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The 21 best things to do in Dublin

Get to know Ireland's capital through historical attractions, vibrant tours and more of the best things to do in Dublin

Dublin, Ireland
By Emma Kennedy |

Dublin is on the small side compared to some other capital cities, but it still packs a punch.  Its history spans Vikings, rebellion, civil war and plenty more besides. A city of many stories, Ireland’s capital city also boasts a strong literary heritage, thanks to writers such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker. Known as Baile Átha Cliath ("town of the hurdled ford" in the Irish language, Dublin has a lot to offer; aside from its urban attractions, one of the city’s biggest selling points is its proximity to nature, with mountains on one side, and sea on the other. Sandwiched in between is a lively, dynamic city brimming with history, culture, great restaurants and enough to do whether you’re visiting for 48 hours or two weeks.

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Best things to do in Dublin

Kilmainham Gaol
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Emma B.
Museums, History

Kilmainham Gaol

Inside this former prison, visitors can get a sense of conditions for those who lived—and died—there. Hear stories of the rebel leaders and Irish Republicans imprisoned at Kilmainham, and the role the prison played in Irish history. It’s located just outside the city centre and nearby you’ll also find the Irish Museum of Modern Art and neighbourhood favourites Storyboard and Union 8 for a bite to eat.

Phoenix Park, Dublin
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Alessandro V.
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Phoenix Park

In 1979, over one million Irish people flocked to Phoenix Park, one of Europe’s largest city parks, for a sermon by Pope John Paul II. Today, Dubs still have plenty of reasons to visit the park. 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 all year round with runners.

Little Museum of Dublin
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mats C.
Museums, History

Little Museum of Dublin

Located in 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 Dublin rock band U2) make this a must-see. Make time for a tasty lunch at Hatch & Sons, a cafe located in the basement of the building that houses the museum.

Vintage Cocktail Club
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Oliver E.

Realise there’s more to Temple Bar than you might think

Temple Bar sometimes gets a bad rap as a tourist trap or a 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’s home to theatre, dance, music and visual arts. Sip cocktails at the Vintage Cocktail Club or pop into the Dollard & Co food hall, a trendy dining spot on Wellington Quay.

George's Street Arcade
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Mark K.
Things to do

George’s Street Arcade

Dating back to the nineteenth century, this enclosed Victorian market is a hodge-podge of shops and snacks. 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.

Iveagh Gardens, Dublin
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Monica E.
Attractions, Parks and gardens

Iveagh 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 hidden away park sometimes hosts concerts and festivals, too. Try a sandwich to go from the nearby Green Bench Cafe.

Trinity College
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Fa L.
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Trinity College

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 houses 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.

Photograph: Unsplash

Dublin Literary Pub Crawl

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 pieces of famous works along the way. The tour runs for just over two hours, and takes in some of the city’s famous literary haunts.

Guinness, Ireland
Bars and pubs, Breweries

Guinness Storehouse

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, the Guinness brand is still synonymous with Dublin. Pay a visit to the Guinness Storehouse (open seven days a week) to learn about the brand’s history, then finish off your tour with a pint of Guinness in the seventh floor Gravity Bar, which offers a great view over Dublin.

Dalkey Island
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/William Murphy

Dalkey Island

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, a local favourite.

Dublin Mountains
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/John Walsh

Join a guided walk in the Dublin mountains with a local park ranger

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, known locally as the pine forest. Lace up your boots, and get ready for scenery, history (courtesy of the great guides) and a bit of local conversation.

Abbey Theatre
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Dennis G.

Abbey Theatre

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 part of the city’s cultural fabric.

GAA Museum
Photograph: Courtesy CC/Flickr/Heather Cowper
Museums, Sport

GAA museum

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, there’s also a skyline tour on the rooftop of the stadium.

Teddy's Ice Cream
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Claire W.
Restaurants, Ice-cream parlours

Teddy’s ice-cream

A household name in south Dublin since the 1950s, Teddy’s has been serving ice cream in the coastal suburb of Dun Laoghaire for generations. Order a 99 (whipped ice cream with chocolate flakes in a cone) and join the crowds walking the pier. On weekends, stroll to the nearby People’s Park to enjoy the local food market.

Lighthouse cinema
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Joanna P.
Things to do

Lighthouse cinema

Settle into the comfy seats at the Lighthouse cinema in Dublin’s Smithfield and enjoy the show—and a craft beer. This arty cinema is a local favourite with an interesting range of films. 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 glamourous Stella, across the river in Rathmines, for a unique cinema trip complete with cocktails.

Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Clive B.
Bars and pubs, Cocktail bars


This intimate Dublin 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, 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.

Octopussy's Seafood Tapas
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Riley B.

Dine on fish & chips in Howth

Head north on the Dart, Dublin’s commuter train, to Howth, a bustling fishing village.  Along the pier are plenty of fish restaurants, including Beshoffs, Octopussy’s and Aqua. Or, opt for a takeaway and sit overlooking the harbour. If you feel energetic, follow the path to the summit of Howth head for amazing views along the cliff walk.

Delicious Dublin Tours
Photograph: Courtesy Viator
Things to do, Walks and tours

Delicious Dublin Tours

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.

Viking Splash Tour
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Txema M.
Things to do, Walks and tours

Viking Splash tour

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.

Forty Foot
Photograph: Courtesy Yelp/Melanie M.
Attractions, Beaches

Forty Foot

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
Attractions, Historic buildings and sites

Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle was built on the site of a Viking settlement in the thirteenth 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, and if time allows, pop into the nearby Queen of Tarts for some afternoon cake.

More to see in Dublin