When to visit Dublin

If you believe the rumors, it rains all the time in Ireland and shouldn’t matter when you visit. While it does rain more in Dublin than other areas of Europe, there are still factors to consider when planning your trip.

The best season to visit will depend on a number of things. Are you looking for the cheapest airfare and hotel rates? The best festivals? A chance to rub elbows with the locals?

Everything from season to daylight hours to bank holiday weekends can impact a trip to Dublin. Here is an overview of when to visit and when to avoid the Irish capital.

St. Stephen's Green Dublin spring

St. Stephen's Green during the springtime. Photo: DubRoss

Best season

Many travelers assume summer is the best time to visit Ireland, but this isn’t always the case. Tourists and families fill Dublin during the summer months, driving up prices of hotel rooms and flights. Plus, the summer is no guarantee of warm, sunny weather. Leave shorts at home and bring sandals if you like, but it might not be warm enough to wear them.

The spring and fall months are a better match. In the spring, flowers blooming in Dublin parks and the surrounding countryside are spectacular. The fall months of September and October can be dry and on the warm side, without the summer crowds. Both of these times are also a better match for local festivals. If you want to experience Dublin when daylight lasts until as late as 10 p.m., visit in late May or June.

Don’t discount winter as a time to visit Dublin. Due to the warm air of the Gulf Stream, the city experiences surprisingly mild weather. It rarely, if ever, snows in Dublin and the city is particularly festive around the holidays. Plus, the winter chilly temperatures might encourage more time spent in local pubs, cafes, and restaurants mingling with the locals.

Best hotel rates

Finding the best hotel rates in Dublin doesn’t always follow a set of rules. There are some general things to keep in mind, such as the fact that prices for rooms (but not necessarily flights) will jump for St. Patrick’s Day, the holiday season in December, and the summer. Yet there are strange reasons for price jumps too, such as festivals, concerts, and sports matches.

Room rates will be low during the winter months (but will spike on weekends where the 6 Nations Rugby tournament is played in Dublin; schedule varies each year). If you book in advance when prices are still low, these can be some of the most fun weekends to be in Dublin. Whether or not you go to the game, the pubs come to life in support of the national rugby team.

Some basic rules apply, such as prices will be lower during the week than on the weekend. Before you rush into a hostel, also check out small B&Bs or even the Trinity College dorms if you visit in the summer months. (See all of our recommended hotels in Dublin here.)

For more on the hotel scene, read our overview of Dublin's hotels, including how much you can expect to spend for each type of lodging.

Christmas in Dublin is beautiful—and the following week is quiet. Photo: William Murphy

Dates to keep in mind

Throughout the year, Ireland has bank holiday weekends where locals have the Monday off from work. These general days off (that aren’t tied to any celebration/holiday) take place in May, June, August, and October. They are all the first Monday of the month (except October, when it is the last Monday of the month). These are particularly festive weekends when locals are in good spirits, although some leave town to travel themselves.

The lead-up to Christmas is a lively time in Dublin, with lots of seasonal decorations and a general festive air. However, once Christmas hits, Dublin goes into a slumber between Christmas and New Years. Many stores, restaurants, and bars will close during these days, giving their employees time off to spend with family. Prices may be low, but the experience can be isolating.

Many travelers wish to be in Dublin for St. Patrick’s Day, but the experience might not be what they expect. While the city center is busy with the parade and costumes, this holiday isn’t celebrated with the same fervor and elaborate gatherings as it is in American cities. Prices are also higher. An alternative is Arthur’s Day, held each September, that celebrates Arthur Guinness with live music in local pubs throughout the city.

Choosing a time to visit

When planning a cheapo visit to Dublin, take a look at the local event calendar. If you see a big-name concert or convention listed, be sure to book your room in advance or choose another weekend. Smaller festivals, such as the Dublin Theatre Festival (late September/early October) might be a reason to visit instead of a deterrent.

Anyone with Irish heritage might want to consider a trip to Ireland in 2013, a year being called “the Gathering”. Throughout all of 2013, descendants of the Irish are invited back home to experience the local culture through festivals, concerts, sports matches, and events designed to let visitors know what it means to be Irish.

About the author: Jessica Colley writes about Dublin for EuroCheapo. Read her posts in our Dublin blog.