If you’ve ever wanted to travel abroad for the holidays, Ireland is the perfect place to do it. In fact, Ireland in December, albeit cold, is a magical time to visit the country. While it doesn’t often get snow, you’ll love walking around the cities looking at the holiday lights that hang from everywhere.
There are plenty of Christmas activities to participate in during December in Ireland, including Christmas markets, holiday shows, and more. You may also be able to save on airfare to the country if you go earlier in the month.
This article goes over what the weather is like during this time of year, what to pack for Ireland in December, and various December events in Ireland around the country, so let’s dive in.
What to Know for Visiting During December in Ireland
Let’s face it – Ireland is an amazing place to visit any time of the year. December seems a little special in most countries, this Land of Saints and Scholars included. Ireland has a certain charm and appeal this time of year, with Christmas around the corner and everyone in high spirits.
What makes Ireland in winter so special? Well, several factors contribute to that notion. The weather is surprisingly not awful, there are a ton of events to attend, and lots of places get “dressed up,” so to speak, for the festive season. Ireland at Christmas, after all, is also incredibly special. It’s not so much a question of what to do in Ireland in December. It really is about how much you can fit in.
Weather in Ireland in December
Ireland’s weather in December changes somewhat over the month. If there is a preferred time to visit in this month, it’s early December. There is less rain, simply put. For much of the second part of December, rain is very common.
It will rain for roughly half the time – weather services statistically record decent rain about 45% of days in December. At the start of the month, it’s significantly lower, though cloud cover is likely most days.
Ireland in winter can be chilly (average 6.5°C or 47°F), but December isn’t actually the coldest month of the year. In fact, it seldom dips below zero during the day. You might expect Irish December weather to be freezing cold and unpleasant, as this is Europe anyway.
In reality, the biggest factor to consider about the weather this time of year is the wind. This can drop the temperature significantly, and certain places (the west coast, notably) may be unsafe due to its severity. Some services or attractions like ferries may stop services in these circumstances.
If you’re keen to see snow, you must go into the mountains. Snow isn’t especially common in the coastal and lower-lying areas. Rest assured, December might still be the best time to go to Ireland if you want a true sense of the country and its spirit.
What to Pack for Ireland in December
Visiting Ireland in December? Aim to keep warm and be prepared for rain, as it’s a bit colder than November in Ireland. This means good all-weather tops and jackets and coats, rain-proof shoes, and wintery underwear. Most indoor places have heating, so the key is to dress in layers. You can remove any unnecessary sweaters and coats when you’re indoors.
This will be especially useful if you plan to visit many indoor establishments like pubs and restaurants. Fortunately, Ireland also seems to cater to lots of indoor activities this time of year.
You can leave the swimsuit behind unless you plan to use a hotel’s heated pool. Here’s a fairly bullet-proof list of items to stuff into your suitcase. You can read my packing list for winter in Ireland or my general Ireland packing list, but here are a few suggestions:
- Good water-resistant hiking boots (if you like them), especially in the country
- Rainboots if you prefer to have your feet completely covered
- Wool scarf, hat, and gloves
- Rain-resistant gear; at a bare minimum, a good winter jacket with a hood
- Thermal underwear is highly recommended to stay warm
A note on umbrellas: As mentioned, Ireland gets windy this time of year, and umbrellas generally don’t fare too well in the Irish wind. You may want to carry one around, but use it with caution.
Check out this list for a more detailed rundown of what to pack for Ireland.
Events & Places to Attend in Ireland in December
Most tourists to Ireland will be in the three major cities. There’s nothing wrong with that. The cities offer lots to see and do, and many are in a position to provide day trips to nearby attractions.
On the one hand, those who appreciate religious traditions will immerse themselves in the strong Irish Catholic Christmas heritage. On another front, the well-known Irish sense of fun will permeate through the very fabric of the country.
Ireland happens to be put together in such a way that it’s relatively easy to get anywhere quickly. Let’s look at the three major cities, and some of the December highlights each has on offer.
Events in Dublin in December
The capital of Ireland is reputed to be one of the friendliest cities in the world, and this spirit seems compounded around Christmas time. There are many things to see and do in Dublin in the winter. Here are just a few highlights you may want to consider.
Dublin Christmas Markets
There are a couple of markets to be found around the city during Christmas time. Take an afternoon out and try out some of the trinkets, snacks, and drinks. In past years, the Dublin Flea Market was one of the more popular stops in this vein for visitors.
Dates: From 3 December till 23 December
St. Patrick’s Cathedral & The Guinness Choir
One of Ireland’s cultural cornerstones is its dominant Catholic heritage, which is reflected in its many churches and cathedrals. St. Patrick’s is one of this city’s iconic cathedrals; the Guinness Choir performs its Christmas concert here early in the month.
This isn’t the only musical affair in the local places of worship. Carols by Candlelight takes place in the Christ Church Cathedral, National Concert Hall, and St Bartholomew’s church. If you’re up for these very traditional mood-setters, you should try to attend at least one of them.
Dates: From around 8 December
The Dublin Zoo hosts an annual event called Wild Lights each December. The themed event is designed with families and children in mind. Storytellers and displays offer fun tales for the family to enjoy. Meanwhile, there are plenty of stalls selling food and activities to participate in.
Dates: Late October through early January
Pantomime Bus Tour
A truly unique idea is the drama-filled Pantomime Bus Tour around Dublin. This bit of looney fun as you help some elves get around the city by bus as they try to save Christmas. You’ll need your imagination hats on for this one, but it’s sure to inject a bit of youthful fun into your trip. Your kids will probably enjoy it too.
Dates: Starts first week of December, daily
Henry’s Street and Grafton Street
If you have come to Ireland for Christmas shopping, these are the main areas for spending your money. Best of all, you can walk them easily and even get between the two on foot. Make a note to try the smaller independent stores for those special one-of-a-kind items.
While it doesn’t snow much in Dublin, ice rinks get set up in December so families and kids can get into the spirit. You may be able to rent a pair of skates to enjoy these temporary ice rink setups.
- Blanchardstown on Ice – From 18 November
- Dundrum on Ice – TBC
- iSkate at the RDS – TBC (usually from late November)
- Liffey Valley on Ice – TBC
- Swords on Ice – TBC (usually from late October)
Dates: various locations from late October through the end of January
Festivities in Belfast in December
The capital of Northern Ireland has its place in world history for many reasons. For example, it is where the ill-fated HMS Titanic first began construction. The city also recognizes and undertakes to tell the story of its violent revolutionary and civil conflict history (The Troubles) through numerous museums, landmarks, and education projects.
Nonetheless, Belfast has a particularly festive atmosphere, which seems to take hold as Christmas approaches. Here are a few things to try if you’re in the city.
The Continental Market
You may not expect to go to Belfast to get a feel for continental Europe. Yet, here it is – a mini-fest / market focused on the food and culture of France, Germany, and the Netherlands. Expect tasty food, beer, and wurst, of course.
The market is located on the grounds of the City Hall. In a sense, you could say you’re getting a taste of Europe for the price of Ireland.
Dates: 19 November through 22 December
Victoria Square Dome at Night
If you want to see a view of the city that’s truly breathtaking, visit Victoria Square and take a trip to the top. Hopefully, the panoramic view of the city takes your breath away, especially with the added bonus of the city’s Christmas lights still on.
Grand Opera House Pantomime
The annual pantomime theater production is something to enjoy with the kids. The panto is lots of fun and unusually invites a lot of audience participation. This year they’ll be showing Cinderella, which is a fun way to spend an evening in Belfast in December.
Dates: 3 December through 15 January 2023
St. George’s Market
Another awesome market to visit is St George’s, which specializes in little hand-crafted trinkets and gifts.
Dates: Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays
Looking for more? Here are more amazing things to do in Belfast.
Things to Do in Galway in December
If there is a word that describes Galway, it might be “quirky.” Things seem to be a lot more unusual here, even in Ireland. Perhaps it’s just the general feeling of whimsy in the air.
At Christmas, this feeling is even more pronounced. This Is a town for markets and pubs around this time. And it’s small enough to walk around easily.
The Christmas Market place to be is Eyre Square. This is one of the oldest markets in Ireland and the site for trade since medieval days. All the regular fare is here, including candies, sweets, mulled wine, gifts, toys, and trinkets. There are also several rides and amusement park-like attractions for the kids.
Dates: 11 November through 22 December
For a touch of the Irish myth, try the market on Church Street on Saturdays and Sundays. Aside from regular market goodies, you can also purchase Irish Faeries (don’t offend them) and other strange and uniquely Irish eccentricities.
Dates: From 16 November through 22 December
Quay Street is where the Galway nightlife happens and one of the best things to do in Galway. Try some of the numerous pubs and restaurants here, especially at night, when the mood gets particularly jolly.
If pubs in Galway aren’t your thing, don’t worry, there are several shops around as well. Look into a few; you might find a trinket worth purchasing.
More Things To Do in Ireland in December
Spending Christmas in Ireland sets you up for a wonderful celebration. Between the jolly atmosphere of the cities and the tranquil and mythical air of the mountains and the country, there’s a special appeal for those looking to end their year with something truly special.
Most towns and villages will have their own specific activities and charms during the December season. There is also a healthy calendar of great music and concert events (many indoors) featuring the best Irish, UK, and European acts in nearly all genres. And you can always attend the numerous pubs available for a fun evening.
Beyond these, there are also some awesome special adventures to undertake around Ireland during Christmas, should you feel so inclined. For example:
See the Aurora Borealis
This is winter, and some parts of Ireland are northern enough to see the northern lights. This beautiful cosmic display is definitely one of the most awe-inspiring natural phenomena you’ll ever see.
The very northern coastline of Ireland also happens to be exceptionally clean in terms of air pollution levels. This is what makes it possible to see the Borealis on clear nights. Malin Head in Inishowen, or Tra Na Rossan Beach County Donegal, is the best place to see the Aurora Borealis.
Fun Fact: The same phenomenon in the southern hemisphere is called the Aurora Australis. There have been more Auroras visible in recent years due to increased sun activity.
Hike the Mourne Mountains
Literature buffs will be thrilled by the idea of visiting these iconic mountains, which happen to be some of the few snow-capped ones during December. This setting inspired the great CW Lewis to write The Chronicles of Narnia. Who knows, hiking these trails may present the sighting of a Mr. Tumnus the faun or Jadis the White Witch
Attend Meath Bru Na Boinne for the Winter Solstice
The winter solstice happens on December 21, 2022, and the best place to be when this happens is Meath Bru Na Boinne. Unfortunately, you need to be selected via lottery to visit the ancient burial mound on the morning of the solstice or one of the adjacent days.
At the time of the solstice, light enters the chamber where you are situated, making for a somewhat spiritual and very special experience. Only 60 tickets are issued from thousands of applications, so count yourself lucky if you do manage to get in.
Dates: 21 December
Ready to start planning January? Read all about things to do in Ireland in January.
Let me know which activities in Ireland in December you’re looking forward to the most by sending me an email or leaving a comment below!