I was lucky to visit Dublin for the first time just around the Christmas: some famous landmarks were closed due to the festivities but others stood out in the full glory! Let me show you best things to do in Dublin at Christmas and what to see in the capital of Ireland if you happen to visit it during the winter holidays.
Grafton street, a home to Brown Thomas department store and numerous other shops and cafes, is a prime destination for Christmas shopping, coffee breaks and dining options, from Chinese food to Butler’s chocolate. It was decorated with magical illumination in the form of chandeliers during our visit and it reminded me of Vienna Christmas lights. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre was also very pretty with all the festive decorations.
You can also buy some beautiful flowers on the stalls along Grafton Street as well as listen to local musicians: this area is known for that! Trinity college, Molly Malone statue and the Dublin castle are all located nearby.
Christmas in the Castle
Christmas markets Dublin? Yes, please! Christmas in the castle is probably the most festive venue you can explore in the capital of Ireland! It’s located in the courtyard of Dublin Castle. The Christmas market represented the local arts and crafts, delicious street food, a large merry-go-round and a tent where the musicians sang Christmas carols.
The highlight of our visit was the castle and the state rooms itself covering the history of Christmas celebrations in the castle. And the decorations were magnificent too!
Dublin castle is magnificent fortress dating back to 1204. It reflects Irish history very well: it was constructed on the site of Viking settlement, then was under the English (and later British) rule, massively restored after a fire of 1684 and was transferred to the government of the new Irish republic on the 16th January 1922. Apollo room, St Patrick’s hall and of course the great staircase are the absolute gems of it!
St Patrick cathedral
St Patrick cathedral is the most important religious building for Christians of Dublin: it was founded in 1191 and named after the patron saint of the country who baptized Ireland in the 5th century.
The cathedral is famous for the Door of Reconciliation (two families – the Butlers of Ormonde and the Fitzgeralds of Kildare – shook hands throughout it and agreed to stop the mini-war between them), the monument to the Boyle family and for the burial of Jonathan Swift, one of the best satirist English language has seen and the author of the Gulliver’s travels, A Tale of a Tub and Drapier’s Letters.
And, of course, it’s dressed beautifully for Christmas featuring a few gorgeous Christmas trees and pretty garlands!
Dawson street is one of the prettiest streets in central Dublin, going from the Trinity college to St Stephen’s green, and the Mansion House is where the Mayor of Dublin resides. You can do so many things there around Christmas!
For instance, indulge yourself with a festive feast at the Ivy restaurant, buy Christmas-inspired books at Hodges Figgis, Irish department of the Waterstones dating back to 1768, or listen to Christmas carols in front of Saint Ann’s Church!
Christ Church Cathedral
The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity, or Christ Church Cathedral, is another unmissable landmark of Dublin and one more glorious destination for your Christmas trip with its beautiful nativity scene and Christmas decorations.
This former Roman Catholic (now it’s under the Anglican Church of Ireland as well as St Patrick’s cathedral) cathedral was founded in 1030 under the rule of the Hiberno-Norse King Sitriuc Silkenbeard as a wooden building, rebuilt in stone in the 12th century and largely reconstructed in the 19th century. It is located not far from St Patrick’s cathedral so you can see both in a short time!
The most prominent religious relic of it is the heart of Lorcán Ua Tuathail, or Laurence O’Toole (his burial is at at Eu, Normandy, France, where he died in 1180), the 12th century’s Archbishop of Dublin who was canonized as a saint. It was a big event when it was stolen in 2012 – but thankfully it was found in 2018 and back to its place! You can visit its treasury and the crypt (the largest in Ireland and Britain!) too
There apart from the religious treasures you can find the remains of cat and rat that were found in the organ (it’s believed that the cat chased the rat into the pipe and both got stuck) and naturally mummified in the lack of oxygen. Famously, James Joyce referred to them in Finnegan’s Wake ‘…as stuck as that cat to that mouse in that tube of that Christ Church organ…’
Henry street is probably another place you should go to in Dublin at Christmas time. It’s located in Dublin 1 area very centrally. It has lovely decorations with the glittering bows all around not to mention that it’s home to the Arnotts, the oldest department store of the whole Ireland! It has the Christmas market and a kids-friendly festive area on the second floor.
If you want to go around, don‘t miss O’Connell Street and the Post Office (the very beginning of Henry street), The Spire of Dublin, the Leprechaun museum and the various monuments including the one to James Joyce.
Where to stay in Dublin:
We stayed in Westin Dublin on Westmoreland street overlooking Trinity college during the festive period. We had a room on the very top of the building: just look at this view!
I really loved the decorations of the hall and the inner courtyard – the festive vibe was on the fullest.
You might love my others blogs about Christmas:
Hope you liked my blog – and Merry Christmas!