Plan a magical January break in Dublin

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Nicola BradyNicola Brady is a travel writer based in Dublin. She writes regularly for the Irish Independent, The Irish Times and Condé Nast Traveller, and has contributed to books on Dublin and Ireland for DK Eyewitness.
Two women talking as they look out the window of The Marker Hotel down at Dublin City.

Some people may save their city breaks for summertime, but January is the perfect month to explore Dublin.

There’s plenty going on in the city, from gigs and music festivals to plays and comedy shows. Plus, the city still has that wintery charm, with frosty mornings and cosy pubs that beckon you when the light fades. An added bonus? January is traditionally a quieter month for visitors, meaning it’s far easier to get a restaurant reservation or to wander around an art gallery in peace.

If you want to banish the January blues and plan a fun winter break in Dublin, here are some ideas to give you plenty of inspiration.

Time for trad

Pick up your fiddle and dust off your bodhrán (or at least get ready to hear them), because Tradfest Temple Bar is back in town. From January 25–28 you can catch gigs in venues all over the city, from the pubs of Temple Bar to grander locations like St Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle. Alongside the big ticket events, like Matt Molloy and Seán Keane in the Pepper Canister Church and Dervish in the National Stadium, the Smithwick’s Sessions are held in some of the best boozers in the city. Paddy Casey is playing in Gogarty's, and Drops of Green will be in The Auld Dubliner. You’ll be tapping your toes in no time.

For a full lowdown on the festival, check out our guide to Tradfest Temple Bar 2023.

Media captionHead down to Temple Bar for TradFest.

Get artsy

The days may be shorter in January, but that’s not always a bad thing. This is the only month when you can view the National Gallery of Ireland’s beautiful (and fragile) paintings by J.M.W. Turner. This collection was gifted to the gallery over 120 years ago, on the proviso that they would be displayed for free every January, when the light is at its dimmest. This year, there’s the added bonus of a whole new exhibit dedicated to Turner, with over 90 paintings on loan from the Tate gallery, that runs until February 6.

Media captionVisit the National Gallery of Ireland this January.
Media credit@thomaswalorski

Grab a bite

There has been a flurry of restaurant openings in Dublin recently. Richard Corrigan’s new Ballsbridge venture, Park Café, opened in November and was met with glowing reviews from the critics, who praised the inventive dishes made with produce grown in the gardens of Virginia Park Lodge in Cavan. On Lemon Street, Hyde is a four storey restaurant and bar combo with an Asian vibe – think rayu topped bone marrow, crispy pork cheek with galangal and kimchi on everything, even a Bloody Mary oyster shot. Another recent opening is D'Olier Street, sister restaurant to Mr Fox on Parnell Square. With a striking setting in D’Olier Chambers and a talented team in the kitchen, this is set to be one of the hottest new spots in town. Expect to see dishes like Hamachi crudo with apple and basil, or foie gras custard on an English muffin.

Media captionStop in at The Park Café for something to eat.
Media credit@parkcafedublin

Catch a gig

If you want to catch a new act before they make it big, Whelan's Ones To Watch 2023 is the place to be. This annual festival showcases the bands tipped for stardom in the coming year, and is held over three stages in the iconic venue from January 4–8. A few days later, the David Bowie Festival is returning to Whelan’s, with music, dance, film and theatre all dedicated to the Starman. This year, Bowie’s long-time guitarist and collaborator, Irish-born Gerry Leonard (once of 80s rockers Hinterland), will headline two evenings of the week-long festival, which runs from January 10-15. Expect stellar performances and sparkling stories about the man himself. 

Over in the 3Arena, Lewis Capaldi’s stadium tour may have sold out in minutes, but there are still tickets for the Dropkick Murphys and The 1975. Keshi is performing in Vicar Street on January 24, where Christy Moore is also playing six gigs throughout the month.

Media captionCatch a gig at Vicar Street this January.

Nollaig na mBan

Marking the end of the Christmas season on January 6, Nollaig na mBan is traditionally the day when women would hang up their aprons and leave the housework up to the men. But nowadays it’s a day dedicated to celebrating the women of Ireland. This year, the Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again exhibit on Bank of Ireland Cultural and Heritage Centre focuses on the poems the Nobel prize winner wrote in honour of the women in his life. The best in Irish women’s writing is the theme of a special Nollaig na mBan event in the Irish Writer’s Centre, with readings by notable literary figures including Louise Nealon, Suad Aldarra and Sinéad Gleeson.

Media captionTake in the Seamus Heaney: Listen Now Again exhibit and the special event to celebrate Nollaig na mBan.

Get theatrical

In the Gate Theatre, Piaf is finishing its run of shows on January 28, with Camille O’Sullivan taking the role of Édith Piaf alongside a line-up of stage talent from Ireland and the West End. Over in the Abbey Theatre, The Weir wraps up on January 14, and the month also marks the return of The 24 Hour Plays at the Abbey, in which six short plays are written, rehearsed and performed in the space of (you guessed it) 24 hours.

There are a number of plays included in the programme for this year’s First Fortnight, a festival that promotes mental health awareness through creative arts and workshops. Highlights include 24/7 Bliss, set in an all-night dry cleaners, which runs over four nights in the Smock Alley Theatre. The same venue is also where you can catch Julie Jay’s dark comedy Oops, This is Toxic, which Joanne McNally called “a joy to watch.”

Media captionSee Piaf at The Gate Theatre.

Hit the sales

Pre-Christmas shopping may be all about gifting, but January is the time to treat yourself. Make the most of the sales and flit between the shops in the city, from the tech steals in Arnotts on Abbey Street to the designer bargains in Brown Thomas on Grafton Street. When you’ve finished on Grafton Street, be sure to explore the side streets nearby, from the independent shops on Drury Street and George's Street Arcade to the boutiques of the Powerscourt Centre. Try Article for cool homeware, or MoMuse for fine gold jewellery (you can get more ideas for design and craft shops here).

Media captionShop the independent boutique stores of George's Street Arcade.

New Year Redux

If you want to celebrate the new year all over again, January 21 is the official start of Chinese New Year, which runs right through to the 29th. There’ll be city wide events marking the start of the Year of the Rabbit, including special feasts in many of Dublin’s Chinese restaurants as well as other happenings.

Media captionEnjoy Chinese New Year later in January.
Media credit@anotherfoodblogx

Have a laugh

There’s comedy every Sunday and Monday night in the Stag’s Head on Dame Lane, while Mob Theatre put on improv every Thursday in Wigwam. You can find the long running Dublin Comedy Improv every Sunday in the International Bar too. Meanwhile, it’s comedy central in the 3Olympia, with big name comics John Mulaney, Des Bishop and Deirdre O’Kane all performing in January. Over in Vicar Street, Tommy Tiernan is also doing six nights throughout the month.

Media captionHave a laugh this January at a comedy show.

Take a hike

Resist the urge to hibernate on the couch and take yourself out on a long walk instead. There are no shortage of great hikes all within easy reach of the city centre – head out to the Phoenix Park to spot the roaming deer, or walk along the edge of Grand Canal, from the Docklands out to Portobello. Head a little further afield and you have the grandeur of the Dublin Mountains or coastline to explore. Hike up to Killiney Hill and you’ll soon see why this stretch of coast, with its gentle curve of shoreline and Mediterranean greenery, is known as Ireland’s Bay of Naples.

Media captionGet out and enjoy the fresh air of the new year.

Get zen

After all the activity of the festive season, January is the time to slow down and focus on yourself. Luckily, there are plenty of wellness offerings in Dublin that will help you do just that. At Little Bird in Portobello, there are yoga classes available from January 2, where you can partake in Candlelit Yin Yoga or Slow Gentle Flow. If even slow movement sounds a bit too active, The Space Between yoga studio on Fenian Street is hosting a Sound Bath on January 22. All you have to do is lie on the floor as Tibetan singing bowls and gongs are used to induce a state of deep relaxation. Fancy working up a sweat without putting in any effort? At The Sea Sauna in Portrane, you can relax in a wood-fired Finnish style sauna, while gazing out at Tower Bay Beach. If you’re really brave, you can jump into the sea beforehand.

Media captionTake some time for yourself and retreat into some yoga.

Enjoy Winter in Dublin

Looking for more inspiration? Check out our guide to everything that Dublin has to offer this winter.