More insider guides for planning a trip to Dublin
Steeped in history, studded with sumptuous old libraries, and home to the world's best panoramic Guinness bar, a city break in Dublin delivers some seriously standout experiences. From exploring the fascinating Dublin Castle and taking a cruise in Dublin Bay, to indulging in an offbeat supper club, destination expert Neil Hegarty lets Telegraph readers in on his favourite things to do.
Discover the cradle of Irish nationalism
Dublin’s imposing General Post Office on O’Connell Street is a cradle and focal point of Irish nationalism. It was here in April 1916 that the Irish Republic was proclaimed, thus setting the stage for the bloody and violent Easter Rising. Today, the GPO has been painstakingly restored, and a new and impressive 'Witness History' exhibition explores the event, its context and its impact.
Insider’s tip: Allow an hour or more to absorb the wealth of history offered in the exhibition. Don't miss the GPO’s own precious copy of the Proclamation document – and the bright courtyard café is very pleasant.
Contact: 00 353 1 705 7420; anpost.ie
Opening times: Mon-Sat, 10am-5.30pm, Sun, 12pm-5.30pm
Nearest metro: O’Connell: GPO
See a show at a theatre with a fiery past
Ireland’s national Abbey Theatre – and the world’s first state-financed theatre – opened its doors as the Irish Literary Theatre in 1899. It is well known for its fiery past, including audience riots – though today such dramatics are unlikely to be seen in the theatre’s Modernist building. Instead, come here for a combination of Irish and European classics performed on the Abbey stage.
Insider’s Tip:Do keep an eye on the regularly timetabled talks, lectures and other cultural events, which are frequently free – and don’t miss the new Irish writing and more experimental pieces staged downstairs in the smaller black-box Peacock space.
Contact: 00 353 1 878 7222; abbeytheatre.ie
Opening times: Performances begin at 7.30pm for the Abbey stage and 8.15pm for the Peacock stage
Nearest metro: Abbey Street
Take a stroll through the city's most stirring cemetery
Atmospheric and unmissable Glasnevin Cemetery, replete with Victorian-era statuary and memorials and covering 124 acres of north Dublin, is perhaps Ireland’s ultimate iconic national space. Opened in 1832, the cemetery is of great historical significance: such central figures of Irish national history as Michael Collins, Constance Markievicz and Roger Casement are interred here; and the striking new museum is worth exploring.
Insider’s tip: The guided tour (twice daily) is helpful in navigating this enormous place – but do remember that entry to the Cemetery for self-guided walks is always free, and you are quite at liberty to explore as you please.
Contact: 00 353 1 882 6550; glasnevintrust.ie
Opening times: Cemetery: daily, 8am-6pm. Museum: daily 10am-5pm
Explore the time-worn tomes at a secret library
Tucked into a quiet street near St Stephen’s Green lies a handsome Queen Anne-era building, surrounded by pleasant gardens. This is Marsh’s Library, opened in 1701 by Dublin's splendidly named Archbishop Narcissus Marsh. Today, Marsh’s is both a museum and a working research library, but it truly feels like one of Dublin’s hidden treasures.
Insider’s tip: Peep at the cages into which readers were formerly locked to stop them stealing the books – and combine this visit with an exploration of historic St Patrick’s Cathedral next door. Two Pups (74 Francis Street) offers excellent local coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches.
Contact: 00 353 1 454 3511; marshlibrary.ie
Opening times: Mon, Wed-Fri, 9.30am-5pm; Sat, 10am-5pm
Nearest metro: St Stephen’s Green
Check out the country's most iconic castle
Dublin Castle was founded in 1204, and remained for the next 800 years the main centre of English and British rule in Ireland. Today, this sprawling and fascinating complex houses a number of free museums, as well as formal quadrangles, the Gothic Chapel Royal, the Viking-era Undercroft and the splendidly ornate State Apartments, which once housed the court of the British Viceroy.
Insider’s Tip:Pause at the tranquil Dubh Linn Gardens, with Celtic traceries set in brick into the grass; and drop into the Silk Road Café for delicious Middle-Eastern cuisine. Plan on at least two or three hours to get a true sense of the castle’s attractions.
Contact: 00 353 1 645 8813; dublincastle.ie
Opening times: Daily, 9.45am-5.45pm
Nearest metro: Westmoreland
Trace the history of U2 at a quirky museum
"Our goal is not to sell an ideology but simply to remember the past," says the LittleMuseum of Dublin – one of the city’s most impressive cultural attractions. Housed in a splendidly stuccoed Georgian townhouse overlooking St Stephen’s Green, the museum tells the story of 20th-century Dublin. Highlights include the often overlooked contribution of Dublin designers to twentieth-century fashion; and the U2 Room, a homage to Dublin’s rock icons – complete with Trabant car.
Insider’s tip: Keep an eye on the website for information on the museum's regularly timetabled lectures and other events. Note that admission is by guided tour only, and that a 25 per cent discount applies to all tickets purchased online.
Contact: 00 353 1 661 1000; littlemuseum.ie
Opening times: Mon-Wed, Fri-Sun, 9.30am-5pm; Thu, 9.30am-8pm
Nearest metro: St Stephen’s Green
Have a tipple at Teeling's
Note the spelling: this is Ireland, where the whiskey is distilled three times and the spelling comes with an 'e'. Artisan whiskeys are on the up – and the Teeling family runs the show at this purpose-built distillery on regenerating (but still grungy) Newmarket Square in Dublin's historic Liberties neighbourhood. Take the tour, even if you’re not a whiskey expert: it’s truly impressive and absorbing.
Insider’s Tip: Don’t skip the wonderful tastings, which come as part of the tour. Explore the whiskey-themed gift shop too, eat in the café – and sidestep disappointment by booking in advance. Children are most welcome.
Contact: 00 353 1 531 0888; teelingdistillery.com
Opening times: tours: daily, 10am-5.30pm.
Nearest metro: St Stephen’s Green
Immerse yourself in the city's most spectacular cinema
The venerable and much-loved Stella Cinema has returned beautifully to life as something special: a super-luxurious Art Deco cinema showing a combination of new releases and classic oldies. Think dim lamplight, squashy seats, big sofas – and even double beds, if you want to watch the show in the greatest possible comfort. It’s all great fun, and a super night out.
Insider’s tip: Push the boat out, and eat and drink here too. You can have snacks delivered to your seat – or sample the original elegant ballroom, which has been sympathetically converted into a ritzy cocktail bar and restaurant.
Contact: 00 353 1 496 7094; stellatheatre.ie
Opening times: Sun-Thu, 5pm-11.30pm; Fri-Sat, 5pm-12.30am
Nearest metro: Ranelagh
Browse the books at Ireland's finest library
The Book of Kells – a richly decorated Gospel manuscript with a tempestuous history dating back to the 9th century – is one of Ireland's great cultural treasures and is simply not to be missed. The Library itself, with its oak bookshelves and barrel-vaulted roof, is spectacular and filled with treasures. Sidestep the often long queues by purchasing tickets online.
Insider’s Tip: The surrounding grounds of Trinity College, with their cobbled quads and the signature campanile, are a glorious place for a wander. Take a guided tour (€14/£12.45), which provides a host of insights into Trinity's wealth of history and architecture.
Contact: 00 353 1 896 2320; tcd.ie
Opening times: May-Sep: Mon-Sat, 8.30am-5pm; Sun, 9.30am-5pm. Oct-Apr: Mon-Sat, 9.30am-5pm; Sun, 12pm-4.30pm
Nearest metro: Trinity
Wine and dine with a food connoisseur
If supper clubs are your thing, then try the Hatch & Sons edition on the third Wednesday of each month. These are generally devoted to Irish food and drink, so if you want to find out about – and taste – Irish cheese or Irish whiskey, this is the place to be. Each supper is hosted by food connoisseur Hugo Arnold.
Insider’s Tip: Look out for occasional themed evenings on sherry and other less ‘Irish’ food and drink – and before supper, leave enough time to explore the Little Museum of Dublin, which is just upstairs.
Contact: 00 353 1 661 0075; hatchandsons.co
Opening times (café): Mon-Tue, 8am-7pm; Wed-Thu, 8am-9pm; Fri, 8am-7pm; Sat, 9am-6pm; Sun, 10am-5pm
Nearest metro: St Stephen’s Green
Kilmainham and West
Pull the perfect Irish pint
The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction, and its ultra-comprehensive visitor centre at the heart of the brewery district provides the answers to every question you ever had about the Guinness dynasty. Book tickets online, and get a 10 per cent discount on an adult ticket. Otherwise, prepare to queue for at least 30 minutes.
Insider’s tip: Top off your Guinness experience with a visit to the rooftop Gravity Bar, with its lofty, 360-degree view of Dublin – where a complimentary glass of the black stuff awaits. You can also pull a pint yourself – and receive a certificate as proof!
Contact: 00 353 1 408 4800; guinness-storehouse.com
Opening times: Jul, Aug: daily, 9.30am-8pm. Sep-Jun: daily, 9.30am-7pm
Nearest metro: St James’s Hospital
Get locked into Ireland's past
Atmospheric Kilmainham Gaol provides a riveting context for some of the most dramatic episodes in Irish history. Many of Ireland’s most notable national leaders were incarcerated and executed in the Stonebreakers' Yard of this grim 18th-century Panopticon-style prison. The imposing building next door is the former Kilmainham Courthouse, now restored as impressive new visitors' centre for the Gaol.
Insider’s tip: Allow several hours for your visit, remembering that entry is by (superb) guided tour only, and do dress for the weather: in the winter months, the interior of the gaol can be decidedly icy.
Contact: 00 353 1 453 5984; heritageireland.ie
Opening times: May-Sep: daily, 8.45am-7pm; otherwise: daily 9.30am-5.30pm
Nearest metro: Heuston
Reflect on Ireland's history in quiet tranquility
The War Memorial Gardens, on the banks of the River Liffey at Kilmainham, offer not only a green and tranquil respite from the bustle of the city, but also a beautiful space in which to reflect on the toll taken on Irish society by the Great War. Don't miss the stirring Lutyens –designed memorial areas in the upper park, which are flanked by granite-trimmed rose gardens.
Insider’s tip: The park is located within easy walking distance of both the Irish Museum of Modern Art and Kilmainham Gaol: plan to visit all three as part of an absorbing and fascinating day.
Contact: 00 353 1 475 7816; opwdublincommemorative.ie
Opening times: Mon-Fri, 8am-dusk; Sat-Sun, 10am-dusk
Nearest metro: Heuston
Play a championship round of golf
The sublime Portmarnock links course stretches across the rolling terrain of the Portmarnock peninsula on the County Dublin coast, some 12km (7.46 miles) north of the city. The long Championship course – nearly 7,500 yards from the back tees, all spacious dunes and long valleys – was established in 1896, and has easily stood the test of time, ranking alongside the very best Ireland has to offer.
Insider’s Tip: Check which way the wind is blowing on this long, exposed stretch of land: a wicked easterly, or a steady westerly? It’s also critical to book ahead, and to note the limited availability of visitors’ tee times at this superb course.
Contact: 00 353 1 846 2968; portmarnockgolfclub.ie
Opening times: See website for details of visitors' tee times
Marvel at views of Dublin Bay
'From swerve of shore to bend of bay…': Dublin wouldn’t be Dublin without its bay, and Dublin Bay Cruises offers unbeatable insights into and experiences of the city’s littoral. Catch a ferry from Dún Laoghaire to Howth or to the city quays. You can also take in the islands offshore, and spot dolphins and seals.
Insider’s Tip: Opt for a flexible ticket, and spend the day hopping from harbour to harbour as part of a windblown day on land and at sea: both Dún Laoghaire and Howth offer many pleasant spots for lunch or a drink, before a return journey later in the day.
Contact: 00 353 1 901 1757; dublinbaycruises.com
Opening times: Cruise departures vary: check website
Nearest metro: Dún Laoghaire / Howth / Tara Street