Dublin, Ireland is one of the most fun, must-visit vacation destinations in the world. A medieval city with modern sensibilities, top tourist attractions, and wonderful places to go. Dublin practically overflows with everything you expect from a vacation in Ireland – fascinating history, dramatic architecture, Celtic crosses everywhere, and bartenders asking “what’ll it be, luv?” in those delightful accents.
But heritage tours, cruise ship travel, and the inescapable presence of all things Irish in popular culture have caused a major increase in travel to Ireland in recent years, putting stress on the country’s fragile ecosystem. It can be hard to figure out what to do in Dublin that gets you away from the crowds and attractions that seem to be just for the tourists.
A quieter, more sustainable Dublin does exist – you just have to know where to look! With this guide (and a little luck o’ the Irish), you can travel beyond the cliches and tourist traps to discover the authentic side of Dublin.
11 Best Things to do in Dublin, Ireland
Dublin is an action-packed destination that can appeal to anyone who loves adventure. Some of the top things to do in Dublin include:
Trinity College and the Book of Kells
Located on a gorgeous campus in the heart of Dublin, Trinity College was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I and with a mix of Georgian and Victorian buildings, is architecturally remarkable. Trinity’s Old Library is equally stunning – its Long Room, at 213 feet long, is the longest single-chamber library in the world and a truly gasp-inspiring sight to behold. Within the Old Library’s 200,000-book collection is the historic Book of Kells, an illuminated Gospel manuscript from the 9th century.
The best way to visit Trinity College is on a student-led tour of the campus. You’ll need an additional reservation to see The Old Library and Book of Kells, but they are hugely popular attractions in Dublin and can come with long lines and large crowds. Book a ticket ahead of time to reduce wait times and the overall wear and tear on the sensitive infrastructure.
Sorry to disappoint you: there are rumors that scenes from the Harry Potter and Star Wars movies were filmed in the Old Library but alas, they are not true.
Take a Dublin Literary Tour
One of the best things to do in Dublin is to explore the rich literary history. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Dublin was home to a literary renaissance that produced writers and poets like James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W.B. Yeats, and Oscar Wilde.
Today, their work is so intertwined with the narrow streets of Dublin that it’s easy to imagine you’ve stepped into one of their stories. A Literary Tour, like this one from Context, will immerse you even further into those pages and show you Dublin through the writers’ eyes. Under the guidance of a local historian, you’ll pop into Wilde’s favorite pub, see the hotel where Joyce met his wife, and read passages in the very locations they took place.
Sip a Local Dublin Brew
Stopping into the corner pub for a pint of Guinness is a must-do when visiting Dublin, but Irish beer is way more than just a glass of the “black stuff.” Four local craft breweries have popped up in recent years that are not only producing delicious and innovative drinks but are also leading the way in sustainable brewing practices and community initiatives. A brewery visit is a great way to understand how your beer goes from grain to glass all under one roof – stop by one of these Dublin microbreweries for a tour and a taste!
- Hope Brewery sources 90% of their grain from Irish producers and uses recyclable packaging materials
- Carlow Brewing Company/O’Hara’s Brewery has committed to reducing the amount of electricity and water they use during the brewing process
- The Porterhouse Brew Co. ensures their waste water is safe to release into the water supply and uses their spent hops for composting
- Wicklow Wolf Brewing Company donates their trub (the sediment that’s left when the brewing process is done) to local charities for use as fertilizer and has added gluten-free and lower alcohol beers to their line
Pro tip: Sláinte [slan-cha] means “ health” in Gaelic and is commonly used as a toast while drinking – don’t forget to raise your glass and cheer “Sláinte!”
See Dublin by e-Bike
Riding an electric bike around a city is one of the best ways to get to know your new surroundings! These rechargeable pedal-assisted bicycles are environmentally friendly, easy on your knees, and will help you conquer Dubin’s gentle hills without breaking a sweat.
This all-day tour starts in the center of the city but quickly leaves the cobblestones behind for sweeping views of Dublin Bay. With stops at the North Bull Island, the National Botanic Garden, and Glasnevin cemetery, your Dublin guide will provide lunch, commentary, and a bike helmet as you follow a new coastal cycleway along the famous Irish coastline.
Attend a Dulbin Trad Session
From The Cranberries to that scene in Titanic where Kate Winslet dances on a table, music is one of Ireland’s most recognized exports. In Dublin, nightly music performances called “trad sessions” (short for “traditional”) are a perfect way to soak up the culture and learn a jig or two.
Many bars have at least one weekly trad session on their schedule – you can try to snag a table at some of the classic spots like The Brazen Head, The Hairy Lemon, or The Cobblestone, or check out TradConnect which lists dozens of sessions by city. And if you like what you hear, offer to buy the musicians a round of drinks at the end of their set! Don’t actually dance on the table, though.
Listen like a local: Don’t feel like drinking? That’s totally cool. Just make sure to order a little something while you’re sitting at the table – a bowl of potato soup, some fish and chips, or a couple of sodas will do the trick.
Learn the History of Dublin
Ireland has a complicated history of political uprisings, dueling families, divisive leaders, and social unrest. Much of these actions took place in the heart of Dublin. But it can be a lot to comprehend and confusing to those who may have skipped over that part in World History class. A guided tour of the most important places to see in Dublin can help you to truly dive into the history of this fascinating city.
On this Context tour you’ll visit key sites related to the 1916 Easter Rising like Dublin Castle, the former Houses of Parliament, and the Dublin General Post Office. Here, you will understand how events of the 20th century helped shape Irish identity in the 21st century.
Temple Bar Markets
The Temple Bar neighborhood is one of the most fun places to visit in Dublin, but it can get crazy crowded in the evenings. On Saturday afternoons, local vendors set up shop in the Temple Bar Markets. These are a group of outdoor markets that weave through the streets and a great way to experience the area without the drunken tourists.
Upon visiting the Temple Bar Markets, you’ll find items such as second-hand books at the aptly-named Book Market and handmade jewelry and ceramics in the Designer Mart. You will also find organic fruit and vegetables, baked goods, artisan breads, and Irish cheeses at the Food Market.
Best of all, much of the food is sold in bulk so you can go package-free, even if you’re just picking up a few snacks for later. Bring a lightweight, reusable shopping bag to carry your goods as you will have plenty to carry. Don’t forget to use our code HIDDENLEMUR10 and receive a 10% discount.
The Temple Bar Markets are only a few minutes’ walk from each other. Start your shopping at the Designer Mart on 8 Cow’s Lane, walk along Lord Edward St. to get to the Book Market in Barnardo Square. You can finish up at the Food Market in Meeting House Square.
Go on a Whiskey Crawl
There’s a whiskey revival happening in the heart of Dublin! Though Irish liquor once reigned supreme, the industry fell on hard times during much of the 20th century. It was nearly done in as Scottish whisky and American bourbon rose in popularity.
But that’s not the case anymore! Now you don’t have to go far for a wealth of craft distilleries in Dublin. While everyone else is taking the Jameson tour, you can avoid the crowds and enjoy a much more intimate experience at three new distilleries located in Dublin’s Liberty neighborhood: Roe & Co, Pearse Lyons, and Teeling Whiskey. Your visit will include a history of the distilleries, a crash course in the whiskey-making process, and a taste or two of the spirits.
Did you know? The “e” in whiskey distinguishes the Irish drink from its Scottish and Canadian counterparts, where it’s spelled “whisky.”
Experience Dublin’s Biodiversity
After all that walking, you’ll want to stop and smell the roses – or at the very least, take a pause in Phoenix Park, one of the best places to visit in Dublin. At 1,750 acres, it’s one of Europe’s largest parks and with over 20 different wild flora and fauna habitats, a crucial vehicle for the city’s biodiversity.
There’s also a ton of different activities to do in the park. Rent a bike, go for a run along the paths, picnic on the lawns, watch a pickup cricket game, visit the Victorian People’s Flower Garden, or try to spot some of the 600 wild fallow deer that roam through the wooded pastures. You can enter the park from a number of different locations, but the Victorian People’s Flower Garden is located between the Parkgate Street entrance and the North Circular Road Gate entrance.
Take a Howth Head Hike
Breathing in the sea salt air while watching the waves crash onto cragged cliffs is one of the best things to do in Ireland. But you don’t have to stray too far from Dublin to get your fill of epic views and quaint fishing villages.
Howth is a peninsula on Ireland’s east coast and a fantastic destination for a quick escape from the city. There are a number of different hiking trails of varying difficulty that run through the rugged terrain, but booking a guided tour will ensure you take the path that best suits your needs and ability.
We recommend this half-day hike from Tours by Locals – your guide will meet you outside the Howth train station and after the hike, point you in the direction of the town’s best restaurant!
Stay at a Green Hotel
Located in the vibrant Portobello neighborhood and an easy walk from some of the most famous attractions in Dublin, the Iveagh Garden Hotel is considered Europe’s first sustainable hotel. The owners partnered with a renewable energy company to retrofit a 20th-century bank so that the hotel could source all of its energy from The River Swan, which runs 50 meters below the building. This river acts as an energy reserve for cooling and heating the hotel without burning any energy fuel, which in turn gives the building the lowest possible carbon footprint.
Did you already make other accommodations? Elle’s Bistro is the onsite restaurant that serves traditional Irish fare made with fresh, local ingredients in the hotel’s outdoor Botanical Garden terrace!
Tips for Visiting Dublin, Ireland
Thanks to the numerous exquisite destinations, Dublin is among the best places to visit in Ireland. Here are some tips to help you move around seamlessly:
When to go to Dublin
Keep in mind that Ireland is pretty far north compared to America and mainland Europe and in the height of summer, Dublin can have nearly 17 hours of daylight – but with it comes large crowds, cruise ship day trippers, and high prices.
Conversely, this also means that the sun sets around 4pm in December and popular attractions will have reduced hours, but you’ll find shorter lines and better prices on accommodations. Spring and fall are the optimal times for Dublin travel, as the crowds will be thinner and hotel rooms more available.
Thinking about celebrating St. Patrick’s Day in Dublin? This is one of the must-do things to do in Dublin for many people and a fantastic way to experience one of the world’s greatest parties. But a trip like this requires a lot of planning and patience. You’ll need to book your accommodations at least six months in advance and be prepared for massive crowds and peak prices on everything.
What to Pack for Dublin
Layers! Due to its position in the North Atlantic, Ireland’s weather can be chilly and rainy one moment and warm and sunny the next. A lightweight raincoat will be your friend in Dublin, and I personally like to pack at least one pashmina to wear as a cute wrap or scarf.
You can leave the hiking boots at home, but you’ll want a good pair of comfortable and stylish walking shoes for sightseeing in Dublin. Pack a second pair of shoes you won’t mind getting dirty if you are planning to explore outside the city, as the countryside can be quite muddy. Need some inspiration? Check out our guide to the best sustainable travel shoes.
How to Get Around Dublin
Dublin’s immediate city center is extremely walkable but you’ll probably want to take some form of transportation to get to some of the parks, breweries, or distilleries. Luckily, Dublin has an extensive public bus system that’s safe and affordable for travel within the city. If you’re heading to other parts of the country, the DART train is Ireland’s rail service to cities like Belfast, Galway, and Cork, or you might consider grabbing a multi-day Eurail pass which will include travel to Belfast in Northern Ireland.
The Bottom Line
There you have the best things to do in Dublin, Ireland. As evident, there are a ton of adventurous activities and top places to go. With a proper itinerary and a reliable tour provider, you can explore Dublin’s breadth eco-consciously.
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