The Best Things to See and Do in Drumcondra, Dublin

Croke Park All Ireland
Croke Park All Ireland | © Tolivero / Wikicommons
Discover Old Dublin in this rough-around-the-edges, sport-loving suburb in the shadow of one of the largest stadiums in Europe. Drumcondra is a beloved heartland in the working-class north of Ireland‘s capital, a place with little glamour but plenty of its own charm, and no little character. It’s also one of the more affordable places to stay, with a handful of solid hotels and a convenient location between the city and the airport.

Be sure to bring some energy, here are our Drumcondra essentials.

Watch Gaelic football or hurling at Croke Park

Museum, Park, Stadium
Croke park in Dublin home of GAA
Croke Park is home of the GAA | © Steve Baker / StockimoNews / Alamy Stock Photo
Ireland’s traditional sports of hurling and Gaelic football are huge crowd draws, with close-season games in September selling out to huge audiences of up to 83,000 at ‘headquarters’, Croke Park. Earlier in the season, though (which runs from January onwards), you’ll have no trouble getting into league matches. Dublin’s Gaelic footballers are a dominant force currently, and best watched from the historic Hill 16, a stand they have made their own, a spot with an astonishing history (we’ll get to that below). It’s loud, and all but unique to Ireland.
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Explore the Croke Park Museum

Museum, Park, Stadium
Croke park in Dublin home of GAA
Croke Park is home of the GAA | © Steve Baker / StockimoNews / Alamy Stock Photo
If you can’t get to a match, the next best thing in this GAA-obsessed corner of Dublin is the museum in the bowels of Croke Park. The history of this spot is astonishing, with Hill 16 having seen the massacre of spectators back in 1920 by the British army, shortly before Ireland won its independence. The organisation is traditionally associated with Irish nationalism, though that link has faded somewhat in recent years. The museum also allows you to try the sports, learn about their development over the years and snap up the odd souvenir.
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Walk the Royal Canal

Dublin’s heart is encircled by canals, the Grand Canal arching around the south of the city, and the Royal Canal around the north. The Royal Canal runs all the way from the Liffey River to Longford, in the heart of the country, where it joins up with the Shannon River, which in turn eventually joins the Atlantic coast. It’s in a state of modest disrepair these days, but walking the lochs and exploring is still a pleasure. It’ll take you past the prison walls referenced in the iconic trad song ‘The Auld Triangle’, under Croke Park, and into a strange kind of city byway in its towpaths. It’s a great route to jog around, too.

The Royal Canal, Dublin © William Murphy/ Flickr

Kavanagh’s Old Time Sweets

Dublin loves a good old-world sweet shop, and Kavanagh’s is one of the better ones; not so much an overpriced reinvention, but something that feels like it’s actually taken from fifty years ago. Pick up hard candies in paper bags by weight, served from glass jars. There’s a heap of the old favourites, from bonbons to sours, as well as plenty of friendly recommendations.

Ogle the city on the Croke Park Skyline Tour

The latest addition to Croke Park, the Ericsson Skyline Tour takes you onto the roof of the stadium. There are regular stadium tours too, taking you into the dressing room and out onto the pitch, but unless you’re a GAA aficionado, this one, offering views across all of Dublin from your vertigo-inducing perch on a metal walkway over the Cusack stand, is the one to go for. You’ll get a nice view of the pitch, too. The roof-walk requires at least modestly good weather, though there’s something incredibly thrilling about it if you’re feeling brave and head up in a bit of a breeze.

Jones Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 3, Ireland. +353 8192300

Play GAA

Yes, we know, but it really is the big thing here. If you want to actually get stuck into a bit of the old Gaelic games action, Drumcondra club side Na Fianna is one of the clubs involved in the ‘Experience Gaelic Games‘ days, which give you a couple of hours of action in both football and hurling in the company of a solid player or two. Since most locals start playing the games as toddlers, this is a great way of getting a taste of the real basics from a company that’s used to going really basic, and will serve up your kit for you, too. A great experience.

Na Fianna, Mobli Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 9, Ireland. +353 18370210

Watch Shelbourne play soccer

Drumcondra is mainly about GAA, but this sports-obsessed part of the city has another love, too, in local soccer club Shelbourne. Currently going through a real low-ebb in their history, the Tolka-side club play in a slightly derelict ground, ‘Tolka Park’, right in the heart of Drumcondra, but once gambled on joining the European elite. The club invested a fortune in attempting to reach the Champions League, breaking new ground for Irish club football in knocking out several higher profile clubs in the process, in the early 00s. They never quite made it, and financial catastrophe followed. There’s something reassuringly old-school about watching them play now.

Tolka Park, 70-74 Richmond Road, Drumcondra, Dublin 3, Ireland. +353 18375536

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