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.
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 Free Walking Tour of Dublin. 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.
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”. At €45 (£41), this tour also includes a walk through Trinity College Dublin to the exterior of Dublin Castle, where your guide will share local and historical insight into these landmarks.
The River Liffey, meaning River of Life, is the heart of Dublin. It cuts the Irish capital into two sides, north and south. Dublin by Kayak allows you to paddle along the river while getting a good look at the landmarks that line it, complete with insights from a guide. At two to a paddle, it’s the perfect tour for couples or friends who like an adventure. Be one of the few people to see under the city’s iconic bridges, and feel the thrill of the tide. It’s also a chance to get up close with a host of wildlife. (You may even see a seal or two!) At only €35 (£32), it’s relatively affordable for kayaking and is a truly unique experience.
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.
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 €14 (£13), 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.
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.
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 (£4.50) 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.
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 the Irish Food Walking Tour of Dublin. It isn’t a whistle-stop tour where you’ll sample tiny mouthfuls of food. As is typical of Irish hospitality, you’ll enjoy a hearty three-course meal and take your time over regional craft beers. Each course is served in a new restaurant or pub, with a friendly guide explaining the history of the various dishes and venues. The evening ends how every good meal should – making and, of course, drinking an authentic Irish coffee.
To get a less city-centric perspective of Dublin, try going slightly further afield to the city’s northern coastline. A half-day tour, which is just €25 (£23) for adults and free for kids under 14, is packed with seaside exploration. The 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.
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 €15 (£14), 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.
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 €25 (£23) and gives you a new way to connect to the Irish landscape.
Silicon Docks is the nickname bestowed upon Dublin Docklands due to its high concentration of tech companies. It’s the city’s thriving economic hub, but it’s also worth a visit for tourists. For a futuristic way to explore Dublin’s glossiest area, take a Segway tour for €65 (£59.50) and glide along the River Liffey with a guide directing you to key landmarks. Aside from being an incredibly fun way to travel, it also allows you to cover a lot more ground than you would on foot and with far more freedom to explore than a traditional tour bus.