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21st Nov 2023

22 things you can’t leave Dublin without doing, as recommended by Dubliners

Fiona Frawley

what do do in dublin

From creamy pints to scenic strolls.

There are plenty of well-trodden tourist spots in Dublin – I probably don’t even need to name them without them bouncing brazenly into your mind. And while everyone’s desired Dublin itinerary is valid, valued and special, you might be looking for something a little off the beaten track to try, do, eat or drink.

We’ve thought long and hard of things we’d recommend for friends to do in Dublin, things we’d happily do ourselves and do so regularly. There are some obvious, classic shouts on the list (they’re classic for a reason), sitting alongside some you may not have thought of trying. By all means, get your fill of rubbing Molly Malone’s diddies til they’re raw and spending €9 for a pint in Temple Bar – but if you’re looking for further inspo, you’ve come to the right place.

22. A dip in the Forty Foot

The Forty Foot is located in Sandycove in South Dublin, and accessible via DART. 

Nothing awakens the senses quite like a dip in the icy blue Irish sea, and there’s no better place to hurl yourself in than off the rocks at the Forty Foot. This scenic swim spot is beloved by locals and visitors alike, and is suitable for swimming whether the tides are in or out meaning you can visit any time of the day – you can even join the cacao-sipping, dry-robe-clad sea worshippers for a sunrise dip if you really want to start your day off right.

Once a men-only bathing area, the Forty Foot restrictions were tackled by a group of female protesters in the 1970s and have since been relaxed. Now, the Forty Foot is open to anyone who’s brave enough to visit it, complete with steps for accessing the water and changing stalls for wrapping yourself up warm after your swim.

– 10 of the best places to eat, drink and get coffee around the Forty Foot

Via Getty. 

21. Explore the National Botanic Gardens

Located in Glasnevin, more info right here

The perfect prelude to your visit to Gravediggers.

Home to over 15,000 plant species from habitats worldwide, the Botanic Gardens provides an oasis of green in the middle of Dublin and is the dream location for a leisurely stroll. Founded in 1795, the Gardens will have you feeling like you’re in a promenading scene from Bridgerton with their curvilinear glasshouses, meticulously pruned rose bushes and tasteful water features. A particularly beautiful spot for a date, but also great for a solo ramble. Entry is free.

Via heritageireland.ie

20. Howth Cliff Walk

Howth is accessible from Dublin city centre by DART. 

Howth Head is something of a pilgrimage for anyone visiting Dublin, particularly those with an affinity for Joyce. Whether you adore Ulysses or the thought of reading even one page scares the bejaysus out of you, there’ll be something for you along one of the many trails around Howth Head.

Boasting lush greenery and unparalleled views of Dublin Bay, this walk isn’t to be missed if you’re the outdoorsy type, or the type who wants to at least appear outdoorsy on social media. There are multiple trails to follow, the shortest taking around 1.5 hours and the longest taking 3 hours. If you fancy a dip along the way there’s the idyllic Balscadden Bay Beach and the famous “hidden” beach on Howth’s southeastern corner (take extreme caution getting to this one, surfaces are slippy, uneven and maybe worth avoiding if you’re not confident with unpredictable terrains), and you can treat yourself afterwards to fish and chips at Leo Burdocks – just watch out for the seagulls.

– 7 places to eat, drink and get coffee during a day trip to Howth

@lovindublin Have you done the Howth Head walk? It is arguably one of Dublin’s most beautiful trails, boasting incredible views of the rugged coastline and neighbouring headlands. The variety of trails are ideal for a quiet walk away from the city regardless of fitness level #dublintiktok #placestovisit #thingstodo #dublin #topwalks #fyp ♬ original sound – Lovin Dublin

19. A stroll through Phoenix Park

Phoenix Park is located in Dublin 8, just west of the city centre. Find out more right here.

Dublin’s famous Phoenix Park is known for its resident herd of wild fallow deer, its multiple walk and cycle trails and being home to the President of Ireland. It’s one of the largest enclosed public parks in any European city, and you could easily spend a day getting lost in its many green leafy corners. You can enjoy a guided tour of the park or simply head for a ramble yourself by foot or by bike – pack a picnic and bring the dog if you have one; their dog park is like Disneyland for canines. Phoenix Park is also home to Dublin Zoo if you’d like to meet some larger animals.

Image via Getty 

18. Walk Dún Laoghaire Pier

About 20 minutes from Dublin city centre by DART. 

Right around the corner from the Forty Foot, you’ll find Dún Laoghaire Pier, the preferred walking route and viewpoint for many a Dubliner. The relatively easy route is just over a kilometre long either way (mark your arrival at the end with the obligatory touch of the lighthouse door, obviously) and is ideal if you want a quick burst of sea air. The pier overlooks Dún Laoghaire Harbour and is known for its oft-Instagrammed Victorian bandstand and its handy proximity to Teddy’s – the best place to get a 99 in Dublin, as most locals will tell you.

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 17. Walk up Killiney Hill

About 45 minutes from Dublin city centre via DART. 

Another great spot for some seriously impressive views, Killiney Hill is a southside gem with its winding trails and the ‘witches hat’ that sits proudly on top. Accented with prickly gorse and lush green patches you’ll find postcard-esque views of Dalkey Island, the Dublin coastline, Bray and the Wicklow Mountains, with the Irish Sea glistening like one of Beyoncé’s bodysuits on a sunny day. Killiney Hill has an off-leash policy for dogs throughout, as well as a great café about halfway up with a tempting selection of homemade cakes and sambos.

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 16. Tea and sandwiches at The Pepper Pot Café

Located in the Powerscourt Townhouse Centre on South William Street, find out more over on their Instagram.

Treat yourself to tea from a dainty floral china cup accompanied by some of the best sandwiches you’ll find in the city at the always charming Pepper Pot Café inside the Powerscourt Town Centre. The café is best known for its pear and bacon sambo (a must-try) but there’s so much more on offer and the surroundings are truly blissful with unmatched people-watching potential. For a real dream day, we recommend a browse around Powerscourt’s specialist boutiques and antique jewellers before lunch.

15. Coffee tour of Dublin

Potentially the result of the mass emigration to and subsequent return from Australia among Irish young people, Dublin’s speciality coffee game has been upped significantly in the last decade or so. Independent cafés boasting single-origin brews and locally sourced treats reign supreme over large-scale chains, and the amount of love and care going into each 6oz cup is evident. Head to the likes of Two Boys Brew for a top-notch accompanying brunch, or The Morning and One Kinda Folk for the perfect cup every time.

There’s no shortage of great cafés to choose from, but if you’d like a bit of inspiration here’s a list of the Lovin team’s absolute favourite cafés.

14. Enjoy a big dirty fry up

Whether it’s your hotel breakfast or a bountiful spread prepared by whoever’s hosting you, a fry-up with all the trimmings is essential while you’re in Dublin. Herby ispíní, both puddings, crispy rashers and a runny fried egg, a full Irish is more than a hangover cure or comfort meal, it’s a state of being.

You may also wish to enjoy your breakfast in roll form, which we’ll absolutely allow and encourage.

If you need a bit of inspiration, here are some of our favourite places for a fry up in Dublin.

13. Pints and toasties at Grogans

Located on South William Street in Dublin City Centre, more info here.

Anyone who’s visited Dublin will know there’s a cosy, welcoming pub on pretty much every corner and we all have our favourites, but Grogans is something of an institution as the regular crowds spilling out the front and sides will attest. Located right in the middle of Dublin’s creative quarter, Grogans is popular with Dubliners from all generations and walks of life, and one of their creamy pints accompanied by a no-fuss ham and cheese toastie made with the bounciest Brennans sliced pan is a must-try for anyone passing through the city.

12. Coddle at Gravediggers

Located in Glasnevin, for more info see their Instagram

Coddle is a traditional stew which has been chowed down upon for generations, and at first glance, it might frighten you a bit. The pink, slow-boiled meat and translucent broth might not look the most appetising, but any Dubliner will tell you it’s comfort food at its finest – family recipes are passed down and protected under lock and key. If you can’t swing an invite into someone’s home kitchen to try a bowl, fear not – you’ll get an excellent version at the historic Gravediggers Pub in Glasnevin, with generously buttered sliced pan for dipping. The pub was founded in 1833 and famously has no TVs and no music playing – it’s all about the conversation.

11. A stroll through Trinity

Trinity College is located on College Green in Dublin 2. More info here.

Another one that’s already probably top of the list for people visiting Dublin, largely due to the colossal success of Normal People and Paul Mescal making becoming a Trinity sexy again. Normal People aside, Trinity College is definitely worth a visit – it’s Ireland’s oldest university and produced some of the country’s greatest minds including Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde, and the 47-acre campus is steeped in history. See the Book of Kells, the Old Library and the Long Room, living your best dark academic life all the while.

10. See a League of Ireland match

Keep up with the league and find out who’s playing next here

If you want to soak up the kind of atmosphere that’s only created by people layered up in coats and scarves, shouting for their local team, A League of Ireland match should be right up your street. Usually, on a Friday night with some midweek matches, tickets are affordable and easy enough to come by. Soak up the smell of curry chips, see the Dublin Bus ball carrier at Dalymount Park, find a team to shout for and get involved.

9. Live music at The Cobblestone

Located in Smithfield, more info right here. 

There’s no shortage of great places for a trad sesh in Dublin, but the historic Cobblestone in Smithfield walked so everywhere else could run. This welcoming, laid-back pub is built on family tradition – owners the Mulligans have been playing music there for five generations, and no one can remember back any further than that.

There’s live music seven nights a week at The Cobblestone, and some of Ireland’s most famous trad musicians have passed the pub threshold over the years. You can expect to experience lively fiddles, Sean-nós singing and dancing, set dancing, céilidh, and you can even try your hand at a bit of Irish music yourself if you fancy – the Balaclava Sessions take place every Wednesday and see two skilled fiddle players teach beginners on a variety of instruments.

8. See some live comedy

Multiple venues across Dublin, check individual clubs for show info. 

Whether you’re visiting Dublin or you’ve lived here all your life, a night at one of the city’s comedy clubs is never a bad idea. The Dublin stand-up scene is small but mighty and on any given night you’re likely to see established comics like Neil Delamere, David O’Doherty and Deirdre O’Kane performing alongside new up-and-comers, with skilful MCs tying everything together and expertly keeping the crowd under control. It’s also an affordable night out with tickets for some great shows for less than a tenner – you can see a list of our favourite Dublin comedy clubs here.

7. Visit one of Dublin’s breweries

Obviously, the Guinness Storehouse is top of the list for many a tourist but it’s not where Dublin’s brewing prowess ends. If you’re looking for something off the beaten track, why not visit one of our newer, independent breweries like Rascals in Inchicore (bangin’ pizza here to accompany), or the Wicklow Wolf just over the county bounds in the lush surrounds of Newtown Mount Kennedy?

If you’re looking for inspiration, you can read a list of some of our favourite Dublin brewers here.

6. Little Museum of Dublin

Located at 15 St Stephen’s Green, more info right here

There’s no shortage of incredible museums and galleries to visit across the city, but the Little Museum of Dublin is something truly unique. The small but perfectly formed museum located in a lovely Georgian townhouse just opposite Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre is home to carefully curated exhibitions, witty, charismatic tour guides and a whole room dedicated to U2, if that’s your bag. The museum chronicles significant changes to the lives of Dubliners over the last century, and after a short 30-minute tour you’ll come away feeling you know all you need to know about our fair city.

5. Visit Marsh’s Library

Marsh’s Library is located in St. Patrick’s Close, Dublin 8. More info right here. 

Dublin’s oldest public library remains unchanged since the 18th century and will hold your hand gently as you step back in time. Despite being right in the middle of town, Marsh’s Library feels like another world with old-school features such as a reading cage and impressive rosewood bookshelves – you’d half expect to see Belle cruising along via the sliding library ladder, á la the opening number of Beauty and the Beast.

Informative tour guides will divulge the detailed history of the library, from its opening in 1707 to its name check in Ulysses. The perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon – and we do get a few of those in this city.

marshlibrary.ie

4. Frighten locals on the Viking Splash Tour

Regular daily tours, more info here.

If you’re going to do a bus tour of Dublin, you might as well do one that travels across land and sea and enables you to scream at unsuspecting passersby as they make their way to work. We’re so accustomed to the collective roar that frequently emerges from the passing yellow boat buses at this stage, it’s part of Dublin’s audio landscape. The Viking Splash is a fun, immersive way to see Georgian Dublin and beyond, and the hats suit nearly all head shapes.

3. Christ Church Cathedral

Located on Christchurch Place, Dublin City Centre. More info right here.

A historic landmark with unmatched levels of wow factor, Christ Church has stood in the centre of Dublin for almost 1,000 years. The imposing structure is one of the most notable parts of the city’s landscape, and definitely worth exploring inside if you haven’t before. There are plenty of nooks, crannies and architraves to explore – we recommend using an audio guide to provide additional context for the Cathedral and objects within. A tour during the day is great but if you can catch a concert there in the evening, even better.

2. Stroll through George’s Street Arcade

Located on South Great Georges Street and open 7 days a week. More info over on their website

This Victorian, red-brick market is worth a visit just to look at, but there’s also a trove of treasures to discover inside. Standing proud as Ireland’s first purpose-built shopping centre, throughout the stalls you’ll find vintage clothes and designer bags, superb vegan food, piercing shops, souvenir stands and quirky gift shops. Locals will tell you you can’t leave without stopping into Simon’s Place, an institution of a café that’s stayed true to its roots with old-school, welcoming interiors, carefully cling-filmed sambos and some of the best cinnamon scrolls you’ll find in Dublin.

Via georgesstreetarcade.ie

1. Visit Kilmainham Gaol

Located in Kilmainham, Dublin 8 – more info here.

Of all the tourist attractions in Dublin, Kilmainham Gaol is the one that people actually living here would be most likely to spend a day doing. The tours are interesting, and informative and provide thoughtful insight into this hugely important building, which was the location for some of the most significant events in our State’s history. If you’ve ever wanted to learn more about the 1916 Rising, the Anglo-Irish War or the devastation of the Irish Civil War (1922-23) you’ll be able to find out all you need to know here, as well as see the cells that held the likes of Joseph Mary Plunkett and have remained untouched since.

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Lead images via Instagram / bfcdublin / gravediggers2

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