It truly is the most magical time of the year in Dublin’s fair city. Pedestrian traffic buzzes along Grafton Street as people pop out to pick up last minute gifts. Carolers and buskers line the avenues and the night is illuminated in an array of colors. There is a palpable energy in the air. And while Dublin may not offer Christmas markets that rival those in Germany or even Belfast, there’s plenty to do here that brings the magic of the season to life. Here are some of my favorite ways to celebrate the holiday season in Dublin.
|| Finish your gift shopping and admire the shop windows.
Join the buzzing crowds along Grafton and Henry streets as you look for the best bits and baubles for your loved ones. The decorations in Stephen Green Shopping Centre and the Powerscourt Centre will definitely get you in the holiday spirit! Be sure to check out the stunning window displays at department stores like Brown Thomas and Arnotts.
|| Crawl through the 12 Pubs of Christmas.
The 12 Pubs of Christmas bar crawl has become a bit of a seasonal Irish tradition. You can join on an organized crawl or grab some friends and make your own! Route out 12 of your favorite pubs around town (there’s plenty enough to choose from!) and make your way through them all while dressed in your best tacky jumpers. Be sure to pace yourself – it’s a marathon, not a sprint, and be sure to check if the pubs on your route allow 12 Pubs groups as some don’t.
|| Admire the city lights.
There’s nothing quite like seeing the streets of Dublin light up for the first time to inaugurate the season. From the tree on O’Connell towering next to the Spire to the lights strung across Grafton, it’s easy to see why some argue this is Dublin’s most magical time of year. In mid-November, the city comes together for a parade as the lights are officially switched on for the first time.
|| Grab a pint at one of the most decorated pubs.
Dublin’s pubs really know how to put on for Christmas, and there is nothing better than escaping the cold by settling on into a snug with a pint, or sitting next to a roaring fire. There are a few pubs, however, that go exceptionally over-the-top with their decorations – The Hole in the Wall by Phoenix Park and The Ginger Man by Merrion Square are two of the best!
|| Listen to (famous) buskers on Christmas Eve.
In the past few years, its become a tradition for celebrities to busk on Grafton Street on Christmas Eve. The likes of Bono, Hozier, and Glen Hansard have come together to raise money for the homeless. Though the busking was cut short last year due to crowd control as its become more well-known, here’s to hoping for a glimpse at some of the most famous Irish faces for a good cause.
|| Watch your favorite holiday movies at the Stella.
The recently refurbished Stella Theatre in Rathmines is like a step back in time with its art deco design and ambiance of vintage luxury. Cozy into one of their comfortable leather lounge chairs for a holiday feature. Throughout the season, they screen several seasonal classics, from It’s a Wonderful Life to Love Actually.
|| Attend a Christmas panto.
If you’re looking for something family-friendly to do, this holiday tradition is another favorite throughout the UK and Ireland! A Christmas panto (or pantomime) is a musical comedy put on by theatres throughout the city. While it’s designed for kids, there’s often plenty of subtle humor for adults too. There’s singing and dancing, slapstick comedy, gender-crossing actors and audience participation – all in a new retelling of a well-known fairy tale. Whether you catch the panto at the Gaiety, the Olympia, or the Tivoli, it’s sure to be a hit for adults and children alike.
|| Jump off the 40 Foot on Christmas Day.
Another time-honored Dublin tradition, jumping off the 40 Foot on Christmas Day is not for the faint of heart. This Dublin institution is arguably the most famous swimming spot in Ireland, immortalized in James Joyce’ Ulysses. On Christmas Day at this promontory at Sandycove, many (certifiably insane) people come from around the area to take a frigid plunge into Dublin Bay.
|| Indulge in some mulled wine and mince pies.
Nothing says Christmas quite like the food and drink. You’ll find pubs across the city offer mulled wine or hot port this time of year, so pop in for something warm. And since diets are for New Year’s resolutions, be sure to indulge in the best holiday treats, like homemade mince pies or Christmas cake.
|| Escape to the Alps at Aprés Dublin.
Described as Ireland’s first-of-its-kind Christmas party venue, Après Dublin transforms George’s Dock into a ski-lodge that brings the fun of the après scene right into Dublin. There’s street food, DJs and live music, ski-themed games and photobooths, snow machines (!) and plenty of festive drinks. And during the day, the ‘village’ outside the lodge is set up for family-friendly fun, including carousel rides and a chance to visit Santa.
|| Go ice skating at Dundrum’s Christmas Village.
Dublin may not be the place for a white Christmas, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a chance for some seasonal ice skating! Dundrum Town Centre opens a skating rink from the end of October through early January. While you’re here, be sure to explore Dundrum’s Christmas Village to visit Santa.
|| Check out a craft market.
While there isn’t a large Christmas market like in other European capitals, there are still plenty of Christmas craft fairs and markets throughout the city worth visiting. The Newmarket Christmas Fair and the Dun Laoghaire Christmas Market channel larger markets with festive wooden chalets. The Ha’Penny Christmas Market is an indoor marketplace selling a variety of craft goods, and there are nearly 140 stalls at the Dublin Christmas Flea Market. There is an entire contemporary craft and design fair, and Winter Funderland is another answer to the German Christkindlemarkts.
What is your favorite thing to do for Christmas in Dublin?