Ireland’s capital city, Dublin, is filled with thousands of years of history—and over 750 pubs. Its Irish name, Baile Átha Cliath, means Ford of the Reed Hurdles. It was originally settled by Vikings back in 841, and was once home to many famous writers, including Bram Stoker, James Joyce, and Oscar Wilde.
Soaking in all that information can be difficult, so we’ve developed a self-guided tour of the city that covers all the iconic sites as well as some lesser-known haunts.
Or, check out a guided Dublin walking, biking, Segway, or boat tour. If you’re in Dublin to experience the pub culture, check out our self-guided pub crawl or a guided Dublin pub crawl.
Start: St. Patrick’s Cathedral
End: Jameson’s Distillery/Guinness Storefront
1. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Start your journey at St. Patrick’s Cathedral. It was here at a modest well that St. Patrick baptized Irish citizens at this Cathedral in 450 AD. It’s the largest church in Ireland, and it’s spire is an impressive 140-feet tall. The cathedral was finished in 1191 and went through a series of massive renovations throughout the years. One of the most major renovations happened from 1860 to 1865 and was presided over by Benjamin Lee Guinness. This is when the gothic-style architectural elements were added. These are still visible today and are extremely breathtaking. Sit in a pew, or stand in the nave to take advantage of the beautiful design elements, including colorful floor tiling and magnificent flying buttresses.
2. St. Stephen’s Green
Head east down R110 to Stephen’s Green, the magnificent 22-acre park. This park was built in 1664. Originally, it was a turn-key park, but it opened to the public in 1880. Stretch out on one of the green lawns, watch ducks in the nearby pond, or attend a concert at the bandstand. The park is full of many prominent statues, but the statue of Wolf Tone is not to be missed.
Tone is credited as the father of Irish republicanism. He led the Irish Rebellion of 1798 against the British. The uprising was inspired by both the French and American Revolutions. Tone was tried for treason at the end of the uprising and sentenced to death in 1798. He ended up committing suicide in prison rather than be hung in public by the British.
Exit the park at the northeast exit. Follow Grafton Street north until you come to the pedestrian-only section. Grafton Street is Dublin’s SoHo and is well known for high-end shopping, people watching, and live music. Historically, the street was residential and named after the Duke of Grafton and illegitimate child to King Charles II, Henry FitzRoy.
You might recognize this street if you’re a fan of the 2006 movie, Once, as this street was the site of the opening scene.
4. Trinity College
Once you’ve gotten your fill of fine retail, head north up Grafton Street to Trinity College. Trinity is the oldest university in Ireland, established in 1590. The beautiful buildings are covered in layers of ivy, and the campus’s 47 acres are situated around an ornate centerpiece: A bell.
The college is home to the Book of Kells that contains four of the Gospels of the New Testament.
Head to the statue of Molly Malone. On the way, you’ll pass by the Irish Houses of Parliament , now the bank of Ireland. The building was originally built in 1803 as the first purpose built two-chamber parliament house in the world.
5. Molly Malone Statue
Head south on R138, and turn left on Church Lane. Here you will see a statue of Molly Malone, the probably fake woman who inspired the famous ballad of the same name. Molly is portrayed in the statue as a fishmonger.
Some historians believe that Molly was a real person who lived in the 17th Century, but no evidence has been set forth to substantiate these claims. The statue is also in front of the Tourist Information Office, so now is a good time to pop in for a map.
6. Temple Bar
Temple Bar sits appropriately in the Temple Bar District of Dublin, next to a variety of typical Irish pubs. Established in 1840, this is the place to go for an Irish Whiskey or a Guinness. This is also an ideal spot for a lunch of Irish fare. Oysters on the half shell, hearty sandwiches, and Irish cheese can all be ordered here.
There’s live music in the afternoon most days of the week.
The Temple Bar District can feel a little touristy sometimes, so let’s head over to a quieter street.
7. City Hall
Head south on Caple Street; City Hall will be directly in front of you, but stop first outside the Olympia Theater. Opened in 1870, this theater still an active music venue to this day. Musical acts like Erasure, Adele, Elvis Costello, and the Kaiser Cheifs have all played here. If you head inside, watch out: It’s said to be haunted.
Once you get to City Hall, go in the front door. Finished in 1779, the structure was built by Thomas Cooley and James Gandon. The impressive dome above your head was fitted with four stained-glass windows. The original plans left out the windows, but they were later changed as Ireland often experiences long stretches of non-stop rain.
The building was originally built as the Royal Exchange, where citizens could trade in their Irish Punt for English Sterling.
The murals in this room were completed in 1919 and were overseen by James Ward, the master of the Metropolitan Institute of Art in Dublin, and completed by his students.
A tour of City Hall is available on the Dublin Pass.
8. Dublin Castle
Take a left out of City Hall and another left on Cork Hill. You’re now in front of Dublin Castle. Built between 1208 and 1220 as the home of viceroys, this castle is now home to the Irish government. You can stroll the grounds and head to the Chester Beatty Library to check out the illuminated manuscripts.
Or, head inside to the Dubh Linn Tea Rooms for some sweets, coffee, or tea. The name is a throwback to the Irish word, Dubh Linn, which means black pool. The British name Dublin is an anglicized version of this old Irish word.
Take a left back out onto R137. Christ Church Cathedral will be on your right in a few minutes.
The church was founded by the Vikings in 1030. It became a part of the Irish Church in 1152.
The original building was erected in 1030! Yet the structure you see before you was built from 1871 to 1878. Some of the original structure remains in the form of the catacombs below the church.
The Christ Church’s and St. Patrick’s Cathedral’s choir sung the world premiere of Handel’s Messiah in 1742 less than a mile away from the church.
10. Jameson’s Distillery/Guinness Storefront
From here, you can either head to Jameson’s Distillery or the Guinness Storefront. Or if you’re feeling brazen, visit both!
To get to Jameson’s Distillery, take a right out of Christ Church Cathedral and another right on Winetavern Street.
If you feel like you haven’t gotten your fill of history yet, make a quick stop at Dublina, the interactive Viking and medieval history museum; it’s on the corner of R137 and Winetavern Street.
Continue walking across the River Liffey, the river that divides North and South Dublin. It was on this river that the Vikings made their way into Dublin.
After you cross the bridge, take a left onto R148, a right onto N1, a left onto Hammond Lane, a right onto New Street North, and a right into the distillery. Whew! You totally deserve that whiskey.
This area of town is called Smithfield, once an open market.
The Jameson Whiskey Distillery opened in 1780 and is the third largest single-distillery whiskey manufacturer. This building was once the distillery, but operations have since moved off site.
It became a tourism tasting room in 1997. Up to 350,000 guests visit the distillery every year.
The distillery was so large in the 1800s that people often referred to it as a city within a city.
Enjoy a tasting before heading on to the Guinness Storefront.
11. Guinness Storehouse
Guinness is a little further than the Jameson Distillery, so you might want to cab it back over the river.
This building consists of seven floors surrounding an atrium that was fashioned to look like a pint of Guinness. The building was erected in 1902 and served as the St. James Gate Brewery’s (Guinness’s) fermentation house. Guinness moved in in 1997 (the same year that the Jameson tasting room opened—coincidence?).
Here, visitors can browse through the museum that tells the story of the history of beer and learn about the famous Irish brewery that opened in 1759.
You can even order your very own pint of Guinness—served cold and at 42.8 to 44.6 degrees Fahrenheit.