Planning a trip to Dublin, Ireland? While you could try and wing it, sometimes itineraries aren’t best left up to the luck of the Irish! We’ve put together this handy list of must-do activities of essential things to do in Dublin. With a rich and vibrant culture, Dublin is an enthralling city. Catch sight of historic cathedrals, walk along cobblestone streets or pick up a pint to experience everything Dublin has to offer.
While you may not see a leprechaun, you will see striking sights and stunning landscapes with our 10 best things to do in Dublin:
Step inside Guinness Storehouse, one of the biggest tourist attractions in Dublin. The storehouse divulges the history of this famous stout. Walk through the seven floors to gain insight into the founder of Guinness, how it’s made, and appreciate interactive exhibits along the way. Your tour of Guinness Storehouse finishes at the Gravity Bar where you can drink pints alongside a panoramic view of Dublin. Add on a Guinness Connoisseur Experience to sample various stout styles with the expertise of a Guinness guide. Be sure to grab tickets ahead of your trip to skip the line.
The final season of Game of Thrones will begin April 2019, but you can keep seeking the throne with a GoT filming location tour in Northern Ireland. Game of Thrones was filmed across the Belfast area of Northern Ireland, and you can see these places IRL with a day tour from Dublin.
Starting in Dublin, hop on a bus and drive to King’s Road, known as Dark Hedges in GoT. Take a stroll underneath this imposing tunnel made from curved trees and relieve Arya Stark’s escape from King’s Landing.
Drive along the Antrim Coast, and drink in the spectacular seascapes. The Antrim Coast is home to the Cushendun Caves. You’ll recognize these as the spot where Davos Seaworth and Lady Melisandre landed ashore in season two and the location of the birth of the shadow baby.
Journey next to Belfast’s Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Marvel at the 40,000 stacked basalt columns emerging from the sea, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption.
Your tour will finish at Ballintoy Harbour, a GoT filming location for Theon’s return to the Iron Islands as well as some of the areas around Dragonstone. The day tour will not only take you to these iconic filming points, but will also let you explore the scenic Belfast area. If you’re on a tight timeline and want to discover Northern Ireland (but you’re also a diehard GoT fan), this might be a great fit for your itinerary.
Pro-Tip: If you’re going to be traveling to Belfast as well as Dublin, you can also book GoT day tours departing from Belfast. If you’re hoping to get a little *wild*, book this tour which includes a ‘meet and greet’ with real direwolves! Or, book this tour that brings you to the historic Castle Ward, Inch Abbey and Tollymore Forest.
If you’re short on time and want to tour the entire city of Dublin, opt for a Dublin Hop On Hop Off Tour. The tour lets you sightsee across the city and visit Dublin’s top attractions and landmarks while you go at your own pace. Hop off the bus when you reach a destination you want to explore then catch the next bus to visit your next spot. You can choose a one or two-day bus pass depending on how much time you have in your itinerary. There are also two different routes you can choose, depending on which monuments, landmarks, or notable points you want to see.
Stop at famed streets like: 14 Upper O’Connell Street, Nassau Street, Leinster Street, Dame Street, and Merrion Square No. 29. Wander the notable laneways, browse shops, and witness historic architecture. Visit points of interest like the National Art Gallery, St. Patricks Cathedral, and Phoenix Park Dublin Zoo.
Indulge in fish and chips at Leo Burdocks
Obviously, a trip to the United Kingdom would not be complete without tasting some traditional fish n’ chips. One of the things to do in Dublin is take a trip to one of the authentic chip shops and taste the salty, fried goodness of fish n’ chips. Leo Burdocks Fish n’ Chips is a recommended Dublin joint that has been serving the city for over 100 years! It first opened its doors in 1913 and they now count multiple locations across the city. They even have a ‘wall of fame’ which showcases celebs that have chowed down on their fare.
Go back in time at Kilmainham Gaol
Venture into Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin’s county gaol that opened its doors in 1796. Men, women, and children were all jailed here for a number of crimes, ranging from petty theft of food to murder. Leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848,1867 and 1916 were detained, and in some cases executed here. Many members of the Irish Republican movement during the Anglo-Irish War were also detained in Kilmainham Gaol. Tour the gaol and take in the museum’s permanent collection of around 10,000 items from Dublin’s political and penal history. Learn about prison life then understand how the political turmoil of Ireland has shaped Dublin’s present.
If you’d like to visit Kilmainham Gaol, you must pre-book your tickets. Your ticket includes a guided tour of the gaol. You should arrive 15 minutes prior to your tour start time. Directions to the gaol can be found here.
Kilmainham Gaol Museum is open all year round, except December 24th, 25th, and 26th
October – March: 9:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. (Last admission 4:15 p.m.)
April – May: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Last admission 4:45 p.m.)
June – August: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Last admission 5:45 p.m.)
September: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. (Last admission 4:45 p.m.)
Adult Ticket: €8.00
Child Ticket (12 – 17 years): €4.00
Children under the age of 12 are free of charge but still require a ticket to gain entrance (pre-book online)
Pay a visit the striking chapels, cathedrals, and churches
Given the deep-seated religious beliefs in Ireland, Dublin is home to a number of beautiful places of worship. We’ve picked out three of them that possess stunning examples of architecture or Irish works of arts. Spend time at these impressive chapels and cathedrals and appreciate the incredible masterpieces of Ireland’s past.
The Christ Church Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest building. It’s a massive cathedral and a very popular tourist spot. It was founded in 1028 and is the elder of two medieval cathedrals in Dublin. The entire cathedral is majestic, boasting a tall, vaulted ceiling, and has been the site of a number of noted events including the crowning of Lambert Simnel as Edward VI in 1487. From Tuesday – Thursday, if you find yourself at the Christ Church Cathedral, you may be able to take in the choir. The choir is internationally renowned, and traces its origins to 1493 with the founding of the choir school. The church still holds services which you can also partake in. For details on all service, check the official site.
The cathedral features a few major points of interest that are must-sees:
The medieval crypt located beneath the cathedral is the largest in Ireland and the oldest surviving structure in the city! Meander along the underground pathways for a slightly spooky feeling and appreciate the exhibits and displays.
‘Cat and Rat’
One of the displays in the crypt is the ‘cat and rat’- mummified inhabitants of the cathedral.
Treasures of Christ Church
This exhibit, housed in the church, includes manuscripts and ancient artifacts as well as a spectacular exhibition of original 16th Century costumes from the historical series ‘The Tudors’.
Relics (St. Laurence O’Toole’s heart)
Saint Laurence O’Toole was named archbishop in 1150, and upon his passing in 1180, his heart was preserved and encased in a box then protected by iron bars. Interestingly, the heart was stolen in 2012 then returned to the cathedral in 2018.
The Cathedral is open daily, except December 26th, more details on service hours here
Students and seniors: €5.50
Students and seniors: €9.50
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the younger of the aforementioned two medieval cathedrals in Dublin. It is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland as well as the tallest church and largest cathedral in Ireland. In fact, Saint Patrick baptized people into Christianity on the site of the cathedral. It was founded in 1191 and the status was raised to that of a cathedral in 1212. St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s bells are some of the heaviest in Ireland, and in the world. The stained glass windows, world-recognized choir, and incredibly ornate floor and structures are worth seeing.
A few of the significant sites and features to admire in the cathedral are:
The cathedral is the burial place of a number of religious and historical famed individuals. Over 500 people are buried on-site including dukes, archbishops, and earls.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s organ is one of the largest in Ireland with over 4,000 pipes.
March – October
Weekdays: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sundays 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
November – February
Weekdays: 9:30 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
Sundays: 9:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Family package (two adults & two children under 16): €18.00
Oratory Of The Sacred Heart
While unassuming from the outside, walk inside this small chapel and you’ll catch a glimpse of a mind-blowing mural painted by a nun. She spent 16 years painted the mural- starting in 1920 and finishing in 1936! The oratory was built to be a memorial for the Irish soldiers that passed away from World War I. The oratory is free to visit, however it is open for only a limited time each year during the local council heritage season each spring and summer (as well as sometimes in October).
Meander the stunning halls of Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is one of the most important buildings in Irish history. The castle was built on the site of a Viking settlement (and excavations of the settlement are on-going and on display for visitors today). From 1204 to 1922, the castle was the headquarters of the English, later the British administration.
The Dublin Castle features the Medieval Tower, also known as the Wardrobe Tower, Gunner’s Tower, and Record Tower. The tower was one of the first structures erected in Dublin and dates back to 1204. Tourists can make their way through the castle and check the exhibits and collections of artwork, tapestries, and antiques. Travelers should explore the State Apartments to admire intricately decorated rooms. The Throne Rooms point of focus is, obviously, a throne that served as a space where the viceroy received guests on behalf of the British monarch. The Gothic Room, is another exceptional area; the circular supper room would have been used for elaborate dinner parties.
Guests can find a moment of relaxation in the Dublin Castle Chapel or the Castle Gardens. The original chapel was founded in 1242, however, the present chapel dates back to 1814. The chapel has striking sculpture, detailed features, and striking stained glass.
Monday – Sunday & holidays: 9:45 a.m. – 5:45 p.m. (last admission 5:15 p.m.)
Closed December 25th, 26th & 27th & January 1st
Senior (60+): €10
Student (valid student ID required): €10
Child (12-17): €6
Family (max. 2 adults & 5 children): €30
Dublin is an incredible city, but if you’re looking to get away from the hustle and bustle of city, book a day tour of Inis Mór, the largest of the three Aran Islands. The Aran Islands are known for ancient sites of medieval ruins. The 1,200 locals on the islands still speak Gaelic.
Inis Mór faces the Atlantic Ocean at the mouth of Galway Bay. Located on Inis Mór is the Bronze Age and Iron Age fort of Dún Aonghasa, perched on top of a 330-foot high cliff. Trek across the limestone islands and marvel at the nature and prehistoric beauty. Check out the landscape of the ocean against the rocky cliffs. Throughout the island you can spot 50 different monuments of Christian, pre-Christian and Celtic mythological heritage.
Drink like a local at an Irish pub
Of course, we can’t put together a list of things to do in Dublin, without including drinking and bar hopping! The Irish are known for their rowdy nights at pubs, so it’s fitting that your itinerary includes at least one pint at a local pub. We’ve chosen three Dublin bars, popular with tourists and Dublin-dwellers alike for your to enjoy a beverage in.
The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub and dates back to 1198 and originally appears in documents as an inn. Every inch of the walls are covered in paraphernalia of Ireland’s past- like a mini museum (but better because there is beer!). The bar hosts storytelling and music nights so travelers can drink up some history while they soak in the lively atmosphere. Be sure to order a traditional Irish meal with your pint, such as steamed mussels, Irish stew, chowder, or bangers and mash.
Another historic pub, The Temple Bar was first built as a house by Sir William Temple, a renowned teacher and philosopher. The bar fell into disrepair in the mid 20th century but has now been returned to its former glory. It is probably the most popular bar with tourists for its prime location and for the fact that it’s also a whiskey distillery. The Temple Bar boasts live, Irish music every night, so guests can sip on whiskey while they enjoy some authentic tunes. In fact, the bar claims that it houses the largest and rarest collection of whiskeys in Ireland.
The Church pub in Dublin is so-named because it was actually built in a renovated church! It is the former St. Mary’s Church of Ireland. St. Mary’s closed in 1964 and was reopened in 2005 as John M. Keating’s Bar. In 2007, it was purchased by new owners and was renamed ‘The Church’. Over the years as a church, the site has seen a number of important events, as such services attended by royalty or high-ranking Catholic figures or the marriage of Arthur Guinness (founder of Guinness). There were even some significant burials on-site here.
Visitors can now enjoy Irish dancing on some evenings, DJs, live music, along with a pint or cocktail and tasty bites. One of the major attractions of the location is the ‘outdoor’ staircase; an antique, winding staircase that is enveloped in glass.
Browse the shopping stalls at a Dublin market
What would be a trip without a little quality shopping time? Whether you’re looking for unique Irish memorabilia as souvenirs for friends back home, or you want to treat yourself to a little something, we suggest hitting up one of Dublin’s markets. Here are three to mark down on your itinerary:
George Street Arcade is Ireland’s oldest shopping center. It was first opened in 1881 as South City Markets and has since seen various renovations and even a fire in 1892. The Victorian-style red brick building houses an indoor market of 50 tenants. You can find small sidewalk stalls and stores selling anything from clothing to books, to memorabilia, to cafes and restaurants.
Monday – Wednesday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Thursday – Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Grab a snack at Green Door Market, an indoor food market serving up organic vegetables and fruit, quality meats, cheeses and charcuterie, jams, and fresh flowers. Grab some tasty local ingredients to bring home or munch on while you sightsee.
Tuesday – Friday: 12:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.
Saturdays: 9:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sundays: 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
While not quite a market, this shopping center is established in a historic, Georgian house. Once used for elegant parties, now, various independent designers as well as major brands call the house, home. Check out shops like ALLSAINTS or French Connection in addition to antique and artisan stores. Powerscourt Centre offers guided tours of the house, tourists can stop by the Info Desk on-site for details. Apart from shopping, the center contains restaurants and even a theater.
Monday – Friday: 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Thursday: 10:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday: 9:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.
With so many incredible sights in Dublin, it’s hard to narrow it down but this list of 10 essential things to do can help you build your Northern Ireland itinerary. With a little nature, a little history, a little culture, and a little food and drink, use our must-do activities for a well-rounded Dublin vacation.