Most travelers to Ireland start by landing in the city of Dublin. It was birthed when the Vikings invaded the area in the 9th-century, putting down the first foundation as a port where Scandinavians would spend their winters. Today, this bustling capital offers practically an overwhelming number of things to do, making it a must to narrow down your options so that you can also enjoy time exploring the countryside and some of the Emerald Isle’s other vibrant cities like Kilkenny, Cork, and Galway.
What are some fun ways to spend time in Dublin?
If you have extra time during your trip to Dublin, consider trying one of these unique activities:
- Phoenix Park
- View the Book of Kells at Trinity College
- Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar
- National Museum of Ireland
- Shopping on Dublin’s famous shopping streets
- Get a sunset dinner in Howth
- Listen to Irish Tunes in Dublin’s Oldest Pub
- Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour
For a first-time visitor, you’ll want to put at least a few of these things to do in Dublin on your list.
Beat Jet Lag with a Stroll Through Phoenix Park
If you’re suffering from jet lag after a long-haul flight, there a few things better than getting some fresh air with a walk in Phoenix Park. Europe’s largest city park, it offers outstanding people watching, picturesque scenery, and a number of attractions.
Check out the President’s House where a candle in one of the windows burns as a reminder to those who have left the country that they’re welcome “home.” Be sure to keep an eye out for the herd of wild fallow deer often see in the woodland around the northern perimeter and Fifteen Acres, a 200-acre meadow area.
If you have the time, this is also where the Dublin Zoo is located, a fun way to stretch those legs, while the Phoenix Park Tea Rooms are the perfect place for a relaxing break.
View the Book of Kells at Trinity College
The famous Book of Kells is displayed in the Old Library at Trinity College. One of the world’s most stunningly illuminated manuscripts, it was written by Irish monks around 800 AD. The book was buried afterward to keep it hidden from the Vikings. Eventually, it was recovered, and in 1653, given to the college.
Here you’ll not only get to see the medieval manuscript, but you can also discover how it was main and learn about its rich symbolism. Visitors also enjoy access to the Long Room which includes 250,000 of the institution’s most ancient books.
Drink a Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse Gravity Bar
A tour of the Guinness Storehouse is considered a must-do as one of Dublin’s most iconic attractions. The St. James’ Gate Brewery was founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759 and the company still holds a 9,000-year-old lease on the property. The highlight, however, is the free pint enjoyed in the Gravity Bar. The bar sits on the top floor of the impressive building that’s shaped like a pint glass and features a panoramic view of the city from above. Of course, as you make your way to the top, you’ll also learn about how the famous drink is made.
Explore the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology
Even if you aren’t a fan of museums, you’ll want to visit this one. The National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology displays Irish and other antiquities that date from the Stone Age to the Late Middle Age, with highlights like the bog bodies, Tara Brooch, and Ardagh Chalice. But there’s enough to keep you fascinated for hours. The bog bodies are mummified bodies that were preserved in peat bogs. Around 100 of them have been discovered in bogs around the country and they’re thousands of years old. The acidic conditions naturally mummified them, turning skin into leather, with eyelashes, fingernails, and even nose hairs still visible.
During Ireland’s early years, there was so much gold to be found that the Vikings often used it to carve items like miniature Viking ships and lots of jewelry, something that you’ll see here today among the well-preserved artifacts. View magnificent examples of medieval and Celtic art, intricate secular and sacred metal work, and much more.
Give Your Wallet a Workout at Dublin’s Famous Shopping Streets
Grafton and O’Connell streets are two of the most popular places to shop in all of Dublin. In fact, this is one of the hottest destinations for shopping in all of Europe. Be sure that you’ve brought along an extra empty bag with you to bring all your finds home.
The most fashionable is Grafton, running south from College Green where you can also enjoy the performances of some of the most talented buskers as you shop places like the chic Brown Thomas department store.
Mary and Henry streets running west from O’Connell, are popular among bargain hunters, while Powerscourt Townhouse, just behind Grafton Street, features top international and Irish designer outlet stores.
Enjoy a Sunset and Dinner in Howth
Just northeast of the city on the Howth Peninsula, Howth is an affluent Dublin suburb that grew from a small trading port and fishing village in the 14th-century to an action-packed area. It’s home to the Baily Lighthouse, an idyllic place to watch the sun go down, and the King Sitric Seafood Bar, one of the area’s top restaurants. The late celebrity chef/author Anthony Bourdain enjoyed a meal here when filming the Travel Channel series “No Reservations,” and counted it among his world favorites.
Some of the other attractions include 15th-century Howth Castle and the Martello Tower Museum which includes exhibits chronicling the history of telecommunications from the 1840s through the present day. Boat trips can be taken from here to uninhabited Ireland’s Eye, an island with a large bird colony, including puffins, and the ruins of an 8th-century church.
Listen to Traditional Irish Tunes in Dublin’s Oldest Pub
The story may be one of those embellished Irish tales, but the Brazen Head is said to be the city’s oldest pub, pouring pints since 1198. The building dates from the mid-1700s, but there’s no doubt that it has a rich history. In fact, the Dublin rising of 1803 was planned right here beneath the low timbers. The walls are lined with old newspapers, ads, and photos from the past, but the highlight is the live music that can be enjoyed every night, alongside a tasty pint and a bowl of Guinness Stew.
Take the Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tour
One of the easiest ways to see many of the city’s attractions is to take the Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour. There are multiple routes which include as many as 30 stops. You’ll be able to hop off, and hop on, at any of them, from Kilmainham Gaol (the fascinatingly haunting historic jail) to College Green. Highlights include College, Temple Bar, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Dublin Castle, the National Museum, O’Connell and Grafton Streets for shopping, and the Guinness Storehouse.
An Easy Day Trip to Newgrange
Newgrange is just 45 minutes northwest of Dublin so before you began your adventures elsewhere in the country you should plan to squeeze it into your itinerary. It’s even older than Stonehenge and the Great Pyramid of Giza, built around 3200 BC. Guided tours from the Visitor Center will bring you to the large mound, made of white quartz to inspire life-giving energy. It’s surrounded by 97 stones with the elaborately decorated Entrance Stone worth your visit alone.
The most famously notable feature here is the small opening known as a “roof box” which sits above the passage entrance. Every year at sunrise on the winter solstice, a beam of sunlight enters the chamber through this opening. It marked the beginning of the New Year for the Neolithic culture as a sign of rebirth and renewed life for humans, animals, and crops.
Even if you can’t be here at winter solstice, which requires winning a lottery, your guide will duplicate the experience – it’s something you won’t soon forget.