By Jessica Colley—
Don’t worry about the cold – Christmas is the perfect time of year to travel to Europe, as the holiday season brings out old traditions, favorite songs, outdoor markets, and a variety of strategies for warming up.
Dublin is no exception. This compact, walkable city is ideal for budget travelers looking to experience the holiday cheer without emptying their wallets. Keep reading for some of my favorite things – old and new – to do in Dublin in the lead up to Christmas.
1. Christmas windows at Brown Thomas
88 Grafton Street
Grafton Street, the pedestrianized center of Dublin, is brilliantly lit up for the holidays. Beyond taking in the sparkling lights and huge Christmas tree, one more (completely free) thing to do here is to check out the Christmas windows at Brown Thomas.
This super fancy department store might not be where you will stock up on Christmas gifts, but they always do an incredibly creative job with their festive store windows. As a bonus, many street performers sing holiday carols at this time of year on Grafton Street.
2. Holiday concert: December 19, 2011
Throughout Dublin there are plenty of opportunities to hear holiday music in the month of December, but what if you want to hear some live music? There is one annual performance that locals look forward to as a Christmas tradition each year.
The Key Notes are an Irish group that perform mostly acapella music, including classic, Irish, and Christmas tunes at the RDS Concert Hall on Monday, December 19, 2011 at 8 p.m. Tickets are only €20 and available through Ticketmaster.
3. Christmas Market at Christ Church Cathedral
Another holiday tradition, the Christmas market, showcases everything from local arts and crafts to jewelry to local souvenirs. The market at Christ Church Cathedral allows visitors to check out one of Dublin’s best known landmarks, and do a little cheap Christmas shopping at the same time. Expect Christmas tunes, holiday-themed snacks, and some great affordable gift ideas at this market set inside the 12th-century Cathedral. The Christ Church Market is open Saturdays only.
4. The Dun Laoghaire Christmas Festival
December 9, 2011 – January 8, 2012
Dun Laoghaire is a seaside village located south of the city center of Dublin, and is easily reached (for cheap) on the DART commuter train. This year Dun Laoghaire is throwing its first Christmas festival, including a German-style Christmas market located on Marine Road with booths full of jewelry, gift ideas, and food. In addition, there is an ice rink for adults and kids who want to try out their skills on skates.
5. Tasting the holiday spirit
Each culture has its own culinary traditions of dishes that evoke a festive spirit. In Dublin, those items are mince pies and mulled wine.
Mince pies are individually sized fruit pies with seasonal spices like cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg. Mulled wine is a hot drink, consisting of red wine, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Both items are available at all the Christmas markets and are a local (and cheap) way to dive into Dublin Christmas traditions.
Bonus: Impromptu performance?
If you happen to be in Dublin on Christmas Eve, go ahead and take a stroll on Grafton Street during the afternoon. In years past some of Dublin’s biggest stars have shown up for an impromptu street performance, including Bono, Damien Rice, and Glen Hansard.
Also in our guide: Budget travelers heading to Dublin at Christmas or any other time should check out our reviews of our favorite cheap hotels in Dublin. Each hotel has been visited, inspected, photographed and reviewed by our editors. Read more in our Dublin guide.