Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is a historic city that is a fascinating place to visit. If you want to absorb yourself in the Irish culture, then this is the place to do so. There is a multitude of activities and attractions to enjoy in this fascinating city and choosing which to do during your stay is tricky if you have never visited this city before. To help you plan your vacation to make sure you get the best out of your stay, the following are the 20 best things to do in Dublin for first-timers.
20. Visit the National Leprechaun Museum
If people are asked to name things that they associate with Ireland, leprechauns are often something that is included on the list. Therefore, it makes sense to include something relating to these mythical creatures on your list of things to do while in Dublin. The National Leprechaun Museum, which is located on Jervis Street, explores various aspects of Ireland's folklore. You will tour various rooms while having Irish folklore narrated to you. If you visit at night, there are also shows.
19. Tour Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is one of the most famous historical structures in the city, so no trip to Dublin is complete without taking a tour around the castle. This structure was built in the 13th-century on the site of a Viking settlement. Many parts of the original structure and its later additions have been preserved. It is a fascinating place to learn about many aspects of Dublin’s history.
18. Picnic at St. Stephen’s Green
If you want a relaxing activity to enjoy during your trip to Dublin, then spend some time in St. Stephen’s Park. It has been described as a peaceful paradise in the center of the city that takes you away from the hustle and bustle of Dublin life. This park is the perfect spot to enjoy a picnic in good weather.
17. Visit Sweny’s Pharmacy
An unusual attraction to visit while in Dublin is Sweny’s Pharmacy. This is a museum that is based in a former pharmacy. However, medicine and pharmaceuticals are not the focus of this attraction, although there are some such items on display in glass cases. It is a museum based on literary history. Visitors learn about famous Irish authors and their fictional characters. You can also sit and read from a large selection of second-hand books.
16. Go to the Little Museum of Dublin
One of the best museums to visit in Dublin is the Little Museum of Dublin. Set over three floors, this museum houses more than five thousand exhibits that focus on life in Dublin in the 20th century. Some of the highlights are memorabilia from John F. Kennedy’s tour of the city and from the 1916 Rising. Another highlight is the room that is dedicated to Irish rock legends. There are guided tours available every hour, and it is open seven days a week.
15. Scare Yourself at The Irish Hellfire Club
As you head towards the famous Irish Hellfire Club, it will seem that you are in an idyllic and tranquil location with stunning views with beautiful forest trails on the way up the hill. However, all is not as it seems at this location. Once you reach the top of the hill, you will see the remains of the Irish Hellfire Club. This was a club that had devil-worshippers and Satanists as its members. It is believed that the remains are haunted, and they are at the center of many supernatural tales. If you are not freaked out by these stories, then it is worth visiting to experience the views if nothing else.
14. Take a Whiskey Tour
Ireland is famous for its whiskey production, and Dublin is at the heart of this trade. Therefore, taking a tour of a whiskey distillery is an activity that you should definitely include on your trip to Dublin. Although there are several whiskey distilleries that you can visit, The Crazy Tourist recommends visiting the Old Jameson Distillery, which is located just off Smithfield Square. Not only can you learn about the history and production of whiskey in the city, but you can also sample the products and buy some to take home. Another option is Teeling Distillery, which is still in operation.
13. Drink Like the Irish
Rightly or wrongly, the Irish culture is associated with drinking. Most travel experts recommend spending some time in Irish bars while you are in Dublin so that you can experience the true culture of the city. One of the best bars to visit is Temple Bar, says Perceptive Travel. This is one of the most famous bars in Dublin, and when you visit will make a big difference to your experience. If you want a quiet drink while you watch the locals in their home city, then you should visit in the afternoon. However, if you want a lively experience, then the evenings are the best time to visit when the bar is packed with merry drinkers.
12. Take a Dublin Bus Tour
One of the best ways to get an overview of the sights of Dublin is to take a bus tour through the city. There are many of these tours available that have experienced guides who will point out the most important landmarks and give you some information about their history. This is a good activity at the beginning of your visit as it will give you a general feel of the city.
11. See the Wild Deer Phoenix Park
Dublin is surrounded by some beautiful countryside that is home to some fascinating wildlife. Phoenix Park is the largest walled urban park in Europe, and the people of Ireland consider it a national treasure. It has been open for 350 years, and it is home to a herd of 450 wild deer. It is also home to Dublin Zoo, so you can visit two attractions in one.
10. Enjoy the Views Along the Howth Cliff Walk
While most of the attractions are in the heart of the city, you can enjoy some peaceful activities in beautiful surroundings if you head to the outskirts of Dublin. One of the best attractions for nature lovers is the Howth Cliff Walk. Start in the coastal town of Howth on the outskirts of Dublin. There you will find many outstanding seafood restaurants. After grabbing a bite to eat, head along the cliff walk where you can enjoy some of the most impressive views across the Irish Sea.
9. View the St. Michan Church Mummies
St. Michan’s Church is a chapel that is known for its stunning murals and it beautiful pews. However, the reason why most people visit is to take a tour of the 17th and 19th-century vaults as these are full of mummified people, some of which are noteworthy people. There is an eerie stairway that leads up to an undercroft with five vaults. The lush churchyard is a nice place to take a walk, and it is dotted with old tombstones.
8. Stroll Down Grafton Street
Grafton Street is one of the main streets running through Dublin, and it is a hive of activity. It is one of the top shopping destinations in Dublin, and it is also where you will find many restaurants, cafes, bars, and coffee shops. For many visitors, the highlight of strolling down Grafton Street is listening to the buskers playing live music throughout the day.
7. People-Watch at Merrion Park Square
One of the best places to sit, relax, and watch the world go by is Merrion Park Square. It is a great meeting place and somewhere that you can enjoy a spot of people-watching. There are also several structures worth admiring in the square, the most notable of which is the Oscar Wilde statue. This famous poet and playwright lived just opposite the square for several years, and he has been commemorated with a statue of him between two pillars, along with statues of his wife Constance Lloyd and another statue of Dionysus.
6. Go to Kilmainham Gaol
An interesting activity to enjoy is a visit to Kilmainham Gaol, which is just a few miles out of the center of Dublin. There are guided tours of the former prison, each of which takes approximately an hour. The tour takes you through the main prison and the yard to give you an in-depth look into the history of the prison. This tour includes a media show in the Old Chapel.
5. Cross the Ha’penny Bridge
There are several bridges in Dublin, but the best-known is probably the Ha’penny Bridge. It is a historic bridge over the River Liffey that was built in 1816. When it was first built, there was a ha’penny fee to cross the bridge, hence its name. The bridge is illuminated at night, which is a spectacular sight. Throughout the year, there are events that involve local musicians performing under the bridge called the Music Under the Bridge tours. Another way to see the bridge from a different perspective is to hire a kayak and travel along the river below the bridge.
4. Trace Your Ancestors at Glasnevin Cemetery
People from all around the world potentially have ancestors from Ireland, and a wonderful place to learn more about this is at Glasnevin Cemetery. The cemetery was built in 1832 and it is surrounded by seven watchtowers. It is now the most famous cemetery in Ireland. It is the final resting place of many notable Irish figures. At the cemetery, you will also find the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum that has the stories of more than 1.5 million people. It is at the museum that you can conduct your family’s Irish genealogy search.
3. Spend an Hour at Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is one of the most historically significant religious structures in Dublin. Built in 1030, it is the oldest building in the city. Visitors can see the ancient artifacts that have accumulated in the cathedral over the centuries and learn more about the historic events that have occurred in the lifetime of this cathedral. Due to its stunning architecture, many people consider Christ Church one of the highlights of Dublin. It is possible to take guided tours of the church, including the 12th0century crypt. During the tours, there is even the chance to ring the cathedral’s famous bells yourself.
2. Go to Trinity College Library
During a visit to Dublin, it is important to put aside some time to visit Trinity College. This college is the oldest university in Ireland as it was created in 1592. It is where many famous authors and poets studied, such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Jonathan Swift. Since 1661, it has been the home of the Book of Kells, which is the focus of the library’s main exhibition. The Old Library House is home to more than two hundred thousand ancient books that are housed in beautiful oak bookcases. It is said that J.K. Rowling used this library as the inspiration for Hogwarts in her Harry Potter series of books.
1. Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
According to Expert Vagabond, the best place to visit in Dublin is St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded in 1191, it is the largest church in Ireland, the National Cathedral, and a significant landmark of Dublin. It is open to the public every day between 9 am and 5 pm. Gulliver’s Travel’s author Jonathan Swift was once the Dean of the cathedral and it is now his final resting place. Along with admiring the interior of the cathedral, visitors also like to walk around the grounds.
Written by Dana Hanson
Read more posts by Dana Hanson