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The sun sets over the River Liffey in Dublin
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The 24 best things to do in Dublin

From discovering the city's excellent food scene to roaming the nearby mountains, here's everything you need to know for a first-class trip to Dublin

Written by
Nicola Brady
&
Emma Kennedy
Contributor
Rosemary Waugh
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 Whether you’re in town for a raucous weekend or a relaxed and cultured week, Dublin has plenty to offer the agenda-less tourist. Small(ish), but perfectly formed, the Irish capital is home to fascinating museums, galleries and arts venues – plus it's enjoyably easy to cover on foot. If you’re here during early October each year, we recommend checking out the annual theatre festival, where you’ll find excellent offerings from international creatives and homegrown artistic geniuses. You can also explore the city’s delicious food scene, visit the castle and – if you’ve got time – venture slightly further afield and conquer a mountain. Have fun!

Best things to do in Dublin

  • Museums
  • History
  • price 1 of 4

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.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

Fact: all great European cities have a great city park. In Dublin’s case, it’s Phoenix Park that gifts the urban landscape its requisite flash of green. A popular haunt of locals with dogs, Phoenix Park is home to both a herd of deer and the Irish president, who lives at Áras an Uachtaráin. If you’re a big animal fan, you can also visit Dublin’s zoo while you’re here.

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  • Museums
  • History
  • price 1 of 4

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.

If your (completely understandable) phobia of British stag dos has kept you far, far away from Temple Bar for the past forever, it might be time for a rethink. Yes, there’s a lot of touristy bars, but buried in between them are some little gems. Project Arts Centre is a brilliant multidisciplinary arts venue that’s always worth checking out, while the Vintage Cocktail Club does what its name suggests and serves up morish liquid treats with an old-time twist. Foodies should also make a trip to Dollard & Co’s food hall a priority.

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  • Things to do

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.

  • Attractions
  • Parks and gardens

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).

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  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites

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.

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Guinness Storehouse
  • Bars and pubs
  • Breweries
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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.

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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.

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  • Theatre
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Founded in 1904 by writers W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory, the Abbey Theatre is Dublin’s internationally famous playhouse for a reason. Along with boasting an illustrious history (which you can learn more about on one of their behind-the-scenes tours), it still regularly produces Grade A plays from contemporary and historic writers. Reserve a night in the calendar and take your seat in the auditorium.

  • Museums
  • Sport
  • price 1 of 4

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.

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  • Restaurants
  • Ice-cream parlours
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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.

Shopping in the Creative Quarter
Photograph: Flickr / William Murphy

16. Shopping in the Creative Quarter

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.

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  • Things to do
  • price 1 of 4

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. 

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  • Bars and pubs
  • Cocktail bars

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.

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  • Things to do
  • Walks and tours
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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.

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  • Attractions
  • Beaches

Brace yourself for a – how should we put this? – refreshing experience with a dip at Dublin’s favourite outdoor swimming spot. Fans of Joyce’s ‘Ulysses’ will be familiar with this al fresco swimming location which used to only be open for men to use. It’s now open to everyone, which means there’s absolutely no excuse not to ~enjoy~ a brisk submersion under the expansive Irish sky. (Post-swim hip flask optional.)

Dublin Castle
  • Attractions
  • Historic buildings and sites
  • price 1 of 4

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.

Still ticking off the sights?

The 12 best attractions in Dublin right now
  • Things to do

Perhaps unsurprisingly, those fond of a tipple will immediately feel at home in the Irish capital. From factory tours to historic bars and pubs, some of the most significant attractions in Dublin will have you knocking back whiskey and Guinness in no time.

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