Our Guide to Alternative Dublin
There are so many things to do in Dublin, from literary landmarks to free galleries and parks. Sometimes, however, when you feel like you’ve done it all, it’s time to step away from well-trodden paths. Read on for our choice of 8 unusual experiences in Dublin that will excite and inspire.
Located a five-minute walk from the 3 Arena in Dublin’s up-and-coming Docklands, MV Cill Airne is the perfect Summer spot. What’s unique about this popular bar, however, is in the name: MV is a Maritime term standing for ‘motor vessel’. That’s right, it’s a bar on a boat. The Irish government commissioned the boat in 1961 to carry cargo between England and New York and it is now host to waves of after-work crowds on Fridays. It’s relaxed, atmospheric, and always buzzy.
If you haven’t heard of this moody basement bar - well, that’s kind of the point. The Blind Pig is a modern-day ‘speakeasy’, an underground, secret bar inspired by 1920s America when alcohol was illegal. It’s not just the secrecy that lives up to the theme, however, since The Blind Pig also features regular live Jazz and Blues musicians. After you book a slot, you’ll get an email or a call with the bar’s ‘secret location’ and instructions on how to get there. We won’t spoil too much, but it involves an inconspicuous restaurant and a rather creepy pig’s head.
It’s rare that a tree turns into a tourist attraction, but this 80-year-old London Plane tree has managed it through sheer perseverance. On the grounds of Ireland’s oldest law school, King’s Inns, this beloved tree has grown so much over the years that it’s started to devour a bench nearby, much to the delight of onlookers. Located only a 10-minute walk from Twin’s Dublin Centre, it’s an ideal spot for a lunch break. While you’re there, admire the Georgian architecture of King’s Inns, a filming location for Penny Dreadful, Ripper Street, and others.
Murphy’s is an ice cream chain that prides itself on being ‘handmade in Dingle, Ireland’. While it’s worth going just for the high-quality ice cream, Murphy’s is also notable for a more unusual flavour: brown bread. This might seem strange, but it’s a lot more delicious than it sounds. Critically, the bread is caramelised and crisped in the oven before getting mixed into the ice cream, giving it all the nuttiness of a freshly baked loaf without any of the gooey, savoury flavours you might expect. If you’re really not convinced, the staff will let you try any flavour on the menu before you buy. Pair it with a scoop of their buttery sea salt ice cream.
Perched on the coast in Malahide village, this grand castle has a plethora of things to do. Whether you’re exploring the village nearby, learning about its history, or touring the butterfly gardens, you won’t find yourself bored here. For a more unusual experience of the castle, though, why not combine it with a live concert? Malahide Castle grounds are not only host to the ‘fairy trail’, but an array of Summer events, including live music and theatre. Artists like Arctic Monkeys, The Killers, and Mumford and Sons have all played at this unlikely venue. The grounds allow for as many as 20,000 people, making it feel like a festival backdropped by Medieval towers. Artists touring this season include Paolo Nutini, Blur, Sam Fender, Florence + The Machine, and Hozier. Find tickets here.
Think you’ve seen all of Dublin? Maybe it’s time to tour the city from a whole new perspective. There are a handful of companies around the city that organise kayak or canoe tours, allowing you to see the sights while floating down Dublin’s river Liffey. Companies like City Kayaking even offer ‘Music Tours’, where you can listen to some of the best musicians in Dublin play on the water. Think Temple Bar, but less crowded and a bit more wobbly.
Phoenix Park is a huge place - one of the biggest city centre parks in Europe. It’s worth spending a day wandering around the flower gardens and the ornamental lake, but what really makes this park unique is the roughly 600 fallow deer that roam freely on the grounds. First introduced into the park for hunting in the 17th Century, they now live in peace as permanent residents. Although they look cute, avoid feeding or trying to pet them, since it can endanger both you and the deer.
For an experience like no other, head to St Michan’s Church on the edge of Smithfield. From the outside, it seems like a quaint little church, but hidden underneath are two crypts containing the mummified remains of some of Dublin’s most influential families, including the two republican revolutionaries of the Irish Rebellion, the Sheares brothers. The vaults themselves are especially evocative: After entering through the ground and down some very jagged steps, you’ll find yourself in the gloomy tunnels below, thick with dust and cobwebs. Some parts are entirely unlit due to restrictions on burial sites, making it even more eerie.
You don’t need to visit a gallery to experience amazing art in Dublin, since it’s all over the city! Spend a day out walking the streets and you’ll come across some truly inspiring pieces. If you don’t want to search for it yourself, many tour companies offer ‘street art tours’. Alternatively, go on the ‘Icons Walk’, a new addition to the city centre that has transported neglected lanes and alleyways into an open-air museum. This self-guided tour is an introduction to some iconic and lesser-known Irish figures, including people like Samuel Beckett and Sean O’Casey. The walk finishes at the Icon Factory, featuring regular exhibitions from local artists.
If you’ve spent any time in Dublin, you've probably been to Merrion Square Park, a large park in the centre of the city with numerous sculptures on display. While it’s worth snapping a photo of the iconic Oscar Wilde memorial while you’re there, make sure to wander around the outside. Every Sunday, local artists are able to hang their work along the park’s railings, turning it into an alternative exhibition space. These paintings are also on sale, although they can be fairly pricey, starting from around €1000 each.
Are you looking for something a little different? Whether you're excited by mummies, or craving a spritz on the water, experience it all on an Internship with Twin.