From meeting real mummies to climbing aboard a replica of a ship that carried Irish immigrants to America
Guinness brewery? Check. St. Patrick’s Cathedral? Check. Local pub? Check check. When you’ve seen the main sights of Dublin, it’s time to delve deeper into the Irish capital. From the country’s oldest library to coming face to face with 650-year-old mummies in a crypt, make sure to hit these seven off-the-beaten-path experiences that have nothing to do with grabbing a pint.
1. Stroll in the Iveagh Gardens
You’ll probably pass St. Stephen’s Green during your visit to Dublin, but take a short stroll to find a more under-the-radar garden: the Iveagh Gardens. Designed in 1865 and hidden just behind the National Concert Hall, this garden offers a peaceful retreat from the buzz of the city. Stroll the paths and you’ll discover a cascade, a yew maze, rockeries, a rose garden, and fountains. Entrance is free, and you can go into the park through gates at the Concert Hall, Clonmel Street, or Hatch Street.
2. See St. Valentine’s remains
If you’re seeking some divine romantic inspiration, visit the remains of Saint Valentine at Whitefriar Street Church, run by the Carmelite Order. The remains of the Roman saint and a small vessel tinged with his blood were sent there in the 1800s and are in a small casket at an altar to the right-hand side of the church. Visitors can write their intentions for prayers in a book at the shrine. And if you need some extra spiritual help with your love life (or lack of it), the shrine of Saint Jude, said to be the patron saint of hopeless cases, is in a handy location right next door.
3. Walk the Great South Wall
Dublin city is positioned at the mouth of a large bay. One of the city’s best-kept secrets is the walk along the Great South Wall, which stretches out a few miles into the center of the bay. At the end, you’ll find the landmark Poolbeg Lighthouse, a popular spot for fishing. From here, you can see large ships and ferries arriving and departing from Dublin Port. Look northward for views of the peninsula of Howth or south to see the Dublin Mountains and Sandymount Strand and across to Dun Laoghaire Harbour.
4. View the mummies at St. Michan’s
If you’re feeling brave, sign up for a tour of the crypts of St. Michan’s Church, which dates back to 1685. When damaged coffins from the burial vaults accidentally opened during Victorian times, the bodies inside were found to have been mummified thanks to the dry conditions in the crypt. The mummies have been on view to visitors ever since. One of the oldest is the Crusader, whose body is 650 years old. There are also coffins belonging to former Earls of Leitrim and the Sheares brothers, who took part in the 1798 Rebellion.
5. Visit Marsh’s Library, the oldest in Ireland
Marsh’s Library was Ireland’s first public library when it opened in 1707 just beside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It also happens to be Ireland’s oldest library, period. The interior hasn’t changed much over the past 310 years, and book lovers will enjoy strolling along the galleries, soaking up the atmosphere and admiring the wooden shelves with old books, arranged in size order and covering subjects from law and politics to classical studies and travel atlases.
6. James Joyce Tower and Museum
This Martello Tower on Sandycove Point in south Dublin is best known for its appearance in the novel Ulysses. James Joyce stayed in the tower briefly in 1904, and he went on to set the opening chapter of the famous book in the tower. You can check out the artifacts in the small museum at the base, which include the author’s old guitar and his traveling trunk. The open top level has views across Dublin Bay and overlooks the famous Forty Foot swimming spot.
7. Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum
If you’re looking down the River Liffey and admiring the tall ship tied up on the north quays, you might be surprised to hear that you can step aboard—it’s actually a museum. The Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum tells the story of Irish emigration and those who crossed the Atlantic Ocean for a new life during the Great Famine. Although the ship is a replica, all of the rigging is in full working order, and this ship has also crossed the Atlantic. Below deck, the quarters show what life was like during the grueling journey in famine times. To learn more about Irish emigration, stroll over to the nearby Epic Irish Emigration Museum at CHQ, which describes how Irish emigrants shaped the world in everything from the arts and science to politics and sport.