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Where to see the Christmas Lights in Dublin

by Roberto
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There are few things more endearing in a city that you call home than seeing them lit by the annual Christmas lights. Dublin is most certainly no exception. It’s principal shopping streets spring to life with millions of colourful bulbs. Their sparkle bring the warmth of the season on the coldest of December days. The Christmas lights in Dublin traditionally illuminate the city from the end of November through to the new year. But what are the best streets and places to see the Christmas Lights in Dublin? Let me guide you through my home city at the happiest time of year.

Dublin’s street lights traditionally light in November for the festive season. After a blip in covid years this years lights were lit on November 11th, giving them a good run now until January 6th.

The Christmas Lights in Dublin Big Light Up

If you are hoping to catch a big event where Dublin City flicks a switch and sparkles emanate from all streets, to the sounds of cheering and clapping people; you’re about five years too late for that. After a succession of years where overcrowding became a major problem, the call was finally made to have a quiet light up. This years lights were turned on by three kids from Little Blue Heroes, a charity that helps the families of children undergoing long term medical treatment for serious illnesses. A magical experience for them without doubt. There was a ceremony in Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street, but it was a small modest affair, which was live streamed. You of course can have your own personal self guided tour of the Dublin Christmas Lights, without seeing the light up.

The tree at the Bank of Ireland on Dame Street

The Street Christmas Lights in Dublin

Dublin’s street lights are run by DublinTown a collection of city centre businesses who join together to light up Dublin. There’s nowhere better to start than Dublin’s most fashionable shopping district, Grafton Street. Grafton Street is lit by 300,000 bulbs. At its top and bottom is the lit message that has long welcomed people to the street. The “Nollaig Shona Duit” Christmas light means Happy Christmas in the Irish language.

Nollaig Shona Duit sign
The famous Nollaig Shona Duit sign

After an ill fated attempt to re-coin the area the Grafton Quarter in 2019, and replace the Nollaig Shona Duit sign with a Grafton Quarter one, all returned to normal in 2020. Relatively speaking.

The lights can be seen in around 30 streets around the city, where hanging them is possible. There are 4 kilometres of lights in total. As recomended start with Grafton Street and its adjacent streets Duke Street and South Anne Street. Continue by venturing out to Dame Street, Wicklow Street, Georges Street and the enchanting streets that lie between there and Grafton Street. If you feel you are walking in circles then you’re on the right track.

Grafton Street at Christmas

The Northside (north of the Liffey) is equally as charming and a walk via Westmoreland Street to O’Connell St brings us to perhaps the most decorative of all in Dublin. Its wide avenue lends well to the Christmas theme. Henry Street is Dublin 1’s biggest shopping street, and has its own lighted greeting in the “Welcome to Dublin One” sign. It’s the final stop on a Christmas lights in Dublin street tour.

Christmas Lights in Dublin

Shopping centres and Department Stores- Dublin Christmas Lights

Of course the streets don’t have a monopoly on the lights. Ducking in out of the cold or rain to any of the shopping centres along the way, will reveal a melody of lights. Stephen’s Green shopping centre is a firm favourite, its glass structure was made for Christmas it seems. But an honourable mention goes to the Jervis Centre on Henry Street.

Stephens Green Dublin
View of Stephen’s Green from its escalators

Dublin’s department stores have always gone head to head on who has the best windows. For years Clerys, Arnotts and Brown Thomas have competed with great imagination to capture the christmas spirit. While Clerys has sadly closed, the two other behemouts of Irish fashion. This year Brown Thomas has a theme of Out of this World while Arnotts have simply opted for the theme Joy (photos to follow).

Brown Thomas Christmas Window 2021

Winter Lights 2021 – Christmas Lights in Dublin

The most unique set of lights in Dublin is the annual winter lights that illuminate some of the city’s most well known buildings. These change each year by the buildings and also by the lights. 2021 sees the most ambitious year yet with 21 laser installations across Dublin. The lights are all eco-friendly LED lights, an important consideration in our times.

All 21 locations are worth seeing, not only for the winter lights, but also the significant sights that they light up. In 2021 there are now two walking trails planned through the city by Winter Lights, to enable you to see all the installations. The first route takes in Capitol Dock, Samuel Beckett Bridge, The Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship, CHQ Triumphal Arch (outside the EPIC Museum), The Customs House, O’Connell St Trees, The GPO, Millennium Bridge, Smithfield Square, Mater Hospital, and the Hugh Lane Art Gallery.

The second has a lot of new begins at Merrion Square before its trail takes in the Mansion House, Trinity College, Barnardos Square, City Hall, Parliament St Trees, City Hall, Wood Quay Civic Offices, The Liberties Peace Park, The Liberties John’s Lane West, The Liberties Crane Street and the Liberties Digital Hub Windmill. Merrion Square’s walkthrough is excellent and a brilliant addition, but if you haven’t booked tickets they are already sold out.

Winter Lights, Christmas Lights in Dublin
Capitol Dock
Jeanie Johnston Dublin, Christmas Lights in Dublin
Jeanie Johnston lit in the fog
Winter Lights, Christmas Lights in Dublin
CHQ Triumphal Arch
Customs House Dublin, Christmas Lights in Dublin
Customs House
O’Connell’s Street Trees
Millenium Bridge Dublin, Christmas Lights in Dublin
Millenium Bridge
Smithfield Square Winter Lights Dublin
Smithfield Square
Christmas Lights in Dublin
Hugh Lane Art Gallery
Mater Hospital
Merrion Square​
Merrion Square
Merrion Square
Trinity College
Barnardos Square
Parliament Street lights and City Hall​
Parliament Street lights and City Hall
St Patrick’s Tower
St Patrick’s Tower

Wild Lights at Dublin Zoo

While Wild Lights wasn’t an option for 2020 due to the times we live in, this unique lighting feature of the festive season in Ireland will return in 2021. The event has ran since 2017, and each year has a different theme. 2019’s theme of Stories, Myths and Legends was particularly well received. It’s sombre feature on extinct animals sought to throw a light on the subject in more ways than one. This article will give you a great visual idea about Dublin Zoo’s Wild Lights. While zoo’s can be often found to do more harm than good, Dublin Zoo has had a long history of conservation and breeding and ranks highly among its international peers for this.

Wild Lights returns bigger than ever in 2021, with a theme of Around the World. Light installation will now feature the pyramids, Eiffel Tower and a host of other well known landmarks from around the world.

Dublin in Winter

If you are visiting Dublin in winter, there is so much to do besides its Christmas lights. While the days are short, the temperatures can be still relatively mild in November and December. It doesn’t rain as much as you would expect either.

Dublin is a hub of events come December and there are many ways to celebrate Christmas, as outlined in our article Christmas in Dublin.

If you are looking for inspiration on what to do in Dublin in winter, why not take a read of the following articles, which are good for all seasons

A Tour of the Street Art in Dublin

The 30 Best Walks in Dublin

Where to Stay in Dublin

Dublin has a broad selection of accommodation catering for all budgets. Many of its city centre hotels are 4 or 5 stars, and the standards are high. The Dublin 2 area has the highest rates, followed by Dublin 1. For a more economical option, the hotels in the affluent Dublin 4 and 6 areas offer good quality at a lower rate, with excellent transport links to the city.

Disclosure; This post contains affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission if you click a link such as the Booking.com one below, and purchase something that I have recommended. While clicking these links won’t cost you any money, it will help keep this site going and me travelling. Thank you for your continuing support.


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