Ireland may seem like a small and unassuming island country, sitting next to Scotland and Great Britain, but it has a wealth of culture and history like just its neighbors. Ireland’s capital city of Dublin holds a variety of sights and activities to fill your days with merriment, making it easy to find things to do while on vacation. These are our Top 10 places to visit while you’re in Dublin.
1. Little Museum of Dublin
For a good introduction to Irish history, visit the Little Museum of Dublin. It is set in a little historical house from the 18th-century, each room lined with old photographs, news clippings, and advertisements. A portion of the museum is a tour during which the guides share old stories in an interactive and entertaining manner. After the tour, there are a few themed rooms upstairs that you can tour on your own. One room modeled as an old news office that runs through the history of the Irish press, and a room dedicated to the Shaking Hand of Dublin, mayor Alfie Byrne. If you are a music fan, they have an entire U2 exhibit, outlining the band’s career.
The history in the Little Museum spans from the revolutionary era to more current times and provides stories that can interest all ages. Both the staff and the museum have such personality; the positive energy is one you will take with you for the rest of the day. For hours and ticket prices, visit their website at https://www.littlemuseum.ie
2. Kilmainham Gaol
Kilmainham Gaol is an old prison that opened in 1796 and holds much history within its walls. By guided tour, visitors are led through the jail’s numerous cell blocks and are told stories of prisoners who were held there. Alongside regular criminals or thieves were leaders and revolutionaries from Ireland’s many rebellions, as well as from the Anglo-Irish War and the Irish Civil War. One of these revolutionaries was a suffragette woman named Countess Markievicz; her cell is clearly identified and makes for an inspiring story. The tour transitions through older cell blocks, to the famously photographed east wing with its panoptic design, and into the yards where executions were held.
Ireland has a history fraught with wars and rebellions, and the tour at Kilmainham will cover much of it. Afterward, there is a museum that contains further details of some of the stories told during the tour. Visitors are advised to book in advance as the tour slots book up quickly! Tickets can be booked online at http://kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie
Before Ireland’s revolutionary history, there were the Vikings. Dublinia is an immersive museum that houses the history of the Vikings and Medieval times with life-like figures and settings recreated, complete with sound effects. Within the museum, an entire street has been built, as well a Viking house and warship, and Medieval market. These exhibits make tourists feel as though they are truly wandering through the past. It is fun for families to visit, as the history is dark and intriguing for adults, and the exhibits are playful for children.
Before leaving the museum, cut through the cafeteria and gift shop to climb a medieval tower that will give you spectacular views of Dublin. More information can be found on their website at https://www.dublinia.ie. After touring the museum, cross over the street by a connecting bridge to visit Christ Church Cathedral with its tall arched ceilings, detailed flooring, and spooky crypts.
4. Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle was built in the 13th century as headquarters for the British government until Ireland gained its independence. Now it is an important setting for the Irish government, as well as a popular tourist attraction. The first few rooms are little galleries featuring paintings, a mix of old and modern pieces. In the hall are photos of the past presidents of Ireland, two of which have been women.
After a walk-through, there is the opportunity to enter the state apartments, many of which have retained their historical appearance with ornate chandeliers, upholstered furniture, and detailed frames. St. Patrick’s Hall is one of the most memorable rooms, with massive mirrors lining the walls, gold columns, painted ceilings, and thick royal blue carpets. This hall is used for important events, such as the inauguration of the president.
Dublin Castle may be a smaller castle than you can find in other countries such as England, but its rooms have a special personality to them. For ticket information, visit the website at http://www.dublincastle.ie/
5. Patrick’s Cathedral
This is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and is the tallest as well. It has been provided worship services for over 800 years and is still operative. Its history and impressive architecture have made the cathedral a popular attraction for tourists. Within St. Patrick’s Cathedral are bits of history to read about, with artifacts scattered throughout. Many of the artifacts and tombs are dedicated to Irish soldiers from the two World Wars, and it is impactful to look at. The cathedral also has an active choir, with a long musical history and old organs.
The interior of St. Patrick’s is beautiful, with stained glass windows, high arching ceilings, and the serene Lady Chapel. Learn more about the cathedral’s history online at https://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie/
6. IMMA (Irish Museum of Modern Art)
Close to Kilmainham Gaol is the Irish Museum of Modern Art for all art lovers. Even if art is not your cup of Irish coffee, the subject matter of the pieces exhibited is captivating in their meaning. Everything featured here has a current political or social message attached to it, and the way everything has been executed and displayed is intentional. Much of the art is mixed media, with varying degrees of interactivity. Each gallery has a booklet with the artists’ statements, and visitors are bound to find a piece that inspires and resonates with them.
The grounds of the IMMA also contain a beautifully manicured garden for peaceful strolls. On Mondays the IMMA is closed; but the rest of the week it opens around 11:30 am, with free admission. Visit their website here: https://imma.ie.
7. Glasnevin Cemetery Museum
Glasnevin Cemetery is outside the core of Dublin city, but the history of the grounds makes it worth a visit. There are more than 1.5 million people buried here, many of which have been instrumental in Irish history. For example, Countess Markievicz who was imprisoned in Kilmainham Gaol is laid to rest here. Stories about her, and others like her, are told on Glasnevin’s General History guided tour. The cemetery itself is full of Celtic crosses and detailed sculptures.
If you get a combi-ticket, you can join this tour as well as gain access to the O’Connell Tower, a monument to a famous political figure Daniel O’Connell. Climbing to the top of the tower, which is an exhibition about O’Connell, will give you panoramic views of the cemetery and Dublin. It is the tallest round tower in Ireland so the number of stairs to get to the top requires some physical fitness.
After touring the grounds, check out the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum which has exhibitions detailing the history of the cemetery through life-size replicas and a photography exhibition. The website can be accessed at https://www.glasnevinmuseum.ie/
8. Guinness Storehouse Factory
Guinness is a dark Irish dry stout that is known all around the world. The Guinness Storehouse Factory is Dublin’s most popular tourist attraction, and its seven floors of interactive exhibits telling the story of Guinness prove why. They lead visitors through the brewing process, which includes a huge waterfall, tells the history of Guinness, shows their clever advertising and marketing successes, and finishes with the Gravity Bar on the top floor. This bar allows for aerial and panoramic views of Dublin with a complimentary pint of beer.
The Guinness Storehouse Factory has many spots to grab a snack or meal as well. They have a large gift shop where you can pick up a souvenir for your Guinness fan back home. Tickets can be booked in advance at https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en
9. Jameson Distillery Bow St.
Jameson is a popular Irish whiskey company, first introduced in 1780 and now sold internationally. Jameson Distillery Bow St. is the original distillery that first produced this whiskey until the late 1900s. Like the Guinness Storehouse, it has become a popular spot for tourists, providing fully interactive tours that bestow a literal taste of Jameson whiskey. The tour starts in a room that features some of the history of Jameson. This progresses to how the whiskey is made, with the ingredients laid out on tables for visitors to touch and sniff.
Afterward, tourists will move into a low-lit room with round tables for a whiskey tasting that includes glasses of Irish, American, and Scottish whisky. The guide offers instructions on the way to properly taste whiskey and points out the differences between each. If you weren’t a whiskey drinker before, you may discover one that suits your taste here!
After your tour, you can use your ticket stub to get a complimentary whiskey from the bar. The atmosphere of the distillery is industrial, but cozy at the same time. It is definitely worth taking the general Bow St. Experience tour. Their website is https://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/en-EN/
10. Temple Bar
Your visit to Dublin won’t be complete without spending your evenings around Temple Bar. The area on the south bank of the River Liffey is known for its numerous bars, often with live music. It has a very lively nightlife, making it popular with both locals and tourists alike. You can choose to simply eat and enjoy some good music at one of these bars, or bar hop later in the evening with a group of friends. Some of the more popular bars in the area are The Temple Bar, The Auld Dubliner, The Old Storehouse, and The Merchant’s Arch.
If you plan to spend a few days in Dublin checking off this Top 10 list, as well as seeing some of the other sights Dublin has to offer, purchase the Dublin Pass. They have options for 1, 2, or 3-day passes, which offer free, or discounted admission to many of these attractions (with some exclusions). The pass also has discounts or perks at some restaurants and gives you a 24-hour pass with BigBus, which will help you reach some of those attractions that are outside the city core. For more information, visit https://www.dublinpass.com/.