Whether you fancy hitting up the museums, taking time out in a park or even climbing up a mountain, there’s something that’ll steal your attention around every corner in Dublin. And the Irish capital’s relatively small size means it’s pretty easy to navigate, too – in the city centre, nothing’s more than 30 minutes’ walk away, and if you venture further then the Luas (tram) or Dart (train) is a handy way to explore the rest of the county.
Don’t be tempted to pack too much into your schedule, though. Dublin may be small, but it’s best discovered when you have no agenda, and can follow your nose down a side street, or into a dinky café for a flat white and chat with the barista. If you’re still planning your itinerary, here’s our pick of the best attractions and things to do in Dublin right now.
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Best things to do in Dublin
Get a feel for the conditions in which prisoners lived – and died – at this former jail. Hear stories of the rebel leaders and Irish Republicans imprisoned at Kilmainham, and the key role the prison has played in Irish history. It’s just outside the city centre and nearby you’ll also find the Irish Museum of Modern Art and, if you fancy something to eat, neighbourhood favourites Storyboard and Union 8.
In 1979 more than one million Irish people flocked to Phoenix Park, one of Europe’s largest city parks, for a sermon by Pope John Paul II. Today Dubliners still have plenty of reasons to come here. It’s home to a herd of deer, the city’s zoo and the president of Ireland’s official residence, Áras an Uachtaráin. The city’s annual marathon passes through the park, and it’s popular year round with runners.
Tucked inside a Georgian townhouse overlooking the beautiful St. Stephen’s Green, this quirky museum offers a whistlestop tour through Irish history. Informative, entertaining guides and engaging exhibitions (including one charting the story of U2) make this a must-see. Make time for a tasty lunch at basement café Hatch & Sons.
Temple Bar sometimes gets a bad rap as a tourist trap or party hotspot, but there’s more to this Dublin area than meets the eye. Visit the Irish Film Institute, an arthouse cinema, or the Project Arts Centre, a multidisciplinary venue that hosts theatre, dance, music and visual arts. Sip cocktails at the Vintage Cocktail Club or pop into Dollard & Co food hall, a trendy dining spot on Wellington Quay.
Dating back to the 19th century, this enclosed Victorian market is a hodge-podge of shops and food outlets. Try a cupcake or a sausage roll at Lolly & Cooks or buy some blooms at the gorgeous Appassionata flower shop. At the end of the arcade, cross the street to Designist, a quirky shop selling unusual gifts and cool homewares and stationery by Irish and international designers.
Not far from St. Stephen’s Green, the Iveagh Gardens is a lovely place to enjoy a quiet lunch with a book. Bordered on one side by the National Concert Hall, this tucked-away park sometimes hosts concerts and festivals, too. Try a sandwich to go from the nearby Green Bench Café – their menu changes daily and the food is to die for (visit on Friday and get one of their warm sausage rolls).
With its city-centre location, cobblestoned squares, large playing fields and beautiful buildings, Trinity College is well worth a wander. And that’s before you consider that Ireland’s oldest university is also home to one of the world’s most famous books. An exhibition that’s open daily allows visitors to take a peek at the Book of Kells, an ancient manuscript written on calfskin that dates back to the ninth century.
Follow in the footsteps of Irish authors and poets on this lively excursion: part walking tour, part performance, the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl offers visitors a chance to learn about Dublin’s literary heritage as two actors guide visitors through the city, performing extracts from famous works along the way. The tour runs for just over two hours, and takes in some of the city’s most famous literary haunts.
In 1759 Arthur Guinness signed a lease for the St. James's Gate Brewery in Dublin and started to brew. More than 250 years later, Dublin is still synonymous with the Guinness brand. Pay a visit to the Storehouse (open seven days a week) to learn about the brand’s history, then finish off your tour with a pint at the seventh-floor Gravity Bar, which offers excellent views over the city.
Starting from the Dublin village of Dalkey, a kayaking tour to Dalkey Island is a great way to make the most of this city’s coastal location – and to meet a few seals along the way. Paddle out from Bullock Harbour and look around to see Dublin through a different lens. Dalkey is easily accessible from the city centre by public transport. Stop for a post-kayak pint at Finnegan’s.
Ireland is the land of storytellers, and this recently opened museum showcases Irish literary talent past and present. The Museum of Literature is set in a gorgeous building on the edge of St. Stephen’s Green (on the original site of University College Dublin). Today the space honours former students-turned-literary prodigies – like James Joyce, Flann O’Brien and Maeve Binchy – through interactive exhibits spread across several floors.
The Dublin Mountains Partnership offers free guided walks in the Dublin mountains that cater to tourists and locals alike, ranging from family-friendly strolls to longer hikes. Walkers explore the trails of the Dublin Mountains Way, including Tibradden Wood. Lace up your boots, and get ready for plenty of epic scenery and history.
The Abbey Theatre, which sits just off the River Liffey, has been entertaining Dubliners since it was founded in 1904 by poet W.B. Yeats and writer Lady Gregory. More than 100 years later, Ireland’s national theatre is still a key part of the city’s cultural fabric. Check out their behind-the-scenes tours for an insightful peek behind the curtains – you even get to tread the boards yourself.
Croke Park is an institution for Irish sports fans. The stadium, nicknamed Croker by locals, houses the headquarters of the Gaelic Athletic Association, and fans flock there to watch Gaelic football, hurling (a stick-and-ball team sport) and camogie (hurling for women). There’s a GAA museum with an interactive zone to test your own sporting skills, and if you’re brave enough, we strongly recommend the skyline tour on the stadium roof.
A household name in south Dublin since the 1950s, Teddy’s has been serving ice cream in the coastal suburb of Dún Laoghaire for generations. Order a 99 (whipped ice cream with chocolate flakes in a cone) and join the crowds walking along the pier. On weekends, stroll to nearby People’s Park and enjoy the local food market.
This area is where you’ll find some of the city’s best independent shops, selling everything from turf-scented candles to hand-crafted gold jewellery. Wander up Drury Street and along to William Street South, where you’ll come across the Powerscourt Centre. This Georgian townhouse is home to some of the city’s finest boutiques, like homeware store Article and gorgeous jeweller Chupi, whose ultra-modern creations make for excellent souvenirs.
Settle into the comfy seats at the Light House Cinema in Dublin’s Smithfield and enjoy the show (with obligatory craft beer). L. Mulligan Grocer, a pub serving modern Irish food, in nearby Stoneybatter is a good spot for dinner before or after the show. Cinema lovers should also check out the glamorous Stella, across the river in Rathmines, for a unique cinema trip complete with cocktails.
There are many treasures hidden inside the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology. Wander through this striking building and you’ll find piles of ancient gold, Viking artefacts and Egyptian mummies. But it’s the bog bodies that will really capture the imagination. Preserved perfectly in the peat boglands of rural Ireland, these bodies date back milllennia, and are in eerily pristine condition – you can make out their eyelashes, fingernails and even their hair, as well as the (often grizzly) ways in which they met their demise.
This intimate music venue has played host to a wide range of acts, ranging from Jeff Buckley in the 1990s to Ed Sheeran and Hozier more recently. Located in a lively part of the city on Wexford Street, Whelan’s is close to plenty of top options for a pre-gig feed. Try a juicy burger at Bunsen, buzzy Spanish food at Las Tapas de Lola or contemporary Irish food at Delahunt (where Prince Harry and Meghan ate on their visit to Dublin).
Head north on the Dart, Dublin’s commuter train, to Howth, a bustling fishing village. Along the pier you’ll find plenty of fish restaurants, including Beshoffs, Octopussy’s and Aqua. Alternatively, you could grab a takeaway and bag a picnic spot overlooking the harbour. If you feel energetic, follow the path to the summit of Howth Head for amazing views along the cliff walk.
Hosted by food blogger and self-confessed food nerd Ketty Quigley, the Delicious Dublin food tour lets you taste the best of what Dublin has to offer. Plus, if you want some further inspiration for what to eat during your stay in Dublin, Ketty’s award-winning blog French Foodie in Dublin is sure to whet your appetite.
This laugh-a-minute tour is great for kids, but equally fun for adults. Hop on board and travel through the city wearing a plastic Viking hat, seeing the sights as you go. This is more than a bus tour, though, as thanks to a specially customised amphibious vehicle, visitors enjoy a quick spin in the Grand Canal basin too.
A favourite outdoor swimming spot for Dubliners, hardy swimmers take a dip at the Forty Foot all year round, including the annual Christmas day swim. Referenced by James Joyce in ‘Ulysses’, the Forty Foot was traditionally a men-only swimming spot, but that changed in the 1970s when women fought back against their exclusion.
Dublin Castle was built on the site of a Viking settlement in the 13th century, and for many years, it was the headquarters of the British administration in Ireland. Inside the castle grounds sits the Dubh Linn gardens, a lovely place for a stroll. Also worth checking out while you’re there is the Chester Beatty Library, home to an excellent Middle Eastern-inspired café and a peaceful rooftop terrace.