Looking for non-touristy things to do in Dublin? Of course, you are! Known for its friendly locals and as a city of music, arts, and literature, you’ll never be short of interesting things to do. But if you’re tired of people telling you to visit Dublin Castle or recommending a genuine Dublin pub, then here’s a list of alternative things to do in Dublin. There’s so much to discover, you just need to move away from the city center a little and explore Dublin off the beaten path. Get ready for an adventure, you’re about to see a whole other side to this vibrant city.
While basically, every other soul in Dublin is making their way to St Stephen’s Green the second the sun peeks out from behind a cloud (it happens more than you might think), you should go to Iveagh Gardens. Located between Clonmel Street and Upper Hatch Street near the National Concert Hall. You’d probably have no idea it was there since it’s surrounded by buildings, happily keeping it a local secret. This secluded pocket of greenery is a real Dublin hidden gem, and hanging out here will make you feel like a Dubliner, not a tourist. Chill out when the weather’s good and feel smug that you’re in on the secret. Keep an eye out for gigs and festivals which take place here during the summer. Just note that the park closes at 6 pm. You'll be doing Dublin like a local after five minutes in this blissful spot.
The Temple Bar Markets
Temple Bar’s not exactly Dublin off the beaten path; it is the beaten path. But that’s not to say you can't find a few gems, you just need to know when to visit (which is not at night, in case you were wondering). Most tourists stumble upon the Temple Bar markets by chance, if they happen to be in the area at the right time. But you should take some time out of your day in Dublin if you can to graze your way around the Temple Bar Food Market on Saturdays, from 8 am to 5 pm. You’ll find it at Meeting House Square on Dublin's South Side. You’ll find fresh produce, meats, baked goods, and artisan cheeses as well as street food bites and hot food if you’re feeling peckish. Throughout the summer months, there’s also the Temple Bar Night Market - the perfect thing to do in Dublin at night if you’re looking for an alternative to the stag party atmosphere of Temple Bar’s pubs. Here you can peruse stalls of arts and crafts made by local artisans and artists under the evening summer sky.
Smock Alley Theater
Photo credit: flickr.com/photos/infomatique/33476266340
Endearingly known as Dublin’s newest oldest theater, Smock Alley on 7 Exchange Street Lower is an intimate space which was the first Theater Royal built in Dublin, way back in 1662. It was lovingly restored to its former glory a few years ago, and now you can either come and take a look around on a small tour during the day or check what’s on from their varied cultural program and spend your evening here watching a performance. The crowds will be flocking somewhere else, making this is the ideal non-touristy thing to do in Dublin. Smock Alley Theater is known for putting on classics with contemporary twists and the works of emerging young playwrights, so whether it’s theater, music, dance, comedy or visual arts that you like, you’re bound to see something special at this fabulous secret place in Dublin. The box office is open Monday to Saturday from 10 am to 6 pm and Sundays from noon if there’s a show.
Swim at Forty Foot
Flinging yourself into the freezing Irish Sea might seem like a bit of an unusual thing to do in Dublin, but you’ll feel a million times better for it. Take the DART to Dalkey and leap into the water at Forty Foot. It’s not 40 feet high or deep, but it is a real local experience. Not many people who visit Dublin will be able to say they’ve swum off the rocks at Forty Foot in Sandycove, and it’ll give you a taste of local life. Hop off the DART at the Sandycove / Glasthule stop then take a 10-15 minute walk over to Forty Foot. You have to completely ignore whatever the Dublin weather is doing on whichever particular day you decide to take the plunge and just go regardless - it’s all part of the charm of wild swimming in Ireland and adds to the intrigue of the Dublin that's off the beaten path.
Dún Laoghaire Market
Just down the road (literally) from Sandycove is the small coastal town of Dún Laoghaire, where every Sunday on 2 Glenageary Rd. Lower, you’ll find the People’s Park Market. If you want to see Dublin like a local, then this is it. Expect 50 vendors selling everything from arts and crafts to local produce like honey, freshly baked goods to seasonal produce from local farms. It would be impossible to leave this farmers’ market empty-handed, so don’t even bother trying. Instead, bring a bag to cart home your yummy breads, artisan oils, local cheeses and whatever other delicious items you couldn’t help buying. The park itself is a charming, Victorian-era space which still has original features like a bandstand, so pick up some hot food from one of the street eat vendors and take a stroll through the greenery before you start your shopping at this Dublin hidden gem, which runs from 9 am to 5 pm.
National Botanic Gardens
Since it’s a little outside of the city center (about 5km), many people overlook this beautiful garden- which epitomizes Dublin off the beaten path. But if you feel like a quiet afternoon away from the tourists' hotspots, there’s nowhere better. Stroll through the rose garden, lounge around on the beautiful lawns and explore the glasshouses. The gardens are also home to hundreds of endangered species of plants from around the world, and even 6 that are sadly already extinct in the wild, so you’ll have the unique opportunity to see something you really won’t find anywhere else. And you will avoid the crowds, as this is a non-touristy thing to do in Dublin. The gardens are open weekdays from 9 am to 5 pm and weekends until 6 pm.
Trinity College Dublin is one of those alternative things to do in Dublin that you just can’t miss. The Trinity College Library is the oldest in Ireland, and of course is the permanent home of the Book of Kells, which you can view in the library's Long Room. But less well known, and definitely just as breathtaking is Marsh’s Library, situated in St. Patrick's Close, adjacent to St. Patrick's Cathedral. It’s not the oldest, but this was the first public library in Ireland so it’s worth seeking out this beautiful spot which is magical for any book-lover. It’s tucked away behind St Patrick’s Cathedral and has remained pretty much untouched since it opened its doors to the public in 1707, so you’ll get a real sense of history and be able to see some lovingly preserved Renaissance architecture in this secret place in Dublin. Just note that the library is closed on Sundays and Tuesdays.
Vintage Cocktail Club
Sure we all love a pint or two of the black stuff, but when you’re not sure if you can face another Guinness, you can always rely on the Vintage Cocktail Club. If you’re looking for things to do in Dublin at night that don’t involve a pint, this speakeasy-style bar is a great option - if you can find the place that is. Hidden discreetly behind a door with only the letters VCC to give you an inkling of where to go, ring the doorbell and descend into a dimly lit drinking den where you can sink back into velvet armchairs and bask in candlelight while you sip an award-winning cocktail in Dublin like a local.
Great South Wall
One of the most unusual things to do in Dublin that will make for a great story, and pretty much every other tourist won’t have heard of or done involves a very windswept walk on water in Dublin Bay. Although it’s unfortunately not quite as dramatically biblical as it first sounds. The Great South Wall, accessible from Pigeon House Road, marches 4km out into the bay, and even after 200 years of being at home among salty seas and a few stormy nights it’s still standing strong, although the footing is a little uneven in some spots. This is one of the best walks in Dublin and will give you a great alternative view of the city, and on blue sky days the panoramic view even takes in Killiney Head and Dún Laoghaire. It takes around 30 - 40 minutes to reach Poolbeg Lighthouse which is at the end of the wall, so it’s a great Sunday morning stroll to blow the cobwebs away as you explore Dublin's hidden gems.
Drop by an iconic session
It’s no secret that the city is overflowing with talented musicians, artists, writers, and performers (not just my biased musings, it’s a fact) and you can indeed listen to world-class performances in any of the non-touristy pubs in Dublin that you happen to wander into. But for the real deal, and to experience Dublin like a local, head to a session in one of the city’s iconic venues. Open mic nights to stop by if you’re in town on the right day are Whelan’s Song Cycle on Wexford street (which closes at 3 am most nights), Circle Sessions at the International Bar (things can get pretty wild, you’ve been warned) and the Apollo Sessions at the Bleeding Horse on Camden Street Upper. They are open from noon and close pretty late - usually after midnight.
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