How to squeeze Dublin into just five things to do? Well, there are priceless – and free – galleries, the famous Book of Kells, a toast to Arthur Guinness and some traditional boxty for dinner
1. See priceless pieces (absolutely free)
Dublin's galleries and museums harbour priceless treasures – and you can visit them for free in Dublin. Gaze at a stunning Bronze Age gold collar in the National Museum or be moved by incredible Iron Age bog bodies. Then there’s the National Gallery’s own spectacular discovery – a Caravaggio masterpiece, The Taking of Christ. It’s one of the highlights of a collection that includes Van Gogh, Monet, Titian, Rubens, Van Dyck and Irish expressionist Jack B Yeats.
You can stare into the artistic chaos of Francis Bacon’s Studio at the Hugh Lane Gallery; seek out works by Dorothy Cross, Louise Bourgeois and filmmaker Neil Jordan at the Irish Museum of Modern Art; and learn about Eileen Gray – one of the world’s most influential designers – at the National Museum of Decorative Arts & History. All without spending a penny.
2. Pull a pint and raise your glass to the black stuff
Survey panoramic views of the city from atop Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse. The Gravity Bar is like a glass bird’s nest, with views stretching from rooftops to parkland and steeples to mountains. You’ll have to get through the Storehouse’s seven storeys first, though.
Guinness has the whole sensory experience of the production process covered: you’ll touch, taste and smell what goes into the world’s most famous stout. In the advertising section, recall the toucans, ostriches, and award-winning surfers of the brand’s past iconic advertising. Then learn the secret to pouring the perfect pint.
3. Examine the “most beautiful book in the world”
Squint at the detail in the renowned Book of Kells in Trinity College. This lavishly illustrated manuscript of the Gospels dates from the 9th century, and is simply a marvel of Early Christian art carried out by the monks’ steady hands. The 65-metre Long Room in the Old Library is an incredible sight, and is filled with old books, marble busts and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. This is also the room that inspired the imagery of the Jedi Archive in Star Wars Episode II.
4. Ask "what’s the story?"
In a city laced with literature, there’s a story around every corner. And in every pub. Toast to a few on the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl – an actor-led tour of Dublin’s literary luminaries.
Hear the story of WB Yeats, Ireland’s most illustrious poet, and his muse Maud Gonne at a National Library exhibition deemed “dazzling” by the New York Times.
Around the corner in St Ann’s Church, see the bust of Bram Stoker – the Dubliner who wrote Dracula. He married Florence Balcombe, Oscar Wilde’s ex-girlfriend, in this hallowed place.
James Joyce is known for setting a story or two in Dublin – from Dubliners to his masterpiece Ulysses. Explore the writer’s life and work at the James Joyce Centre.
5. Taste colcannon and culture in Temple Bar
Artists, musicians and writers founded the bohemian enclave of Temple Bar in the 1980s. Now the warren of car-free cobbled streets houses a hotbed of alternative culture, art-house cinema, film archives, photography, galleries, music and arts centres. On Saturday, locals head for the tasty farmers’ market in Meeting House Square.
For genuine Dublin food, try the traditional fare of Dublin coddle (sausage, bacon, onion and potato stew), colcannon (mashed potato and cabbage) or boxty (a potato and flour pancake) at Gallagher’s Boxty House.
Catch a show at the cutting-edge Project Arts Centre, see what’s on at the National Gallery of Photography, browse vintage chic at Cow’s Lane Market or sink a pint in the historic surrounds of The Palace Bar on Fleet Street.