- The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes. Marcel Proust
Celebrate St Patrick
Dublin is the best place in the world to celebrate St Patrick’s Day, the annual party in honour of Ireland’s patron saint. The capital will turn green for the St Patrick’s Day Festival, (14–17 March), an action-packed, Celtic fiesta spanning four days of pageantry and fun. It’s a chance to enjoy street theatre, giant puppetry, funfairs, outdoor concerts, comedy shows and music sessions in the city’s lively pubs. The main event will be the St Patrick’s Day Parade when hundreds of floats and marching bands take over the city for one of the most spectacular outdoor events of the year.
Sample a taste of Dublin
Take a Dublin Tasting Trail and spend a morning discovering the city’s culinary treasures. Experienced, local guides lead the leisurely walks that visit bakeries, food halls, street markets, cheesemongers, delicatessens and other speciality shops, and include six to eight delicious tastings. The walks are peppered with fascinating snippets of information on the city’s history and architecture.
Sample one of the increasing array of good to excellent restaurants in Dublin’s city centre, in particular take a stroll around South William Street & Georges Street to find a hipster restaurant scene unfolding.
Ireland’s largest gardening, food and family event, Bloom in the Park (29 May – 2 June) will take place in Dublin’s Phoenix Park and will feature an artisan food market and food village, showcasing the finest artisan foods Ireland has to offer.
Conquer the Vikings with Brian Boru
Delve into Dublin’s Viking past. 2014 marks the 1,000th anniversary of one of the most significant events in Irish history, The Battle of Clontarf, fought between the Irish, led by the mighty chieftain Brian Boru, and the invading Vikings. March sees the launch of a Battle of Clontarf Heritage Trail, which will mark the site and tell the story of this important battle.
For more information about Dublin’s Viking history visit Dublinia, an interactive exhibition beside Christchurch Cathedral. Or try the free Viking Walking Tour which reveals the city’s Viking past and ends in a pub in Dublin’s lively Temple Bar area for a story-telling session with a Viking twist.
You can even become a Viking for an hour or two on the Viking Splash amphibious tour bus, a fun-filled and engaging guided city tour. They provide the horned helmets, you provide the Viking roar!
Get on your bike for the Giro d’Italia
One of the greatest cycling events in the world is coming to the streets of Dublin in May. The Giro d’Italia Big Start wheels into Dublin on 11 May. The city will stage a host of special events to welcome the world’s top professional cyclists.
If you’d rather do a little cycling tour of your own take a trip to Dublin Bikes, the city’s free bicycle transport network with 44 stations. Pick up and drop off a bike at your leisure, and don’t forget to pop into Cafe Rothar, (the Irish for bicycle) on Fade Street, a unique bike shop come cycling themed café. For the more adventurous or those seeking an adrenaline-fuelled two-wheel experience check out biking.ie and get pedalling in the Dublin mountains.
Cheer lead in Croke Park
In August a history-making US college football extravaganza kicks off in Croke Park, the home of Gaelic games in Dublin. The Croke Park Classic (August 30) will see the University of Central Florida Knights square off against Penn State Nittany Lions to mark the opening of the 2014 American football season. This will be the first time both teams have played outside the US and the match will air on US TV stations. Thousands of American football supporters will be in town sporting the stars and stripes for the game, creating a cracking atmosphere on the streets of Dublin.
In September Croke Park will host the All-Ireland Hurling and Football Finals, a chance to witness Ireland’s two favourite sports at their best. Why not do the Croke Park Experience – a tour of the stadium including a visit to the magnificent GAA museum? If you have a head for heights sign up to the skyline guided tour, giving you a bird’s eye view of Dublin from the roof of the stadium.
Be a culture vulture
Culture seekers won’t be disappointed with a visit to Dublin any time of the year but for a feast of festivals the best time is September and October. Book lovers should seek out the Mountains to Sea Book Festival in Dun Laoghaire (2–7 September), which attracts some of the world’s leading authors. For those looking for Dublin chic, check out the Dublin Fashion Festival (5–8 September), a mix of live fashion events and in-store activities.
The mighty Dublin Theatre Festival (25 September – 12 October) is the country’s largest multi-disciplinary arts event with hundreds of stage events. This is complemented by the Dublin Fringe Festival (2– 27 September), a 16-day festival of theatre, comedy, dance and spectacle, which takes over more than 40 venues in the city to celebrate the new and the next.
On 20 September, for one night only, Dublin’s museums, galleries, churches, historic houses, artists’ studios and cultural centres will open their doors late for a free night of entertainment, discovery and adventure.
Be a runaway success in Dublin
Make your visit to Dublin a runaway success and combine it with some marathon action! You can tog out and take part – or be an onlooker, soaking up the electric atmosphere on the streets. The Flora Women’s Mini Marathon (2 June) is the biggest all-women’s race in the world, with 40,000 participants each year. A new event on Dublin’s running calendar is the Rock & Roll Half Marathon (4 August), but the big one of the year is the Dublin City Marathon (27 October), which takes professional and amateur runners alike through Dublin’s gorgeous Georgian streets and past some of the city’s most famous historic landmarks.
Explore outdoor Dublin
There’s plenty of opportunity in and around Dublin to stretch your legs and get some fresh air. The city’s 770-acre Phoenix Park is one of the largest and most magnificent city parks in Europe. Home to Dublin Zoo, it has numerous paths and trails for walking or cycling.
South of the city, Marlay Park in Rathfarnham has stunning walks and a wonderful weekend farmers’ market. Or you can head for the hills and within an hour’s travel from the city you will find a nature lover’s paradise of mountains and forest.
If you fancy teeing off there are some world-class golf courses within shouting distance of Dublin, including the Royal Dublin links course on Bull Island and Portmarnock championship links golf course.
Book a literary tour
Dublin’s got no fewer than four Nobel laureates associated with it (Shaw, Yeats, Beckett and Heaney), a multitude of important and prize-winning authors, poets and playwrights and several gigantic literary legacies – among them Joyce, Wilde, Swift, Kavanagh and O’Casey.
One of the most entertaining literary activities visitors to Dublin can take is the Literary Pub Crawl, a superb crash course in Irish literature, history and craic. The tour, which starts at the Duke Pub off Grafton St, takes in several of Dublin’s historic pubs in the company of two actors who introduce the Irish writers and perform scenes from their works.
Hunt for hidden gems
The great thing about Dublin is you never know what you will find around the next corner. The city is full of hidden gems that are worth seeking out.
Visit the National Leprechaun Museum, dedicated to Irish mythology, a fun and magical world of fascinating folklore and enchanting stories.
Check out some Irish mummies. Not the kind that make you tea, but the mummified remains of Dublin’s most influential 17th, 18th and 19th century families, to be found in St Michan’s Church and Crypts. Look out for the mummified remains of Tom and Jerry, a cat and rat who died in the organ pipes in Christ Church Cathedral crypt and who are mentioned by James Joyce in his famous novel Finnegans Wake.
A great way of seeing the real Dublin is on a Le Cool walking tour – each one is different. You could end up in Dublin’s oldest barbers, seeing a back street exhibition or visiting an interesting pop-up gallery.