Christmas in the city: What's on in Dublin over the festive season
From the most decorated pubs to a festive film festival, Chris Wasser picks his top things to do around the capital
There’s nothing quite like Christmas in Dublin. Ask around and you’ll find that everyone’s favourite part of the festive season is, in fact, the epic lead-in to December 25, when the city comes alive with dozens, if not hundreds, of festive activities and events.
We’re talking concerts, choir services, markets, pantomimes, ice rinks, film festivals – you name it, the city has it covered. But with so much festive fun on the cards, the big question is this: what are the real hallmarks and highlights of the Christmas season in Dublin?
Well, fear not – we’re about to make things easy for you. Yep, we’ve mapped out a proper Dubliner’s guide to Christmas in the capital, featuring all the greatest hits – not to mention, a few shiny, new additions – to ensure that you and yours make the most of everything the city has to offer, this December. Grab your coat – it’s time to get the party started…
If there’s one thing we can rely on at Christmas, it’s the coming-together of some of the country’s best-known musicians, for a festive round of Irish musical magic, in the city’s most iconic live venue. This year is no exception, and while there are plenty of treats to choose from, we’ve picked the two best gigs that deserve your attention this December.
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Hard at work on a new album, Niamh, Podge and the rest of the HamsandwicH troupe (one of the most vibrant live acts in the country) will be taking a break from the studio and touching down in Whelan’s for their annual end-of-year-shows, on Friday December 13th and Saturday December 14th (tickets €25). Meanwhile, the sublime Delorentos celebrate the tenth anniversary of one of their most memorable tunes – the wonderful S.E.C.R.E.T – with a special hometown show at everyone’s favourite Wexford Street haunt on Monday December 23rd (tickets €22.50). That’s two cracking gigs, courtesy of two exceptional bands. What more could you ask for this Christmas?
To book tickets, visit www.whelanslive.com
The Childhood Favourite
This is a timeless Dublin tradition for folks of all ages. Do you remember what it was like seeing the Moving Crib, in Dublin’s Parnell Square, for the first time? We certainly do. It’s a one-of-a-kind experience, and those iconic, animatronic figurines have long since become a generation-spanning staple of Christmas in the city. Celebrating its 62nd year in 2019, Ireland’s most famous nativity and biblical storytelling display is open daily, from 11am to 6pm, until Sunday January 5, 2020. Admission is free and, if you’re around on Sunday December 15th, the Bray Gospel Choir will be in attendance for what should be a delightful round of gospel, soul and carol singing. Joy to the world, indeed.
For more information, visit www.stmartin.ie/crib
The Amusement Park
Allow us to break the Christmas lead-in pattern for one of Ireland’s most famous seasonal attractions (it opens on December 26). Let’s face it, Christmas in Dublin just wouldn’t be the same without Funderland. You know the gist: Bumper cars, waltzers, candy floss, techno music – it’s all part of the action, and Funderland at the RDS is the perfect excuse to leave the house on St Stephen’s Day.
Running at the RDS Simmonscourt from December 26 to January 12. For more information, visit www.funderland.com
Now, this sounds promising. Looking to leave its mark on the annual Dublin Christmas schedule is the inaugural Christmas at the Castle extravaganza in Dublin Castle. A boutique, open-air Christmas market, complete with live music, festive grub, a Neapolitan Crib and a Victorian carousel, Christmas at the Castle is pulling out all the stops for its 2019 debut, setting up shop at the Castle courtyard, from December 12 to December 22. Featuring more than 30 traditional alpine market stalls, it might also be the perfect place to do some shopping. And hey, they’ve even got carol singers and horse-and-carriage rides. Again, it sounds amazing. Let’s just hope the weather gods play ball…
For more information, visit www.dublincastle.ie
If, like us, you’re a huge fan of The Snowman soundtrack, then you’ll be delighted to hear that the kind folks at the National Concert Hall have decided to yet again incorporate Howard Blake’s timeless score into their December schedule. A Theatre Lovett production, This Way to Christmas Featuring The Snowman touches down at the landmark Dublin venue from December 21-23. Hosted by Louis Lovett and featuring the NCH Christmas Orchestra, this dazzling, family concert also promises to include a number of special guest performers, a sprinkling of classic Christmas songs and even a visit from Santa. There are just ten performances, with tickets priced from €19.50 (child) to €25 (adult).
For show times and more information, visit www.nch.ie
For those in search of a festive tipple or two with added Christmas spirit (and a mountain of tinsel), we’ve decided to recommend two famous, Christmassy drinking experiences in Dublin this December. First off, there’s the Strawberry Hall in the Strawberry Beds, near Chapelizod. Aside from being one of the cosiest, warmest pubs in Dublin, the Straw Hall is also home to the greatest set of Christmas decorations this side of Santa’s grotto. Seriously, it’s like stepping inside a Christmas tree – and they serve a smashing pint of Guinness, too. If you’re looking to stay in the city centre, our second pub recommendation is none other than the Ginger Man on Fenian Street. Why? Because, like the Straw Hall, the owners go all out with the decorations – and, it’s a lovely little spot. Bring sunglasses — you’ll see what we mean. Oh, and remember to drink responsibly!
Obviously, we wouldn’t dream of celebrating the festive season in Dublin without a trip to the Gaiety Theatre for their annual Christmas pantomime. This year, the Gaiety is proud to present a dazzling new production of Aladdin, complete with all the usual magical twists and turns, as well as a few musical delights that’ll leave a spring in your step long after the curtain closes. Directed by Daryn Crosbie, the Gaiety’s Aladdin stars West End performer Julian Capolei as the eponymous hero, Suzie Seweify as Princess Jasmine, Joe Conlan as Widow Twankey and Nicholas Grennell as Abanazer. It’s going to be the greatest panto ever. Oh, yes, it is…
Running until January 5. Tickets from €19.50. For more information, visit www.gaietytheatre.ie
The Film Festival
A proper, seasonal favourite at Dublin’s Light House Cinema in Smithfield. If you take a look at this year’s Naughty or Nice festival bill, you’ll notice that the folks in charge have decided not to mess with a winning formula. In other words, they’re showing all your favourite Christmas films again, from It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and Elf, all the way through to Die Hard (yes, it is a Christmas film), Love Actually and The Muppet Christmas Carol. The best Christmas movie festival, at the best movie theatre in Ireland? You betcha.
Running until December 31. For ticket infoformation, screening times and further details, visit www.lighthousecinema.ie
The Carol Singing Session
It has to be the beautiful Carols by Candlelight service at St Stephen’s Church (the Pepper Canister) on Merrion Square; a free, Ecumenical service of the Nine Lessons and Carols, where spectators of all ages are encouraged to join in on the fun. The first service kicks off on Monday December 9 at 6pm. This should get you right into the spirit of things.
For more information, visit www.merrionsquare.ie
The Ice Rink
No explanation required here. Dundrum on Ice is back, which means it’s time for Dubliners to get their skates on at one of the largest and most popular ice rinks in the city. Remember, safety first. Don’t go busting any moves – or bones - on the rink…
Dundrum Town Centre until January 12 2020. Tickets priced from €14 (child) and €15 (adult). For more information, visit www.dundrumonice.ie.
A little theatrical magic at Christmas is a must, and this year the Gate Theatre has welcomed on to its stage the greatest Christmas story of all — Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A new version by British playwright, Jack Thorne (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Let the Right One In), director Selina Cartmell’s production stars the inimitable Owen Roe as Ebenezer Scrooge and also features Kate Gilmore and Camille O’Sullivan. Reviews have been ecstatic, and tickets (priced from €15 to €40) are selling fast. Get on it, folks.
Running until January 18. For more information and tickets, visit www.gatetheatre.ie