Dublin (Ireland): The top 20 attractions - Global Storybook

Dublin: The Top 20 Attractions

Derek Cullen

Derek Cullen

Derek Cullen is the Local Contributing Writer at Global Storybook (Ireland).

Derek Cullen is an adventure tour leader and travel writer from Ireland. Having spent more than six years leading expeditions in Africa, Derek is currently working as a freelance writer from various destinations around the World.
Derek Cullen

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One of the most popular cities in Europe, Dublin is a metropolis which has more than enough charm and personality to match the variety of attractions in the capital city of Ireland.  Green and luscious, Dublin’s parks offer an easy escape from the city any time it gets too busy, but in truth, the attractions are so enticing and fun that needing a break is rarely an issue.

From myths and music to Oscar Wilde and the famous liquor, you should find ample stories and prominent names at every corner in Dublin.  The true challenge might be in choosing the sights you can afford to miss out on.  Though, if you’re staying here for 4 – 5 days, it should be enough to see most of the top 20 attractions in Dublin:

Dublin Skyline, Dublin, Ireland - Global Storybook1. Trinity College and the Book of Kells

The Trinity College is known as the most prestigious college in Ireland.  It’s also one of the oldest universities in the country, which dates back to 1592 the year it was founded by Queen Elizabeth I.  Some of the most prominent Irish authors have studied inside its historic walls, including Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker (the author of the famous novel “Dracula”), Samuel Beckett and Jonathan Swift (who wrote the “Gulliver’s Travels“).

One of its incredible permanent exhibitions is the famous Book of Kells.  Featuring depictions of the gospel and life of Jesus, the Book of Kells is the oldest manuscript in the world.  Countless people travel from distant corners just to lay their eyes on this medieval gem.  The document can be found inside Trinity College’s equally famous library.  And if the Book of Kells is of no interest to you, the library itself is a truly enchanting sight.  It was even featured in several Harry Potter movies.

  • Address: Dame Street, Dublin 2
  • Time required: 1-  3 hours
  • Hours of operation: Monday – Saturday: 9:30am – 5:00pm, Sunday: 12:00pm – 4:30pm
  • Price: 9 Euros (adult)
  • Official website: http://www.tcd.ie

2. St Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick’s is the national church of Ireland and one of the most popular attractions in Dublin.  School trips and choir practices are often held inside which can make your visit even more memorable.  Its tall stain glass windows and intricate design are simply enthralling.

Standing more than 40 meters high, St Patrick’s Cathedral is an imposing sight filled with rich history, as well as religious devotion.  It’s not only the tallest, and largest church in Ireland but also one of the oldest, as it was founded in 1191.  You can easily spend a whole hour exploring the inside as well as the outside of this stunning cathedral.

Local tip: Did you know that the term “chance your arm” originated in this church?  There was once a door with a small opening here.  The visitors had to place their arm inside as a means of identification, not knowing whether the gateman would open the door, or chop off their arm!

  • Address: St. Patrick’s Close, Wood Quay, Dublin 8
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: March – October: Monday – Friday: 9:30am – 5:00pm, Saturday: 9:00am – 6:00pm, Sunday: 9:00am-10:30am, 12:30pm – 2:30pm, 4:30pm – 6:00pm; November – February: Monday – Friday: 9:30am – 5:00pm, Saturday: 9:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday: 9:00am – 10:30am, 12:30am – 2:30pm
  • Price: 6.50 Euro (adult)
  • Official website: http://www.stpatrickscathedral.ie

3. Oscar Wilde & Merrion Square

When British settlers began making themselves at home in Dublin, they went about constructing some of the finest Georgian squares anywhere in Europe.  Furthermore, the Queen of England was said to be particularly pleased when she heard about the magnificent Merrion Square and the perfection of its appearance.  That being said, today it is best known for the “Dublin Doors” – a luscious park with a stunning statue of the infamous Oscar Wilde.

Landscaping is one of the reasons which makes Merrion Square stand out from most other city parks, as every inch here is maintained in an immaculate fashion.  Green canopies and colorful flowers fill every corner, while the shining sculpture in the north-western side attracts the visitors, eager to set their eyes on Mr. Wilde.  Renowned as a poet and flamboyant activist, Oscar Wilde was a hugely talented writer who is widely regarded as one of the true literary greats.

Local tip: The multi-colored doors around the Merrion Square came to fame entirely by accident, when a photograph in New York began captivating the locals.  They wanted to know where they could find these beautiful doors pictured in a random photo.  Hence their fame quickly spread all over the world.

  • Address: Merrion Square, Dublin City Centre
  • Time required: 1 hour
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free
  • Official website: http://www.merrionsquare.ie

4. Guinness Storehouse

Renowned as one of the most famous beers in the world, Guinness is indeed very popular in Dublin.  As a result, the Guinness Storehouse made it on the list of the most visited attractions in Dublin for a good reason.

Having maneuvered your way through the ticketing isles, the self-guided tour begins with an introduction beneath a giant pint glass shaped structure.  From here, you will learn everything involved in the process of making the famous stout while the beautifully crafted and artistic nature of the museum is nothing short of impressive.  Featuring ample memorabilia and fascinating marketing props, the museum is an entertaining visit and is certainly more interactive than any other museum in Dublin.

Some might find this to be a rather contrived thing to do in Dublin, after all, it’s a museum rather than a brewery.  However, the Storehouse is worth the effort since the views from its Gravity Bar at the end of the tour, are some of the best in the city.  As a bonus, you will also get a “free” pint of Guinness once you arrive at your last stop.

  • Address: St James’ Gate, Ushers Quay, Dublin 8
  • Time required: 1-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: daily 9:30am – 7:00pm
  • Price: starts at 17.50 Euros (adult)
  • Official website: https://www.guinness-storehouse.com/en

5. National Museum of Ireland: Decorative Arts and History

The National Museum of Ireland is one of the most important museums in the country.  It consists of 4 separate galleries: one dedicated to the Archeology, another one to the Decorative Arts and History, the third one to the Country Life and the fourth one to the Natural History.  Each gallery is located at a different location, and all four are free of charge.

As the name implies, the Decorative Arts and History museum is dedicated to the story of Ireland and its citizens.  It includes numerous artworks and historic artifacts related to the past, such as furniture, costumes, silverware, weaponry, coins, photographs, illustrations and many other items.  In addition, it also holds an extensive collection of the Asian art.  Finally, it often runs numerous fantastic temporary displays, and it’s set in an incredibly stunning building which is a former army barracks.

  • Address: Collins Barracks, Benburb St, Dublin 7
  • Time required: 3 – 5 hours
  • Hours of operation: Tuesday – Saturday 10:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday: 2:00pm – 5:00pm; closed on Mondays and some public holidays
  • Price: Free
  • Official website: https://www.museum.ie/Decorative-Arts-History

6. Dublin Castle & The Chester Beatty Library

Unfortunately, nowadays the Dublin Castle looks nothing like it did back in the Medieval times when it was first built in the early 1200s.  However, the ancient city walls near the Christchurch are the evidence that it was once a typical Medieval town.  Hence, it takes only imagination to see the castle as it was back then.

Due to fire, war and disaster, the castle was rebuilt multiple times, in the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries.  The British forces also once occupied this building which was originally established by the Vikings.  For the best experience, take a guided tour of the premises, which are now also used for presidential receptions and inaugurations.

10 Unusual Things to Do in Dublin

Adjacent to, the Castle is the amazing Chester Beatty Library, which has one of the most extensive and rare collections of books and manuscripts in Ireland.  From the ancient papyrus texts to the stunning medieval calligraphy, from Europe to Asia to the Middle East, this grand library will surprise and amaze.  It also offers free admission to its visitors, and it often runs excellent workshops, events, and lectures inside its spectacular walls.

  • Address: Dame St, Dublin 2
  • Time required: 1 – 2 hours
  • Hours of operation: Castle: daily 12:00pm – 5:45pm (last admission is at 5:15pm); closed December 25-27 & January 1st; Library: March – October: Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Saturday: 11:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday: 1:00pm – 5:00pm; November – February: Tuesday – Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm, Saturday: 11:00am – 5:00pm, Sunday: 1:00pm – 5:00pm, closed on Mondays
  • Price: Castle: with a tour: 10 Euro (adult); without a tour: 7 Euro (adult); Library: free
  • Official website: http://www.dublincastle.ie (Dublin Castle); http://www.cbl.ie/index.aspx (Chester Beatty Library)

7. National Art Gallery

The National Art Gallery located on the Merrion Square (sight #3) has one of the finest collections of art in Europe.  Featuring an incredible array of classical paintings, ranging from the 14th to the 20th centuries, the gallery is renowned for housing such famous artists, as Vermeer, Mets, and Velasquez.

In addition, it frequently hosts numerous special exhibitions showcasing particularly important artwork from all over the World.  For those who are interested in a more educated visit – the gallery offers free guided tours multiple times on a daily basis.  Since the museum is most popular on weekends and mid-afternoon, the mornings are usually the best time to visit it.

National Art Gallery, Dublin, Ireland - Global Storybook

  • Address: Merrion Square West
  • Time required: 3 – 5 hours
  • Hours of operation: Monday – Saturday: 9:15am – 5.30pm (open until 8:30pm on Thursdays), Sundays: 11:00am – 5:30pm
  • Price: permanent exhibitions – free; some temporary exhibits have a small admission fee
  • Official website: http://www.nationalgallery.ie

8. Kilmainham Gaol

Kilmainham Gaol (which means jail) is a former prison which was once home to various Irish leaders during the British colonial times.  In fact, it was in this very prison where many of the most prominent Irish revolutionaries were executed during the infamous 1916’s Easter Rising.  Kilmainham was decommissioned as a prison shortly after that in 1924, and today it’s a museum which is operated by the Office of Public Works in Ireland.

Simply put, this museum offers the most compelling and interesting insights into the troubles which dominated Ireland in the past.  The building itself is both enchanting and haunting.  Walking through its corridors is an eery process, while a thoroughly knowledgeable tour guide recounts the unsavory scenes from the prison’s past.  Which, by the way, was once inhabited by both men and women, as well as children.

Local tip: the Kilmainham Gaol is best visited on the same day as the Guinness Storehouse (sight #4) as both of these attractions are within a short walking distance from each other.  Besides, you’ll probably want a drink anyway after listening to some of the Kilmainham’s gruesome tales.

  • Address: Military Road, Kilmainham (next to Kilmainham Courthouse)
  • Time required: 2 hours
  • Hours of operation: January – December: 9:30am – 5:30pm; June 1 – September 30: 9:00am – 6:45pm; closed December 24-26
  • Price: 8 Euro (adult); you must book your tickets online in advance (please see the official website)
  • Official website: http://www.kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie

9. The Little Museum of Dublin

Described as a “people’s museum in the heart of the city,” the Little Museum of Dublin is a quaint collection of local photographs, paintings, and other memorabilia which is both convenient and affordable to visit.  What it lacks in size, the Little Museum of Dublin makes up for with experience, as this unassuming building is home to the best collection of photographs in Dublin.

From the first known photograph of Bono and U2 to the city streets and the smiling locals, you will find inspiration at every turn and more than enough value to warrant the entry fee.  In addition to its permanent exhibits, the museum also frequently hosts numerous amazing events, lectures, walking tours, and even concerts, so you might want to check out its website to see what’s currently on.

Photos: Heather Cowper/Flickr

  • Address: 15 St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2
  • Time required: 3 – 4 hours
  • Hours of operation: daily 9:00am – 5:00pm, Thursdays open until 7:00pm
  • Price: 10 Euro (adult)
  • Official website: http://www.littlemuseum.ie

10. St Stephen’s Green

Situated at the top of the Grafton Street, the St Stephens Green is the largest green space in the city center – a haven in the midst of the surrounding chaos.  Locals enjoy frequent lunchtime strolls here accompanied by some traditional music, which is often played at one of the many stages within the park.  In addition, this truly beautiful park is easily accessed from any point in the city.

Local tip: Although this leafy part of the city is now used for relaxation, incredibly, during the medieval times, it was just a swampy marsh on the outskirts of the city.  It was also the place where public executions and even witch burnings once took place.

  • Address: next to Grafton Street, Dublin 2
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: Monday – Saturday: 7:30am – dusk, Sunday and holidays: 9:30am – dusk
  • Price: Free
  • Official website: http://www.ststephensgreenpark.ie

11. Temple Bar

The most famous and busy neighborhood on the island of Ireland is undoubtedly the Temple Bar, which is right in the city center.  Consisting of endless bars, restaurants, craft shops and more, the area is populated by visitors at all times.  It’s also very well-known for its live traditional music, which is otherwise hard to find in modern day Dublin.

Starting with the main square of the Temple Bar, it can be hard to decide which way to go with so much happening around each corner.  The lure of traditional music will usually direct visitors into the Quays or the Auld Dubliner nearby.  From this point, it doesn’t really matter where you go as every bar is just as cozy and fun as the next one.

Local tip: Though this is a fun part of any trip to Dublin, the truth be told, the absence of locals is enough to know that this might not a “real Dublin” experience.  Hence, the rest of your time might be better spent where the locals do like to hang out (for example sight #17).

  • Address: Temple Bar, Dublin 2
  • Time required: 1-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free

12. Ha’Penny Bridge

Initially, this iconic bridge was called the “Wellington Bridge” and then also the “Liffey Bridge.”  However, since it used to cost half a penny to cross the bridge for so many years, the locals decided to rename it into the “Ha’Penny Bridge.”

You will find countless padlocks attached to many of the railings here, which is said to be a Polish tradition, brought by the influx of Poles during the Celtic Tiger.  Although, they do little to affect the stunning visual image of this bridge stretching over the River Liffey.  Despite its old age (it was built in the early 1800’s), it is still one of the most iconic sights in Dublin.

Local tip: The Ha’Penny Bridge is the one most frequently featured on Dublin’s postcards.

  • Address: next to Temple Bar (Dublin 1&2)
  • Time required: 1 hour or less
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free

13. Windmill Lane Recording Studios

U2, Van Morrison and many other famous Irish artists once recorded their songs at the Windmill Studios.  In fact, this particular studio was used to record U2’s first album, which makes it a sort of a pilgrimage site for all the U2 fans visiting the city.

Located on a short fifteen minutes walk away from the city center, the studios are well hidden amidst some local houses and warehouses.  Though as soon as you spot them, they will be unmistakable.  Covered from top to bottom in graffiti, the area has been decorated in a beautiful fashion by fans and local graffiti artists.  Amazingly, some fans have even written lyrics to the entire U2 songs on the pavement outside the building.

U2 - Global Storybook

Photo Debby Wong/shutterstock.com

  • Address: 20 Ringsend Rd Grand Canal Dock Dublin 4
  • Time required: 1 hour or less
  • Hours of operation: the Studios: Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm
  • Price: Free
  • Official website: http://www.windmilllanerecording.com
Cultural Activities in Dublin this Autumn & Winter (2017)

14. Croke Park

Officially the fastest land sport in the world, Hurling is hugely popular in Ireland, and it’s unlike any other game.  Similarly, another unique sport you can witness in the emerald isle is the Gaelic Football which is almost as fast, yet just as impressively tough.

The Croke Park is the name of the historic stadium located in the center of Dublin.  It is often the preferred venue for the biggest games in the country.  So if you happen to be in Dublin when a game is on, do everything in your power to grab a ticket.  Vocal and forever enthusiastic, the Irish fans are famous for their passion and their great spirit which they bring to every game.

Besides the stadium, there’s a GAA Museum nearby which offers amazing tours of the venue.  In addition to discovering the trophy treasures from the popular national sports located inside the museum, you can also go on a backstage tour of the arena, or on their signature skyline tour where you will get to see some great 360-degree panoramic views of Dublin from the stadium’s rooftop.

  • Address: Jones’ Rd Drumcondra, Dublin 3
  • Time required: 3-5 hours
  • Hours of operation: Museum: January – May, September – December: Monday – Saturday: 9:30am – 5:00pm, Sundays and holidays: 10:30am – 5:00pm; June – August: Monday – Saturday: 9:30am – 6:00pm, Sundays and holidays: 9:30am – 5:00pm; Skyline tour and Stadium tour hours vary – check the official website
  • Price: Museum: 7 Euro (adult); Skyline tour: 20 Euro (adult); Stadium tour: 14 Euro (adult)
  • Official website: http://www.crokepark.ie

15. Grafton Street

The Grafton Street is the most famous shopping area in Dublin, where designer stores can be found amidst a lineup of buskers and fast food eateries.  On a sunny day, this is one of the most exciting places in Dublin.  Artists converge on every corner here while the sidewalks are filled with tables and locals, eager to make the most of the nice weather.

Located next to the Trinity College (sight #1) and the St Stephens Green (sight #10), it is likely that you will venture along this pedestrianized street at some point.  Though do keep in mind that many local bars and restaurants can also be found neatly tucked in on the side streets, along the main route.   There’s also a central tourist office located just around the corner from the Grafton Street which also makes it the best place to begin your adventure into the heart of the city.

  • Address: Grafton Street, Dublin 2 (next to Trinity College)
  • Time required: 1 hour
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free
  • Official website: http://www.graftonstreet.ie

16. The Spire

When the Spire was completed, it was first coined the “Monument of Light.”  It was the long-awaited replacement for Nelson’s Pillar which once stood in its place.  Installed on the O’Connell Street, the widest in Europe, the Spire is an awe-inspiring sight, rising more than 120 meters into the sky, next to the General Post Office.

Incredibly, this structure cost 4 million Euros to construct.  While locals took time to warm up to the newest member of the Dublin’s skyline, it is now at least a useful landmark with which to help visitors navigate the city.  Nelson’s Pillar was one of the last remnants of the British colonial monuments at the time, which was destroyed by the Irish Republican Army.

  • Address: Dublin 1 (Next to Henry Street and GPO)
  • Time required: 30 minutes
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free

17. Baggot Street’s Pub Crawl

U2 is one of the most famous bands in the world right now, but there was a time when local music in Dublin was a lot more humble and unknown.  That being said, many of the popular Irish traditional songs are still known around the world.  Furthermore, almost all of them were produced by the same musical wizards – the Dubliners.

Ronnie Drew and Luke Kelly are the two most recognizable members of the group.  Their songs, such as the Wild Rover and Whiskey in the Jar are some of the most popular choices at karaoke in the Irish community.  But why would we talk about the Dubliners and a pub crawl in the same breath?  Well, it’s a well-known fact that the Dubliners began their journey in the O’Donoghues Bar on the Baggot Street.  And, as it turns out, this area is also known for some of the most authentic pubs in Dublin.

  • Address: Baggot Street, Dublin 2
  • Time required: 1-2 hours
  • Hours of operation: daily 11:00am – 1:00am
  • Price: Free

18. Moore Street’s Market

Long before Dublin was considered a major tourist hotspot, this was a very poor city where local markets were essential to survival.  On the Meath Street, you could find flowers, while the Henry Street was covered in fish and the Moore Street in vegetables.  Nowadays, you can still find remnants of this old world on each of these streets.  Although, the Moore Street is unmistakenly the one place where you will find the same old operation in full flow.  As a matter of fact, this is the oldest outdoor market in the whole of Dublin!

While you may have no interest in buying anything from the street vendors, taking a walk down the Moore Street is worth the effort.   Even if just to hear the vendors calling out their special offers and see their vibrant stalls in every color imaginable.

Local tip: you can take a walk along the Moore Street at any time, but it’s probably best to avoid this area after dark, once the market sellers are gone, and the street is eerily quiet.

Moore Street Market, Dublin, Ireland - Global Storybook

  • Address: Moore Street, Dublin 1
  • Time required: 1 hour or less
  • Hours of operation: 24/7
  • Price: Free

19. Jameson Distillery Bow St

Besides Guinness, the other world-famous Irish alcoholic brand is undoubtedly Jameson.  This iconic whiskey label dates back to 1780 when it was originally established in Dublin, at this actual distillery plant.  Though the production of Jameson had moved to another location in 1971, this historic venue has been converted into one of the main tourist sights in Dublin.

The Jameson Distillery Bow St as it’s officially known offers numerous attractions inside the plant, including guided tours, whiskey tastings, cocktail mixing classes, and other fun experiences.  After the tour, you can also enjoy a nice complimentary cocktail at the JJ’s Place bar.

  • Address: Bow St, Smithfield Village, Dublin 7
  • Time required: 1-3 hours
  • Hours of operation: Monday – Thursday and Sundays: 10:00am – 5:30pm (the time of the last tour), Friday – Saturday: 10:00am – 7:00pm (the time of the last tour)
  • Price: starts at 20 Euros (adult)
  • Official website: https://www.jamesonwhiskey.com/us/

20. St Michan’s Crypt

Beneath the oldest church in Dublin, you will find the crypt of St Michan’s, which is sometimes part of ghost tours around the city.  Open for visitors, the crypt offers a unique and unusual encounter for anyone brave enough to enter it.

Stepping inside the actual church of St Michan’s is a strange experience… as you might get an impression that you are in the wrong place.  However, once assistance arrives the attendants know exactly why you are there and will immediately offer the prospect of a tour in the crypt down below.  Featuring a famous crusader, the crypt is especially interesting since some of its mummies are even older than the Great Pyramids of Egypt.  And as a parting bonus, you will also have an opportunity to shake hands with a ghoulie figure.

  • Address: Church Street Arran Quay, Dublin 7
  • Time required: 1- 2 hours
  • Hours of operation: November 1 – March 16: Monday – Friday: daily 12:30pm – 3:30pm, Saturday: 10:00am – 12:45pm; March 17 – October 31: Monday – Friday: 10:00am – 12:45pm & 2:00pm – 4:30pm, Saturday: 10:00am – 12:45pm
  • Price: 15 Euro (adult)
  • Official website: http://www.cccgroup.dublin.anglican.org/Christ_Church_Cathedral_Group/St._Michans.html

Please note: all prices are valid for 2017 only.

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