Dublin Introduction Walking Tour, Dublin

Dublin Introduction Walking Tour (Self Guided), Dublin

Sitting on the country's east coast, the capital of the Republic of Ireland is the national center for education, arts, administration and industry. The name Dublin derives from the Irish word Dubhlind. Dubh means "black, dark", and lind means "pool", referring to a dark tidal pool located where the River Poddle enters the Liffey.

Dublin celebrated its “official” millennium in 1988, recognizing 988 as the year in which the first Viking settlement that would later become the Dublin today. It is now thought, however, that the Viking village was preceded by a Christian settlement known as Duibhlinn.

Despite numerous attacks by the native Irish, the settlement remained largely under Viking control until the Norman invasion of Ireland in 1169. The Tudor conquest of Ireland in the 16th century spelled a new era for Dublin, giving it a renewed prominence as the center of administrative rule in Ireland. Determined to make Dublin a Protestant city, Queen Elizabeth I of England established Trinity College in 1592, as a solely Protestant university.

As the city continued to prosper during the 18th century, for a short period, Dublin became the second largest city of the British Empire and the fifth largest city in Europe. The vast majority of its most notable architecture – Temple Bar, Grafton Street, etc. – dates from that period.

Following the 18th century growth, Dublin suffered a period of political and economic decline in the 19th century under the Acts of Union 1800, which saw the seat of government transferred to the Westminster Parliament in London. The Easter Rising of 1916, the Irish War of Independence, and the subsequent Irish Civil War resulted in a significant amount of physical destruction in Dublin.

In recent decades, Dublin has re-emerged. The abundance of historic sights, such as the ancient Dublin Castle, imposing St Patrick’s Cathedral, landscaped St Stephen’s Green park, and numerous museums, has made the city a popular tourist destination. A lively nightlife and ample shopping opportunities add to Dublin's appeal a great deal. To discover the prominent attractions of the Irish capital, take this self-guided introduction tour!
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Dublin Introduction Walking Tour Map

Guide Name: Dublin Introduction Walking Tour
Guide Location: Ireland » Dublin (See other walking tours in Dublin)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 13
Tour Duration: 2 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 3.8 Km or 2.4 Miles
Author: max
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Trinity College
  • Irish Whiskey Museum
  • O'Neills Pub & Kitchen
  • Molly Malone Statue
  • Ha'penny Bridge
  • Temple Bar District
  • Dublin Castle
  • Chester Beatty Library
  • Christ Church Cathedral
  • Dublinia & the Viking World (Synod Hall)
  • St. Patrick's Cathedral
  • St. Stephen's Green
  • Grafton Street
Trinity College

1) Trinity College (must see)

Nestled in the heart of the city, Trinity College stands as an imposing architectural set piece with a history dating back to its founding in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I. Initially established to shield Irish students from what was perceived as the influence of Catholicism at European universities, the institution has since evolved into a renowned seat of learning, welcoming notable alumni ranging from politicians and philosophers to Nobel laureates and literary giants such as Swift, Wilde, and Beckett.

Perched on College Green, amidst the urban landscape, Trinity College offers visitors a glimpse into its storied past and present-day aspirations. While some corners of the campus may be off-limits depending on the whims of the seasons, sauntering through the gates of the west front unveils the picturesque Parliament Square, where the Chapel and Examination Hall flank the lawn with elegant symmetry, occasionally playing host to concerts. Venturing a bit further, across Library Square, you'll stumble upon the red-brick Rubrics, the college's oldest surviving building, dating back to the early 18th century. The highlight, however, is the Old Library, home to Trinity's oldest books and the legendary 9th-century Book of Kells manuscript, celebrated as a masterpiece of medieval artistry.

But wait, there's more! Beyond the Old Library lies Fellows' Square, bordered by the modernist Berkeley Library and the Arts Building, housing the contemporary Douglas Hyde Gallery, a hub for cutting-edge Irish and international art exhibitions. And as you meander through New Square, you'll find the School of Engineering, which finds its home in the ornate Museum Building, an extravagant display of Venetian Gothic architecture adorned with intricate stone carvings of animals and floral motifs that spark the imagination.
Irish Whiskey Museum

2) Irish Whiskey Museum (must see)

Housed within a historic building on Grafton Street, across from Trinity College's main entrance, the Irish Whiskey Museum offers a delightful fusion of Ireland's two greatest loves: history and spirits. Since opening in 2014, it has become a firm favorite with tourists, providing an opportunity to sample from its extensive array of whiskeys – whether single grain, malt, pot still, or blended – all while experiencing live traditional music, captivating storytelling, and more. For those eager to soak up knowledge and enjoyment in equal measure, the museum offers interactive guided tours through its four uniquely themed rooms, each representing different epochs in Irish history. By the tour's end, visitors are likely to emerge as bona fide whiskey aficionados.

For a truly indulgent experience, guests can opt for the Whiskey Blending Experience (90 minutes), which includes a comprehensive tour, tastings of four distinct whiskeys, and the opportunity to craft their own personalized whiskey blend, complete with a miniature Irish Whiskey Museum bottle to take home. Alternatively, the Whiskey and Brunch Experience (90 minutes, available on Saturdays and Sundays) features the full tour, three whiskey tastings, and a delectable Irish brunch spread. And for those seeking VIP treatment, the exclusive package offers a fourth whiskey tasting and a unique souvenir shot glass.

One of the museum's most compelling features is its independence from any whiskey distillery in the country, allowing for a detailed and impartial exploration of the spirit's rich history, locally known as "uisce beatha" (water of life).

Non-drink tickets are available for those who prefer not to imbibe, and children are welcome to join. Whiskey tastings are also available at the bar without the need for a tour – simply inquire about a "Whiskey Flight" tasting. With an extensive selection of Irish whiskeys to choose from, as well as signature Irish Coffee and whiskey cocktails, the in-house bar ensures there's something to please every palate.
O'Neills Pub & Kitchen

3) O'Neills Pub & Kitchen

If you ever find yourself meandering through downtown Dublin, craving a stellar pint, mouthwatering cuisine (the Shepherd's Pie here is legendary), or authentic live Irish music, look no further than O'Neill's. From the outside, it may appear like your typical pub, but step inside, and you'll discover an oasis of charm and character, with its labyrinth of cozy nooks and crannies, both upstairs and downstairs.

Legend has it that a tavern has stood on this site for over three centuries. In 1875, ownership passed into the hands of the Hogan Brothers, until 1927, when M.J. O'Neill took the reins and bestowed his name upon the establishment. Today, the historic building is lovingly preserved, nestled in a conservation area just a stone's throw away from famous Temple Bar, Trinity College, and Grafton Street.

Originally divided into distinct areas – a refined "cocktail bar" for the aristocracy, a public bar off Suffolk Street, and a back bar – O'Neill's has evolved over the years. In recent times, the adjacent premises in Church Lane have been integrated, now serving as a carvery, while the interior has been artfully opened up to create a more welcoming atmosphere. A cozy snug, nestled near the Church Lane entrance, once played host to the intellectual gatherings of the "Fabians" in the early 1960s and later, left-wing students from Trinity College.

And if you're in the mood for some fresh air or a late-night adventure, O'Neill's has you covered with its original beer garden, smoking area, and late bar – ensuring there's always more fun to be had, especially on weekends.
Molly Malone Statue

4) Molly Malone Statue

Dublin's main commercial drag and a haven for avid people-watchers, Grafton Street kicks off with an intriguing sight: the bronze statue of Molly Malone, complete with a wheelbarrow filled with cockles and mussels. Immortalized in the popular 19th-century song, Molly Malone's existence is shrouded in mystery – some doubt she ever walked the streets of Dublin.

The statue itself sparked controversy upon its unveiling during the 1988 Dublin Millennium festivities. Depicted as a young woman with ample cleavage, Molly ignited debates about the portrayal of women in public art. Dubbed "The Tart with the Cart" or "The Dish with the Fish", the statue has garnered mixed reactions: some see it as offensive to women while others find its provocative nature appealing.

The origins of the song "Molly Malone" are equally enigmatic. First appearing in the 19th century, its roots are debated – some claim it originated in Scotland, while others argue it's a product of the Victorian music hall era. Nevertheless, with its iconic opening line "In Dublin’s fair city", the song has become inseparable from the Irish capital's identity, often regarded as a second national anthem. In honor of Molly, June 13th has been officially designated as Molly Malone Day since 1988.
Ha'penny Bridge

5) Ha'penny Bridge

If you ask any Dublin local to name their favorite landmark, chances are that Ha'penny will be at the top of their list. As you saunter through the city center, chances are you'll find yourself ambling across this picturesque cast-iron bridge – Dublin's oldest and most beloved pedestrian river crossing, serving as a vital link between the north and south sides of the city.

Originally named the Wellington Bridge when it opened in 1816, it quickly earned it nickname due to the halfpenny toll charged for crossing, a fee that persisted until 1919, matching the fares of the seven ferries it put out of business. At one point, the toll even rose to a penny and a half, giving rise to the moniker "Penny Ha'penny Bridge".

While crossing the bridge is now toll-free, pausing to lean against the railings beneath the vintage lanterns and soak in the views of the Liffey's banks stretching to Dublin Bay might just make you feel like you'd gladly pay a toll to linger there all day. However, to avoid earning glares from hurried commuters and passersby, it's probably wise to keep your stroll brisk and not linger too long in one spot.
Temple Bar District

6) Temple Bar District (must see)

Between the winding river and Dame Street lies Temple Bar, a once dilapidated area now firmly ingrained in Dublin's tourism scene, renowned for its nightlife and lively street atmosphere. Its narrow, partly pedestrianized lanes, adorned with quintessentially Irish 18th-century cobblestones, retain traces of original architecture, lending an authentic charm to the district.

To enter Temple Bar, one can stroll from Dame Street or pass through the picturesque Merchants Arch, opposite the iconic Ha'penny Bridge, leading into Temple Bar Square. At the heart of the district, between the Merchant's Arch and the Central Bank, you'll find a cluster of government-funded arts centers, tourist-centric shops, along with many eateries and pubs. Continuing along, you will discover Eustace Street and Meeting House Square, home to many of the district's cultural centers. The Irish Film Institute on Eustace Street screens arthouse and foreign films and houses a popular café/bar, plus a shop stocked with film theory books and posters.

Meeting House Square hosts Photo Museum Ireland, showcasing images of Dublin past and present alongside Irish and international photography exhibitions. Adjacent to it, the National Photographic Archive preserves the photographic collections of the National Library of Ireland, providing reading rooms for research and temporary exhibitions. Venturing further, you'll encounter the avant-garde displays of painting and sculpture at the Project Arts Centre on East Essex Street, along with its upstairs theater. Nearby, the Button Factory serves as both a nightclub and concert venue, while Jam Art Factory showcases excellent Irish art and design.

On Temple Bar's southern boundary, Dame Street, stands a Victorian gem: the Olympia Theatre. Dating back to 1870, its stunning stained glass canopy and ornate interior reflect the era's exuberant spirit. Nearby, City Hall, originally the Royal Exchange, boasts a Corinthian portico, while just west lies Dublin Castle, a cornerstone of the city's historic legacy.
Dublin Castle

7) Dublin Castle (must see)

Perched regally on a ridge overlooking the Liffey, where the Vikings once held sway, sits the illustrious Dublin Castle, a relic of Anglo-Norman conquest in the 13th century. Serving as the nucleus of the walled city, this fortress became the seat of British authority in Ireland for an impressive seven centuries, bravely fending off any and all would-be invaders. Even a fiery catastrophe in 1684 couldn't crumble its resolve – emerging from the ashes in the 18th century as a complex of stately residential and administrative buildings arranged around two quadrangles, exuding an air of dignified elegance.

The medieval contours of the castle are delineated by the Upper Yard, while above its original main gate, the Cork Hill State Entrance, looms a statue of Justice – a poignant symbol of British dominion, according to local lore, as she stands unveiled, gazing away from the city. Visitors are welcome to wander through the courtyards, now housing police and tax offices, before venturing into the opulent State Apartments or the world-renowned Chester Beatty Library, which displays one of the most extensive collections of written works from both Western and Eastern cultures.
Chester Beatty Library

8) Chester Beatty Library (must see)

Dublin Castle's not-so-secret gem, the Chester Beatty Library, nestled within the Clock Tower at the rear of Dublin Castle, isn't just Ireland's premier small museum – it's one of Europe's finest, period. Curated with meticulous care and passion by New York mining tycoon Alfred Chester Beatty, this remarkable collection is a sight to behold, and sure to leave a lasting impression.

Spanning two levels, the ground floor hosts "Arts of the Book," a compact yet dazzling array of artworks hailing from Western, Islamic, and East Asian cultures. Standout pieces include the world's foremost collection of Chinese jade books and exquisitely illuminated European texts, rivaling even the famed Book of Kells. Engaging audiovisual displays elucidate the intricacies of bookbinding, paper-making, and printing, offering insights into the craftsmanship behind these masterpieces.

Ascending to the second floor reveals "Sacred Traditions", a journey through the world's major religions through decorative and religious art, accompanied by insightful texts and a video at the entrance. The unparalleled collection of Qur'ans, spanning from the 9th to the 19th centuries (with over 270 specimens), is hailed as the pinnacle of illuminated Islamic texts worldwide. Moreover, visitors can marvel at ancient Egyptian love poems from the 12th century, some of the earliest illuminated gospels dating back to 200 AD, and exquisite scrolls and artwork from China, Japan, Tibet, and Southeast Asia, including the renowned 17th-century Japanese Chogonka Scroll.

Indulge your taste buds at the Silk Road Café discreetly tucked away at the library's rear, offering a culinary voyage mirroring the cultural diversity within the exhibits. And for an extra treat, venture up to the rooftop "meditation" garden – an oasis of calm amidst the bustling city – or explore the gardens out front, offering magnificent views of the Castle.
Christ Church Cathedral

9) Christ Church Cathedral (must see)

Although Christ Church Cathedral traces its roots back to the late 12th and early 13th centuries, much of the original building faced structural challenges. In the 1870s, Henry Roe's philanthropy facilitated an extensive reconstruction effort, aiming to preserve the original elements while faithfully recreating the remainder in the Romanesque and Early English Gothic styles.

Exploring the cathedral's grounds unveils intriguing relics of the past. In the courtyard lie the remnants of a 13th-century chapter house, while within the southern aisle rests the intriguing tomb of a knight, albeit with a worn-off nose. Despite popular belief attributing the tomb to Strongbow, historical evidence suggests otherwise, as his original tomb was lost in a 1562 collapse of the south wall. Elsewhere, the Peace Chapel houses a reliquary containing the heart of 12th-century Archbishop Laurence O'Toole, Dublin's patron saint.

Adding to the mystique are peculiar curiosities, including the famed "Tom and Jerry" – a mummified cat and rat believed to have been trapped in an organ during a chase, and the imposing arches on the north side of the aisle, leaning at a disconcerting angle. Descending into the vast crypt, the oldest structure in Ireland, visitors encounter eerie statues of Charles I and II, amidst displays of ornate silverware gifted by William of Orange following his victory at the Battle of the Boyne.

The cathedral welcomes visitors daily and offers enchanting Evensong performances, featuring music dating to the Reformation period, on select days. For a bird's-eye view and the chance to ring a bell, guided tours grant access to the belfry, ensuring an unforgettable visit.
Dublinia & the Viking World (Synod Hall)

10) Dublinia & the Viking World (Synod Hall)

In the historic Synod Hall, just opposite Christ Church Cathedral and connected to it by a picturesque bridge, Dublinia & the Viking World offers an engaging journey through Viking and medieval Dublin, making it a perfect destination for families, particularly during the summer when special activities are available (check the website for details). This particular attraction brings medieval Dublin to life through cutting-edge exhibits and reconstructions, engaging visitors with sights, sounds, and even scents from centuries ago.

Walk-through exhibits depict scenes like the plague and medieval fairs, complete with sound effects and interactive displays, providing a hands-on exploration of history. Additionally, an archaeology room showcases the city's excavation process, featuring a re-created dig site and a lab where visitors can inspect medieval artifacts under microscopes.

As visitors ascend to the second floor, they step into the Great Hall, once the meeting place of Anglican bishops until 1982, now transformed into Viking World. Here, a near-life-size Viking ship takes center stage, accompanied by audiovisual presentations on Viking sagas and opportunities to experience aspects of Viking life firsthand, including trying on those oh-so-fashionable slave chains.

Don't miss the opportunity to climb the 17th-century Saint Michael's Tower and enjoy fine views of the cityscape.
St. Patrick's Cathedral

11) St. Patrick's Cathedral (must see)

The largest and oldest Christian site in Dublin holds more historical significance than religious importance today. Legend has it that Saint Patrick himself baptized converts on this very spot, marked by a Celtic cross in the nave, suggesting the presence of a church as early as 450 AD. Adjacent lies a picturesque park, open to the public, with a marker indicating the location of the Holy Well.

Impressive in both height and space, the cathedral features intricate details such as carved helmets and swords above the choir stalls, along with a 19th-century tiled floor. Its towering interior stretches 90 meters (300 feet), making it the longest church in Ireland, while its 45-meter (150-foot) tower houses the country's largest peal of bells. However, little remains of the original 1191 construction; a fire in the 14th century led to its destruction and subsequent rebuilding, including some Victorian restoration work.

Throughout its history, Saint Patrick's has served various roles. From 1320, until its closure by Henry VIII, it functioned as Ireland's first university. Later, during Cromwell's era, the aisles were used as stables for troops. Notably, the renowned Jonathan Swift, author of "Gulliver’s Travels", served as dean here from 1713 to 1745, earning admiration for his satirical wit, philanthropy, and advocacy for the Irish poor. Visitors can pay their respects at his grave and that of his beloved Esther Johnson, as well as view the pulpit from which he delivered his sermons, adorned with the epitaph he penned for himself.

A rather curious medieval artifact is a door with a hole, a relic of Lord Kildare's gesture of goodwill towards his archenemy Lord Ormonde during a siege in 1492. Kildare famously extended his arm through the hole, giving rise to the expression "to chance your arm".

Prior to your visit, consult online resources for any scheduled events to enhance your experience.
St. Stephen's Green

12) St. Stephen's Green (must see)

If you're not keen on waiting for a table at one of the busy downtown restaurants, a great alternative is to grab a sandwich and a drink and head over to Saint Stephen's Green, at the southern end of Grafton Street.

Spanning 9 hectares (22 acres), it is the largest among Dublin's Georgian square parks. Once common grazing land, it was enclosed for public use in 1663, evolving into a fashionable promenade by the early 18th century. Renovated between 1877 and 1880 to align with Victorian tastes, the park now offers formal lawns, intricate gardens, shady pathways, bubbling fountains, and ample benches encircling a large ornamental lake, perfect for unwinding and feeding ducks. During the summer months, visitors can often attend open-air concerts.

Surrounded by elegant Georgian residences, the rectangular park is noted for its many statues and memorials. Statues include one honoring Sir Arthur Guinness, who donated the land for public enjoyment; a bronze likeness of Irish revolutionary Theobald W. Tone, encircled by monoliths referred to as "Tonehenge" by locals; a fountain statue depicting the Three Fates, gifted from Germany in gratitude for Ireland's aid to orphaned German children post-World War II; and sculptures of Robert Emmet and James Joyce.

Among the memorials, you'll find the Yeats Memorial Garden, featuring a statue by Henry Moore; the Fusiliers Arch, commemorating the Royal Dublin Fusiliers fallen in the Second Boer War; a tribute to Irish Republican Brotherhood member, Jeremiah O'Donovan Rossa; and a solemn memorial honoring the victims of the Great Famine that caused so much death and misery in Ireland from 1845 to 1850.

Many cafes nearby along the road offer delightful options for a cake and coffee or tea before or after your stroll through the park.
Grafton Street

13) Grafton Street (must see)

This busy pedestrian thoroughfare stands as Dublin's most renowned street and unofficial epicenter. Stretching from College Green to Saint Stephen's Green, it underwent a significant transformation in 1982 when it transitioned from a traffic-laden road to a car-free zone. Today, its distinctive redbrick paving sets the stage for a lively hive of activity, with a plethora of pubs, shops, and restaurants enveloping the surroundings. With its maze of side streets and alleys, it's a magnet for musicians and budding artists, who captivate audiences day and night. Who knows? You might stumble upon the next Glen Hansard.

Among the notable department stores lining Grafton Street are Arnotts, Brown Thomas, Marks and Spencer, and Weir’s Jewelers. Additionally, the famous Bewley's Oriental Café beckons with its elegant mahogany interiors and stained glass windows, offering an array of delectable treats ranging from cakes to sandwiches and pasta. For chocolate aficionados, Butlers Chocolate Café presents a tantalizing selection of chocolates, hot beverages, and desserts.

If you're in search of unique souvenirs, consider skipping Grafton Street and instead head to Powerscourt Townhouse, located just one block west. There, you'll discover a collection of upscale clothing and jewelry boutiques, along with three top-notch cafés.

Walking Tours in Dublin, Ireland

Create Your Own Walk in Dublin

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The three Ps of Dublin – the pub, the poet, and the pint – have always distinguished the Irish capital as home to some of the most literary pubs in Europe. Indeed, Dublin's public houses, where writers traditionally sharpened their wit, today encapsulate the enchantment of the written word and play a significant role in preserving and celebrating this legacy.

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