The Best Things to Do in Dublin

Its pubs are the stuff of legends—with traditional music, frothy pints of Guinness, stained glass, and taxidermy—but there’s plenty to do in Dublin before that first pint. Fascinating museums, big and small, lush parks, and historical sites add to Dublin’s deep charms.

CHQ, Custom House Quay, North Dock, Dublin, D01 T6K4, Ireland
The island of Ireland has a history of emigration—a million people emigrated during famine times, and today on the U.S. census, 40 million people claim Irish roots; worldwide, the figure is around 70 million. EPIC is the world’s first digital museum where, through a series of interactive exhibits, you learn the stories of the Irish around the world, and learn about their input and influence on everything from art, culture and music to sports, science, and even politics (22 U.S. presidents have claimed Irish roots). The museum is self-guided so you can spend as much time as you like in each section. A separate genealogy service at the end helps those tracing their Irish roots. The museum’s setting in the vaults of Dublin’s old dockside warehouse at CHQ adds to the experience.
College Green, Dublin 2, Co. Dublin, Ireland
Pass through the iconic arched doorway at College Green and enter the elegant quads, handsome architecture and verdant lawns of Trinity College, one of Ireland‘s most prestigious universities. Among its many attributes is the atmospheric 18th-century Old Library, whose most precious tome is the 1,200-year-old Book of Kells, a priceless illuminated manuscript. Also worth a visit are the college’s Douglas Hyde Gallery, devoted to contemporary art, and the thought-provoking Science Gallery.
St Stephen's Green, Dublin 2, Ireland
St Stephen’s Green is a welcome spot of calm and green set in a Georgian square in the centre of Dublin. At around 20 acres, it’s large enough to feel you have escaped the bustle, but not so large that you can’t easily return to the fray once you are ready. There are formal manicured lawns and gardens in the middle, a large lake to the north - good for swan-watching - a bandstand and play area, and plenty of benches and other picnic spots. St Stephen’s is probably not the sort of place you’d deliberately set out to visit, but chances are good you’ll end up there anyway: it’s just off Grafton Street (one of the main shopping streets), and near other attractions dotted around what is known as Georgian Dublin, such as Merrion Square and Leinster House (the seat of Irish parliament).
47-48, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, D02 N725, Ireland
Arriving in Dublin on the morning of St. Patrick’s Day is like experiencing the calm before the storm. The cobblestone streets of Temple Bar are quiet and nearly empty, and bicyclists can cycle through the narrow streets with ease. This is the time to have breakfast while devising a plan: Do you want to find a place near the parade route? Should you claim a table at a pub? We filled up on eggs and coffee at Elephant and Castle in Temple Bar, and then saw the end of the parade. By noon, streets were clogged with people from all over the world -- singing in the streets, painting shamrocks on strangers’ faces -- and pubs rang out with traditional Irish songs. Don’t be shy if you don’t know the lyrics, since there’s a good chance you’ll hear the songs again. Have a Guinness (or two) and join in!
The Liberties, Dublin 8, Ireland
Arthur Guinness, the forefather of the world-renowned family, founded the brewery on this inner city spot in 1759. It’s the city’s most visited tourist attraction, telling both the history and processes that have gone into making Ireland‘s most famous export. At the end of the tour, visitors are treated to a pint of the famed black stuff at the top-floor Gravity Bar with its panoramic views of the city’s skyline.
15 St Stephen's Green, Dublin, Ireland
If big museums aren’t your thing, but you’d like to get a flavor of the story of Dublin, drop into the Little Museum on St. Stephen’s Green, which is full of quirky memorabilia from times past in the city, all donated by the public. There are guided tours on the hour, and each tour reveals some of the city’s secrets, with letters from famous literary characters like James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, signed U2 albums, and all sorts of things on display—from badges and newspapers to old signs and even bullets—all of which have a story to tell. Set in a Georgian townhouse, with views out over the green and the excellent Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen in the basement for post-tour grub, this little space offers a lot to love.
Custom House Quay, North Dock, Dublin 1, D01 V9X5, Ireland
When in Dublin city center, it’s hard to miss the Jeanie Johnston tall ship tied to a quay on the River Liffey. The ship you see is actually a replica of a ship that transported emigrants to Canada during the Great Famine, taking a total of 2,500 people over the Atlantic between the years 1848 to 1855, a period when a million people left Ireland and another million died of starvation. A guided tour above and below decks on the ship tells stories of the ship and some of those who traveled on her, enduring harsh conditions during voyages which could take up to six weeks.
Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Military Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Co. Dublin, Ireland
The Irish Museum of Modern Art is located in Kilmainham, just a short trip out of Dublin’s City Center on the Luas. Housed in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham, the building and its grounds are vast. The grounds are littered with contemporary public sculpture from Lawrence Weiner to Richard Long, and an equally impressive (though still relatively small) collection from Abramović to Gillick. While much of the building remains under construction the museum is a must for any art enthusiasts visiting Dublin!
Kildare St, Dublin 2, Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland is free to enter and is spread across four sites in Dublin, covering archaeology, decorative arts and history, country life, and natural history. The archaeology museum is in an imposing building of columns, vaulted ceilings, and marble staircases situated on Kildare Street. It traces Ireland’s history from prehistoric times through the Roman, Viking, and medieval periods. The exhibitions are well set out and clearly labelled. The section on Ireland’s prehistoric gold, including exquisitely-wrought jewellery from the bronze and iron ages, is particularly interesting. But the most mind-blowing exhibition is called Kingship and Sacrifice, and displays findings related to the ritual killing of presumed royals during the iron age. As part of what are thought to be sovereignty and kingship rituals, people were sacrificed - sometimes brutally - and their bodies tossed into peat bogs (which often marked the boundaries between kingdoms). The anaerobic conditions of the bogs preserved the bodies, some of which are on display. Even after thousands of years you can still make out facial expressions, and in one case, hair! The museum also hosts important religious icons and relics from medieval Christianity, for example the twelfth century Cross of Cong - said once to have contained a fragment of the true cross. If you are at all interested in ancient history, set aside a good couple of hours and explore the museum thoroughly. It’s well worth it!
88-95 Grafton Street, Dublin 2, D02 VF65, Ireland
Browse envy-inducing international brands from Céline to Christian Louboutin at Dublin’s swankiest department store. It is from the same stable as Selfridges in London and has beauty products, accessories, clothing, housewares, food and two cafés crammed into its five floors.
Dublin Castle, Dublin 2, Ireland
Anyone with an interest in the written word should visit this gallery set on the grounds of Dublin Castle. The library contains one of Europe’s most important collections of manuscripts, assembled by a keen-eyed collector during the 20th century. With a truly global reach, some pieces date from as far back as 2,700 B.C.E. and there are also noteworthy Islamic and Asian exhibits.
4-46 Kildare Street
Explore Ireland’s rich archaeological legacy, starting with the Megalithic period and moving through the Viking and Medieval eras, with eye-catching artifacts like the Tara Brooch, Cross of Cong, Ardagh Chalice and a glistening collection of prehistoric gold. The museum has two other locations in the city: one dedicated to decorative arts and history at Collins Barracks on the banks of the River Liffey and the wonderfully Victorian Natural History Museum on Upper Merrion Street.
27-31 Nassau Street
Originally opened to promote Irish design around the world, the Kilkenny Design Shop continues to champion traditionally inspired goods. Expect to find glass, knitwear, blankets, pottery, jewelry and clothing from Irish designers.
41 Drury St, Dublin 2, Ireland
One of a number of new boutiques popping up across the city that celebrate the resurgence of Ireland’s rich design heritage. Come here for stylish souvenirs from a new generation of artisans who are reinterpreting old techniques, and choose from a range of mediums including textiles, print, glass and wood.
4 Main Street, Howth Apt, Howth, Dublin, Co. Dublin, D13 H2Y0, Ireland
What a safe and easy way to escape the city! From Dublin’s Connelly Street, you can be there in 20 minutes using the DART. It’s quick, easy and safe. I decided to venture out to this fishing village and I was not disappointed! Great down time, stunning views (great change from looking at all the city buildings) friendly folks and out of this world dining!!! Seafood is definitely the order of the day but I can’t guarantee that it was caught from off the nearby pier!
UCD Newman House, 86 St Stephen's Green, Saint Kevin's, Dublin, 2, Ireland
Wander through the historic rooms of Newman House on Dublin’s St. Stephen’s Green to explore the art of Irish literature through a series of thoughtful exhibitions in the Museum of Literature Ireland, or MoLI. The first gallery covers the founding of University College Dublin in 1854, and then leads on to an exhibit with quotes from the Irish writers. Much of the MoLI is dedicated to James Joyce, with a model of Joyce’s Dublin and the first-ever copy of Ulysses on display in a glass case. Different galleries display old fashioned desks and typewriters as well as interactive digital and audio displays, reading areas, and a film. A writers’ room is furnished with tables, paper, and pen, as well as advice from Irish writers, so you can start your own piece. Make sure to browse the bookshop on the way out for all types of literary-themed gifts including notebooks and jewelry, and grab a coffee on the terrace of the Commons cafe.
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