As the capital of the Emerald Isle, Dublin is a beautiful destination worthy of a stop-off on any European adventure. Filled with quirky coffee shops, plenty of museums, and oodles of culture, the city is best explored on foot over the course of several days. Here’s a free and self-guided Dublin walking tour you’ll want to follow by way of introduction to Dublin.
Self-Guided Dublin Walking Tour: Practical Advice, Tricks, and Tips
While total walking time is less than an hour, I highly recommend setting aside at least a few hours to undertake the guided walk as there are plenty of things to visit and even more places to see! While you’ll still experience plenty should you attempt this walk in under sixty minutes, you’ll likely want to enter into some of the attractions and snap some photos along the way.
When it comes to stopping off for refreshments, Dublin has plenty of quirky and quaint coffee shops which are well worth a stop off in. Highlights along the way include Peacock Green & Co. (specialising in tea) and Queen of Tarts (whose sweet delights lie in the sheer number of cakes on offer).
Meanwhile, the best time I have when it comes to dressing for the occasion is to wear flat and comfortable shoes, as well as bringing along a rain jacket or umbrella. After all, Ireland isn’t known as the ‘Emerald Isle’ for nothing and you’ll want some rainproof shoes if you’re planning to spend a weekend in Dublin.
Walking time: 58 minutes.
Distance covered: 4.6 km
The Brazen Head
The oldest pub in Dublin, and indeed all of Ireland, can be found in the form of The Brazen Head, a drinking establishment dating all the way back to 1198. Historically, the tavern has seen plenty of events over the years. After all, the pub is referenced in James Joyce’s iconic work, Ulysses, and Jonathan Swift (author of Gulliver’s Travels) is alleged to have drunk here at some point or another. In other histories, the pub was the meeting point for famous revolutionaries such as Robert Emmet and Wolfe Tone.
Christ Church Cathedral
Following your foray into Dublin’s oldest tavern, next up it’s a visit to the oldest Cathedral in the city. Located not far from the River Liffey and comprising of centuries worth of history, Christ Church Cathedral is one of those must-see Dublin attractions. Complete with Ireland’s oldest copy of the Magna Carta in the expansive crypt, Christ Church’s history dates back well over a thousand years.
Anyone familiar with Ireland will know that the country is characterised by its castles. But what you may well not know is that there’s a castle in the very centre of the Irish capital. Now often used as the site of a wedding venue and conference hall, Dublin Castle remains a dramatic and imposing structure on the Dublin skyline. It’s also possible to visit the interior of the castle for a fee, though of course, its exterior can still be admired for free!
Queen of Tarts
If you’re on the lookout for some good coffee and even better cakes, then the Queen of Tarts offers all this and more. Founded by sisters Regina and Yvonne Fallon, who first trained as pastry chefs in NYC, they have been in business selling sweet treats across two locations in Dublin since the late 1990s.
Today, the Queen of Tarts makes for the perfect rest stop in the middle of this Dublin Walking Tour to enjoy delicious coffees and even better cakes. While ordering be sure to bear in mind that while the sweets are on the pricier side of things, the portions are incredibly generous and you’ll be full after just one slice of cake!
As the most famous of all of Dublin’s, if not all of Ireland’s, pubs, the Temple bar merits a visit on any trip to the city, if only to pass by and snap a quick photo. While the pub is lively during the day, it truly comes to life at night when the whole place is lit up by a thousand twinkling lights and the sound of live music is continuously drifting out the ever-open door…
So-called because once upon a time travellers had to pay half a penny in order to cross the murky waters of the River Liffey below, no cityscape of Dublin would be complete without a nod to the Ha’Penny Bridge. First constructed as a pedestrian walkway in 1816, should you choose to cross the bridge today (for free) on the other side of the river you’ll find the Winding Stair (one of the best bookshops in Dublin), as well as the National Leprechaun Museum.
Wending its way through the city centre, should you opt to wander along the River Liffey you can expect to find the traditional Irish architecture of Dublin reflected in the waters below. In Irish, the waterway is known as ‘An Life’ and is referenced in plenty of great literary works and songs, including, of course, Ulysses.
Trinity College Dublin & The Book of Kells
First founded by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th-century, today Trinity College remains one of the most prestigious seats of learning in the Irish capital. While the grounds are open, free to visit, and definitely worth a peek around (especially in cherry blossom season when the magnolias are in full bloom).
Trinity College Library is one of the most beautiful sets of bookshelves in Europe. A visit to Trinity College Library also includes the chance to peek a glimpse of the Book of Kells, the most important medieval manuscript in Ireland.
Ireland has four national museums, three of which are located in central Dublin. Free to visit, the Irish capital locations feature museums on Archaeology, the Decorative Arts and a spectacular Victorian architecturally designed Natural History Museum.
Elsewhere in the Irish capital city, not far from Sweny’s Pharmacy (a 19th-century pharmacy which has since been transformed into a bookstore), the National Gallery is also free to visit and houses some of Ireland’s greatest masterpieces.
St Stephen’s Green
If you’re looking for a great picnic spot surrounded by coffee shops and the place where all the locals hang out, then you simply must head to St Stephen’s Green, a public park in the very heart of the city. Opened to the public in the late 19th-century, it first started out as a grazing common on the fringes of the city. Today, the green space is filled with landscaped gardens, ponds, and is a real oasis of calm in the middle of the hustle and bustle of everyday city life.
While everyone has heard of the ornate library of Trinity College Dublin, few know about the rather secret spot of Marsh’s Library. Tucked away behind St Stephen’s Cathedral and a solid wrought iron gate, Marsh’s Library is where Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) once studied and where Jonathan Swift (writer of Gulliver’s Travels) would sit, research, and read. Today, the centuries-old shelves are one of Dublin’s best-hidden attractions and are well worth the entry fee of a few euros.
St Patrick’s Cathedral & St Patrick’s Green
Dublin’s other cathedral is tucked away, a short distance from the city centre. While you must pay to enter, the cathedral’s Park is completely free to spend time in and is a source of joy to flower lovers come springtime when the air is perfumed by the scent of dozens of hyacinths. St Stephen’s Green is a great place to end this Dublin Walking Tour as once there you can simply sit, relax for a little while, and soak up all the history you’ve just strolled through.