Dublin, the largest city in Ireland is on many vacationer’s bucket list. Although Irish locals sometimes describe Dublin as more European then Irish, the city seems to easily combine both. In Dublin, you’ll find the famous Irish hospitality intertwine with metropolitan vibes. Traditional food and music greet you – but so do sophisticated hotels and museums. There is so much to do in Dublin, few people manage to do it all. And if you are only here for a few days, don’t try. Instead, pick a few places to visit, and spend the rest of your time enjoying the food and culture of Dublin. In this article, you’ll find a list of unique things to do in Dublin. At the bottom, I include places to eat and places to stay in Dublin. And finally, a Dublin packing list should help make your journey smooth – and unforgettable.
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Unique Things To Do in Dublin
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Dublin Packing List
The weather in Dublin changes quickly, so be prepared for the unexpected. These are the items I was very glad to have while in Dublin. Even if you are a light packer, these are a must.
- A generously sized travel purse
- Comfortable and attractive sneaker
- A stylish sweater for when the weather gets chilly
- A lightweight medium length rain jacket
- Sunglasses for sunny days
Packing Travel Tip:
I have been scouring Amazon for the highest quality, most helpful travel items. From the softest leggings (perfect for the flight) to the most stylish suitcase, these are the best travel products on Amazon, designed to make your vacation even better. Go check out these great finds!
Where to Stay in Dublin
Ideal for a special occasion, the Wynn Hotel offers traditional luxury with a modern twist. The historic hotel dates back to 1897 when it was a gathering place for Irish rebels. Today the centrally located hotel is a favorite of well-heeled travelers from all around the world.
Known as the center for Dublin’s high society the glamorous Shelbourne Dublin is another great choice. Constructed over 200 years ago, the Shelbourne has always been glamorous. The hotel has played hosts to numerous dignitaries such as President John F. Kennedy. Centrally located and well-appointed in the traditional style, you can’t go wrong with the Shelbourne.
If modern decore is more your speed, the newly constructed Aloft Dublin City is an excellent choice. Central location, impeccable service, and new facilities are only a few of the reasons to pick this hotel. Many travelers who stay here recommend this accommodation as sophisticated but surprisingly affordable.
Take a Tour of the Dublin Castle
The Dublin Castle is not so much a castle – as a hodgepodge of buildings from a different period, all unified by history and ingenuity. Although a real castle did stand here once – in the 11th to 16th century, it is long gone. In its place rise a unique architectural phenomenon – a tower dating back the 11th century, palaces from the 16th and a chappel from the 19th. As you tour the Dublin Castle you literally stroll over a thousand years of history in just over an hour.
To tour the castle you can either go on your own or join a group. If you chose to go on your own, you will not have a chance to visit the underground medieval section and the chappel. Because those are the most historically significant, I suggest you join a tour. To do so prebook tickets in advance – or hope to get lucky when you show up. Either way, a tour of the Dublin Castle is one of the best things to do in Dublin.
One of the best ways to save money in Dublin is by purchasing the Dublin Pass. With the pass, you can enter most major Dublin attractions free of charge. Dublin Castle is also free with the Dublin Pass. With the pass, you can also skip the line in many attractions – including the Dublin Castle.
Discover Ancient Texts in the Long Room in Trinity College Library
The Trinity College Library is the home of one of the most beautiful library rooms in the world – the Long Room. Build in the early 16th century, here you’ll find more than 200,000 ancient manuscripts. In addition to priceless books, the Long Room is also home to the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the harp that is the symbol of all of Ireland.
However, perhaps the most famous holding in the Trinity College library is the Book of Kells. This 9th-century richly decorated manuscript of the New Testament is a priceless treasure – and on display, before you enter the Long Room.
Long Room Travel Tip:
As you can imagine, the entire exhibit gets very busy and tickets sell out. After a bit of research, I found a trick that may help you. I showed up about 20 minutes before opening time and went straight to the first come first serve line. Although most people recommend reserving tickets in advance, that line was almost a mile long. Because I was one of the first people in the first come first serve line, I was one of the first people to walk in. Then, I made my way past the other exhibits and the Book of Kells, straight to the Long Room. Here, I had a chance to wander in peace and take pictures while most people stopped by the Book of Kells first. Later, when the Long Room got filled up, I went back to visit the Book of Kells and the other exhibits.
Explore Irish History in Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol, a Dublin prison operating from 1796 to 1925 has a sordid history. Although only 10% of all people held in Kilmainham Gaol were political prisoners, the prison is famous for those who were held and executed here during Ireland’s struggle for independence. Perhaps the most famous – Eamon De Valera, became the third president of Ireland. Another famous prisoner, Constance Markievicz, was the first woman to win a seat in the Irish Parliament.
Today, you can tour Kilmainham Gaol with a guide and a large group of people. Along the way, the guide will share with you stories of the people who lived and died here. If you are a photographer, a good strategy to take pictures without people is to stay towards the back of the group. This way, you’ll have a few moments to snap shots before the group moves on. The prison and its dark beauty is my top choice on the list of things to do in Dublin.
Attend Services in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral – Things to do in Dublin
Only a few of cities in the world boast two cathedrals – and Dublin is one. This cathedral is dedicated to Ireland’s most important Saint, St. Patrick. A lot of people don’t know that St. Patrick originally came to Ireland as a slave. Growing more spiritual during his captivity, St. Patrick managed to escape and return home. But he felt a calling to return to Ireland, where he worked to spread Christianity throughout the land.
Historians believe that there was a church on this site from the 11th century. It is likely that this church was called “St. Patricks in Insula.” Archeologists discovered early Christian graves beside the cathedral, some over 1,000 years old. Today, you can visit the cathedral as a tourist or attend free services. I did both – first coming in via paid admission (8 EU) and later to attend the short 5.30 pm service. Although the Cathedral is beautiful as a museum and a work of art, it truly came to life during the choir performances that evening. You can attend services twice a day or attend a mid-day non-religious performance on some weekends.
Marvel At Marsh’s Library
The first public library in all of Ireland, Marsh’s opened to great fanfare in 1707. At the time the idea was revolutionary – allow free access to books to all scholars. Of course, in the 18th century “scholars” only included upper-class gentlemen. To this end, a collection was established. Today it holds 25,000 books.
When you walk in, you’ll notice the relatively high humidity inside. Although many libraries through the world use climate control, Marsh’s does not. The humid and temperate Irish climate is ideal for books. Therefore, even the oldest volumes can be held here without climate control. Additionally, the special shelf design allows air to circulate between the wall and the shelves. There are no lines to enter this library. Marsh’s is one of two libraries to make it to the list of the best things to do in Dublin.
Tour the Ancient Christ Church Cathedral
The Christ Church Cathedral is the oldest building in continuous use in the Dublin. A thousand years ago the Viking king Sitriuc Silkenbeard ordered a church constructed on this site. However, little of that building survives today. The conquering Anglo Saxons destroyed and subsequently rebuild the church in the 12th century. Today, most of the building you see is the 12th-century rebuild and 18th-century restoration.
Also Read: Christ Church Cathedral Dublin the complete guide.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Christ Church is below the pews and stained glass windows. The crypt here is the largest in all of Ireland. Although today we might think of a burial place as hallowed ground, this wasn’t always the case. The crypt at the Cathedral was a center of trade in the middle ages. This is where men of stature met and signed contracts. Contemporaries say it was so loud, one had to shout to be heard over the noise. (It is nice to know that co-working spaces have improved since the 16th century.) Today you may not choose to hold any meetings at the crypt, but you can see priceless artifacts such as the Irish copy of the Manga Carta, manuscripts and gold vessels.
Stroll Over the Ha’ppeny Bridge
The small Ha’ppeny bridge boasts plenty of charming detail and interesting history. Perhaps the most famous bridges in Dublin this curvy bridge is sort of famous for well… being famous. The Kim Kardashian of bridges if you will. Originally constructed in 1816, it was the first bridge built to accommodate pedestrian traffic in Dublin.
At the time, the only way to get over the narrow river Liffey was to take a ferry. Seven ferries operated in Dublin – all owned by a Mr. William Walsh. And all were in terrible condition. When the city authorities informed Walsh he had to either fix the ferries or build a bridge he opted to build the bridge. However, he charged the citizens for crossing – one a penny a pop. The cost was similar to taking a ferry and so the Ha (penny) bridge was born. Pedestrians continued to pay the toll for over a hundred years of operation. In 1919 the toll was dropped and Ha’penny Bridge finally became free to cross. Today, crossing the Ha’penny Bridge is one of the fastest things to do in Dublin.
Get Silly In the Leprechaun Museum
The International Leprechaun Museum is not so much a museum as performance art. During your tour, you will join a small group of visitors. Together, you walk through darkened rooms outfitted with mystical objects. The cheese factor is big here – the decorations are often over the top or silly. But the guide’s enthusiasm is real and contagious. During your visit, your guide shares a series of myths and legends and acts out each story. Ideal for the kid, or the kid at heart, the Leprechaun Museum is both fun and educational. After all, it would be difficult to understand Ireland without learning about Fairies, Leprechauns, and other mystical folks so important to its culture. For both the culture and fun, the Leprechaun Museum deserves a spot on this list of unique things to do in Dublin.
Visit the Statue of a Mr. Oscar Wilde
One of Ireland’s most famous sons, Oscar Wilde grew up right here in Dublin. The prolific poet and playwright is perhaps most famous for his novel “A Picture of Dorian Gray.” The “scandalous” novel was at one time subject to censorship and ridicule in the British press. Nevertheless, the author persevered, eventually winning critical acclaim and commercial success for his creation. Oscar Wilde lived as he wrote, freely and true to himself. After a series of gay relationships, he was arrested for the charges of “indecency with men” and sentenced to two years of hard labor.
The statue of Oscar Wilde was commissioned in 1997 by the beermaker Guinness. The statue is a modern work and utilizes colored stone like jade, thulite and granite to depict a man both colorful and talented. His face portrays both joyous and somber moods, reflective of his complicated life. You will find the Oscar Wild House right outside the park, close to the statue.
Stroll The Temple Barr Neighborhood
The pedestrian area of Temple Barr is named after (drum roll please) the Temple Bar at its center. This area is sort of like Dublin’s Times Square. Unapologetically tourist trappy yet fun to visit.
The bar at the center was originally constructed around in 1656, right around the time this area was reclaimed from the river. The newly trendy (and cheap) area became a host to all kinds of interesting personages and quite a few brothels as well. The entire neighborhood would grab a beer a the Temple Bar, which became one of the most famous in Dublin for its unique atmosphere and music. Today this area boasts an endless array of bars, restaurants, shops, and cafes.
Where to Eat in Dublin
The Lotts is a great example of the Dublin duopoly. On the one hand, the Lotts bar, the smallest bar in Dublin, is a traditional pub with a homey atmosphere to match. On the other, the Lotts Cafe is a sprawling, sophisticated space with an upscale atmosphere. The cafe choice is limited to a few local favorites, all cooked to perfection. If you want real Irish food in Dublin this is a great choice. Afterward, stop by the tiny bar for a real Irish pub atmosphere away from the crowds.
Now that we’ve been to the smallest pub in Dublin, how about we visit the oldest? The Brazenhead has that distinction, as it dates back to 1198. Originally an inn, it has a sordid history, plenty of ghost stories and of course great food. Touristy? Yes, very. But sit at the bar in the oldest (the smallest) room and chat with the bartender. Play your cards right and you might learn a lot of fascinating stories other tourists miss. After all in Ireland, history is often made at the pub.
Bubble Waffle Factory
If you going to be bad, you should both do it well and enjoy it. That’s why the Bubble Waffle Factory incredibly unhealthy treat makes my list. Not only is it as tasty as it looks, but it is also a perfect social media pic. You’ll find the factory in the over touristic Temple Barr neighborhood.
How to Get Around Dublin
Dublin is a small and walkable city. When you fly in, you have several options to get to the center. The first and easiest option is to take a cab. You’ll find the cabs right outside the terminal. Several dedicated airport employees are stationed at the cab line to assist customers.
Alternatively, a bus is another easy option. The 747 and the 700 busses will both bring you to the center for just a few euros. Although the 747 does not accept credit cards, the 700 bus does – as long as you have a contactless chip card.
In addition to coming to and from the airport, the only other times you may need to take a bus is when you leave the center to go to Kilmainham Gaol. Keep in mind that city busses do not accept credit cards and the driver will usually refuse paper money. Keep coins on you to pay for the ride.
You can use google maps to figure out the best bus to take, but the bus system doesn’t run on time so be prepared to wait. If you are at a peripheral bus stop, flag the bus down or they may not stop.
Dublin Travel Tip:
In Ireland, using the Uber app will hail you a cab. A better and cheaper alternative is the Free Now app. If you plan on using taxis, this is a good app to download before you go.
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