Irish eyes are not the only kind smiling in this charming European capital. In the first of our three-part Insider’s Guide to Dublin, we’ve put together this list of our favourite things to do in Dublin.
But be warned: if you actually try to do all this in one day, you may need another vacation just to recover! We asked Dane Tredway, our Ireland expert, to share how he’d spend a full day exploring the city.
Our Favourite Things to Do in Dublin
Feeling peckish? Start the morning by heading up to The Odeon (located in the old Harcourt Street Station and at the top of the road of the same name) for a luxurious brunch in art deco surroundings.
This is quite the place to be seen at night, but is much more relaxed and mellow during the day. Avail yourself of the free newspapers and even watch a classic movie if you feel like just relaxing before hitting the sights.
Walking down from The Odeon, be sure to have a stroll through the little-known Iveagh Gardens, which rival those of St. Stephen’s Green but on a lesser scale and with fewer people, then cut through the actual St. Stephen’s Green and head toward Merrion Square.
On a Sunday the square is lined with local artists’ work that you can check out before heading into The National Gallery, which overlooks this same square.
Afterward, if you haven’t had your fill of art for the morning, you may want to head to the art gallery of The Royal Hibernian Academy (25 Merrion Sq.). Or, visit nearby 29 Merrion Square to get a glimpse of what genteel life was like in Dublin in the late 18th century; it has been restored by the National Museum, and all of the furniture and furnishings are of the same era.
When it’s time for lunch, you could pick something up at O’Brien’s Sandwiches on Grafton Street for a picnic on the grass in Trinity grounds, or for a sit-down experience, head to The Pig’s Ear (also on Grafton Street)—it has been awarded a Michelin Bib Gourmand recommendation for good quality and value.
For the full effect, be sure to walk through the main gates of Trinity College and stroll around Parliament Square before heading to the old library to see the famed Book of Kells, Ireland’s most important cultural treasure, arguably the world’s most famous medieval manuscript.
If you still have time, you may want to squeeze in some shopping. After a quick stop off at The Kilkenny Shop and the Avoca Handweavers Shop, which both sell beautiful Irish handcrafts, head to Powerscourt Townhouse Centre (between South William and Clarendon streets), a beautiful 1774 building that houses various small boutiques and one-off designer stores of mostly Irish designers.
If you have more time (or another day) to spend in Dublin, we recommend visiting the Irish Museum of Modern Art to explore the gallery. Afterwards, head toward the city centre.
You will, inevitably, pass by the Guinness Storehouse, so a stop in the hops store for a pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar is a must.
This is one of the highest viewing points in Dublin and a perfect place to get both your bearings and a bird’s-eye view of the city.
Continuing on, you will pass by Christchurch Cathedral. This is the oldest part of the city, dating back to the time of the Vikings.
Take a quick detour down to see its neighbour, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, on the street of the same name.
If your feet are still up to it, walk down Lord Edward Street and into Dame Street, passing by a few boutique shops selling handmade handbags and Celtic jewellery along the way. Midway down Dame Street you will come across Cork Hill, with City Hall in front of you.
Have a peek in to see the impressive Corinthian portico with six columns, statues of notable Irish citizens and the magnificent dome. The building was originally The Royal Exchange (1769) and later became the property of the Dublin Corporation, which still owns it.
Continue on through the main gates of Dublin Castle to explore it in full. By now you may be in the mood for a nice cup of tea and a break, so you can head to the Chester Beatty Library, located to the rear of Dublin Castle (in the Clock Tower on Ship Street).
The restaurant also does a great lunch with lots of good, homemade dishes to choose from.
You may then explore the museum, with its fantastic collection of over 20,000 manuscripts, rare books, miniature paintings, clay tablets, costumes and other objects, mainly from the Middle East and Asia.
After all this, you may just feel like relaxing and listening to some good live jazz music, and if it is a Sunday you’re in luck; the George (89 South Great George’s St.), just around the corner from Dublin Castle, hosts jazz sessions every Sunday afternoon.
Alternatively, you may like to wander around the main shopping street on the south side of the River Liffey, Grafton Street. Be sure to check out the high-end Brown Thomas department store, located at the end of Grafton Street and The Royal Hibernian Way (King Street South), which has a cluster of little boutiques and a great Italian shoe and handbag shop.
To finish off your Dublin journey, stroll through Temple Bar and stop for a pint at its namesake pub before returning to your hotel to relax and freshen up for the evening. Dublin has a lively theatre scene, and most of the theatres are scattered around the city centre.
Each theatre tends to focus on specific types of works (for instance: classic Irish plays, modern Irish, or international), so have a look around to see what is currently showing. Visit TimeOut Dublin online for the latest listings.
Photography credit: Banner image Giuseppe Milo via Flickr/CC2.0
Battle of the Custom House: Memorial Road – by William Murphy (Flickr)
St. Patrick’s Cathedral: Dublin – by Tony Webster (Flickr)