk around Dublin without a car.
Some of the best Christmas Markets in Dublin to visit include:
- The RDS Craft & Design Fair – Hosted in the RDS (Royal Dublin Society) Hall from 5 to 9 December.
- The Dun Laoghaire Christmas Festival – Taking place at The Metals in Dun Laoghaire from 18 November to 23 December.
- The Increda Christmas Fair – Presented at Clontarf Castle from 24 November to 15 December.
- Christmas Market at Smithfield – Held in Smithfield Square on the 24th of November.
4. Enjoy the Singing Cinema Christmas Special
Combining two of the best things about Christmas, the Singing Cinema Christmas Special is a blend of singing and festive movies. With a wide range of films for you to choose from, it’s a unique way to enjoy Christmas in Dublin.
Hosted at the DTwo, it’s famous for its bottomless popcorn and five (yes, five) complimentary cocktail drinks. An interactive Christmas movie marathon with popcorn and drinks, what more could you want?
Event Details: Hosted on the 22nd of December, tickets cost €35.00 ($34.50). The event starts at noon, and the last showing is at 7:30 pm. The following movies are on show in 2022:
- 12:00 pm – 2:00 pm – Elf
- 2:30 pm – 4:30 pm – The Greatest Showman
- 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm – Home Alone 2
- 7:30 pm – 9:30 pm – Love Actually
5. The Christmas Special at Light House Cinema
Nothing says Christmas like experiencing a live ballet performance, and few showcases come close to The Nutcracker. Hosted at the Light House Cinema, watching this magnificent spectacle is a staple of Dublin at Christmas.
Performed by the Bolshoi Ballet Company, this ballet tells the tale of a doll (Nutcracker) given to a young girl (Marie) as a Christmas gift. At midnight, the doll comes to life and fights the Mouse King to save Marie.
Event Details: The Light House Cinema is located in Market Square, and the Christmas Special takes place on the 15th of December. Starting at 3 pm, ticket prices start at €12.50 ($11.50).
6. Head on a Festive 12 Pubs of Christmas Crawl
Similar to visiting Ireland for St. Patrick’s Day, there are plenty of festivities this time of year involving alcohol. The 12 pubs of Christmas crawl have become a local tradition in the last couple of years —especially amongst the younger crowd. If you’re looking for a festive nightlife experience, this now annual event is a must for your Dublin Christmas itinerary.
What exactly does the event entail? Well, the aim is to complete a pub crawl through some of the best pubs in Dublin – 12 of them to be exact. This being a massive game, it comes with specific rules. Each pub has a unique rule that you’ll need to adhere to in order to take part.
Even if you’re not planning on participating, witnessing groups of festive locals and visitors swarm through cozy pubs is quite a sight.
Event Details: Although there is no specific list of pubs that cater to this event, some notable ones to visit to take part or just spectate include:
- Temple Bar: 47-48 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 N725
- The Quays Irish Restaurant: 10-12 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 EW63
- The Auld Dubliner: 24 – 25 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 EW65
- The Merchants Arch Bar: 48-49 Wellington Quay, Temple Bar, Dublin, D02 EY65
- The Harbourmaster: Customs House Dock IFSC, Dublin 1, D01 W0X8
7. Visit the Christmas Dublin Farmer’s Market
Nothing can quite beat the cold days that winter in Dublin experiences like a hearty meal from a Christmas food market. This market is a Royal Dublin Society annual treat that is heaven on Earth for festive shopping.
Hosted on the grounds of the RDS, over 500 designers, crafters, and culinary experts display their wares. Drawing crowds of roughly 35,000 yearly, it’s also the showgrounds for Ireland’s largest collection of sustainable Christmas gifts.
Event Details: Hosted on the RDS grounds in Pembroke, the market runs from 1 December to 5 December. This year an extra special Christmas concert also takes place that runs till the 10th of December.
Places to Visit in Dublin in December
The sheer number of unforgettable events held in Dublin during the Christmas season is enough to cause quite a frenzy. Sometimes a few of the city’s best attractions get looked over, but these are the places you must visit during Christmas in Ireland and a visit to Dublin.
8. Visit Dublin Zoo as Part of Wild Lights
Throughout the city, during December, a massive display of lights occurs. Called the “Wild Lights,” it’s a remarkable experience to witness. One specific place that showcases the more “wild” side of things is the Dublin Zoo.
The “Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo” displays epic light shows and some unique exhibits as well. Under the banner of The Magic of Life, this year is a celebration of worldwide biodiversity. With massive hued silk lanterns and an array of light fixtures, it’s a dazzling nighttime showcase.
Wild Lights Details: The Dublin Zoo Wild Lights officially launches on the 28th of October. Showing times begin at 5 pm and end at 9 pm, with the last entry allowed at 8 pm.
9. Discover Trinity College During Christmas
Trinity College, the most famous educational institute in all of Ireland, sits on the south side of Dublin. It attracts thousands yearly for various reasons, including its stunning architecture and the iconic Book of Kells Library.
With the arrival of Christmas, however, Trinity College attracts an even larger crowd, but for different reasons. Across the entire campus, light projections paint the impressive architecture in dazzling festive displays, and the Book of Kells also hosts readings of Christmas classics on selected dates.
Trinity College Details: Entrance to the college grounds is complimentary, while admission tickets to the Book of Kells cost €18.00 ($17.45). The light displays begin on 25 November and continue until 23 December. Download the Visit Trinity app to use as a free audio guide for the grounds.
10. Head to the Airfield Estate Christmas Experience
If you’re looking for one place where everything that makes Christmas so magical comes together, the Airfield Estate awaits. Known as the Airfield Estate Christmas Experience, the grounds host numerous festive attractions and activities.
Some of the highlights you’ll find on a visit include Claus Café, where you can snack on traditional Christmas goodies. If you prefer, you can pay a visit to Santa Claus as he visits the grounds and hosts crowds in his mini-workshop. Of course, the famed Christmas Lights walking experience is laid out across its grounds.
This year’s focus will be on sustainability and festivities to present a majestic spectacle while remaining eco-friendly.
Event Details: The Christmas Experience begins on the 20th of November and continues until the 23rd of December, with ticket prices starting at €5.00 ($4.75).
Unique Experiences of Christmas in Dublin
While every Christmas experience is unique and offers a distinct flair to the season, some of these in Dublin take things to a whimsical new level. These are the most unique Christmas attractions in Dublin, Ireland, in December.
11. Explore the Streets of Grafton and Henry
Two of the most prominent shopping streets in Dublin are Grafton and Henry Streets. As fun (and therapeutic) as losing yourself in boutique stores might be, Christmas here takes it to a new level. Both streets ring in the festive season with magnificent light displays all over.
What makes these two streets so unique is that the stores along the way go all out. In-store decorations reach marvelous heights with giant nutcrackers, artificial snow, huge winter bears, and of course, a lot of festive music.
Some stores to visit include:
- Brown Thomas – On Grafton Street, it dazzles with incredible Christmas-themed inside and outside decor.
- Marks & Spencer – An impossible-to-miss store on Grafton Street, it’s famous for its collection of authentic Fir trees.
- Arnotts – The festive highlight of Henry Street, Arnott’s welcomes you with a huge “Welcome to Dublin One” ribbon.
- The Kilkenny Shop – A boutique store on Henry Street that features bespoke Christmas decor and designs.
12. Feast Your Eyes on the Wild Lights Throughout Dublin
Earlier, we mentioned the Wild Lights aspect of visiting Dublin at Christmas, but outside of the Dublin Zoo, it takes on a new life. This citywide event is highlighted by unparalleled light and visual displays on the city’s main monuments.
Undertaking a guided walking tour of Dublin during December is, without a doubt, the best way to discover all of its wild lights. Made possible by projectors and visual effects specialists, seeing Dublin in this light (pardon the pun) is pure Christmas bliss.
The best spots to see the Wild Lights in action are:
- The Custom House – A few minutes from the city center along the Liffey River.
- The Samuel Beckett Bridge
- General Post Office – You’ll find it on O’Connell Street.
- Trinity College
13. Watch ‘Love Actually’ at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre
The Bord Gáis Energy Theater is renowned worldwide for putting on impressive showcases with unique twists. One of the best activities in Dublin in the winter is on offer here, and you’ll never guess what it is.
Well, it’s a showing of the cult-classic Christmas movie Love Actually projected onto a massive screen. What’s so special about this, though? Well, have you ever watched it accompanied by a live orchestra?
That’s precisely what you can expect from this experience. The movie is accompanied by an orchestra performing Craig Armstrong’s fantastic score.
Event Details: You can book your tickets directly from the Bord Gáis Energy Theater website, and the showing happens on the 5th of December.
14. Go Ice Skating Around Dublin
Few things encourage you to fall in love with Dublin’s festive season, like going ice skating. Luckily, the city is no stranger to ice skating rinks, especially in December. These rinks pop up and invite all levels of experience to the cold floor.
If you’re wondering, “How do the Irish celebrate Christmas?” you should know that one of their favorite pastimes is ice skating. There are a few places to choose from to experience the fun of gliding on ice (or falling in some cases).
The best places to go ice skating in Dublin include:
- Blanchardstown on Ice
- iSkate at RDS
- Liffey Valley on Ice
- Swords on Ice
- Dundrum on Ice
Are you surprised about how many things to do in Dublin at Christmas there are?