When the lights go on: magical November nights 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.
Media captionWild Lights at Dublin Zoo.
The Wild Lights display at Dublin Zoo
Media captionWild Lights at Dublin Zoo.

The days may be getting shorter, but that doesn’t mean you need to hibernate this winter.

In Dublin, there are plenty of things to do on a November evening, from street festivals to special museum nights where you can kick off the season in style. Plus, there’s a certain charm to a winter’s night in the capital, when the city lights twinkle into life and people dash around town, between cosy restaurants and warm pubs.

Whatever you’re into, be it candlelit gigs in cathedrals or illuminated woodland walks, there’s something to tickle your fancy in Dublin this winter. Here are some great ways to spend a night in the city this November.

Winter is coming

Start things off at Dublin by Night, a two-day festival that celebrates everything that’s great about the city after dark. On November 2, Drury Street and South William Street will become a hub of live music, theatrical performances and outdoor market stalls for the Southside Dublin by Night Fest. The following evening, the Northside Dublin by Night Fest comes alive over on Capel Street and Lower Mary Street for more of the same, with the addition of a giant outdoor movie screen for an al fresco film. At both events, street food vendors will be serving up dishes to keep you fed and toasty, like barbeque from Smokin’ Bones and hearty grub from Asia Market.   

Media captionSee what fun Drury Street has to offer at Dublin by Night Fest.

Take me to church

When it comes to magical concert settings, St Patrick’s Cathedral is tough to beat. And this November, there are a few gigs where you can enjoy some live music by candlelight under the grand vaulted ceiling. First up on November 3 is the Music of James Bond, where a live band and singers will be bringing Bond themes to life. The songs will be equally catchy on November 4, where Rory Phelan will be performing an evening of George Michael hits. On November 17 and 18, performers from the West End will be singing the songs of the Eagles. If none of those dates work, you can also take special night tours of the cathedral on Tuesdays throughout November.  

Media captionAdmire the stunning interior of St Patrick's Cathedral.

A night at the museum

On the first Friday of every month, the Museum of Literature Ireland stays open late for an evening of readings, discussions and whiskey tastings, alongside all of the usual exhibits. The programme changes each month too, so there’s always something different to see. Best of all? It’s completely free. 

On the other side of Stephen’s Green, the Little Museum of Dublin is running After Hours Tours on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays in November. Kicking off at 5pm, these guided tours will take you around the museum and begin with a glass of wine, so you can expect the tours to be a little more suggestive than usual.   

Media captionTake a peak inside the Little Museum of Dublin.

If you’re of the opinion that it’s never too early to start singing Christmas songs, then you’ll want to head over to EPIC the Irish Emigration Museum for a Festive Evening with Sing Ireland. Between 5.30-9pm on two Sundays in November, choirs from all over Ireland will be popping up throughout the museum to spread a bit of festive cheer.  

Turn the lights on

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo has gotten bigger and better each year, with this year’s edition switched on the evening of November 16. Book a ticket and you’ll experience the secret life of the zoo at night, with giant illuminated installations and silk lanterns spread between the enclosures. You can also sneak a peek at some of the nocturnal animals who usually hide away during daylight hours.  

Media captionSpot the spectrum of displays of Dublin Zoo's Wild Lights show.

Over at Malahide Castle, Ireland's largest-ever light show is returning on November 10, with the gardens and woodland glowing with huge installations. This year’s Wonderlights theme is 'The Magic of Winter', with brand new displays spread along the 1.8km walking trail.      

Media captionMarvel at the magical Wonderlights at Malahide Castle.

Murders, mystery and whiskey

The tale of Irish whiskey is full of twists, turns and the occasional scandal, which makes it the perfect theme for a murder mystery evening in the Irish Whiskey Museum. On November 24, you can collect clues and (hopefully) solve the mystery of the "Murder in the Síbín", while learning the sordid secrets of the 19th century Irish whiskey empire. And if you don’t crack the case, you can console yourself with a whiskey sour in the bar afterwards. 

Cultural evenings

Galleries aren’t just for daytime. The National Gallery of Ireland has two evening events in November as part of their Thursday Lates series, where you can meet artists and designers, take free tours of the gallery led by artists, and enjoy some live music from Irish DJs. On November 2 it’s all about Irish designers, with special guests Jenny Rothwell and Una Burke and music by DJ Dandelion. On November 16, the focus switches to Spanish art and culture, with a screening of the art documentary Zurbarán and His Twelve Sons, a live harpist and a talk and tasting with a leading Spanish gastronomic writer.  

Media captionBecome a connoisseur at the National Gallery of Ireland.

In the Chester Beatty, there are two free film screenings in November. First up on November 8 is Close, an Oscar-nominated coming-of-age drama from Belgium. On November 29 it’s the turn of The Dam, a film set in Sudan and a selection for Cannes Director’s Fortnight in 2022. Over at the National Concert Hall on November 7, there’s a screening of Alfred Hitchcock’s masterpiece, The Birds, accompanied by a new live score performed by composer Matthew Nolan and a quartet. 

There are some special events coming up in the Lighthouse Cinema, too. The EUNIC Short Shorts Film Festival 2023 is on November 7, with a selection of short films from all around Europe screened throughout the evening. At the end of the night, you can vote for your favourites on your smartphone. On November 11, there’s a screening of Out of Place, an exploration of the Limerick music scene, followed by a Q&A. You can also catch live performances from the MET Opera, with two performances of X: The Life & Times of Malcolm X.  

For an activity a bit more unique, head over to famous Windmill Lane Recording Studio on Ringsend Road where American musician Cedar Dobson has crafted the audio and visual spectacle that is "Shoreline Serenity," which is running until November 4. Using video and sound effects, alongside original music, you can be transported to some of the world's most beautiful shorelines without ever having to get on a plane. 

Media captionVisit the shoreline in your mind at Windmill Lane Recording Studio.

All the world’s a stage

Fancy a night at the theatre? There are loads of productions on stage all over the city during November. At the Abbey Theatre, enjoy the Tony nominated dark comedy Ironbound - written by Pulitzer Prize winner Martyna Majok - before its stage exit on November 11.  On the same stage, celebrate the 100th birthday of Brendan Behan with a new take on The Quare Fellow, featuring a cast of all female and non-binary actors playing the male roles. Previews start on November 24, with the run officially beginning on November 28. Roddy Doyle’s magical new version of JM Barrie’s Peter Pan, with the action transported from Neverland to early 20th century Dublin, takes to the Gate Theatre stage for previews on November 4 and runs until January 14.  

Media captionCatch a show at the Gate Theatre.

If you’re quick, you’ll catch the last few performances of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen in the Gaiety Theatre, where its third Irish run is wrapping up on November 4. There’s also a signed ISL performance on November 1. When that finishes, there’s a new play by Michael Scott on the Gaiety stage, The Valley of the Squinting Windows, based on the book by Brinsley MacNamara.  

If you’re a fan of a big Disney musical, The Lion King finishes its run at the Bord Gáis Energy Theatre on November 11, making it your last chance to sing along to Elton John and Tim Rice’s epic score.  

There are a few quirky performances at the more alternative Smock Alley Theatre, with short runs of shows like The Manny, a dark comedy about an Irish male nanny working in London; and the drag show Diana: The Untold and Untrue Story. There are also performances as part of IMRAM Féile Litríochta Gaeilge, with poetry, dramatic readings and music as Gaeilge (in Irish) between November 10 and 18.  

Shining stars

Some of the world’s hottest musical acts continue to flock to Dublin for big ticket gigs in November. The Chemical Brothers are playing the 3Arena on November 1, with 50 Cent taking over on November 6 and 7. Mundy will be at Whelan’s on November 3, and Bell X1 are in Vicar Street on November 24 and 25. In the 3Olympia, Teenage Fanclub are playing on November 2; The Stunning are on stage on November 25; and there are still a few tickets for Gavin James on November 4.  

Media captionCapture incredible musical moments at Vicar Street.

Winter in Dublin

Looking for some more inspiration? Browse the bounty of things to do and see this Winter in Dublin.