Ireland’s historic and infectiously upbeat capital city is good craic all year round, but it really sparkles in winter. Spend the shorter, chillier days exploring Dublin’s rich literary legacy in hidden bookshops and historic galleries, or blowing away the cobwebs on a bracing walk in its surrounding countryside. Throw in a handful of artisan whiskey distilleries, irresistibly friendly locals and dozens of centuries-old pubs and you have the makings of a perfect winter break.
Dublin also hosts an impressive calendar of seasonal events, from intimate candlelit carol concerts to lively New Year’s Eve festivals. While some of these events have been postponed this year in line with Government guidance, there are still more than enough to keep visitors occupied. Here, we’ve rounded up ten of the best affordable things to do in Dublin this winter.
1. Festive family fun at St. Martin Apostolate
Now in its 64th year, The Moving Crib at St. Martin Apostolate is a true Dublin tradition that captures the joy and spirit of Christmas. The annual nativity scene boasts more than 100 handcrafted characters – including a twenty foot Noah’s Ark – alongside intricately hand-painted backdrops. It’s an unforgettable day out for all ages, but particularly magical for children. Doors this year open from 1 December 2020 until 10 January 2021. Entry is free but booking is essential due to due to social distancing restrictions.
Parnell Square W, Rotunda
2. Discover Dublin’s contemporary art scene
As the country’s capital of contemporary art, Dublin is brimming with brilliant art galleries. But, for one of the most dynamic exhibitions this winter, head to the Olivier Cornet Art Gallery. ON PAPER, in collaboration with Jackie Ryan, explores fragility, endurance and resilience through prints, drawings and paintings on paper. Artists include Eamonn O’Doherty, Patrick Hickey and Tony O’Malley, as well as a number of artists represented by the gallery. The show will run from 20 December 2020 until 14 February 2021.
3 Great Denmark Street, Rotunda
3. Enjoy the Winter Lights
Dublin’s winter lights campaign will return in 2020, from the 1 December 2020 until the 1 January 2021. Seventeen locations across the city are set to be transformed, with custom projections and impressive lighting displays illuminating the facades of Dublin’s best-known buildings. Locations include City Hall, The Custom House and Capital Dock. At Smithfield, visitors can also enjoy a new exhibition featuring images of frontline workers to thank them for keeping the city running.
4. Explore an uninhabited island
Take Dublin’s DART train a few stops to the seaside village of Howth to explore its gorse-covered cliffs and indulge in some fresh seafood. Then, hop onto Ireland’s Eye Ferry for an expert tour around the uninhabited island of Ireland’s Eye. Founded in 1947, the fourth-generation family business offers tours to and around the island several times a day, throughout winter. Trips last for approximately 40 minutes and take in spectacular views of the wildlife-rich island that counts curious seals and puffins amongst its inhabitants.
3 W Pier, Howth
5. Have afternoon tea with Santa
Santa will be setting up camp in his own ‘Santa Carriage’ aboard a lovingly restored 1960s double decker bus this winter. From 3 – 23 December 2020, Vintage Tea Trips is offering a 70 minute afternoon tea extravaganza, with a full tea spread, elves on hand for entertainment and a meeting (and photo) with Santa himself. Visitors in 2021 will miss out on Santa, but can still enjoy a wintery afternoon treat with the Dublin Afternoon Tea Trip, which includes a full afternoon tea to the sound of 1950s jazz.
6 Essex Street, East Dublin
6. Lose your inhibitions with Silent Adventures Dublin
Start 2021 on a high, with an all singing, all dancing, walking tour of Dublin. Part-flash mob and part-silent disco, this sixty-minute tour begins and ends in Temple Bar, covering off most of the city’s iconic landmarks in between. Throw out your inhibitions when you throw on your high-tech headset, and ring in 2021 to the sounds of your favourite beats, themes tunes and hits from across the decades. Tours take place every Saturday, and cost €14.99 for adults and €9.99 for children.
7. Christmas shopping at a Christmas market
While many of Dublin’s Christmas markets have been postponed until 2021, a remaining few are still confirmed to take place. One of Dublin’s better-known markets, The Dún Laoghaire, will run from 30 November until 23 December 2020. Along with mulled wine, mince pies, handmade gifts and Christmas carols, the German-style market will feature a spectacular Ferris Wheel and interactive light show. The market is open Friday to Sunday every week.
8. The Winter Solstice at Newgrange
Head to the megalithic megastar, Newgrange, for an ancient light show that has taken place for more than 5000 years. The UNESCO World Heritage Site predates the Pyramids of Giza in Egypt and Stonehenge in Britain, and is devoted to one of the most crucial celebrations in the pre-Christian calendar – the winter solstice. For one day only every year, a fortunate few are invited in to see the ancient passage and chamber cast in a mystical golden glow. The solstice takes place this year on Monday, 21 December. To be chosen to enter, visitors must enter a lottery.
Brú na Bóinne, Glebe
9. Mulled wine with a view
Drink in the best view of the city at The Blue Light Pub. Set in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains, in the heart of the hillside, this authentic Irish pub has been serving punters for more than 300 years. Offering roaring open fires, a superb range of craft beers and Irish whiskies, and live music seven days a week, The Blue Light is the perfect place to rest weary feet after an afternoon pounding the pavements.
10. Ring in 2021, Dublin-style
While New Year’s Eve will be a little different this year, there will still be plenty to celebrate in Dublin. The annual New Year’s Festival (NYF) has confirmed a two jam-packed days at CHQ in Dublin’s vibrant docklands. Expect street-food, live music and entertainment. Other NYF events include a Countdown Concert at Custom House and a free New Year’s Day Concert at Meeting House Square, Temple Bar.
1 Custom House Quay
By Allie d’Almo