Beyond the well-trodden paths, Dublin, the capital city of Ireland, holds a treasure trove of secrets, tucked away in its ancient streets and lively neighbourhoods.
Come on a journey amongst the Georgian buildings and discover lesser-known hidden gems of Dublin – quaint parks and gardens, cozy pubs, hidden beaches and more!
15 Hidden Gems of Dublin
1. Iveagh Gardens
While many tourists flock to historic St. Stephen’s Green, across the road on the south side of the square lies an oasis and one of the loveliest hidden gems of Dublin, Iveagh Gardens behind the National Concert Hall.
Despite its central location, it’s one of the most tranquil parks in Dublin and much less visited than its neighbour.
Designed in the 1860s by the famous landscape architect and horticulturist, Ninian Niven however the area was originally gardens for the homes of Anglo Lords for at least 100 years before then.
Many of the Georgian features are still in place – rustic grottos, fountain centrepieces, woodlands, a maze, rockeries and archery grounds and a beautiful rosarium.
During the summer occasional concerts are held in the grounds but on a fine Dublin day it’s worth grabbing a sandwich (from Green Bench Cafe around the corner) or pack a picnic for a lovely Dublin afternoon.
2. Huguenot Cemetery
History lovers should take a stroll past the Huguenot Cemetery. This tiny graveyard is a fascinating anomaly in Dublin as you could easily miss it as it’s surrounded by city buildings.
The Huguenot Cemetery is the final resting place of many of Dublin’s Huguenot community, who were French Protestants fleeing religious persecution in their homeland in the late 17th century.
The famous Irish writer Samuel Beckett was of Huguenot descent and some of his ancestors’ names are inscribed on the internment list. The last burial was at the turn of the 20th century.
3. Lidl Aungier Street
Yes, you’ve read this right. Lidl, the supermarket giant, is on our hidden gems of Dublin list.
The branch on Aungier Street in the centre of Dublin is built upon an intriguing piece of history.
During the construction of the store in 2004, archaeological remains were uncovered that revealed the site’s Viking past. The remains date back to the 11th century, when the area was part of a Viking settlement.
Excavations revealed traces of the Hiberno-Norse settlement, including the remains of a timber and wattle fence, as well as pottery and other artifacts.
çThe most significant discovery was the remains of a Viking house, which was found beneath the car park of the supermarket.
The discovery of these Viking remains shed new light on the early history of Dublin and the Viking settlements that were established along the River Liffey.
It is believed that the settlement on Aungier Street was a prosperous trading centre, with easy access to both the river and the surrounding countryside.
While it may look like another pile of bricks, thankfully, instead of pouring concrete over it, it’s now available to see under a glass walkway in the store.
4. Marsh’s Library
Marsh’s Library is a hidden gem in the centre of Dublin just a stone’s throw from the centre of the city.
Founded in 1701, it is one of the oldest public libraries in Ireland, and it has remained remarkably unchanged for over three centuries.
The library was established by Archbishop Narcissus Marsh, who bequeathed his private collection of books and manuscripts to the public upon his death.
While most tourists flock to the Book of Kells at Trinity College, the library is a treasure trove for anyone interested in history, literature, or theology.
It houses over 25,000 rare and antique books, including works by Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, and William Shakespeare. Visitors can see the first edition of Gulliver’s Travels and a copy of the Gutenberg Bible.
Marsh’s Library is not only a remarkable repository of rare books and manuscripts, but it is also a testament to the ingenuity of its architects.
The library’s interior is a stunning example of 18th-century architecture and design, featuring a beautiful barrel-vaulted ceiling and oak bookcases that are over 300 years old.
The reading room is particularly impressive, with its carved wooden desks and antique reading lamps. It is a quiet and peaceful haven in the midst of the city.
5. St Michan’s Church
St. Michan’s Church is a lesser visited hidden gem in Dublin that is steeped in history and legend. Located on Church Street at the edge of the city centre, this nondescript church dates back over 800 years.
While it might look like just another church (and Ireland is not short of churches!) something curious can be found in the crypt.
The eerie and rather spooky crypt houses the mummified remains of former Dublin residents!
The cool and dry conditions of the crypt have helped to preserve the bodies, some of which date back over 400 years. You can take a tour of the crypts and see some of the coffins and skeletons for yourself.
Legend has it that one of the mummies in the crypt inspired the character of Dracula in Bram Stoker’s novel. Stoker was a Dubliner and lived on Kildare St. St. Michan’s Church is very close to Dublin highlights like the Cobblestone Pub and the Jameson Whiskey Distillery.
6. James Joyce Centre
Many visitors to Dublin come for the rich history of literature.
If you’ve read Ulysses (or attempted to!), then the James Joyce Centre is a hidden gem of Dublin just waiting to be explored.
This is an authentic part of Dublin to see Georgian terraces and streets that were built for the protestant elite in the 18th century but fell into steep decline in the 19th and 20th centuries.
However, Dubliners have long fought to retain these period buildings and one on North Great George’s Street is dedicated to the life and works of James Joyce, one of the most influential and innovative writers of the 20th century.
Joyce was born in Dublin in 1882 and spent much of his life living and writing in the city. Explore the works of this literary giant through a range of exhibits, interactive displays, and guided tours.
The centre is also involved in the annual Bloomsday Festival, which celebrates Joyce’s life and works and takes place in Dublin every June.
7. Swenys Pharmacy
Located on Lincoln Place, Sweny’s Pharmacy this small, unassuming chemist is a hidden gem of Dublin.
You’d walk right past if you didn’t know its secrets! Opened in 1847, it has retained much of its original character. It’s the setting of James Joyce’s masterpiece novel, Ulysses
The protagonist, Leopold Bloom, visits the pharmacy to purchase a bar of lemon soap, which he later gives to a young woman he meets on Sandymount Strand.
Sweny’s still sells the iconic lemon soap today, as well as a range of other products such as handmade soaps, fragrances and vintage sweets.
But Sweny’s is much more than just a pharmacy – it’s a living museum. The interior has been preserved almost exactly as it was during Joyce’s time, with antique bottles, scales, and other vintage pharmacy items lining the shelves.
The old-fashioned wooden counters and drawers, ceramic tiles and ornate ceiling add to the timeless atmosphere.
The staff at Sweny’s are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable, and are always happy to share stories and information about Joyce and the pharmacy’s history.
They also host regular events and readings, including a weekly Joycean reading group, making Sweny’s a vibrant hub for literature enthusiasts and visitors alike.
Visiting Sweny’s is like taking a step back in time to experience a piece of Dublin’s literary history.
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8. Irish Film Institute
A hidden gem of Dublin hiding in plain sight in the heart of touristy Temple Bar, one of the city’s cultural treasures, the Irish Film Institute (or IFI) has a long and proud history of promoting film culture in Ireland.
Founded in 1943, the cinema’s archives contain a wealth of material that reflects the evolution of Irish cinema over the years, and the IFI continues to play a vital role in supporting emerging filmmakers and promoting the art of cinema.
The cinema showcases the best of eclectic Irish and international cinema. From classic films and cult favourites to contemporary masterpieces and avant-garde experiments, documentaries, shorts, and animated films.
The IFI is not just a cinema, but a cultural hub that offers a range of events and activities throughout the year. From workshops and masterclasses to exhibitions and talks, the IFI is a vibrant and dynamic space that brings together filmmakers, film lovers, and enthusiasts.
9. The Gravediggers & The National Botanical Garden
There is no shortage of unique and quirky drinking establishments in Dublin but a favourite is the John Kavanagh aka The Gravediggers.
This hidden gem of Dublin is located in the historic Glasnevin neighbourhood, beside the city’s largest cemetery.
It’s a traditional Irish pub dating back to 1833 where over the years the grave diggers from the cemetery would come in for a drink after a long day of work.
Old wooden benches, a fireplace, and a snug, despite the modernisation of Dublin, this pub is a true tradition.
Three generations of the same family behind the bar and no music or TVs, it’s all about the chat and a quiet pint of Guinness.
Dublin’s most famous culinary creation is coddle, which emerged during the times of famine as a humble fare comprising boiled potatoes and scraps of meat.
Inquiring a native Dubliner’s opinion about whether or not you should sample this dish will yield diverse responses. However, should you decide to partake, the Gravediggers is the place to indulge!
The beautiful National Botanical Garden is another hidden gem of Dublin and oasis away from the cars and noises of the city.
A stroll through the National Botanical Gardens and finishing up in the Gravediggers for a pint is a quintessential Dublin day!
10. Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk
When it comes to iconic symbols of Dublin, many tourists might think it’s the uninspiring Spire on the main thoroughfare, O’Connell Street.
However, for Dubliners the Poolbeg Chimneys are a representation of Dublin. A bit gritty, hard working and in the past, industrial.
Originally built as part of the Poolbeg Power Station, which operated from the 1960s until the 2010s, the Poolbeg chimneys have since become an integral part of Dublin’s skyline.
Even though the power station is no longer in use, the red and white chimneys remain a beloved feature of the city. They feature in the work’s of many of the city’s artists and the best place to pick up a print as a souvenir is at Jam Arts Factory.
You can catch a glimpse of the chimneys from many parts of the city, including on the DART coastal train going south of the city but the best view is from the Poolbeg Lighthouse Walk (or officially, the Great South Wall Walk).
This walk can be windy so wear some layers but you get the views of Dublin bay and on a clear morning it’s one of the best places to watch the sun rise over the Irish Sea.
11. Hellfire Club
The Hellfire Club, located on Montpelier Hill, is a derelict building that sits high in the Dublin mountains.
Originally constructed in the 18th century as a hunting lodge for a wealthy Irish peer, it later gained notoriety for the wild, debauched parties and occult practices of its members. Rumours suggest that they were involved in devil worship.
Today, the ruins of the Hellfire Club attract many hikers who come to explore this mysterious and haunting atmosphere of this historic site in this hidden gem of Dublin which has incredible views of the city. One of Dublin’s most legendary pubs, Johnny Foxes, is just a short drive away, too.
There are also beautiful hikes in neighbouring County Wicklow. One such hike is the ‘Fancy Mountain’ trail, which leads you through a stunning valley featuring Lough Tay and Luggala.
Luggala was once owned by a Guinness Heiress, Oonagh and her son Garech Browne, who founded Claddagh Records. The estate was a haven for many famous artists and musicians. Garech’s brother, Tara Browne, died tragically young in the 1960s and inspired The Beatles’ song “A Day in the Life.”
12. Farmleigh House
Just a stone’s throw from the city centre is the Phoenix Park, one of the largest city parks in Europe. The park’s history dates back to 1662 and is home to Dublin Zoo, the president’s home, Áras an Uachtaráin, and the US ambassador’s residence.
Take a stroll or hire a bike. Discover the Victorian Walled Gardens and stop for cake and tea in the Tea Rooms. Spot the fallow deer that live in the park. The city’s most peaceful areas are in the Phoenix Park and the best spot for a quiet walk is Farmleigh House, a true hidden gem of Dublin.
Farmleigh is a beautiful example of preserved Irish Edwardian architecture. Built in the 18th century, it served as the official Irish residence of the Guinness family until 1999 when it was purchased by the Irish government and opened to the public.
The house and its extensive grounds and gardens are meticulously maintained. The house is filled with period furniture, artwork, and decorative objects, many of which were owned by the Guinness family.
The gardens at Farmleigh House are impressive, covering over 78 acres and the estate hosts a donkey sanctuary, horses and is home to a herd of Kerry Black cows. Don’t miss the cool clock tower and boathouse.
13. Howth Beaches
Howth is a beautiful coastal village easily accessible from Dublin City Centre on the DART train that winds along the coast.
Its historic lighthouse, scenic cliff walks, and delicious seafood restaurants are very popular with tourists and locals alike. However not as many seek out the hidden beaches that can be found in this picturesque area.
Burrow Beach is a sandy beach popular with locals but more hidden is Red Rock Beach which can only be accessed via a narrow path on the Howth Cliff Walk, making it a secluded and peaceful spot.
Hike to Baily Lighthouse which has magical views of Dublin Bay and then there is a small track to Red Rock where you can find this stony haven and take a dip in the chilly Irish Sea.
Balscadden Bay Beach is more sandy and also worth a stop, particularly after the Howth Hike. Whether you’re looking for a quiet spot for a picnic or a secluded beach for a swim, Howth’s hidden beaches are worth a stop.
14. Lambay Island
Lambay Island is a privately-owned island that is only accessible by boat, but those who make the trip will find the island is home to a variety of wildlife, including seals, rabbits, puffins, fallow deer and even some wallabies! Yes you don’t have to go all the way to Australia to meet a wallaby.
Visits to the island are restricted to small groups. Take a guided tour of the beautifully restored Lambay Castle, which dates back to the 16th century and the garden of exotic plants, which have been carefully tended to for over a century.
For those looking to explore the island’s natural beauty, Lambay offers a range of outdoor activities such as hiking, bird watching, and fishing with beach coves, too.
Lambay Island is also home to a small community of residents, who have their own unique way of life.
The island’s farming practices are sustainable and organic, plus they distill their own whiskey. It’s also worth checking their website for a list of retreats from yoga to macrame, mindfulness to writing. Lambay is peaceful and unique and a true hidden gem of Dublin.
15. Secret Bars
From cool cocktail bars to traditional pubs, you’ll find drinking establishments on almost every street in Dublin.
While most tourists flock to Temple Bar for overpriced pints, there are hidden gems of Dublin that are worth seeking out, instead.
The Blind Pig is a speakeasy style cocktail bar on nearby Suffolk Street, serving the most delicious and innovative cocktails made from spirits like mezcal, seaweed-infused malt, Irish rose gin and cacao French brandy.
Want something more traditional? Try to convince the proprietor of Hacienda Bar in the old market area to let you in.
You must knock and don’t bother if in a big group, you won’t get in! Some of Dublin’s coolest venues are on the outskirts of the city centre, like Hen’s Teeth which is a gallery, cafe with cool evening events and the Bernard Shaw which has a delectable food truck area.
Dublin is a city steeped in history and known for its craic or ceol (fun and music) but whatever the reason for your visit, check out these hidden gems of Dublin on your next trip!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kaz is a Dublin native, former luxury and adventure travel agent and founder of The Honeymoon Guide www.thehoneymoonguide.co