9 surprising experiences in Dublin

An aerial shot of Grand Canal Dock in Dublin.

Dublin’s ancient streets are a busy mix of iconic sights and buzzing pubs, but there’s a curious side to this place too. From a jail that housed revolutionaries to a crypt full of mysterious mummies, Dublin’s more obscure corners are weird, wonderful and totally in character. 

So scratch beneath the surface a little to discover a bunch of surprising Dublin experiences.

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Fancy experiencing Dublin from a different perspective? Saunter over to Grand Canal Dock in the heart of the city’s Docklands and hit the water with Surfdock’s invigorating watersport activities. Offering lessons in stand-up paddle boarding (SUP) and windsurfing, the guys will also sort you out with rental gear like wetsuits and surfboards if you’d prefer to venture out alone.

Media captionTry stand-up paddle boarding or windsurfing at Dublin's Grand Canal Dock.

St Valentine’s Shrine

Dublin has been home a ton of famous names over the years, but one of its most unlikely residents is at the 200-year-old Whitefriar Street Church – St Valentine himself. Known for marrying young couples into the Christian faith in Rome, which was a crime at the time, St Valentine was handed a death sentence. On the eve of his death, he made time to write a short letter to his jailer's daughter, a previous visitor of his, and simply signed off with "From your Valentine." And so the tradition of sending Valentine's cards was born. Today, Whitefriar Street Church hosts his remains as part of a shrine to the famous saint and even offers special blessings to loved-up couples. Sounds like the start of all love stories, right?

Continuing the romantic theme, check out the cute street art on Temple Bar’s Love Lane, a hidden corner of the city centre. 

Media captionFeel the love at St Valentine's shrine in Whitefriar Street Church.

Marsh’s Library

Hidden away in a tranquil corner of the St Patrick’s Cathedral grounds, Marsh’s Library is the oldest public library in Ireland and was a favourite haunt of Jonathan Swift, James Joyce and Bram Stoker. And just like Stoker, it’s got its own macabre side. Along with its 25,000 books and 300 manuscripts, there are bullet holes from the 1916 Easter Rising scattered across the library’s original oak bookcases.

Media captionExplore Ireland's oldest public library.

Museum of Literature Ireland (MoLI)

Dublin’s one of the world’s great literary cities and the Museum of Literature Ireland (shortened to MoLI in honour of Molly Bloom, a central character from James Joyce’s 'Ulysses') at Newman House is full of interactive exhibits and curious literary artefacts. But the museum’s elegant courtyard is also one of Dublin’s few accessible historic house gardens and contains the famous ash tree under which Joyce had his graduation photos taken.

Media captionCelebrate the best of Irish literature at the MoLI.

City Kayaking

From the ornate Ha’penny Bridge to the spectacular Samuel Beckett Bridge, Dublin’s bridges are a distinct part of the city’s character, but have you ever considered kayaking beneath them? Meet the guys from City Kayaking beside the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and hit the water to see Dublin from a totally new angle. And don’t miss the atmospheric acoustics of their unique live music sessions, with two-hour performances underneath Dublin’s iconic bridges.  

Media captionSee the best views of the city by kayaking on the river.

Mummies at St Michan’s Church

Brave the narrow stone steps leading down to a dusty Dublin vault for a spooky window into the city’s past. Housed beneath St Michan’s Church, the mummified remains of Dublin’s yesteryear elite Irish revolutionaries and wealthy Earls rest quietly for all to see in crumbling wooden coffins. The star of the show, however, is an 800-year-old mummy known only as ‘the crusader’, whose hand is stretched out from his casket (just don’t shake it).

James Joyce Tower and Museum

Escape the hum of Dublin city for a while and venture 30-minutes south to the charming coastal surroundings of Sandycove. Looking out to the Irish Sea is the James Joyce Tower and Museum, a fascinating collection of Joyce’s letters, photographs and personal possessions all stacked up in a 19th century Martello Tower. Sandycove was also the setting for the opening scenes of Ulysses. And if the weather’s playing ball, go for a dip at the famous Forty Foot bathing pool nearby.

Media captionAdmire knick knacks from Joyce's life at the James Joyce Tower and Museum.

Kilmainham Gaol

As a literary city, Dublin’s always been full of stories, but few are more important than the ones within the walls of Kilmainham Gaol. If you want the inside track on how Ireland won its independence, then look no further than the infamous jail where revolutionaries like Patrick Pearse spent their last days. Incredibly, future president Éamon de Valera was the final prisoner here (and only survived execution because he was born in the United States). Take one of the superb tours, presented by guides who live and breathe this stuff.

Media captionTake a tour of the infamous Kilmainham Gaol.

Icon Walk in Temple Bar

Temple Bar’s already Dublin’s most colourful district, but the Icon Walk brings a whole new splash of character to the city’s vibrant heart. Showcasing original artwork by many local artists of Irish icons from a bunch of disciplines (writers, playwrights, sports icons, musicians, and actors), it’s a loud and proud display of Irish cultural heritage. Go for a self-guided tour along Aston Place, Bedford Lane and Price's Lane and check out eclectic art of everyone from rock musician Phil Lynott to legendary comedy character Father Ted.

Media captionSpot Ireland's most celebrated personalities along the Icon Walk.

Explore a whole new side to Ireland’s famous capital

Want to see more of Dublin’s weird and wonderful side? Explore the best of Dublin’s curiosities.