7 unusual ways to see Dublin

James March

James March

For a major European capital, Dublin's a wonderfully walkable city and its strength is its size. That means the most famous attractions are never too far from each other, though sometimes it's worth travelling that extra mile.

The Daniel O'Connell Memorial, Dublin
The Daniel O'Connell Memorial, Dublin © Apostolos Giontzis - Dreamstime.com

Some of these more unusual Dublin* attractions are central and some are a little far-flung, but all are worth a visit once you've exhausted the Irish capital's most popular sights.

Getting to Dublin: browse the latest offers on flights with the Irish flag carrier Aer Lingus* or opt for a great value city break deal with the likes of Expedia*.

Sample whiskey inside a church

While a certain black stout might be Ireland's most famous drink, the country also has a long whiskey heritage. It's said that during the 19th century, Irish whiskey was an even more popular export across the pond than Scotch.

Jameson's Bow St Distillery is good at showcasing this surprising history but for a more contemporary experience with a bizarre twist, head across the Liffey to the Pearse Lyons Distillery.

Enjoying a dram at the Pearse Lyons Distillery
Enjoying a dram at the Pearse Lyons Distillery - photo courtesy of Pearse Lyons Distillery

Located on James St and built in 1859, St James's Church is easy to spot with its gleaming glass spire soaring above a stone nave, making for a unique architectural contrast.

The sight of shining copper pot stills backed by bright light bursting through colourful stained glass windows certainly makes for a tour like no other.

There are four separate tours to choose from and plenty of opportunities to hear the stories behind this quirky spot and, of course, to sample the quality whiskey.

Browse Ireland's oldest public library

The magnificent mahogany Long Room in Trinity College's Old Library invariably attracts a lot of attention and footfall, but it isn't Dublin's oldest library.

That honour goes to Marsh's Library, hidden away in a quiet corner of the St Patrick's Cathedral grounds and dating back to 1707.

Inside 18th-century Marsh's Library
Inside 18th-century Marsh's Library - photo courtesy of Tourism Ireland

Still bearing bullet holes from the dramatic events of the 1916 Easter Rising when it was sprayed by British Army machine guns while housing rebels, the library has seen a lot in its 300-year history.

In quieter times, its oak bookcases and tranquil corridors were a regular haunt for literary luminaries like Jonathan Swift, James Joyce and Bram Stoker.

Containing over 25,000 books and 300 manuscripts, Marsh's Library is also one of the last 18th-century buildings in Ireland still used for its original purpose.

Looking for an affordable city break? Don't miss our guide to the top 60 cheapest cities in Europe that you can visit in 2024/2025 for a great value escape.

Kayak down the Liffey

The River Liffey has pierced through central Dublin for centuries, but it's also home to one of the most distinctive views of the city for those brave enough to venture onto its waters.

And while Dublin probably isn't the first city that springs to mind in regards to watersports, City Kayaking offers the chance to clamber into a kayak and see the capital from a whole new perspective.

Seeing Dublin from the Liffey with City Kayaking
Seeing Dublin from the Liffey with City Kayaking - photo courtesy of City Kayaking

Guided tours start beside the Jeanie Jonhston Tall Ship and paddle out west underneath the famous O'Connell and Ha'penny Bridges with about 90 minutes on the water.

Those iconic bridges are also the stopping point for City Kayaking's Music Tours, an unusual opportunity to hear live performances on the water that make the most of the superb acoustics underneath the bridges.

Enjoy a pint next to a cemetery

The name above the John Kavanagh pub is slightly misleading. Located next door to Glasnevin Cemetery, this famous old pub has been known for decades as 'The Gravediggers'. Not only that, but it also serves one of Dublin's finest pints of Guinness.

Opened in 1833, coffins and hearses would sit outside while bereaved family and friends drank away their sorrows, sometimes forgetting to visit the actual graveyard. When they finally dispersed, gravediggers would fill the pub's seats.

That macabre history has endeared itself to Dublin's drinkers over the years and its Victorian interior and no music or TV policy means that conversation is king.

The pub's location on the north side is a little out of the way from central Dublin but it's absolutely one of the city's essential drinking experiences.

Take a very cold dip

Fancy a swim in the Irish Sea? Despite being far from warm Mediterranean climes, there's a small corner of Dublin where locals can't get enough of throwing themselves into the chilly waters of Ireland's coast.

Swimmers at the Forty Foot, Sandycove
Swimmers at the Forty Foot, Sandycove © Clive - Adobe Stock Image

Forming a deep inlet in Sandycove on the southern tip of Dublin Bay, The Forty Foot bathing pool becomes very popular during the summer months though it's actually been a famous spot since James Joyce immortalised it in his novel Ulysses over 100 years ago.

Joyce stayed at a nearby Martello tower as a guest of the poet Oliver St John Gogarty and that's been converted into the excellent little James Joyce Tower & Museum.

Perhaps visit the museum first, before taking a dip.

Delve into mummified Dublin

The stone steps beneath St Michan's Church leading down to a dusty basement contain a morbid side to Dublin that few visitors see.

But the inhabitants of this dark vault aren't just any old remains. These remarkably well-preserved mummies include members of some of Dublin's most elite families, as well as legendary republican revolutionaries the Sheare Brothers, convicted of high treason after the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Another curiosity is the 800-year-old mummy simply known as "the crusader", whose hand slightly stretches out of the casket (visitors were once encouraged to give it a shake).

Rather unsurprisingly, the crypt is said to have been the subject of an inspiring visit by a young Bram Stoker.

Feel the breeze on Howth's cliffs

Anyone who's flown in or out of Dublin Airport may have noticed the bulbous peninsula poking out from north Dublin's coast.

Forming the northern boundary of Dublin Bay, Howth is home to some fabulous seafood spots on its western pier but its wind-whipped cliff walk is Howth's true pièce de résistance.

On the Howth Head loop
On the Howth Head loop © Elena Schweitzer - Adobe Stock Image

There are a number of different routes to take, but the classic Howth Head loop walk takes around two hours to complete and its gravelly coastal path treats walkers to some stunning views of the shimmering Irish Sea and distant Lambay Island.

Enjoying some well-earned seafood tapas and a creamy pint back at the pier make for the perfect end to the day.

Weather in Dublin

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The above guide shows the weather in Dublin. Find out more about conditions across the country in our complete guide to the weather in Ireland.

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James March

James March

Posted on Thursday 2nd March 2023 in: City Culture Europe

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