12 Fun Tours to Discover the Best of Dublin

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Maisie Linford

Whether you are coming to Dublin to discover Irish history, culture or just for the craic, the city has it all. Using local knowledge from expert guides, a tour is an ideal way to see the capital.

A tour can be the best way to gain exclusive access to the best bits of the city and explore a little further afield. From kayaking down the River Liffey to pub crawls with actors, musicians and foodies, these tours offer you the chance to really make the most of your trip.

1. Walking tour of Dublin

Historical Landmark

Temple Bar, Dublin
Diogo Palhais / Unsplash

Dublin is a beautiful city to take in on foot and can be easy to navigate, but avoid getting lost down any dead ends with a guided walking tour. In this three-hour jaunt around the city, an expert takes you to the must-see sights, from Dublin Castle to Temple Bar, as well as to museums including the Chester Beatty Library. Local knowledge adds a personal perspective to the historical context of the city and its landmarks, including stories about the young U2. Doing this tour at the start of your trip is the best way to get your bearings in the city and make sure you see all of Dublin’s essential attractions. Keep a note of what you’d like to come back to and explore a little further on your own.

2. The Book of Kells

Building, Library

The Long Room in the Trinity College Library on July 14, 2018 in Dublin, Ireland.
Elena Schweitzer / Adobe Stock
The Old Library in Trinity College Dublin is one of the city’s most photogenic spaces and holds the iconic Book of Kells. However, it’s also among the busiest places, and when it’s particularly crowded, you’ll struggle to catch a glimpse of the famous manuscript. Avoid disappointment by booking an early-access tour to explore ahead of the crowd with an informed guide who ensures an up-close visit to the Book of Kells, and gain a real understanding of why it’s regarded as “the most precious object in the Western world”. Many tours also include a walk through Trinity College Dublin to the exterior of Dublin Castle, where your guide will share local and historical insight into these landmarks.

3. Dublin by kayak

Architectural Landmark

Long exposure sunset at Bullock Harbour, Dalkey, Dublin
Conor Luddy / Unsplash

Not many people relate Dublin’s storied streets with seaside adventures, but Dublin Bay is a a UNESCO-listed biosphere reserve with an epic coastline. The waters here are best explored by kayak, where you can enjoy beautiful views of the Irish landscape and get up close and personal to some of the bay’s local residents – most notably the seals! The waters around Dalkey Island show Dublin Bay at its very best. Recommended by Gethin Morgan.

4. Discover Dublin by boat

Natural Feature, Architectural Landmark

Tourist boat on the Liffey river, Dublin.
© Andrew Michael / Alamy Stock Photo

For travellers looking to discover the Liffey in a more relaxing manner, a river cruise is an excellent alternative. It’s a great way to look out at the city’s landmarks and listen to a guide sharing the history of Dublin through its river. From the Vikings to modern-day redevelopments and more, the tour is ideal for families who want to sit down and take in the sights stress-free.

5. Dublin literary pub crawl

Historical Landmark

One of the biggest draws of Dublin is the wealth of literary history in the city, and the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl led by Colm Quilligan is the best way to bring these stories to life. The pub crawl has gained a reputation as one of the world’s best literary tours over the past three decades, but the accolades it’s received haven’t inflated the price. At only €18 (£15.62), this tour is a bargain worth bragging about. Each stop features professional actors who perform passages from all the great Irish literary works. Make sense of Ulysses in the pubs that inspired James Joyce, and witness scenes from Samuel Beckett. Also, drink to the poetry of Oscar Wilde. After the official crawl, head to a nearby bar with your fellow literary travellers to truly appreciate what makes Dublin a storyteller’s city.

6. Irish Famine walking tour

Museum, Historical Landmark

Famine memorial in Dublin
© noel moore / Alamy Stock Photo

On the banks of the Liffey, you’ll find the haunting figures of Rowan Gillespie’s Irish Famine Memorial. These statues are part of a trilogy, with the others standing in Canada and Australia, commemorating those who fled the Emerald Isle in the 1840s and laid the foundations for Ireland’s substantial diaspora communities. The Great Famine Walking Tour is the best historical tour in Dublin to truly understand the suffering they went through, both during the famine and on the journey to a better life. A professional historian will lead you through the city and around the Famine Museum and EPIC The Ireland Emigration Museum, in an interactive and sometimes heartbreaking crash course in Irish history.

7. Glasnevin Cemetery

Cemetery

Glasnevin Cemetery, Finglas Road, Glasnevin, Dublin, Ireland
Chris Kofoed / Unsplash
Interested in tracing your Irish heritage? See if you can find your ancestors in the city’s beautiful Glasnevin Cemetery, which holds records going back to 1832. Tours can be booked online for €14 (£13), which includes access to the cemetery museum and a €5 (£4.30) genealogy voucher. You either book the General History Tour, where a guide takes you to the resting places of notable figures from the Easter Rising, or opt for the Dead Interesting Tour. The latter takes visitors through the cultural significance of the cemetery’s sculptures, symbolism and architecture. It also uncovers the cemetery’s secrets, such as the vault that played an important part in the Irish War of Independence. Upgrade your ticket on-site for a trip up the imposing O’Connell Tower, which offers the best panoramic views of Dublin.

8. Irish food walking tour of Dublin

Pub, Restaurant, Irish

Irish cuisine may not have the most exciting reputation, but a focus on fresh ingredients and innovative cooking techniques has made Dublin a destination for foodies. To sample the country’s cuisine at some of the capital’s best restaurants, book a spot on a food walking tour. Experience the famous warmth of Irish hospitality in a variety of restaurants and pubs, with a friendly local guide explaining the history of various dishes and venues.

9. Malahide Castle and Howth

Historical Landmark

Malahide Castle, County Dublin, Ireland
Barbara McDermott / Unsplash

To get a less city-centric perspective of Dublin, try going slightly further afield to the city’s northern coastline. A half-day tour gives you the chance to take in the grandeur of the 12th-century Malahide Castle while an expert fills you in on the architecture, art collection and tales of the Irish nobility who once lived here. Explore the impressive gardens and the only butterfly house in Ireland, before continuing along the coastal scenery to Howth Harbour for panoramic views of Dublin Bay’s jaw-dropping seascape. There’s also a bird sanctuary nearby, so keep an eye out for puffins flying overhead.

10. Dublin traditional Irish music pub crawl

Music Venue

Musicians playing traditional Irish music in a cosy pub
Morgan Lane / Unsplash

Irish pubs are a cornerstone of the community and a highlight for any visitor, especially music lovers due to the impromptu trad sessions that spring up around the city. However, if you just turn up, you might be disappointed to find yourself too late, too early or blocked into the corner and missing out on the main performance. To get the most of this uniquely Irish experience, book the Dublin Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl. For only €22 (£19), local musicians guide you to the best of traditional storytelling and music. With reserved seats in Dublin’s busiest pubs, you can relax as you listen to music and the colourful commentary of your guides. Ask them anything and learn your bodhrán from your bouzouki as they share the significance of music in Ireland. The pub crawl finishes late, but it, of course, leaves time to carry on the evening with your fellow travellers.

11. Glendalough and Wicklow half-day tour from Dublin

Natural Feature

Lough Tay (Guinness Lake), Wicklow Mountains, Ireland
Ving N / Unsplash

The Wicklow Mountains are another significant site in Dublin’s surrounding area. The breathtaking, cinematic scenery has been the site of many a proposal. To really understand what makes them such a draw for lovers, take a half-day tour of Glendalough and Wicklow. You’ll discover dense forests, towering mountains, sparkling lakes and babbling brooks that you can’t reach by public transport. You’ll even explore filming locations from movies such as P.S. I Love You. This trip is excellent value for money at only €33 (£28) and gives you a new way to connect to the Irish landscape.

12. Guinness Storehouse Experience

Building, Museum

Trips Ireland Guinness Storehouse Adobe Stock 365152634 Editorial Use Only
This is one of the most popular experiences among tourists in Dublin, and with good reason. Ireland’s most beloved export is famous the world over for its unique taste, iconic look and even its most famous marketing campaigns. The Guinness Storehouse tells you the whole story across an immersive, multi-floored museum that reaches its pinnacle at the 360-degree panoramic bar, where you can enjoy the crispest pint of the black stuff you’ve ever had, with spectacular view of the city. It really does taste that much better in Dublin. Recommended by Gethin Morgan.

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