Best Things to Do in Dublin

Experience Art, History and Scenery While Walking the Streets of Dublin

This list seeks to represent the best of both the historic nature of Dublin's streets, the scenery and the greenery that makes Ireland so enticing and the museums and attractions that seek to keep every traveller interested and occupied.

A huge benefit of the city is how close in proximity everything is, meaning that you can take in many sights in a single day without it being overly strenuous. Take a morning in Trinity College and see the Book of Kells before a quick five minute stroll up to the National Gallery for a mid-morning coffee. Even the furthest attractions are reachable within half an hour whether it be by bus or rail and this allows you to pack much more in than in many other cities.

Dublin has a rich cultural and architectural history and whether you seek to experience this in conventional museums or spots such as Christchurch or the Garden of Remembrance you can also try your hand at pouring a pint in the Guinness Brewery or pouring over artefacts of the 20th Century in The Little Museum of Dublin.

Finally, Dublin has a wealth of gorgeous, leafy parks that are a perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of the main shopping district. Drop into Stephen's Green or the Iveagh Gardens and maybe you'll even get to see a free show or participate in a cultural event you might not have known about.


Northside coastal areas
Photo courtesy of finbarzapek/SeanC

One of the beauties of Dublin is that a quick train journey from the city centre using the city's commuter rail service will take you to a seaside suburb that feels totally removed from the urban sprawl. Take the DART north to Howth, a seaside-fishing village with great seafood restaurants and lovely scenery. Take a walk up Howth Head -a popular walkers spot- and get an incredible view of Dublin Bay and the city. If you're driving then venture up to the top of the peninsula before returning to the city along the coastline, but don't worry if you've opted for mass transit, as the view is just as nice.

Local Expert tip: Wright's of Howth contains plenty of delicious treats and snacks.

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The Guinness Storehouse is somewhat of a stalwart of the Dublin tourism scene, and despite it being one of the more expensive options on offer it does really provide a well-rounded tour and experience for your money. Taking you through the brewing process of this world famous emblem of Ireland, you get to experience not only how Guinness is made but also how it's been portrayed in the media over the years. The Storehouse building itself is impressive but it's the Gravity Bar, with its 360 view of the city, that is the real highlight. Enjoy the scenery with the pint of Guinness you've just learnt how to expertly pour, perfect.

Local Expert tip: Spend as much time as possible in the Gravity Bar - it's the best view in Dublin.

Read more about Guinness Brewery / Guinness Hop Store →

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Dublin Castle

Having undergone many a rebuilding since it's original erection in the 13th century, Dublin Castle has served as a military fortress, a prison, courts of law and the seat of the English administration during its 700 years at the top of Dame Street. Now used for State reception and Presidential inaugurations as well as one of Dublin's most frequented attractions. Easily accessible by bus and a nice ten-minute walk from Trinity College along Dame Street when the sun is shining, the Castle is good value and comes with a guided tour. Naturally, much like many of these other attractions the Castle also doubles as a venue for art and culture exhibitions, particularly during the summer months.

Local Expert tip: Pop into Christchurch while visiting Dublin Castle to be more culture efficient.

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While it takes a little bit more of a pilgrimage to get to the Irish Museum of Modern Art it is more than worth the journey. Located in the 17th century Royal Hospital Building both the building and the grounds are styled like that of Les Invalides in Paris and provide a stately backdrop to the contemporary installations within. IMMA boasts over 400,000 visitors a year and a mixture of both permanent exhibitions and temporary collections from many prominent contemporary artists. Admission is free and the public transport links are more than adequate but if it seems like too far to go there is a new wing of IMMA opening in the National Concert Hall on Earlsfort Terrace that looks set to house some of its most exciting work.

Local Expert tip: Don't forget to check out their website to see which exhibitions are running.

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The Iveagh Gardens
Photo courtesy of infomatique

The Iveagh Gardens are somewhat of a hidden gem of the city centre. Hidden away off Clonmel Street, just a stone's throw from Stephen's Green, Iveagh Gardens is an oasis with scultures, sunken lawns, rockeries, a rosarium, a hedge maze and a waterfall to match. Originally designed by Ninian Niven in 1865 as an amalgamation of the 'French formal' and 'English landscape' designs it offers a beautiful and scenic rest stop for the busy tourist. Restored in 1995 to much of its original glory, the Gardens are now commonly used as a venue for both the Taste of Dublin and the Dublin Theatre Festival and some intimate concerts.

Local Expert tip: Choose this park as a tranquil alternative to St. Stephen's Green

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St. Stephen's Green

If the weather is good Stephen's Green is a truly lovely park to while away an hour or two perusing. It is Ireland's best-known public park and was reopened to the public in 1880 by Lord Ardilaun. Maintained in the original Victorian style the park boasts over 3.5km of pathways along with impressive foliage, shrubbery and sculptures. The Green also plays host to many concerts and outdoor cultural events during the summer months and guided tours are available on request. This is the perfect respite from the hustle and bustle of Grafton Street and you'll be sure to find the people of Dublin enjoying and ice cream or stretched out reading a book on the spacious lawns.

Local Expert tip: Get a hot chocolate in Butler's Chocolate Café at the top of Grafton Street before traipsing these paths.

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The Little Museum of Dublin is the newest addition to the museum scene, opening its doors in October 2011. Occupying a Georgian townhouse and dedicating itself to remembering the 20th century, the Little Museum has over 400 artefacts that have been generously donated by many Dubliners to give a well-rounded reflection of Dublin's progress over the last century. The collection contains art, photography, advertising, letters and ephemera that give a fabulous insight into the city and its people. It also plays host to lectures and debates from many interesting speakers and at only €5 entrance fee for adults it hardly breaks the bank either.

Local Expert tip: Be sure to pick up the viewmaster filled with scenes of Dublin of yesteryear.

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Exit Trinity at the Lincoln Place gate and walk straight towards the National Gallery of Ireland on Nassau St. This is one of the best ways to spend an inclement afternoon in Dublin, exploring the many wings of art and sculpture that the National Gallery has on offer for free. Take a free audio guide from the information desk or take a free tour to properly immerse yourself in the European and Irish masterpieces, you'll soon find that many hours have passed along with the bad weather. Be sure to make use of the free family packs that provide your kids with paper, pencils and activity sheets to keep the young ones as enthralled as you are.

Local Expert tip: This is a great family activity if the weather is bad.

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The Book of Kells
Photo courtesy of barryleiba

The Book of Kells and the Old Library in Trinity are usually the tourist's first port of call. The Book, dating back to 800 AD travelled from Iona, off the coast of Scotland, to Kells in Meath and features the four Gospels in Latin along with lavish and intricate illustrations. You can then head into the resplendent Long Room, the library holding all of Trinity's oldest books. The Long Room is a pretty amazing spectacle to behold and includes marble busts of many of the university's scholars. The oldest harp in Ireland, which is now represented on the back of our coins, is also on display in the Long Room and is legendarily attributed to Brian Boru, high king of Ireland.

Local Expert tip: Arriving half an hour before closing means half price admission.

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Trinity College

No trip to Dublin is complete without looking around one of its oldest structures. Founded in 1592, Trinity was built during the 16th and 17th centuries and includes Jonathan Swift and Wolfe Tone in its alumni. It's well worth taking a stroll around Front Square, dropping into The Buttery for a snack. Indeed some of the college's older dining rooms are available to reserve for small or large parties and ensure a truly authentic experience. Stroll along the cricket green and maybe join the students in The Pavilion for a pint. Both the Old Library and The Book of Kells are housed on the grounds but if you're looking for some cost effective sight seeing then just taking a walk around the grounds will give you plenty to look at and admire.

Local Expert tip: Head to Trinity's Science Gallery, it's free in and offers exciting and innovative exhibitions.

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