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Best Things To Do in Dublin

AOL PICK from our Editors

You’ll never be bored here with so many Dublin things to do. There seems to be a festival, sporting or cultural event on every weekend and its small, walkable geography makes everything feel likes it’s within easy reach.

Guinness Storehouse

Neighborhood: Thomas Street and Kilmainham

Ireland loves its beer so it is no wonder this spot is one of the top Dublin things to do, whether you are a local or visiting on a Dublin vacation. Located in an atmospheric old grain storehouse, surrounded by cobbled streets at St James’s Gate, you’ll get the heady whiff of the beloved hops before you even pass the threshold of the impressive seven story shrine to all things Guinness.

Founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759, St James’s Gate exports to 150 countries where a whopping 10 million glasses of the world-famous velvety stout are consumed a day. Each floor, crammed with interactive displays, tells another chapter in the Guinness story, so you can brush up on the beer-making process, dig through the archives and company legers of the reputedly benevolent Guinness family or take a look at the history of the company’s advertising campaigns. And when you’re done, enjoy a complimentary glass of Guinness from the rooftop Gravity Bar with the best 360 panoramic views available in Dublin.

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Viking Splash Tour

Neighborhood: St Stephen’s Green

It may be cheesy and only for visitors but let’s face it, you are a visitor so get over it. The unmissable green and yellow WWII amphibious vehicles (also known as ducks) have been on Dublin streets for a few years but the spectacle of its passengers, clad in jolly plastic Viking helmets, roaring ‘Celts!’ at passers-by, still raises a smile among city folk. The 75-minute Dublin tour passes a must-see list of top Dublin attractions: St Patrick’s Cathedral, Christchurch, Trinity College and Merrion Square (with commentary by local Viking-helmsman-driver and delivered with typical Dublin wit. It’s surprisingly informative and thoroughly enjoyable. Kids will love the final bit where the truck descends into the murky water of the Grand Canal dock for a spin past U2’s recording studio and around the harbor. Tours leave from St Stephen’s Green, opposite Topshop.

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Viking Splash Tour  

Kilmainham Gaol

Neighborhood: Thomas Street and Kilmainham

One of the best Dublin things to do can be found in venue holding the stories of the city’s sordid past. In a suitably grim hulk of a building on the outskirts of town lies the infamous Kilmainham gaol, unwelcome home to scores of villains, famine victims and political heroes from Ireland’s struggle for independence—most notably Robert Emmett and Countess Markievicz. Most of the nationalist soldiers captured during the 1916 uprising were executed here in the exercise yard, which you cross on the excellent guided tour. The Victorian winged prison here was modelled on London’s Pentonville prison, with its metal walkways leading to single dank dark cells (you can still read the impassioned graffiti on those walls). It’s all still eerily and exactly as it had been during its time of operation. There’s a fascinating museum on site that tells the stories of the prison, its restoration and its legions of pitiful occupants with intriguing detail.

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National Museum of Ireland—Archaeology

Neighborhood: St Stephen’s Green

There are many reasons why you should visit this place, one of Ireland’s most respected museums and one of the best Dublin things to do. Not only does the museum showcase more prehistoric bling in its glittering Gold exhibition than any other museum in Europe; or never mind that you can explore the colorful mummies and rare found objects of ancient Egypt, or stand in awe next to a massive replica Viking ship. There’s more. Here you can also learn about thrilling life and death in the Roman world or come face to face with a creepily intact Bog Man, a tribal king who kicked the bucket some time between 400 and 200 BC, little knowing that the contents of his last meal and the very fancy French gel in his hair (we kid you not) would be preserved for all to see 2,000 years later. And if that isn’t enough for you, it’s only a stone’s throw from Grafton Street. Best of all … it won’t cost you a penny.

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National Museum of Ireland—Archaeology  

Number 29

Neighborhood: St Stephen’s Green

Fitzwilliam Street is bang in the middle of Georgian Dublin. Wander the nearby streets past preciously preserved buildings—mostly offices, now—with their fancy doors, peacock fanlights and shoe-scrapers, and you can’t help wonder what life might have been like in those times. Well, step into Number 29 and you’ll get a fascinating taste of middle-class living at the turn of the 18th century for both the owners and their less lucky servants. This is one of the best Dublin things to do if you want to see how the other half lived. Built in 1794 for the widow of a wine merchant, Number 29 brings to life the day-to-day happenings of a posh Dublin household in intriguing detail. Discover what Georgians did to relax, how cooks preserved food and how ladies applied trowel-loads of whitened makeup to hide their smallpox scars—you’ll never feel so glad you’re living in the 21st century. The 40-minute tour is a fascinating lesson in Dublin’s social history and classist past.

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Number 29  

The Science Gallery

Neighborhood: St Stephen’s Green

Ever wondered why you get that feeling of déjà-vu? Which side of the brain stops you from stepping in front of a moving car? Why you are a morning or evening person? Why minor notes make you sad? These and other mind-bogglingly important questions are explored in Dublin’s incredible, interactive Science Gallery. Founded two years ago by some clever, science-lovin’ boffins at Trinity College and already a top Dublin attraction, the Gallery let’s the public take part in mind-numbing experiments and impassioned debate about all kinds of (surprisingly riveting) science-generated theories. Come on a Friday evening and enjoy hot and cold tapas and lashings of sangria as you probe the condition of human grey matter.

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The Science Gallery  

Phoenix Park

Neighborhood: Phoenix Park

Dublin is so small you’re never far from the countryside but if you fancy a quick hit of green, pop up to Phoenix Park. This is the best Dublin attraction for lush greenery and, at nearly 1,800 acres, it qualifies as Europe’s largest city park. The best way to get around is by renting a bike, right at the entrance, and pedalling through to the sights. Scoot past “A/’ras an Uachtara/’in” (or the president’s pad, to you) and the herds of wild deer to Farmleigh House—once owned by the Guinness family—and now used by visiting dignitaries. It’s well worth a look for its snazzy 18th century ballroom, huge Victorian glasshouses and its weekend farmers’ market. Elsewhere there’s the Dublin Zoo. It opened in 1830 (it’s the fourth oldest zoo in the world) and plays a large role in the conservation of endangered species such as Rodrigues fruit bats, snow leopards and some rare prosimians. Or just grab a 99 (locally-loved whipped ice-cream with chocolate flake) from a vendor and lie on the grass and take in a cricket match.

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Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane

Neighborhood: Parnell Square North

In an imposing 18th-century townhouse designed by Sir William Chambers on the north of Parnell Square, you’ll find the absorbing Hugh Lane Gallery, a top Dublin museum for classic artworks. This lovely airy building houses works of all the heavy-hitters of French Impressionism: Degas, Rodin, Manet and Monet, and also, (locals might say) equally brilliant examples of homegrown art by the likes of Jack B. Yeats (W.B.’s brother), Nathaniel Hone and Walter Osborne. Contemporary Irish art is well represented by artists such as Dorothy Cross, Patrick Scott and there’s a room dedicated to the work of renowned abstract painter Sean Scully in the beautiful new modern wing. One of the more intriguing exhibitions is the Francis Bacon Studio that was transferred in its chaotic entirety (including cigarette butts, rat droppings and empty wine bottles) from its London location, where the Dublin-born artist had spent three decades. There’s an excellent art bookshop and restaurant on site. Check the website for the many fascinating lectures, workshops, and events that run weekly.

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Dublin City Gallery, The Hugh Lane  

GAA Museum (The)

Neighborhood: Drumcondra

Chances are you’ve got Irish blood in you, even if it’s six generations back and once removed. So make your rellies proud by kneeling at the sporting shrine that is Croke Park, home of the Gaelic Athletic Association—or GAA. That’s the collective name for all indigenous Irish sports like hurling, Gaelic football, camogie and handball. In 1884 when the association was set up, sport was the preserve of the genteel classes so the promotion of traditional Irish sports was seen as an important political, social and cultural move. The museum at the spectacular new Croke Park stadium explores the history of the association and interactive screens let you test your own skills, listen to recordings from special matches and replay historic moments. You can also tour the grounds and imagine walking the sweaty corridor from the dressing room to pitch in front of 80,000 screaming fans.

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Trinity College

Neighborhood: St Stephen’s Green

This spot is quite popular for Dublin travel. Dublin vacationers usually make time to see Ireland’s oldest (founded in 1592) and most prestigious university to view the Book of Kells, the lavish monk-illustrated 6th century book of the four gospels. And you’d be right to do so as it is an extraordinary piece of work. If the queues prove too long outside the Old Library, you might simply spend the morning watching a cricket match on the pavilion or soaking up the august calm of the historic campus’s Botany Bay (former vegetable garden). You can also check out the contemporary Berkeley Library and the cutting-edge Douglas Hyde Gallery. Once the preserve of the elite Protestant classes, Catholics were granted entry in the late 18th century and the university finally opened its doors to that other scourge, women, in 1904.

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Trinity College  
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