Ireland is well known for its cloudy skies and rainy days, begging the question of why, when the weather is risky at best in summer, you would want to visit Dublin in the winter.
But Ireland’s capital remains a draw whatever the weather, and its winter months enjoy relatively mild temperatures compared to the rest of Europe. Prepare for the rain, and a wintry trip to Dublin lets you enjoy all the city’s major attractions with fewer crowds and added festivities – here are a few things to do next time you are in Dublin.
Getting to Dublin
Dublin is well-served for flights, with a two terminal airport just six miles north of the city centre. Once in it the city, the Luas tram system, the DART suburban railway system, and many affordable public bus routes make getting around easy.
Look out for the words An Lár and you’ll be taken to the city centre. Though really you can afford not to use transport at all – most of the city’s central attractions are easily reached on foot, and walking through the historic centre is an activity in itself.
Flights to Dublin take less than an hour from London and you can find some good last minute deals on a site like Cheapflights.co.uk
Dublin is divided by the unmistakable River Liffey. O’Connell Street to the north is the main thoroughfare of the city, intersecting popular shopping areas Henry Street and Talbot Street, and housing attractions such as the historic General Post Office (whose classic facade lasts long after the famous rebel uprising of 1916).
To the south of the river lies the iconic skyline and attractions including the 11thcentury Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest building in Dublin, and St Patrick’s Cathedral, the largest church in Ireland.
A short walk away you can find Trinity College, with its famous Old Library containing the original manuscript of the Book of Kell’s, and the green getaways of Stephen’s Green and Marrion Square. The wintry climate gives these sights a different sort of majesty that you wouldn’t find in the summer; and they’re much more accessible without as many tourists.
Similarly beautiful in the winter frost, enjoy winter walks through the further afield Phoenix Park, the biggest inner city park in Europe. Alternatively, 45 minutes south of the city, the Powerscourt Estate looks back to classically opulent eras, with paradise gardens and winter-themed events.
If you’d rather spend your time indoors, Dublin offers excellent museums, including the National Gallery and the museums of Archaeology, Decorative Arts and History and National History – all free.
More likely, though, you’ll be drawn to the winter festivals and markets. Over the Christmas period, the Dun Laoghaire Winter Wonderland boasts an ice rink, carousels, a Santa train, and an artisan Christmas market, while the Square Shopping Centre’s German market and the Docklands Christmas Market are not to be missed. Dubliners go all out lavishing their city with Christmas cheer: past O’Connell Street’s enormous Christmas tree and the abundant decorations adorning the shops and streets, you’ll find ice rinks popping up everywhere.
Dublin does New Year’s Eve equally proud, with a three day party involving fireworks and street parades. Festivities continue into the New Year, as the Temple Bar area’s TradFest celebrates old cultural music and dance with hundreds of free events during January, and Chinese New Year is enjoyed with a large carnival in February.
And don’t forget Dublin’s famous pub culture; equally enjoyable at any time of year, cosying up in pubs is even more welcome in the colder months. Notwithstanding the Guinness you’ll see everywhere (and the great Guinness Tour, if you fancy), you can drink the winter away in the plentiful and varied pubs of Dublin found along O’Connell Street or in the Temple Bar area.
Adapted from a range of a old buildings steeped in character, favourite examples include The Vaults (unsurprisingly, atmospherically set in a set of 19th Century vaults), the vast Long Hall (a Victorian gin palace) and, for a touristy sense of nostalgia, The Auld Dubliner. More modern, bustling spots include Octagon and Anseo. It would take a book to describe all the pubs of Dublin, though; and it could take more than one holiday to enjoy just them.
As you can see, whether you’re after beautiful outdoor walks, trails into Ireland’s historic past, or simple winter fun, exploring Dublin in the winter has more to offer than you might have thought.
(photo credit: 1)