Dublin is an amazing city with so many wonderful options... arts, culture, history, museums, and of course Guinness. There is something for everyone, but where do you even start? If you've got an upcoming trip to the Fair City, then check out these top things to do in Dublin.
My first suggestion for any new city is to do a guided bicycle tour as soon as possible. It's a fantastic way to see a ton of the city and hit several highlights in a short amount of time with a local guide. You don't have to be an experienced rider, as most tours are designed for all experience levels. You'll cover so much more ground and sights than a walking tour, and there are lots of stops along the way to break up the riding. My group used Dublin City Bike Tours, and I highly recommend their services. We had a great time and they took excellent care of us.
Obviously, when in Dublin, you really must visit the Guinness Storehouse and Gravity Bar. I know, it's touristy. But seriously... you're in Dublin. GO!! Even if you are not of fan of the beer, it's a fun and education experience, and the views from the Gravity Bar of the top floor are awesome. You may even find that you actually do enjoy a real Irish Guinness on tap, because I promise, it's not the same that you buy in the States. The quality control the company does there is almost unbelievable, down to the temperature served, the amount of seconds to pour, and the rest time before serving. Yes, it will probably be crowded, but getting a perfectly poured Guinness from the source, with beautiful 360 degree views of the city, is not an experience that comes along every day.
Another highlight of our weekend was seeing the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Walking through the 18th century Long Room Library to see the medieval manuscript is definitely worth a trip to the beautiful campus grounds. Entrance lines can wrap around the building, so if you can, go with the Online Fast Track ticket option, otherwise get there early in the day.
If you would like more economical site seeing options in the city, then be sure to check out the National Museums. Entrance to the National Museums in Dublin is free (heads up they are closed Mondays/bank holidays), and the couple that I visited were absolutely worth a stop. We spent an hour or so at the Archeology Museum and learned about Viking influence on the country, as well as saw the excellent preservation of several bog mummies. While pressed for time I also had a very quick stop into the National Gallery of Ireland art museum and saw pieces from Picasso, Monet, Rembrandt, Van Gough, and Goya to name a few. If you are in the area, the childhood home of Oscar Wilde is very close to there (not available to tour but you can snap a quick from the outside), as well as Bram Stoker's (his city home is right across the street just North of the Archeology Museum entrance at 30 Kildare St - look for the small plaque on the red brick wall).
One thing that I didn't get to do that others in my group did (and it's on my list for next time) is the Kilmainham Gaol Museum (the Historic Jail). It was on my list to do the morning of our departure flight, but unfortunately my hubbs came down with food poising the day before, so plans changed. :( Before I visited Ireland, I had read about this museum, but not knowing much about Irish history, I thought it wasn't something I would really appreciate or needed to see since we only had about 3 days in Dublin. However, after spending 11 days traveling all over the country, I learned so much about the history and culture of the Irish. This museum represents a significant part of their history. (I highly recommend watching the movie Michael Collins before you travel to Ireland. The movie stars Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts, and it tells the story of the Irish Rebellion. It shows a lot of the historic places throughout Dublin that will give you a better understanding of Irish History, especially when you visit those places in person. Our bike tour guide told us about the movie, and I actually watched on the plane ride back to the US. And now I REALLY wish I had seen it before the trip.)
If you do not do a bike tour, then here are some other highlights in Dublin you may want to check out depending on what part of the city you are in:
Christ Church - they have a crypt tour that I did not get to do, but it's on my list for next time.
Temple Bar - honestly was not may favorite area. It is very touristy, and can get rowdy early. However, if you like to party, this may be your scene. I liken it to 6th Street in Austin, or Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
O'Connell Street - we visited during the day. I've heard it can be a little rougher at night, but honestly I never felt unsafe anywhere that we went.
Stephen's Green Park
Grafton Street - shopping district
I did take a walking ghost tour through Hidden Dublin Walks. The guide was personable and informative. My favorite part was seeing the courtyard of Dublin Castle at night. However, it was so freaking cold and windy that I ended up bowing out early and not finishing the tour. I tried, I really did, but I just couldn't. (Side note- make sure you dress appropriately. This Texas girl took her best winter gear for my March trip to Ireland, and quickly learned I was NOT prepared! It's definitely a different, wetter cold than I'm accustomed to, and now I completely understand why there is so much wool there! Seriously, the wind bites to the bone.)
Just a quick note about hotels - I stayed at The Brooks Hotel which was walking distance to everything (but also had more street noise), as well as the Ashling Hotel on our departure night which was a North of the River and closer to the Zoo. I enjoyed stays at both, and would gladly return to either hotel in the future.
My favorite meal in Dublin was breakfast at a little restaurant called Taste Food Company and Cafe. The grilled bread was to die for! The seafood in that country (shout out to seafood chowder ❤️ ) is fantastic, and their dairy is THE BEST I've ever had. While you are there, eat as much yogurt and butter as you can! ;)
One final warning... Dublin can be a lot like the city of New Orleans. Fun, food, and arts wrapped up within a big drinking culture. There are a lot of beautiful sites. However, it can also be dirty and gross (at least in certain areas), and it definitely has a party atmosphere. The Temple Bar area gets rowdy early. Like bar fight and people getting kicked out at 8 pm rowdy. Unfortunately there can be vomit in the street... or on your rental car (true story 😡 ). If you are in the City Center area (mostly Temple Bar south to Claredon Street area) just watch where you step, especially at night or early morning hours. If you are East of that district and closer to the parks, that area seemed quieter and nicer so don't think really had that problem so much. Just keep it in mind when you are booking lodging, especially if you are looking for family friendly sites.
Whether visiting for a weekend or a little longer, I hope these tips give you some great ideas for the top things to do in Dublin. Slainte!