Ten alternative things to do in Dublin

So, you have been to the top attractions in Dublin before. You have done the Guinness Storehouse and stood in line to see the Book of Kells. What if this is your second visit to the capital or if you fancy exploring alternatives? Fear not. Visitors to our Dublin International Hostel are an adventurous lot and they have found real-life Mummies, strange food customs, hidden gardens and secret societies (that are open to the public!) in their explorations of Dublin. Check out what else they suggest to do.

1. Deadly Buzz

Dublin is not a new town. It has history. This means we have lots of dead folk, and dead folk like their space. One of the latest Dublin attractions is Glasnevin Cemetery which houses 1 million deceased Dubs and has the world’s first cemetery museum. Dublin is so popular a resting place that St Valentine even ended up here.

Hostel TipSt Michans Crypt (just ten minutes from our hostel and only €5 in!) where Bram Stoker (author of Dracula) used to give himself nightmares as a child. No-one knows exactly how the crypt has preserved the bodies there, but you can still see the Crusader, the Nun and the Thiefs in their coffins today.

2. Fishy Food

fish and chips

Fish and chips arrived in Dublin after an Italian immigrant, Giuseppe Cervi mistakenly got off the boat at Cork and walked to Dublin in 1880 to sell his fish in batter. His wife Palma would ask customers “Uno di questa, uno di quella?”. This phrase (meaning “one of this, one of the other”) entered the vernacular as a”one and one” and this is how the locals refer to it today. In 1913 Ivan Beshoff came to Dublin from Russia and opened his Edwardian fish shop while Leo Burdock opened his shop in the same year and the two have been in competition ever since. You decide which is the best!

3. Secret Gardens

Blessington St Lodge

Image Credit – William Murphy
Flickr (CC-SA-2.0)

You can’t come to Ireland and not expect to see some greenery. The capital city has about there 2000 hectares of green space. These range from the massive (Phoenix Park, where you need to hire a bike to get around it) to the tiny (The Garden of Remembrance) and are full of surprising features which will delight you (a helicopter pad in Dublin Castle Gardens, a waterfall and sunken archery range in the Iveagh Gardens, and a rhinocerous in the river along the Dodder linear park!).

Hostel Tip – This is the one closest to our hostel (5 minutes – just ask at reception for directions), in Blessington Street Basin. Dublin’s Secret Garden is so secret that even the locals are often unaware of its existence. When the sun is out, it’s a lovely spot to sit and eat a sandwich and watch the wildlife in the lake.


4. Bizarre Bazaars

Ferociius Mingle Market

Dublin was founded by Vikings who realised they needed somewhere to set up shop and sell all the gear that they had been plundering from the rest of Europe. It was like a medieval shopping centre. Since then, Dublin has been buying and selling whatever it could, and the city is still full of markets, which makes it a bargain-hunters dream. You can find everything from the local Moore St which is famous for its local women shouting “Three-for-a-euro!” and calling everyone “Luv” to the Victorian treasure trove of boutiques and stalls that is Georges Street Arcade.

Hostel Tip – Ferocious Mingle Market where hipsters go to pick up what they cannot find elsewhere and figure out what is trendy by listening to fortune-tellers.

5. Lost for Words

Samuel Beckett

Dublin has something in the water when it comes to putting pen to paper. In the past we had Nobel prize-winners like Joyce and Beckett. Today’s Dublin is still a literary city with the musical language of the locals jumping off the page like a nudist at the 40 Foot. Writers like Booker Prize winner Roddy Doyle (of The Commitments fame) and Joseph O’ Connor continue to capture that infectious dialect. Spoken word events are taking it to the next level at places like the Brown Bread Mix Tape and Milk and Cookies.

Hostel tip – Our recommendation goes to the Dublin Writers Museum which is just around the corner from our hostel and regularly holds lunchtime theatre and readings.

6. Coasting Along

Dollymount beach

Kite-surfing Dollymount Strand

You wouldn’t normally think of Dublin as a beach spot, but we get a lot of visitors who like to skirt the edges of the city and they tell us that it is worth a gander. Dublin, is after all, a coastal city with walkways connecting the North and the South coastline. Some of them are wide open spaces which are perfect for clearing the head after sampling the Dublin nightlife. Traditional beaches like Portmarnock are full to bursting capacity on sunny days while kite-surfers touch the sky on Dollymount on windy days and wizened old men splash about like seals in mid-winter at the 40 Foot.

Hostel tip – Hop on the DART (nearest staion Connolly Station) and explore the coast at your own pace.

7. Secret Sniggers

Dublin is a great spot for the  craic, that much sought after state of fun that only happens in Ireland and you sit in a crowd of strangers chuckling away to yourself. Many of our finest pub philosophers have tried to define what exactly the “craic” is but all we know is that it involves copious amounts of laughter, which is why comedy is big on the agenda in Dublin.  There are lots of places where you can get your belly-laughs in Dublin, from the The International Bar which has comedy 7 nights a week to The Stags Head FREE comedy stage.

Hostel tipBattle of the Axe comedy improv at The Halfpenny Bridge Bar, just 15 minute walk from our hostel.

8. Authentic Pubs

Quite pint

Dublin is pub central. Yes, we know that you have been to all the best pubs the last time you were here. You had the craic. You have had some pints. You have listened to some music and had a chat with an old Dublin character about the connection between Ulysses and the banking system (Yes, we met him too and he owes us a pint).  You have been to the highest pub, the oldest pub, the smallest pub and probably a pub with an unusual amount of bric-a-brac that was full of tourists. You consider yourself a pub expert at this stage, but most of these pubs are tourist traps.

Hostel Tip – The Sackville Lounge. Authentic and alternative. This small wood-panelled side street pub off O’ Connell St is home to actors waiting to be called for rehearsals, writers procrastinating and office-workers marking time before the hipsters arrive.

9. Not so Secret Buildings

Freemasons Hall, Dublin

Image Credit – Journal.ie
Freemasons Hall, Dublin

Freemasonry is one of the world’s largest secret societies. Although it’s origins are obscure, it was supposed to have come from the 14th century stonemasons guilds in Europe. With the amount of stonework in Ireland, it comes as no surprise that the society arrived here. The Dublin lodge is the oldest in continuous existence in the world and Irish freemasonry was so successful that it was the form that spread through the British colonies. Ireland also initiated the first woman freemason in the world (Elizabeth St. Leger).  In typical Irish fashion, the freemasons in Ireland were never very good at keeping secrets and they built their Grand Lodge across the road from the Government buildings. You can take a tour of the Freemasons HQ (for just €2!) which includes more weird symbolism than you will see in a Da Vinci Code movie.

10. Walk on the Wild Side

Behan Statue, Royal Canal

Image Credit – William Murphy
Flickr – CC BY SA 2.0

One of the more unusual walks here is the walk along the Royal Canal. Here you will meet a statue of Brendan Behan (Dublin playwright famous for prison experiences and writing “The Auld Triangle”). Your walk takes you by the huge Victorian towers of Mountjoy Prison, through two canal locks and up to Broome Bridge where there is a plaque inscribed to the scientist, William Rowan Hamilton.  In a flash of inspiration he invented the formula that would make 3D computer graphics and lunar flight possible. He carved the formula on the stones of the bridge so that he would not forget it. Then he invented apps (actually, we made that last bit up).



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