Grand Canal docks in Dublin at sunrise © Madrugada Verde / Shutterstock
Stroll the grounds of Trinity College
It costs nothing to amble around the cobbled grounds of Trinity College, Ireland’s foremost university, following in the footsteps of famous alumni such as Samuel Beckett, Bram Stoker and Jonathan Swift.
There's a charge for the famous Long Room and Book of Kells, but you can admire the elegant courtyards and neo-classical architecture and, weather-permitting, stretch out on the cricket grounds outside the Pavilion Bar for nothing. The latter is more famous for being Dublin's best unofficial beer garden than for any connection to sport.
Search for deer in Phoenix Park
You could easily spend an entire day exploring Europe’s largest inner-city park. You don’t need to pay for Dublin Zoo to see animals either – Phoenix Park is home to an enormous collection of deer, just wander off into the woodlands to find them.
Tour the president’s house
While you’re in the park you can get a first-hand peek at how the President of Ireland lives on a free tour of the official residence, Aras an Uachtaráin. Tours depart from Phoenix Park Visitor Centre every Saturday and operate on a first-come-first-served basis. Occasionally they might not run due to state business, so always check the website beforehand.
Explore the collection at Chester Beatty Library
Alfred Chester Beatty was a bibliophile who was both rich and blessed with exceedingly good taste. The fruit of his extensive labours (ancient books, scrolls and other objets d’art) are gathered across two floors of the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle.
Admire the art in Temple Bar
Temple Bar is home to some fantastic culture spots. The Gallery of Photography hosts excellent exhibitions featuring local and international photographers, the Icon Walk is full of colourful Irish cultural figures, and you can admire James Earley’s spectacular Ulysses artwork on the exterior walls of Blooms Hotel.
Go birdwatching on North Bull Island
Just a short bus ride away from the city centre lies the Unesco reserve of North Bull Island. One of Ireland’s most important natural conservation areas, it’s a paradise for birdwatchers, with at least 180 different species. You can also take a 5km walk along the pristine beach and sand dunes of Dollymount Strand.
Find Celtic gold and other treasures at the National Museum
History buffs will love the collection of Celtic and medieval treasures housed in the National Museum. Its most famous artefacts are the Tara Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice, as fine an example of Celtic metalwork as you'll ever see.
Visit the National Botanic Gardens
A glorious green haven north of the city centre, the historic greenhouses and tranquil atmosphere make the National Botanic Gardens worth a visit in every season. Keep an eye out for the entertaining squirrels.
Walk the South Wall to the lighthouse
For a unique perspective on Dublin, the 1km walk out to Poolbeg Lighthouse along the South Wall that stretches into Dublin Bay is unbeatable, especially on a summer’s evening.
Wander the art galleries
The National Gallery’s collection of art stretches across seven centuries and includes a terrific Caravaggio and striking portraits of Ireland’s most notable figures. The Dublin City Gallery – Hugh Lane focuses exclusively on modern and contemporary art, and its faithfully reconstructed studio of hell-raising painter Francis Bacon is outstanding.
Relax in one of the city parks
Stretch out on the manicured lawns of one of Dublin’s city parks. St Stephen's Green is the busier of the two and is a perfect people-watching spot. Nearby Merrion Square is more tranquil, lying in the heart of Georgian Dublin and home to a statue of one of the square’s most famous residents, Oscar Wilde.
Explore art and gardens at the Irish Museum of Modern Art
This former hospital is now the country’s foremost modern art gallery. When you’re finished with IMMA’s cutting edge collection, stroll around the building and the beautiful surrounding gardens.
Be curious at the Science Gallery
Hands-on, interactive and compellingly relevant, the Science Gallery is devoted to explaining the intricacies of science and how it applies to everyday life. Exhibitions explore big ideas, so bring your curiosity with you.
Have a walk along Henrietta Street
Henrietta Street is lined with the most complete set of red-brick Georgian mansions built for Ireland’s wealthiest families in the 1700s. A perfect example of Dublin’s most iconic architecture, it's perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Learn history through decorative arts
This branch of the National Museum is located in the magnificent Collins Barracks building, dating back to the early 18th-century, and houses an eclectic mix of historic memorabilia, design and craftwork.
Journey along the Grand Canal
Experience a slice of local life with a journey down the Grand Canal. Start in the charming, leafy surrounds of Portobello Rd and head towards the trendy restaurants and busy theatres of Grand Canal Quay. Unofficially named 'Silicon Docks' due to the biggest names in tech making their home here, it's a bustling enclave just two DART stops away from the city centre.
Get weirded out at the 'dead zoo'
Dr Livingstone (of ‘I presume’ fame) cut the ribbon at the Natural History branch of the National Museum in 1857 – and little has changed since. Dusty, weird and utterly Victorian, the ‘dead zoo’ is one of the city’s oddest attractions.
Take a podcast tour
Local historian Donal Fallon has created three short, themed podcast tours with the Fitzwilliam Hotel. You don’t have to be a guest to use them, just listen to an advert. The walks take you past Dublin's historical highlights, the locations of the Easter Rising battles and the city's essential fashionista stops.
Cycle the city with Dublinbikes
With over 100 locations throughout the city and over 1000 bikes on demand, the trick is to rent and return the bike to a station within 30 minutes to use it for free. If you need it for longer, release another bike and off you go. All the details are on the website and you can download a free app.
Join Sandeman’s Free Tour of Dublin
Sandeman’s free, three-hour walking tour of the city departs Barnardo Sq every day at 10am, 11am and 2pm (though there can be more depending on the time of year). The guides are informed, energetic and lots of fun – tipping is optional but deserved.
First published July 2013, updated in May 2019.