Top 10 Things To Do In Dublin
Dublin, capital of Ireland and UNESCO City of Literature, is the perfect blend of cosmopolitan and traditional Irish culture. It is a city of extravagant nightclubs, cozy teahouses, ancient ruins and relics, and a collision of music, theater and experimental art.
Incredibly, travelers to the Emerald Isle oftentimes skip over Dublin in their eagerness to get to the picturesque countryside. And yes, the hills and the cliffs and the crumbling castles of the west coast should not be missed. But Dublin has enough character to merit a separate trip entirely. And while you probably have the staple sites such as the Guinness Storehouse and the Book of Kells on your itinerary, be sure to branch out your Dublin experience with a few of these off-the-beaten-track activities.
1) The National Leprechaun Museum
Don’t laugh. Dublin’s newest and most whimsical museum explores leprechauns and other fairies not as we know them from popular culture, but as the supernatural and often terrifying beings that influenced thousands of years of Irish culture and storytelling. An imaginative and surprising mix of folklore, theater and history, this is sure to delight the whole family. Come by after hours for their more adult-themed interactive theatrical production The Dark Land.
2) Rent a Bike
With a more or less flat landscape and mild, if rainy, weather, Dublin is simply begging to be explored by bicycle. Filled with Victorian-era parks, century-old churches and stately Tudor homes with multicolored doors, Dublin has plenty of trendy neighborhoods like Portobello and Ranelagh that are only a short bike ride away. Luckily, there are bike stations set up all across the city where you can swipe your credit card, grab a bicycle and go.
3) Visit the Oldest Bog Body In Europe
Dublin is a city that has many mummies preserved from all different eras of Irish history, and the three bog bodies at the National Archaeology Museum are a few of the oldest, dating back to the Iron Age.
Cashel Man, the oldest bog body in the entire continent of Europe at roughly 4,000 years, is thought to be a sacrificial victim and provides a fascinating look at the culture of prehistoric Ireland. The museum also has plenty of ancient weapons, jewelry, illuminated manuscripts and Celtic relics for a less macabre glimpse into Irish history.
4) Pay Homage To Irish Literature
For the diehard James Joyce fanatic, Dublin is the place to be to retrace the events of his novels and stories. Visit the very dapper bronze statue of the Modernist writer just off of O’Connell Street, and then follow a series of bronze plaques around the city that point out various pubs, cafes and other Dublin institutions that he mentioned in his signature novel, Ulysses.
At the end of the day, stop by Sweny’s Chemist, an antiquated chemist-cum-bookshop virtually unchanged since Joyce’s era, where a group of book lovers read aloud from Ulysses twice a week.
5) Grab a Cuppa at Grafton Street’s Historic Café
Located at the heart of Dublin and having featured in Joyce’s short story collection Dubliners, Bewley’s Café is the perfect place to sit out a morning rainstorm while enjoying a cup of tea or coffee. Take in the lavish turn-of-the-century décor in their main tearoom or enjoy a gourmet lunch and a free performance in their on-site theater. Afterwards, be sure to explore Grafton Street to get the full experience of Dublin’s buskers, flower vendors and street performers.
6) Go Vintage Shopping In Temple Bar
When it comes to grabbing a pint and listening to traditional music in an authentic Irish pub, Temple Bar on the south bank of the river is not your best bet, as it is kitschy and overpriced. However, it is worth strolling through on a weekend to people watch and to hit up their outdoor secondhand book and record market located in the miniature plaza at its center.
For the vintage lover, there are half a dozen shops in the less trafficked areas of Temple Bar that are filled with quirky jewelry, accessories and clothing styles ranging from Goth to Hipster and everything in between.
7) Take a Tour of Glasnevin Cemetery
Are you interested in Dublin’s history but not so much in the conventional museum experience? Head north to the Glasnevin Cemetery, a sprawling graveyard that holds the remains of some of Ireland’s most prominent figures dating back to the 1830’s, including Michael Collins, Éamon de Valera, Constance Markievicz and Luke Kelly of the folk band The Dubliners.
Choose from various thematic tours of the grounds or wander by yourself along the antiquated Celtic crosses and ornate marble obelisks. Afterwards, drop by the neighboring pub known as Gravediggers for a pint.
8) Go To a Hurling Match
Uniquely Irish and one of the fastest and most hazardous field games in the world, hurling has been played in Ireland for over 3,000 years (almost as old as Cashel man). Similar to field hockey but faster and with lots more tackling, hurling is widely agreed to be one of the most exciting sports to watch live.
Head to Croke Park, the enormous GAA stadium to the north of the city center, and cheer for your favorite team.
9) Catch a Play
Ireland is renowned for its vibrant theater scene, which has included some of the past century’s greatest actors and playwrights. Dress up and go out to see a production at the world famous Abbey Theatre, which was the personal project of poet William Butler Yeats and his patroness Lady Gregory during the Irish Revival, or at the Gate Theatre, which has sponsored such great names as Samuel Beckett and Brian Friel.
Alternatively, if you’re in Dublin during the summer, be sure to check out various outdoor theater festivals and free plays that pop up in various parks around the city.
10) Find Some Craic Agus Ceol
No trip to Dublin would be complete without an experience of their second-to-none pub culture, and to fully appreciate that you have to listen to live music. Luckily, everyone and their grandmother has a band in Ireland, so chances are high that you’ll find one of them performing in a local pub at any given night.
If you’re looking for excellent Guinness, hearty pub fare and an energetic traditional session, head to The Stag’s Head pub. For a more contemporary scene with an enormous selection of craft beers, try The Porterhouse in Temple Bar.
[Ha'penny Bridge In Dublin by William Murphy/Flickr]
Anna Snyder is a freelance travel writer and blogger who has just published her first book, 24 Hours in Dublin, a fun, fast-paced guide to all sorts of different things you can do in Dublin over the stretch of 24 hours. She writes a travel blog at Knitting & Nomaderie and more of her writing can be found at The Savvy Explorer and Language Trainers.