Things to do in Dublin, Ireland
Ah, Dublin. How can I possibly express my love for this city in a brief manner? The answer: I can't. Which is why it's time to buckle up and be prepared to read a very comprehensive list of all kinds of activities to do during your stay in Dublin. Whether you're going for a weekend or six months, it will be difficult to get bored with this list in hand.
With such an extensive list of activities, you'll need nourishment to give you all of the energy you need to see the sights. Which is why I have also compiled a separate list of places to eat and foods to try. It can be found here. You're welcome.
Let's begin, shall we?
You simply cannot go to Dublin without trying a pint of Guiness (unless you are under 18, the legal drinking age on this side of the pond). Where better to try it than right where it is made? The Guiness Storehouse tour is fun and interactive. The tour price includes a free pint, which you can learn how to pour yourself and then take with you to the Gravity Bar, which offers a 360 degree view of the city.
While we're on the topic of beer, don't forget to have a pint at the oldest pub in Ireland, dating back to 1198.
Temple Bar Area
Dublin's famous Temple Bar area is a hub for nightlife. There are several pubs in the area, including the Temple Bar itself. The bar is always packed with people (read: tourists) and someone is always there celebrating a bachelor or bachelorette party. If you're interested in something quieter, I would suggest at least stopping by once for a pint, if only to be able to say you did.
All of the pubs in Dublin are unique, and it takes a lot of effort to have a bad experience at any of them, but here's a list of some of my personal favorites:
The Old Storehouse (lively, frequent live music)
The Bleeding Horse (live music, great place to watch sports)
O'Donoghue's Pub (very music-centric -- many bands got their start here)
The Norseman (yes, MORE live music)
Ryan's of Camden Street (seems like a lively place with a relatively young crowd)
The Karma Stone Bar (student pub)
Doyle's (Trinity College student pub)
Whelan's (live music and shows; fun fact: a scene from P.S. I Love You was filmed here!)
The Mercantile (the starting point of The Original Backpacker Pub Crawl -- a fun option if you're not in the city long and want to experience the nightlife)
If you're looking for something more intense, try one of Dublin's many nightclubs. They're always packed to the brim, so if you like crowds, loud music and paying a cover, these are perfect for you:
Copper Face Jacks
Is it Irish dancing you're looking for? Stop by Murray's on a Friday or Saturday night to watch live Irish dancing shows.
With all this talk of drinking, it's probably best that you know your limits, so you don't end up at the Kilmainham Gaol (that's the prison, for all of you non-Irish speakers). Of course, that's not exactly where you would be sent, seeing as the prison closed in 1924. Unfortunately, I did not make it there for a tour during my stay, but everyone I know said it was one of the best tours they had ever taken.
While the Dublin Castle does not exactly look like a typical castle, there's a lot of history to be learned in the guided tour.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
The current cathedral building, which dates back to the 11th century, was built on the site of an ancient well, which was supposedly used by St. Patrick himself. There is a small fee to enter the cathedral, but if you enjoy visiting them, this one is definitely worth it.
When I pictured universities in Ireland, Trinity College was the exact image I had in mind. The campus is gorgeous and open for the public to explore. The only thing that will cost you is a visit to the library, which is one of my favorite places in the city. The Long Room (pictured above) is the kind of library that makes you want to climb a ladder and slide back and forth across the room, and it's a perfect photo opportunity. The library also houses the Book of Kells, which contains the text of the four Gospels, dating back to the second century.
If you enjoy museums, Dublin is the place for you. Many of the museums in Dublin have free entry, including the National Gallery, the Irish Museum of Modern Art and The Science Gallery.
If you have small children with you, or if you simply love animals, the Dublin Zoo is located just north of the city center.
If you're interested in seeing animals, but you're looking for a cheap alternative, head on over to Phoenix Park. If you look carefully, you'll find the herd of deer that roams freely throughout the park, which covers almost three square miles of land just north of the city center. The deer will generally ignore you, but as soon as that cookie leaves your pocket they are going to get all up in your personal space until every last crumb has been confiscated. They aren't vicious, but watch your fingers.
If you're lucky enough to be in Dublin on a nice day in the late spring or summer, Phoenix Park is the perfect spot for a picnic.
St. Stephen's Green (and other green areas)
Speaking of picnics, be sure to visit St. Stephen's Green for a stroll through the greenery. Like New York City's Central Park, St. Stephen's is located right in the center of the city. The pond is the definition of picturesque, and there are always a few swans-a-swimmin'.
If you're there on a warm, sunny day (and in Dublin, "warm" starts at about 60 degrees), good luck finding a spot in the grass. Instead, I would recommend nearby Merrion Square for a quieter spot to relax in the sunshine.
If you're up for some walking, Dublin is extremely easy to navigate by foot. It's relatively small for a capital city, which makes it so easy to see in a short period of time. Something that must be seen by foot is the Dublin Doors. On the south side of the city center, the Georgian-style buildings are made unique by their colorfully painted doors. It is said that this was done to spruce up such a boring and repetitive building style. A bus tour guide told our group that it was actually done before the doors had numbers, to identify each residence, but I have not seen or heard this theory since (although, personally, I like it much better). Look for the doors on Leeson Street, Baggot Street and near Merrion Square.
Statues and Plaques
While you are searching for the doors, be sure to keep an eye out for plaques on the buildings. These often indicate that a famous writer, artist or otherwise famous person previously lived inside that very residence.
Throughout the city you can also find many statues depicting some of these famous people!
The Liffey divides the south side from the north. It's a bustling part of the city with restaurant and shops all along either side. Take a walk and check out all of the cool bridges along the way!
On the south side, the Grand Canal is the perfect place for a stroll along the water. The narrow waterway is lined with trees and much quieter than the Liffey.
Every city has at least one shopping street, and Grafton Street is the best one in Dublin. If you're not looking to spend any money, at least visit for the talented street performers!
O'Connell Street is the shopping street of the north side, complete with its own set of performers.
Speaking of shopping, there's actually only one place you need to go, and it will change your life. If you're on a college student budget like I am, you can find basically anything you need at Penneys. Their clothes are cute and affordable, and they also have shoes, beauty products, luggage, accessories and so much more. Everything is stupidly affordable, so make room in your itinerary to spend some time and money there.
Another thing you can't miss is unmissable simply because of the size of it. The Spire, also fondly know as the Stiletto in the Ghetto and the Stiffy by the Liffey, is literally a giant steel pole.
For the sports fans, Croke Park is the place to be in Dublin. It serves as the Gaelic Athletic Association's headquarters, but it has also hosted rugby, football (soccer, for the Americans) and even American college football games in the past. Rugby and soccer are also played at Dublin's Aviva Stadium.
If you're looking to get out of the city center, there's a few options that are easily accessible by bus or the DART, a train that runs north to south along the coast.
Dun Laoghaire (pronounced dun-leery) is a seaside town just a 30-minute bus or DART ride south of the city center. It was once a major port, but now it's a perfect place to watch the sunset.
If you take the DART in the opposite direction, you will end up in Howth, another seaside town, but at the northern part of of Dublin Bay. There's hiking along the coast with beautiful views, even on a cloudy day, and a market that's open every Saturday, Sunday and bank holiday.
Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough
This one is a bit more difficult to get to, but the scenery is worth it. The Wicklow Mountains are a perfect day trip, and a stop at Glendalough, a valley situated in the mountains, is absolutely necessary. If you don't have a rental car, I would suggest consulting with a bus tour company to make the trip easier.
Did I miss your favorite activity in Dublin? Do you have any questions or suggestions for future posts? Please comment below or contact me here!
And visit my photography page for more pictures of Dublin and other beautiful destinations in Ireland.