Dublin, Ireland is brimming with culture and history, from religious settlements in 795 AD and Viking settlements in the 900s to the bustling city it is today. It can best be seen on foot via one of the city’s many walking tours. From literary pub crawls to music crawls, there’s a long way to go (pun intended). Here are a dozen of my favorite Dublin walking tours.
1. The Original Dublin Historical Walking Tour
Starting at Trinity College Dublin (TCD), Tommy Graham, editor of Ireland’s History magazine and a TCD graduate, offers a fast-paced, fast-paced tour that covers Ireland’s political history at breakneck speed. You’ll quickly find that the depth of knowledge that Tommy and his guides retain can answer almost any question. It covers the English conquest, the Great Hunger, the struggle for Irish independence (political and religious) and the Viking archaeological site. He led the group past the Bank of Ireland, through Temple Bar, through Wood Quay, past Four Courts, to Christ Church Cathedral, to City Hall and finished at Dublin Castle.
Dublin’s cobbled streets make it difficult to get around easily with a walker. You’ll be fine if you can maintain a 15 minute per mile pace for 2.5 hours.
2. Pub Crawl
When most tourists think of Dublin, they think of Temple Bar, a small part of town within Dublin 2, or D2. The best way to get the most out of your evening is to go on a real pub crawl.
You will learn that Temple Bar has the most expensive pint in all of Dublin. What may surprise you is the depth and breadth of music you’ll hear as you enjoy Guinness, Jameson, and all the flavors this tour has to offer.
Be sure to eat before your visit and drink plenty of water as the night progresses.
Pro tip: With your crawl entry fee, enjoy free skip-the-line entry to several sites. Start your tour early and use the wristband for free entry to these locations for the rest of your trip.
3. Literary tour
Taking the time to explore the literary heritage and see where the writers lived and loved that led to such work may lead you to re-read the classics. The art of storytelling extends from the pub to the theatre. Dublin, one of 295 cities around the world to become a UNESCO City of Literature, is honored with four Nobel Prize winners. George Bernard Shaw also won an Academy Award (Best Screenplay for my lovely lady).
On this 2.5-hour literary tour, you’ll walk from WB Yeats’ Abbey Theater to Merrion Square, with Oscar Wilde’s statue towering over his childhood home.
For a fun twist, take a literary pub crawl to combine two of Dublin’s most beloved pastimes. Starting at the Duke Pub, you’ll learn about the rich literary heritage as you stroll through charming streets and visit sites embedded with informative actors who bring the story to life. There is a test at the end, with the winner winning both bragging rights and a special prize.
And don’t worry, the tour only covers big names from “the old days”, including Sean O’Casey and Brendan Behan. Also included are modern poets and playwrights like Seamus Heaney (free exhibition at the Bank of Ireland building), Paula Meehan, Brendan Kennelly and Eavan Boland.
4. Musical ride
Don’t forget to check your MeetUp options when you travel. Starting at the ICON Factory, take part in the Dublin Music Tour as Eoin weaves the history of politics and socio-economic times into the fabric and texture of the Irish music scene. You’ll see some of Rory Gallagher’s guitar, learn about Bono’s time on the IRA kidnap list, and the development of Michael Flatley’s Riverdance.
Eoin concludes the tour on Grafton Street where street musicians delight passing crowds. This delicious tour is full of anecdotes and advice.
5. Glasnevin Cemetery
Visiting Glasnevin Cemetery, its population of 1.4 million approaching Dublin Underground’s 1.5 million, there are many stories to tell and many phrases that have become common in this area – such as “saved by the bell” or “his face rings a bell”.
The tour includes military monuments, leaders, political prisoners and politicians. You’ll see the likes of Eamon de Valera, American-born yet Ireland’s longest-serving parliamentarian as president and prime minister; Michael Collins, whose grave is the most visited; and the women of the revolutions.
6. The Original Dublin Free Walking Tour
Alan Swaine takes you on a whirlwind trip through the city for a taste of Dublin on a 3-hour tour (including a 30-minute pub stop). It covers the city with insight into Ireland’s turbulent past, literary greats, real-life legends and gripping folk tales, including the city’s statues. If you can only do one ride on this trip, start with this one, daily at 11am
Pro tip: The tips of the “free” guide are their wages. A traditional tip is €10 to €20 ($10.54 to $21.08) per person.
7. Trinity Trails Campus and Book of Kells
Founded on March 3, 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity College – Dublin, the Irish Ivy League and sister institute to Oxford and Cambridge in England, is a 47-acre oasis in the city centre. The ancient arches of the facade frame the square leading to the Campanile. But be careful, it’s bad luck for the students to stand under the bell tower. Legend predicts that students who do so will never graduate.
Trinity Trails organizes a guided campus tour designed for your purpose, a self-guided campus walking tour, a guided campus tour, or an all-inclusive tour of campus and the Book of Kells, the treasured medieval illuminated manuscript. I recommend the latter on your first visit for the best possible experience. And the Book of Kells building has elevators, making it one of the few handicap-accessible buildings on campus. The Long Room, 65 meters away filled with 200,000 books, is my favorite place in the city and one of the most impressive libraries in the world, housing every book published in Ireland and every TCD student’s thesis.
8. The Murders and Mysteries of Dark Dublin
In a city as old as Dublin, in a country so rich in blarney, it’s no wonder the collision of the two has created one of the most popular 2 hour tours, Unearthed Dublin. Departing from Dublin Castle, the heart of pomp, circumstance, torture and death, learn about the history of the upper court as the Devil’s Half Acre leads to Christ Church Cathedral, built on ‘the hell”. Stories of witches and the infamous Hellfire Club are shared as you pass the old city walls. You’ll walk through dark alleys and discover tomb robbing, the black pig, and tales of a strangler and a legless killer.
9. Self-Guided Talking Statues Tour
For a light stroll through the city, get your mobile ready and take this statue ride on the River Liffey. Scan the barcode near the statues of Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square and Wolfe Tone in St. Stephen’s Green to the Hags with the bags across from the Ha’Penny Bridge and James Joyce near the Millennial Spire. Hear in their words what they thought about living in this beautiful city.
10. Visit the Chester Beatty Museum
The Chester Beatty contains manuscripts, rare books and treasures that cross and transcend cultures around the world, one of the largest collections of religious artifacts in the world crossing all faiths. With less than 10% of the collection on display at any one time, the frequent rotation of exhibits makes every visit fresh and inviting. Better yet, take the time to take a guided tour. Stroll from floor to floor with a docent who guides the tour according to your interests. They can adapt on the fly and make sure everyone has something interesting to see.
11. Rebels and rebellions
This “Northside” tour, in Dublin 1, not only covers the Easter Rising, but mentions many rebels and rebellions of the 1700s. Since it starts right at the Spire by the General Post Office (GPO), it is a obvious fit with the Easter Rising, the 1916 rebellion that began when Patrick Pearse read out the proclamation of Irish independence. The Easter Rising led to the IRA, Sinn Fein, the War of Independence, the Irish Civil War and, finally, the independence of the Irish Republic. That’s a lot to cover in one tour, but they do a great job.
12. Food Tours
No Dublin tours compilation would be complete without a discussion of food. Dublin’s food scene has improved dramatically over the past 30 years. Gone are the days of soggy fish and chips. In its place are Michelin-starred restaurants and authentic Irish cuisine (tasty!) in restaurants, pubs and food trucks throughout the city.
For a street food tour, your guide will take you to five of their favorite food trucks that day, with the promise that at least one will be specifically for dessert. The tour runs from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., so plan to work up an appetite.
For a walking tour of authentic traditional Irish food in popular pubs and restaurants, you’ll enjoy a walking tour primarily around Powerscourt Townhouse in D2 for a glimpse of the incredible food scene.
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