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. There’s a lot of history and tips to soak in, so we’ve developed a self-guided tour of the city that covers all the iconic sites as well as some lesser-known haunts.
Don’t forget that you can also book a pay-what-you-like guided tour of the city centre with us!
We have a handy, interactive map and detailed instructions to get you around Dublin!
- Start: Viking Longboat Statue
- End: St Stephen’s Green
TIP: If you’re looking for the best eats in the city, taking a Secret Food Tour is the perfect foodie activity.
1. Viking Longboat Statue
We’ll see a lot of monuments in the course of the walk, and this one wins the prize for the most useful. It doubles as a bus stop. If you have it to yourself, pretending to row is a classic photo opportunity.
It surprises many visitors, but Vikings are a major part of Dublin’s story. Initially raiders, in 841, some of them decided to settle down in Ireland, and they established towns along the coast.
2. Fishamble Street
Today, Fishamble Street is lined with modern buildings today, but its history was discovered starting in 1974 when the Dublin City Council decided to move its offices to a four-acre site here.
When archaeologists spoke up to say they’d found one of the most intact sites of its age in Europe, residents rallied around the idea of preserving it.
Those artifacts are mainly on display at the National Museum of Ireland, and the sidewalk here has little nods to them – on the left side of the street, you can find five bronze markers with the shapes of artifacts unearthed here.
3. Handel’s Messiah
Also on the left, as the street begins to bend to the right, is a short, narrow white wall with a decorative arch. This is the former entrance to the New Music Hall, wherein 1742 the premiere of Handel’s Messiah was performed.
Messiah is a fixture across the English-speaking world during the Christmas season, and no less so here – except the annual tradition here happens on April 13th, the same date as the original performance. And since this is no longer a music venue, it takes place outside.
4. Christ Church Cathedral
There’s a lot to see on the grounds of Christ Church Cathedral – the stunning exterior, a labyrinth in the courtyard if you need somewhere to clear your head, and the interior, available to explore with either a guided or self-guided tour.
Inside, you’d see impressive stained glass windows and mosaic floor, sacred objects from the building’s history as both a Catholic and a Protestant church, a tower with a world-record-setting number of bells – 19 – and a crypt with the preserved remains of a saint as well as of a mummified cat and rat. All that inside the oldest structure still in use in Dublin.
The story of this church is long and interesting but you’ll need to learn more with the PDF and/or audio tour version.
If you’re interested in exploring inside, the church hosts services, tours, and music events.
Prayer services are held weekday mornings at 10 and evenings at 5, except on Wednesdays when they hold a choral evensong at 6. Sunday Eucharist is at 11 am.
Tours are available Thursday through Sunday, with first admission at 10 am and last admission at 4:15 pm.
Tickets are 7 Euros and fifty cents for adults with various discounts available.
The tour includes access to the bell tower and crypts, both of which involve stairs.
5. Dublin Castle
For more than seven centuries, Dublin Castle was the center of government in Ireland.
While there are still some older elements under the castle, most of what you can see dates from after a major fire. It took place in the 17th century, so the castle was rebuilt in the heyday of Dublin’s famous Georgian style of architecture.
Dublin Castle was built near the meeting of two rivers: the Liffey, where our tour started, and the Poddle, which still merges into the Liffey here, but today flows underground.
If you’d like to visit the castle, it’s open from 9:45 am to 5:45 pm daily, with final admission at 5:15 pm.
Self-guided and guided tours are available. Guided tours are an hour long and cover the State Apartments, the undercroft, and the royal chapel; tickets are 12 Euros with discounts for students, seniors, and children.
Self-guided tours offer access only to the State Apartments and exhibitions; these are 8 Euros, with the same discounts
6. City Hall
City Hall is open to the public and free to enter.
Right through the door is a vast, impressive, echoing entrance hall with a massive dome, plus a glass elevator so you can see the whole thing from above.
All this opulence comes from the fact that when this was built in the 18th century, it was the royal stock exchange and custom house – but when the city bought it in the 1850s for its current function, they added a floor mosaic with the city seal.
There’s also a rotunda, which is available to visit when it isn’t rented out for events. And the basement is home to a small gallery with a broad exhibition of artifacts from Dublin’s history – if you’d prefer a single exhibit to the full depth of an archaeology museum, this could be the place for you.
There’s also a café inside if you’re due to rest a while. The building is open Monday through Saturday, from 10 am to 5:15 pm.
7. Temple Bar And The Irish Rock ‘N’ Roll Museum
Curved St, Temple Bar, Dublin 2
The area you’ve been walking through is called Temple Bar. For newcomers, the name can be confusing – it’s the name of a neighborhood, not a drinking establishment.
For the “Bar” part of the name, think sandbar rather than whiskey bar. It was named for the riverbed it borders.
Today, the bars are of the whiskey rather than the sand variety, and the neighborhood has become a place where art meets nightlife.
The highlight of the neighborhood is its live music venues, and the was built right in the middle of the action.
Within a few blocks, you’ll find art galleries, theaters, festivals, and lots of bars, more often than not with live music.
There are lots of other things to do in Temple Bar, and it’s well worth exploring this area at more leisure. It’s also tourist central for Dublin, so scoping things out and making plans during the daytime can save you time after nightfall.
8. Bank Bar
The Bank is a bar and restaurant today, but it started out as a bank. If you looked inside City Hall earlier, you’ll have gotten an impression of what Irish institutions of commerce looked like in the 18th century.
This building takes that atmosphere into the late 19th century – the current interior was designed in the 1890s, and it was given the stained-glass ceilings, mosaic floors, and generally over-the-top décor that would inspire confidence in investors.
All that grandeur is still there – if you’re here during open hours, you’re welcome to step inside and get a look at the place, whether or not you plan to patronize it.
And if you did decide to stay a while, you could also see the bank vaults, which are in the basement near the restrooms.
Another treasure on offer is a full replica of the Book of Kells – the main tourist attraction of Trinity College, a couple of stops ahead.
The Bank Bar is open 11am to 10pm daily.
9. Molly Malone Statue
This is Molly Malone. She’s the subject of a song called “Cockles and Mussels,” which is famous to the point of cliché among Irish people. The title comes from the line “cockles and mussels alive, alive, oh,” which is a cry that street vendors selling mollusks actually used in the 19th century when the song probably originated.
But its origins are mysterious, and its main character may or may not have been a real person – Molly Malone is one of the most stereotypical Irish names you could think of.
The character, real or not, meets a tragic end – after taking up the family business of selling seafood from a cart, she meets the song’s narrator and leaves a strong impression, but then dies of a fever and haunts the streets, hawking shellfish for eternity.
And you actually can hear Molly’s voice today. This is one of the Talking Statues of Dublin – twelve monuments that can talk to you through your phone with the help of a QR code on a plaque located nearby.
10. Irish Houses Of Parliament (Former Location)
We’ve already seen a couple of examples of transformed houses of commerce – a stock exchange turned into a city hall and a bank turned into a bar. This is a house of parliament turned into a bank.
It was built in 1729, when Ireland was dominated by an English upper class but still had its own legislature. Like the English Parliament, it was a bicameral or two-house parliament, with a House of Lords and a House of Commons. They had no permanent home and met where they could, often in religious spaces or private homes, where it could be difficult to even fit all the members, much less do their work gracefully.
This building was commissioned to solve that problem. The architect was himself a member of parliament, and he designed the first building in the world meant to serve exactly the purpose of a two-house legislature.
Inn 1800, the Acts of Union, passed by both the English and Irish Parliaments, formally joined the two lands into the United Kingdom. The Irish Parliament was dissolved. Three years later, the Bank of Ireland acquired the building.
11. Trinity College
What you’re seeing now is the oldest part of Trinity’s campus, mostly consisting of 19th-century buildings.
Trinity is the single college that makes up the University of Dublin. Similar universities in the UK contain many colleges, and that was the model the founders had in mind in 1592, when a Church of Ireland archbishop asked the English crown to grant land that had once belonged to a monastery for the creation of a university.
The bell tower, called the Campanile, is the centerpiece of this area – it’s from 1853, so it’s been here long enough to develop some lore.
Trinity is one of the most respected universities in the world, and its alumni can be found in many corners of the present and of history, including the Irish separatist movement.
Several Irish presidents went here, and it’s particularly known for its literary graduates. James Joyce unsurprisingly wasn’t one of them, but Oscar Wilde, Jonathan Swift, Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker, and lots of others were.
And when it comes to literary significance, Trinity also has an undeniable claim to fame: the Book of Kells, located in a stunning library just a few steps away from the Campanile. It’s the university’s main attraction for visitors, but not the only one: the campus is also home to a zoological museum (only open during the summer), a science museum, an art gallery, and a theater. Information for visitors is linked in the notes.
12. The Book Of Kells
If you don’t know the Book of Kells, it isn’t the kind of book you sit and read; no one is allowed to touch it, it’s in Latin, and even if you know the language, it’s written so elaborately that it’s almost unreadable.
But the decoration is the point: the Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript, a copy of the four gospels of the New Testament of the Bible written so artfully that it’s considered Ireland’s single foremost cultural artifact, and one of the greatest works of art of Europe’s Middle Ages.
The word “Kells” comes from the Abbey of Kells, which was where the book was kept for centuries and probably where at least part of it was made.
The building where it’s located is called the Old Library, built in 1712, and the part that houses the book is the Long Room, a 65-meter room that’s remarkably beautiful on its own.
It’s also home to a 15th-century wooden harp – an instrument that was as essential at one time to Gaelic music as the fiddle is today. This one is the basis for the harp design seen on the Irish emblem and on the logo of Guinness.
Because abbeys were wealthy, they were targets for Viking raids, and that disruption probably destroyed many works of Insular Art and ended the era of their creation.
Given how fragile the book is, its survival is remarkable, and it’s had some close scrapes. It was stolen once, probably less for the book itself than for a jeweled cover; the cover was torn off and the book was thrown away, but somehow it was recovered.
13. Irish Whiskey Museum
Famous as Irish whiskey may be, it’s on its way out of a dark age. After a heyday in the 18th and 19th centuries, when there were many hundreds of distilling companies on the island, by 1972 the number was down to one. That company was Irish Distillers Limited, which produces well-known brands like Jameson, and in 1988, that single company became a subsidiary of a beverage giant based in France. But 1988 also saw the opening of the first new distillery in Ireland in many decades. And today, there are 32.
This museum opened in 2014 and tells the story of that rise and fall and rise again, going all the way back to the drink’s origins. The word “whiskey” comes from the Irish phrase “uisce beatha,” which means “water of life” – a straight translation of the Latin “aqua vitae,” which was the medieval name for any kind of solution involving alcohol.
The museum offers tours, a whiskey blending experience, a brunch and a bar, which has around 100 whiskeys and some other stuff, and which hosts live music and other events Friday through Sunday evenings, closing at 10:30pm. A link for tickets and information is in the notes.
14. Joyce Plaque + Grafton Street
Grafton Street is Dublin’s most famous corridor for shopping and people watching, and from here until St. Stephen’s Green, where the street ends, it’s pedestrian only.
The street is mostly retail, and it has a little of everything from high-end to low-end, and some of the oldest businesses here are Dublin or Irish exclusives, mostly high-end shopping – there’s Brown Thomas, a classy Irish department store, JM Barnardo Furriers, Weir and Sons Jewelers, and James Fox Cigars and Whiskey.
The smallest local businesses are the musicians – Grafton Street is busking central for Dublin.
One other local business to keep an eye out for is Bewley’s Oriental Café, founded in 1927. Besides a place to stop for coffee or lunch, it’s also a historic hangout for writers – James Joyce not only spent time there but mentioned it in his book Dubliners.
15. National Gallery Of Ireland
Merrion Square West, Dublin 2
The National Gallery has been one of the best places to see art in Ireland since 1854. It’s got both a national and a continental focus, with plenty of Irish artists, but also lots of other Europeans, from medieval to modern.
The Grand Gallery in particular mixes the two – it’s a long, elegant space showing works from across Enlightenment Europe, but all with some relation to Ireland, whether by artist or subject matter or the painting’s back story.
A local favorite piece is Irish painter Frederic William Burton’s The Meeting on the Turret Stairs. Or, for some emphatically Irish subject matter, you could find Daniel Maclise’s The Marriage of Strongbow and Aoife, which depicts the cementing by marriage of the alliance between Diarmat Mac Murchada and his Norman allies.
But you can also see Vermeer and Caravaggio and Picasso, among other greats.
Admission is free for the main gallery, with admission sometimes charged for temporary shows.
Exhibitions and events: https://www.nationalgallery.ie/whats-on
16. Oscar Wilde Statue
Oscar Wilde stood out, and in a city full of statues in simple bronze or stone, so does this monument.
Artist Danny Osborne did his research, and given Wilde’s taste for overdressing and living beyond his means, Osborne chose fitting materials: it’s made of four different stones from places as far apart as Canada and India, with bits of porcelain and bronze, plus the giant chunk of quartz he’s sprawled on, which is the only element sourced from Ireland.
He’s wearing a Trinity necktie and his wedding ring. The female figure in his view is his wife Constance Lloyd, pregnant with one of their two sons; one of their grandchildren officiated at the unveiling of the monument. And the male torso is meant to be Dionysus, ancient Greek god of wine and drama.
Behind the flashy exterior, though, his private life was shaky. He had a lasting relationship with Lord Alfred Douglas, a young man who introduced him to London’s underground gay scene. Wilde eventually found himself on trial for sodomy and gross indecency. He was sentenced to prison with hard labor for two years.
With all this in mind, to see what the artist had in mind for this statue, you have to look at it from both sides. His face is split like a tragicomic mask. Viewed from the right, he’s smiling, and you can see the society man and the quick wit; the other side shows him as he emerged from prison.
Besides reading Wilde’s many words engraved on the statues, you also have another opportunity to hear this statue talk, just like the Molly Malone one; there’s a link to information in the notes.
17. Leinster House
Leinster House is the home of the Oireachtas, the Irish legislature, since 1922. As before the Acts of Union, it’s a two-house legislature, but without the distinction between nobility and non-nobility drawn under the old system, and without English names. Today, the two houses are the Seanad, the upper house, and the Dáil, the lower house, both of which meet here.
Unlike the old Parliament House, Leinster House wasn’t built for the purpose of legislation – it was a private residence, finished in 1748 for a man who would eventually become the Duke of Leinster.
But in 1922, when the Oireachtas has its debut at Leinster House, closely watched by hopeful locals and curious international press, it gave them a particularly Irish welcome: the proceedings of the legislature were held in the Irish language.
Fun Fact: Leinster House was the basis for the United States’ White House, designed by Irish architect James Hoban
18. National Museum Of Ireland – Archaeology
This museum covers the history of Ireland from the Stone Age to the Late Middle Ages, along with a few exhibits on the ancient Mediterranean.
The area called the Treasury shows a history of Irish art, from the Iron Age through the development of the church-influenced Insular style (including illuminated manuscripts) to the Viking-influenced style that followed.
Another show focuses on prehistoric gold ornaments made during the Bronze Age. And another focuses on the more practical items of prehistoric life in Ireland, including a 4500-year-old boat and the island’s oldest known musical instruments.
The last of the permanent exhibitions focuses on Viking life in Ireland, including relics from the elaborate burial traditions observed in the Norse religion, as well as Christian art created by those Vikings who settled and converted.
Other exhibits are shown on a temporary basis, and if you’re lucky – or unlucky, depending how you feel about it – you may see bog bodies. These are human remains naturally preserved in peat bogs, likely part of an ancient human sacrifice ritual.
The museum is open Tuesday through Saturday, 10am to 5pm, and Sunday and Monday, 1-5pm. Admission is free, as it is at all four of the National Museum of Ireland locations.
19. The Mansion House
Through all of Dublin’s political upheaval and the game of musical chairs its governing institutions have played, this place has been unusually stable: since 1715, it’s been the official home of the Cathaoirleach, the mayor of Dublin.
It’s also been the scene of plenty of other major political moments.
In 1919, the first Dáil, or the lower house of the legislature, met here and spoke the declaration of Irish independence (there was also a centennial celebration of that event in January of 2019). And in 1921, the Anglo-Irish Treaty, formalizing the terms of separation between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, was signed here.
And before either of those events, this was where Michael Collins, a leader of the Irish separatist movement, evaded arrest by the British military by sweeping the floor and pretending to be a janitor.
Civic ceremonies are held here today, such as when the city bestows the title of Freeman of Dublin, a high honor that comes with grazing rights on the public greens and the duty to defend the city in case of attack.
All kinds of political and cultural figures have been honored in this way, so take a moment to imagine a future siege of Dublin when the city is defended by Michael Gorbachev, Bono and the Edge, and Barack and Michelle Obama.
20. The Little Museum Of Dublin
Next to the national museums we’ve seen, this is a humble place, but it’s also a local favorite.
It’s a scrappy, homemade, self-described “people’s museum,” focused on the part of Dublin history that’s still in living memory – think more U2 paraphernalia and soccer memorabilia than illuminated manuscripts and bog bodies.
It’s also a young museum. In 2011, a call was put out to the public for objects that screamed 20th century Dublin, and the results were arranged in three floors of a Georgian townhouse. For Dubliners, it’s a nostalgia experience on top of being educational.
They sell a variety of tickets – for 8 Euros you can get either a roughly hour-long self-guided experience or their staple, a half-hour guided tour.
The same price gets you access to their several themed tours: a tour of Irish women’s history every Monday at 4pm, a walk of St. Stephen’s Green every day at 3:30pm, a tour themed around writers every day at 11:30am, and a tour within the museum of queer Dublin history every other Saturday at 4pm. 15 Euros gets you an all-day pass for whatever’s on the day’s schedule.
There are guided options in Irish sign and French, and there’s a free tour of the museum Wednesdays at 11am. A link is in the notes.
The building is also home to a project called City of a Thousand Welcomes, which can arrange, usually with some notice, for you to meet a Dubliner, one-on-one or two-on-one. You’ll find that linked as well.
21. St. Stephen’s Green
As indicated at the last stop, there’s enough to see in St. Stephen’s Green to make a whole walking tour on its own. But it’s also a good place for leisure, which may be in order by now. I’ll share the basics, and this will be our last stop. The park is open 7:30am to dusk Monday through Saturday, 9:30am to dusk on Sundays.
From here on the northside of St. Stephen’s Green, you’re just a short walk from the lake that spans most of the park’s width. When you reach the water, you can make a right and walk a little further to find a bridge crossing a narrow point in the lake and leading to the center of the park, where you’ll find a Victorian flower garden.
To the right from there is a garden designed for blind visitors, with plants chosen for their smell and physical texture, and to the left, in a bend in the lake, a bog garden.
The park was originally a commons used for grazing, but in the 17th century, homes were built around it, and it became a private park for the residents.
In 1880 it became a public park, thanks to the philanthropic work of the Guinness family, the people behind Guinness beer. One of them bought the park and paid for its renovation, and today he’s one of the many statues and monuments in the park.
During the Easter Rising, separatists seized the park, dug trenches, and fought against the British military, with a pause in the fighting so a groundskeeper could feed the ducks.
The park still shows the marks of that event: there’s a monument called the Fusilier’s Arch at the northwest entrance, which still has bullet holes in it; and in the center of the park, opposite the bridge across the lake, is a bronze bust of Constance Markievicz, an Irish woman who fought in the Easter Rising, was the first woman elected to the British Parliament, and also served in the first Dáil and as a minister in the first government of the Republic of Ireland.
If you prefer interacting with a guide on your walk through Dublin, there are plenty of guided walks and other tours to take.
Free Walking Tours
Our free walking tour page lists the various pay-what-you-like walks that are available on a daily basis in English and Spanish.
These tours usually last 2.5 – 3 hours each. You can book tours here.
Tourist Passes and Bus Tours
If you purchase a Dublin Pass or GoDublin Card, you’ll get small-group guided walking tours included.
A hop-on-hop-off bus ticket will get you easy transportation around the city – directly to Dublin’s most popular attractions. Audio guides and guided walks are also offered with each ticket.