There are a billion blog posts out there telling you where to go and what to do in Dublin. That’s not to say there’s anything wrong with them. They tell most people what they need to know. But I don’t want to rehash the same old information. This is a guide to the “new” best things to do in Dublin, a list which might also include wacky or weird stuff.
I’ll start with a disclaimer: I’m not exactly a local. I am from Dublin and spent the first couple of decades of my life in the city, but I spend most of my time outside of Dublin these days. However, my frequent returns for months at a time give me unique insights into new and exciting things to do in the city. If you have plans to travel to Dublin and want to experience it a little differently to every other tourist, check out this guide to some unusual things to do and explore in this city of history, culture, and friendly people.
Know Before you Go
- Dublin is small. To see most of the sites in the city you won’t need a car. It’s more of a hindrance than a help to get around with your own transport so I suggest using the buses, trams (LUAS), and taxis. Taxis are not cheap but use them sparingly and you’ll be fine. Dublin is the 5th most congested city in Europe. On the other hand, it’s a great city for walking. The weather might play a part in this though.
- Dublin is famous for its rain. Ireland, in general, is rainy. This is thanks to Ireland’s location as the first island
atthe north of Europe to receive Atlantic storms and rain clouds. Expect to get wet. Bring a raincoat, an umbrella, and good shoes. Then you’ll be fine. The rain never dampened Dubliners’ spirits so don’t let it spoil your day.
- Dublin is expensive. Bring money. Lots of it. Then you’ll be fine.
- Dublin is a young city: 50% of citizens are under the age of 25
Check out the Dublin guide to saving money while still having a great time: Dublin on a Budget Guide for people that find the prices intolerable.
The ultimate guide to unique things to do in Dublin.
Do A Self-Guided Dublin Statue Tour
Take a walking tour to visit the statues of famous Irish people.
By my count, there are around 30 full-sized (or lifelike) statues of famous Dubliners (and Irish people) immortalised in statues dotted around the city centre. To get to them all would require more than a day, unless you’re some kind of running machine, you have a motorbike, or you don’t sleep.
The most interesting (and this is just my opinion) are the following, which you should add to Google Maps and get a selfie with each statue.
- James Joyce – North Earl Street. For many people, the greatest writer from Ireland (and some say the English language)
- James Connolly – Irish republican and the man they named Dublin’s Connolly station after.
Mr.Screen (Fictional) – O’ Connell Street. A cinema usher.
- Luke Kelly – Sheriff Street. Located on one of old Dublin’s least desirable streets, the status commemorates one of Ireland’s best-loved folk musicians.
- Brendan Behan – Royal Canal off Dorset St. Behan was one of Ireland’s greatest writers of plays, stories, and poems.
- Wolfe Tone – St Stephen’s Green. The Irish revolutionary, father of Irish republicanism, and owner of a great name, later hijacked by the band the Wolfe Tones.
- Oscar Wilde – Merrion Square Park. One of my favourites, this statue of the one and only Wilde, shows him reclining near where the famous author and poet grew up.
- Admiral William Brown – Sir John Rogerson’s Quay. Did you know that the founder of the Argentine navy was born in County Mayo?
- Patrick Kavanagh – Wilton Terrace, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin. Dubbed “The crank by the Bank”, the statue of Kavanagh on the bench is the scene for many selfies with the man himself.
- Phil Lynott – Harry Street. The coolest musician in Ireland, Lynnott was the frontman for the band Thin Lizzy. He lived a wild and excessive short life but he’ll never be forgotten.
Eat on Capel Street
Capel St is now possibly the least “Irish” street in the city but it was once a traditional inner-city Dublin street. That’s before the bland Irish food joints were outnumbered by Asian and Middle Eastern restaurants. Capel Street is one of the best streets in the country for cheap, tasty food. There are also a couple of Dublin’s best coffee shops and bakeries here. And if you’re looking for Dublin’s top gay bar, it’s right here.
Go To The Pubs – With A Twist
Dublin is a city of pubs. Despite the decline in drinking as a “pastime” in recent years – these pesky millennials are all into wellness – the bar scene in Dublin has taken only a minor beating. Visitors to Dublin expect to go to a bar and enjoy the local friendliness. Just don’t expect it to be cheap.
The city has no shortage of bars that are super popular with tourists but about as authentic as Santa Claus. Try them out. But there are other ways to see the bars of Dublin. I recommend the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl or a Meetup. That way you get to experience something new. You’ll get to meet new people and still get to a pub without the awkward standing around on your own (I’m
If I had to pick two bars to visit in Dublin to get a sense of the old school drinking culture, those bars would be:
- John Kavanagh. It’s a bit out of the way, but it’s a good spot to combine with a visit to Kavanagh’s near Glasnevin’s Botanical Gardens (a great spot to hang out – add that to your list). Anthony Bourdain visited on one of his trips to Ireland. That pretty much ruined it (I’m kidding). The bar maintains the old school feel. There’s no music, no tv or radio. Fancy cocktails are available but not encouraged. On the other hand, if you want to grab a nice creamy pint of Guinness and stare at it for a half hour while you switch off your social media alerts, this is the place to do it. It’s like an alcoholic wellness retreat and won’t cost you a week’s wages. Kavanagh’s pub is nick-named the Gravediggers.
- Mulligans. Glad to see that they haven’t upgraded the place to suit the hipsters. Or maybe that’s precisely why they haven’t changed anything. Who knows? One thing’s for certain, Mulligans is old-school cool. Get in there around lunchtime and have the place to yourself.
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Fall In Love With Chester Beatty Library
Chester Beatty sounds like he could play in the US Open Golf tournament. But he wasn’t a golfer, as far as we know. Beaty was a philanthropist, traveller, collector, and founder of one of the most interesting libraries in Ireland. Before you shake your head and say “it’s another library”, listen up! This is special. Once called Europe’s best library by Lonely Planet, the Chester Beatty is the collection of art and historical items by the eponymous private collector.
Museums might not sound like the coolest places on the planet. I’ve been bored in more museums than I can remember. But the Chester Beatty is different.
But it’s less a museum and more of a collection of the man’s travels – a collection of what Beatty was interested in. Donated to the state of Ireland to preserve for the public, the compact museum of art is a fascinating look at the cultures of the Middle East, Asia, and parts of Europe. And it’s free. So no excuses.
Set aside time for a tasty lunch in the bright and airy Silk Road café downstairs. Afterwards, take a stroll in the manicured gardens in front and walk back to the city centre through Dublin Castle.
Go To Church
You might find this place on the top 10 list of every other blog and guidebook to Dublin. But I have to admit, it’s a good one. I bring friends here when we’re all in town at the same time. Even if you’re not a pub-goer or you shun alcohol, the Church Bar is worth a visit, if only for the novelty of visiting a den of debauchery in an ex-church.
Okay, it’s not that wild of a place, but it is fun to know that once upon a time in this building, the only person sipping “wine” was a priest.
Visit An 18th Century working library
Speaking of libraries, the Marsh’s Library is the oldest in the country (dating from 1707) and it still has its original seating and shelving. So there’s a bit of Irish history there. 312 years, by my count. Founded by the wonderfully named Narcissus Marsh, this interesting place gets a fair number of visitors every year but you don’t often see it in the tourist guides. If you want something different for your Instagram collection or just somewhere interesting off the beaten track, check out Marsh’s.
You can find March’s right beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin 8
Visit Number 14 Henrietta Street
The Little Museum of Dublin is a popular tourist attraction, but another Georgian house on Henrietta Street, in the north of the city, is a lot more interesting
14 Henrietta Street is almost 300 years old and was originally the home of Dublin-based aristocrats before turning into a tenement house packed with industrial workers. A house in those times often had 100 people living under the same roof. Picture that as you walk around the house. It’s big, but it’s not that big.
This is a look at the way people lived in the city during the last several hundred years. Built in an original tenement housing building, the museum offers a firsthand look at how people lived in the days of industrial revolution-era Ireland.
Guides recount stories of the original tenants and explain how people lived in these cramped conditions. It’s a real eye opener. Thankfully, the knowledgeable tour guides add a little humour to what might be a sombre experience.
Guided tours of 75 minutes must be pre-booked and are the only way to see the house. This is one of the most atmospheric buildings in the city and tells the history of wealthy and poor people of Dublin through good times and bad.
Enjoy Grafton Street’s Buskers
Grafton Street is the main shopping area of the city centre. Not really the kind of place I like to hang out. Shopping is definitely down the bottom of my list of favourite things to do. But this street is ground central for buskers. On a nice day (or even a cold, and damp one) you’ll find buskers all along the street. Musicians, artists, mimes, and well, anything else that might make the busker some money (legally).
U2 (or at least Bono and the Edge) perform here on Christmas Eve every year in a small casual concert that has grown to be a highly anticipated event.
The Library at Trinity College.
At this point, you complain that I talked about “different” things to do but I immediately talk about one of the most touristic locations in the country. That’s because it’s unmissable. If this post was the only thing you read about Dublin (unlikely, I know), and I left out Trinity College, you’d be missing one the city’s treasures.
The Trinity College library should be one of the first things you do as it’s conveniently located right in the centre of town. Trinity College is one of the oldest universities in the world and it houses the most beautiful library anywhere.
Harry Potter fans might feel like they’ve landed in Hogworths (apparently – I’ve never seen the moveis). The place is gorgeous. It has a historic “feel”, and smells of old books and wood. All part of the ambience.
You’ll be sharing the space with hordes of tourists. But most of the interesting views are above their heads. No need to wait for a gang of Asian snappers armed with selfie sticks to move out of the way to photograph the beautiful arches (unless you want a wooden floor to ceiling photo. Then you’ll need to get creative with Photoshop.
Despite the crowds, it’s a quiet and dare I say it, serene spot to spend some time.
The Trinity Library also contains a book. Not just any book though. This is the Book of Kells. Created over 1200 years ago by skilled calligrapher monks, the manuscript contains the New Testament and some other texts. The book is stunningly beautiful and is in great conditions, despite its age. Only two (facing) pages are on display at any time. Come back every day for months if you want to see the whole thing.
The Book of Kells was painstakingly penned in the Abbey of Kells, located just north of Dublin County. It’s one of Ireland’s most prized documents of the history of the island.
While you’re there, don’t miss the (much more exciting than it sounds) Trinity Science Gallery
Tour Kilmainham Gaol
Here’s a way to liven up your travel tales – brag to your friends about how you ended up in Jail in Ireland. Not quite as famous as Alcatraz or Rikers Island, but significant in the history of Ireland, Kilmainham was the infamous setting for the executions of the Easter 1916 rising rebels.
Thoughts of touring jail cells might not seem like the perfect way to spend an afternoon, but let me assure you, Kilmainham Jail is a must see. It’s been the backdrop of many movies, including In The Name Of The Father (one of Daniel Day Lewis’s best) and the Italian Job (the original and best version).
Once you visit this historic building, you’ll understand why it’s on the list. An atmospheric and beautiful place, in many ways. The official guided tour includes a narrative of the history of the jail and the people that passed through it. Melancholy, fascinating, shocking, and exciting at the same time.
Visit The Phoenix Park.
The guidebooks no doubt mention that this park, right in the middle of Dublin, has a wall around it. And it’s huge. In fact, it’s the biggest of its kind in Europe. The Phoenix Park is also the home of charming deer – The park was a was a place for the ruling British Royals to hunt back in the day.
There aren’t too many things to spend your money on here and it’s just a park after all (nothing for the Instagram bucket list) but it just happens to be a big beautiful swathe of peaceful green-ness in the middle of a capital city.
Go there! The park can be found just north of the River Liffey to the East of Stoneybatter (one of Dublin’s hippest neighbourhoods).
If you can’t make it to The Phoenix Park, the next most beautiful park in the city is St. Stephen’s Green, right in the heart of Dublin.
Be shocked and impressed by the game of hurling
The fastest game in the world. Or as the actor, Jason Statham called it in the movie Blitz, “a cross between hockey and murder”. Hurling is a spectacle even for non-sports fans.
Check out a Hurlking game and wonder how the players survive more than a few minutes. Some wear helmets. Some appear to have a death wish. It’s dangerous and fast. Worth a trip to the home of Gaelic sports in Ireland, Croke Park, on the north side of Dublin.
Taste Whiskey by the experts
For whiskey fans, Ireland is a sort of Disneyland. Especially if you like triple-distilled, smooth whiskeys. (Irish whiskey is generally triple-distilled and smoother than many other whiskeys)
Two Irish whiskey tours worth visiting are at the Jameson Distillery and the Teeling Distillery. Both companies produce some of the best tastiest the world. The tours are professional and not over-hyped. There’s little sense of you getting fleeced for your tourist dollars and more of a sense of pride in the businesses.
I prefer the Jameson Distillery, in case you were wondering.
Here’s something new: leave your iPhone at home. Lose the guidebook. Take those headphones out and walk out of your hotel or apartment.
Now, keep walking in random directions. Go wherever looks like it might lead somewhere interesting. Want to get off the tourist trail? Then get off the tourist trail. By walking off that trail. It’s amazing what happens when you get lost without worrying about finding your way back. The great thing is that Dublin is safe enough. There are a few characters walking around (many of which look like they wandered off the set of The Walking Dead) but they are generally harmless. Just give them a wide berth and you’ll be fine. Most Dubliners will help visitors without a second thought.
Asking for directions in Dublin, especially if you wander into a pub to do so, could be one of the best ways to discover Dublin. Dubliners like to talk so you’ll be fueling the fire by asking for their opinions on the best place to x or the nearest y.
Run The City At Night
If find yourself in Dublin April, and you’re fit, the Dublin Night Run is a worthy event.
If you like the sound of starting a race at 9 pm with crowds of people in the middle of the city, then sign up for this 10k bucket-list event. The route takes you down some of Dublin’s most interesting and historically important streets and across the River Liffey. Attempting to run down these streets while taking in the scenery in the daytime (or indeed any other time of year) will get you arrested. So here’s your opportunity to see Dublin in a unique way, legally.
Dance Like Nobody Can See You.
The Dublin Silent Disco Adventure Tour is an alternative way of seeing Dublin. Imagine a sightseeing tour of the city where you dance along to tunes only you and your fellow tour patrons can hear. Follow the flamboyant tour guide/fitness instructor/pied piper as you get fit, have a laugh, and see the landmarks of Dublin all the while receiving puzzled stares and smiles from passersby.
Do you go to raves? Me neither. But here’s something I can get behind.
Now that Morning Gloryville (a 6-am rave and healthy breakfast mashup) no longer plans any events, SodaBox is the next best thing. It’s is an alcohol-free, hour of dancing in the dark (Bruce Springsteen is not involved). The usual venue closed down at the end of 2018 and, as I write this, the organisers are still looking for a new place. If you’re in Dublin and looking for something weird but fun to do, check the Facebook page for updates. You might be lucky.
A healthy, alcohol-free, morning rave up to start your day. Like many European discos and South American clubs, this place gets going at 6am. The difference is that it opens at that time and explodes into life (the dream of many night-club owners). But there’s also a focus on healthy entertainment and wellness. It’s not about the drugs (although I can’t confirm or deny the presence of illicit substances). It’s about the movement, the yoga, and the pre-work health food breakfast.
A fantastic idea I hope never dies and heads back to Dublin soon.
Ignore my Advice – Do The Most Touristic Attraction in Europe.
Even if you don’t have the fainted interest in
The Guinness brand is part of the fabric of old and new Dublin. And the storehouse happens to be Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction. The Guinness Storehouse has been named Europe’s best attraction, beating the Colosseum in Rome and The Eiffel Tower to name a few.
How good is it?
It feels like a tourist conveyer belt in there but there’s no denying that the building and the exhibitions are impressive. The history of the Guinness Brewery and the Guinness family is an essential part of Irish history and the history of Dublin itself. This is an important business
Be A Foodie
Instead of just sampling the restaurants of Dublin, why not take part in a food tour?
Make new friends while savouring delicious food in a local’s home. That’s the concept of EatWith and one that will introduce to you the culture and people of Ireland better than sitting on a tour bus, for example.
A great cultural experience and quality meal with a small price tag.
Make Your Own Coffee
Some of the best baristas in Europe call Dublin home. And if you like coffee (I know you do), why not learn from the best with a coffee workshop!
Take a class on the craft of the barista! Dubliners have taken to coffee like butter on toast. There are coffee shops in every corner of this city and the quality is good. Hipsters have helped move the coffee culture to the next level, and Dublin’s baristas have made the finals of the World Barista Championships a few times.
Check out this Top Dublin Cafes post for my favourite coffee shops in Dublin
Be a Day Tripper
As long as you avoid rush hour, Dublin is an easy place to get out of. Take a day trip out to these destinations to experience another side of Dublin.
Walk around one of the nicest parts of the country and check out the posh houses. The circumnavigation of the peninsula here is a worthy walk. Standing on the edge of the walkway you feel almost surrounded by the way. On a sunny day, this feels more Mediterranean than mid-Atlantic.
But walking around the Head is for tourists. Why not run it? Yep, you can join other fit and slightly unhinged people that like to run over rocks beside cliffs.
Check out the Irish Trail Running website for more details of the 12km Howth Peninsula Trail Run
If you’re around in October, you can even take part in a 10km run (it’s a race, but they’re probably trying to be inclusive)
Howth is also one of the best spots in the country to get some seafood.
Glendalough is a gorgeous part of Ireland that feels a million miles from the bustle of the city. This glacial valley of lakes and trees is just an hour away and easily reachable by car. Going by bus? Check out the timetable here.
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If you’ree looking for all the advice on Temple Bar, sorry to disappoint you. As one of the most touristic areas of Dublin, Ireland Temple Bar has been covered by a million other bloggers. I’d like to recommend you visit other parts of the city and not to fall into the trap of spending the day drinking over-priced beer and shopping souvenirs. There’s more to Dublin than Temple Bar. I just wish the tourist board would wake up to that fact.