A complete guide to a jolly good Christmas in Dublin

Media captionTake in the Christmas lights and markets of Dublin.
Friends walking down Grafton Street at Christmas.
Media captionTake in the Christmas lights and markets of Dublin.

When the Christmas lights are sparkling, the shop tills are chiming and the buskers are blasting out festive tunes, Dublin becomes a hub of festive joy.

With Christmas markets, incredible light shows and musical performances galore, the city makes for great spot to reconnect with old friends and to embrace the Christmas spirit with open arms.

Check out all the ways you can enjoy your Christmas season this year.

Shops, stalls and spectaculars

In the run up to Christmas on any year, a stroll through Dublin city is a lovely experience with the festive lights brightening up dark winter streets and good cheer enveloping the city. Dublin in December is indeed a magical place, a time for meet ups and celebrations and overdue catch ups with those you haven’t seen for the longest time.

Media captionSee Christmas lights throughout Dublin City.

And of course while you are in the city centre celebrating togetherness and being blinded by the lights, it would be remiss not to pop into a few shops along the way. Brown Thomas and Arnotts, in particular, have gone all in on Christmas – with window displays and decorations aplenty. 

Make your way up to Dublin Castle, which has been transformed into a winter market to rival the best on offer across Europe for Christmas at the Castle. This year's festival is free and unticketed, so you can wander in from December 6 to 19 to sip on mulled wine, explore the traditional alpine stalls and sample delicious treats. If you're feeling particularly nosy, head on inside to the impeccably decorated State Apartments for a self-guided tour, or admire the 18th-century style Neapolitan Crib in the heart of the Chapel Royal. 

Media captionVisit Christmas at the Castle with friends.

Gifted - The Contemporary Craft & Design Fair at the RDS in Ballsbridge will be back with Jingle Bells on from December 6 to December 10 with hundreds of designers, makers and artisan food producers setting up their stalls for your delight. The contemporary craft fair is the largest of its kind in Ireland, and tickets (€12) can be bought online or at the door.

Starting November 29 and ending December 23, the Christmas on Moore Street market will take over from Wednesday right through to Saturday of each week. Meander through the stalls of hot food and drink, handmade crafts made by independent Irish creatives, all while listening to live festive music.

Head to the Liberties for the Stillgarden Christmas Market. Kicking off at 11am-5m on December 9, the two-day event showcases handmade skincare, unique arts and crafts and homewares. If you find yourself north of the Liffey on those dates, make your way to the National Botanic Gardens for their annual Christmas Craft Market which boasts up to 70 stalls of great gift ideas.

Only in Dublin

On Christmas Eve something will happen that you would simply not find anywhere else in the world. For many years, Bono, Glen Hansard and a host of their rock and roll friends gathered at the top of Grafton Street to busk in aid of the Simon Community. It returns to the top of Dublin’s main shopping thoroughfare, close to St Stephen’s Green. As in previous years there’s no actual guarantee as to who might show up, but the magic never fails to deliver.

While a Christmas dip in the sea might give many people nightmares, it is a wildly popular activity in Dublin (and increasingly around Ireland’s coast) with the Forty Foot at Sandycove Beach hosting the most popular Christmas Day dip again this year.

Media captionGo for a Christmas Day dip at the Forty Foot.

Park life

Away from the city centre, there is all manner of happenings in the Phoenix Park. Farmleigh House and Estate is hosting a series of Christmas markets and events over the first three weekends of December and will run from 10am to 5pm.

On your way to or from the market, you will want to check out the herd of fallow deer that roam freely about the park. There aren’t many cities in the world that are home to hundreds of wild deer, and spotting them is never more magical than it is in the run up to Christmas. As majestic as they are, it’s best if you don’t try to get too close; after all, they are wild animals who are also pretty shy and like to keep to themselves.

Media captionBe sure to give plenty of room when visiting the deer at Phoenix Park.

From wildlife to Wild Lights: the Phoenix Park is also home to Dublin Zoo, which hosts a nighttime spectacular that is a must in the run-up to Christmas. The zoo’s pathways are lined with oversized, illuminated mythical figures, from fairies and wizards to multi-coloured animals.  There's even a candyland display to enjoy. While it is primarily aimed at families, wandering the zoo at night and marvelling at the Enchanted Zoo (this year’s theme) is a lovely way to pass a couple of hours. Adult tickets are priced at €24.50.

Media captionVisit Dublin Zoo to take in the Wild Lights.

Winter wonderland

The Guinness Storehouse is making a big fuss of Christmas and transforming the brewery's courtyard into a festive wonderland. This year's decorations will be centred on a Christmas tree encasing the famous Guinness 9,000-year lease in the building's enormous atrium. There will be décor designed by some of Ireland’s most creative minds, an immersive art installation, a festive food fair and the sounds of contemporary Christmas music throughout the building. Stop by for a pint of the black stuff and some good cheer, then take in the glow of the city from the panoramic Gravity Bar. 

Media captionWander through the festive wonderland at Guinness Storehouse.

If you want to feel like you're in Lapland without having to leave Dublin, head over to Dún Laoghaire for a day of ice skating. Running from November 10 all the way to January 21, you have plenty of time to visit Ireland's newest and biggest ice rink located right on the harbour. If you're an undiscovered Olympic ice-skater, don't worry, with two separate rinks for various skill levels you won't be slowed down by children or complete newbies. Alternatively, if you fear you'll be like Bambi on ice, there are plenty of adorable penguin skate aids to help you find your glide. 

Music to warm the heart

On December 15, Christmas music from Handel’s Messiah will be performed by St Patrick’s Cathedral Choir in the most evocative setting of the church, where marvellous acoustics and illumination almost exclusively by candlelight make for the most magical of experiences. Tickets start at €35; booking in advance is essential.

Not to be outdone, the National Concert Hall is hosting its own season of Christmas concerts. On December 11, the Goethe Choir will perform a cantata featuring festive choral music by Byrd, Bach, Vivaldi and more (tickets €20).

Media captionHead into the National Concert Hall for an evening of Christmas concerts.

On December 18 the NCH is at it again, although this time it will be hosting an evening at the movies filled with timeless classics from the most Christmassy of films, proving that it is indeed a most wonderful life and giving you no excuse to stay home alone.

One day later the NCH brings joy to the world – in both a literal and metaphorical sense - with a sublime concert of Candelit Carols and seasonal classics, staged in an evocative candle-lit style setting. There will be two concerts – in the afternoon and evening – with prices from €29.50.

Christmas on the big screen

Fans of a good Christmas rom-com should keep November 29 free in their calendars and head to Love Actually  in Concert. The Bord Gáis Energy Theatre welcomes the travelling company of Singular Voices as they – with the help of a full orchestra – perform the film's soundtrack live to screen. 

For a hit of Christmas nostalgia but with a twist, Rascals Brewing Company in Inchicore are bringing the 1980s festive fantasy/horror classic The Gremlins to the big screen once again on December 3. So wear your favourite Christmas jumper, get your complimentary drink and popcorn, and prepare for a jolly fright. 

Media captionEnjoy a film and a drink at Rascals Brewing Company.

If you want to enjoy a night at the cinema without sacrificing the cosiness of a movie night in, the Stella's modern twist on a 1920s-style theatre offers old world glam with that extra bit of comfort. Put your feet up in one of their leather armchairs and enjoy their heartwarming selection of Christmas films throughout December, from The Nightmare Before Christmas and Elf  to It's A Wonderful Life. You can even order a delicious cocktail and dessert directly to your seat so you don't miss a ho ho ho.  

Craft a special experience

Why settle for a simple drink in a pub when you can craft your own? Take part in the Tinsel and Tonic Gin Experience at the Gin School of Pearse Lyons Distillery and not only learn the rich history behind the art of gin-making from the experts, but concoct your own festive beverage. It would even make for a great personalised gift for someone special. 

Media captionFind your unique festive flavour at Pearse Lyons Distillery.

For those that are looking to create something that'll last a lifetime, you'll love the variety of workshops on offer at Silverworks on Drury Street. With the help of expert jewellery makers, you can forge your own traditional Claddagh ring or make a festive-themed pendant, either for someone you love or as a small Christmas gift to yourself. 

Going out with a bang

Dublin will be going big for New Year’s Eve with the New Year’s Festival, which will take place across three stages around Dublin city. There’ll be DJs, street entertainment and all kinds of foodie delights to keep the crowds happy. Rising Irish artists Moncrieff, Lea Heart and Lucy Gaffney will take to the stage for the Midnight Moment Matinee at Dublin Castle, but as the curtain comes down on 2023 you can expect Picture This to take you into a world of their own.

Media captionLet Picture This bring you into the new year at the New Year's Festival.

Winter in Dublin

To really make the most of Dublin over Christmas, check out our guide to all that's on over Winter in Dublin.