Dublin is a great place to take the kids. Even if the weather isn’t so good, the welcome is always warm – and there’s plenty to keep the young ones entertained whatever the seasons are throwing at you. Just like anywhere, it's good to know the best things to do, where to eat and what might need some advance planning. Here are our tips for making the most of a trip to Dublin with children.
Dress up like a Viking and learn some history at Dublinia © Niall Carson
Things to do
- The Ark Slap bang in the middle of Temple Bar, this place is hugely popular for its interactive kids’ events. The yearly schedule is full to the brim with workshops and performances aimed at getting youngsters interested in science, the environment and culture. Book well ahead online.
- Dublinia Attached to Christ Church Cathedral, Dublinia offers a trip back to medieval Dublin using wax dummies, hands-on displays and recreated streetscapes. The Viking stuff is a hit with the kids, especially the longboat, and there’s even an opportunity to dress up in costumes so keep your cameras ready.
- Dublin Zoo The city zoo is set in the capital’s huge Phoenix Park and has plenty of cute animals to keep young ones happy. There are regular Parent and Toddler Sessions, daily talks from the zoo keepers and workshops for older children at the weekends. If they get tired – or if you just want a break – there are more than enough play and picnic areas to spend some time resting.
- Imaginosity Children’s Museum Specialising in play and fun for the under 9s, this has a mini town centre to explore with areas dedicated to everything from art to construction, a rooftop play garden and unique exhibits and activities just for children between 6 months and 3 years.
- Malahide Castle There’s no shortage of things to do here on a sunny day. Most charmingly, you can explore the woodlands with an interactive Fairy Trail. There’s also a cute road train that takes you through Malahide village or you can hop on a cycle tour.
- Airfield Estate The only working urban farm in Dublin open to the public, this is an opportunity to get close to sheep, pigs, chickens and donkeys. There are daily morning activities to get involved with, including egg collecting and milking cows, and when you’re finished, there are beautiful gardens, woodland trails and interactive play areas to explore.
- Lambert Puppet Theatre In southeast Dublin and accessible by DART (a fun train ride in itself), this interactive theatre has been running since 1972 but still manages to inspire and entertain. Children are free to get involved and they even organise birthday parties.
- Viking Splash Tour A perennial favourite with children and with the chance to wear Viking hats, shout at passerbys to scare them and drive straight from the street into the river and back again, what's not to love? Booking in advance during the summer is essential.
The chimps at Dublin Zoo are always a hit with children © Design Pics / The Irish Image Collection / Getty Images
Where to eat
- Gotham Café When the 'but I’m hungry' wailing becomes unbearable, bundle the little darlings into this cool café just off Grafton Street. The kids’ menu includes 'Smiley Face' pizza, banana pancakes and bagels with chocolate spread.
- Milano With ten branches all over the city, you’ll be sure to find one convenient to you and it’s always a popular bet with families. The Piccolo menu for kids is good value and comes with its own activity pack.
- The Fumbally The large, open space make this an accessible option for families who prefer to lunch on seasonal, locally sourced food, and the friendly staff are always happy to help.
- Avoca With a dedicated children’s menu and large tables reserved for big groups, any of Avoca's branches makes an easy choice for lunch (the most central is just off Grafton Street). Most places also have toy departments to browse in before or afterwards.
If the weather's good Malahide Castle's grounds are perfect for some outdoor fun © EyesWideOpen / Getty Images
Things to plan in advance
- Public transport can be a bit tricky to navigate so ensure you use an app like Transport for Ireland to figure out the best route prior to setting off. Children under 5 can travel for free, but you may need to put them on your lap during busy times. For older children, a Leap Visitor Card will ensure you can travel everywhere without messing with cash.
- Pubs don’t allow children under 18 on the premises after 9pm, changing to 10pm from May to September. However, the individual owner can make a decision about whether the atmosphere is unsuitable for children and it’s possible you may be asked to leave early.
- You’ll find public toilets and baby-changing areas in every major tourist attractions but if you’re caught out while strolling around then big shopping centres are your best bet.
- Elisa Babysitting offer child carers in your accommodation. They’re qualified to work with children with special needs and serve multiple languages.
- If you decide to rent a car, let the rental agency know in advance if you will need a car seat.
This article was first published in June 2012 and updated in July 2018.