As Dublin prepares to celebrate the festive season in style, Seamus O’Murchu outlines what the city has to offer visitors looking for a Christmas break.
Dublin is one of the most popular city break destinations in Europe and one of the friendliest cities in the world, so where better for a Christmas vacation?
Christmas is a wonderful time to visit Dublin. The Dubliners are friendlier than ever, the buskers of Temple Bar seem to turn up their charm amplifiers and Ireland’s vibrant capital presents a dazzling array of shops, Christmas markets and events, making it the best city in the world for getting into the festival spirit.
Dublin’s Christmas lights were switched on in November as the city’s Mayor lit up the 100,000 low energy bulbs of the 15 meter high Christmas tree on O'Connell Street . The ‘Big Switch On’ kicked off Dublin’s Christmas festivities and visitors to Dublin during the Christmas season can enjoy a range of activities from singing along to Christmas Carols, perusing the Christmas Markets or even gliding across the ice.
Once again the cobbled streets of Smithfield will be filled with ice skaters as the Smithfield Ice Rink returns to Dublin. This year Dublin on Ice at Smithfield brings an Ice Igloo with hot food and craft stalls as well as Christmas Carol concerts, a Nativity and Santa’s Workshop where children can visit Santa’s elves, paint their own ginger bread man and meet Santa Claus himself.
Christmas in Temple Bar starts with the Drogheda Brass Band entertaining the crowds with renditions of old Christmas favorites on the streets of Dublin’s cultural quarter. Here visitors will also find Temple Bar’s famous old Christmas Market with events running each Saturday until 20th December creating a vibrant festive atmosphere. These events include the Designer Mart on Cow Lane with Irish based designers and arts and crafts artists presenting some unique Christmas gifts for visitors, followed by the Old Temple Bar Food Market with traditional Christmas fayre from local farmers and food producers with the very best organic poultry and cheeses, and then the Temple Bar Book Market stocking a range of Christmas favourites from Dickens classics to Dr Seuss.
On December 6th until 20th, Farmleigh House in Phoenix Park opens its own Christmas Food Market for visitors. This historic house will be decorated in traditional Edwardian Christmas style with food markets, storytelling for the children, flower arranging and plenty of singing to help you get into the festive spirit. Also on December 6th visitors to Dublin should take advantage of the Christmas Open Day as the National Museum of Ireland opens its doors for free with a range of Christmas themed exhibitions and children’s activities.
Back to the markets, one of Dublin’s biggest is the 12 days of Christmas Market at Dublin’s Docklands running from December 12th to 23rd. This traditional yuletide event will see over 80 market stalls selling a range of creative Christmas gifts from craft jewellery and glassware to wooden toys and younger visitors will get the chance to create their own gifts with an ‘Art Jam’ craft workshop. Celebrating the magic of Christmas at its best, the market features a classic carousel and other fairground attractions as well as Christmas Carol singers, mulled wine stalls and the chance for little ones to sit on Santa’s knee and issue their Christmas demands!
If you’re looking to raise your Christmas spirits with a Christmas singalong, there’s the ‘Festival of Carols and Readings’ at the Chester Beatty Library on December 3rd, or the ‘Concert of Christmas Carols’ at Malahide Castle on 11th December. The National Concert Hall features a wide ranging programme of Christmas concerts including a ‘Christmas Gala’ on 6th December with internationally renowned singer Jonathon Ansell and Irish mezzo-soprano Fiona Murphy backed by the Orchestra of the National Concert Hall alongside fabulous stage productions of ‘The Snowman’ from December 15th - 20th and Charles Dickens’ ‘A Christmas Carol’ from December 27th - 30th.
In fine tradition, Dublin’s panto season this year brings ‘Aladdin’ to the Olympia Theatre in Temple Bar running from December 20th to January 4th, ‘Cinderella’ at The Gaiety from November 30th to February 1st, and ‘Sleeping Beauty’ at The Helix from November 26th to January 4th. Children will also love ‘Fossett’s Christmas Circus’ from December 4th to January 4th, a circus extravaganza of clowns, jugglers, acrobats, daredevils and contortionists with all the magic of Christmas underneath the Big Top.
For Christmas shoppers, Dublin’s shops are stocked up with Christmas goodies and opening hours are extended to 8pm and sometimes 10pm, in addition many shops are open on Sunday from 12pm to 6pm. Dublin offers a fantastic shopping experience with a huge range of stores, boutiques and shopping centres. The main shopping areas of the city are the pedestrianized zones of Grafton Street and Henry Street along with Dublin’s central boulevard of O’Connell Street and you’ll find many a Christmas bargain on Moore Street and at Blackrock Market.
Dublin’s compact nature makes it easy to get around on foot and means you won’t have far to carry your shopping bags.
As a city that is renowned for its high spirits, there’s no better place to experience seasonal cheer than Dublin.
From myself and all at Discovering Ireland Vacation, nollaig shona agus athbhliain faoi mhaise daoibh - Happy Christmas and a New Year of prosperity to you all.
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