Dublin, Ireland, is rife with culture and history, from religious settlements in 795 A.D. and Viking settlements in the 900s to the vibrant city it is today. It may be best viewed on foot via one of the many walking tours in the city. From literary pub crawls to music tours, there’s a lot of ground to cover (pun intended). These are a dozen of my favorite Dublin walking tours.
1. The Original Dublin Historical Walking Tour
Starting at Trinity College – Dublin (TCD), Tommy Graham, the editor of Ireland’s History Magazine and a TCD graduate, provides a fast-talking, fast-walking tour that covers Ireland’s political history at a mind-spinning speed. You’ll quickly find that the depth of knowledge Tommy and his guides retain makes it possible to answer nearly any question. He covers the English conquest, the Great Hunger, Ireland’s struggle for independence (political and religious), and the Viking archeological site. He led the group past the Bank of Ireland, through Temple Bar, across Wood Quay, past Four Courts, up to Christ Church Cathedral, to City Hall, and finished at Dublin Castle.
Dublin’s cobblestone streets make it difficult to move 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 section of the city within Dublin 2, or D2. The quintessential way to get the most out of your night is to participate in a proper pub crawl.
You’ll 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 offers.
Be sure to eat before your tour and drink plenty of water as the night progresses.
Pro Tip: With your crawl admission fee, enjoy a skip-the-line free entrance to several venues. Go early on your visit and use the bracelet for free entry to these venues for the remainder of your trip.
3. Literary Tour
Making the time to explore the literary heritage and seeing where the writers lived and loved that led to such work may cause you to re-read the classics. The art of storytelling reaches from pub to theater. Dublin, one of 295 cities globally to become a UNESCO City of Literature, is graced with four Nobel Prize winners. George Bernard Shaw also won an Academy Award (Best Screenplay for My Fair Lady).
On this 2.5-hour literary tour, you’ll walk from W.B. Yeats’s Abbey Theatre to Merrion Square, with Oscar Wilde’s statue overlooking his childhood home.
For an entertaining twist, take the literary pub crawl to combine two of Dublin’s most-loved pastimes. Starting at The Duke Pub, you’ll discover the rich literary heritage as you wander charming streets and visit sites embedded with informative actors who bring the history to life. There is a test at the end, with the winner bringing home both bragging rights and a special prize.
And don’t worry that the tour only covers the “old-time” greats including Sean O’Casey and Brendan Behan. Also included are modern poets and playwrights like Seamus Heaney (free exhibit at the Bank of Ireland building), Paula Meehan, Brendan Kennelly, and Eavan Boland.
4. Music Crawl
Don’t forget to check out your MeetUp options when you’re traveling. Starting at the ICON Factory, take the Dublin Music Tour as Eoin weaves the tale of politics and socioeconomic times into the fabric and texture of the Irish music scene. You’ll see part 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 buskers delight passing crowds. This delightful tour is chock-full of trivia and tips.
5. Glasnevin Cemetery
Visiting Glasnevin Cemetery, its population of 1.4 million approaching metro Dublin’s 1.5 million, there are many tales to tell, and many phrases that became common from this region — like “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 parliamentarian as both 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 across town for an Overview of Dublin in a 3-hour tour (including a 30-minute pub stop). He covers the city with insight into Ireland’s turbulent past, literary greats, real-life legends, and captivating folktales including the city’s statues. If you can only do one tour on this trip, start with this one, every day at 11 a.m.
Pro Tip: The “free” walking tour guide’s tips are their salary. A traditional tip is €10–20 ($10.54–21.08) per person.
7. Trinity Trails Campus And Book Of Kells
Founded March 3, 1592, by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity College – Dublin, Ireland’s Ivy League and sister institute to England’s Oxford and Cambridge, is a 47-acre oasis in the city center. The ancient front arches frame the square leading to the Campanile. But beware, it’s bad luck for students to stand under the bell tower. Legend foretells that students who do shall never graduate.
Trinity Trails hosts a campus-led tour built to your purpose, a self-guided walking tour of the campus, a guided tour of the campus, or an all-inclusive tour of the campus and Book of Kells, the prized medieval illuminated manuscript. I recommend the latter on your first visit for the best possible experience. And the Book of Kells building does have elevators, making it one of the few handicapped-accessible buildings on campus. The Long Room, at 65 meters filled with 200,000 books, is my favorite place in the city and one of the most impressive libraries in the world, home to each Irish-published book and each TCD student’s thesis.
8. Dark Dublin’s Murders And Mysteries
In a town as old as Dublin, in a country so rich with blarney, it’s no wonder the collision of the two created one of the most popular 2-hour tours, Unearthed Dublin. Starting at Dublin Castle, the heart of pomp, circumstance, torture, and death, see the upper courtyard’s history as the Devil’s Half Acre leads to the Christ Church Cathedral, built on “Hell.” Stories of witches and the infamous Hellfire Club are shared as you pass by the old city walls. You’ll take dark back alleys and learn of grave robbing, The Black Pig, and tales of a strangler and killer with no legs.
9. Talking Statues Self-Guided Tour
For a light-hearted stroll across town, have your mobile phone ready and take this statue tour across the River Liffey. Scan the bar code near the statues from 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 by the Millennial Spire. Hear in their words how they felt about life in this fair city.
10. Chester Beatty Museum Tour
The Chester Beatty contains manuscripts, rare books, and treasures that cross and transcend world cultures, one of the world’s largest collections of religious artifacts crossing all faiths. With less than 10 percent of the collection on display at any time, the frequent rotation of exhibits makes each visit fresh and inviting. Better yet, make the time to go on a guided tour. Walk from floor to floor with a docent who guides the visit based on your interests. They can adjust on the fly and be sure that everyone has something of interest to see.
11. Rebels And Rebellions
This “Northside” tour, in Dublin 1, covers not only the Easter Rising but mentions many of the rebels and rebellions of the 1700s. Since it starts right at the Spire by the General Post Office (GPO), it’s an obvious fit with the Easter Rising, the 1916 rebellion that began when Patrick Pearse read the Irish Proclamation of Independence. The Easter Rising led to the IRA, Sinn Fein, the War of Independence, Ireland’s Civil War, and, finally, the independence of the Republic of Ireland. It’s a lot to cover in a single tour, but they do a grand job.
12. Food Tours
No compilation of Dublin tours would be complete without a discussion on 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-star restaurants and authentic (tasty!) Irish cuisine in restaurants, pubs, and food trucks across town.
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 goes from 11 a.m.–2 p.m. so plan to take your appetite.
For a walking tour of authentic traditional Irish cuisine in popular pubs and restaurants, you’ll enjoy a walking tour mostly around Powerscourt Townhouse in D2 for an inside scoop on the amazing culinary scene.
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