The word Dublin typically evokes images of historical buildings, cobblestoned streets, ancient artifacts, people having the Craic and of course rain! But Dublin has so much to offer and I am making it my personal mission to uncover the hidden beauty of real Dublin, or Dublin's "hidden gems"! With this in mind I have created a list of wonderful things to do in Dublin that unfortunately most visitors rarely do.
1. Meet The Locals
Yes, believe it or not quite a few people that visit Dublin and rarely get to meet the locals, and this ladies and gentleman is a tragedy. Dublin has been voted the friendliest city in Europe TWICE on TripAdvisor. Also according to the Sydney Morning Hearld the best free thing to do in Europe is have a pint with a Dubliner!
The reason most visitors to Dublin do not get to meet the locals is that they only go to the designated tourist areas. Most people get off the plane, make their way into Temple Bar and only leave to go and visit the most popular attractions which, of course are normally surrounded by other tourists.
Our advice would be to grab the Luas (the tram) at St Stephen’s Green and jump off at either the Harcourt or Charlemont stop.
If you get off at the Charlemont stop you will have a wide range of choices but our number one recommendation without a doubt would be The Barge Pub. The Barge has an amazing authentic Irish atmosphere inside but if you are lucky to be in Dublin on a warm day then we would recommend sitting outside beside the canal!
If you get off the Luas at the Harcourt stop then you will be right beside Ireland’s most famous night club Copper Face Jacks! Locally known simply as Coppers, this is a place that party enthusiasts should go to at least once in their lives.
2. The Tomb of St Valentine’s, God of Love!
Not many Dubliners know this but Saint Valentine’s remains are housed in a church on Whitefair Street. The tale of how these bones ended up in Irish hands is a bit of a peculiar one. An Irish priest John Spratt went over to the Vatican and apparently charmed the then Pope so much he gave him the remains as a gift.
The bones arrived in Dublin in 1836 and Spratt put them into storage where they remained until the 1950s! They have since been taken out of storage and given pride of place in the Whitefair Church. It is tradition for both Catholic and non-Catholic couples to go to the church to ask Valentine to protect them and their relationship.
If you are travelling as part of a couple this could be a really nice surprise. You can show your better half how thoughtful and maybe even how well-read you are! If you are in the city centre you could get a taxi to Whitefair Street, but you would then be, as the locals would put it, a “lazy boll*x”! Whitefair Street is a short 10 minute walk from Trinity College so just take a nice walk through the city.
3. Bike Tours
“Every time I see an adult on a bicycle, I no longer despair for the future of the human race.” I am not sure I would be as passionate as Mr H. G. Wells when it comes to bicycles, but I am very passionate about the bike tours in Dublin. For people that only have a few hours in our beautiful city this is perfect getting the most bang for your buck.
We would recommend 2 tour operators in particular, the Dublin City Bike Tours and the See Dublin By Bike
Company. The tour guides are always hugely knowledgeable and most of them have the typical Irish sense of humour.
4. Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine
If you love when history is brought to life in front of your eyes then you will absolutely love this! People with an interest in emigration in particular seem to love this museum. The dimly-lit quarters below the deck of the ship show quite vividly what it was like for the passengers who actually made the horrible journey centuries ago.
The ship is docked right in the centre of town on the River Liffey so it is within walking distance of most hotels. The first tour starts at 10am and the last one starts at 4pm. The entire excursion is a steal at just €9 and €5 for children. A word of warning this museum deals with quite a sensitive subject so do not be surprised if you see people crying, or else do not be surprised if you have an emotional reaction yourself!
5. James Joyce Cultural Centre
If you are not a fan of James Joyce then move on to number 6 now, if you are a fan of James Joyce then do not leave Dublin without visiting this museum. The museum focusses particularly on Ulysses which is, in my opinion, Joyce’s finest work. The house (or museum) was built to evoke the memory of Joyce’s Dublin.
If you are a fan of James Joyce but your travel companions are not, do not force them to come along. This is not like a regular museum it comes across like an ode or a shrine to Joyce and will just scare people who are not fans. We would strongly recommend the audio tour if you are attending, sometimes they have lectures and events on there, you can check their listings here
6. The Newspaper Database - National Library of Ireland
If you are a history buff and really want to get a sense of how the Ireland really evolved since the adoption of the printed press, then this should be the first item on your list. You can search the newspapers to gauge the mood during Victory in Europe Day in 1945 or when the Berlin Wall came down or even better when Ireland gained its independence.
Most of the Newspaper Database is held on film but there are some old copies held in the library, obviously be respectful to the librarian and do not damage any Irish heritage! The National Library is right in the middle of the city so go early and take in some of the other sites afterwards. Also you may want to go early because you may end up spending the entire day reading through old newspapers, it does get very addictive for history buffs.
7. The Irish Jewish Museum
This is a real hidden gem for people visiting Dublin! The museum was set up to promote and preserve artefacts relating to the history of the Jews in Ireland. You may be thinking, why is there a Jewish Museum in Ireland when the entire Jewish population numbers approximately 1,000? The reason is that their story and history in Ireland is so fascinating and that is what makes this a must see on your trip to Dublin.
The one set back to this museum is that it is not exactly in the City Centre. However the bus service in Dublin is very good and you can take the number 9, 16 or 68 to the museum. Your average Dublin bus driver will most likely never have heard of the Irish Jewish Museum so just ask him to please tell you when you are near St Kevin’s Church. From the church use a map, Google Maps or ask for directions from a nice Dublin local.
8. The Bodysnatcher’s Watch Tower in Glasnevin Cemetery
Ireland’s most famous Bodysnatchers actually plied their trade in Edinburgh, Scotland. However, there in the 20th Century in Ireland there were also a few unscrupulous people more than willing to dig up a body to give it to a medical student in return for a few shillings. This led to the towers being erected around Galsnevin to keep all the bodies safe from pesky grave robbers.
To get to the cemetery we would recommend grabbing the 40D bus from Parnell Street in the City Centre, alternatively you could take a taxi for €10-€15. The cemetery not only has the wonderful Bodysnatcher towers but also has an interactive museum and a daily public tour. The public tours start at either 11.30am or 2.30pm.
I will leave you with the words of Alexander Bell, "Leave the beaten track behind occasionally and dive into the woods. Every time you do, you will be certain to find something you have never seen before."
From all of us here at the Jackson Court Hotel, enjoy your stay in Dublin.