For an authentic Irish experience, trade the classic tourist sites of Dublin, like the Guinness Storehouse and Grafton Street, for our pick of the best lesser-known hidden gems that the city has to offer.
1. Marsh’s Library
Every visitor to Dublin makes a trip to The Library at Trinity College – is a beautiful sight, but it’s not exactly a hidden gem. Instead, head to Marsh’s Library for a more off-the-beaten-track historic library experience. This 18th-century building is often ignored by tourists in favour of its neighbour, St Patrick’s Cathedral, but over 20,000 rare books and manuscripts live on its old oak bookshelves. It also often hosts lectures and exhibitions.
2. Mummies at St Michan’s Church
From the outside, this church looks pretty dull compared to some of Dublin’s elegant historic architecture, but inside is where things get really interesting. Dozens of coffins sit in a vault underneath the church, each home to a mummy. Some of the coffins in the crypt are falling apart, so if you follow the narrow stone steps down into the basement, you can take a peek at the well-preserved corpses.
3. Iveagh Gardens
For a green space in the city in which to relax, head to Iveagh Gardens. The gardens were once the lawn of the Earl of Clonmell but, after a history of different ownership, in 1991 the gardens were gifted to the State by the Guinness family and made public. The maze, sunken garden, rosarium, American garden and impressive fountains were restored and preserved. Favored by the locals because it’s much less popular with tourists who flock to nearby St Stephen’s Green, you’re more likely to enjoy some peace and quiet here.
4. Vintage Cocktail Club
Temple Bar is the place to go for a drink and some lively nightlife, as the sun starts to set this part of town erupts with live music and the clinking of beer glasses. But not many locals and even fewer tourists know about the secret pub here called a Vintage Cocktail Club. This super cool prohibition-style speakeasy bar is hidden in plain sight – a black door with just the letters ‘VCC’ marks the entrance beside 15 Crown Alley.
5. Lucy’s Lounge Vintage Clothing
In the heart of the popular Temple Bar area, Lucy’s Lounge is a must-visit for fans of vintage clothing or quirky shopping – even just browsing this Alice in Wonderland-inspired store is an experience! Far more than your average thrift store, here the rooms overflow with vintage clothing and household items. It also offers free sewing classes!
6. The Hungry Tree
London plane trees have long been planted in large cities as they grow well in polluted areas and can help air quality. At Ireland’s oldest law school, King’s Inns, an 80-year old specimen has grown so large that it’s embraced an old iron bench, slowly wrapping the seat in its bark and making it look like the gnarly trunk is consuming the bench! Fun to visit, but it’s probably best not to take a seat.
7. George’s Street Arcade
The enchanting George’s Street Arcade offers a truly cultural shopping experience. In this enclosed Victorian market, no two of the boutique and independent stalls sell the same thing. The arcade is steeped in history; it’s Ireland’s first shopping center, the longest continuously trading shopping center in Europe, and has been open since 1881. Local retailers pedal their wares, from jewelry and souvenirs to clothing and music, while local food stalls make the place smell totally delicious.
8. St Valentine
Though Dublin is packed with fascinating historic buildings, museums and churches, the Whitefriar Street Church is a peaceful spot in the heart of the bustling city and stands out for being home to the relics of St. Valentine. Those who’ve heard about what’s hidden in the church come for a blessing before marriage, or simply to ask for a little help from the patron saint of love.
9. Phoenix Park Tea Rooms
Instead of stopping to get your caffeine fix in town, head out to the Victorian Tea Rooms in Phoenix Park for a cup of coffee and a hearty slice of cake with a view. Snacks are baked on-site daily (and heaps of vegan, and gluten and dairy-free options are available!) to be enjoyed inside the beautiful period building or al-fresco in the park.
10. Visit Napoleon’s Toothbrush
The exhibits on display at the Heritage Centre of the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland are well worth a visit. The research center focuses on the history of medicine in Ireland, and the collection boasts a variety of unusual and quirky artifacts, including Napoleon Bonaparte’s toothbrush and an array of historic medical instruments that’ll make you grateful for modern medicine.