A word of warning here: don’t miss the classics in Dublin like the Book of Kells at Trinity College or the razzamatazz and history at the iconic Guinness Storehouse. But once you’ve dipped into the Jameson Distillery and paid some kind of homage to local boys U2, what next?
Allow me to show you some of the more unusual things to do in Dublin and make the most of this garrulous, energetic capital of Ireland.
Let’s nip this one right in the bud. Hurling has nothing to do with the city’s, er, reputation for partying. Hurling, in this case, is a field sport.
Hurling’s older than time itself, according to Gareth, one of the owners of the Clash Gaelic Games School, and an avid hurling fan to boot. It’s an All-Ireland Gaelic sport that’s played outside with a stick called a hurley and a ball the size of a tennis ball but without the squidgy impact.
Take the short drive out of town to Portmarnock where Gareth and his brothers will teach you how to play the sport yourself (for women, it’s called camogie.)
This is the kind of thing that sounds (and feels) absolutely awful for the first 30 seconds. Then it morphs into all-absorbing, riveting, fantastic fun.
If you hated sport at school, then this is definitely for you. No more humiliation and hideous clothes: the idea is to have fun and learn a few new things. You’ll scoop balls onto hurleys in an impression of a slippery egg-and-spoon race and then pelt them at the wall in a magnificent display of stress relief.
Trust me, if I enjoyed it, anyone can ;-)
Dublin’s Georgian architecture is a big draw and postcards and Instagrams of fancy doorways flutter across the city. But take the Georgian expereince one step further by having afternoon tea at the Merrion Hotel: a luxury experience that offers the “lived in” Georgian experience.
The Merrion also happens to hold Ireland’s largest private art collection, one it brings to life through an innovative sugary experience: art tea.
Along with a glass of bubbles and the obligatory cucumber sandwich, sweet treats arrive that mirror the art collection. Winter sees smoked China tea served besides cosy roaring fires and the concierge can lend you an audioguide to learn more about the works at your own pace if you prefer.
Dublin lays claim to an astonishing FOUR Nobel Prize winners for literature, and that doesn’t even include James Joyce and his famed Ulysses.
Your chances to submerge yourself in literary inspiration seem endless, from the clean cafe at the National Library to the quirky gloom of Grogan’s where poets would chatter in verse. There’s the Dublin Writers Museum and the ornate parchments at the lavish Chestery Beatty Library.
And if you’re in town on 16th June you can throw on a straw hat and join in with Bloomsday.
Yes, despite the frequent pictures of red brick lanes and bridges, the city of Dublin is actually flanked by mountains, scenic coastlines and other such greenery.
There’s the moss-covered gnarled trees at Malahide Castle, the short drive to the stunning Wicklow Mountains National Park and the seaside towns of Howth (pronouced Hoath) and Sandycove (another link to Ulysses.)
Just remember to dress for the weather. Almost all sorts of weather. Sunshine, rain, wind, hail, snow. In this respect, Dublin really does have it all ;-)
Yep, that’s right. Contrary to popular belief, it is possible to have a night out in Dublin without a single drop of Guinness or even a rendition of Danny Boy. The Dean Hotel is dripping with vintage cool, while new-distillery-on-the-block Teeling’s offers whiskey tasting beneath bright lights and whiter walls.
As befits an energetic, young capital city (a staggering 40% of inhabitants are under 30) – festivals are all the rage. Come the end of summer, they all start to blur into one, earning the bland nickname”festival season.” Catch students challenging the status quo at the Fringe, leafy green streetside exhibits on PARKing day and stare up at dinosaurs in the dark on culture night when all the museums in town throw open their doors.
The Long Room in Trinity College is one inspirational library: the less well-known Marsh’s Library is even more thought provoking. Look out for Dracula, Gulliver’s Travels, the lost skull…and the bullet holes in the books from a world we all hope we never go back to.
Disclosure – While I’ve visited Ireland many times and have Irish blood in my veins, this latest trip to Dublin came about as a project between iAmbassador and Tourism Ireland. Some of the unusual activities mentioned here took place on this trip, others I undertook on my own. All are my personal choices of the best and most unusual things to do in Dublin. Ach, but while I’m here, if you’re looking for a guide to unusual things to do in Dublin, let me recommend Brian Kennedy – [email protected]
Cheers – and enjoy Dublin!
Check out my piece for Lonely Planet on the Hip cafes and hot design: exploring the new Dublin over here.