There’s nothing like a great story to take home with you and in Dublin, there’s never a dull moment! Whether you’re a history buff, a foodie, on a girls’ shopping trip or simply going on a boozy weekend away, there are plenty of cool, quirky and unique things to do in Dublin.
I’ve put together a huge list of 51 things to do in the Irish capital, including some really unique things along with some of the touristy ‘tick off your list’ sights, but I’ll start with one of the quirkiest..
I stumbled upon this really unique place when wandering around the Temple Bar area. It’s a board game cafe that operates on a pay-as-you-go basis. For less than €5/hour (the price goes down the longer you spend here), you can enjoy unlimited tea, coffee, biscuits, popcorn and Wi-Fi while playing board games, video games and meeting new people. They have multiple rooms for various things including a ‘study room’ which is perfect to host a meeting or if you need a makeshift office to work from while you’re away. Alcohol isn’t allowed, but you’re welcome to bring your own food and they host regular events too.
See the sights
Even if you’re visiting Dublin for a short time, you may want to see some of the infamous sights.
2. Trinity College & The Book of Kells
Trinity College is home to some of the most beautiful architecture in Dublin as well as one of the most important medieval written works in the world, the Book of Kells. The grounds are beautiful (and free) to wander round, but it’s worth paying the entrance fee to go inside. Try and get there as early as possible, as it can get very busy later in the day.
This is the largest church in Ireland; it’s an architectural wonder and its beauty can be seen both inside and out. It is also the final resting place of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s travels.
Of all the must-see Dublin sites in this post, Dublin Castle is one of those places which you literally can’t miss – it’s just that enormous! It’s visible from almost any corner of the city, and is now a popular venue for wedding receptions. Some of the castle is still open to the public for a small fee.
You used to have to pay a half a penny to cross this bridge back in the day and it’s official name is the Liffey Bridge, but nobody calls it that – it’s just a pretty site to tick off your list, particularly at golden hour!
Another sight you may want to tick off your list is the Spire. I should preface this with a warning that it is really unimpressive, but if it’s something you want to tick off, then you can find it in the middle of O’Connell Street.
This is a prison that housed some of the country’s most notorious inmates – the youngest inmate who was apparently just seven years old! If you’re a history buff, you might love this, however if you’re just tagging along or not too bothered about this one, I’d personally skip it as the tour is pretty intense and guided, meaning you have to stay with the group the entire time.
Home to the Gaelic Athletic Association and a must-see for Dublin for football fans. It’s the third largest stadium in Europe, and is also used to host concerts and other sporting events.
Outdoorsy things to do in Dublin
Kayaking is a unique way to navigate the city, without a traffic light in sight! City Kayaking offer atmospheric day and night-time trips along the Liffey, so you can float along the river, explore and learn all about the city from an experienced guide.
This beautiful inner-city Victorian park is filled with lush green grass and a variety of plants and flowers. Bring a book, a picnic or just stop off at a café before heading here to enjoy a beautiful day at the park. If you’re visiting in spring, then be sure to head here to spot some of the best cherry blossoms in Dublin!
11. Iveagh Gardens
This is a smaller, quieter and some might say, even prettier version of everyone’s favourite summer hang out, St. Stephen’s Green. Hidden from the busy streets, this gem is the perfect place for an urban park picnic or simply just for those in pursuit of silence on any given day in Dublin. Tip – grab a spot near the tropical fountain to feel like you’re far from the city, and check out the local gig guides during the summer months to see who is playing in the surroundings of this secret outdoor venue.
Located just 3km outside of the city and free to visit, the Botanic Gardens are home to over 15,000 different plant species. Great for a family day out, or just to find a bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
They run between Dublin City Centre, Howth and Dun Laoghaire and you can admire the city from a truly unique perspective as you sail along the Dublin Bay. There’s no better way to see Ireland’s Eye, Lambay Island, Dalkey Island, Joyce’s Martello Tower and the Baily Lighthouse than from the water.
Start out in the late afternoon to walk back towards the shore, experiencing Dublin by dusk as it comes alight – it’s about a 4km round trip. Keep an eye out for porpoises and seals along the way and take in the great view of Dublin along the way!
15. Jump into Ireland’s biggest outdoor pool at The Forty Foot
This is Ireland’s most famous spot for outdoor swimming located at the southern tip of Dublin Bay at Sandycove. A sign at the entrance still says ‘men only’, but this is just left over from a thankfully forgotten era – can you believe it only changed around 15-20 years ago?! The water is clean and only 40 feet deep (the clue is in the name), so you can always jump in at low tide. It’s a great place to swim, and is open all year round – wimps (like me) need not apply in the middle of winter!
This humongous walled park is around 2 miles from downtown Dublin, and was originally a hunting park back in the 1700’s. These days, it’s home to a herd of wild fallow deer, Dublin zoo, flower gardens and plenty of space to roam around or relax and have a picnic.
17. Dublin Zoo
The perfect day out if you’re travelling with children; Dublin Zoo is situated within Phoenix park and home to over 400 animals.
Art, history & culture in Dublin
Described as “Dublin’s best museum experience” by the Irish Times and also the number one museum in Ireland on TripAdvisor. Discover the fascinating history of Dublin here; from Queen Victoria’s visit to the global success of U2.
Learn all about Ireland’s history, art, architecture and culture.
This showcases the national collection of Irish and European art from the 14th to the 20th century – this is a must-visit for art lovers.
Even people who profess to hate museums can usually be persuaded to visit this place! Enjoy a guided tour through exhibitions that explain the history of Irish whiskey and enjoy a sample at the end.
It’s not often you get a true insight into the mind of an artist. But that’s exactly what’s on display at the Hugh Lane gallery, where you can gaze upon the sheer madness of Francis Bacon’s studio. Brought over from London and meticulously put back together, piece by piece, the studio is a muddle of boxes, canvases and easels, thrown together in a heap. Be warned though, those with OCD might get mild palpitations and an urge to reach for a feather duster!
This is brilliant for anyone who wants to discover or learn more about Dublin’s immense 300-year literary heritage. The history is all on display in this 18th century mansion, a couple of doors down from the Hugh Lane gallery.
Also known as IMMA, this is Ireland’s leading national institution for the collection of modern and contemporary art and is the home of the National Collection. The exhibitions change regularly, which means there’s always something new to discover when you visit.
They host a plethora of exhibitions which change on a regular basis here. Along with these exhibits, they also host a number of talks, workshops and other events – you can even build your own radio or robot!
You’ll find this located in the gardens of Dublin Castle. As you stroll through, you’ll come across artefacts from a large selection of cultures around the world; including Egyptian papyrus, medieval manuscripts, copies of the Qur’an and much, much more.
27. Glasnevin Cemetery Museum
Probably not something you’d consider, but this isn’t your average cemetery. Learn about the notable citizens who were laid to rest here with a fascinating tour that focuses on a few of the half a million people who are buried here.
Step into another world and immerse yourself in a world of myth and legend with Irish folklore. It’s a little pricey to enter, but this weird and wonderful museum is best visited if you prefer storytelling and information over seeing actual artifacts. This is one not to miss if you’re travelling with children, or just think of yourself as a big kid! *winks*
Housing over 25,000 rare books, this is one of more obscure points of interest in Dublin, making it perfect for a rainy day!
Quirky places to eat in Dublin
The foodie scene in Dublin has changed so much since my first visit back in 2014. There are so many great eateries with all sorts of wonderful cuisines to cater for everyone, but here are 5 of the quirkiest that I’ve found.
Inspired by the famous Irish masterpieces, this is the most lavish 5 star afternoon tea in Dublin. Treat yourself to a slice of 19th- or 20th-century art served on fine china with miniature sweet creations inspired by the work of J.B Yeats, William Scott, Louis Le Brocquy and others. For a relaxing appreciation of the arts, it’s one not to miss!
With afternoon tea so popular amongst women, The Morrison Hotel decided that men need a look in too. This afternoon tea with a twist includes steak sandwiches, sausages, sliders, beer & whiskey truffles.. and the best part is that it’s not just for men either!
Every Sunday from 2-5pm, because ‘Sunday mornings are for sleeping, Sunday afternoons should be for eating, misbehaving just a little bit more before going back to work and the healthy eating that comes with Monday – Friday life.’ The Brasserie restaurant hosts the laid back affair, complete with in-house DJ on the decks to keep the fun, chilled out vibe alive.
This place that has something of a cult following all over Ireland. It may be something to do with the Dingle rain water that they use to make their sorbets and sea salt, the milk they use, that comes fresh from local cows, or it could just be the incredible flavours they create, like Dingle sea salt, Blissful Butterscotch or Caramelised brown bread.
34. Hang Dai Chinese
This looks like any other Chinese restaurant on the outside, but venture in and you find yourself in what can only be described as a train carriage. The long, neon-lit room is a big talking point, but the food is what keeps people coming back. The DJ booth belt out tunes from last service until the wee hours, with a carefully-constructed cocktail menu in tow. Lashings of disco and Hang Dai Sours are the order of the day!
Where to drink in Dublin
Going to Dublin and not drinking a pint in a pub is like going to Sydney and not seeing the Opera House! Dublin has a pub on almost every street corner and one in between, but here are some of the best things to do in Dublin if you enjoy a tipple, including a few non-touristy places to visit!
One of Dublin’s most famous experiences; learn all about how this famous beer is made in their spectacular 7-storey interactive museum and learn how to pour the perfect pint. It’s a great experience, even if you aren’t a fan of Guinness – just don’t tell them that!
No visit to Ireland would be complete without learning all about one of their biggest exports, whiskey. The tour here will take you through the history and process of creating the refined whiskey, along with the unique opportunity to take part in a comparative whiskey-tasting experience.
Teeling is one of Ireland’s smaller distilleries, but is the first new distillery in Dublin for over 125 years and home to the Spirit of Dublin. Take a tour of their Dublin site and partake in one of their whiskey pairing session and sip some Irish nectar.
This upmarket bar is perfect for sunny days. There’s nothing quite like a rooftop bar for beautiful views of a city and the trendy terrace here doesn’t disappoint with it’s sweeping views across the city and fantastic vibe. Cosy up with a blanket on chillier evenings with a glass of bubbles or an espresso martini and enjoy the view.
39. The Brazen Head
Dublin’s oldest pub Ireland’s oldest pub dating back to 1198 is situated just mere metres away from the River Liffey. Food is reasonably priced, as are the drinks, and live music is often playing all night long!
Hidden in plain sight in Temple Bar, VCC, as the locals call it, is accessed through a black, unassuming door marked only with its acronym. It is Dublin’s most cherished slick and sultry cocktail bar.
41. The Temple Bar
One of Dublin’s most famous pubs, located in.. well, you guessed it – Temple Bar! When the sun has gone down over Dublin, you can bet that most people can be found in this vibrant area that’s renowned for its nightlife. The pub has great craic and is known for their live music, but it’s also known as a bit of a tourist trap with the cost of a pint almost triple the price in comparison to lesser knows pubs nearby. For non-touristy bars, check out the following..
Complete with a winter garden on the rooftop, this is great cocktail bar and restaurant where all the locals drink! You probably won’t see any other tourists here, the atmosphere is great, the bar staff are hilarious, keeping the drinks flowing all night, and the best part is that all drink are 2 for 1 every Tuesday evening.
This is located in the old vaults of Powerscourt Townhouse and is another non-touristy place. They have a huge outdoor seating area which is the ideal spot to watch Dublin go by as you sip on their famous Pygtails.. and speaking of which, they’re 2 for the price of 1 pretty much every evening during happy hour! While the presentation is a bit sloppy, you can’t really go wrong with a €6.50 espresso martini!
Don’t be mistaken, this club isn’t just for gay people! The crowd is mixed, atmosphere brilliant, drinks affordable, music great and everyone is super friendly. They’re open until 2.30am every night of the week.
This is a stylish gay bar with a relaxed, friendly and welcoming atmosphere. Weekends here begin on a Thursday and end on a Sunday night and host fab entertainment shows with musical performances full of rainbows, glitter and glamour!
Yes, this used to be an actual church that closed in the 60’s and was restored and converted into a popular bar, cafe, restaurant and nightclub in 2007. On the main floor, you can find a magnificent island bar that almost spans the length of the church, complete with booths, tables and bar stools. There’s live traditional Irish music during the week and downstairs, the nightclub is open every Thursday, Friday & Saturday night.
Where to shop in Dublin
This is a luxury re-sale/consignment store which was founded upon the belief in sustainable fashion. They sell pre-loved clothing and accessories and you can also buy and sell authenticated designer handbags. They have four stores around the city, and while I’d try to pop into each one as they’re all so different, the one on Wicklow Street is probably my favourite. You can shop for Hermés Birkin’s worth €20k to rare vintage Chanel Coats or much more affordable Michael Kors bags worth around €100 and everything in between.
Rummage around for quality vintage clothes, collectibles, handmade goods and retro antiques including vinyl, books, clothes and furniture at one of the city’s newer but best loved markets. This is on on the last Sunday of every month.
Brown Thomas offers the most luxurious clothing, cosmetics and homeware. Whether you have the budget to shop in the high end boutiques and department stores on Grafton Street, you can window shop as you walk along the cobblestoned street, listening to the buskers that line the streets – the atmosphere is great!
Set over several levels and dedicated to all things weird and wonderful, you could easily find yourself lost in there for an hour or two, exploring the many pre-loved and repurposed vintage items for sale. If vintage, quirky clothing is your thing, you need to check this place out!
Go on a day trip
51. Hire a car
I’m a big fan of hiring a car abroad; you can explore places on your own terms and you’ll almost always stumble upon things you may have missed on busses or trains. Hiring a car in Dublin is pretty affordable too, so I couldn’t recommend exploring more of the Emerald Isle enough, as every city is so different from the last!
You can drive to Kildare Village; home of the luxury fashion and homeware outlet shops in less than 2 hours. Belfast and Galway are both only 2 hours away and Cork is around 3 hours from Dublin. Set off early and you can do a round trip from either of these cities within a day. My top picks would be Galway or Belfast – though you may want to spend a few days in Northern Ireland if you plan to do the scenic coastal drive up to the Giant’s Causeway.
Have you seen/been to any of these places? Have I missed anything off this list? Let me know in the comments below!