What To Do In Dublin

What To Do In Dublin

I just googled "What to do in Dublin" and the suggestions from big travel sites are as dismal as the Irish weather in January.

So, skip the old churches, dusty museums & boring stuff. Instead, let's meet Dubliners, do what they do, go off the beaten track & see non-touristy Dublin.

I'm a Dubliner born & bred. I've shown countless friends around Dublin.  I've seen what they loved in Dublin. And it's not an 8th-century manuscript.  

The Dublin Tours

I have five tours. Each with a theme to show you a different side of the city. 

  1. City: Dublin City Centre. Guinness, hotels, shopping, bars, restaurants.
  2. Village: Village life, a farmer's market, do a 5k with Dubliners.
  3. Sea: Walk along the Dublin seafront and swim with the locals.
  4. Mountains: Hike the Wicklow Mountains with an Irish hiking group.
  5. Cliffs: The best views in Dublin & get the boat home.

1. City

Dublin City Center, Guinness, shopping, hotels, restaurants, bars, hotels, Gaelic sports, where to stay, and how to get around.

Guinness Storehouse Tour

After all that talk about local Dublin, the first place I'm telling you to go to is the most popular tourist attraction in Ireland, the Guinness Storehouse 😂

Let me explain. I've flown from the US to Dublin about 100 times. Trust me, you'll be tired after flying all night.  You'll need energy until your hotel is ready.

The Guinness tour is perfect for this. It's loud & busy. There's music & Guinness. 

Book the Guinness tour online, it's cheaper and you skip the queue

Where to Stay in Dublin 

Stay in the south part of Dublin City center. Don't stay on the north side of town. The Northside is more dodgy than dangerous, but I try to avoid it at night.

Dublin is an old city. Many hotels are crammed into buildings with tiny rooms. Stay in a newer hotel to avoid this.

I like the Leonardo Hotel Christchurch. Modern building, reasonably priced, and a central location. Next door is the Lord Edward. This is my local pub in town. A pub untouched in decades. Niall will pour you a fine pint at the Lord Ed.

The Lord Edward Pub in Dublin

The Shelbourne is the iconic Dublin hotel. Home to politicians, presidents, and Irish society. If you can afford it, stay here.

The Shelbourne Hotel in Dublin

Getting Around Dublin

Dublin is small. Don't rent a car. Use your feet or the DART light rail.

Where To Go In Dublin City Centre 

After your nap, explore the city. No plan, just wander the area in red below. Lots of side streets, local shops, pubs and restaurants to pick from.

St Stephen's Green, Dublin

Shopping

Grafton Street is the main shopping street. Apart from the buskers, it doesn't have much charm. It's full of international chains. Instead, go to Drury Street, Wicklow Street, Exchequer Street. They have independent local shops. Don't walk past Powerscourt Townhouse Centre. It's easy to miss, but it's architecturally beautiful. Eat lunch and find quality Irish products here. 

Powerscourt Townhouse Centre

Dublin Restaurants

George's Street & Exchequer street are my favorite streets for restaurants. https://lovindublin.com is the best local website for food reviews. 

There's a misperception that Irish food is bland. This is 100% wrong. We have top-quality, naturally grown food in Ireland. Look around our island. Our animals live in our lush green fields. No fake factory fattening here. We're an island, surrounded by cold waters, full of fish. And we're a small island, farm to table is all we've ever known. Be prepared to be surprised by the quality of Irish food. 

This will be a shock to US visitors, but the food in our convenience stores is good. Perfect for a quick snack. Get the Irish Breakfast Roll after a night out.

Drury Street in Dublin

Dublin Bars

Look for bars with an Irish family name, such as Mulligan, Grogan and McDaid. These places are all institutions for the appreciation of Guinness. Don't pass them by, just go in, order your pint, and consider how lucky you are to be drinking a pint of delicious Guinness in Dublin right now. 

Let’s talk about the Temple Bar area. Ugh. It's awful. The whole Temple Bar area is overpriced, made for & filled with tourists. Avoid!!!

Grogan's in Dublin @darragh.doran

Dublin Nightlife

Instead of Temple Bar, go to Dublin's other nightlife area in Camden Street. It's where Dubliners go for a big night out. Few visitors venture up here.

Traditional Irish Music in Dublin

The guidebooks say go to The Cobblestone for Irish traditional music. Don't! It's packed with tourists and is ruined. Instead, go to Rake The Ashes at The Barge on Sunday nights. You'll hear Irish music with Irish people. The craic is unreal. Cancel everything else and go!!!

Gaelic Sports

If there is a football or hurling game on at Croke Park when you are here, go to it. Even if the game is sold out, go to the bars around the stadium and enjoy the atmosphere between the fans.

Hurling fans outside the Clonliffe House. Photo by @clonliffehouse

See the City, then get out of it.
Too many people come to Dublin and never leave the city center. This is such a shame because the real charm of Dublin is outside of the busy city. Dublin is a coastal city. Its villages are the best parts of Dublin, and the rest of my tours show you these beautiful parts of Dublin.

2. Village

Village

Raheny Village, St Anne's Park, farmer's market, Gaelic Sports, A 5k, the wooden bridge, Bull Island, Dublin Bay Biosphere.

I promised that you'd see the local side of Dublin. You'll see a real Dublin community on its Saturday morning, and join in their weekly 5k walk/run.

Come here on a Saturday morning when all the activities are on.

Village Tour Route

Get the DART to Raheny, then follow this map. The route is flat & paved. Plan on taking 3 hours with stops. There are bathrooms in the park, cafes & pier.

https://maps.app.goo.gl/PAeJiYDFesp9hHDi8

Raheny to Bull Island, via St Anne's Park

Raheny Village

From the DART station, walk through the Raheny Village. There's nothing special about Raheny. It's a typical village that you'll see all over Ireland. But this is the kind of place I look for when I travel. To see how the locals live. See the houses they live in. Stop in a local coffee shop.

Give me this look at local life over going to see the Book of Kells any day.

Look for the 300-year-old ruins of St Assam's Church. U2's Bono got married in All Saints Church in Raheny. If you need a coffee or snack, stop in to see Sarah & Andy at Bowl's Healthy Eating

St Anne's Park

St Anne's Park

Next is St Anne's Park  It is a gorgeous park, the second biggest in Dublin.

Walk the park and see The Rose Garden, Clock Tower, Walled Garden, St Anne's Wishing Well, the Hermit's Cave, the Guinness Bridge, Gothic Bridge, Druid's Circle. There is a hidden river, a city petting farm, a dog park, sports fields, a golf course, tennis courts, bike circuit, farmer's market. 

Hurling & Gaelic Football

Gaelic Football in St Anne's Park

Watch the teams playing Gaelic Football & Hurling, our national sports.

Park Run

Every Saturday morning, the community does the Park Run. It's a free 5k. Walk or jog. It's not a race, it exists to bring everyone together. Join in & do it yourself!  What better way to experience Dublin than becoming a part of it.

Farmer's Market

St Anne's Park Farmer's Market

On Saturday mornings, there is a farmer's market here. I live in Raheny & buy all my groceries here. Come hungry. Get your lunch and eat it on the grass, along with a few hundred Dubliners. The 1873 Tower overlooks the market.

The market is the central area of the park. There's plenty to see around here. Just go explore. Find the river, it's my favorite part of the park.

Bull Island  

The Bull Wall, Dollymount

Keep following my map, it'll bring you through the park and out onto the coast road. In front of you is Bull Island, which is a National Bird Sanctuary, and a UNESCO Biosphere. It's a 6km long island with dunes, marshes, and a beach.

To get there, you'll cross the wooden bridge and walk along the Bull Wall.

The Wooden Bridge, Dollymount Beach, Dublin. @darragh.doran

As you go further up the Bull Wall, there are bathing shelters. People swim every day, no matter how cold the water is.

You can see all of Dublin from here. To your left, Howth. To the right, Dublin City and the mountains.

Dollymount Bathing Shelter. @darragh.doran

Dollymount Beach is the kitesurfing beach in Dublin. I kite here! Take a lesson with Pure Magic Watersports.

Warm up with coffee at Happy Out, located in an old shipping container. Then, go back to the main road, where you can get a bus or taxi back to town.

3. Sea

Swim at The Forty Foot, Dalkey Island, Martello Towers, James Joyce, Colliemore Harbor, ice cream, food market, Killiney Bay.

Today's theme is the sea. It's ever-present as you walk along the seafront on Dublin's Southside. This is the wealthy part of Dublin. The walk starts in Dún Laoghaire and goes to Dalkey, with the option to keep walking to Killiney.

The Sea Route

I'm going to give you two maps.

  1. The is Dun-Laoghaire to Dalkey. It's 6kms, all paved and flat. https://maps.app.goo.gl/CWbWvrPbAt26SPc5A
  2. This map includes the option to go to Killiney. It's an extra 3km and uphill. https://maps.app.goo.gl/HhRfCFY4V81pHopo6

Dún Laoghaire

Take the DART to Dún Laoghaire. Dún Laoghaire is a busy town so we'll just use it as a starting point. There's more charm further along.

Follow my route along the waterfront. If it is Sunday, go to the market at the People's Park. Or, have a coffee at Happy Out on the sea front. Teddy's Ice Cream is always worth a stop too! You won't go hungry today.

The Forty Foot

As you walk along the route into Sandycove, follow the curve around to The Forty Foot. Dubliners have been swimming here for 250 years.

If you're brave, come ready to swim. You'll earn respect from any Dubliner if you can tell them you went for a swim at the Forty Foot. If you don't want to swim, chat to the locals who do. It's a very friendly meeting place.

Dalkey

Dalkey Island

The walk continues onto Dalkey. Dalkey is Dublin's most exclusive area, home to the rich and famous. Have lunch, and browse the shops on its main street. There's a castle in Dalkey too.

The last stop is a short walk up the hill to Colliemore Harbor. Dalkey Island is so close you nearly touch it. Then walk five minutes downhill to Dalkey DART station and take the train back home.

Killiney (optional)

If you're still feeling energetic and want to see more, you can keep going up Colliemore Hill. The views over at Killiney Bay are worth it. It adds 3km.

View over Killiney Bay Beach

4. Mountains

Mountains

Wicklow Mountains National Park, waterfalls, wilderness, landscapes, Glenadalough, lakes

The Wicklow mountains are only 30 minutes from Dublin City center. It's amazing how quickly you go from a busy city to a barren wilderness in the mountains. On a grey day, it can feel like you're in Patagonia.

As always, my favorite way to see a place is with the locals. Join the Hiking Buddies Facebook group and go on one of their hikes. They're free too.

If that's not your thing, no worries. There are bus tours you can take through the mountains. Don't drive here. You want to be looking at the window, not navigating impossibly narrow mountains roads, where there's often no signal.

Wicklow Mountains

The buses pass by the Glenmacnass waterfall and then stop at Glendalough. You'll walk through 10th century ruins and along a path to the lakes. It’s a short hike and good for photos. I took all those photos there.

The bus tours also have the option of going to Kilkenny. It makes for a long day, but Kilkenny is one of the nicest small towns in Ireland, so it's worth it.

Now, if you're going to the west of Ireland, you can skip the Wicklow Mountains. As nice as they are, you're going to see lots of wilderness out west.

https://wildrovertours.com/attraction/wicklow-mountains/ or https://www.paddywagontours.com/morning-glendalough-wicklow-mountains-half-day-tour-from-dublin

The Round Tower, Glendalough

5. Cliffs

500 foot cliffs, views, fish & chips, oysters, wild goats, seals, fishermen, islands, ice cream, boat across Dublin Bay.

If you only have one day in Dublin, go to Howth. When you're on top of the cliff, it feels like you're in the wilds of Ireland instead of in a city.

The Cliffs Tour Route

Here is the map https://maps.app.goo.gl/HgNGPJeskWWkDULv6.

The cliffs are not paved and are exposed. It's safe, but come prepared. Wear good walking shoes & layer your clothes. Toilets at the top of the cliff.

Take the #6 bus to Howth. The bus stops at the top of Howth & you walk downhill. Don't take the DART, it's a steep walk uphill from the station.

Very Important ! Don't go to Howth at the weekend. It's too crowded
The Howth Cliff Walk

The Howth Cliff Walk

Howth Cliff Walk @darragh.doran

The views from the Howth Cliff Path are just spectacular. You can see all of Dublin Bay across to Wicklow mountains.

Look down at the crashing waves from the 500 foot high cliffs, You'll see Bailey's Lighthouse, and walk past the WW2 Eire sign built to let German planes know this is Ireland, not England. You might spot the wild goats who were brought to Howth to eat the gorse, and help protect against fires.

WW2 Eire Sign. Photo from @Eire6howth by Luke Maguire

Howth Fishing Pier

The Cliff Walk ends in Howth Village. Time for a well earned lunch.

It's a working fishing harbor, so you know the fish & chips are going to be good. Oysters & Guinness are another good local option.

I have a lot of family ties in Howth. Look for my cousin's fish shop, Doran's On The Pier. They also own the Octopussy & Oarhouse restaurants.

After lunch, get an ice cream & walk the pier. See the fishermen mending their nets. Look for the seals playing between the boats. At the end of the pier, the island in front of you is Ireland's Eye.

Take The Boat Home

Everyone else is going to take the DART back to town, but we don't do boring things like that on this page. Instead, take the one hour cruise from Howth to Dun Laoghaire. The boat crosses Dublin Bay to the other side of the city.

You'll see Ireland's Eye, and a totally different perspective of the cliffs from the water. From Dún Laoghaire, it's a quick DART train back into town.

Is there anything else to do in Howth?

Yeah, there's lot more to do if you want to make it a full day.


More Best Things to Do in Dublin

I keep thinking of more things to do, so I'll add them on here.

  • If you're just coming back to Dublin for one night before you fly home, stay in Malahide for the night. It's a gorgeous coastal village that's close to the airport. Or just come visit it for the day on the DART.
  • Take the DART to Portmarnock and walk 90 minutes to Malahide. Get lunch or dinner there, and take the train back in from Malahide.
  • Greystones is another coastal village that's worth a day trip. You've guessed it, take the DART to get there.
  • Comedy Clubs. There's nothing like Irish humor. Catch a comedy night. The one at the Intentional Bar is my favorite. It's tiny. You might be sitting on stage.
  • Check the Pavillion Theater schedule. They have excellent Irish shows, singers & comedians. See some Irish culture in a local setting.
  • Kilmainham Gaol. It is a very important part of Irish history. It's powerful, somber, and a place that I've been to many times. Book far ahead for it. 
Kilmainham Gaol Dublin

Follow These Instagram Accounts About Dublin

@janecasey.ie. @lemonlimod. @lovindublin @dublintown @thetaste_ie

Final Words

I hope my guide has given you some good ideas about unique things to see and do in Dublin.

It has taken a long time to write. Even though I did all the tours many times with my friends over the years, I went back and did them all on my own to get all the details right when I wrote this. All the photos are my own, bar two.

If you follow my tours, I promise you'll have a better time in Dublin 99% of the other people on your flight home. You will experience an authentic side of Dublin, not just tick off tourist sites.

I'll put together some itineraries for rest of Ireland soon. Bookmark the page and check back shortly.

If you're doing the Village tour, I live in Raheny and if I'm around, I might give you a personal tour. Send me a message.

If you have any question at all, please contact me. I'll be happy to answer or give you some more ideas.

Darragh IG