Like most cities, Dublin sparkles at Christmas time! It’s the best time of year for a good ramble around the city, taking in all the Christmas lights and soaking up the festive vibes.
If you’re spending Christmas in Dublin or visiting around Christmas time, there are lots of places to browse and enjoy the Christmas lights and decorations. Along the way you’ll get to check out some of the most beautiful historic buildings around the city and get plenty of inspiration for Christmas gifts, if you still need it! There are also some fun things to do in Dublin at Christmas if you are visiting with kids.
Winter Lights Dublin
Dublin is looking even better than ever this Christmas thanks to the ‘Winter Lights Dublin City’ project by Dublin City Council. Iconic locations around the city, including Trinity College, the GPO, City Hall and the Custom House have been illuminated with customised projections and they look fantastic. Enhanced Christmas lighting has also been added in a number of other locations.
Better yet, the lights are eco-friendly, using the most advanced energy efficient technology available. The sites will be illuminated from sunset till 2am each night up until January 2nd 2019 so get in to see them before they’re gone and enjoy the wonder of Christmas in Dublin! A full list of locations can be found on the Dublin City Council website.
Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre
Having celebrated it’s 30th birthday this year, the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre at the top of Grafton Street is not a very old building but it has certainly become an iconic one. The unique architecture of the shopping centre was designed to blend in with the surrounding Victorian and Georgian style buildings.
There’s no denying that it stands out at Christmas time though. Inside and out, it’s a festive delight! Even if you’re not shopping, it’s worth checking out the interiors, which include Ireland’s largest clock!
After leaving Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, take a slow stroll down (or up!) Grafton Street. Between the Christmas lights and the talented buskers, there’s always a great Christmas atmosphere here.
Check out the Christmas display at Brown Thomas department store or if you’re feeling the chill, grab a hot drink and cake in the iconic Bewleys Café.
Just off Grafton Street, Powerscourt Centre is a speciality shopping centre in one of Dublin’s finest Georgian houses. It’s a beautiful building to visit any time, particularly if you have an interest in architecture but it’s extra special in its Christmas finery!
The building was once home to Lord and Lady Powerscourt, who also owned the magnificent Powerscourt Estate in Enniskerry, Co. Wicklow. The townhouse is unique in having both rococo and neo classical style features.
George’s Street Arcade
If you’re still looking for Christmas gifts and want something perhaps a little more unique than what you’ll find on the high street, then head to George’s Street Arcade. This beautiful Victorian building houses lots of independent shops and stalls and is just one block back from the Powerscourt Centre.
Opened in 1881, George’s Street Arcade (or South City Market as it was then known) was the first purpose built shopping centre in Dublin and is one of the oldest in Europe. You’ll find jewellery, clothing, art, music, books, fortune telling and lots more squeezed inside these historic walls!
Head for Temple Bar, one of the oldest areas in Dublin. It’s a place that’s always full of life and the Christmas lights add an extra element of magic to the narrow cobbled streets. Take a break in one of the many bars and restaurants or explore the vintage shops and galleries in what has become Dublin’s Cultural Quarter.
Henry Street and Moore Street
One of Dublin’s main shopping thoroughfares, Henry Street is buzzing around Christmas. Moore Street, just off Henry Street has always been a market street, once bustling with vendors selling fruit, veg, flowers and more. At this time of year the number of market stalls multiples and spill onto Henry Street. The vendors sell everything from wrapping paper and gift bags to perfume, toys and clothing, including Christmas jumpers of course!
Check out the Christmas window displays at Arnott’s department store and visit Wonderland on level 2 of the store. There are a number of pop-up shop offering personalised gifts for Christmas and lots of yummy treats on offer too. If you cannot resist temptation, it could be dangerous!
My favourite has to be the Tayto pop-up store a few years back though. Tayto cheese and onion crisps on fresh Brennan’s white bread, made while you wait. Yep, it’s an Irish thing and it’s the best. Don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. Crisp sandwiches are everything!!
Continue along Henry Street until it joins up to O’Connell Street, Dublin’s widest street and main thoroughfare. The historic GPO building is one of the buildings currently being illuminated as part of the Winter Lights Dublin display and enhanced Christmas lights have been added to the street as part of the same project.
The Clerys Building opposite the GPO is another iconic Dublin building which unfortunately has been empty since 2015. Clerys was a department store dating from 1853 and their Christmas window display used to draw large crowds every year. This building was recently purchased and once again the Clerys Christmas windows are back.
The windows are designed to take you on a trip down memory lane, looking back at some of the more notable decades in the history of the business. It’s pretty well done and I did feel nostalgic when I saw a Lolo ball sitting in one of the windows. A red and blue one exactly like I used to have! Are they still a thing? I spent a lot of hours bouncing around on that back in the day. Beats the current craze of clogging up the drain with slime I guess!
The current owners state this is just the start of returning the building to its former glory. Their plans for the building are currently on display their too and they do look very impressive, so watch this space!
If you’re a lover of singing and carols, why not try and catch a carol service in the city. You might even be lucky enough to stumble upon some groups singing while you’re wandering through town but if not there are usually plenty of organised events on in the run up to Christmas.
Both Christchurch Cathedral and St Patricks Cathedral have a number of different carol services on in the run up to Christmas. It’s a great way to visit these historical buildings and enjoy some beautiful festive music at the same time. Check their websites for up to date details of events.
If you’re looking for things to do with kids during Christmas in Dublin, then consider catching a panto! Christmas Pantomimes (usually just called pantos) are very popular in Ireland and for many families it is one of the highlights of the holidays, up there with the visit to Santa! I don’t remember if it was an annual event for us but I certainly remember the excitement of going along to the panto when I was a kid.
These theatrical comedies involve lots of singing, dancing and slapstick. Audience participation is a big part of panto and you’ll be expected to sing along and shout out phrases at the appropriate time! Don’t worry, it’s a group effort and yelling “He’s behind you” and “Oh, yes it is!” or “Oh no it isn’t!” is about as much as you need to do. Though some audience members might be brought up on stage during the performance, so don’t sit up front if you’re very shy!
Two of the most well known venues for panto are probably the Gaiety Theatre and the Olympia Theatre but there are usually quite a few others too. Dublin Live has a list of the top pantos in Dublin this year, some of which will be running until early or mid January.
Funderland and iSkate at the RDS
Another Christmas tradition for many kids, is a trip to Funderland. Just a short distance from the city, Funderland is a temporary amusement park which is located at the RDS in Ballsbridge over the Christmas holidays. This year Funderland is running from 26th December 2018 to 13th January 2019.
Funderland has been running for over 40 years and is one of the largest travelling Amusement Park events in Europe. The rollercoasters and attractions are sure to keep the thrill seekers happy. There are lots of family rides for attractions for the younger kids too. I can still remember my mam absolutely terrified on a rollercoaster ride back in the day. In fact I might still have a mark on my arm from where she was grabbing me so tight! I don’t think I’ll be tempting her back any time soon.
iSkate at the RDS is a newer attraction. This outdoor ice skating rink is located at Ring 4 at the RDS. It has been open since the end of November and also runs until 13th January 2019
For more on what’s happening over Christmas in Dublin check out the Dublin at Christmas website.