For such a small city, Dublin has a list of cool things to do longer than my arm, but these lists are invariably topped by nonsense like Temple Bar. So forget the tourist stuff, and discover the real Dublin with this local’s guide to hidden things to do in Dublin - you’ll find yourself in the middle of Dublin Bay (less cold and wet than it sounds), you’ll discover the only respectable spots to cure your hangover after one too many pints of the black stuff and find out where the best sessions really take place.
Yes, wandering around Trinity College (or preferably taking a tour) might be one of the most famous things to do in Dublin, but it is a magical place. Trinity College Library is the largest in Ireland, and is the revered home of the Book of Kells, the 1000 year old manuscript of the Gospels of the New Testament.
There’s something special about being surrounded by so many beautiful old books and so much history, and it’s the perfect, peaceful addition to your day if you’re looking for things to do in Dublin city. A must if you're only here for 24 hours!
St Stephen’s Green
On a sunny day, there's nowhere better to be than St Stephen’s Green. Sure, you’ll be there along with half of the city’s locals, but that’s half the fun. Meander through the herb garden, feed the ducks (or seagulls) or loll around on the grass like everyone else - preferably with an ice-cream in hand.
At nine acres, it’s one of the largest green spaces you’ll find in the city so it’s no surprise that it’s a local favourite spot to lounge away an afternoon with friends or solo with a good book. It’s also happily on the list of things to do in Dublin for free
If you’ve read James Joyce’s classic “Ulysses” and are struggling to make head or tail of it, a visit to the pharmacy - which isn’t a working pharmacy any more - will help you out. Word may have gotten out recently that there are daily readings by the volunteer staff and other locals who like to drop by (of not only Ulysses but of his other works), but it’s still pretty off the radar.
You can even participate yourself and read a page aloud as the book is passed around, or simply sit back and enjoy being immersed in the novel. The old pharmacy has been painstakingly persevered to remain just as it was in Joyce’s time, but today there are also second hand books to peruse scattered amongst the old medicine bottles. And of course, you can buy the lemon soap which made the place famous in the first place!
The Bernard Shaw Flea Market
Spend your Saturday afternoon(s) rummaging around the cornucopia of vintage treasures that is the Bernard Shaw Flea Market. There's vinyl, costume jewellery galore and your gran's woollen knits galore, and amongst all of this old school wonder you’re bound to fall in love with a trinket or two.
If that’s not enough to tempt you, there’s also the Big Blue Pizza Bus, and it’s conveniently located at the Bernard Shaw pub, so if it all gets a bit much you can sooth yourself with a pint or two.
Open mic nights
With such a reputation for producing world-class artists, musicians, raconteurs, writers, and poets (it’s true, not just a local’s bias!), you may be wondering where you can go to experience this first hand.
So, the best thing you can do is to head to one of the city’s open mic nights. Preceded only by their reputation are Whelan’s Song Cycle at the long-beloved Whelan’s, Circle Sessions at the wild International Bar, and the Apollo Sessions at the Bleeding Horse.
Whichever night of the week you’re around it’s a guarantee there’s an open-mic taking place somewhere in the city - seek it out and settle in with a pint.
Eating seafood at Matt the Thresher
If you’re looking for the perfect way to start your evening, whether you’re treating yourself or it’s date night, look no further than Matt the Thresher. A stylish spot, this seafood restaurant/gastropub is not the place to pop in for a quick mid-week bite, but should you have time on your hands and feel like indulging in a taste of the Irish sea, look no further.
The tasteful dining room (which is much bigger than it looks from the outside) is flooded with natural light during the day thanks to its glass roof, and by elaborate chandeliers come nighttime. Feast on a seafood platter of Galway oysters, dressed crab and crab claws, prawns, and lobster.
Get messy with steaming pots of Moroccan spiced mussels, and don’t miss their specialty - wild crab-stuffed doughnuts! Best enjoyed with a glass of something cold and white, sitting at the bar.
And feasting on Mexican food
When you are looking for that quick mid-week bite, there are taquerias and burrito joints popping up left right and centre. Some are more authentic than others, but some really are the real deal. One of such places is El Grito, where ingredients (especially the chillis) are brought directly from Mexico and the owner’s Guanajuato roots are reflected in the menu.
The regional style of tacos and tortas (a traditional type of sandwich) are packed with the flavours of Guanajuato and come in varieties like slow roasted pork and chipotle chicken.
But as every Dubliner knows, the only reasonable cure for a hangover is a outrageously stuffed burrito from Boojum, a long standing institution when it comes to Mexican food.
Seeing a game at Croke Park
The home of the Gaelic Athletic Association (the GAA) and the spiritual home of the country's hurling and football fans, Croke Park is known regarded as another one of the city’s cathedrals. If you can, try and get tickets for a Gaelic football or hurling match while you’re in town.
Even if you’ve never heard of it, never mind understand the rules of the game or have the faintest idea what’s going on, you’ll be swept up by the electric atmosphere regardless.
The pinnacles of the sporting calendar are the All-Irish football and hurling finals, but any game will have you on the edge of your seat and screaming for whichever team happens to have the ball!
The Workman’s Club
Committing to a night at The Workman’s is a bit like falling down the rabbit hole and into wonderland - you’re never really know where you’ll end up but it’s an absolute warren of a place.
They’re first and foremost a music venue, but they have pretty deadly club nights too, not forgetting the bar and kitchen which rustles up a decent burger and ribs, comedy nights, karaoke nights and new band showcase nights.
Start with a feast, then boogie your way around between the main room and downstairs until 4am. Everyone from Morrissey (this one is true) to Jake Gyllenhaal (okay, this one could be rumour) has graced this former working mens’ club with their presence, and if you’re looking for somewhere to go on a Friday night, this is the place.
Great South Wall
Sure, everyone will tell you to take a trip to the Wicklow Mountains if you want to take your hiking boots out for a spin, but there's another walk you should try which is less well-known but no less stunning. The Great South Wall is something of a local secret, ambled along when you’re feeling a bit hungover on a Sunday or your mum’s in town.
The wall is guarded by a less than inviting looking industrial estate, but make it past through this grey patch and you’ll be rewarded with a completely unique 4km walkway out into the middle of Dublin Bay.
The walkway has taken a beating after 200 years of bracing itself against stormy seas, but the panoramic views you’ll be met with are more than worth the uneven footing. On a clear day, you can see as far as Killiney Head and Dun Laoghire, and you’ll probably also see a ship or two coming into port.
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