I received a question from a podcast listener last week with some questions about Christmas travel in Ireland.
While her inquiry about car rental and things they could consider doing was an easy one for me to answer, it was the conversation that followed that prompted this episode…
I'll share Victoria's words (with her permission).
When we googled Ireland at Christmas time last Spring, what we found made it sound like a great time to visit – Dublin looks so lively at Christmas, and there are Christmas markets, etc.. We assumed Christmas Day itself much would be closed but we had no idea that the day after so much would be closed and Christmas Eve as well.
We purposely booked a hotel in Dublin, rather than Airbnb for that part of our trip, so that we could have Christmas dinner in a hotel. We booked the Westin last June. When we reserved, I confirmed that they have a full-service restaurant and that they offer dinner on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Then in October, I followed up to reserve Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meals at the hotel for our family of five. At which point, I learned that the only meal option on Christmas Day is a 2:00 buffet that is €200 person so €1,000 for my family of five. I searched for other meal options outside of the Westin and found that the only places open for meals on Christmas are other hotels and that they all only serve their special Christmas Day meals to hotel guests.
In the end, we canceled our Westin booking and booked the Fleet Hotel in Temple Bar instead which looks lovely and has a Christmas Day dinner at 4:00 for €65 person – much more reasonable for our family of five. They also offer a reasonable Christmas Eve dinner, which we reserved.
We have learned a lot about planning a trip to Ireland over Christmas – especially the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day meal situation, the fact that no trains or buses operate on December 26th and that most restaurants and tourist sites are also closed on December 26th. Worth sharing with others considering going at Christmas time.
What to Know Before You Visit Ireland for Christmas
It's important to do your research before booking your flights.
Dublin Airport is closed on Christmas Day.
Shannon Airport has historically been the only airport in Ireland that is open on Christmas Day. In the past they have even ‘decorated' the runway as a Christmas tree.
Many hotels close over the Christmas holiday – especially those outside the tourist centers of Dublin, Galway, Killarney, and Cork. The hotels that are open charge a premium for their rooms so booking early is recommended.
You aren't likely to find many B&Bs that cater to guests over Christmas as most owners are spending the holiday with their own families.
If you plan to stay in a self catering accommodation be sure to verify that someone will be available if you have any problems during your stay. And, if you are checking in later on Christmas Eve, ask if your host can stock food items for an extra fee.
You won't be able to pick up a rental car on Christmas Day and many car rental locations are also closed – or operating on very limited hours – on December 26th (Boxing Day/ St Stephen's Day).
On December 24, Christmas Eve, many car rental locations will close early.
Trains & Buses
Trains do not run on Christmas Day and St. Stephen's Day. Schedules could be limited on Christmas Eve usually end at 9pm.
Schedules through December 30 may operate on a holiday timetable.
Buses do not run on Christmas Day and offer limited schedules on Christmas Eve and December 26.
A few taxi are usually available on Christmas Day in the larger cities – but since nothing is open where are you going to go?
It is very difficult to find a restaurant open on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day.
Hotels that are open usually only serve people who are staying on the property so be sure you have made reservations in advance.
If you are staying in self-catering accommodations be sure to do your shopping in advance of Christmas Eve – and purchase enough for at least 2 days.
Most shops – of all types – will close early on Christmas Eve and will remain closed for Christmas Day. Some may open on December 26, and those that do will likely be operating on limited hours.
All attractions are closed on Christmas Day and any that are open on Christmas Eve will close early. December 26 is a toss up – most attractions that remain open year round will be operating today, though they may have a limited schedule.
Remember, though, that many smaller and rural attractions close from November through February. You want to do your research to see what will be available while you are in Ireland.
It's important to know that Christmas markets in Ireland wrap up before Christmas, though some locations may have holiday events running through the new year.
If you want to visit Christmas markets plan your visit in late November and early to mid December.