What to do in Dublin - tips and tricks to enjoying a family vacation in Ireland's capital city where you can enjoy late sunsets, great beer, and tons of history!
What to Do in Dublin
Why you Should Visit Dublin, Ireland:
- Dublin is central - it is an easy drive to basically anywhere in Ireland and Northern Ireland.
- In summer, Ireland enjoys very late sunsets - meaning there's tons of time in a day to explore!
- Dublin is easy to get to from America - numerous large cities have direct flights to Dublin (or Shannon) daily.
- Dublin is a small city with a big city feel - you can easily walk all over but there is great shopping and TONS of history to take in.
- Free and low cost museums are plentiful all over - visit the National Museum of Ireland, the Writers Museum, the Leprechaun Museum or even a Wax Museum when you're looking for a little time indoors - or check out one of the many powerful exhibits like EPIC Ireland that shows stories of Irish emigrants.
Dublin has a lot of things to do for all ages- making it an awesome stop for my parents, my cousin, my husband and I, as well as my preschoolers this summer. We took a two week trip around Ireland this July, and it was amazing. It was our first time overseas with our kids, and my parents and cousins' first time to our ancestral homeland.
While planning our loop of the Emerald Isle, a stop in Dublin was essential - it broke up our trip into the week in the south, and the week in the north - and as a former British stronghold, it is a perfect way to transition between countries before heading north to explore Belfast.
While we live about a half an hour from Denver, my kids haven't been to a ton of big cities lately, and I was a bit nervous staying right next to ChristChurch Cathedral in a busy section of Temple Bar in Dublin, but my kids did a great job and really loved all Dublin had to offer!
While I'd do a few things differently (like picking a hotel or apartment much closer to St. Stephen's green and away from the rowdy and touristy Temple Bar area, for example), we really loved all of the activities and sights we took in around Dublin - it's a perfect place for traveling with groups of all ages who like history, food, the bustle of a city without being too crowded- and great shopping.
We only had a few days in Dublin after touring Killarney, Cork, Cobh, and Blarney before we headed to Belfast for a convention my dad was a part of for his work - and I feel like we didn't have nearly enough time to experience all the lovely things Dublin has to offer.
There's always next time, right??
Here's all of my picks for fun ideas to tour through Dublin- with people of all ages!
(Please note I am skipping touring Trinity and the famed Long room, as well as a few day trips from Dublin, as I will be covering them more in-depth soon, as well as our food picks for Dublin!)
Head to St. Stephen's Green
If you're coming from the popular city center of Dublin to St. Stephens Green, you'll likely enter under the large, stately arch. It's a lovely way to let you know you're not just in any city park!
The park itself has lots of quaint little areas - from a lake lined with weeping willows and filled with ducks and swans, to large grassy areas, to flower gardens, and a small and fun playground - St. Stephens Green was my kids absolute favorite part of Dublin.
After hitting up the playground (Ireland has the BEST playgrounds - more small activities to encourage imagination), we took a few minutes to walk over to the gorgeous homes directly past the park - I loved all the bright and colorful doorways (photo above.)
Take a Red Bus Tour
I'll admit - those big double-decker busses that take tourists around town make me shudder. I'm not a big tour person - but we ended up getting on one of the busses as a way to see the city without walking forever (our 4 and 5 year olds were done at about mile 2 or 3 one day, and my husband and I did NOT want to carry them another couple of miles around Dublin on a pretty warm day), and we ended up having a blast.
Double decker tour busses (while packed-full with tourists) offer an easy way to see the city and get an idea of where everything is. We used it a lot like a taxi - we paid for a two day ticket ($19 a piece for my husband and I, the kids were blissfully free) and hopped on and off as we needed around Dublin.
Bus queues tend to be crazy crowded, and often busses will be packed with people - but most bus lines tend to just run big loops around and around the city. If one comes to the stop you're at and is packed to the gills, simply wait a few minutes for the next. We did that a few times and always ended up with busses to ourselves!
Once on board, head to the top, take in the breeze, and be sure to get on and off often and use the bus as an old-school Uber alternative!
Head to the Wax Museum with your kids
I personally didn't hit up the wax museum, so I can't talk too in-depth about it, but my parents took my kids through while my husband, cousin, and I toured Parliament - and they had a blast.
It was nice and cool (I realize the rest of Ireland is downright chilly even in summer, but Dublin can get quite warm!), not too crowded, and my kids were free! My parents got a pensioner discount, so it was a relatively cheap and very kid-friendly excursion that engaged the kids but didn't leave them riled up.
They got to see Peppa Pig and a ton of other characters they love - and we still hear about it to this day!
Head to Parliament
My husband and I met while I was working in the Senate and he was working a campaign for a Congresswoman - politics are very much the center of our relationship. So while in Dublin, we HAD to head to the Irish Parliament. We literally ran to the Parliament to make the last tour of the day - and were four minutes late. I very apologetically begged and pleaded with the guards, and they let us join their tour of the day. Our tour guide has been serving there since the 90's, and even showed us a photo of him with then President Clinton on his tour through Parliament.
The tour was quick and full of information on the history of the building (which used to be an estate), as well as Irish government and how their parliament is structured. While my husband and I are political geeks and were naturally interested by the tour, my cousin is largely non-interested in politics and still really, really enjoyed the tour.
Pro tip: The tour is free and photographs are not allowed inside, but we were given a printed proclamation we could take home. Not recommended for young children (mine went to the Wax Museum with my parents while we toured.)
Tour Dublin Castle (or walk the castle grounds)
On our last full day in Dublin, my husband and I intended to tour the Dublin Castle - but my kids, who were utterly fantastic for the whole trip, were pretty much DONE with tours.
We decided we'd walk to the Castle and see how they were feeling, and then continue on towards St Stephens Green to see if they'd be game for a tour.
Sadly, they weren't - but they did really love strolling through the Castle grounds and checking out the spectacular courtyard and chapel.
We probably could've pushed them into a tour, but we figured it was best not to chance it. I do wish we could've toured through though!
They were clamoring for a park and some room to run (the rest of our trip through Ireland offered a lot more green, rolling hills to play in), so we skipped the actual tour and just strolled (well, my kids ran---) around the castle grounds.
Luckily, there were plenty of placards to help my husband and I sort of cobble together our own historical tour and take in the gorgeous grounds.
Stop by the House of Lords
In the Bank Of Ireland Building, across from Trinity, sits the old House of Lords hall. Numerous heads of state visit the hall, where the Irish House of Lords used to sit before the Bank took over the building.
There is no formal tour - simply walk in through the bank and follow signs, and read the placards and signs around the room to see some of Ireland's great history.
If there is a guard around who is free, ask about the tapestries history for a great explanation of some of the beautiful historical pieces hanging in the room.
The former House of Lords building sits in the Bank of Ireland now- a quick, free to visit, gorgeous room adorned with impressive and important tapestries woven with Ireland's history! #sweetcs #Dublin #visitdublin #ireland #travel #travelblogger #trip #vacation #wanderlust #travelblog #tourism #explore #worldtraveler #discoverireland #irish
Drink a pint at Guinness
Sure, it is the epitome of tourist-traps, but can you really visit Dublin and NOT go to Guinness?
I've been on a LOT of beer tours and of distillery tours, and haven't really ever seen anything like the tour at Guinness (the closest I'd say was visiting Ararat Distillery in Yerevan Armenia- it had a lot of audio/visual effects mixed with historical artifacts like at Guinness).
At times, touring Guinness feels a bit like Disney - animatronic, really cool graphics and light/sound effects as you wind from the ground floor up to the bar on the top floor where you have the best 360 degree view of Dublin.
While I prefer a smaller, intimate brewery/distillery tour, Guinness has perfected moving large amounts of people through an incredibly informative tour quickly - either with or without a guide. They had floors dedicated to different brewing processes, special tasting opportunities, cafes and live free Irish dancing lessons, artwork, cultural displays, and so much more.
It was insanely crowded when we visited in July (the height of tourism season in Ireland), but I would love to go back in a quieter time and really spend time to learn more about some of Arthur Guinness' history as well as tour the old advertising room a bit more.
My kids had a TON of fun at Guinness (see the photo above of my 5 year old dancing a jig with some fabulous dancers who were so adorably sweet and patient with him)- there were lots of fun displays they could interact with, they loved dancing, and they got free sodas with their admission.
Kids are definitely welcome on the tour and all around the building, which is helpful if you don't have babysitting options on the road with you (or if your babysitters want to go enjoy a pint too like my parents did!!)
Sláinte from @homeofguinness ! Had to clamor up to the gravity bar to take in the 360° view of Dublin! #sweetcs #tourist #travel #travelbloggers #instagood #beer #guinness #drink #beerblogger #discoverireland #ireland #dublin #cheers #happyhour #friyay
A photo posted by Courtney | Food & Travel ? (@sweetcsdesigns) on
Try a Dram of Whiskey
While Ireland is known for Whiskey, when Jamison moved their distillery operations to Cork, Dublin was left without a distillery actually in town. Enter Teeling - and you have Dublin's very own distillery once again.
Teeling offers regular tours (we skipped it, having toured numerous distilleries in the past), as well as a very well stocked gift shop and a nice cafe.
It is an easy stop along the red bus line in between Guinness and Phoenix Park as well as numerous museums - making it a lovely spot to stop for a dram!
Head to Temple Bar
Temple Bar is a great place to spend a night out - there is a ton of people watching, busy restaurants, live bands on every corner - and tons of gorgeous flowers everywhere.
Temple Bar is extremely touristy- there are people crawling around everywhere at every hour of night (which made Temple Bar an awful place to rent an apartment - I recommend staying a bit further afield if you have kids with you and want to sleep at night without shouting drunk people), there are live bands at most bars, and you can find any kind of food your tummy could ever desire.
I loved all the bright colors, blooming flowers hanging outside of bars, street performers, and twinkling street lights of the pedestrian streets in Temple Bar.
It isn't the best place to take young kids to, or the most educational of spots to visit- but my husband, cousin, and I had a lot of fun popping into the pubs in Temple Bar and had some really fun nights out in Dublin!
There is a TON of fun, vibrant street art in Temple Bar - very few streets in the Temple Bar area lack color.
Stay safe tip: Temple Bar on the weekends can be PACKED with tourists. We felt safe everywhere we went, but taking precautions like making sure you protect your belongings, avoid any confrontations with rowdy and drunken revelers, and be aware of your situation.
Ireland is a very safe country, but anytime there is a lot of alcohol late at night it is a good idea to stay vigilant.
Want to know how my family of four flew 100% FREE to Ireland?
Head here and check out my series on how to use Credit Card Points to Fly Free - or head here for my card picks!