This article contains our picks for the top things to do in Dublin, including free, nighttime, as well as family-friendly activities.
TOP THINGS TO DO
These are the best things to do in Dublin, Ireland.
Many of the items listed below are included for free or at a discount with the purchase of a Dublin tourist attraction discount pass.
1) Go on a Sightseeing Tour
The tours that always seem to draw a crowd are hop on hop off bus tours. They’re great ways to get around a new city with a knowledgeable guide.
But why not take a free walking tour of Dublin?
This Viking Splash Tour in an amphibious vehicle is especially entertaining for the younger ones in your family.
If you don’t want to be on a schedule, self-guided tours you can complete at any time of day or night are perfect options. And best of all, they’re completely free.
2) Visit the Guinness Storehouse
Guinness is one of the most famous brand names in all of Ireland, and its home storehouse and factory is in Dublin.
They’re also one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city!
It is easy to grab a ticket for a self-guided tour to walk through the storehouse and learn how the beer is made.
Once you’ve made it to the end, their Gravity Bar has beautiful views of Dublin in all directions, and enjoy a free pint of Guinness (or a soft drink).
Note: This attraction is listed on multiple Dublin city passes.
3) Taste Irish Whiskey
Irish whiskey is not just a beverage, it's part of Irish history. Its invention is believed to date back to the 13th century making it one of the oldest distilled spirits in Europe.
You have a few ways to learn about (and taste) one of Ireland's most famous exports.
Take a guided tour of the Irish Whiskey Museum which includes 3-4 tastings.
Both tours run all day from 10:30 am to 5:30 pm. Go early and start your day right!
4) Trinity College and the Book of Kells
Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest university, created in 1592, and seeing its grand buildings lets you soak in the sense of history.
The real treat here, however, is Ireland’s greatest cultural gem, the Book of Kells.
This 9th-century manuscript containing all of the four Gospels of the New Testament has been housed in the Trinity College Library since 1661.
It is free to visit the grounds but to enter the Old Library and see the Book of Kells requires a ticket. (All proceeds are invested back into Trinity College).
You have some options for tickets. You can book to visit the Old Library to see the Book of Kells and the spectacular Hogwarts-esque Long Room or you can add on a Trinity College tour. See more information here.
Another option is to buy a fast-track Book of Kells Ticket & Dublin Castle Tour and see two of Ireland’s most cherished Irish treasures in one trip.
5) Enjoy the Food Scene
Who hasn’t seen an Irish Pub? Irish food is famous around the world. So while you’re here, you should check it out!
From hearty stews (with plenty of potatoes) to delicious seafood, they have comfort food down to an art.
And don’t forget about breakfast! Make sure you try a full plate with beans and black pudding for the full experience.
If you want some help finding the best food in this city, consider taking the Dublin Secret Food Tour.
This outing includes 6 stops and a variety of great dishes including Irish stew, whiskey, cheese, ice cream and more!
We have plenty of delicious dining suggestions in our Things to Do at Night in Dublin post here.
6) Dollymount Strand Beach
Dublin’s coast is beautiful and has plenty of space for running and exploring.
Escape from the hustle and bustle of the city for a few hours or a full day, depending on the weather.
Kids can explore and climb on the sand dunes. And the whole family can explore the pier and find the old lighthouse.
On warmer days you’ll find locals and visitors alike sunbathing or participating in water sports or a game of football (soccer).
For more family-friendly ideas, check out the full list of suggestions below.
TIP: There are plenty of beautiful, nature-filled day trips available to take from Dublin. The Cliffs of Moher are always a popular destination.
Giants Causeway with its rock formation and the adrenaline-fueled walk across the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge are both unforgettable sights in nearby Northern Ireland.
7) Explore Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle, right in the Dublin City Center, makes for an interesting lesson in history and politics.
Constructed in the early 13th century on the site of a Viking settlement, the castle was built next to the “dark pool” that, in Irish Gaelic translates to "Dublin".
Initially, it was the headquarters of the English, and then British, administration in Ireland. In 1922, an independent Ireland took control of the castle.
That 'dark pool' is now a lovely garden. And there’s plenty more to see, from fully-furnished staterooms to architecture and artwork.
If you’d like to see inside some of the state apartments and the chapel, you’ll need to purchase a guided tour ticket.
Note: The paid sections of Dublin Castle are included for free with the purchase of multiple tourist discount passes.
8) Watch Dublin Sports
If you love sports, Dublin is a great city to visit! They’re serious about their football (soccer) and rugby. The games make great family outings, as well!
If you’re looking for an interesting spectator sport to see for the first time, head out to Shelbourne Park Stadium for greyhound racing. You don’t have to bet on the dogs, but many of the locals do.
You can find sporting event tickets here, including for tournaments and niche events.
Many sports fans are also interested in seeing behind-the-scenes of their favorite stadiums and parks! Take a Croke Park Stadium Tour to see where the local football and rugby teams spend their time.
Also at Croke Park Stadium is an interesting museum, the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Museum.
You can pay for a self-guided tour to view exhibitions that tell the story of Gaelic football and other games from ancient times!
For more family-friendly activities, check out the kids’ section below.
9) Listen to Traditional Sessions
Ireland is well-known for its traditional music.
You can easily recognize folk music from the upbeat combination of fiddles, flutes, and other stringed instruments.
Some traditional groups throw in a bagpipe for good measure.
One of the most popular pubs for a Trad Session is the Cobblestone.
However, if you walk past a few pubs in the evenings it should be simple to find a good performance or jam session with traditional musicians happening.
And most of this music is completely free!
Note: Even though it isn’t required, we encourage you to tip performers or purchase drinks when listening to free music.
10) Save Money and Time with a Discount Pass
For one price, you’ll get entry into many of the most popular attractions and activities, transportation, and discounts on other attractions up to 20% off!
- Dublin Castle
- Jameson Distillery
- Guinness Storehouse
- Dublin Zoo
- Jeanie Johnston Ship
- Irish Emigration Museum
Use our Dublin city pass comparison guide to decide which pass can save you the most money based on your plans!
11) See St. Patrick's Cathedral
Named after Ireland’s patron, this iconic cathedral was founded in 1191. It’s Ireland’s largest cathedral and its spire makes it the tallest as well.
The cathedral is a wonderful example of Gothic architecture, with its massive vaulted ceilings, ornate stained-glass windows, and intricate tile floors.
St Patrick’s Cathedral is the national Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and mass has been in service for over 800 years and counting.
You can attend a worship service for free, though it’s no substitute for a tour.
If you want to thoroughly explore the interior, you’ll need to purchase a ticket for a self-guided tour with audio commentary.
12) Jeanie Johnston Famine Ship
The Jeanie Johnston ship made 16 trips to North America during the great famine of Ireland.
Getting aboard this replica of that ship will allow you to see what it was like for the Irish people who were fleeing the country at that time.
Emigrating away from their home was a difficult journey, but this hands-on museum will give you a taste of the times and be an interesting way to learn about history.
Note: Entry to this museum is on some tourist passes.
13) See Dublin Theatre
Dublin is home to excellent theatre productions that are both modern and traditional, depending on where you look.
A play, musical, or dance is performed somewhere in the city on a weekly basis.
Gate Theatre was established in 1928, and they showed what, at the time, were very experimental plays.
Michael Gambon (of Harry Potter, Gosford Park, and Amazing Grace) got his start on this stage. And now, after a few renovations through the years, they are still putting on productions.
One of the most well-known modern theatres in the city is the Abbey Theatre. They put on modern plays written by both Irish and international playwrights.
14) Christ Church Cathedral
Stunning both inside and out, the Christ Church Cathedral is another architectural wonder of Dublin. It’s the oldest structure in the city at nearly 1000 years old.
The cathedral has awe-inspiring stained glass windows, masterly mosaic floors, and sacred objects from the building’s history as both a Catholic and a Protestant church.
Plus, the cathedral has a record-breaking 19 bells in its tower!
Those who love history with a touch of macabre will love the ancient crypt, the largest in Ireland.
In addition to the usual objects found in crypts, there are the mummified remains of a cat and rat. According to legend, the cat chased the rat into a pipe of a church organ and both became stuck for eternity.
To see the bell tower and the crypt, you can book a Christ Church Cathedral Self-Guided Tour.
The proceeds go to the upkeep of the cathedral which receives no government fining, despite being one of Duublin’s most significant historic sites.
15) Kilmainham Gaol
Sometimes referred to as "The Bastille of Ireland", the bleak Kilmainham Gaol was built in 1796, to imprison rebels and revolutionaries who dared challenge British rule.
The prison was closed once Ireland gained independence in 1922. It remains a dark reminder of Ireland’s past. It is also one of the largest unoccupied buildings in Europe.
Today, it is a museum with immersive, engaging exhibits about the history of Irish nationalism.
With former prisoners’ personal effects and even letters, on display, Kilmainham Gaol Museum is a thought-provoking history museum well worth a visit.
Bonus: Self-Guided Exploration Game
If you're looking for an alternative to the traditional walking tour, these games will allow you to explore the city at your own pace as you attempt to solve a puzzle or a mystery.
There are currently two different games available in Dublin: one which covers some of the most historic sites, and another that is focused on the haunted history of the city.
FREE THINGS TO DO
Here is our list of the top free things to do in the city of Dublin, Ireland.
Our free things to do in Dublin post has even more detail about this top 10 list and other ideas for the budget-conscious traveler.
- Take yourself on a self-guided tour of the city.
- Find some free music at the Cobblestone.
- Visit the National Museum of Ireland.
- Explore Dublin’s various neighborhoods.
- Find the Temple Bar Food Market.
- Stop and smell the flowers at the National Botanic Gardens.
- Let the kids make some art at the National Gallery of Ireland.
- Take a stroll down the River Liffey at night.
- Have a beach day at Dollymount Strand.
- Find the city’s famous, and sometimes strange, monuments.
- Walk through the Dublin Castle grounds and Chester Beatty Library.
- Stroll through the large and lush Phoenix Park.
- Cross the historic Ha’Penny Bridge.
For more inspiration, check out our free things to do post.
THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT
Dublin's nightlife is lively and fun! Here is our top 10 list of things to do after dark in Dublin.
For more things to do after dark in Dublin, take a look at our Things to Do at Night post.
- Ride the Ghostbus through Dublin.
- Attend the famous Abbey Theatre.
- Watch the Greyhound races at Shelbourne Park Stadium.
- Enjoy traditional Irish music sessions at Cobblestone.
- Check out Dublin’s food scene.
- Go to Thursday Lates at the National Gallery of Ireland.
- Enjoy Dublin’s Viking roots at Dublinia with the kids.
- Kayak down the River Liffey for a different perspective.
- Go on a self-guided pub crawl of Dublin.
- Take a tour of the Jameson Distillery.
To see everything there is to do at night, check out our full post.
FAMILY-FRIENDLY THINGS TO DO
Dublin is an excellent location to have your family vacation! Here are our top 10 suggestions for kid-friendly activities.
For a more detailed version of this family-friendly top 10 list, and even more ideas, check out our full post.
- Go on a Viking Splash tour of the river.
- Visit the Natural History Museum.
- Check out The Ark, a children’s theatre and music complex.
- Go to a sporting event.
- Try some of Dublin’s local comfort food.
- Explore the city’s free parks and playgrounds.
- Take a ride on the spooky Ghostbus.
- Learn about Dublin’s medieval and Viking past in a hands-on way.
- Decorate your own chocolates at the Chocolate Warehouse.
- See the animals and the ecosystems they belong to at the Dublin Zoo.
Find even more fun things to do with your kids in Dublin on our full family-friendly post.
Below are annual events that occur during the 12 months of the year, and if you click on the link you will be taken to our detailed posts of these events and more.