Explore these secret things to do in Dublin with our inside guide to Dublin off the beaten path.
Dublin Off the Beaten Path: Uncover Dublin’s Hidden Gems
Allow me to show you some of the more unusual things to do in Dublin, the non-touristy things to do in Dublin, the alternative side of Dublin. Quite simply, Dublin off the beaten path.
It’s time to make the most of this garrulous, energetic capital of Ireland.
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What are the must-see attractions in Dublin?
Before we talk about unusual things to do in Dublin, a word of warning: don’t miss the classics like the Book of Kells at Trinity College or the razzamatazz and history at the iconic Guinness Storehouse. You can find all that here in our two days in Dublin itinerary.
But once you’ve dipped into the Jameson Distillery, heard traditional Irish music in Temple Bar and paid some kind of homage to local boys U2, what next?
Travelling with little ones? Check out this article on things to do in Dublin with kids.
Take some hurling lessons
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.)
To be honest, I dreaded it at first. But after about, ooh, 30 seconds, it morphed into all-absorbing, riveting, fantastic fun.
If you hated sport at school, then this something you should try now. 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 ;-) And after this? Croke Park awaits!
Enjoy an Art Fuelled High Tea at the Merrion
Dublin’s Georgian architecture is a big draw and postcards and Instagrams of fancy doorways flutter across the city. But take the Georgian experience 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.
Gorge yourself with literature
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. On Bloomsday, Dubliners recreate the day from James Joyce’s Ulysses with key events across the city and surrounding area. When it comes to hidden gems in Dublin, few things come close to discovering people in period dress eating kidneys for breakfast while reading aloud from a book.
Head to the coast or the misty green forests
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. In fact, you can take so many beautiful day trips from Dublin.
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 ;-)
If you’ve a car, it’s easy enough to visit these places yourself, to wander, to get a little lost and off the beaten track in Dublin. Otherwise, you may want to look into taking an organised guided tour to venture outside Dublin city centre.
Switch cosy pubs for cool new bars
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.
Then there’s the even newer Roe & Co Distillery. Although admittedly owned by Guinness, it’s an homage to the original which stood on the site. And you can take cocktail classes or walk around the shimmering cool new bar.
Try something different during festival season
As befits an energetic, young capital city (a staggering 40% of inhabitants are under 30) – festivals are all the rage.
As hidden gems in Dublin go, by the end of summer, they all start to blur into one, earning the bland nickname of “festival season.”
Catch students challenging the status quo at the Fringe, gaze at 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.
It’s certainly another way to see Dublin off the beaten path, behind the shadow of a T Rex, Guinness in one hand, arts programme in the other.
See what bullets do to books
The Long Room in Trinity College is one inspirational library that everyone knows: the less well-known Marsh’s Library is even more thought provoking.
Step into the oldest library in Dublin, where Bram Stoker studied, James Joyce researched, and Jonathan Swift scribbled graffiti into text books. Amid the polished wood and ancient pages, you’ll find even more secrets about Dublin, Ireland.
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. Wondering what I’m talking about?
I’ve written more about this hidden gem in Dublin over here.
Walk with ghosts at Kilmainham Gaol
On the outskirts of Dublin, but still within reach of the hop-on hop-off bus, lives Kilmainham Gaol. It “hosted” numerous criminals over the years but the most prominent residents were those involved in the 1916 Easter Rising.
The guided talk is bleak and haunting (the imprisoned revolutionaries were executed here) but the architecture is striking and the events a crucial part of Irish History. It really is one of those unique things to do in Dublin.
Frolic with deer in Phoenix Park
OK, so you don’t need to frolic. A simple walk will be fine.
Rated as the largest urban park in Europe, Phoenix Park began life as a 17th century hunting ground for the gentry. Today, it encloses several stately homes, beginning with the official residency of the Irish president and moving on to the home of the US Ambassador.
Despite all that, entrance is free to the public, where you can walk or cycle among the fallow deer and pay a visit to Europe’s 4th largest zoo.
The visitor’s centre travels right back to 3500 BC with its tales of Phoenix Park.
Check out the National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland
While this place sounds pretty kitsch, it’s an example of Dublin’s best hidden gems. Sure, inside you’ll find silly things like giant forks and green cloaked leprechauns. But you’ll also find a moving look at Ireland’s oral storytelling history and a perspective that maybe you haven’t seen – or heard – before. Just a short walk from the River Liffey.
Look out for Street Art
Some hidden gems in Dublin aren’t all that hidden. Take street art, for example, which you can find by the Aviva stadium and Lansdowne Road.
Dine in a bank
I love this secret spot right in the heart of Dublin where you can dine inside an old bank. The Bank on College Green serves both lunch and dinner and it’s a chance to taste Victorian splendour beneath the panelled ceiling and flamboyant sculptures.
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