The Dublin Bucket List: 30 things to do in the city before you die
Published 04/09/2016 | 01:00
Pól Ó Conghaile, Nicola Brady and Katie Byrne have 30 must-do experiences for the capital. How many have you done?
1. Travel through time in Trinity College
The Book of Kells wows, but every Dubliner knows the crown jewel in Trinity College is its Old Library — an 18th-century, oak-shelved long room that could have apparated straight from the pages of Harry Potter. A rare copy of the 1916 Proclamation and a 15th century harp that inspired the emblem of Ireland are just the start of its treasures. Afterwards, leap forward a few centuries to the Science Gallery, an art-meets-science space, the exhibitions of which are guaranteed to bend your brain (and the coffee is pretty good, too) — PÓC
If you like that, try this: St Patrick’s Cathedral — the big interior is brilliantly counterpointed by smaller discoveries, like Dean Swift’s death mask.
Details: tcd.ie (€11/€9); dublin.sciencegallery.com (free)
2. Feel the chill at Kilmainham
Haunted by the ghosts of our past, Kilmainham Gaol will always be associated with the 1916 executions. But there are over a hundred years of history in this, one of the largest unoccupied jails in Europe — and the tales of thousands of prisoners to be told. Life in the prison was brutal, as you can imagine, but the tour is brilliant, and it double-jobs as a famous movie location — NB
If you like that, try this: St Audeon’s (free), the only medieval parish church remaining in Dublin. You can even see a cutaway section of a medieval street.
Details: kilmainhamgaolmuseum.ie (€7/€3); heritagireland.ie
3. Take a food tour
Dublin is cooking up a storm. For a taste of the city’s fantastic food scene, try the Delicious Dublin walking tour — headed up by Ketty Elisabeth of the French Foodie in Dublin blog. It’s a tasting menu of the capital’s lesser known, but nonetheless thriving, restaurants, cafes and shops (a movable feast, if you will). Fab Food Trails is another popular option. The guides — many of them well-known food critics — have hundreds of years of experience between them and are only too happy to open up their little black books on Dublin’s artisanal food scene — KB
If you like that, try this: For a more hands-on option, try the cooking class with Saba chef Taweesak Trakoolwattana, or the informal cooking demonstrations at Picado Mexican pantry on South Richmond Street.
Details: deliciousdublintours.com (€48.21 after booking fee); fabfoodtrails.ie (€55); saba.ie; picadomexican.com.
4. See Francis Bacon's Studio
It’s not often you get a true insight into the mind of an artist. But that’s exactly what’s on display at the Hugh Lane gallery, where you can gaze upon the sheer madness of Francis Bacon’s studio. Brought over from London and meticulously put back together, piece by piece, the studio is a muddle of boxes, canvases and easels, thrown together in a heap. Those with OCD might get mild palpitations and an urge to reach for a feather duster — NB
If you like that, try this: Pop into the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA), an epic building with a fantastic collection. Watch out for Not I, Samuel Beckett’s play for TV filmed by Neil Jordan and starring Julianne Moore.
Details: hughlane.ie; imma.ie (both free)
5. Go to the bitter end at The Workman's
When you absolutely, positively need to eat Friday night alive, accept no substitutes. Start with a feed of pork ribs or brisket in the Bison Bar. Toast your success with an Old Fashioned or Whiskey Sour. Proceed to a gig in the Main Room (everyone from Little Green Cars to Royal Blood has played here). Pinball between rooms until you’re pulling dance moves you never knew you had.
There are better pubs in Dublin. There are better clubs in Dublin. But none combines the edge, craic and abandon of the after-hours city quite like The Workman’s. Then boom! It’s 4am, the lights are up, and you look like an extra from The Walking Dead. Taxi! — PÓC
If you like that, try this: For grit, gregariousness and a good pint, hit up Whelan’s, Sin É or Anseo. It could be the beginning of a beautiful evening.
Details: theworkmansclub.com; whelanslive.com; facebook.com/Sin.E.Pub
6. Nab a window seat at The Winding Stair
Named after a Yeats poem, set above a kooky bookshop on the quays, you might think The Winding Stair was destined for a) extinction or b) tourist traffic jams. Far from it. This city landmark got one of the most tasteful upgrades of the Celtic Tiger (a time not exactly known for its tasteful upgrades), imbuing the menu with artisanal flair whilst retaining the wooden floors, girders and of course, picture-postcard views (nab a window seat overlooking the Liffey). Try the smokies with Knockanore cheese, or the cockles and mussels... no, really — PÓC
If you like that, try this: The Woollen Mills, just around the corner opposite the Ha’Penny bridge, is cut from the same savvy cloth.
Details: winding-stair.com; thewoollenmills.com
7. See an All-Ireland Final at Croke Park
If listening to the national anthem pelted out by 82,300 passionate GAA fans in Ireland’s iconic sporting cathedral doesn’t make the hairs on your neck stand up, nothing will. Well, with the possible exception of your county actually winning the game. Croke Park does more than big summer showdowns, however — the stadium tour and GAA Museum, bookable at €13.50/€8 for the two, can genuinely compete with the Nou Camp and Old Trafford — PÓC
If you like that, try this: A Six Nations rugby game at the Aviva Stadium. All the better if it’s Ireland versus England. Best of all if the title’s at stake.
Details: crokepark.ie; irishrugby.ie
8. Take a treat to Stephen's Green
Who doesn’t love St Stephen’s Green on a sunny day? Everyone’s in great form, lolling on the grass, or feeding the ducks (some of whom have a suspiciously seagull-like appearance...). Naturally, the Green is best experienced with a treat in hand. Nearby, you’ll find Aungier Danger, purveyor of killer doughnuts (try the lemon poppy seed). Or grab an ice-cream cone from Murphy’s (sea salt, obviously) and try to race to the Green before it melts — NB
If you like that, try this: If things get too crowded, the gorgeous Iveagh Gardens are just around the corner. Dublin’s worst-kept secret, don’t ya know.
Details: ststephensgreenpark.ie; aungierdanger.ie; murphysicecream.ie; iveaghgardens.ie
9. Art tea at the Merrion Hotel
There’s afternoon tea, and then there’s afternoon tea. The team at the Merrion Hotel has upped the ante with its Afternoon Art Tea... an exquisite spread inspired by the hotel’s private art collection. It’s served over two courses. The first is a traditional three-tiered selection; the second one features meticulously prepared dainties that pay homage to artists like William Scott and Louis le Brocquy. Almost too good to eat. Almost… — KB
If you like that, try this: Bag a window seat in the Westbury Hotel lounge and enjoy afternoon tea while overlooking Grafton Street.
Details: merrionhotel.com (€45pp or €57.50 with Champagne); doylecollection.com
10. The Little Museum of Dublin
If you’ve yet to visit the Little Museum of Dublin, you need to hotfoot it there as soon as possible. Telling the story of the city over the last 100 years, the museum makes a big impact with small stuff — from a first edition of Ulysses to old bus scrolls and a statue of Bono that makes me jump every time I clap eyes on it. There’s an exhibition downstairs that changes seasonally, and a special tour each Thursday, focusing on women’s history in Ireland — NB
If you like that, try this: Travel back in time at The Iveagh Trust’s Museum Flat (by appointment) or Number 29, a souvenir-sized Georgian house museum.
Details: littlemuseum.ie (€8/6), theiveaghtrust.ie (free), numbertwentynine.ie (€6/€2)
11. Rediscover Capel Street
Drop what you’re doing and proceed directly to Capel Street. Do not pass Go. Do not collect €200 (well, unless you’re making a night of it).
Capel Street is Dublin’s most random, rewarding and ridiculously entertaining street. Highlights range from Pantibar to craft beer joint the Black Sheep, from sharp suits at Louis Copeland’s original outlet to the gentle genius of Mish Mash, and you’re as likely to get run over by a pram as the Luas. Once the city’s most fashionable street (no, seriously), a second coming is long overdue — PÓC
If you like that, try this: Henrietta Street. It looks like it’s been left to rot, but it’s one of the most mind-blowing Georgian set-pieces in the city. Go figure.
Details: pantibar.com; louiscopeland.com; galwaybaybrewery.com; facebook.com/mishmashdublin
12. Walk tall on the Great South Wall
It’s off-radar for a reason. Access to Dublin Bay’s Great South Wall (dating from 1716, when it was designed to combat the silting that disrupted ships) is via a pretty disgusting industrial route. Get past the scrapyards and sewage ponds, however, and you emerge at a granite walkway stretching from the Pigeon House towers to Poolbeg Lighthouse. On a good day, views range from Terminal 2 to the Sugarloaf. You’re welcome — PÓC
If you like that, try this: The New York Times called the vista from Howth Head “one of the most beautiful views in the world.” It’s not wrong.
13. Take a date to The Greenhouse
Finland meets Dublin’s fair city, and the results are sublime. This collaboration between Eamonn O’Reilly (One Pico) and Finnish chef Mickael Viljanen opened in 2012 to fanfare and five-star reviews. Four years and one Michelin Star later, it’s as popular as ever. The chefs call the shots with a selection of experimental tasting menus starting from €69. This is the place to celebrate a big occasion — birthdays, anniversaries, paydays... Expensive, but worth it - KB
If you like that, try this: Forest Avenue on Sussex Terrace has re-imagined brunch with a four-course tasting menu (€69). You have until September 24 to try it — after that they’ll only be serving lunch at the weekends.
Details: thegreenhouserestaurant.ie; forestavenuerestaurant.ie
14. Shop till you drop in Powerscourt Centre
There’s something about the Powerscourt Centre that draws me in each time I pass its doors. Maybe it’s the grandiose steps that lead to the entrance on South William Street, or the gorgeous, light-filled atrium that lies within. Maybe it’s the Georgian heritage, or the loft-level Design Centre. Either way, the interior is filled with dreamy shops that will steal both your heart and your money. Don’t leave without treating yourself to a homemade bagel or sambo at the Pepper Pot Café (above) — NB
If you like that, try this: Go bargain hunting at the monthly Dublin Flea Market, or scour the glamorous vintage at A Store is Born (open Saturdays only).
Details: powerscourtcentre.ie, dublinflea.ie; facebook.com/astoreisborn
15. Do Dublin from the DART
It’s one of the most stunning commuter journeys in Europe, and it’s right on your doorstep. So put down that phone, snap out of your Monday fug and look out the damn window. From Killiney Bay to Dun Laoghaire Harbour, from sea vistas to bird’s-eye views over the River Liffey, from Malahide Castle to that magical feeling when you step off at Howth and stroll a few minutes to the West Pier’s seafood restaurants, this is 31 stops and 54km of to-do list heaven many inland cities would die for. Buy a day ticket (€11.10) — PÓC
If you like that, try this: Dalkey Island. What do you mean you’ve never been?
16. Bog bodies at the National Museum
While the archaeology outpost of the National Museum is a literal treasure trove of gold and jewels, the bog bodies are arguably the most captivating of its exhibits. Weave between the partitions to find bodies that date back to 2000BC, perfectly preserved with mahogany- toned skin. Eyelashes, fingernails and even hair are all intact, and some bodies bear the gruesome marks of their death. Compelling stuff — NB
If you like that, try this: Satisfy any remaining morbid curiosity with a visit to the mummies at St Michan’s Crypts. Bram Stoker is believed to have visited.
Details: museum.ie/archaeology (free)
17. Kick back at K Chido
You don’t have to travel far to find a burrito in Dublin these days — but that’s what makes K Chido all the more special. It sells authentic Mexican street food from a cute vintage Citroën HY parked in a warehouse on Chancery Street (look out for the riot of colour and you’ll find it easily.) Quesadillas, burritos and tacos are mainstays, with more substantial options available on the weekend ‘Mexican Bruncheria’ menu. Vegetarians will be spoiled for choice; meat-eaters will devour the taco chipotle pork — KB
If you like that, try this: Yotam Ottolenghi is the inspiration behind the Middle Eastern feasting menu at Brother Hubbard (Wednesday to Saturday from 6pm), which is just around the corner on Capel Street.
Details: kchidomexico.com; brotherhubbard.ie
18. Pull the perfect pint
It’s one of the first things tourists do when they set foot on Irish soil, but it’s well worth joining them at the Guinness Storehouse. Take a walk down memory lane and realise just how many excellent adverts Guinness has produced, before getting down to business and perfecting your pulling skills. The perfect pint takes precisely 119.5 seconds to pull... but allow yourself a little longer to drink it. The views of the city from the Gravity Bar will bring a tear to any Dubliner’s eye — NB
If you like that, try this: Hit the whiskey tour at the Teeling Distillery, and keep an eye out for the all-new Jameson Distillery, reopening next March.
Details: guinness-storehouse.com (€18), teelingdistillery.com (€14), jamesonwhiskey.com (TBC)
19. Scoff a sambo at the Green Bench Café
Is it worth queuing up to 20 minutes for a takeaway sandwich? It’s one of the great riddles of our (lunch) times, and the Green Bench Cafe (18 Montague St) has an emphatic answer: Yes. Prepping everything fresh that morning, using quality ingredients (think juicy shreds of free-range chicken with layers of buttery avocado, celeriac slaw and aioli, or spiced pork with herb and olive stuffing, for example), it topped the heap in Independent.ie Travel’s recent poll of the best sandwiches in Dublin. TLC between two slices, and tasty to boot — PÓC
If you like that, try this: Come back down to earth with a toastie at Grogan’s. You elitist-sandwich-scoffing hipster, you.
Details: greenbenchcafe.com; groganspub.ie
20. Chester Beatty Library & Roof Garden
Can’t face the line for the Book of Kells? Get your antique literary fix at the Chester Beatty Library instead, home to a staggering collection of books and manuscripts. The intricate texts on display are genuinely exquisite, including some of the earliest known biblical texts on papyrus. Afterwards, head up to the roof garden, surely one of the most peaceful spots in the city (the views over Dublin Castle aren’t bad, either), before popping into the Silk Road Café for a Middle Eastern feast. It’s a lovely afternoon out — NB
If you like that, try this: Marsh’s Library — another bookworm’s dream in Dublin. This one dates from 1701 (look for 1916 bullet holes in the books).
Details: cbl.ie (free); silkroadkitchen.ie; marshlibrary.ie (€2.50)
21. Cocktails at the Vintage Cocktail Club
VCC, tucked away in Crown Alley in Temple Bar, is an intentionally word-of-mouth establishment. In fact, you’ll probably walk up and down the street a few times before you notice the inconspicuous entrance (and doorbell, above). Designed in the style of a 1940s speakeasy, this is the spot for retro cocktails with a modern twist (or tryst? - ed.). Strictly over 23s — KB
If you like that, try this: Bow Lane Social on Aungier Street has turned cocktail-making into an art form. They belt out the tunes too.
Details: vintagecocktailclub.com; bowlane.ie
22. Read Ulysses at Sweny's Chemist
James Joyce was Dublin’s quintessential writer, but today his books are arguably more admired than read. You can change that by joining a reading session at Sweny’s, the 19th-century chemist that features in Ulysses and is today run as a sort of literary curiosity shop by volunteers on Lincoln Place. Readings of Joyce’s books take place at 1pm on weekdays and various times on weekends, with visitors invited to join in... and there’s tea and biscuits too. Brilliant — PÓC
If you like that, try this: A vivid scene from Counterparts, a short story from Dubliners, is set in the back room of Mulligan’s pub. The story makes for pretty grim reading, but the pub is a Dublin classic.
Details: sweny.ie (free, but donations welcome); mulligans.ie
23. Private dining at The Pig's Ear
The Pig’s Ear on Nassau Street (behind the pink door) spans three floors of a Georgian Townhouse overlooking Trinity College. Our favourite of its private rooms is on the third floor. It’s the smallest — seating just 10 people — so perfect for an intimate birthday party. The menu, meanwhile, is creative yet decidedly unpretentious. Chef Stephen McAllister describes it as “Irish fare”, but don’t expect coddle or stew. Do, however, try the bone marrow roast potatoes — KB
If you like that, try this: If you’re pushing the boat out, book the chef’s table in Chapter One (seven-course tasting menu; €100). For private dining à deux, bag the charming little snug in Pinocchio in Ranelagh.
Details: thepigsear.ie; chapteronerestaurant.com; flavourofitaly.net
24. Go to Glasnevin Cemetery
The history of Dublin is fascinating, convoluted and occasionally gory — and there’s no better place for a primer than Glasnevin Cemetery. With guides so knowledgeable you’ll wonder if they’re part-cyborg, you’ll learn countless facts about Dublin, touch the coffin of Daniel O’Connell inside his soaring Round Tower, and realise that, one day, you might well be buried next to your enemy, too.
If you like that, try this: There’s only one pit stop after Glasnevin, and that’s the Gravediggers (AKA Kavanagh’s) pub. Both pints and food are good.
25. Secret handshakes at Freemason's Hall
They’re a secretive bunch, right? They faked the moon landings, didn’t they? Well, no. Irish freemasonry has a long and proud tradition, and anyone can dip in during a tour of Freemason’s Hall on Molesworth Street. The Grand Lodge here is the second oldest in the world, and it’s full of dizzying details and set-pieces. Tours run at 2.30pm on weekdays from June to August, with private visits welcome by appointment outside of those times. Guides are surprisingly frank about the myths and reality. “We’ve got nothing to hide,” as mine put it — PÓC
If you like that, try this: Did you know the relics of St Valentine are in Dublin? They’re encased in a shrine at the Whitefriar Street Church.
Details: irish-freemasons.org (€2); carmelites.ie (free)
26. Go down to the woods today
South Dublin denizens are often surprised to discover that the bucolic setting of Ticknock forest is only a short drive away. In fact, a 10-minute car journey will take you from the scramble of Dundrum Town Centre to the tranquility of its walking and mountain biking trails in the foothills of the Dublin Mountains.Pack a picnic and embark upon the gentle, Fairy Castle Loop walk, or bomb down the 8km mountain bike trail. Both culminate in spectacular city views — KB
If you like that, try this: You can’t visit this neck of the woods without experiencing the famous Blue Light pub in Barnacullia, run by one of the most laid-back publicans in Ireland, Pat Hickey. Come for the views, stay for the tunes. Instruments welcome (and we’ve never known a dog to be turned away).
Details: coillteoutdoors.ie; The Blue Light: 01 216-0487
27. Book a night in The Dean Hotel
“We love to work, to play, to eat, to drink, to dance...” So reads The Dean hotel manifesto. Make no mistake, though: the emphasis here is on the ‘play’ part. This is a spot for a knees-up rather than a kick-back, so get the party started with a cocktail before hitting the surprisingly well-priced rooftop restaurant, Sophie’s, for dinner. Rooms at The Dean are also designed for a good time. Expect well-stocked Smeg fridges, Netflix on the TV and Marshall amps to connect to your gadgets. Rates start from €130 per room, per night — KB
If you like that, try this: No 31, the former home of modern architect Sam Stephenson, is a small, but perfectly formed, boutique guesthouse and mews tucked away off Leeson Street.
Details: deandublin.ie; number31.ie
28. The Great Irish Bake-off
Baking is back, baby. Kate Packwood of the Wildflour Bakery in Stoneybatter is known for experimenting with sophisticated flavours and a judicious splash of alcohol, while the chocolate raspberry cheesecake brownies at Camerino on Capel Street (above) are award-winning. Elsewhere, the Bretzel Bakery in Portobello (Dublin’s former Jewish quarter) prepares its bread on-site in brick-lined ovens. They’ve been there since 1870 and they still make traditional Jewish ‘challah’. Antoinette’s Bakery makes gluten-free cakes and breads that pass the taste test with flying colours — KB
If you like that, try this: Dublin Pizza Company on Aungier Street. Expect Naples-style pizza with the very best of locally-sourced produce.
Details: wildflourbakery.ie; camerino.ie; bretzel.ie; antoinettesbakery.com; dublinpizzacompany.ie
29. Snag the snug in Toner's
It’s one of the most fabled drinking dens in town, but if you get lucky and score the snug in Toners, you’re in for a treat. This is rumoured to be the only spot in which WB Yeats would take a tipple, so you’re in good company (Patrick Kavanagh wasn’t shy of a visit, either). Hide away to escape the crowds, read the paper or gossip to your heart’s content. But if the sun’s shining, it’s the yard you’re after — NB
If you like that, try this: Craft beers are well and good, but sometimes only an old boozer will do. Try Kehoe’s, McDaid’s, The Stag’s Head or The Palace on Fleet Street. And quit while you’re ahead.
Details: tonerspub.ie; louisfitzgerald.com; thepalacebardublin.com
30. Fresh air at Airfield
There’s more to Dundrum than a whopping great shopping centre, you know. Specifically, a 38-acre farm, gardens and heritage centre at Airfield Estate. Revamped in 2014, complete with a cracking café, it’s one of the best family days out in the city. The annual Santa Experience is brilliant too - little ones get to visit Santa’s cottage, meet his reindeer (real ones) and post their letters directly to the North Pole. Hot chocolate and cookies (mulled wine for mum and dad) are a nice touch. Tickets (€22.50/€12.50) sell out quickly. Afterwards, head to the city for Grafton Street’s Christmas lights - KB
If you like that, try this: The ‘Meet Rudolph’s Relatives’ event, which includes a deer talk with one of the keepers, runs in the Phoenix Park from December 1 to 23. Again, it sells out fast so book early.
Details: airfield.ie (€10/€5); phoenixpark.ie
NB: All prices subject to change