This guide to the best things to do in Dublin is written by a local, for locals.
That sounds very sappy altogether, doesn’t it?! Let me rephrase that a bit:
This guide is written by a Dubliner that seems to spend hours every weekend fluting about trying to find things to do in Dublin even though he’s lived here for 31 damn years…
The purpose of this guide is to help other clueless Dubliners like me (and tourists visiting) to discover what to do in Dublin City and across the wider county.
The best things to do in Dublin today (or tomorrow… or, eh, whenever!)
We published this guide to Dublin a few years ago. Up until recently, it had over one hundred things to do packed into it and it was a pain to browse through.
So, to make things a little easier, I’ve chopped it up into a handful of different guides. Now, you can still scroll down and discover heaps of fun things to do in Dublin this weekend (or whenever).
OR you can jump into one of the articles below that focus on more specific activities, like walks and hikes or castles, places to eat and…. well, you get the idea:
- 9 Of The Best Walks In Dublin
- 23 Unusual And Unique Places To Visit In Dublin
- 11 Of The Best Museums In Dublin
- 26 Free Things To Do In Dublin Today (That Are Actually Worth Doing!)
- 14 Things To Do In Dublin With Kids That You’ll Both Love
What to do in Dublin: My Favourites
I’m going to kick things off by whacking in some of what I think are the best things to do in Dublin. There’s a mix of walks, tours and random attractions below.
I’ve also lashed in some solid little old-school pubs to nip into if you fancy a post-adventure pint along with a handful of my favourite spots for a feed.
1. Head off on one of the many mighty walks in Dublin
One of the biggest mistakes made by those visiting Dublin is that they never leave the confines of the city, which is a shame, as there’s heaps of places to explore across the wider county.
In our guide to the best walks in Dublin, you’ll discover a clatter of different strolls that’ll take you into the Dublin mountains, along the county’s coast and through woodland.
2. Soak up a tonne of history at Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 as the County Gaol (prison) for Dublin City and the wider county. It’s within its walls that leaders of the 1798, 1803, 1848,1867 and 1916 rebellions were detained.
And, in some cases, executed! Many members of the Irish Republican movement during the Anglo-Irish War (1919-21) were also held in Kilmainham Gaol.
If you’re in search of things to do in Dublin today this should top your list. The tour is fantastic from finish to end and the guides are knowledgable and entertaining in their delivery.
If you read our guide to the best things to do in Ireland, you’ll see a visit to Kilmainham Gaol raking high – it really is brilliant!
3. Munch on pancakes and explore Swords Castle with a full belly
For whatever reason, Swords Castle is never promoted by tourism bodies (that I’ve seen, anyway). Located a handy 10-minute spin from Dublin Airport, Swords Castle boasts a whopping 800 years of history.
The castle was constructed around 1200 and it was used as a residence and administrative centre. The extensive complex of buildings is laid out in the form of a rough pentagon of around 0.5 hectares and is enclosed by a perimeter wall that stretches 260 meters.
Head for some pancakes in the Green Straw on Swords main street (they’re ridiculously tasty!) and then take the short 2-minute stroll up to the castle after (you can do a self-guided tour).
4. Sink a pint or two in one of Dublin’s many historic pubs
Dublin’s home to many a pub. However, the vast majority of them fall into the ‘they’re-grand’ category – i.e. they’re alright, but nothing to write home about.
However, Dublin’s also home to a plethora of historic pubs, some of which have been in the city for hundreds of years. Places like the Palace and the Gravediggers (home to the best Guinness in Dublin), in particular, make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time.
If you’re wondering where to go in Dublin for a pint and a wallop of history, drop into our guide to the best pubs in Dublin – it’s packed with old-school pubs that have stood the test of time.
5. Take the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum tour (one of the most frequently missed things to do in Dublin)
Since 1832, a staggering one and a half million people have been laid to rest in the historic Glasnevin Cemetary.
Glasnevin Cemetary, which sprawls over 124 acres of parkland, is the ideal destination for those looking to step back in time and dive into Dublin’s past.
Those that visit will learn about the legacies of many of Ireland’s heroes, from Daniel O’Connell and Michael Collins to Charles Stewart Parnell, Countess Markievicz and many more.
For those of you that take the tour, you’ll be accompanied by a passionate guide that’ll offer insight into Glasnevin along with much of Ireland’s heritage and history.
When the tour’s finished, head to the top of the O’Connell Tower (there’s 198 steps) and enjoy magnificent views out over Dublin city.
6. Visit the oldest library in Ireland and walk in the steps of Bram Stoker and James Joyce
You’ll find the oldest library in Ireland just behind St Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin, and it’s absolutely gorgeous (it’s also a bit of a hidden gem!).
Founded wayyyyy back in 1707, Marsh’s Library holds roughly 25,000 books and over 300 manuscripts.
As you wander around Marsh’s, keep an eye out for bullet holes in the bookcases, which were made during the Easter Rising when the hotel next door was being occupied.
Over the years, Marsh’s has had a lot of famous visitors. The likes of Bram Stoker, Jonathan Swift, and James Joyce have all spent time here, and you can see their signatures in the visitor ledger.
7. Head for a swim (or a stroll) along one of Dublin’s many beaches
Dublin’s beaches don’t get half the credit that they deserve. Although Ireland’s capital is a coastal county, many rarely given its beaches a second glance.
If you’re a fan of cold water and brisk walks, you’re in luck – there are loads of brilliant Dublin beaches that are perfect for a swim or a stroll.
Places like Portmarnock, Donabate and Howth are all home beaches you’ll (hopefully!) love. Check ’em all out in our guide to the best beaches in Dublin.
The best things to do in Dublin today (that tourists tend to love)
Section two is all about the tourist favourites. The old reliables. Attractions in Dublin that have been visited by hundreds of thousands (and, in some cases, millions!) of visitors over the years.
Below, you’ll find tourist favourites like the Guinness Storehouse and Temple Bar (not the pub – the area!), Trinity College and plenty more.
1. The Guinness Storehouse
No real surprise here. The world-renowned Guinness Storehouse is officially Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction (according to visitor numbers).
Take a spin out to the Storehouse for an interactive experience that fuses Guinnesses lengthy brewing heritage with Ireland’s history.
I was here a while back and we did the self-guided tour. Since then, I’ve had a lot of people recommend the guided tour, as you tend to discover some things you probably wouldn’t have on your own.
When you finish the tour, nip up to the newly refurbished Gravity Bar. It’s from the Gravity Bar that you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of the city while you sip a pint.
Traveller tip: If you’re visiting Dublin’s top attractions, you should consider getting a Dublin Pass as it could save you a decent bit of cash.
2. The Long Room at Trinity College
The grounds of Trinity College are an absolute joy to walk around. They’re also arguably one of the best places in Dublin for a bit of people watching.
You tend to encounter everyone from locals strolling to work to energetic drama students in full-on Victorian attire (at least I did last week!).
When you’ve had your fill of the grounds head for the entrance to the Book of Kells tour. The highlight of which, in my opinion, is the spectacular Long Room (it looks like something that’s been whipped straight from a Harry Potter book).
3. Temple Bar (comes with a warning!)
Many locals will tell you to avoid Temple Bar in Dublin City and, to be honest, I’m with them for the most part. Temple Bar could be a lovely little cultural quarter, but it’s mainly a place where people go to drink.
Many (not all) of the pubs in Temple Bar are a rip-off and there tends to be a high volume of messy hens and stags falling about the place most weekends.
However, if you really do fancy seeing Temple Bar, there are some pubs where you won’t be ripped off. The Aul Dub, in particular, is a great little boozer. They tend to have live music banging away most nights and they serve up a decent pint.
Avoid the likes of the Temple Bar Pub and Gogarty’s if you don’t fancy being wedged in with hundreds of other tourists that are forking out a small fortune for a drink!
If you want to visit a great Dublin pub, drop into our guide to the best pubs in Dublin (it’s packed with old-school pubs that boast a wealth of history!)
4. Sample some Irish whiskey at the Jameson Distillery (or one of many other mighty distilleries)
In March of 2017, Jameson opened the doors to a newly renovated distillery on Bow St. The distillery tour boasts a multi-sensory experience in the iconic birthplace of Jameson Irish Whiskey in Dublin.
In 2018, the distillery was awarded the ‘World’s Leading Distillery Tour’ at the 25th World Travel Awards. The tour here lasts 40 minutes, is fully guided and includes a comparative whiskey tasting.
If you fancy sampling some of the other Irish whiskey on offer in Dublin, the Teeling Distillery and the Pearse Lyons Distillery are both well worth visiting (find out more in our guide to the best whiskey distilleries in Dublin).
5. Grab a coffee on Grafton Street and then take a little wander through St Stephen’s Green
St Stephen’s Green is located at the end (or is it the beginning?!) of Grafton Street. This historic little grassy hub in Ireland’s capital holds many rich tales of times past.
Up until 1663 St Stephen’s Green was a marshy common used for grazing sheep and cattle. Oh, and it was also the scene where public executions and witch burnings took place…
Today, the park is perfectly maintained with thousands of locals, tourists and those working in the city frequenting its tree-lined paths every day.
6. Take some time out at the National Gallery of Ireland
If you’re in search of free things to do in Dublin, pop the National Gallery at the top of your to-visit-sharpish list.
It’s within the walls of Dublin’s National Gallery that you’ll discover the national collection of Irish and European art.
Dating back to the mid-19th Century, the collection boasts thousands of paintings, 10,000 other works, like water-colour painting and sculptures, a Yeates museum and more.
You can take a free audio tour guide of the Gallery’s permanent collection and there are also free public tours at weekends.
7. Get a bus to the Dublin mountains for food, music and craic in Johnny Fox’s
If you fancy a night out with a difference, climb aboard the handy shuttle bus to Johnny Fox’s that leaves from several hotels in the city (note: you need to book it in advance).
Situated in Glencullen on top of the Dublin mountains, Johnnie Fox’s Pub is one of Ireland’s best known traditional Pubs.
The Hooley Show (€59.50 per person) which includes a four-course meal followed by a live music session has been a tourist favourite for years.
What to see in Dublin: Unique and unusual attractions
Our next section is all about unusual and unique Dublin attractions. Unique places to visit in Dublin that tend to get missed from shiny tourist handbooks.
Below, you’ll find a clatter of weird and wonderful things to do in Dublin, from bullet holes on O’Connell Street to mummies… yes, mummies!
1. Discover hidden history at the heart of the city
O’Connell Street is arguably one of the most historic streets in Dublin City. It was here in 1916 during the Easter Rising where Irish republicans seized the gpo and proclaimed the Irish Republic.
This event led to a turbulent few days in Dublin. One of the notable events took place when a warship known as the Helga sailed up the River Liffey and shelled the street with bullets.
To this day there’s evidence of this battle. The next time you visit O’Connell Street, nip over to the O’Connell Monument.
You’ll see bullet holes here and in many places on O’Connell Street. You’ll see some more in the GPO’s pillars.
2. Take a kayak over to Dalkey Island
A friend did this a few months ago and he has been raving about it ever since. These guys run a 3-hour award-winning guided kayak tour over to Dalkey Island that looks absolutely brilliant.
They provide all of the gear and equipment, so all you need to worry about is having the craic and saying hello to the seals that you’ll encounter on the trip.
Tours usually run from Thursday to Sunday at 09.30 and every day (bar Tuesdays ) at 14:00 (check with them in advance of visiting!).
3. Visit St. Michan’s mummies
This is definitely one of the more unusual things to do in Dublin. Yes, you can in fact see mummies in Dublin City Centre.
Those that visit the vaults at St. Michan’s Church can see the mummified remains of some prominent Irish citizens and nobility, including the Earls of Leitrim.
Interestingly enough, Bram Stoker, the author of Dracula himself is said to have toured these vaults back in the day (maybe that’s where he got the idea for the Irish vampire!).
4. Experience Dublin’s history like never before at the Vaults
Set over 4 floors in a stunning Victorian schoolhouse, the Vaults bring together the largest team of professional actors in Ireland to perform a script written by award-winning playwright Peter Sheridan.
Vaults Live is said to be like no other tourist attraction in the city, and it’s a handy one for those of you wondering what to do in Dublin when it’s raining!
You’re thrown into the action from the getgo, immersed in six stories with actors who will thrill, excite, and raise the hairs on the back of necks of all ages!
Visitors will experience stunning 360° sets, state of the art lighting, lavish costumes, special effects and loads more.
5. Try cable wakeboarding at Wakedock
Thrillseekers touring Dublin won’t want to miss Wakedock, the first adventure company of its kind in Ireland.
Those that give this a lash can tear across the Grand Canal and tackle a variety of obstacles (see above!).
Beginners and kids are welcome, making this the prime spot for a family-friendly outing in Dublin. There’s also plenty of places to eat nearby!
6. Have the sh*te scared out of you on the Ghostbus Tour
I’ve wanted to give this tour a go for a while now. Those that step inside the Ghostbus will be given a glimpse of Dublin’s underbelly.
From body-snatching and paranormal activities to a hidden city centre graveyard and the medieval vaults that lie beneath Dublin Castle, you’ll hear and see it all.
The tour is led by the Ghostbus Tour Storytellers – seasoned guides are professional actors who strike a perfect balance between comedy and horror.
7. Go flying through some trees in the Dublin mountains
I fancy giving this a crack myself! If you’re wondering what to do in Dublin with a group of friends, this could be the answer!
You’ll find Zipit nestled on a sloping site in the Dublin Mountains, a handy 15-minute drive from Dundrum Town Centre.
Zipit is a forest adventure park where children and adults can climb high into the treetops, swing into cargo nets, and even ride a BMX across a bridge, before zipping down one of the many ziplines.
Fun things to do in Dublin this weekend
If you’re in search of fun things to do in Dublin today, tomorrow, or whenever, this next sections for you. It’s packed with things to do during your hard-earned time off.
Below, you’ll discover everything from places to eat to where to go in Dublin for a very fancy cinema experience.
1. Make your belly happy in one of Dublin’s many mighty restaurants
Dublin’s home to an endless number of restaurants. Some are incredible, some are grand and some, well, some are sh*te.
If you’re looking for things to do in Dublin this weekend, kick-start or round off your day with a fine feed.
In our guide to the best restaurants in Dublin, you’ll discover everything from tasty cheap eats to where to grab the best brunch. There’s something for every budget (and tastebud).
2. Catch a movie at the Stella Theatre
Enjoy a unique cinema experience in the stylish Stella Theatre, which was carefully restored to reflect the glamour and glitz of the 1920s.
Kick back and watch one of the latest blockbuster releases or dive into a bit of nostalgia with an old-school classic.
Swanky seats range from luxurious red armchairs and comfy sofas for two to big double beds that engulf the front row.
You can also grab a bite to eat from the comfort of your seat (that unintentionally rhymed and I’m delighted).
3. A brewery tour and pizza at Rascals Brewing Company
This is a new one on me, but it sounds like you get a serious bang for your Euro. Based in Inchicore, Rascals Brewing was founded back in 2014 by Emma Devlin and Cathal O’Donoghue.
For €20 per person, a visit here includes generous beer tasting and delicious garlic flatbread fresh from a wood-fired pizza oven. You’ll also get a guided tour of the brewery with an expert guide.
4. Rent a bike and go spinning through the Phoenix Park
If you’re looking to do something different in Dublin today, rent a bike at the entrance to the Phoenix Park and head off on your merry way.
You’ll be given a trail to spin along from the lads you get the bikes from and there’s plenty of cycles lanes to keep you away from the busy roads through the park.
Dublin’s Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed public park in any capital city in Europe. It was originally formed as a royal hunting Park way back in the 1660s but opened to the public in 1747.
Top things to do in Dublin when it’s raining
Rain tends to wreck the buzz in Ireland quite a bit. However, if you’re exploring Dublin, there are plenty of things to do when the heavens open up.
In the section below, you’ll discover what to do in Dublin today, tomorrow or whenever when it’s lashing rain and you need to take cover for an hour or 5.
1. Learn about Ireland’s turbulent past on The GPO 1916 Tour
The GPO 1916 tour is excellent. I did it a couple of years back and I’ve been recommending it to people since.
When you walk into the GPO 1916 tour, you nearly feel like you’ve stepped out onto a battlefield.
From the minute the tour begins, you feel completely immersed in the action. The exhibition puts you right inside Dublin’s GPO during Easter Week in 1916.
It’s highly visual and conveys the events in an easy to digest, dramatic manner that’ll leave you with a totally different perspective of the General Post Office forevermore.
2. The Little Museum of Dublin (one of the best things to do in Dublin City Centre)
I visited the Little Museum of Dublin during the summer of 2020 and I can’t recommend it enough.
The award-winning Little Museum of Dublin tells the story of Dublin, from the visit of Queen Victoria to the world-wide success of the band U2.
Set in a gorgeous old Georgian mansion just off Grafton Street, this buzzy little museum is packed with an endless number of things to discover.
From James Joyce to John F Kennedy, you’ll be immersed in countless stories and tales from Dublin’s past.
3. Enter the world of the Vikings at Dublina
The Dublinia Tour is one that has been recommended to me time and time again. Those that embark upon it will meet the Vikings face to face while learning about life during the Medieval period in Dublin.
How the folks at Dublina describe the tour: ‘Go back to Viking times in Dublin! See for yourself what life was like onboard a Viking warship. Learn of their long and challenging voyages, their weaponry and the skills of being a Viking warrior.
Try on Viking clothes, become a slave (watch those heavy chains) and stroll down a noisy street. Visit a smokey and cramped Viking house, learn the Viking runic alphabet and hear their poetry and sagas. Enjoy the myths and learn of the mysteries surrounding the Vikings and their legacy.’
4. EPIC Museum Dublin (now Europe’s leading tourist destination)
Since 2016 the EPIC museum, which was recently crowned Europe’s leading tourist destination, has racked up rave reviews online.
It has also welcomed everyone from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to Justin Trudeau through its doors.
A visit to the EPIC museum takes you on a journey to uncover what it really means to be Irish.
Things to do near Dublin
The final section of this guide tackles places to visit near Dublin (within reasonable driving distance).
Below, you’ll find hikes and walks to day trips, castles and plenty more. So, g’wan – dive on in.
1. Walks and hikes
There’s an almost endless number of hikes and walks within driving distance of Dublin. The most obvious choice is Wicklow, but the likes of Meath, Louth and Kilkenny are all handy drives.
In our guide to the best hikes near Dublin, you’ll discover handy rambles and more strenuous climbs that required experience and planning.
If you’ve explored the many great castles in Dublin and you’re still itching to see more, you’re in luck – there are heaps of these medieval structures closeby.
In our guide to the best castles near Dublin, you’ll find a whole host of places to visit a stone’s throw from the capital.
3. Day trips
If you’re using Dublin as a base during your trip to Ireland, or if you’re living in Dublin and you’re looking for things to do at the weekend, day trips are worth looking at.
As Ireland is reasonably small, you can get to a tonne of different places in a day and be home in time for bed in the evening. Drop into our guide to the best day trips from Dublin to discover trips to try.
FAQs about what to see in Dublin
We’ve had countless emails since publishing this guide from people looking for advice on what to see in Dublin.
If you’re stuck for time, I’ve whacked in some of the most FAQs about the best things to do in Dublin below.
What are the best things to do in Dublin this weekend?
- The Ticknock Fairycastle Looped Walk
- The Little Museum of Dublin Tour
- The Rascals Brewery tour and pizza combo
- Rent bikes and spin around the Phoenix Park
- Head off on the Dublina tour
What are the most unique places to visit in Dublin?
- Marsh’s Library (the oldest in Ireland)
- The remains of St. Valentine in the Carmelite Church
- The mummies in St. Michan’s
- The Dead Zoo in the Museum of Natural History
What are the best things to do in Dublin for free?
- The Howth Cliff Walk (there are heaps of things to do in Howth!)
- Visit the President’s home in the Phoneix Park
- Drop into the Hugh Lane Gallery
- Head for a saunter around St. Stephen’s Green
Where are the best places to stay in Dublin?
If you’re struggling to decide which part of the county to stay in during your trip, drop into our guide on where to stay in Dublin.
If you fancy chilling in some quirky accommodation, check out our guide to the most unique Airbnbs in Dublin.
What to do in Dublin: where have we missed?
There’s an endless number of things to do in Dublin and I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant places from the guide above.
Have somewhere you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!