Plan a magical January break in Dublin
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 is back in town. From January 24–28 you can catch gigs in venues all over Dublin, from St Patrick’s Cathedral and Dublin Castle in the city centre to Swords Castle, Malahide Castle and Skerries Mills north of town. It's a packed five days, with Women of Note at St Patrick's Cathedral, Féile Kíla in the National Stadium, and an evening honouring Janis Ian closing the festival on January 28.
For the full rundown, check out our guide to TradFest 2024.
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 in 1900, on the proviso that they would be displayed for free every January, when the light is at its dimmest.
This month also offers another chance to see a number of exhibitions that have been running since the autumn, including Entangled Islands at EPIC, People and Places at the National Photographic Archive, Lavery on Location at the National Gallery, Andy Warhol Three Times Out at Hugh Lane Gallery and Anne Madden Seven Paintings at IMMA.
Want to get a new perspective on old work? Stop in for a free guided tour, from tours of the National Gallery to the Sunday public tour and Wednesday Warhol tour at the Hugh Lane Gallery. Beginning January 11, the National Gallery is also hosting a "Music in Art" themed tour, which will run during Thursday Lates (until 8.30pm) throughout the month and highlight the musical connections, musicians and instruments featured within the national collection.
In Temple Bar, go behind the scenes of Irish musical history at the Irish Rock 'N' Roll Museum Experience. You can get an all-access pass to explore the museum, the Button Factory venue, and the connected recording studios, where artists from Christy Moore to Rihanna have recorded. You can also tour Windmill Lane Recording Studios with their January Studio Tours and learn to mix your own session with their virtual band.
Grab a bite
After the rush of Christmas dinners and festive get-togethers, treat yourself to a quiet meal at a new-to-you restaurant. Afanti opened in late 2023 on Cavendish Row, by the Rotunda Hospital, and serves authentic Uyghur cuisine – think hand-made noodles, dumplings and cumin-flavoured lamb kebabs. On the other side of the city in Portobello, 76-year-old Ida Landa makes empanadas, alfajores and media lunas at Peperina City Bistro, if you don’t fancy a full Argentine-style parrilla. (You might already be familiar with sister restaurant Peperina Garden Bistro in Ranelagh.)
The newly relaunched Anantara The Marker Hotel in the Docklands comes with Forbes Street, a restaurant fronted by renowned chef Gareth Mullins. It features a seafood bar and John Stone beef, aged to delicious perfection.
On the subject of beef, 2023 saw the arrival of UK steakhouse Hawksmoor, which set up in the beautiful surrounds of the former National Bank on College Green. Over on Coppinger Row, Row Wines is another new arrival, delivering small plates (Garryhinch mushrooms in soy, mirin and shallot XO sauce; or Castletownbere langoustines) paired with a sensational wine menu that is perfect for a quick afternoon stop or a full evening meal.
Hear the music
TradFest will be sweeping across city venues at the end of the month, but you won't have to wait until then to catch a session. You'll find things are lively in Vicar Street, with big acts including Christy Moore to David O'Doherty popping up in January. Whelan's will see Andy White, UK grunge two-piece Fräulein, American folk duo The Milk Carton Kids and electronic producer Kiefer. Bombay Bicycle Club will close out the month with a bang at the 3Olympia on January 31.
Prefer to keep things classical? The National Concert Hall is offering a robust programme in January, with the National Symphony Orchestra performing Fauré and Bizet, Dvořák Symphony 'From the New World' and an evening of the music of Brendan Graham, hosted by the songwriter himself. You can also catch performances devoted to TV show soundtracks with the NCH Gamelan Orchestra and the Great Showband Years with the era's biggest stars. There'll be electronic music, too – Belfast-born producer Max Cooper will bring his immersive soundscapes to life on stage with 3D visuals.
Beyond live acts, you can dive into the musical heritage of Dublin on one of the many musical tours of the city. Book in for a Musical Pub Crawl, a Rock & Roll Music Tour or Monumental Music Tour led by expert guides, or head for a self-guided wander through the Liberties or South City music trails with the help of Visit Dublin's audio guides. You'll learn about the rich musical legacies of these neighbourhoods and the major acts that got their start in local pubs and venues.
In the Gate Theatre, Roddy Doyle's Peter Pan finishes its run of family-friendly shows on January 14, with the beloved story transported from Edwardian London to early 20th century Dublin. Families with older kids can also catch the cross-generational play Bullied at a lunchtime show at Bewley's Cafe Theatre starting January 10.
Over in the Abbey Theatre, Civil-War-set Hammam will close on January 6, while a modern take on Brendan Behan's The Quare Fellow, helmed by director Tom Creed and featuring a cast of women and non-binary actors, runs until January 27. John B Keane’s classic Sive opens at the Gaiety Theatre on January 27.
There's a far-reaching spread of plays, talks, outdoor events and more included in the programme for this year’s First Fortnight, a festival that promotes mental health awareness through creative arts and workshops across Ireland. In Dublin, Gemma Walker-Farren is bringing her one-woman show Ghosts where anxiety meets mythology to the Project Arts Centre. The Smock Alley Theatre will host James Riordan's dark Selvage, the children's show Befriending My Monster and various events for Nollaig na mBan (Women's Christmas), including a women's mental health panel and a performance by Irish Women in Harmony.
Elsewhere in Dublin, walk through Listen Now Again: Mindfulness Tour of Seamus Heaney at the Cultural and Heritage Centre at Bank of Ireland, catch a queer open-mic at Wigwam or wander through the Lights of Growth after dark at the National Botanic Gardens. Pause for a moment of coastal ecotherapy, which combines a beach clean-up with an invigorating sea swim, at Whiterock Beach in Killiney or Velvet Stand in Portmarnock.
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 design and craft shops on Drury Street and George's Street Arcade to the boutiques of the Powerscourt Centre. Try Article for cool homeware, MoMuse for fine gold jewellery, and hit Temple Bar for vintage shopping.
Have a laugh
Laugh away the January blues with comedy gigs throughout the city. There's quite the lineup at the 3Olympia – from January 8, Frankie Boyle kicks the year off strong with his wit, while Irish-born funny man Jarlath Regan takes over the venue from January 18 to 21 due to popular demand. Rising star Adam Rowe will close out the month at the theatre with his brand-new show on January 27.
At Vicar Street, you can catch online comedy trio Foil, Arms & Hog perform some on-stage antics across five dates in January, or stick around for a live recording of the Blindboy Podcast on January 22 and 23. Cork man Chris Kent is Back At It with his new show on January 26.
If you haven't already hopped aboard The Prosecco Express, now's your chance – Joanne McNally is bringing her hugely popular stand-up show to Bord Gáis Energy Theatre from January 8 to 13.
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 along the Dublin Coastal Trail. 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.
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 all month, 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 hosts events like sound baths, full moon rituals and reiki workshops. 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.
Enjoy Winter in Dublin
Looking for more inspiration? Discover everything that's on this Winter in Dublin.