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Looking for the best things to do in Dublin? Here I cover the best Dublin attractions, my food recommendations and a cheap place to stay.
Seeing as it’s St Patrick’s Day tomorrow, I thought it would be fitting to publish another Ireland-focused blog post today. We’re travelling to Dublin, a city that I didn’t fall head over heels in love with (unlike Zagreb from last week’s post). But it does have a lot of things to do to keep you busy, which I always like in a new destination.
I visited a lot of Dublin attractions (and skipped a few also) during my 3-night visit to the Irish capital. So I thought I’d highlight the best things to do in Dublin, to help you plan your visit.
How to get around Dublin
The only time I took a bus in Dublin was to get to the train station in the early morning and to get from the airport into the city. Otherwise, I walked between all of these locations. Yes, my step count was awesome by the end of my time in Dublin, but walking allowed me to stop and see things I probably would have passed on a bus i.e. St Stephen’s Shopping Centre, all of the laneways near Grafton St, the doors of Dublin, etc.
Where to stay in Dublin on a budget
I stayed at the Abbey Court Hostel, which is very central. Firstly, I liked the free breakfast and large seating area for doing work, but my female dorm room and ensuite were very small. I highly recommend booking accommodation as early as possible, as this was one of the only options I had left when I booked about three weeks in advance. If I was to return, I’d probably look at Jacobs Inn as it has a better rating.
For fellow solo travellers, here are my hostelling tips and some great ways to meet people when travelling alone.
The best things to do in Dublin
1. Do a free walking tour
I did a free walking tour on my first day, which picked me up from my hostel. We walked across Ha’Penny Bridge and visited Temple Bar and Dublin Castle, before finishing at Trinity College. We had a break during the tour as well. I learned some interesting facts on this tour, particularly about Veronica Guerin. A name I’d never heard before, but she sounded like an amazing Irish woman (Cate Blanchett even starred in a movie about her). Our guide also told us some insider tips, which you know I LOVE.
2. Have brunch at San Lorenzo’s
One of those tips was to visit San Lorenzo’s to try their Coco Pops French toast. Oh yes, it was French toast coated in Coco Pops, with a delectable sauce, ice cream and banana. I found the service at San Lorenzo’s to be very underwhelming, but the meal was delicious. They are also only open at 11, which is something to remember.
3. Wander through Phoenix Park
Phoenix Park is the largest public park in any European capital city. It’s a great alternative to St Stephen’s Green and is home to Dublin Zoo, which is a great Dublin attraction for visiting families.
4. For free things to do in Dublin, visit St Stephen’s Green
This is Dublin’s urban park, which I enjoyed walking through and sitting in for lunch. There are plenty of seats scattered throughout the park too if you need to take a break from pounding the Dublin pavement (I know I did).
5. Swim the day away at the National Aquatic Centre
Speaking of families, AquaZone at the National Aquatic Centre is said to be one of Europe’s most innovative water parks.
6. Take many photos of Dublin’s doors
I kind of got lost looking for the colourful Georgian doors Dublin is known for. Fortunately, I found some very colourful additions around Fitzwilliam and Merrion Squares.
7. Visit Chester Beatty Library
This was another tip from my free walking tour guide. He recommends visiting this museum, which is entrance by donation. I thought I’d check it out as I need to visit more museums, and I found the exhibitions really interesting. There was one on different world religions, and then Francisco Goya’s The Disasters of War portraits. His depictions were brutal and I can’t believe they were created in the 19th century.
8. Check out these other notable museums and galleries
Speaking of museums, the National Gallery of Ireland is also free. However, some special exhibitions do cost extra. There’s also the National Museum of Ireland, the Irish Whiskey Museum, the Irish Museum of Modern Art, the Science Gallery and the Little Museum of Dublin.
9. Enjoy Dublin Castle’s two sides
One of the best things to do in Dublin is to check out this amazing masterpiece in the middle of the city. Dublin Castle has got to be one of the world’s most interesting castles. I like to say it’s business in the front and party in the back, as its exterior is brick versus the boldest colours you’ve ever seen. I didn’t venture inside the castle, but that’s another Dublin attraction you could check out.
10. Relax in Dubh Linn Gardens
Located behind the castle (opposite the party section) and next to the Chester Beatty Library, these gardens not only offer a different vantage point for castle photographs, but they’re also a secluded place for city workers to escape to for lunch.
11. Have a drink at Temple Bar
Now, I know Temple Bar is THE (touristy) place to be at night. But there’s something about wandering down the cobblestone streets early in the morning without the crowds that’s just as good in my opinion. Our guide mentioned his favourite places away from Temple Bar were Whelan’s and Grogans, for a more authentic Dublin night out.
12. Walk through the Trinity College Campus
Trinity College Library is one of the most visited places in Dublin because it is home to The Book of Kells. However, I decided to once again just enjoy the view and the 16th-century surroundings from the outside. But if you want to visit the Library, I have heard that arriving early and booking in advance are worthwhile.
13. Shop til you drop
If you do enjoy shopping like me, the two main shopping streets in the city centre are O’Connell Street and Grafton Street. Both seem to always be full of people in a hurry, but I did go to Penney’s to find a jacket. I also discovered Muji in a side street off Grafton, so had to pick up a pen or two to add to my collection.
14. Head inside St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre
Speaking of shopping, just pop into this shopping centre to check out the interior. It’s worthwhile.
15. Visit St Patrick’s Cathedral
Another tourist attraction in Dublin, this cathedral was built between 1220 and 1260. Isn’t that crazy? It also has nice grounds with lots of benches. For reflecting, resting your weary feet or for Skyping your parents in Australia.
16. Tour the Guinness Storehouse
This is one of those things you should do, but I didn’t. I’m not the world’s biggest beer drinker, so it didn’t make sense for me to visit the Guinness Storehouse. But I have heard the view from the tasting room is amazing. There’s also the Jameson Distillery if that’s more your style.
17. Follow the rainbow
Besides the colourful doors and the colourful castle, I also found a lot of colour around the streets and laneways off Grafton Street. Get lost and admire the bunting, signs and colourful buildings.
18. Visit Kilmainham Gaol
Lonely Planet recommends visiting the jail to learn about Irish history and the country’s resistance to British rule.
19. Check out these other Dublin restaurants
To be honest, Dublin prices were a little too expensive for me, so I only treated myself to brunch. But there’s Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, which is Ireland’s only two-star Michelin restaurant. The Church is a bar and nightclub built inside a restored church too. Plus, there’s basically a pub on every corner.
20. Do a Dublin day trip
I did some research on Dublin day trips, but it turns out there was plenty of attractions around the city to keep me entertained. But if you have a longer stay in Dublin, my top picks are Howth, Wicklow Mountains National Park and Malahide Castle. As you can see below, you can also easily venture to other places in Ireland like Galway, Cork and Belfast on day tours too.
Overall, if you want to keep busy in Ireland, there are plenty of things to do in Dublin.
If you want more information on the other places I visited in Ireland (Cork, Galway and Belfast in Northern Ireland) then check out my detailed itinerary. You can also click here for my entire UK/Europe itinerary and for my other favourite solo travel destinations around the world.