I’ve had the good fortune to live in Dublin for the last 10 years. During my time in Ireland, I’ve had the pleasure of discovering and exploring a number of Dublin hidden gems. What is Dublin famous for? Dublin is most well-known for attractions like the Book of Kells, the Guinness Storehouse, and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery, but it’s the less well-known hidden places that make Ireland’s capital so awesome. In this post, I’ll share 17 unique Dublin hidden gems curated over the past decade. Let’s explore Dublin’s off the beaten path things to do by interest: architecture history, food and drink, nature, and literature.
Dublin Hidden Gems: Awesome Architecture
Dublin is over 1000 years old. Because of this, Dublin’s architecture covers a wide variety of periods and styles. Discover Viking and Medieval ruins hidden among Georgian, Victorian, and modern buildings. If you are a fan of architecture, you’ll love these hidden places in Dublin.
1. Lidl Supermarket
Lidl Supermarket on Aungier Street features a surprising Dublin City hidden gem. The store was built atop the remains of an 11th century Medieval dwelling. Clear panels positioned on the floor throughout the store allow shoppers a glimpse of history while picking out their groceries.
2. The Georgian Doors of Fitzwilliam Square
Dublin’s Georgian doors are truly iconic. Most people get their Dublin doors fix with a walk around St. Stephen’s Green perhaps after a stroll down Grafton Street. I invite you to meet me at Fitzwilliam Square. Just a 10 minute walk from St. Stephen’s Green, Fitzwilliam Square feels a world away. You’ll find rich colors, uplifting flowers, and ornate semi-circular glass toppers known as fanlights. Pay special attention as you scan your surroundings on the southwest corner of Fitzwilliam Square. Can you find the teapots that someone placed atop the street signs? Make door hunting even more fun with these doors of Dublin treasure hunt ideas.
3. Dublin Docklands
Dublin’s Docklands have experienced a major makeover in the last 2 decades. Head to Grand Canal Dock to see Dublin’s best modern architecture including the Libeskind-designed Bord Gais Energy Theatre. Curious about the building that looks a bit like a telescope on the River Liffey? That’s Dublin Convention Centre. The Convention Centre is wrapped in colorful neon lights at night so make sure to take a walk along the Liffey after sundown. The Samuel Beckett Bridge is another Dublin hidden gem in the docklands. The bridge connects Dublin’s southside and northside and is designed to appear like a harp flipped on its side.
Walk east along the south side of the River Liffey toward Dublin Port. When you reach the Grand Canal, turn right, cross the locks and behold some of the best street art in Dublin along this stretch of the River Dodder.
Why is there so much development happening in Dublin’s Docklands? A number of American Tech companies including Google, Facebook and Airbnb have established their European operations here earning the neighborhood the nickname “Silicon Docks”.
4. South Lotts
Explore the quiet lanes behind Google's European headquarters on Barrow Street. South Lotts is definitely one of my favorite Dublin hidden gems if you love architecture. The modest row homes were built at the dawn of the 20th century for local dock workers. The terraced homes now sit in the shadow of what was once a gasometer and is now home to luxury apartments. South Lotts features colorful doors framed with contrasting brick for added visual interest.
5. National Botanic Gardens
Not only is the National Botanic Gardens on the northside a true Dublin hidden gem, it’s also free to visit. You’ll find riotous flowers, an arboretum, and a river running through the grounds. An annual art exhibit called Sculpture in Context takes place each year in the Autumn and features works by local artists planted around the gardens. Why have I included the National Botanic Gardens on my list of Dublin’s architectural hidden gems? The gardens feature several stunning Victorian-era greenhouses.
Dublin Hidden Gems for History Buffs
Dublin boasts over a millenium of history that goes all the way back to the Celts and Vikings. Experience recent history as well as history that looks into the far distant past with these Dublin hidden places for history buffs.
6. The Dublin Tenement Museum
14 Henrietta Street Tenement Museum is homed in a newly restored Georgian townhome north of the River Liffey. The museum was originally an opulent mansion that was home to a member of Ireland’s high society. Later, 14 Henrietta Street was neglected and fell into disrepair. The single-family home was subdivided into smaller dwellings jam-packed with poor residents who didn’t even have running water. 14 Henrietta Street was home to many people living under difficult conditions until the 1970s. Learn what life was like here over the years by taking one of the museum's multi-media guided tours. After you're done visiting the tenement museum, head to nearby Kings Inn and seek out the hungry tree which appears to be eating a park bench.
7. Dalkey Castle
Dalkey is a village nestled along Dublin’s South Coast. Dalkey is most well-known for famous residents and visitors including U2 front-man Bono, Pierce Brosnan, and Matt Damon. Even if you aren’t prone to being starstruck by celebrities, it’s still worth taking the DART train to Dalkey for a guided visit to Dalkey Castle. Actors in period costume will take you on a tour of the castle’s notable features. Dalkey Castle’s murder hole was added as a way to stop invaders in their tracks by tossing boiling liquids down upon them. Your history lesson at this Dublin hidden gem includes jaw-dropping Medieval medical practices. Don’t miss the Medieval toilet. The engaging actors are what make this castle tour truly special.
8. Drimnagh Castle
Drimnagh Castle is another historic Dublin hidden gem and can be found less than 45 minutes from Dublin City Centre on public transportation. Drimnagh Castle is the only castle in Ireland that has a moat that is still filled with water. Cross the moat via the drawbridge and take a wander around the restored 17th century walled garden. Book a guided tour of Drimnagh Castle to explore the Castle’s history from Norman times into the Medieval period and on to the present. Drimnagh Castle was lovingly restored by volunteers who carved their likenesses into the pillars in the banquet hall.
Dublin Hidden Gems for Food and Drink Lovers
While the term Irish food may conjure up images of black pudding, bacon and cabbage and all kinds of potatoes, Irish cuisine has developed its own innovative and sophisticated flavors over the past decade. Explore Dublin hidden gems for eating and drinking around Dublin Town.
9. Rascals Craft Beer
Ireland features a thriving craft beer culture that has gathered momentum over the last 10 years. Leave the pubs of Temple Bar behind and head to Inchicore. Rascals is one of the best Dublin hidden gems to try Irish craft beer. Rascal’s runs a bar in Inchicore where you can get pizza and a pint after taking a guided tour of the brewery. Rascal’s is known for concocting bold flavor combinations with imaginative names. Peanut Butter Brown and Ugly Christmas Jumper were two of my favorites.
10. Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery
Uisce beatha in Irish translates to “water of life” in English. What better name for Irish whiskey? Whiskey-distilling has experienced a rebirth in Dublin’s Liberties neighborhood over the last 10 years. Pearse Lyons distillery is a true Dublin hidden gem. Located on the grounds of an 800 year old church and cemetery, there is no other distillery like it in Ireland. Take a guided tour and don’t forget to look up at the new glass church tower. Immerse yourself in the history, and then sample a wee dram of Pearse Lyons whiskey while admiring the stained glass panels showcasing the whiskey-distilling process sitting above the pot stills which are situated where the church altar used to be.
11. Eat Stoneybatter and Smithfield
Stoneybatter and Smithfield are Dublin hidden gems for foodies. Try a slice of Guinness cake and craft coffee at Proper Order. Sample Ireland’s freshest seafood in the form of upscale fish and chips at Fish Shop Dublin. L. Mulligan Grocer and Legal Eagle are two awesome gastro pubs where you’ll find great historic atmosphere with modern cuisine and craft beer options.
Dublin Hidden Gems for Fans of Nature
The Irish Sea is adjacent to Dublin City. Dublin’s coastal location means that you’ll find a number of hidden gems for nature lovers conveniently located near Dublin city. Read on for my go to Dublin hidden places if you enjoy hiking or bird watching.
12. Poolbeg Lighthouse and Sandymount Strand
Sandymount is nestled on Dublin Bay and is located within walking distance of Dublin City Centre. The walk from Sandymount Strand to Poolbeg Lighthouse is a local favorite and my personal favorite Dublin hidden gem for nature lovers. Built in the mid-18th century, Poolbeg Lighthouse to this day is a bright red beacon to passing ships. Make sure to check the tidal charts before embarking on this walk to the end of Dublin’s Great South Wall. At certain times of year, the path gets submerged at high tide. Locals often take a shortcut across the sand at low tide on this hike so make sure you are aware of when the tide will be returning so you don’t get into trouble.
13. North Bull Island
North Bull Island in Clontarf is a Dublin hidden gem for bird watching and a coastal hike. Time your visit for low tide for the best birding results. Hike out to Our Lady, Star of the Sea and catch a glimpse of the Poolbeg towers and Poolbeg Lighthouse across the entrance to Dublin port. If you’re feeling the need to chill, you can relax on the beach or play beach volleyball. Some locals will even take a bracing dip in the Irish Sea.
14. Ireland’s Eye
Ireland’s Eye is an uninhibited island situated off the coast of Dublin from Howth and is a great idea to consider if you are thinking about day trips from Dublin. This Dublin hidden gem is a popular nesting site for seabirds. Access Ireland’s Eye via ferry from Howth (a 15 minute boat ride each way). The boats dock near the historic Martello Tower. The tower is a great point of reference so that you don’t get lost as you hike through the rough grasses. If you plan your visit for the Spring or Summer, you may be lucky enough to spot puffins in the water or nesting on the cliffs of Ireland’s Eye.
Dublin Hidden Gems for Literary Enthusiasts
Dublin is truly a literary city with famous Irish authors like James Joyce, Bram Stoker, and Oscar Wilde hailing from Dublin and using the city and their experiences here as fodder for their writing. Explore these hidden places in Dublin if you love literature.
15. Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan on Dublin’s Canals
Take a nice Dublin walk on the footpaths along the Grand Canal and Royal Canal and seek out sculptures of two writers known for colorful personalities and a long standing feud. You’ll find Patrick Kavanagh sitting casually with his legs crossed on a park bench on Dublin’s Grand Canal near Baggot Street. On the northside, not far from Croke Park, Brendan Behan sits jauntily on the Royal Canal. I can just picture him throwing back a whiskey or a pint while watching the world go by along the water and on the footpath.
16. Marsh’s Library
In the early 18th century, Jonathan Swift, author of Gullivers Travels, was dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Dublin. Neighboring Marsh’s Library features works by Swift and other Irish authors. These historic shelves are a must-see for any literary-loving tourist.
17. Chester Beatty Library
The Chester Beatty Library located on the grounds of Dublin Castle is a free museum featuring a famous collection of historic works of religion. Discover ancient bibles, Christian texts, and historic books featuring Middle Eastern, and Far East religions in this Dublin hidden gem.
Now you know all my secrets! I hope you liked these 17 hidden gems many of which are among the best free things to do in Dublin. I’ve been curating this list for the past decade. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years has in store!