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Expat Exchange - Best Places to Visit in Ireland for Christmas Cheer
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Kenmare, Ireland


Best Places to Visit in Ireland for Christmas Cheer

By Betsy Burlingame

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Summary: Plan a day trip or weekend getaway to get some holiday cheer. This article highlights the best places to visit in Ireland for Christmas cheer.

As the festive season approaches, Ireland transforms into a winter wonderland, with its cities and towns adorned in twinkling lights and holiday cheer. For expats and digital nomads looking to immerse themselves in the local culture and festivities, there are numerous places across the Emerald Isle that come alive in December. From traditional Christmas markets to enchanting light displays, here are some of the best places to visit to get into the holiday spirit.

Dublin's Grafton Street

Dublin's premier shopping district, Grafton Street, becomes a hub of festive activity during December. The street is famous for its Christmas lights and decorations, creating a magical atmosphere for holiday shoppers and revelers. The nearby Dublin at Christmas market offers a variety of crafts, gifts, and seasonal treats, including the renowned Irish Christmas cake. Carol singers and live performances add to the festive ambiance, typically starting in late November and continuing throughout the holiday season.

We Recommend: Don't miss the chance to try a warm mince pie or a cup of hot chocolate from one of the street vendors as you take in the festive window displays and street performances.

Cork's Glow Festival

Cork's Glow Festival is a highlight of the city's Christmas celebrations. Bishop Lucey Park is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a giant Ferris wheel offering panoramic views of the city. The festival usually runs on weekends in December leading up to Christmas. The Christmas market, part of the festival, features local artisanal products, festive foods, and crafts. The event also includes a mystical fairy village and an awe-inspiring light installation.

We Recommend: Be sure to sample some traditional spiced beef, a Cork delicacy, while exploring the market stalls.

Galway's Christmas Market

The Galway Christmas Market is one of Ireland's most popular holiday attractions, set in the heart of the city at Eyre Square. This market typically opens in mid-November and runs until just before Christmas. Wooden chalets line the square, selling everything from handmade crafts to bratwurst and mulled wine. The market also features an entertainment area with live music and performances, making it a perfect spot for holiday merrymaking.

We Recommend: Try the German Glühwein (mulled wine) and the decadent chocolatey treats that are a hit with locals and visitors alike.

Kilkenny's Yulefest

Kilkenny's Yulefest is a month-long celebration that brings the medieval city to life with its festive events and activities. The Yulefest includes a Christmas market, workshops, and entertainment for all ages. The market offers a range of local crafts and food items, perfect for holiday gifts. The city's historical buildings and streets provide a picturesque backdrop for the festivities, which usually begin in early December.

We Recommend: Enjoy a traditional Kilkenny beer or cider as you wander through the market and take in the live nativity scenes.

Waterford's Winterval

Waterford's Winterval festival is Ireland's largest Christmas festival, with a series of events and activities spread throughout the city. The festival, which starts in late November and runs until just after Christmas, includes a Christmas market, ice-skating rink, and a vintage Ferris wheel. The market is a great place to find unique gifts, with stalls selling handcrafted goods, jewelry, and festive food items.

We Recommend: Don't leave without trying the blaa, a soft roll that's a Waterford specialty, filled with succulent roast meats.

Limerick's Milk Market

Limerick's historic Milk Market is transformed into a Christmas haven during the festive season. The market, which operates year-round, takes on a special charm in December with its Christmas-themed stalls and decorations. Vendors sell a variety of local produce, crafts, and holiday treats. The market is known for its lively atmosphere, with carolers and musicians adding to the festive spirit.

We Recommend: Indulge in some artisanal cheese and chutneys, which make for perfect Christmas nibbles or gifts.

Belfast's Christmas Market

Set against the backdrop of Belfast City Hall, the Belfast Christmas Market is a must-visit for those seeking a traditional European market experience. The market features a mix of international and local stalls, offering everything from Belgian chocolates to Irish crafts. The market usually opens in mid-November and runs until just before Christmas. The food court serves up a variety of festive dishes, and there's even a Santa's Grotto for the little ones.

We Recommend: Taste the local specialty, a Belfast bap filled with fresh, hot food from one of the many international food stalls.

Donegal's Christmas Village

The Donegal Christmas Village, or 'Santa's Island,' is a seasonal attraction that offers a unique holiday experience. Located in Donegal Town, the village features a Santa's workshop, Christmas markets, and an array of festive entertainment. The market stalls sell a variety of Christmas goods, including decorations, hand-knit sweaters, and local delicacies. The village typically opens in early December and continues until Christmas Eve.

We Recommend: Enjoy a slice of Donegal's famous Christmas cake, known for its rich flavors and festive decoration.

About the Author

Betsy Burlingame Betsy Burlingame is the Founder and President of Expat Exchange and is one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. She launched Expat Exchange in 1997 as her Master's thesis project at NYU. Prior to Expat Exchange, Betsy worked at AT&T in International and Mass Market Marketing. She graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University with a BA in International Business and German.

Some of Betsy's articles include 12 Best Places to Live in Portugal, 7 Best Places to Live in Panama and 12 Things to Know Before Moving to the Dominican Republic. Betsy loves to travel and spend time with her family. Connect with Betsy on LinkedIn.


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Kenmare, Ireland

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