Heading to Dublin but unsure which of the best Dublin tourist attractions you should visit while in the Irish capital? In this post we list out the top 10 Dublin attractions you have to visit while spending time in the city!
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Map of Dublin tourist attractions you must visit
Top 10 Dublin Attractions
Planning a visit to Dublin can sometimes feel overwhelming when you are trying to put together your Dublin itinerary. When it comes to tourist attractions, Dublin has so many for travellers of all kinds, that narrowing down which ones to visit can sometimes leave you feeling like you are in a spin and getting nowhere.
To help you decide which will make your itinerary for the city, we’ve listed out the must-visit tourist attractions in Dublin to make your decision a little easier.
One of the top attractions in Dublin to visit is Trinity College. Located in the centre of Dublin not far from O’Connell Bridge, Trinity College is the most famous university in Ireland and most prestigious. Wandering through the grounds and popping into some of the many buildings is free to the public, so long as they are open.
However, Trinity is also home to one of the top Dublin must-see attractions. The Old Library is the must-visit place in Trinity, not only to view the magnificent Long Room which has stunning two-tiered oak bookcases holding more than 200,000 books and which is lined with marble busts, but also to see the famous Book of Kells.
The Book of Kells is one of the most important, illuminated religious manuscripts in the world, dating from 800AD. The book is a breath-taking illumination of the Four Gospels of the New Testament and it is believed to have been created by Scottish monks on the island of Iona. Visitors can view two set of pages of the book which is divided into four volumes. Two books are on permanent display in Trinity College, one showing a major illustration, and one displaying typical text pages.
While visiting the Old Library make sure you allow time to view the rare copy of the Proclamation of the Irish Republic document and the collection of old harps, one said to be the harp of Brian Ború.
Entry to the Old Library to view the Long Room and Book of Kells is payable. Pre-book your tickets here. Alternatively book a walking tour of Dublin which includes fast-track entry to the Book of Kells and a tour of Dublin Castle. Find more information and book tickets for this tour here.
Other things to see in Trinity College include the Front Arch, the Douglas Hyde Gallery, the famous Sphere within a Sphere in front of the Berkeley Library Building, The Campanile bell tower and the Samuel Beckett Theatre.
National Museum of Ireland
One of the best free attractions in Dublin to visit is the National Museum of Ireland, which is broken down into three branches. They are
- The Archaeology branch (Kildare Street)
- Natural History Museum (Merrion Square)
- Decorative Arts and History Museum (Collins Barracks)
Each is an outstanding museum on its own right. The archaeology branch is dedicated to Ireland’s ancient and medieval history. Visitors can view some of the finest collections in Europe of Bronze and Iron Age gold artefacts, medieval Celtic metalwork, and prehistoric and Viking relics of Ireland.
At the Natural History Museum visitors can see specimens of animals found on the island of Ireland, both from modern day and historically. Wonder at the size of the antlers from the now extinct Irish Giant Deer, and the basking shark skeleton. There are also animal specimens from around the globe.
And the Decorative Arts and History Museum, once the world’s largest military barracks, is now home to a comprehensive collection of exhibits from the 1916 Easter Rising and works from Irish designer Eileen Gray.
Each is free to visit, making them some of the best museums in Dublin to visit for nothing!
If you are looking to visit some historical tourist attractions in Dublin, then top of your list should be Kilmainham Gaol. Located just outside the city centre, this infamous former prison is one of the best Dublin attractions to add to your itinerary.
Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol was a damp and grim place to spend any time in. It has housed some of Ireland’s most prominent nationalists who were incarcerated there for their part in the struggle for Irish freedom and independence.
Visitors to Kilmainham Gaol join guided tours in which they start with an audio visual introduction before being lead through both the old and new wings of the prison. During the tour, visitors see the chapel were Joseph Plunkett married grace Gifford on the eve of his execution. You also visit the Stone Breaker’s Yard where 14 of the 1916 Easter Rising leaders were executed.
Travelling through the prison and seeing the small cells gives visitors a real sense of how grim conditions were for the inmates from 1796 to 1924, when the prison was finally closed. This museum is something you must not miss during a visit to Dublin.
Pre-book your tickets to avoid disappointment. Book your tickets here.
And while you are visiting Kilmainham Gaol, why not also visit Royal Kilmainham Hospital. The Irish Museum of Modern Art is housed in the building and other rooms of the former hospital can be viewed as part of a guided tour. The grounds are extensive and are a lovely place for a picnic.
Two of the top Dublin attractions to include on your itinerary for the city are the Dublin cathedrals of Christ Church and St Patrick. Located close to one another on the Southside of the city, and within walking distance of Temple Bar, these two important religious buildings are a must-see.
Christ Church Cathedral is located at the top of Dame Street and is one of the top Dublin sights to see. Built on the site of Dublin’s first ever church in 1030, the current building is largely as a result of 19th century restoration. You should note that Christ Church Cathedral is a protestant church, anglicised during the Reformation.
At Christ Church you can see beautiful medieval carvings in the columns at the entrance, delve down into the vast crypt that houses a treasury exhibition and the “cat and the rat”, view Strongbow’s tomb (12th century Norman conqueror) and marvel at the architecture of the main nave and other chapels.
St Patrick’s Cathedral is one of Dublin’s earliest Christian sites, having been built where it is said that St Patrick baptized converts in a well in 450AD. This cathedral was also anglicised during the Reformation and is the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland.
St Patrick’s Cathedral is the longest medieval church in Ireland and its nave reflects this size. The architecture and carved pillars are something to awe at. While at this cathedral visitors can see the Quire where swords, banners and helmets representing the different knights of St Patrick are kept. The South Transept has beautiful stained-glass windows and other monuments.
The graves of Jonathan Swift and his wife are also located within the cathedral and are often the first places visitors go to see. Other things to see include the Boyle Monument, St Patrick’s Well and the Door of Reconciliation.
Why not book a literary tour of Dublin which includes skip-the-line entry to St Patrick’s Cathedral. See more information, latest prices and book this tour here.
Regularly featured in lists of the Dublin top 10 attractions is the Guinness Storehouse, located just a few minutes’ walk from Christ Church Cathedral. It is easy to see why. Ask people what they most associate with Ireland and many will say Guinness.
The Guinness Brewery was founded by Arthur Guinness in 1759 and more than 250 years later it remains one of the largest breweries in Europe with the famous beer sold in over 150 countries.
Visitors to the Guinness Storehouse can enjoy an excellent exhibition into the entire brewing production as well as get an introduction into the marketing and transport of this famous drink. You can also learn about the man who founded one of the most famous breweries in the world.
The Guinness Storehouse is set across seven floors of exhibitions and the eight is where you get to enjoy a pint of the ‘black stuff’ in the Gravity Bar while enjoying 360-degree views across the city. Once you have been, it is easy to see why the Guinness Storehouse is regularly voted as one of the best Dublin top attractions to visit in the city.
One of the top attractions in Dublin to put on your Dublin bucket list is Dublin Castle, situated off Dame Street. This government and conference complex is a must-visit in the Irish capital. Dublin Castle was the stronghold of British power in Ireland for over 700 years before it was handed back to Michael Collins and the Irish Free State in 1922.
The complex evolved from the medieval castle commissioned in the 13th century. Visitors can tour the State Apartments through a guided tour (the only way to see the ornate rooms of the castle) and this is one guided tour you shouldn’t miss. As well as the State Apartments, there are several towers to visit including the Bedford Tower from which the Irish Crown Jewels were stolen in 1907 and never returned. Book your tickets for a self-guided or fully-guided tour of the State Apartments here.
Another of the Dublin top 10 tourist attractions located in the grounds of Dublin Castle is the Chester Beatty Library. This world-famous library is housed in the Clock Tower and is considered one of the best small museums in the world. Inside you can view the collection of Arthur Chester Beatty, a New York mining magnate who settled in Ireland and donated his vast collection to the state for the benefit of the public.
The Chester Beatty Library contains artworks from the Western, Islamic and East Asian worlds. There is also a large collection of religious artworks including one of the largest collections of Qu’rans dating from the 9th to the 19th centuries. Also in the collection are some of the earliest illuminated gospels. It is a fascinating place to visit and is one of the best free things to do in Dublin.
National Gallery of Ireland
One of the best Dublin attractions for art lovers is the National Gallery of Ireland, which is located on Merrion Square beside the Natural History Museum. Home to outstanding collections of artwork from Western Europe spanning the Middle Ages to the mid-20th century, this is an art lover’s paradise.
The gallery has grown since its inception in 1864, with various extra wings added to house more exhibition space. As well as pieces by European artists such as Picasso, Caravaggio and Monet, the gallery contains some of the most important pieces from Irish artists including Jack B Yeats, brother of the poet WB Yeats.
This is one of the best free galleries to visit in Dublin and is best visited on a Thursday evening when it is open later and there are fewer visitors.
When it comes to Dublin best attractions to visit to combine some rest and relaxation with further exploration, there is not better places than the Phoenix Park. The scene of many a Sunday morning walk with my Dad and our dogs, the Phoenix Park is one of my personal favourite places to visit in Dublin.
As one of the largest enclosed recreational spaces in Europe, the Phoenix Park is large, some 707 hectares. Within its walls there are quite a few things to see and do. The Phoenix Park is home to Dublin Zoo, one of the oldest in the world. The Dublin Zoo of today is far removed from the one of my childhood after huge extensions and creation of new enclosures. If you are visiting Dublin with kids, they’ll love Dublin Zoo.
Other things to enjoy in the Phoenix Park include the People’s Gardens with its lovely landscaped flowerbeds, Ashtown Castle, the Papal Cross, Wellington Monument and the Magazine Fort (where my husband’s family once lived). The home of the President of Ireland is also located in the Phoenix Park. Áras an Uachtaráin can be visited by the public, by guided tours, on Saturdays. It is free to visit and tickets are issued on a first-come-first-served basis from the Phoenix Park Visitor’s Centre. Get there early to avoid disappointment. Find more information here.
Whether you want to explore all the places in the Phoenix Park, have a picnic in the sun or see if you can spot the resident deer around the park, this is one of Dublin’s best attractions to visit.
One of the top tourist attractions in Dublin has to be the area of Temple Bar. Cobbled streets lined with lively bars, cafes and theatres, this is one of the busiest areas of Dublin, especially at night and the weekends.
Temple Bar is often known as Dublin’s cultural quarter as there is usually something going on, especially during summer and autumn, along its streets. Summer sees outdoor street theatre and music while autumn brings the Fringe Festival and Culture Night to the area.
But this is not all you will find in Temple Bar. Within the area you can also find City Hall (an 18th century neo-classical building), the Irish Rock ‘n’ Roll Museum, the Project Arts Centre, the Gallery of Photography and the Irish Film Institute.
It is a lively part of the city and one to be enjoyed as a visitor. But, keep your wits about you and your personal belongings close and hidden, as thieves do operate here, especially after dark and at the weekends.
EPIC and Jeanie Johnston
Two of the Dublin top tourist attractions are located within 3-minutes’ walk from one another. They are EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum and the Jeanie Johnston Tallship.
EPIC is located in the custom House Quay building and has twenty interactive galleries and exhibitions that bring to life the story of Ireland’s 10-million diaspora. Journey with them and discover why they left Ireland and where they ended up. You can also look up your Irish roots with the genealogy centre located there.
The Jeanie Johnston is a replica tall ship from the 1840’s used during the Great Famine to ferry thousands of people from Ireland across the Atlantic to America. On this living history museum, visitors can learn about the different people who fled the ravages of the famine, between 1845 and 1849, in search of a better life. Discover what life was like on board during a 50-minute tour.
Both of these Dublin attractions are included in the Dublin Pass. For more information and to get yours today by clicking here.
These are my pick of the amazing top 10 tourist attractions in Dublin, Ireland that you simply have to visit. Whether you want to learn more about Irish history, see beautiful works of art or simply enjoy the outdoors, there is something on this list for everyone. Which ones are you going to put on your Dublin itinerary?
Cath is an Irish expat now living in Portugal. She regularly returns to Ireland to explore more of the wonderful island with her family.