15 Of The Best Things To Do In Dun Laoghaire (and Nearby)

things to do in dun laoghaire
Photos via Shutterstock

There’s plenty of things to do in Dun Laoghaire and there are endless things to do a short spin from the town.

Just 14km southeast of Dublin and home to one of the largest working harbours in Western Europe, the lively little harbour town of Dun Laoghaire is a joy to ramble around.

Boasting a gorgeous harbour, museums, architectural landmarks, a Victorian park, markets, pubs, restaurants and more, there’s lots to discover here.

In the guide below, you’ll discover what to do in Dun Laoghaire regardless of when you visit. Dive on in!

Our favourite things to do in Dun Laoghaire

Dún Laoghaire pier
Photo by Peter Krocka (Shutterstock)

The first section of this guide tackles our favourite things to do in Dun Laoghaire, from walks and coffee to food and forts.

Below, you’ll find everything from the brilliant historic walking tour and the mighty Dun Laoghaire Harbour to some fine spots for a feed.

1. Grab a coffee from Two Beans

Two Beans coffee
Photos via Two Beans on FB

Two Beans speciality coffee has been “serving” the area since it started as a truck in 2012. Their ethos of using all things “sustainable and ethical” got them noticed when they won awards at the World Barista Championships in Dublin.

You can now enjoy a tasty roast at either of their locations on George’s Street Lower and Cumberland St. They use Fair Price coffee and Irish milk certified by the National Dairy Council. You’ll probably want one of their tasty cookies or slices to go with that drink! 

2. And then take the historic walking tour

Dun Laoghaire pier
Photo by DubKim (Shutterstock)

One of the most overlooked things to do in Dun Laoghaire is the self-guided historic walking tour (see map here) that takes you around the town which grew up around Dun Laoghaire harbour in the 1820s.

The route takes you to everywhere from George’s Street Upper (one of its oldest streets) and the Oratory of the Sacred Heart (1919) to the Bathhouse on Windsor Terrace (1843) where they offered hot and cold fresh or seawater. Other places you’ll stumble upon include:

  • Dun Laoghaire harbour (built after two shipwrecks cost 400 lives)
  • The nearby railway station (1844) connected Dublin with Dun Laoghaire, bringing a wealth of trade to the port
  • The Romanesque Town Hall on Marine Road which now has a collection of artworks by Irish painters
  • The King George IV Monument commemorating his visit in 1821
  • The People’s Park (1890)

3. Then take a ramble up Dun Laoghaire Harbour West to Pier Lighthouse

Dún Laoghaire pier
Photo by Peter Krocka (Shutterstock)

Dun Laoghaire harbour is encircled by two granite pier walls, East Pier and West Pier. The West Pier is quieter for walkers and is 1,548 metres long (almost a mile!).

It is home to the original lighthouse, built in 1852 with a fog horn added in 1909. It was automated in 1930.   

At the start and end of your pier walk, look for the modern glass topped building and yellow buoy nearby marking the HQ of the Commissioner of Irish Lights. They have been keeping sailors safe for over 200 years. 

4. Spend a rainy day at the National Maritime Museum of Ireland

More maritime history can be found in the National Maritime Museum of Ireland. It’s appropriately in the former Mariners’ Church where sailors found comfort and a place to pray. There’s a huge anchor outside. 

Inside, the exhibits include an authentic ship’s radio room, a Titanic exhibition and items from the RMS Leinster. It was torpedoed in WW1 just off the coast with a huge loss of life.

The eclectic exhibits include ship’s models, early instruments of navigation and the Baily Lighthouse light. It makes a great attraction on a rainy day! 

You’ll be ready to rest your feet by now, so pop into the Maritime Cafe which does an excellent lunch menu, coffee and snacks. If you’re wondering what to do in Dun Laoghaire when it rains, this is a great option.

5. And a sunny one out with Dublin Bay Cruises

Dublin Bay Cruises boat tours
Photo left: Peter Krocka. Photo right: Lukas Bischoff Photograph (Shutterstock)

Next up is another of the more unique things to do in Dun Laoghaire. Join award-winning Dublin Bay Cruises, sit back with a drink and enjoy the commentary. 

There are several tours on offer (more info here). Our favourite is the one that takes you over and around nearby Dalkey Island.

You can also take one to Dublin City and another to Howth (where you could easily do the Howth Cliff Walk before taking the DART back).

6. Visit for the Dun Laoghaire Christmas market

Dun Laoghaire Christmas market 2020
Photos via shutterstock.com

The Dun Laoghaire Christmas market is a favourite amongst locals and visiting tourists alike, and it’s one of the longest running Christmas markets in Dublin.

The market sprawls around Dun Laoghaire Harbour and the town centre with some great live entertainment, market stalls and iconic (and slightly random) Hollywood inspired features.

Visitors can expect a variety of market stalls, a vintage carnival and a 55ft Ferris Whell that was randomly used in the movie Grease!

Other popular things to do in Dun Laoghaire

Now that we have our favourite things to do in Dun Laoghaire out of the way, it’s time to see what else this corner of Dublin has to offer.

Below, you’ll find everything from more walks and ice cream to some ideas around what to do in Dun Laoghaire when it rains.

1. Ramble up East Pier and grab an ice cream from Teddy’s

ice cream
Photo by Branislav Nenin (Shutterstock)

Head around to East Pier and grab an ice cream from Teddy’s. This ice cream parlour has been in business for generations and is a proper Dun Laoghaire institution.

East Pier is one km long and offers great views of boats coming and going. Sea views stretch to Howth Head.

Highlights at the pier include a lovely Victorian bandstand and the East Pier Lighthouse overlooking the harbour entrance.

2. Or dodge the sea breeze (kinda…) at the People’s Park

people's park Dun Laoghaire
Photo via Shutterstock

Away from the breezy waterfront, the People’s Park is a delightful oasis. Opened in 1890, it is free to visit and open daily from 8am.

Features include the Victorian gatehouse, tea rooms in the former pavilion and a regular weekend market. It’s a beautifully landscaped public space covering 2 hectares (4.9 acres) and is perfect for a stroll or sitting and people-watching.

The park also has a fragrant garden for the blind with a safe walking trail. Two restored Victorian fountains create an attractive focal point and there’s a newly equipped children’s playground.

3. Grab something tasty from the Sunday Market (or one of the town’s many restaurants)

Oliveto at Haddington House
Photos via Oliveto at Haddington House on FB

The People’s Park has been a venue for the Sunday Market for years, selling mainly homemade food, jewellery, arts and crafts. It’s open from 11am to 4pm each Sunday.

The market now extends around the Lexicon Centre where there’s a Food Village. This is known as the Dun Laoghaire Coco Market.

With over 50 traders selling hot food, bakery items, artisan bread, cakes and seasonal produce, it’s a great place to head for when you’re hungry!

If you’d prefer to eat inside, there’s some excellent restaurants in Dun Laoghaire, as you’ll discover in our Dun Laoghaire food guide.

4. Hit the water with Harbour Splash Aqua Park

Dublin’s first water park, Harbour Splash Aqua Park, is located in Coal Harbour inside West Pier. It’s open for some wet fun from early May until the end of September.

It’s an inflatable obstacle course with ladders, slides, trampolines, monkey bars and tricky challenges to navigate on the calm water. 

It’s ideal for ages 8 to adult and places must be pre-booked. Younger kids have their own “slow” session on weekend mornings and they must be accompanied by an adult. 

Don your wetsuit, life-jacket and helmet (all provided free of charge) and jump in. Bring your own towel – you’re going to need it! If you’re looking for unique things to do in Dun Laoghaire, book in here.

5. Or kick-back in one of the town’s many mighty pubs

The Lighthouse dun laoghaire
Photos via The Lighthouse on FB

Being a historic harbour town, there’s some mighty pubs in Dun Laoghaire, including some old-school pubs with a great atmosphere. 

Check out McKenna’s which has a welcoming lounge and some superb craft beers on draft. The bar area may barely have changed but they are right up-to-date with live sports on massive projector screens.  

O’Loughlin’s on George’s Street Lower has pulled a few pints since it opened in 1929. Still run by the same family, it’s just the place to sit back with a Guinness and talk with the locals.

Things to do near Dun Laoghaire

One of the reasons that a visit to Dun Laoghaire is one of the most popular day trips from Dublin is due to the sheer volume of nearby attractions.

From some of the best walks in Dublin, like the Killiney Hill Walk, to some of our favourite beaches in Dublin, there’s lots to see nearby.

1. The Forty Foot

Forty Foot in Dublin
Photos via Shutterstock

The Forty Foot is a favourite bathing place for locals to take a dip in the sea, not far from the popular Sandycove Beach. Once a men-only bathing spot, this deep natural pool is said to be forty-feet deep.

It has featured in famous Irish novels such as James Joyce’s Ulysses, and is especially popular with older locals, many of whom swim here every day for their health.

2. Sandycove Beach

sandycove beach
Photos via Shutterstock

Follow the coast southeast from Dun Laoghaire harbour to Sandycove Beach about 1.5km away. The main feature of this small but scenic beach is the Martello Tower housing the James Joyce Museum.

The writer once stayed in the tower and mentioned it in his novel Ulysses. The beach is popular with families offering shallow water for paddling and swimming (if you don’t fancy the Forty Foot!).

There’s a grassy area behind the beach for sitting and enjoying the gorgeous coastal views. Look out for the friendly local seal!

3. Killiney Hill

Killiney Hill walk dublin
Photo by Globe Guide Media Inc (Shutterstock)

When it comes to views, the Killiney Hill walk goes beyond the best with unreal views from the top. Along with Dalkey Hill, Killiney is part of Killiney Hill Park.

It was dedicated in 1887 to mark Queen Victoria’s Jubilee and is topped with a commemorative obelisk. It’s a popular place for hiking to the summit, 153m above sea level.

Spectacular views stretch from Dublin and the Irish Sea across to the Welsh Mountains and the Wicklow Mountains further south.

4. Nearby towns

Dalkey Castle
Photo left: Fabianodp. Photo right: Eireann (Shutterstock)

Two very affluent towns just south of Sandycove are Dalkey and Killiney. Dalkey’s rich history takes you back to Norman times with two castles on the main street and five more nearby.

Many famous Irish celebs have a home here (think Bono, The Edge, Enya and Van Morrison for starters). Killiney is an affluent resort centered on the ruins of Cill Ingean Léinín, an 11th century church.

What to do in Dun Laoghaire: What have we missed?

I’ve no doubt that we’ve unintentionally left out some brilliant things to do in Dun Laoghaire in the guide above.

If you have a place that you’d like to recommend, let me know in the comments below and I’ll check it out!

FAQs about places to visit in Dun Laoghaire

We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some things to do in Dun Laoghaire this weekend’ to ‘Where is there to go nearby?’.

In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.

What are the best things to do in Dun Laoghaire today?

If you’re wondering what to do in Dun Laoghaire that’s worth doing, take the historic walking tour or ramble up Dun Laoghaire Harbour.

I’m wondering what to do in Dun Laoghaire when it rains?

The likes of the National Maritime Museum of Ireland or Harbour Splash Aqua Park (you’ll be wet anyway!) are good options.

What is there to do near Dun Laoghaire?

There’s endless things to do near Dun Laoghaire, from the Killiney Hill Walk and the Forty Foot to beaches, walks and much more.

Gillian Birch is a travel writer and published author. She has travelled the world and uses her personal journals and memories to write about her many travel experiences, particularly those that involved adventures in Ireland.

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