There are many clichés about things to do in Dublin, but I’ll tell you this for nothing: it’s possible to find joy here in nonalcoholic ways. Now, this guide still has a few great watering holes, but a scholar like yourself needs more places to think – not forget. So, with that in mind, here are the activities to remember Dublin by.
The Top 15 Things to do in Dublin
One of the most interesting things about Dublin is that you can go from the city center to the wilderness within half an hour. Not only that, but the natural terrain is so diverse. You have both land and sea at your disposal, such as the Dublin mountains, or the expansive coastline of Dublin Bay. There’s so much to offer, in fact, that over a quarter of Ireland’s population lives there. And, wherever there are people, there are stories. That comes in many forms, such as our street art, buskers, comedians, and tour guides – or simply in the anecdotes, we share with each other over a pint.
As a result, Dublin is a good choice for both introverted and extroverted travelers. You can come here for the pub culture, or else embark on a quest into nature. Regarding cultural activities in the capital, they tend to be an expression of what the Irish are most fond of, which is, of course, the written and spoken word. So, if you would like to know more about these activities, read on to see what they are!
Experience a Night of Irish Mythology Storytelling
“Candlelit Tales” is a pop up event that is held in various pubs around Dublin. The show usually starts at 8.30 pm and lasts for an hour, but patrons need to book in advance on their website to ensure a space. Once you get there, the storytellers are quick to beguile you with Irish mythology classics. The ambiance is also faultless due to the guitarist (or harpist) that strums along to the stories. This combination makes for a cozy and intimate evening.
Candlelit Tales would suit anybody with a love for poetry and storytelling. It would also be of interest to those who want to connect with ancient Ireland. The hosts love to regale you with character-driven fables, so you’ll probably hear about the legendary stories of ‘Cúchulainn,’ the blood thirsty demigod, or ‘Queen Medb’, a promiscuous warrior.
Do a Guided Tour and Eat Food at Roe & Co. Distillery
The Roe & Co. distillery opened up four years ago, due to a whiskey renaissance that was emerging in Ireland. Interestingly, this is the second time over the last three centuries that the distillery has been opened. It was first established by the Roe family back in 1757. At that point, they were forced to close due to a trade war with Britain – after Ireland gained independence. Thankfully though, today’s distillery has been rebuilt on top of the original site. Roe & Co. is also located across the road from the Guinness Storehouse, so visitors could do both when in the area.
As far as tours at Roe & Co., you have a couple of options to choose from. Cocktail enthusiasts can do a hands-on “flavors workshop,” and those who prefer blended whiskeys can do an “old-fashioned master class”. Both experiences last roughly 45 minutes, and afterward you’ll have a table reserved at the Power House bar. My favorite part is being able to draw directly from the cask to make a personalized bottle. A genius souvenir idea.
Do Afternoon Tea on a bus around Dublin City
The most novel way to do sightseeing in Dublin is by hopping on a double-decker bus that serves afternoon tea. An excursion of this kind can be booked via Vintage Tea Trips, which are a hidden treasure for even the biggest globetrotters among us. As you sip on a cup o’ tae, the bus cruises you through popular spots like Temple Bar, Trinity College, and Phoenix Park. What’s more, is that you’ll have a mic’d guide to impart knowledge on each neighborhood.
Also, the idea of afternoon tea – for those unacquainted – it’s like tapas of the northwestern hemisphere. On this bus tour, “tapas” means a configuration of warm scones and clotted cream, some fancy sandwich slices, and an assortment of little cakes. Vintage Tea Trips, as far as I see it, is the perfect mom and daughter thing to do. However, it suits just about anyone who is hungry and wants to sit back and conserve energy.
Do a Day Trip to the Cliffs Of Moher and Galway
The attraction with the most footfall in Ireland is definitely The Cliffs of Moher. It’s like Venice in Italy. Totally overcrowded, but that way for a reason. As you stare out at the Atlantic from the edge of a cliff, I guarantee you, it will be an unexpectedly profound experience. Especially so, for Irish-Americans pondering the voyage of their ancestors across the Atlantic to North America. The best method of doing the cliffs is through The Tour Guy’s full day experience. This way, you’ll have luxury coach transportation from Dublin with an Irish guide onboard. On arrival, you’ll have full access to the Cliffs of Moher and the visitor center, with another pit stop to see Kilmacduagh Monastery. You get some free time in Galway at the end, as well.
Regarding wildlife, there are many cute puffins to observe. These birds are native to Celtic countries only. You can also witness wild sheep roaming about, and of course, the grass. The color of Ireland. A vivid green like nowhere else on earth. Just one thing to remember, though: do check the weather before booking. If the cliffs are foggy, then you won’t get the views you deserve. I recommend this trip for eco-lovers who love the salty, sea air. Inadvertently, the bus journey is a passive way to recover from jet lag. The Cliffs of Moher, therefore, works out for your first couple of days in Ireland.
Do a Guided Tour at The Guinness Storehouse
They say that a pint of the black stuff tastes better in Ireland. Seriously, this is scientifically true! A study once suggested that simply being in the atmosphere of Ireland was enough to psychologically induce a preference to Guinness there. Others argue that the stout “looses freshness” when exported overseas. Either way, this creamy beverage is a way of life here, much like pasta is to the Italians.
I would thus suggest taking a guided tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Every floor has something to do. You can practice pouring your own pints on level three, eat in an array of restaurants on level five, and experience the gravity bar with panoramic views on level seven. The first floor is reserved for retail, where you can get a bunch of cool Guinness merchandise. I know you might think there’s nothing interesting to learn about Guinness, the unassuming drink, but when you learn about its involvement in cinema and advertising, I think you’ll change your mind.
Go Kayaking with Seals in Dalkey
Kayaking.ie are the team behind this arm-strengthening excursion. They cover the Dalkey location and then trips on the Royal Canal, closer to the city center. The reason for recommending Dalkey is because you would be hard-pressed to find a more quaint, seaside village in South Dublin. It’s a place that visitors wouldn’t travel to too often, but kayaking gives you good reason to go. I promise it won’t disappoint. Firstly, you’ll be on the sea as opposed to the canal, so the water is cleaner. You’ll also get the chance to bump fists with those cheeky little water-dogs, otherwise known as seals.
After you finish kayaking, you can pop down to have dinner in the picturesque, Dalkey village. There is a number of restaurants with outdoor dinings, such as Benito’s, DeVille’s, and Ouzos. You can then take a stroll up to Killiney beach and gander at some of the most pricey and sought-after houses in Ireland. A crowd of famous people resides on the hills overlooking the bay. Bono, Enya, and even Matt Damon, when he got stranded here during the first lockdown. Celebrity gossip aside, both kayaking and Dalkey village offer peak entertainment. A day like this would suit someone who is physically able for the sea and prefers a hands-on approach when grappling with a new city.
Go to a Comedy Night at The Stag’s Head
The Comedy Crunch is a fantastic stand-up comedy show. It takes place every Monday, Tuesday, and Sunday night in The Stags Head pub. This is where you get to crack up at zingers from Irish comedians with national acclaim. To namedrop with no segue, Bill Burr and Jim Jefferies have also done shows here. The room itself is generally packed with an audience from all over the world – a lively aura that could resurrect you from the dead. Word of warning though, the comedians will single you out. They will crack jokes at your expense!
A gig at The Comedy Crunch is a must-do. It serves you real Dublin: the self-deprecating humor, jaunty accents, and the classic snugs in an Irish pub… What’s not to love? A comedy show is also good for getting out of a tetchy mood, as so often happens on vacation. The best part about this event, though, is that it’s all donation-based. You can just chuck whatever you have into the bucket on your way out the door.
Visit The National History Museum of Ireland
The National History Museum (not to be confused with The National Gallery across the road) is an archaeological “dead zoo.” I want to mention that the museum is oftentimes hard to locate, as it’s tucked behind a number of similar Georgian buildings. Nonetheless, the general location is in an affluent part of town called Merrion Square. The museum, as a whole, has over two million specimens of zoological and geological interest. A fraction, of which, are on permanent display. There are hours of exploring to be done and the museum is free of charge.
To navigate the space, the first floor has mammals from all over the world. This room includes endangered species like the pygmy hippo. The lower gallery holds animals from every corner of the globe, and the upper gallery has all the invertebrates and marine specimens. There’s also an Irish room with taxidermy animals that are native to Ireland. This is a really good choice of activity for parents with kids in the 6-16 age group. It’s educational, a little weird, and surprisingly relaxing.
Do a Day Trip to the Giant’s Causeway and Titanic Belfast
The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO site in county Antrim. It’s affectionately known to some as the “eighth wonder of the world.” To put this into perspective, the site was formed millions of years ago, when a volcanic eruption caused molten rocks to squeeze through the earth’s cracks. The aftermath created The Giant’s Causeway, which looks man-made but is rather a natural formation of flat and hexagonal-shaped rocks. Legend has it, these basalt rocks are actually steps for giants traveling between Scotland and Ireland.
As you’re in the North of Ireland, you can also visit The Titanic museum in Belfast city. As both county Antrim and Belfast are occupied by The United Kingdom, you get to experience two countries in one vacation! Everything is different in the North, from the currency (British sterling instead of Euro) to the phone reception, accents, and architecture. If you book the full-day trip via The Tour Guy, you can avoid having to organize a second travel visa. This particular excursion also gives you luxury coach transportation to and from Dublin, as well as all-inclusive access to The Titanic Museum and The Giant’s Causeway. There is a further pit stop to Dunluce Castle and the Game of Thrones hedges. This tour is for people who want to mix the history of industrial Ireland with the environmental history of the land.
Visit a Historic Jail that Imprisoned Irish Freedom Fighters
Kilmainham Jail is a former jail in a neighborhood of the same name. It hasn’t served as a prison for 85 years, but it used to incarcerate political prisoners who were involved in the fight for Irish independence. Many of these rebels were executed here and the jail didn’t segregate prisoners, so there would be men, women, and children all cramped together in a cell. The jail had a dire reputation for brutality. At the time, inmates had to share a single candle for warmth and light, so a majority of their time was spent in the cold and dark.
Kilmainham Gaol now operates as a museum and offers guided tours of the building. A nice touch is the art gallery on the top floor. This exhibits artwork, jewelry, and sculptures from prisoners all over Ireland today. Kilmainham Gaol is a somber but commemorative way to honor the heroic men and women who died for their freedom. Their story sheds light on convict transportation during the Great Famine, which many know as a moment that changed modern Ireland forever. Kilmainham Gaol is, therefore, a recommended choice for history buffs who aren’t afraid to delve into the heavy-going stuff.
Check out The National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland
Some might think that a “leprechaun museum” is silly at first, but I swear down – you’ll leave the premises fully believing in fairies and ghouls. Upon entry, you are greeted by an Irish guide, who will then chaperone you through numerous rooms. One particular room, called the “giant’s room,” has unrealistically large furniture to make you look tiny. You’ll get a recount of classic Irish folklore all along the way, oftentimes in a sing-song from your enthusiastic guide.
The Leprechaun Museum is a top pick for both young and old. If you’re an adult, it’s the perfect setting to awaken your inner child. My recommendation is to book this museum on a rainy day, before exploring nearby Temple Bar and the Liffey quays. There are also a few excellent places to eat close by, such as Wigwam, The Yarn, Yamamori, and The Woolen Mills.
See The Book of Kells and The Long Room Library at Trinity College
You may have already seen The Old Library on social media. Its symmetrical and worldly-looking appearance makes for the perfect snap. This library has been functioning on the grounds of Trinity College since 1732, but the actual college has been open since 1592 – thus, crowning it Ireland’s oldest university. Notable figures like Michelle and Barack Obama have visited the library before, which has shone a spotlight on it like never before.
The pièce de résistance, of course, is “The Book of Kells.” This is a treasured manuscript that’s heavily guarded within the library. It was created by Irish and Scottish monks back in 800 AD and contains some of the most beautiful Celtic illustrations. You can visit the “Book of Kells” experience on the university grounds, but just a heads up – you’ll only be able to see copied versions of the sacred text. That said, this would be the ultimate activity for graphic designers or anyone with an appreciation for Celtic calligraphy.
Do a Half Day Trip to Glendalough
Glendalough is a series of idyllic brooks, lakes, and valleys in county Wicklow. Moreover, it’s just a stone’s throw from Dublin city. The bio-reserve is favored with film location scouts for its Utopian looking landscape, in fact, iconic movies like ‘Braveheart’ and ‘PS. I Love You’ were previously shot in Glendalough. You can book a half-day tour with “Paddywagon,” which will take you by coach from Dublin (the driver is also the tour guide). The first stopping point is at the entrance of Glendalough, where you’ll see the ruins of St Kevin’s monastery. You can use this time to walk around the graveyard and admire all the Celtic headstones. You’ll then get an hour and a half to walk through the forest trail to the lakes.
Afterward, you get a chance to pop through and see Lough Tay, which was originally bought as a private lake for the Guinness family. Ironically, the water in this lake is pitch-black like Guinness. The driver lets you off the bus again at this point, and you get a few minutes at the edge of the mountaintop to peer over Lough Tay. I wholeheartedly recommend this experience if you are a nature lover who likes the stillness of a lake, or the lush greenery of Ireland.
See How The Irish Lived in the 1900s, at 14 Henrietta Street
14 Henrietta Street is the real-life address of a 300-year-old, former tenement building. In the 1900s, the whole street housed hundreds of low-income families. The museum has now been restored as a typical home of that time, and it serves as a stark reminder of the persisting poverty in Ireland, in the decades that followed The Great Hunger.
There are two guided tours that you can do on Henrietta Street. Firstly, there’s the 75-minute “house tour,” which focuses on the building’s living conditions. Alternatively, you can partake in the three-hour “walking tour.” In this tour, the guide recounts the story of the man who built Henrietta Street, before walking and giving insight to surrounding Georgian streets. This is definitely a choice of activity for couples, as the building can get quite cramped with large groups. Overall, this museum is a slice of history that visitors can’t learn about online.
Visit EPIC – The Irish Emigration Museum
Those with Irish ancestry will be especially interested in EPIC – The Irish Emigration Museum. The name does exactly what it says, in the sense that it pays respects to the ten million people who evacuated Ireland during the famine, and beyond. It’s a fully interactive museum as well. There’s nice little touches, such as being able to stamp a mock passport in each section of the museum. You will also have access to a database, which can help you trace your Irish ancestry.
EPIC is located in Dublin Docklands, which is at the neck of Dublin port, right beside the Irish sea. There are many related things to do in the area. Namely, the famine memorial statues or the Jeannie Johnston famine ship. This museum offers those all ages a glimpse into the voyages of our Irish ancestors. It is both a bittersweet and informative museum. One that makes you think. Oh, and one perk: kids go free in July and August!