The city of Dublin Ireland is known for its charming streets, colorful doorways, live music and historic architecture. Here are some of the best things to do in Dublin on your visit!
Dublin may be one of Europe’s smaller capital cities, but it has been known to steal the heart of every visitor, with something for everyone.
Ireland’s capital is famous for stunning cathedrals, haunted places, pubs with live music, historical museums, and hidden attractions.
There are many quirky, unique, unusual, and secret spots to discover in Dublin!
I traveled there with my family during our Irish genealogy trip, tracking down the old home of my Irish grandmother. We had a fantastic time!
Because most travelers visiting Ireland spend some time in the capital, I wanted to recommend a few fun and unusual things to do in Dublin, no matter what time of year you visit.
Dublin Highlights Map
How To Use This Map
Above you’ll find a map of highlights in Dublin. Click on the top left of the map to find separate layers marking a route or points of interest. You can hide and show different layers, or click icons on the map to see the names of places I mention in this travel guide. “Star” the map to save it to your own Google Maps, or open the map in a new window for a larger version. Enjoy!
Best Things To Do In Dublin For 2020
1. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Founded in 1191, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest church in Ireland, and the National Cathedral. It has been said this is where St. Patrick himself baptized Christian converts over 1500 years ago.
Unusually, St. Patrick’s isn’t the only Cathedral in Dublin. It’s a “two-cathedral” city, sharing the title with Christ Church Cathedral nearby.
Visitors can go inside and enjoy the impressive church interior between 9am and 5pm daily.
The writer Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was once Dean of the cathedral. He’s buried there too. On a sunny day, you’ll find tourists and locals alike enjoying the cathedral grounds soaking up the history.
2. Fish n’ Chips At Leo Burdocks
You can’t leave Dublin without trying a traditional Fish n’ Chips! But one place stands out from all the rest. Leo Burdocks Fish n’ Chips is so good in fact that they even have a ‘Wall of Fame’ outside showcasing visits from celebrities and politicians from around the world.
The original Burdocks has been around since 1913. They were serving up piping hot food during both World Wars and the 1916 Rising, when Ireland gained its independence from Britain.
The shop itself can only hold about 3 people, so grab your grub and head down to St. Patrick’s Cathedral nearby. Ask for the ‘crispy bits’ with your chips… you can thank me later!
3. Read At Trinity College Library
Created in 1592, Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university, hosting students such as author Bram Stoker, poet Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels.
The building has also been home to the ancient Book Of Kells since 1661. The Book of Kells Exhibition in Trinity College is a must-see in Dublin, but where it leads you to is the real treat…
The Old Library houses 200,000 ancient books in beautiful oak bookcases, which is why J.K. Rowling used it as inspiration for Hogwarts in Harry Potter! The library is one of the most popular Instagram spots in Dublin too.
4. Have An Irish Breakfast
They say drinking a pint of Guinness is akin to eating a meal… so why not start your day with a drink? It’s what 100 year old Gladys Fielden has been doing for the past 70 years, and she’s still going strong!
There is an old motto that says “Eat breakfast like a King, lunch like a prince and dine like a pauper” which basically means you should start your day with a large breakfast. The Irish take this to heart.
A traditional Irish breakfast consists of cooked meat (bacon, sausages and black/white puddings), eggs, tomatoes, mushrooms, and potato all fried in butter with brown bread.
It was used to prepare you for a full day’s work on the farm on a cold winter morning.
5. Christ Church Cathedral
As you climb the spiraling staircase of Christ Church Cathedral, take a moment to imagine what life was like back in 1030, when Dublin’s oldest building first opened its doors.
Imagine the historic events this building has witnessed and the ancient artifacts it has collected along the way.
Christ Church is a highlight of Dublin due to its stunning architecture, its 12th-century crypt and of course the sound of the bells which have rung out over the city’s medieval center for hundreds of years.
Thanks to their guided tours, you can now explore the narrow corridors of the Cathedral and ring the bell for yourself, or see their exhibition of original 16th-century costumes.
6. Trace Ancestors At Glasnevin Cemetery
Built in 1832, Dublin’s Glasnevin Cemetery is surrounded by seven watchtowers which were home to armed guards. Ireland’s most famous cemetery was a key target for bodysnatchers!
It was also the final resting place for many historical figures like Michael Colins, a soldier and politician who played a key role in the struggle for Irish independence, Brendan Behan, Irish poet, novelist, and playwright who was imprisoned for IRA activity and Luke Kelly, vocalist in one of Ireland’s greatest bands, The Dubliners.
Nowadays, Glasnevin Cemetery Museum has vowed to tell the stories of over 1.5 million people, the people who helped to shape the Ireland of today. They also have the best tools for your family’s Irish genealogy search.
7. Walk Across Ha’Penny Bridge
Every visitor to Dublin should walk across the Ha’Penny bridge at least once. It’s one of the top things to do here. This historic bridge over the River Liffey was built back in 1816, to replace the many ferries that shuttled people back and forth.
It was named for the “half-penny” toll that was required to cross it.
For an even more unique & unusual experience, you can kayak under the bridge with City Kayaking. They run tours all year, and if you’re lucky, you might catch one of Dublin’s famous autumn sunsets.
If you’re REALLY lucky, you can be there for the ‘Music Under the Bridge’ tours when they call in some of the best musicians in Dublin to perform under the bridges as people kayak down the River Liffey through the city.
8. Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol Prison is just 3.5km away from Dublin’s city center, an unusual Dublin attraction that offers guided tours. Get a timed ticket early so you know when your tour starts to avoid the waiting intervals between tours.
An hour’s tour of the old prison takes you through the yard, the prison, and also gives you an in-depth look at the history of the prison through a media show at the Old Chapel. It might be unsettling as you discover the many revolutionaries and other prisoners were executed here.
As you go through the impeccably restored building, you will see the living conditions for the women, men and children incarcerated until 1924. The prison’s East Wing is one of the prominent settings in the movie Shawshank Redemption.
9. Listen To Buskers On Grafton Street
You never know what you are going to find on Grafton Street, but you are guaranteed a great show! From traditional Irish music, to rock and pop, this free entertainment is the perfect soundtrack to your Irish trip.
Make sure to take a snap while you’re there because you could be listening to a future star. Recently, 12 year old Irish busker Allie Sherlock was flown to Hollywood by Ellen DeGeneres and is said to be the next Taylor Swift!
Grafton Street has also been known to bring out the busker in everyone, including people like Bono, Hozier, The Script, Damien Rice and Glen Hansard to name a few.
10. Oscar Wilde Statue
The Oscar Wilde Statue sits at a corner of Merrion Square Park, just opposite where this famous Irish poet and playwright lived for some years. It consists of a statue and two pillars; a statue of Oscar Wilde, his wife Constance Lloyd and a statue of Dionysus.
Each detail shows the attention to detail given to the entire sculpting process. For instance, the statue of Oscar Wilde reclines on a rock hewn from Wicklow Mountains. To add personality and color, the sculptor used a variety of colored stones.
11. The Howth Cliff Walk
If you’re a nature lover who wants to enjoy a day outside of Dublin city center, the coastal town of Howth should be first on your list.
Here you’ll find some of the best seafood in Dublin, weekend markets for the perfect souvenir and coastal hikes with unimaginable views over the Irish sea. It’s easy to reach by bus, or if you decided to rent a car in Ireland.
On a clear day you will get a panorama view of Dublin Bay and Howth Harbor during this 2 hour trail.
The good news is the Howth Cliff walk is suitable for all fitness levels, but keep in mind that it is dangerous to walk in rough weather conditions, so it may be best to stay cozy in one of the many hidden pubs and restaurants nearby.
12. St. Michan Church Mummies
St. Michan’s Church isn’t an old fashioned chapel where you explore pews and beautiful murals. Instead, expect a crypt tour of 17th to 19th Century vaults full of mummified people.
Tombstones dot the lush churchyard. A narrow, eerie stairway leads you to the undercroft where you find five vaults.
Noteworthy mummies are the rebellious 1798 Sheares brothers who were executed, a nun’s mummy and a strange one-handed mummy. You’ll also see the Crusader, an 800-year-old mummy that is over six feet tall!
Despite hundreds of years in the vaults, it seems the actual enemy of this hidden attraction is the living, not decay. A few cases of vandalism have rocked headlines over the years.
13. DoDublin Bus Tour
With authors and poets such as James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W.B Yeats and Samuel Beckett, it’s clear to see that Ireland is home to some of the greatest storytellers in the world.
Normally I’m not a fan of bus tours, but the DoDublin Bus guides truly have the ‘gift of the gab’.
They take great pride in presenting the best of Dublin City and throw in plenty of historical and cultural references by famous poets/writers.
Be prepared for the Irish sense of humor though, you can expect a lot of playful sarcasm and plenty of songs from Dublin City – it’s like a history lesson, comedy show and karaoke sing-along mixed into one!
14. See Wild Deer In Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park – Europe’s largest walled urban park is a national treasure for the people of Ireland. Opening over 350 years ago, the park spans 7 square kilometers and can be found just a stones throw away from the city center.
Not only is it home to Dublin Zoo, but it is also known for its wild herd of deer, which can be found roaming through the forests (and crossing the road when you least expect it!).
The deer were introduced back in 1662, when the park itself was set up as a royal deer hunting park, but nowadays the 450 member herd are free to run wild.
Phoenix Park is the perfect place for an afternoon picnic, but do keep your eyes peeled, because the deer have been known to join in!
15. Oratory Of The Sacred Heart
Art lovers have another place to marvel at just outside the city of Dublin by exploring this small chapel in Dun Laoghaire. It took Sister Concepta Lynch took 16 years to complete a stunning mural across the interior of the oratory.
This small church was built to commemorate the end of the First World War. Upon installation of the Sacred Heart statue, Sister Concepta, a nun, started brightening up the wall behind the statue using a distinct painting style. It’s very impressive!
16. Trad Sessions At The Hairy Lemon
Traditional Irish music, or trad, is one reason many people visit Ireland. And The Hairy Lemon Pub is certainly unconventional… you never know what you’ll find in this aptly-named green and yellow 19th-century house.
One thing is for sure, The Hairy Lemon does the best Trad Sessions in Dublin! If you have never been to an Irish Trad Session, prepare yourself for an unusual experience, it can get pretty wild especially when the Guinness is flowing.
You can grab a seat, but you won’t be sitting for long — Irish dancing on the tables in no time. The Hairy Lemon is also known for their traditional Irish food like Dublin Coddle, Cottage Pie and Irish Stew.
17. Watch A Hurling Match
You may have never heard of Hurling before, but I can guarantee the moment you sit down to watch this ancient Gaelic and Irish sport, you’ll instantly become a fan.
And where better to watch, than in Croke Park (‘Croker’ as the Irish say). Hurling has been played in Ireland for well over 3000 years and is said to be ‘the fastest game on grass’.
It involves a wooden stick called a hurley and a small hard ball called a sliotar, and players must wear helmets at all times – this is high speed, high impact and high adrenaline for everyone watching!
18. The Hungry Tree At King’s Inns
The Hungry Tree is just one of many bizarre, mystical things to do in Ireland. The 69-foot tree at King’s Inns seems to be in the middle of lunch, munching on a tasty iron bench. Its “upper lip” sits on the top of the bench’s backrest about to eat it completely.
This 80-year-old tree is a plane, a popular species in this city in the 19th Century. The scenic, lush grounds are excellent for a leisurely stroll, and you can then visit the Hungry Tree to just stare at it. Just be careful that it doesn’t eat you too!
19. Taste Some Irish Whiskey
Guinness isn’t the only alcohol Ireland is famous for. Ireland has been making whiskey for well over two hundred years, so it doesn’t get much richer than this when it comes to taste and history.
The most famous whiskey tour in Dublin is the former Jameson Distillery on Bow Street, but it’s really just a museum now, no longer a working distillery. Instead, I’d recommend stopping by the fully functional Teeling Distillery to see an actual distillery in action.
Prepare yourself for a sensory overload, because after the tour you’re invited to try out their premium whiskey tasting experience, where you will learn the tricks of the trade, how to blend your own whiskey or master the craft of whiskey cocktail making.
20. Lucy’s Lounge Vintage Store
The pink Lucy’s Lounge building stands out among other shops, restaurants and bars on Frownses Street in Temple Bar. It is clear from the exterior that you will not have an ordinary shopping experience but one with a lot to learn.
The store signs explain you have a vintage store to explore and a wonderland in the basement. Sample a collection of colorful clothes, accessories and gift items.
The furnishing and décor is anything but the usual décor you see in a boutique. From handsaws to hand-painted Barbies, the store owner has brought up the quirky theme perfectly. You might spend more time looking at the furnishings than actually shopping for souvenirs.
21. Visit The Hellfire Club
With beautiful forest trails and an incredible view over Dublin, the Hellfire Club might seem like a peaceful escape from the city at first, but once you make it to the lodge at the top of the hill you will start to realize that there is much more than meets-the-eye.
If you’re not a fan of ghost stories, you might want to stay away as this infamous location is riddled with supernatural tales that will send shivers up your spine!
At the top of the hill you’ll find the haunted remains of the unusual Irish Hellfire Club, where the members were believed to be Satanists and Devil-worshipers — inviting the Devil to join them for dinner each night.
22. Samuel Becket Bridge
If you love iconic architecture, you’ll love the Samuel Becket Bridge design. Built in 2009, Santiago Clatrava, the architect, brought out the shape of the Irish harp with cable suspension forming strings from one edge of River Liffey the other.
With its white color, you can see right over the bridge to the other side of the river. This bridge serves both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, and you can see it as you head from the airport.
Take a walk over the bridge to enjoy a meal or a drink on the other side of the river.
23. Little Museum Of Dublin
In between historical and mythical tours, you could spare some time to learn a thing or two about the city’s history in the last century from the Little Museum Of Dublin. Enjoy a guided tour of the three floors of this community museum for a look at life in Dublin in the 20th Century. The museum houses more than 5,000 exhibits.
Outstanding exhibits are The 1916 Rising and John F. Kennedy’s tour of the city. There’s a tour every hour, and it is open every day of the week. You could spend about one or two hours exploring the historical events of Dublin. It even has a room to showcase local rock legends like Bono.
Some more museums in Dublin worth visiting include:
- National Gallery Of Ireland
- Irish Museum Of Modern Art
- National Museum Of Ireland
- Irish Emigration Museum
24. Sweny’s Pharmacy
Get ready for an exceptional journey through Irish literary history. Sweny’s Pharmacy is one of the attractions that take you into the fictional life of one of the world’s feted books, Ulysses.
In 1847, this quaint but refurbished pharmacy was a general practitioner’s office. Six years later, the office turned into a pharmacy. Now, volunteers keep the place running as a historical attraction, with medicines, prescriptions and photographs arranged neatly in glass cabinets.
There are dozens of second-hand books if you care to read, and lemon-scented soap on the mahogany counter so you can relive the moments Leopold Bloom spent waiting for Frederick William Sweny to serve him.
25. Wander Down To Temple Bar
The Temple Bar area is a maze of narrow streets full of pubs and live music. Located on the south side of the River Liffey, it’s one of the oldest areas in Dublin and home to some of the most famous bars in Ireland.
It’s a must see if you want to experience Dublin’s nightlife (however these days it’s mostly tourists). But there’s plenty to do in the daytime too.
Medieval architecture, food markets every Saturday afternoon, Europe’s oldest built theatre — it’s no wonder it’s renowned for being the cultural quarter of Dublin. Take a stroll down the cobbled streets and explore its galleries, vintage clothing shops, record stores and more.
26. Picnic At St. Stephen’s Green
Saint Stephen’s Green Park is a little piece of paradise in the centre of Dublin and the perfect place to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. If you’re bringing a picnic to enjoy by the pond, make sure to bring an extra slice of bread for the park residents – the ducks!
Over the past 4 centuries, Stephen’s Green has played a key role in Dublin’s history. When you wander through the peaceful surroundings, it’s hard to imagine that this site was once a battleground during the 1916 rigroundskeeperen in the height of battle, James Kearney, the park grounds keeper convinced both sides to stop fighting for one hour a day… so he could feed the ducks of course!
27. Tour Historic Dublin Castle
Built in the early 13th century, Dublin Castle sits on the site of a Viking settlement. Excavations have uncovered parts of a medieval castle with the remains of the Viking’s original defenses.
The stone covered embankment, the medieval curtain wall and the steps that led down to the original moat have all been preserved for you to see on your next visit to this historical masterpiece.
The history of Dublin Castle doesn’t stop there. Before the 1916 rising, it served as headquarters for the British administration in Ireland. In 1922, following Ireland’s independence, Dublin Castle was handed over to the new Irish government, opened up for visitors to experience it themselves.
28. National Leprechaun Museum
Visit Dublin’s Jervis Street to explore Ireland through its folklore at the National Leprechaun Museum. Shows start from mid-morning to six O’clock.
As the museum’s marketing brochure suggests, night shows, through the weekend, are for the fearless, the ones who don’t experience nightmares after a tour of the twisted folklore of Ireland.
The experience starts when you step into the first room with large furniture depicting you are now as small as a leprechaun. As you take the imaginary trip into the world of leprechauns, the guide takes you through various rooms while narrating Irish myths.
Each room has a different artistic setting of the Irish folklore world. Various cinematic effects, such as illusions, turn the museum into a mystical trail.
29. Beef Stew At The Church
This might just be the best thing you ever eat, especially on a cold winter’s day in Dublin. Chances are you’ll see Guinness Beef Stew on menus across the city, but the best spot to enjoy it is The Church.
Built at the beginning of the 18th century, The Church (which was an actual church) boasts many outstanding features, like an authentic Renatus Harris organ, spectacularly stained glass windows, and has hosted some incredible historic events.
Arthur Guinness, founder of The Guinness Brewery (another great stop in Dublin) married here in 1761. Sean O’Casey – Playwright & Author of “The Plough & The Stars” – was baptized here in 1880.
Jonathan Swift – author of “Gulliver’s Travels” and Dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral attended services here too.
30. What NOT To Do In Dublin…
- Never tell an Irish person that YOU are also Irish. Maybe your great, great, great, grandmother was, but YOU are American/British/South African.
- Try avoiding a selfie with the statue of Molly Malone. This is probably the most touristy thing you can do in Dublin…
- Stay away from Sheriff Street. Despite the name, it’s one of the most dangerous parts of the city. The rest of Dublin isn’t too bad!
- Never call an Irishman (or Irish woman) British. In fact, try not to mention the UK at all. The Irish are fiercely independent.
- Don’t expect to drink all night. Most pubs in Dublin actually close at 11:30pm on weeknights and 1am on weekends.
Transportation In Dublin
Discover Cars searches all the big car rental companies and finds the best price. This is probably the easiest way to rent a car in Ireland.
Dublin Bus will take you anywhere in the city as well as beautiful coastal towns and villages on the outskirts of the city. Most bus stops have digital timetables that will tell you exactly when your next bus is due to arrive, but don’t forget that they only accept coins!
The DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) is one of the best options for a day trip outside the city centre. This train ride will bring you on a scenic journey to some of Dublin’s most popular suburban towns, including Malahide, Howth, Blackrock, Dún Laoghaire and Dalkey.
The Luas (Dublin’s light-rail transit service) is a fast and frequent tram system crossing the city on two lines. Tickets for Luas (the Irish word for ‘speed’) must be purchased at the station vending machines.
With several taxi ranks situated throughout the city, you’ll never find it difficult to catch a ride. You can also download the Lynk App or MyTaxi App to call a taxi any time of day. Taxi drivers here are the unofficial tour guides of Dublin, and you’ll often have an entertaining journey.
If you want to explore the city and get some exercise, pick up a 3 day Dublin Bikes card. This allows you to easily take a bike from any stations around the city. The ticket is €5 and gives you unlimited 30 minute bike trips.
Where To Stay In Dublin
Accommodation in Dublin is expensive. There’s just no way around it. Dublin is a small city, so hotels within the city center can charge a premium. Here are some suggestions for good places to stay during your trip to Dublin…
Best Accommodation In Dublin
Dublin Travel Tips & Advice
- Pick up a Leap Card for 1, 3 or 7 days. The Leap Card is a convenient way to pay for all public transport services in Dublin and fares are up to 31% cheaper than individual tickets!
- The best time to visit Dublin is during the summer months (May to August), with warmer temperatures and tons of festivals. Another good time is March, when the city prepares for Saint Patrick’s Day.
- Speaking of festivals, some of the best are Electric Picnic, Oktoberfest, Fringe Festival, and Dublin at Christmas. There’s even a Bram Stoker Festival for you vampire fans!
- Dublin International Airport is about 6 miles away from the city center. The easiest way to get into the city is the Airlink Bus (also known as Route 747). They depart every 15-20 minutes, and cost €6 one way.
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I hope you enjoyed my guide on what to do in Dublin! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
Any questions about things to do in Dublin? Do you have other suggestions? Drop me a message in the comments below!