Last Updated on 15th August 2019 by Sophie Nadeau
As the capital of Ireland, Dublin has seen oodles of history during its centuries worth of history. Characterised by its countless pubs, winding alleyways, and various museums, you can’t go wrong by dedicating any portion of a trip to Ireland to exploring the city for at least a few days. Here are 10+ quirky, hidden, unique, unusual, and secret spots in Dublin that your guidebook won’t tell you about!
#1 St Michan’s Church
With roots dating back to the 11th-century, St Michan’s was the first church to be built on the North side of Dublin. Walk along Church Street for just a few minutes and away from the River Liffey, and you’ll stumble upon at what at a first glance seems like an unassuming church but is actually one of the best hidden gems of Dublin.
Head inside and an entirely different story unfolds. For, located in the crypt there are several mummies, dating back to between the 17th and 19th-centuries. Although no one quite knows why the mummies, who were members of some of Dublin’s wealthiest families, are so well preserved, they can be visited during select times in the week for a small fee.
#2 Sweny’s Pharmacy
The former 19th-century pharmacy turned bookstore and craft shop was once visited by James Joyce and is even listed as a location in his world-famous novel, Ulysses. Today it’s a must-see for any bibliophile on a trip to the Irish Capital and is free to visit.
A visit to Sweny’s Pharmacy can easily be combined with a glimpse of Oscar Wilde’s birthplace (which is barely 100 foot down the road), as well as a trip inside the nearby National Gallery, which also happens to be free to visit! Otherwise, head in to Sweny’s to purchase a unique souvenir of your time in Dublin!
#3 Winding Stair Bookshop
I was first introduced to the Winding Stair bookshop thanks to a reader recommendation (thanks, Justine!) and so made it my first port of call once in Dublin. After all, the quirky and vintage bookstore is one of the oldest and most famous of all places dedicated to the written word in the city.
Still independently owned and operated, the location also home to a quaint restaurant which serves traditional Irish food. This hidden Dublin gem is open every day of the week (though hours may vary during special dates) and free to visit. Full opening hours and a brief history can be found on the bookshop’s website.
#4 Marsh’s Library
Just metres away from St Patrick’s Cathedral, behind a wrought iron gate and flowering cherry blossom trees, there’s a library dating back hundreds of years. Once a place where Bram Stoker studied and Jonathan Swift read books from the library’s expansive collections, today Marsh’s library remains one of Dublin’s hidden gems.
So if you don’t want to brave the crowds at Trinity College Dublin to garner a glimpse of the Book of Kells, you can instead visit Marsh’s Library for the nominal fee of two or three euros, depending on whether you have a student card or not! If you want to explore this library within the context of some of Dublin’s other greatest attractions, then why not take yourself on this free and self-guided walking tour?
#5 Rory Gallagher Corner
Not far from Temple Bar (i.e. the most famous drinking establishment in the city), Dublin secrets continue to unfold. After all, a small corner of one particular road is dedicated to Rory Gallagher. Once there, look high up on a bricked wall of a local Meeting House and you’ll spot an exact replica of the guitar which once belonged to the iconic Irish singer. The original guitar was retired by Rory’s brother some time ago.
#6 National Leprechaun Museum
Though a little pricey to enter, the weird and wonderful Leprechaun Museum is dedicated to all things folklore related and is best visited if you prefer storytelling and information as opposed to seeing actual artefacts. Of all the unique things to do in Dublin, this small yet informative museum should be on your list if you want to delve into the history of magic, legends, and myths of Dublin and beyond…
And while some of the Irish capital city’s hidden gems are free to visit, it’s worth noting that the National Leprechaun Museum is perfect for a rainy day or if you’re looking for something a little more unusual to visit during the evening (on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday the museum is open until 8:30 PM).
#7 Lucy’s Lounge Vintage Clothing Store
If you love vintage stores and retro clothing, then you simply must head to the quirky store that is Lucy’s Lounge (11 Fownes Street Upper). Set over several levels and dedicated to all things weird and wonderful, you could easily find yourself lost in there for an hour or two, exploring the many pre-loved and repurposed vintage items for sale.
Nearby, there are several other second-hand stores where you’re guaranteed to find plenty of treasures that are looking for a great home. Other than Lucy’s Lounge, some of my top picks for vintage shopping in Dublin include NINE CROWS VINTAGE (22 Temple Lane South) and the Dublin Vintage Shop (Capel Street Capel St, North City).
#8 St Patrick’s Cathedral Park
Often forgotten in favour of more famous parks, the green space surrounding St Patrick’s Cathedral is filled with plenty of flowers (including fragrant hyacinths) throughout the spring and summer months. In fact, it’s easily one of the best places to see spring blossom in Dublin.
Best visited on a sunny day, this park makes for the perfect spot to hang out with friends or enjoy a picnic outdoors. If you wish to enter inside the Cathedral itself, you should know that you’ll have to pay to step inside the ecclesiastical building (this is the same with most of Dublin’s major churches). Purchase your St Patrick’s Cathedral: Self-Guided Cathedral Admission ticket here in advance.
#9 Ruins of St Kevin’s Church
As an abandoned church with oodles of history that has since been transformed into a public park, the haunting ruins of St Kevin’s Church are well worth a visit on any trip to the Camden area of the city. While elsewhere in the district is home to a canal, and countless hipster coffee shops, St Kevin’s Park provides a moment of calm for those seeking a quiet spot.
#10 Huguenot Cemetery
The 17th-century graveyard of Huguenot Cemetery (known in French asCimetière Huguenot de Dublin) is situated in the very heart of town and dates all the way back to 1693, and the people buried in the cemetery are descendants of the Huguenots, a once-persecuted religious group who fled France.
Unfortunately, the cemetery is closed to visitors full-time. However, it can still be glimpsed through wrought-iron gates on Merrion Street, just a short walk from St Stephen’s Green. Getting a little lost in Dublin is how I first caught a peek of the 17th-century burial site!
#11 Oscar Wilde Statue
The rather amusingly appointed Oscar Wilde is a nod to the literary nature of Dublin. Situated in a park just across from the Georgian residence where the acclaimed writer once lived, the colourful life-sized statue is well worth a peek on any wander through Merrion Square.
#12 Saint Valentine’s Relics (Whitefriar Church)
Of all the secret spots in Dublin listed in this article, the relics of Saint Valentine may well be the most unusual. But yes, the real Saint Valentine is said to be buried in Whitefriar Church and a small plaque and ornately decorated shrine now announce the location of his remains which were donated to the church by Pope Gregory XVI during the 19th-century.
And so, if you’ve got a little time spare when spending a weekend in Dublin, be sure to head to Whitefriar Church! Of all the secret spots in Dublin, other highlights of the off the beaten path ecclesiastical building include some stunning carvings and a life-sized wooden figure of Our Lady of Dublin.