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A Local's Guide to 20 of the Best Hidden Gems in Dublin Ireland

Discover Dublin hidden gems. Explore off the beaten path Dublin. Learn about hidden gems in Dublin from a local to enjoy on your next trip to Ireland.
I’ve had the good fortune to live in Dublin for more than 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 Dublin's less well-known hidden places that make Ireland’s capital so awesome. 

In this post, I’ll share 20 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. 

Hidden Gems Dublin: ceramic dog at 14 Henrietta St.

Dublin Hidden Gems at a Glance

Let's start with a quick summary of my picks of Dublin hidden gems across a variety of categories. We'll then place each one on the map before diving into more detail about these off-the-beaten-path places.

Dublin Off-the-Beaten-Path: The Hungry Tree at Kings Inn

Awesome Architecture
  1. The Medieval Lidl Supermarket
  2. The Georgian Doors of Fitzwilliam Square
  3. Dublin Docklands
  4. South Lotts
  5. National Botanic Gardens
Hidden Places for History Buffs
  1. The Dublin Tenement Museum
  2. Dalkey Castle
  3. Drimnagh Castle
  4. Windmill Lane
Hidden Gems For Food and Drink Lovers
  1. Rascals Craft Beer
  2. Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery
  3. Eat Stoneybatter and Smithfield
Hidden Places for Fans of Nature
  1. Poolbeg Lighthouse and Sandymount Strand
  2. North Bull Island
  3. Ireland’s Eye
  4. Irish National War Memorial Gardens
Off-the-Beaten-Path Places for Literary Enthusiasts
  1. Patrick Kavanagh and Brendan Behan on Dublin’s Canals
  2. Marsh’s Library
  3. Chester Beatty Library
Click on the image of the map of Dublin hidden gems below to open up an interactive version in Google Maps to help you find all the cool off-the-beaten path places covered in this post.

Map of Dublin Hidden Gems and Off-the-Beaten-Path Places

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. The Medieval 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.

Hidden Gems Dublin: Medieval House at Lidl Supermarket

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.

Dublin Hidden Gems: Purple Georgian Door on Fitzwilliam Square

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 Dubin Docklands. The bridge connects Dublin’s southside and northside and is designed to appear like a harp flipped on its side. 

Hidden Gems Dublin: Samuel Beckett Bridge and Dublin Convention Centre

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.

Hidden Places in Dublin: Street Art on 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.

Hidden Gems Dublin: Yellow door with ornate brickwork in South Lotts

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: Victorian-era Greenhouse in National Botanic Gardens

Dublin Hidden Gems for History Buffs

Dublin boasts over a millennium 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.

Hidden Gems Dublin: Tour the Dublin Tenement Museum

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. Y

our 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.

Dublin Hidden Gems: Dalkey and Dalkey Castle

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.

Hidden Gems Dublin: Inside Drimnagh Castle

9. Windmill Lane (The Original)

There is no greater history than musical history and some of the top music of all time traces its origins to Ireland. 

From the traditional folk music stylings of Luke Kelly and the Dubliners, the Classic Rock, well, classics of Phil Lynott and Thin Lizzy to the iconic pop and rock anthems of Sinead O'Connor, Hosier, and U2, Dublin is a city of music lovers and you can pay homage to this rich and rockin' history with a visit to Windmill Lane Studios. 

Windmill Lane Studios opened in 1978 with a focus on recording Irish Trad Music. That all changed when the studio was adopted by U2. 

After U2 based themselves at the studios, the likes of Van Morrison, SinĂ©ad O'Connor, and Elvis Costello followed. Def Leppard recorded part of Hysteria here. 

The site of the original Windmill Lane Studios (just search for Windmill Lane Apartments on Google Maps to find it) features a display of album covers embedded in the sidewalk. 

Drop by and pay homage to some of the greats of the Irish and international music scene.  

Dublin Hidden Places: Album covers at Windmill Lane Studios

10. Windmill Lane Recording Studios Today

Windmill Lane Recording Studios moved from their original location on Windmill Lane not far from the River Liffey to a Lime Green Art Deco inspired building on Pearse St. in Grand Canal Dock in 1990. 

Did you know that the building that Windmill Lane Studios currently calls home started as a power station for the tram line? It was subsequently a Bovril factory and then a snooker hall, before its current claim to fame as a world renowned recording studio. 

Here's a Dublin hidden gem for your bucket list: Sign up for a one hour guided tour of Windmill Lane Recording Studios. The tour costs 22 EUR at the time of writing, but it is definitely one of the most unique things to do in Dublin. 

Try your hand on one of the sound boards. Check out the wall signed by many of the artists who have recorded here like Hosier and Ed Sheeran. My favorite was a signature from The Edge which is fittingly at the edge of the wall. 

Marvel at the silver, gold, and platinum albums on the wall. Windmill Lane had a key role to play in all these successes.

Sit and tickle the ivories on the Steinway piano that David Bowie himself played in Studio 1. 

The sound board in Studio 1 of Windmill Lane Recording Studios, a Dublin Hidden Gem

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.

11. 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.

Hidden Gems Dublin: beer tasting at Rascals Brewery

12. Pearse Lyons Whiskey Distillery

Uisce beatha in Irish translates to “water of life” in English. What better name could there be 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.

Dublin Hidden Gems: whiskey themed stained glass at Pearse Lyons Distillery

13. 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 is an awesome gastro pub where you’ll find great historic atmosphere with modern cuisine and craft beer options.

Hidden Gems Dublin: Guinness Cake at Proper Order in Smithfield

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.

14. 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. 

Personally, I'm all about safety first, so I strongly recommend that you stick to the trails and don't take the shortcut.

Hidden Gems Dublin: Poolbeg Lighthouse

15. 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. 

Hidden Gems Dublin: Our Lady Star of the Sea on North Bull Island

16. 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 off-the-beaten-path Dublin 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.

Hidden Places Dublin: Ireland's Eye Island

17. Irish National War Memorial Gardens

The Irish National War Memorial Gardens are located along the River Liffey in Islandbridge, an area of Dublin not far from Kilmainham Gaol and the Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA). 

It took us years to actually come out and visit the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, but when we did, we thought, "how did we miss this for so long?!" 

The gardens are dedicated to the memory of the nearly 50,000 Irish soldiers who died in World War I. You can reflect and explore the various monuments before wandering into the picturesque rose gardens. 

Walk along the River Liffey and appreciate how quiet and idyllic a spot you are in especially when compared to the bustling Quays just a few kilometers away in Dublin City Centre. 

Depending on the time of day, you may spot crews from local universities rowing along the Liffey in unison. Bring a book or a picnic and enjoy a late morning walk in the Irish National War Memorial Gardens, a Dublin hidden gem that actually hid from us for over a decade.

Dublin Hidden Places: Irish National War Memorial Gardens

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.

18. 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.

Dublin Hidden Gems: Patrick Kavanagh Statue on the Grand Canal

19. 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.

Dublin Hidden Places: Marsh's Library

20. 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.

Hidden Gems Dublin: Dublin Castle home to Chester Beatty Library

Now you know all my secrets! I hope you liked these 20 hidden gems, many of which are among the best free things to do in Dublin

I’ve been curating this list for more than a decade. I can’t wait to see what the next 10 years has in store!

Did you enjoy this post about the unique things to do in Dublin that made my list of off-the-beaten path places curated over a decade living in Ireland? It's these hidden gems that make Dublin one of the best cities to visit across all of Ireland. Sharing is caring...

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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog: A Local's Guide to 20 of the Best Hidden Gems in Dublin Ireland
A Local's Guide to 20 of the Best Hidden Gems in Dublin Ireland
Discover Dublin hidden gems. Explore off the beaten path Dublin. Learn about hidden gems in Dublin from a local to enjoy on your next trip to Ireland.
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Sidewalk Safari | Part-time Travel Blog
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