Trinity College and College Green

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  • Trinity College and College Green is probably the best spot to kick off your Dublin tour. It's at the heart of the capital, packed full of incredible history, and it's the oldest university in Ireland having been founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I.
  • Occupying an enviable 40-acre site, Trinity retains some of its ancient seclusion of cobbled squares, gardens, and parks and is famed throughout the world for its collection of great treasures. These include, on permanent exhibition, the 9th-century illuminated manuscript, the Book of Kells, the Books of Durrow and Armagh, and an ancient Irish harp. The priceless artifacts are displayed in the Treasury and the awe-inspiring 18th-century Long Room, which houses more than 200,000 of Trinity's oldest books and hosts regular literary exhibitions. Book the Early Access Book of Kells Tour to avoid the long lines. It also includes a trip to the exterior of Dublin Castle.
  • Trinity is a haven in an otherwise bustling area. Alumni over the centuries include such figures as Jonathan Swift (most famously known as the author of Gulliver's Travels), Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker (author of Dracula), and playwright Samuel Beckett. Entering through a timber-tiled archway, you are instantly brought back in time. The immaculate green lawns, 18th- and 19th-century buildings, and cobbled pathway are reminiscent of a more gentile age and ooze a sense of hushed academia.
  • It's best to time your visit strategically, as buildings open to the public can become crowded during peak season. As well as taking in the must-see sights, do make time to relax and simply enjoy the atmosphere. Opposite the college on College Green is the old Irish Parliament building now a branch of the Bank of Ireland.

Grafton Street

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  • A short southerly stroll from Trinity College takes you down towards Dublin's premier shopping location, Grafton Street. A statue of Molly Malone sits at the bottom of the street, so it's impossible to miss. This eclectic stretch buzzes morning, noon, and night and is a magnet for buskers, from classical quartets to traditional fiddle players and singer-songwriters. Many famed bands and musicians have given impromptu performances here, including Bono of U2. Aside from buskers, you will find a broad range of boutiques, jewelers, and department stores, including upmarket Brown Thomas. Many would say that the jewel in the crown is Bewley's Oriental Café, a Dublin institution at this location since 1927. If you're on a shopping spree, it's well worth taking a slight diversion to the arty Powerscourt Townhouse Centre, with its designer shops and trendy places to eat.

St. Stephens Green

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  • After eating your fill at Bewley's Oriental Café, an easy stroll to the top of Grafton Street brings you to Fusilier's Arch, the main entrance to St. Stephen's Green. Georgian buildings surround "the Green" (as it's known locally), although some sadly fell by the wayside during redevelopment, mainly in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.
  • The 22-acre park is a Dublin treasure and an oasis of calm away from the hustle and bustle of downtown city life. When weather permits, you should do as the locals do and stretch out on the grass for some rest and relaxation, or grab a picnic lunch. Immaculate flowerbeds fringe the lawns. Also in the park is an ornate fountain at its center, a bridge over a duck pond, and a children's playground.
  • Incidentally, the park was the scene of bitter combat during the 1916 Uprising, however it was agreed by both sides that hostilities should cease while the park-keeper fed the ducks.

The Little Museum of Dublin

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  • The Little Museum is a hidden gem tucked in a charming space amid all of the city's historical sights. A couple of minutes' stroll from Fusilier's Arch, at the top of Dawson Street, it is a must-see for those interested in how Dublin and its people lived their lives and evolved over the past century. James Joyce once famously said, "in the particular is contained the universal," which neatly sums up the ethos of this treasure trove. In the minutiae of people's belongings, history is indeed writ large.
  • Opened in 2011 following an appeal for mementos and artifacts, the museum has gone from strength to strength and now hosts an array of temporary exhibitions and events, as well as permanent installations, including a U2 retrospective with exhibits donated by band members. Other treats include the lectern used by John F. Kennedy when he addressed both houses of the Irish Parliament (Oireachtas) in June 1963.

Jameson Distillery Bow St

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  • Founded in 1780, Jameson makes the biggest-selling Irish whiskey on the planet. Although distilling no longer takes place at this Bow Street building, the slick and interactive tour more than compensates for the lack of working stills. There are videos on the founder, John Jameson, and lab benches showing the progress from barley to bottle. The tour also includes a tasting where you will finally understand the difference between bourbon, scotch and Irish whiskey. Head to the classy downstairs bar for a post-tour cocktail. Whiskey-blending and cocktail-making classes are also available.

Dublin Castle

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  • Built in 1204, Dublin Castle was the seat of power for British rule for over 700 years. In April 1684, a fire ripped through the castle, destroying much of the structure. A stunning Georgian palace was built in its place. Since 1938, all of Ireland’s presidents have been inaugurated in St Patrick’s Hall, one of the many grand State Apartments. The manicured castle gardens are a highlight, with this guided tour explaining their history. The tour also includes an excursion to Dublin’s oldest pub, The Brazen Head. The castle regularly hosts special exhibitions and events, which it advertises on its website.

Christ Church Cathedral

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  • This magnificent cathedral was founded in 1030 as a wooden Viking church. While Romanesque and Gothic elements were added over the next few centuries, the Christ Church Cathedral underwent a major renovation during the Victorian era. This standard ticket is for a self-guided tour of the cathedral, crypt (among the largest in the British Isles) and the Treasures of Christ Church exhibition. The Choir of Christ Church Cathedral has been enchanting visitors since 1493. Check the website for the full programme of events.

Guinness Storehouse

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  • Dublin’s most popular tourist attraction is an interactive, seven-storey structure that showcases the history and process behind Ireland’s most famous export. To explore the venue, book this Signature Package Tour, which allows you to skip the queue. The tour also includes a memento gift box containing a Guinness Dublin glass and a fridge magnet showing an iconic Guinness advert. At the end of the tour, you get to enjoy a perfectly pulled pint at the Gravity Bar, which has panoramic views over Dublin.

Kilmainham Gaol

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  • A visit to Kilmainham Gaol is essential to understanding Ireland’s long road to independence. Leading figures in Irish history have been interned here, including Henry Joy McCracken (a founder of the United Irishmen), Easter Rising revolutionary Patrick Pearse, and Éamon de Valera, who later became the President of Ireland. The torture and execution of rebels also occurred on the prison grounds. Closing its doors in 1924, the gaol underwent restoration in 1960, becoming a monument of Irish nationalism. Entrance is by guided tour only. This tour includes a visit to the Irish National War Memorial Gardens.

Howth

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  • For a taste of the fresh sea air, head northeast to Howth, a popular day-trip destination from Dublin. This ancient fishing village is brimming with quality seafood restaurants, and there are plenty of handicraft and vintage wares to peruse at Howth Market. Hikers and nature-lovers are in luck as seals, eagles and guillemots are visible from the region’s many coastal trails. This tour eschews the clichéd tour bus and instead takes in the historical sights and wildlife via a scenic cliff-top walk.

St Patrick’s Cathedral

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  • Legend has it that a well once stood on this site, where Saint Patrick baptised people into Christianity. Today, baptisms still take place in St Patrick’s Cathedral, constructed between 1220 and 1260. Archbishop Luke, the building’s architect, was blind by the time of its completion, so he tragically never saw his idea come to fruition. Famous deans of the cathedral include Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. His grave is here, as well as a collection of his early works. Visits to the cathedral are self-guided; book your tickets in here.

National Gallery of Ireland

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  • Ireland’s National Gallery opened in 1864 and is now home to over 16,000 works of art, representing all the major European schools. Monet, Rembrandt, Turner and Picasso can all be admired here. Hibernophiles (fans of Irish culture) will love the works of Jack Butler Yeats, one of Ireland’s most important 19th-century painters. Yeats was known for his romantic portrayals of Irish urban and rural life. One highlight of his that hangs in the gallery is The Liffey Swim, a lively expressionist depiction of Dublin’s annual sporting event. The Yeats Archive contains Yeats’s sketchbooks and journals, as well as writings and artworks by other members of his gifted family.

National Museum of Ireland

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  • The National Museum of Ireland comprises four museums, including one branch in Mayo rather than Dublin. The three Dublin buildings are the Museum of Archaeology, the Museum of Decorative Arts & History and the Museum of Natural History (also known as the ‘Dead Zoo’ for its vast range of taxidermied animals). All are free to enter and contain a wealth of historical artefacts, costumes, zoological models and more. One thing you can’t miss is the collection of exquisite Irish metalwork in The Treasuryexhibit at the archaeology museum.

Chester Beatty

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  • American mining engineer Sir Alfred Chester Beatty was a man of great wealth and taste, using his fortune to collect rare objets d’art from around the world. He left his collection to the Irish state upon his death, and it’s now housed in the Chester Beatty Library. You can expect to see Japanese paintings, Islamic manuscripts, Chinese snuff bottles and many more extraordinary artefacts. What’s more, entrance is free, though donations are always welcomed. The centre runs art-oriented workshops for kids, teens and adults

Irish Whiskey Museum

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  • The one-hour tours of this Grafton Street museum are an enjoyable, interactive romp through the history of Irish whiskey. Engaging guides illuminate the Irish people’s deadly first attempts at distilling and explain the rise and fall of the whiskey industry in a faithfully recreated Irish bar. Tours finish with a tasting that will educate novices and experts alike. Tongue-in-cheek jokes are a hallmark, and Scottish guests can expect to be good-naturedly teased about their “inferior” product. If you want to take your experience to the next level, pair your tour with a whiskey-blending class.

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