Traveling to Ireland for Christmas

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.


However, if you are looking to travel to Ireland and participate in all of the main tourist attractions/events, you may want to rethink your travel dates. 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:


getting there

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. Remember, getting a flight to Ireland around this time may be more difficult as some of the Irish are going to be returning home for Christmas themselves. 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 25th or 26th. Some stay closed through the Feast of the Epiphany on July 6th. Others might re-open for the New Year holiday and then close again in January 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 Irish style at a castle or resort as some of them may have multi-night Christmas Packages including a multi-course Christmas Dinner. Or take a self-guided driving tour of the country, but beware as only a few B&Bs 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. Or if you are outside the city, perhaps renting a car to have maximum flexibility to enjoy the natural beauty of the countryside. Whichever type of tour your 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.


holiday food

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 are also closed December 26th. Small mincemeat pies are a favorite holiday treat, as is mulled wine, but candy canes are not as ubiquitous in Ireland as they are in America. Guinness and Irish whiskey are the social beverages of choice around the holidays. Instead of milk and cookies, children leave mince pies and a pint of the rich stout for their jolly old St. Nick. Finding an open restaurant will be hard on Christmas Eve, Day and even after. You may want to be sure to stay in a hotel with an open restaurant, book into a special Christmas Dinner, or try a self catering option.


christmas shopping

No matter what part of Ireland you visit, you’ll find shops with traditional Irish goods like 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 effort. Just be sure to do your shopping before everything closes! Major attractions that will be closed include The Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Castle & Stone and The Ring of Kerry. Of course, you can still drive the Ring of Kerry yourselves however finding a place to eat or even use the bathroom will be tough!



Still interested in taking a vacation to Ireland for Christmas? Remember to request information far in advance and one of our Personal Travel Specialists will help you as much as possible despite the difficult holiday availability.


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