Traveling to Ireland sounds like a dream. Picture quaint towns with lights and decor, cobblestone streets to stroll and bundling up with an Aran Islands Sweater. Beginning on Christmas Eve, December 24, and ending with the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6, the official Irish Christmas celebration centers around church and family. You’ll find a festive atmosphere leading up to the holiday, filled with Celtic music, mince pies and a pint of Guinness.
During Christmas time in Ireland, almost everything is closed as the Irish are spending time with their families in celebration. This is especially true for December 25th and 26th. If you want to be out and about, you may have to get creative with how to spend your days! Here is some general information to know before possibly traveling to Ireland for Christmas:
Ireland has three international airports for transatlantic flights: Belfast in Northern Ireland, Dublin about midway down the east coast, and Shannon, called the “Gateway to the West.” Most flights leave from the east coast of the US, so you may have to take a connecting flight from your home to one of the major hubs. Getting a flight to Ireland around this time may be more difficult as it is a busy traveling season, so plan in advance! Winters are usually mild, with temperatures rarely dropping below freezing. Our favorite time to travel to Ireland in the winter is in the first two weeks of December. Everything is festive, all attractions are still open and you can get your holiday shopping done! See our Ireland Packing List to learn more about what to pack to Ireland and average temperatures!
where to stay
Because the Irish take their holiday seriously, many hotels and resorts close for Christmas. A select few hotels stay open but do not allow check-in or check-out on the 25 or 26. Some stay closed through the Feast of the Epiphany on July 6. Others may re-open for New Year and then close again for a low-season holiday for their employees. You’ll need to book early, since there are only a limited number of accommodations that will be open for visitors. You can celebrate your Christmas in high-style at a castle or resort as some of them may have multi-night Christmas Packages including a multi-course Christmas Dinner – yum! You may also consider a self-guided driving tour of the country – just remember that most B&Bs won’t accept guests over the holiday. If you choose to stay in a larger city like Dublin, public transportation office will have a holiday schedule, but will still be running. If you are outside the city, you can rent a car to have maximum flexibility to enjoy the natural beauty of the countryside. Whichever type of tour you’re looking to take, your personal travel specialist will be able to give you the best advice for touring during Christmas time to set your expectations.
A traditional Christmas dinner usually features goose or turkey, potatoes and vegetables, followed by a Christmas pudding or cake, so this is what you can expect at your resort or hotel. Many Irish restaurants are closed on Christmas Day, and most pubs as well, as it is prohibited for them to sell alcohol due to the 1927 Liquor Act. Some restaurants may also be closed December 26. Candy canes are not as ubiquitous in Ireland as they are in America; favorite holiday treats include small mincemeat pies, mulled wine, Guinness and Irish whiskey. Instead of milk and cookies, children leave mince pies and a pint of the rich stout for jolly old Saint Nick. We suggest staying in a hotel with an open restaurant where you can reserve your spot for a special Christmas Dinner. Some of you may also want to try a self-catering option!
No matter what part of Ireland you visit, you’ll find shops with traditional Irish goods such as fine Belleek China, exquisite table linens, Aran wool fishermen’s sweaters and sparkling Waterford or Galway Crystal. Dublin is one of Ireland’s top shopping destinations, with two pedestrian-only shopping streets. While you can purchase Waterford Crystal at several shops throughout the country, a trip to The House of Waterford in Waterford City to watch artisans hand-crafting the luxury crystal is well worth the trip. Just be sure to do your shopping before everything closes! Major attractions that will be closed include The Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle and Stone and The Ring of Kerry. Of course, you can still drive the Ring of Kerry on your own, however, finding a place to eat or even use the restroom will be tough!