Planning a visit to the Irish capital? We've done the hard work for you and compiled the best things to see and do in this city guide to Dublin
Dublin, the capital of Ireland and one of Europe’s oldest cities, is a perfect getaway for a wide range of holiday dwellers. While Paddy’s Day is likely to spring to mind, the city has more than one ace up its sleeve.
Only a 30-minute train journey from a variety of beautiful beaches and hiking trails, Dublin City is never far from the stunning landscapes The Emerald Isle has to offer. Within the city, a friendly, international and welcoming atmosphere will make you feel right at home. After all, the Irish charm is famous for a reason.
With story-filled historical landmarks, year-round events, elite shopping districts, and a busy nightlife, Dublin should firmly cement itself on any traveler’s bucket list. We like to go a little off the beaten path, so we teamed up with a local writer Edward Bolton to bring you this list of carefully curated things to see and do in the Irish capital.
Events in Dublin
One of the finest and most fiscally sound ways to spend a night in Dublin is with Culture Night. Encompassing all that makes the city a unique experience, the festival takes place on a Friday in the middle of September and is completely free (though some events may need advanced booking).
With celebrations of some of the country’s most influential music, tours of buildings rarely open to the public, like the Freemason’s Hall, and a number of great live performances, Culture Night encapsulates all that Dublin has to offer and is the best way to soak up its atmosphere in a single evening.
When: 16 September
Where: venues across the city
The Audi Dublin International Film Festival
Taking place during the middle two weeks of February, the Dublin International Film Festival is perfect for any movie lover. Having attracted guests such as Al Pacino, Mark Wahlberg, and Danny DeVito, the festival boasts a wide arrange of screenings, Q&As, and workshops and is located mostly within a 1 mile radius in the city center.
A very reasonable season ticket is available, which allows you to attend as many films or events as you can possibly cram in during the festival. From gala screenings attended by Hollywood’s finest, to a secret film which will keep you guessing till the reel starts; the Dublin International Film Festival has something to offer even the most jaded film fan.
When: 16-26 February
Where: various cinemas
Laya City Spectacular
A walk down Grafton Street or Henry Street, two of the city’s most frequented shopping districts, will almost certainly be greeted with a plethora of street performers. However, in July, Dublin goes one step further with the now annual City Spectacular.
Usually taking place on the first full weekend of the month, the festival brings together some of the world’s leading street performer’s in the beautiful Merrion Square park. Located in the heart of the city, the festival is free to enter, though as the park has limited capacity, you may be queuing for a while to see those fire-eaters.
When: 7-9 July
Where: Merrion Square, Dublin 2
Dublin Fringe Festival
Dublin is a city that screams variety, and nothing illustrates that more than the city’s Fringe Festival. With a wide range of live shows and events, the festival uses every inch of the city to display its culture, history, and beauty. If staying in Dublin city during the month of September, it’s never a strange sight to witness pop-up musical performances, a professional wrestling show or even sporadic plays coming to life on a public bus.
While some shows are free, other tickets are usually reasonably priced, and if stuck, a friendly box office assistant will have no problem pointing you in the right direction on what to see. The Fringe Festival merges all aspects of the city into a few weeks and is one of the best ways to soak up all Dublin has to offer.
When: 9-24 September
Where: venues across the city
Bram Stoker Festival
The writer of arguably horror fiction’s most known quantity, Bram Stoker is just one of the few literary greats to hail from the fair city of Dublin. Because of this, Dracula’s creator is celebrated during the calendar year’s most apt time; Halloween.
Usually spanning the four days leading up to October 31st, the festival has been known to include horror films, parades, pop up Victorian fun parks and expos on everything ghoulish. Located all over the city, the Bram Stoker festival is the perfect way to spend Halloween for any true horror fan.
When: 28-31 October
Where: Venues across the city
Historical landmarks in Dublin
The General Post Office, or G.P.O, is one of the most important buildings in Dublin’s storied history. Used by rebel leaders as their central base during the 1916 Rising, the post office still stands today with the same pillars used 100 years ago, though they’re now marked with bullet holes from the battle.
A new tour recently opened up in the building’s basement, with a self-guided/interactive walk through of what exactly happened during Easter 1916 in the city. Entry is cheap, but make sure to arrive 5 minutes before your allocated time slot.
Where: O’Connell St Lower, North City, Dublin 1
A prison known mostly for having housed the leaders of the Irish rebellion of 1916 before their execution, Kilmainham Gaol is a very reasonably priced must for tourists.
Used during the making of films such as ‘In the Name of the Father’ and ‘Michael Collins’, the prison may be familiar to visitors, however, it’s the fascinating history of the premises that makes it a hugely popular destination. Advanced booking is highly recommended, as tours can fill up for weeks at a time.
Where: Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Kilmainham, Dublin 8, Co. Dublin
Home to some of St. Valentine’s remains, Christ Church is a stand out in Dublin City’s landscape. Known as the spiritual heart of the city, the cathedral boasts one of the largest crypts in Ireland, and for those wishing to experience all it has to offer, the church’s highly in demand choir sings six times a week.
Guided tours last approximately an hour and are usually run 3 times a day. As these are quite infrequent, it’s necessary to be on time; however, the ringing of the Cathedral’s giant bells every hour should help keep you punctual.
Where: Christ Church, Christchurch Pl, Wood Quay, Dublin 8
Glasnevin Cemetery & Museum
With over one million people buried on these grounds, Glasnevin Cemetery is a perfect place to gain insight into the men and women who helped shape Ireland’s past and present. While a general tour is available, the Cemetery also caters to more specified private tours, such as WWII military, Literary, Joycean and a Women’s tour.
The cemetery is located just outside the city, so jump on a bus to get there. These are both frequent and inexpensive. Also, don’t forget to pre-book – you won’t be the only one there.
Where: Glasnevin Cemetery, Finglas Road Finglas Rd, Botanic, Dublin 11
Activities in and around Dublin
A hike in Howth
Ireland is world-famous for its stunning nature, and a visit to Dublin need not only be a city break. A 30-minute trip on Dublin’s commuter train, the Dart, takes you to the village of Howth which boasts some of the most scenic views and diverse wildlife. Bring your hiking shoes and immerse yourself in The Emerald Isle’s spectacular nature.
Once back in the village, there are various restaurants and pubs to help replenish you from your walk. Every April, there’s even a Prawn Festival – strongly recommended for any fish lover.
Where: 22 Balscadden Rd, Howth, Co. Dublin
Viking Splash Tour
Dublin also caters to the younger generation, with plenty of activities for kids young and old. One of the better experiences can be found on the Viking Splash Tour, where a personal guide will show you through the city on wheels and on water.
With an emphasis on how Dublin was founded by the Vikings, it’s also an enjoyable way to see some of the city’s oldest areas. The tour leaves from the side of St. Stephen’s green, and while tickets can be a bit pricey, the interactive experience is definitely recommended for its different take on Dublin’s history.
Where: St Stephens Green North, Dublin 2
Bike ride in the Phoenix Park
The largest walled park in Europe, the Phoenix Park is home to many of Ireland’s favorite tourist sites. Housing the likes of Dublin Zoo, the President of Ireland’s residence, the American Ambassador’s home and countless free roaming fallow deer, the park is a massive undertaking if tackled by foot.
It’s therefore recommended, and arguably more pleasant, to rent a bike and enjoy the sights and sounds that come with the vast area of land. There’s a bike renting business by the front gate nearest the city centre, but it’s also possible to sign up for a 3-day ticket to use the Dublin’s bike sharing system, with stations littered throughout the city.
Where: Phoenix Park, Dublin 8
If you’re in town for the Bram Stoker Festival, then this is right up your (dark) alley. The Ghostbus tour visits some of Dublin’s most ‘haunted’ residencies and is not for the faint of heart. While a personal guide delivers some of the more paranormal tales associated with the city, frequent stops at graveyards and even Bram Stoker’s residence make this one of the more unique tours accessible. Tickets for this range in price, but it’s possible to find a good deal online.
Where: Dublin Bus Head Office, 59 Upper O’Connell Street
There is no way around this one. Ireland is famous for its pubs and nightlife, and while in Dublin you should treat yourself to at least one visit. While there is no shortage of choice, try taking a turn off the beaten path. Not only will you get a better experience, you’ll arguably get a better tasting pint as well.
Check out Publin, a useful site which not only suggests the best public houses to visit but also where you can get the best bang for your buck. They’re also looking to start a pub crawl in the near future, so watch this space.
Where: pretty much all over
Where to eat in Dublin
Now you’ve got the events and activities down, it’s time to look at some of Dublin’s culinary experiences.
There is a huge selection of cuisines to satisfy every taste bud throughout the city. Chameleon, located just off of Temple Bar, is a delicious and reasonably priced Indonesian restaurant. With set menus made for sharing, it’s an intimate and romantic way to enjoy a meal, and the staff is always on hand to help with any questions relating to the menu.
Brother Hubbard’s, in terms of cuisine, is Dublin’s best-hidden secret. Mostly known for its delicious brunch/lunch menus, the restaurant also carves out special choices on select nights so be sure to check the menu before taking a seat. For lunch time, it’s best to prepare for a few minutes wait as tables fill up quickly.
For those with a hankering for something a little richer, Shanahan’s on The Green offers the finest steaks in Dublin and is known to be frequented by some of the capital’s more distinguished clientele.
Where to stay in Dublin
When it’s time to lay your head down after a busy day/night, Dublin boasts a variety of options – both in terms of cost and location.
For the more upmarket selection, The Shelbourne is located in the middle of the city center. Having featured in many films and attracting plaudits for its service, it’s a must for those with a little extra in their pockets.
For those looking to stay a little outside the dead center of Dublin, the Hilton by the previously mentioned Kilmainham Gaol is a little more reasonable price wise and just as comfortable. With bus and tram lines a plenty nearby for easy access to the city, the Hilton offers a relaxing atmosphere and is surrounded by a recently beautifully refurbished area of Dublin.
Any travelers looking to keep an eye on cost, the Clayton Hotel at Leopardstown is a very sensibly priced and recommended destination. However, as the hotel is located by a horse racing course, prices may fluctuate depending on the time of year.Find a flight to Dublin