The bustling capital city of Ireland is a popular tourist destination year-round, but visiting Dublin in winter has its own special charm. The city is buzzing with holiday cheer and winter festivals are in full swing, making it a great time to enjoy the festive atmosphere. From Christmas markets to cozy pubs, here’s how to make the most of your trip to Dublin Ireland this winter.
This is a guest post by Janelle from Make the Trip Matter
Why Winter is the Best Time to Visit Dublin
Dublin comes alive during the winter with holiday spirit. There are always events, markets, and festivals happening throughout the city. Plus, the weather doesn’t drop too drastically, and it doesn’t usually snow, making it a great escape for those who live in colder climates.
Winter is an especially great time to visit Dublin because you will find far fewer crowds at the popular tourist spots. Dublin is a very international city and popular for visitors all year round, however, people don’t travel nearly as much during the colder months which gives you the opportunity to enjoy the city at a quieter time.
Staying in Dublin during the winter is the best time to visit the most popular attractions such as the Guinness Factory, the Book of Kells, and Dublin Castle. You could also plan to use the city as a base for exploring more of Ireland and taking day trips to nearby destinations. Not only will the crowds be relatively thin, but prices for tours also tend to be reduced during the winter months.
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Why Visit Dublin In December
If you find yourself in Dublin in December, you’ll be spoilt for choice when it comes to festive fun. One of the highlights is the Wild Lights event at Dublin Zoo, where you can wander through the spectacular scenes and lights displays. The theme changes every year and has been anything from “Around the World” to “Stories, Myths, and Legends.”
Another great December event is the Singing Cinema Christmas Special, which is held in D2 on (or around) the 22nd of December. You can enjoy your favorite festive film, 5 free drinks, and a bottomless amount of popcorn.
Want More Winter Travel Inspiration?Check out these blog posts for your European winter vacation inspiration!
Why Visit Dublin in January
January in Dublin is a fantastic time for music lovers. The Tradfest Festival takes over Temple Bar at the end of January, with five days of Ireland’s best traditional live music. You can catch up-and-coming bands as well as the big names on stage.
While most shows happen at the Temple Bar, a few may be held at St. Patrick’s Cathedral or even Dublin Castle. There are also craft fairs, parades, and a wide selection of activities for children.
If you’re a fan of David Bowie, don’t miss the festival dedicated to the legend himself. There are talks, merchandising, art, films, the best of drag culture and of course, lots of live music performances.
Winter Weather in Dublin
Dublin has a reputation for being damp and cold. But don’t let this stop you from exploring winter activities in the city, the Dublin winter weather is truly not as bad as you might expect!
The temperature in Dublin isn’t too bad, with the low hovering around 35°F and the high around 47°F. The number of rainy days ranges from about 10 to 15 per month. However, in Dublin it tends to sprinkle frequently, and the sky often has shifting clouds in it with lovely periods of sunshine, even in the winter.
What to Wear in Dublin in Winter
It’s best to layer your clothes when out exploring in Dublin. When the sun is out it can feel much warmer than when it’s hidden behind the clouds, and because the clouds often shift, the temperature throughout the day can vary. The sun sets early during the winter as well, around 4-5pm, so it can get cold early in the evening.
Layer with a long sleeve and maybe a sweater over it and bring a thicker jacket for the colder periods of the day. You may also want to wear a hat, gloves, or thick socks if you are sensitive to the cold.
Wear durable shoes, ideally ones that are waterproof. Little rain boots are both cute and practical for Dublin. With frequent rain, you don’t want to get caught wearing shoes that may get ruined in the water. Plus, most of the streets are made of cobblestones, so a durable shoe will be best for walking longer distances.
The Best Things to do in Dublin in Winter
Dublin is a vibrant city with plenty to see and do. During the winter, visitors can explore Dublin’s main tourist attractions and popular places to visit in Dublin while the crowds are not as big. Top things to do in Dublin during the winter include:
- Walking Street Food Tour with a Local Guide
- Afternoon Tea Vintage Bus Trip
- Whiskey Blending Experience at the Irish Whiskey Museum
- Day Trip to Cliffs of Moher, Kilmacduagh Abbey, and Galway
You can browse more tours and attractions in Dublin here. Most of the tours and activities in Dublin are available throughout the year, you’ll just need to dress accordingly – and remember that it gets dark earlier during the winter – and plan your trip bearing in mind the weather might not cooperate!
Grab a Pint at the Temple Bar
The Temple Bar is located in the heart of Dublin’s city center and is the most well-known pub. There’s almost always live music playing and a rowdy group to entertain you while you enjoy a pint of beer. Visit while playing a self-led exploration game of Old Town’s famous pubs including the Temple Bar.
- Leave valuables at home and don't keep all your money and credit cards in one place. I love hidden pocket clothing like this travel scarf for stashing my cash and passport or a belt with a hidden pocket. Read more about how to hide money while travelling.
- Bring a water bottle with a built-in filter so you can safely drink water from any fresh water source while saving money and reducing plastic use. I take my Water-to-Go bottle with me everywhere!
- Unfortunately, things can and do go wrong when you travel. I always buy travel insurance and was very glad I had insurance when I had my laptop and passport stolen in Ecuador! Consider getting insurance for your trip to cover things like trip cancellation, emergency medical, lost luggage and stolen items, as well as adventure sports and activities and more.
- I chose World Nomads Travel Insurance for my recent backpacking trip to Australia and New Zealand. They offer travel insurance for independent travellers and intrepid families and you can get a quote, make a claim, or buy or extend your policy while on the road
Tour Dublin Castle
The castle was built in the early 13th century and was the headquarters for the English administration until Ireland’s independence in 1922. Now, you can tour the grounds, including the tower and gardens, and view the fascinating permanent and rotating exhibits.
View the Book of Kells at Trinity College Dublin
This ancient manuscript with detailed illustrations of the four Gospels was believed to have been created around the year 800 AD and was painstakingly hand-drawn by monks. Now, this beautiful item is held in the 65m long, beautiful Trinity College Library which is well worth visiting too.
Take the Guinness Storehouse Tour
Arguably one of the best tours in Dublin, you will learn about how the popular Guinness beer is brewed, as well as the importance of Guinness in shaping Dublin’s economy. End your tour with a pint in the rooftop bar that has sweeping views over the whole city. There are a number of ways to tour the Guinness Storehouse.
Tour Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The two most famous cathedrals in Ireland. Both are beautiful to view, from both the outside and the inside. If you must pick just one to tour, Christ Church Cathedral has a bit more of interest, including a fascinating crypt full of ancient artefacts.
Warm Up in an Irish Pub
Dublin is a city that has a huge pub culture, there are many great Irish pubs littered throughout the city (Temple Bar aside). The winter months provide a good excuse for cozying up inside a pub with a pint of Guinness and enjoying some traditional Irish music as there are often live performances.
Some of the best pubs in Dublin include Whelan’s, Doyle’s, The Camden, and Sheehan’s Pub.
If you’re looking to try some traditional Irish pub food, check out The Brazen Head or the Winding Stair for a tasty meal in a relaxed atmosphere.
Take a Walk in Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park in Dublin is a delightful place to visit at any time of year, and its vast open spaces, woodlands, and walking trails provide a tranquil escape from the hustle and bustle of the city. The crisp winter air and the sight of frost-kissed grass create an almost magical atmosphere that’s perfect for a peaceful stroll or a brisk jog.
During winter, the park’s resident fallow deer population is often more visible, especially first thing in the morning when there are fewer people around. Once you’ve had your fill of the fresh air, head to the cozy Phoenix Park Tearooms to warm up with a cup of tea and a tasty snack.
Hit the Shops
If you visit Dublin in December you can get your Christmas shopping done, or hit the sales in January. Grafton Street is one of the main shopping streets in Dublin, along with Henry Street, and all the shops have Christmas decorations in December.
The best part is you can dip in and out of the shops to warm up or dry off when the weather is poor, so it’s a useful thing to do in Dublin in the rain when you might not fancy sightseeing!
Enjoy the Outdoors
For those looking for a more active vacation, there are plenty of opportunities for hiking and cycling in the nearby countryside. Explore the Wicklow Mountains and the fascinating Glendalough Monastic Settlement.
Alternatively, enjoy the scenic coastal views along the Howth Cliff Walk, stop for fantastic seafood, and enjoy one of the many fun (and unique) things to do in Howth, a charming seaside town just outside of Dublin city center.
Take a Day Trip from Dublin
There are some fantastic Dublin day trips you can do at any time of year to explore more of Ireland and even Northern Ireland. Some popular options include a day trip over to the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin, a day trip to the Giant’s Causeway, Dark Hedges and Belfast, and a day trip to Blarney Castle.
Christmas in Dublin
The most typical things to do in Dublin during Christmas is to attend one of the many Christmas concerts. There are plenty of concerts to choose from, but the best is the Guinness Choir which performs in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Of course, no visit to Dublin at Christmastime would be complete without checking out one (or a few) of the Christmas markets. The biggest are the Dublin Castle Christmas market and the Guinness Storehouse Winterfest. The entrance to Dublin Castle is lined with 100+ Christmas trees and amongst the vendors you will find carolers singing, drink stands, and a vintage carousel.
New Year in Dublin
Dublin comes alive for its New Year’s festival, with four days of activities, featuring an exciting outdoor concert and a procession through the streets. The festival is in the center of Dublin, around the Cathedral and includes live performances, dancing, and street food stalls.
This is a great opportunity to experience the culture, traditions, and liveliness of Ireland. And best of all, all the activities are free except for the main concert that welcomes the New Year. You will have a blast ringing in the new year with this fantastic festival!
Where to Stay in Dublin
Hostels in Dublin
Prices will skyrocket for New Year, but outside of the peak dates you should be able to get some good deals on accommodation in Dublin over the winter period. The cheapest places to stay in Dublin will be at the hostels, some of which have private rooms, or see what you can find for cheap hotels and apartments on Booking.com.
Jacob’s Inn is one of the best hostels in Dublin, with both dorm beds and private rooms available. It’s located in the heart of Dublin and has a fun rooftop and bar.
Hotels in Dublin
Budget: As for cheap hotels in Dublin, Temple Bar Inn is a popular choice as it is great value and in an excellent location, close to many of the main attractions in Dublin. Jurys Inn Parnell Street is a 4-star hotel that tends to have good deals, and is a short walk north of the river.
Mid-Range: Wren Urban Nest is a great value, modern hotel which has a strong focus on sustainability. It’s in an excellent location too, a short walk from Trinity College and the nightlife in Dublin. >>>CHECK AVAILABILITY
Luxury: For a luxury stay in Dublin, it has to be The Merrion Hotel, an award-winning 5-star hotel with gorgeous Italian marble bathrooms, a restaurant with 2 Michelin stars, and an infinity pool. >>>CHECK AVAILABILITY
If you prefer to stay in an apartment in Dublin then Booking also has some amazing vacation apartments in Dublin. There are also various options for Airbnbs too, take a look at some of the rental homes available here.
From cozy pubs and restaurants to festive markets and lively New Year’s Eve celebrations, there’s something for everyone to get into the holiday spirit. Winter in Dublin is one of the best times to get a local’s taste of this wonderful city and explore the many incredible things to do.
Explore More Ireland Travel Destinations:Check out these Ireland blog posts to help plan your trip to Ireland and Northern Ireland:
About the Author: Janelle Axton