13 Unique Things to Do in Dublin: A Travel Guide
The Irish capital Dublin is full of atmosphere. When I was there, I was immediately impressed by the great sights, cozy pubs, friendly people and the delicious food. There is really are a lot of fun and unique things to do in Dublin!
I would like to come back for a trip through Ireland and start in this lovely city. Here are my picks for all the places to visit in Dublin, so you can enjoy your first visit.
13 Unique Things to Do in Dublin
1. Visit the Book of Kells
The most famous landmark in Dublin is a book. That might surprise you, but it’s not that strange. The Book of Kells is a manuscript in four parts that were written around the year 800 by Celtic monks.
It contains the four New Testament gospels in Latin. However, what really makes it special are the beautiful illustrations.
The manuscript was kept for centuries in the Abbey of Kells, where the book was named after. It was then moved to Trinity College where you can now admire it.
2. Enjoy Trinity College
Speaking of Trinity College, you should take time to explore. I think that was my favorite place in all of Dublin. What a beautiful university. The campus dates from 1592 and has already welcomed a few special students such as Dracula’s Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde and Jonathan Swift.
The most special part of the building is the library, an impressive building with 4.5 million books (including the Book of Kells). Why does this library have so many books? This is because it has the right to request an original copy of any published book in the UK and Ireland.
The most beautiful hall of Trinity College Library is the Long Room, a room with high vaulted ceilings where you can see dark wooden bookcases from floor to ceiling.
There are no fewer than 20,000 books in this space, as well as 14 busts of great philosophers and writers. Your mouth will fall open when you walk around here.
3. Visit Dublin Castle
If a city has a castle, then you know I am visiting. Lucky for me, I could see Dublin Castle. It does not look much like a castle but rather a random collection of buildings. However, it was very important in Irish history.
The castle was built in the 13th century on the site of a former Viking fort. Only the Record Tower still dates from that period. The rest is mainly from the 18th century because the castle was seriously damaged during a fire in the eighteenth century. The many renovations have ensured a special mix of different building styles.
The castle was built by the English and was the place from which the English ruled over Ireland for 700 years. After Ireland became independent, the castle came into the hands of the Irish government. Today it is mainly used for official purposes, and can be visited with a tour.
Fun fact: Bram Stoker, the writer of Dracula, worked for twelve years as a civil servant in the castle.
4. Visit Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the Largest in Ireland
There are two cathedrals in Dublin that are worth a visit. One is Saint Patricks Cathedral, the largest cathedral in all of Ireland. The construction of this structure began in 1191.
Also take a look at the well, where Saint Patrick baptized his converts. And yes … Saint Patrick is the same St. Patrick who’s celebrated on March 17th. He’s the national patron saint.
5. Visit Christ Church Cathedral
The other church that you should see is the Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in the city, dating back to 1030. It is the seat of the Archbishop of Dublin. The medieval crypt is one of the most important sights in this church.
6. Spot the Street Art
Although Dublin has many old sights, I found one of the nicest things to do when looking for “new” sights: street art. Some good places to see graffiti are Drury Street, Tivoli Car Park, Temple Bar, and Richmond Street.
7. Cross the Ha’Penny bridge
The most famous bridge in Dublin is the one with the strange name: Ha’Penny Bridge. This is a pedestrian bridge from 1816 over the river Liffey. The bridge is officially called “Liffey Bridge”, but is called by everyone by its nickname: Ha’Penny Bridge.
Once ferries sailed over the Liffey, taking passengers from one side to the other. A crossing then cost half a penny (a ha’penny). However, because the boats were in poor condition, the owner William Walsh of the city administration had to either repair his boats or build a bridge. He opted for the latter and was allowed to charge a half penny toll to every pedestrian.
8. Explore Grafton Street
Grafton Street is located between Stephen’s Green Park and Trinity College. It’s a popular shopping street for locals and tourists due to the many high street and boutique shops. You can find many coffee bars and cafés in the side streets.
You will also regularly find street musicians there. Pay attention, because you might discover the next Damian Rice or Bono (from U2). They both earned a little money as a street musician on Grafton Street at the start of their career.
9. Enjoy St. Stephen’s Green
Is there something nicer to stroll through a city park during your city trip? At the beginning / end of Grafton Street you will find St. Stephen’s Green, the city park of Dublin, of no less than 9 hectares. The park in its current form was purchased by the Guinness family and given as a gift to the residents of Dublin.
The park played an important role in the Irish independent struggle in 1919, but now it is a quiet place where you can stroll through ornamental gardens, past lakes, ponds, and fountains.
10. Get Lost in Phoenix Park
No matter how big St. Stephen’s Green is, Phoenix Park is much bigger. The park has an area of 6.9 square kilometers, which makes it one of the largest city parks in Europe!
The park started like so many city parks: it was a Royal Hunting Park. That is also the reason that you can still encounter fallow deer. The park has been open to the public since 1774.
11. Visit the Kilmainham Gaol Prison
Kilmainham Gaol Prison is one of the most important sights in Dublin. It is also the largest vacant prison in Europe. The British have imprisoned many Irish freedom fighters there. Fourteen members of the Easter Revolt of 1916 were even shot here.
With a tour you learn more about the history of the institute that was built in 1796. The conditions in the prison were degrading to people, and overcrowding was a major problem. Very impressive.
12. Get a Drink at the Guinness Storehouse
If you like beer, you must visit the Guinness Storehouse, one of the most popular things to do in Dublin. The dark “naughty” is one of the first things you think of when you think of Ireland.
In 1759, Arthur Guinness started his brewery in Dublin. He then entered into a 9000-year lease for a brewery. The current Guinness Storehouse dates from 1904, and was built as a yeast house and in that capacity it was active until 1988. Since 2000 it has been a visitor center.
You can visit it with a tour, and included in the entrance fee is a glass of Guinness that you can drink in the Gravity Bar, from where you have a 360-degree view of the city.
13. Have a drink with the locals
Dublin is full of cozy streets with pubs and bars. Go to South Williams Street, Aungier Street and Fade Street. In these streets you will find some of the best restaurants, most vibrant bars and nicest independent shops in the city.
Tips for Visiting Dublin
Where to Eat in Dublin
Gallagher Boxty House
Looking for real Irish food? Then Gallagher’s Boxty house is a must. Boxty’s are a type of pancakes, made from potato, with filling. I just didn’t feel like eating heavy food, and chose the fish & chips, and Mr. went for a traditional stew.
The Joy of Chá
During our free walking tour through Dublin we made a stopover at rhe Joy of Chá, where we could warm up by the fireplace with a nice warm cup of cappuccino, and a giant creamy piece of chocolate cake.
Sometimes, the demand for sushi becomes too big, and I have to give it a moment. So when we walked past Zakura, I could not restrain myself, and we decided to dine Japanese. Good choice! I had sushi, and Mr. went for a hot dish with meat and vegetables, which was both delicious. You have to bring your own drink here.
At Pitt Bro’s they serve American cuisine. Pulled pork is a specialty, and it went well with me. The onion rings can be worn as a bracelet, they are that big. I thought the lemonade was on the sweet side, but there is good news. They serve free soft ice cream. Whoeee!
Oscars Café Bar
A nice film-related cafe, where we only went for a drink, but the lunch and dinner options certainly didn’t look bad either. The bar has two outlets, one of which we visited in Smithfields, right next to the Lighthouse Cinema, where we wanted to go but where we were not interested at the time.
How to Get to Dublin
Dublin is super easy to reach from the Netherlands. There are flights from Eindhoven or Amsterdam.
Budgeting for Dublin
For more advice on what to expect for what to budget, check my post on how much a weekend in Dublin costs.
What are your favorite, unique things to do in Dublin?
General Travel Tips
- For accommodation, I always check Airbnb or Booking.com for the best prices.
- If your insurance at home doesn’t cover travel, you may want to look into SafetyWing for an affordable option.
- I always recommend checking Get Your Guide for the best tours in Europe and Tiqets for specific attraction deals.