There is no better way to tour Dublin than through a local. They know the ins and the outs of where to eat, shop, hang out and how to spend time exploring. I feel like Dublin is a second home after visiting twice a year for the past three years. Still, I look to my local friends for advice on what to do while I’m there, and they’ve never let me down. Over the years I’ve been able to explore some really unique things to do in Dublin. I’ve discovered it’s a very unique city, lined with Georgian architecture, steeped in legend and teeming with fantastic literature. Perhaps that’s why UNESCO named it the UNESCO City of Literature.
My Favorite Unique Things to do in Dublin
If you’ve followed me for any length of time then you know I love this city. The locals are charming, welcoming and always friendly. There are good bites and fine dining around every turn and it’s dripping with stories and beautiful sights.
#1 Take a Walking Tour
I love walking around Dublin. You get so much more of the city absorbed when on foot. Plus, taxis can be costly. Walk around this city and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to take pics of places like Christ Church, St Patrick’s Cathedral, and Trinity College (to name a few).
#2 Take a Library Tour
Trinity College – Dublin has three incredible libraries, two of which are widely known and one which is less heard of by tourists (more on this in the Go Dark section). Trinity’s Long Library is probably the most popular as it’s home to the permanent Book of Kells exhibit as well as traveling exhibits. I’ve seen many exhibits in there, however, one of my favorites was the Children’s Fairytale Exhibit.
The Chester Beatty Library – This library is a marvelous sight and is just across the Dublin Castle (one of the places on the Bram Stoker Trail). Home to one man’s ( Sir Alfred Chester Beatty) collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and decorative arts, it’s been described by Lonely Planet as not just the best museum in Ireland, but one of the best in Europe.
#3 Get Up Close to Heritage, Magic, and Myth
The Boyne Valley – Home to six plus ancient passage tombs, also home to labyrinths and beautiful rolling hills, the Boyne Valley holds some of Ireland’s most ancient and mystic legends. With megalithic cairns older than the pyramids of Egypt and steeped in mystery.
The Monastic Settlement of Glendalough – One of the jewels of the Ancient East in Ireland, this settlement is where the earliest known Irish legends were transcribed as Christians converted pagan beliefs into myths.
Dublinia – Learn all about Dublin’s medieval heritage and its period of Vikings at this kid-friendly center. Located at Christ Church, the crossroads of Dublin’s medieval city.
Malahide Castle – Explore heritage, walled gardens and a fairytale-like castle
National Folklore Collection – Explore books, periodicals and off-prints on Irish and comparative folklore, ethnology and related fields contributed by any of the many thousands of storytellers, collectors, and correspondents over the years.
#4 Be a Bookworm
There are loads of places tied to famous authors and books. Writers like W.B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Seán O’Casey, Bram Stoker and Brendan Behan have all staked claim in the city of Literature.
The Dublin Writer’s Museum – This is essential on any bookworm’s list of things to do. Featuring the lives and works of some of Dublin’s most notable literary names over the span of the past three hundred years. Names like Swift, Sheridan, Shaw and Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett are preserved here through letters pictures and personal effects all in a pristine Georgian house.
Trinity College – The educator of many famous Dublin writers.
James Joyce House of the Dead – The Setting of Joyce’s famous story “The Dead” can be visited for dinner! This is not a restaurant but more of an experience, a “Dead Dinner” to be exact!
A Walk Around the City – You’ll spot placards and statues all over the city! Here is a good guide to a walking tour.
The Bram Stoker Trail – Self-made and in desperate need of getting some real tourism funding, this trail takes you to the places historically tied to the famous Gothic novelist and where his legacy lives.
The James Joyce Museum – An entire museum dedicated to the world-famous author. The collection here includes letters, photographs, first and rare editions and personal possessions of Joyce, as well as items associated with the Dublin of Ulysses.
#5 Get Political
Like many big cities, Dublin has its share of statues. Many of these are political figures and many of which you can see on O’Connell Street. Here’s a complete list. But what may be the most important of all these political sights to see is that of Daniel O’Connell’s tomb in Glasnevin Cemetery.
#6 Get a Sip or Two or Four
It wouldn’t be Dublin without its pubs but moreover, it wouldn’t be Dublin without its whiskey and Guinness! There are so many pubs to choose from, it’s best to take the advice of a local. And, before you go out, why not take in a little history on your favorite adult beverages so you can be on the up.
Teeling Whiskey Distillery – Here you can get a close look and taste of the Teeling brand Whiskey.
The Whiskey Museum – Learn every single thing there is to know about Irish Whiskey and its history. With a rare collection of bottles, you will love this tour. And you’ll especially love the taste! Even if you’re not a whiskey drinker, you may be surprised and how different they are.
The Guinness Storehouse – A must do on everyone’s list when visiting. It’s like going to Orlando and not going to Disney. The Guinness truly does taste better from the Storehouse!
Take Your Pick of Pubs – I’ve been over this a hundred million, trillion times. I’ve been toured by the best local there is and there’s no getting around it, these are the best, least douchey pubs in Dublin; The Long Hall, the Cobblestone, Frank Ryans, the Bernard Shaw, the Headline Bar, the Hairy Lemon and the Stag’s Head (I squeezed that in there for those of you who insist on hanging around Temple Bar like a total tourist). If you’re on the edge for a hipster bar packed to the brim with tattooed bearded men try a personal favorite the East Side Tavern, Foley’s, 37 Dawson or O’Donohues (also great spots to eat).
#7 Go Dark with Tombstones and Ghost Tales
There’s a definite dark side to Dublin. Like any city with years of history, it has its tales. Here are a few which have stuck out to me over the years.
The Hellfire Club – Much less creepy by day I assure you. The Hellfire Club is one of the world’s most notorious haunts. Visited by multiple ghost hunting shows, this place has a history so dark, it will make your hair stand on end.
St. Michan’s Church – Did you know there are mummies in Dublin? Not something you hear on a daily is it? You can take a tour of the St. Michan’s Cathedral crypt and learn all about the infamous dead. Matter of fact, they may have even inspired Bram Stoker.
Glasnevin Cemetery – Also known as “The City of the Dead” will lead you through what appears to be an endless sea of high crosses peppered with ravens. Despite the death here, it is quite peaceful and simply stunning to explore. There is a fantastic museum below the guest center I recommend you take a look. It’s done to perfection. I especially like the wall of death rituals from around the world.
Marsh’s Library – A smaller yet incredibly preserved historic library is Marsh’s Library behind St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This little spot will make you go “whoa” not just because of its Harry Potter-like books but because it’s haunted!
The Bram Stoker Festival – Experience Gothic Romanticism like you never have before at the Bram Stoker Festival. This festival, held annually around Halloween brings together a weekend of theater, parades, lectures, exhibits, parties and street performances all to the tune of vampirism to celebrate the works and life of Bram Stoker.
#8 St. Patrick’s Day Festival
Visiting Dublin is the most epic way to do St. Patrick’s Day. The Irish are some of the most artistic and creative people I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. Every year I am thoroughly surprised at the bells and whistles they pull for their parade. The whole day is a complete experience and not to be missed. It should be on your list of things to do in life!
Dublin will always be near and dear to my heart. With a variety of unique things to do in Dublin, its beautiful architecture, history and amazing people, this city (and the whole of Ireland) is one of my favorite destinations on earth.