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Christmas in Dublin: 16 Festive Things to do in 2023

Christmas in Dublin: 16 Festive Things to do in 2023

There are endless things to do in Dublin at Christmas.

Some, like the Christmas Eve busk, are steeped in tradition while others, like the various Christmas events in Dublin, change each year.

In an ideal world, there would be a mix of great markets on during Christmas in Dublin but, as you’ll discover below, that isn’t the case.

However, there is plenty to see and do, regardless of the weather. Dive on in!

The best things to do in Dublin at Christmas

Wonderlights Dublin

Photos by Wonderlights_MCG Entertainment Ltd via Fáilte Ireland

Christmas in Ireland is hard to beat – many towns, villages and cities are lit up with fairy lights and there’s an added layer of buzz about the place.

Below, you’ll find a clatter of Christmassy things to do in Dublin, from carols and unique Christmas attractions to pantos and more.

1. The Dublin Christmas Markets

dublin castle christmas market tickets

Photos curtesy Dublin Castle via Fáilte Ireland

Although there aren’t many Christmas markets in Dublin, there are several that have taken place consistently in recent years.

Arguably the best is the Dublin Castle Christmas Market which kicks-off at the beginning of December each year.

There are many smaller markets that take place, like the Swords Castle Christmas Market, but the one in Dublin Castle is the only one that runs for a good chunk of time and that has stalls and the likes.

In years past, Dublin was set to get ‘Ireland’s biggest Christmas festival’. Annoyingly, Mistletown Dublin has been announced and then cancelled for several years.

2. The Dublin Christmas lights

Christmas markets in Dublin

Photos via Shutterstock

The Dublin Christmas lights switch-on became a farce a few years back. Traditionally, there would be a big event to mark the ‘switching-on’.

However, the organisers were unable to set it up in a manner that was safe for spectators, so there has been a gradual turning on of lights in recent years.

Some of the most impressive lights can be seen on O’Connell Street and Grafton Street. Here are some other places that are lit up each Christmas in Dublin:

  1. Smithfield Square
  2. Millenium Bridge
  3. Wolfe Tone Square
  4. GPO
  5. Custom House
  6. Georges Dock
  7. Samuel Beckett Bridge
  8. Seán O’Casey Bridge
  9. Mansion House
  10. Merrion Square Park

3. Festive pints in cosy pubs

Christmas pubs Dublin

Photos via The Hole in The Wall on FB

There’s endless pubs in Dublin but not all of them are equal when Christmas comes around.

Arguably the most impressive pub in Dublin at Christmas is the Hole in the Wall, pictured above.

Europe’s longest pub, these lads go all-in with their Christmas decorations.

Some other Christmassy pubs in Dublin are the Ginger Man, the Strawberry Hall and Johnny Foxes.

Related read: See our guide to 7 of the best Christmas markets in Ireland in 2023

4. Wonderlights at Malahide Castle

Wonderlights Dublin

Photos by Wonderlights_MCG Entertainment Ltd via Fáilte Ireland

Wonderlights is another handy option for those of you looking for things to do in Dublin at Christmas with kids.

Ireland’s largest ever light show is returning to Malahide Castle from November 10th to January 2nd

It’s set to feature an illuminated walking trail that boasts a mix of lights, colors, nature, and sounds, suitable for families, couples, and friends of all ages.

The 2023 theme is ‘Wonderlights Presents: The Magic of Winter’.

5. Christmas tea on the Vintage Bus

vintage tea tours

Photos courtesy Conor McCabe via Fáilte Ireland

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Dublin at Christmas, give Christmas tea on the Vintage Bus (affiliate link) a bash!

At Christmas, the popular Vintage Tea Trips bus transforms into a festive wonderland.

You’ll munch away on afternoon tea (with festive favourites), listen to Christmas carols and spin around the city.

Even if you don’t do this at Christmas, it’s worth sticking in your back pocket for the next time you fancy a day-out with a difference.

6. Christmas movies at Retro drive-in

drive-in Christmas movies Dublin

Photos via Retro Drive-in Movies on FB

One of the handier things to do in Dublin at Christmas is to book into one of the showings at Retro Drive In.

You’ll find Ireland’s biggest drive-in movie venue over in Leopardstown Racecourse and they have a jam-packed line-up for Christmas in Dublin.

It kicks off on December 2nd and runs until December 20th.

Kick back in your car, tune in to the frequency and watch some classic Christmas movies like Home Alone, the Polar Express and plenty more.

7. Carol services

tipping in dublin

Photos via Shutterstock

Countless carol services take place during Christmas in Dublin, ranging from free to paid and big to small.

The handiest place to find the latest info on what carol services are taking place and where is on EventBrite.

Two of the stand-out carol services are the one in Christ Church Cathedral and the one in St. Patrick’s Cathedral.

8. The Dún Laoghaire Christmas Festival

Dún Laoghaire Festival

Photos via DLR Tourism on FB

Home to the largest ice rink in Ireland, the Dún Laoghaire Christmas Festival will run from November 10th.

The festivities take place across Dun Laoghaire Harbour, The National Maritime Museum, the Harbour Plaza and the new Myrtle Square.

Arguably the main attraction is the Ireland’s largest ice rink (at Dún Laoghaire Harbour). However, you can also visit Santa at the National Maritime Museum.

If you’re looking for unique things to do in Dublin at Christmas, climb aboard the Ferris Wheel from the movie Grease!

9. Pantos galore

Dublin Panto 2023

Photo left: Shutterstock

Pantomimes (or ‘Pantos’) are stage performances that take place from late November to early January each year.

They are one of the more popular traditions during Christmas in Dublin with many people, myself included, having attend one most years as a child.

They take place in everywhere from the Liberty Hall Theatre and the Gaeity to the National Show Centre and more.

Keep in mind that pantos are one of the more popular things to do in Dublin at Christmas, so you may need to book in advance.

10. The famous Christmas Eve busk

One of the most popular things to do at Christmas in Dublin is to head in for the busking on Grafton Street.

It takes place every Christmas Eve and it was started by Irish musician Glen Handsard.

In years past, everyone from U2 and Dermott Kennedy to Hozier and the Coronas have taken to the stage.

Now, a word of warning – this is a free performance and the result is that the area can get fairly packed, so keep that in mind.

11. Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo

Wild Lights

Photos courtesy Fionn Davenport via Fáilte Ireland

If you’re looking for family-friendly Christmas events in Dublin, give the Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo a bash (You’ll need to buy tickets – it’s running from 16th November 2023 and into January 2024).

This is a spectacular seasonal event that sees Dublin Zoo transformed for a magical nighttime experience.

Wild Lights is inspired by both wildlife and traditional Chinese lanterns and those that visit will see illuminated sculptures, themed displays, live performances and lots more.

12. The traditional Christmas dip

forty foot dublin

Photos via Shutterstock

The Christmas morning swim is one of the more traditional things to do in Dublin at Christmas.

Although it takes place on many beaches in Dublin, two of the more famous Christmas swim spots are the Vico Baths and the Forty Foot.

Come hail, rain or snow you’ll find locals and tourists alike hopping into the chilly Irish sea. Some wear costumes while others head in bare-skinned!

You’ll catch footage from the swims on the likes of RTE with many Christmas morning dippers raising funds for local charities.

13. Gifted at the RDS

Gifted at the RDS

Photos courtesy Allen Kiely via Fáilte Ireland

Next in our guide to festive things to do in Dublin at Christmas is Gifted.

Gifted – The Contemporary Craft & Design Fair is back again in 2023, running from December 6th – 10th in the RDS.

Gifted is Ireland’s premier event for craft and design enthusiasts. Showcasing over 400 Designers, Makers, and Independent Retailers, it offers a selection of unique independent brands and artisan food producers.

 The fair also caters to diverse dietary needs, featuring a vast range of gluten-free, vegetarian, vegan, and health-conscious options.

14. Festive head-clearers

Poolbeg Lighthouse walk

Photos via Shutterstock

Christmas in Dublin can get a bit chaotic, with many people overindulging in food, drink and social gatherings.

If you feel like you need a bit of a head clearer, there are plenty of walks in Dublin that’ll bash away the cobwebs.

Some of our favourites are the Howth Cliff Walk, the Ticknock hike and the Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk.

15. The moving crib

the moving crib dublin

Photos via Sara Mustong @ Saint Martin Apostolate

Christmas in Dublin wouldn’t be the same without the now-iconic Moving Crib, which is entering its 67th year.

It first opened in 1956 and, since then, generations of families have made it one of their Christmas traditions.

It’s taking place in Parnell Square West from 28th November – 7th January 2024 from 11am – 5.30pm.

If you’re looking for nostalgic things to do in Dublin at Christmas, this is well worth dropping by!

16. Christmas at the Guinness Storehouse

Christmas at the Guinness Storehouse

Photos courtesy Guinness Storehouse

There’s always something festiveish taking place during Christmas at the Guinness Storehouse.

In 2021, there was Guinness Winterfest – a five-week Christmas experience that involved live musical performances, entertainment and festive food.

2022 saw a multi-media art installation over seven floors, including a 16-metre projection Christmas tree in the Atrium.

In 2023, there’s an 8.5 metre tree with 1759 lights and a tunnel running beneath it. There’s also a ‘cinematic experience’ curated by artist Farouk Alao.

FAQs about spending Christmas in Dublin

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What is there to see?’ to ‘What’s on during Christmas in Dublin?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

Is Dublin a good place to go for Christmas?

It depends what you’re looking for. There aren’t many European-style markets in Dublin at Christmas, however, there’s a great buzz about the place and plenty of good shopping opportunities.

What’s happening in Dublin for Christmas?

There’s usually the Dublin Castle Christmas Market, plenty of small Christmas fairs, Christmas lights far and wide and a huge number of Christmas events, like carols and pantos.

Is Dublin a good place to go for Christmas?

If you’re looking for somewhere that does Christmas markets well then no, the likes of Galway and Belfast are better options. If you’re looking for a weekend break with plenty of craic and culture, then yes.

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