Insider Tips

Autumn in Dublin

By Fionn Davenport

23rd October 2018

Dublin is a seven-days-a-week, twelve-months-a-year kind of place, and there’s always something on to entertain and distract me. In addition to the world-renowned arts festivals that take place annually, given that Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature and has a longstanding reputation as a theatrical powerhouse, there’s always something outstanding to check out.

I’m also a huge fan of the Dublin Gallery Weekend in November. Don’t get me wrong: I’m not the world’s biggest art buff. I struggle to tell the difference between Monet and Manet, but this is a great opportunity to visit some of the city’s very best art galleries, who open their doors to curious visitors with tours, talk and even workshops. You also get a chance to meet artists and find out that no, I couldn’t have painted that.

I like my culture served loud and alternative, so I always make time for the Hard Working Class Heroes festival, where venues throughout the city centre give up their stages to the unsigned bands of today – so they can say that they gave a first break to the stars of tomorrow.

If you’re into music, then the bank holiday weekend at the end of October sees Metropolis in the Royal Dublin Society. In 2018 the lineup includes Roisin Murphy and Villagers – two acts well worth making the effort for on their own.

Man in Bram Stoker costume

Bram Stoker telling stories

But the main reason for the bank holiday is that it’s time for Halloween – a most Irish of festivals, despite being adopted by the United States. In Ireland it was known as Samhain, the harvest festival, and the modern version combines more traditional Irish celebrations like bonfires with more modern American activities like trick or treating. In Dublin there’s a parade organised by performance troupe Macnas, whose specialty is giant-sized figures – you may have seen them on tour with U2 or performing at the MTV music awards.
But that’s not the only spooky happening. Dublin is the birthplace of Dracula creator Bram Stoker, so there’s a festival devoted to the writer which includes suitably spooky concerts like Andrea Mastovito’s NYsferatu: Symphony of a Century, performed in St Anne’s Church – the same place Stoker got married in.

Installation at EPIC museum

Installation at EPIC Museum

You’ll notice that with the exception of the Macnas parade, most of these are indoor festivals. Sure, Dublin might benefit from some pretty gorgeous weather in the post-summer haze, but the skies are fickle in Ireland and can’t be fully trusted. Luckily, Dublin is a fabulous indoor destination, with lots to see and do whilst avoiding the elements.
Make sure to check out the events happening at one of Dublin’s newest museums EPIC, in the wonderful location of the CHQ building in Dublin’s docklands.

Man smiling beside printer at National Print museum

National Print Museum

One of my favourite museums in Dublin – and one that very few even know about – is the National Print Museum in an old garrison in Beggars Bush, not far from the south city centre. It’s dedicated to the history of printing, which sounds a bit dry but is anything but. Its collection of letterpress printing equipment – versions of the same press invented by Johannes Gutenberg in 1439 – make up the mainstay of the museum, but its ever-changing temporary exhibits show how printing affected both Ireland and the world at large. There’s a free guided tour of the building every Sunday throughout the winter at 3pm. Trust me, it’s worth it.

People enjoying the Croke Park Skyline tour

Croke Park's Skyline tour

It’s autumn now, so Gaelic sports are on hiatus until early in the new year, but that doesn’t mean a visit to Croke Park, the holy cathedral of Gaelic sports, isn’t warranted. The Croke Park Experience is a museum detailing the history of Gaelic sports in Ireland and the role of the Gaelic Athletic Association not just as the governing body but as the preserver of a cultural flame that helps define the country’s identity. For an extra fee you can also get a tour of the stadium itself – Europe’s fourth-largest and easily the most impressive sporting arena on the island. Daredevils and those not afraid of heights can test their nerves with a tour of the stadium’s roof on the Skyline tour.
Gaelic sports may be taking a seasonal break, but there’s lots of rugby to be had. With Leinster the current European champions, now’s the chance to see them defend their title in a home match of the Heineken Champions Cup, played at the Royal Dublin Society Showgrounds. It’s an intimate setting and the ideal way to see some of the world’s best rugby players showcase their skills.
Back in the city, the colder weather means I need something to warm my chilly bones. What better way than a distillery tour? Dublin has three of them, each offering tours. The oldest of them is the Jameson Distillery on Bow St, part of the huge Irish Distillers company that makes most Irish whiskey. Teeling Distillery, in the Liberties, is a more niche operation but all the better for it: it might only have opened for business a few years ago but it’s just down the street from the original Teeling Distillery, which opened in 1782. The newest distillery is Pearse Lyons, which opened in 2017 and offers small guided tours for an up-close view of the process in making Ireland’s most famous spirit. The best part of a visit to all three? A chance to sample some of the goods – and with Irish whiskey now ranked as some of the very best in the world, here’s your chance to taste it at source.
And sure before you know it it’ll be Christmas….!

Fionn Davenport

Fionn Davenport | Travel Writer

A Lonely Planet author, award-winning travel journalist and radio presenter, Fionn Davenport is one of Ireland's best-known voices in travel writing.