Ireland in December

This post may contain affiliate links, such as AirBnB. If you click on one of them, we might receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you).

December is a special month to travel to Ireland. While the month is not known for its weather, Ireland has a lot of other great things to do in December that will make any Ireland travel itinerary memorable. 

The weather in Ireland in December as you might expect tends to be cold, wet and a bit windy. Ireland does not usually receive much snow or snow showers, so although there is occasionally a white Christmas with a light covering of snow, I wouldn’t tend to bet on it!

Best Time to Visit Ireland

Ireland in winter does experience storms from time to time, which usually hit the west coast of the island first. Storms tend to blow over the country in a matter of hours, but high winds can prompt weather warnings, particularly in coastal areas, so take special care near cliffs.

The bright lights of Dublin in December.
Photo by Ruth Medjber/Fáilte Ireland via Ireland’s Content Pool

Visiting Ireland in December is the perfect time to explore Ireland’s great indoor attractions, including the museums (National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology), art galleries (National Gallery of Ireland), theatres (Abbey Theatre) and learn more about what Ireland is famous for.

 

 

Dublin and the other cities, like Galway and Cork, are brimming with all things festive and for anyone interested in shopping or looking for that unique souvenir, then you will be spoilt for choice. 

Christmas lights in Galway, Ireland in December.
Take a wander down Galway’s side streets during December to experience the festive lights and lovely charm of this city.

One of the nice activities to do in the main cities and towns is admiring the decorative shopfronts and street lights, not to mention checking out the many different Christmas markets. 

As the capital city, Dublin in December has a lot to offer. The usual must-see sights, like the Guinness Storehouse, the Book of Kells and Temple Bar typically tend to be busy all year round. Some of Dublin’s more secret sights (read about them here) are likely to avoid the majority of the crowds.

Unusual Sights in Dublin

Quiet relaxing holidays or retreats are also well suited to this time of year. Why not rent a cosy cottage for a few days, bring a good book to read and sit back and relax and enjoy the view whatever the weather?

Or treat yourself to a wellness break or luxury stay in a castle hotel? This can be a superb way to get away from all the usual hustle and bustle of city life associated with this time of year! 

One special event in Ireland in December is the winter solstice in Newgrange burial tomb in the Boyne Valley, which is part of the Brú na Bóinne UNESCO Heritage Complex.

Decorative entrance stone to Newgrange, County Meath, Ireland.
The beautifully carved entrance stone of the Newgrange burial tomb is just one of the highlights of this very special historically significant site.
Photo by Brian Lynch, Fáilte Ireland Copyright via Ireland’s Content Pool

Only a handful of lucky people get to experience the light from sunrise entering the burial tomb on the shortest day of the year and even then conditions need to be right. When the weather is poor or cloudy, the effect of the sunlight is not as strong. 

There is also a chance of catching a glimpse of the northern lights in Ireland during the winter and early spring months. You need to be in the right place at the right time and have the right conditions to experience this amazing natural phenomenon.

Northern Lights in Ireland

If your ideal trip to Ireland involves a lot of outside activities, road trips or day tours, then perhaps this is not the best time of the year to travel to Ireland for you. Poor weather conditions and limited daylight hours can restrict some of the options. 

A windswept beach in County Mayo, Ireland on a wintery day.
It is possible to enjoy Ireland’s great beaches all year round. A windswept walk along Carrowmore Beach in County Mayo will blow away all of the cobwebs!
Photo by Christian McLeod via Ireland’s Content Pool

If wintery weather and wandering on deserted beaches takes your fancy, then you will have many beautiful destinations along the Wild Atlantic Way coastal drive completely to yourself. The same can be said for the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland.

Excursions to islands can also be a bit tricky as ferry crossings are canceled in bad weather. It might be worth keeping this in mind if you plan to visit the Aran Islands, for example!

Roches Point Lighthouse marking the entrance to Cork Harbour in winter.
Even on days where the weather is poor, a walk on a beach can be very refreshing! Roches Point Lighthouse is in the background of the photo marking the entrance to Cork Harbour.

It is important to plan your Ireland travel itinerary for December well. Don’t get caught out by the fact that Christmas Day (December 25th) and St. Stephen’s Day (December 26th) are public holidays, so there will be very limited places open. 

If you plan on dining out around Christmas, check what options are available beforehand and make sure to reserve a table. There may be limited opening hours on other attractions and services around this time too. 

Harry Potter in Ireland

Winter is the low tourist season in Ireland, but in the lead up to Christmas and New Year holidays in Ireland, airfares and accommodation costs tend to rise with demand. 

Many Irish expats return to Ireland from the United States and beyond around this time too, which also pushes up the price of flights.

Is it your first time traveling to the Emerald Isle and want some more travel tips about Ireland in December? Read our other post here.

Weather in Ireland in December

The December average weather conditions in Ireland could usually be described as cold and wet. There can be plenty of cloud cover at this time of year too, so even if it is dry, you shouldn’t necessarily expect to have blue skies overhead. 

Gray Skies over Carrowmore Beach in County Mayo, Ireland
Gray Skies over Carrowmore Beach in County Mayo.
Photo by Photo by Christian McLeod via Ireland’s Content Pool

How cold it is in Ireland in December is relative to the temperature you are used to. Across the country, the average daily temperature is about 6 °C or 43 °F with the lowest average temperature around 3 °C (37 °F). 

This daily average temperature this month is cold by Irish standards, but not uncomfortably so, once you wear the right clothes. Under breezy conditions when the wind speed picks up, it is likely to feel a bit colder due to the wind chill factor. 

Does it snow in Ireland in December? If you are imagining blankets of white snow covering the streets, then that is really not the case. Winter in Ireland might bring some snow showers, but heavy snowfall is unusual. 

The low temperature for December is above freezing (3 °C or 37 °F) and when the temperature dips below freezing point, it is usually only for a few days. 

Galway Cathedral at sunrise on a cold winter morning.
Ireland tends not to get too much very cold weather. Galway Cathedral looks magical in this winter photo.

In Ireland, weather in December might bring some icy conditions, so take care, especially while driving. Clear frosty mornings are a real treat, so if you do get to experience this, it is worth getting up early to see how beautiful nature looks when covered in delicate frost. 

Ideally if you can plan some flexibility in your travel itinerary, you can pick the places and activities that suit the daily weather forecast. Wet days can be spent enjoying city museums, galleries and other attractions.

There are many such tourist sights in Dublin city that are located close to each other and so minimises the amount of walking in the rain. 

Given the unpredictable weather conditions, it is essential that you include the right clothes in your packing list, such as multiple layers and good waterproofs to ensure that you can make the most out of your trip regardless of the weather.

This is true whether you plan on spending most of your trip in a city or rural environment.

Temperature in Ireland in December

December is a cold month in Ireland, but not the coldest month. Generally the lowest average temperatures are felt at the beginning of the year during the months of January and February. There is a slightly higher chance of snow during these months too. 

You will need a good coat, and maybe hat and gloves, if you want to go sightseeing when the average daily temperature is about 6 °C. 

The east coast tends to be slightly cooler than the west coast of the island with the minimum and maximum temperatures in Dublin in December ranging between 3-8 °C (37-46 °F) and Belfast in Northern Ireland 2-8 °C (36-46 °F).

In December average temperatures in Galway city on the west coast are usually between 4-9 °C (39-48 °F).

The high levels of cloud cover act as insulation and help to keep the low temperatures at night above freezing most of the time. 

In December, the average water temperature is about 11 °C (52 °F).

DublinCorkGalwayBelfast, Northern Ireland
Average temperature December6 °C
43 °F
6 °C
43 °F
6 °C
43 °F
5 °C
41 °F
Min. and max temperatures December3-8 °C
37-46 °F
4-9 °C
39-48 °F
4-9 °C
39-48 °F
2-8 °C
36-46 °F
Sunrise and sunset December 1st8.17 a.m. - 4.10 p.m.8.19 a.m. - 4.26 p.m.8.28 a.m. - 4.21 p.m.8.23 a.m. - 4.02 p.m.

 

Rain in Ireland in December

A rainbow on a rainy day.
Even on a rainy day, there is still lots to see in Ireland!

It is unlikely that you will avoid rain if you travel to Ireland in December. Average precipitation varies across the country, with the south and west coasts generally receiving more than the east during this month. 

Dublin receives about 70 mm (3″) rainfall in the month of December, while Cork experiences roughly 130 mm or 5″ of rainfall. 

DublinCorkGalwayBelfast, Northern Ireland
Average Rainfall December73 mm
3″
133 mm
5″
104 mm
4″
95 mm
4″

No. of wet days (> 1.0 mm 0.04″ precipitation)
December
12151621

 

As the temperatures most of the time are above freezing, the majority of the precipitation is in the form of rain rather than snow or sleet. 

Often January and October tend to be the wettest months of the year, but December follows close behind. You can expect to encounter some form of precipitation on about half of the days of December. 

As a general tip, regardless of the Irish weather forecast in winter or summer, don’t leave your accommodation without waterproof clothing! (Umbrellas are not of much use when it is very windy.)

Wind in Ireland in December

The average wind speed tends to increase over the month of December. Based on the Dublin Airport weather data records, the average wind speed is about 26 km per hour (16 miles per hour) for December. 

It is worth noting that Dublin is a relatively sheltered county and other areas of the country, particularly in coastal regions along the south and west coasts are exposed to stronger winds so the average winds here can just be used as an indication of what to expect. 

Star Wars Ireland

Winter storms in December increase the average wind speeds and can result in strong gusts from time to time.

Weather in Dublin Ireland in December

O'Connell Street, Dublin, Ireland with festive lights and decorations.
Dublin is a great city to visit in December and with lots to see and do indoors, the weather won’t interrupt your plans too much!
Photo by Ruth Medjber/Fáilte Ireland via Ireland’s Content Pool

In December, the weather forecast in Dublin can be a bit mixed and try not to be put off by the cloud cover and grey skies. The sunshine does get through from time to time! 

Although Dublin City and County Dublin escape with less rain than other areas of the country, the temperatures might also be a little cooler than in other coastal areas. However, Ireland’s maritime climate ensures that temperatures never fall very low for any length of time. 

If you travel to Dublin in December, don’t worry, it is still quite enjoyable to go sightseeing in Dublin city center when the average temperature is 6 °C (43 °F). 

As snow is unlikely with the average low temperature being about 3 °C (37 °F), it is easy to get around to places and soak up the Christmas and New Year atmosphere of the city without any of the challenges associated with typical snowy, winter conditions. 

Cold spells with rain may result in some icy conditions, but these are usually gritted over early in the mornings.

On average, there is about 70 mm (3″) of rain during the month spread over at least 12 days. 

As there are lots of great indoor things to do in Dublin in December, wet weather is unlikely to cause problems for your itinerary.

Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin, Ireland.
The former prison of Kilmainham Gaol is one of Dublin’s top indoor attractions.

Dublin hotels with a central location come in handy in poor weather as you can always quickly return and freshen up if you get soaked in the rain!

Except for when it is stormy, the average wind conditions are unlikely to impact your Dublin travel vacation too much when you are based in the capital. 

When the weather is dry, why not spend an evening or two visiting some of the several smaller Christmas markets in Dublin? In the evenings, when it is dark, the Christmas lights make them much more atmospheric. 

Christmas Lights in Dublin, Ireland.
December is a lovely time to travel to Ireland and enjoy the festive mood and the Christmas lights in Dublin.

There is a difference in the quality of the markets though and what they have to offer, so be sure to do a little research beforehand to make sure you find a good one. (Galway and Belfast have lovely big Christmas markets that are well worth checking out!)

Regardless of the kind of Dublin weather you experience during your stay, a trip to a pub with live music is a good way to spend some time in the evening. There is a wide variety of pubs in the capital. 

The Temple Bar Pub, Dublin, Ireland at Christmas.
 The Temple Bar Pub in Dublin at Christmas time.
Photo by Ruth Medjber/Fáilte Ireland via Ireland’s Content Pool

For example, Temple Bar is the most famous area of Dublin for live music and pubs and is quite popular with tourists, but if you want a quieter, more authentic night enjoying a pint, we have some other good suggestions in this 3-Day Dublin itinerary (read it here)

Some other ideas for the perfect Dublin intinerary include visiting some of Dublin’s unusual attractions and Dublin’s secret spots!

Visiting Ireland in December

Trinity College Dublin, Ireland on New Year's Eve.
The New Year’s Eve celebrations are just one of the many events on in Ireland during the month of December.
Photo by Photocall Ireland via Ireland’s Content Pool

In December, the focus of your Ireland travel itinerary will probably be more on indoor attractions and things to do rather than outdoor ones, but as there are so many to choose from, your December vacation in Ireland is likely to be a great one!

December is a good time to sample the bustling run up to Christmas somewhere new. If you love the festive cheer then visiting Ireland at Christmas time is a great idea. 

You can experience all of the fun and seasonal festivities including the Christmas markets, Christmas lights, as well as yummy festive food (think of plum pudding and mince pies) and drinks will be sure to make your stay in Ireland in December very special. 

The festive lights of the Christmas Market in Eyre Square, Galway, Ireland
The Eyre Squre Christmas Market in Galway is one of the biggest and most popular Christmas Markets in the country.
Photo by Gareth McCormack, copyright Tourism Ireland via Ireland’s Content Pool

Dublin city is a lively place to visit in December and aside from the usual top attractions, including the Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol there are many other pop up attractions that are only there in the days and weeks leading up to Christmas, such as the Christmas Special Panto Bus, which can be quite entertaining for the younger little ones.

City breaks outside of Dublin are well suited to this time of year. There are plenty of great options in the Republic of Ireland, as well as in Northern Ireland to select from, each with their own unique pre-Christmas atmosphere.

Day trips from Cork

New Year celebrations are becoming more and more popular in Ireland. This celebration generally tends to either be something you love or utterly dislike. 

In the big cities, there are usually public events and celebrations, including official firework displays. For those of you who want to escape from all the noise and distraction, then a quiet countryside retreat in Ireland is the perfect way to ring in the new year. 

A thatched cottage on the Aran Islands, Ireland.
A cosy thatched cottage might offer the ideal getaway break in December.

Many travel guides forget to mention how nice it is to enjoy a quiet relaxing break in the Irish countryside. If cosy, winter evenings by an open fire tickle your fancy, then why not check out renting one of the many traditional cottages? 

As the demand before the Christmas and New Year season is typically low, you might even get some good deals. (Some hotels also try to entice visitors with affordable offers in early December, so keep an eye out if you want to stay somewhere special like a castle hotel!) 

If you are away from the bright lights of the cities, it might also be possible to view one of the highlights of winter, the northern lights, if the conditions are right. Read our post about the northern lights in Ireland to find out when and where you are most likely to spot them. 

Malin Head in County Donegal is one of the best places to observe the Northern Lights in Ireland.

Shorter day trips or even half-day excursions are generally more advisable than longer ones or road trips like the Wild Atlantic Way at this time of year due to the number of daylight hours and mixed weather conditions. 

Wild Atlantic Way

Some days the weather can also be a bit unpredictable and you can sometimes get a taste of the four seasons, so try to be flexible with your plans to avoid any disappointment. 

Visits to the Cliffs of Moher in December can be a bit hit or miss due to the weather conditions. It is possible that after traveling to view this awesome natural wonder, it might be shrouded in mist or fog at this time of year.

Cliffs of Moher, County Clare, Ireland in misty weather in December.
The Cliffs of Moher in poor weather during winter.

Dublin Airport can be a busy location in December with many Irish returning from abroad for the Irish holidays, as well as the usual tourists. Perhaps make sure you allow an extra bit of time to ensure a smooth arrival and or departure. 

Ireland should not be overlooked as a good destination to travel to in December, because regardless of whether it is your first time or your tenth time visiting the country, there will be new exciting things to discover and experience!

In our article about Ireland in December, we include some of the best places to visit in December (Newgrange in the Boyne Valley for example) and some travel tips about Ireland during this month. 

If you are still wondering when is the best time to visit Ireland for your ideal holiday, then read our post here which will give you comprehensive information that will help you decide.