Love history, literature, and beer? Dublin is definitely for you.
One walk through downtown Dublin, and you will pass multiple sites that inspired famous Irish literature, and statues riddled with bullet holes from the 1916 Easter Rising. Grab a pint and get your geek on, because Dublin is a literary reference in city form, full to the brim with fun facts. All of your favourite things!
Now – it’s not all fun and games (and beer). The Great Irish famine, the 1916 Easter Rising, and other not-so-distant stories from Ireland’s past are both fascinating and heartbreaking, and absolutely worth learning about.
Here you will find the best historical and literary walking tours in Dublin – from the fascinating and fun, to the sobering and sad, and everything in between.
Books of Kells Early Access, Trinity College, and Dublin Castle
Let’s kick off with some fun. Take this tour on day one, because it really brings out the best in Dublin. Enjoy early access to the Book of Kells, a guided tour of the college grounds, and explore Dublin castle, all before lunchtime.
History is a funny thing, and the stories from Trinity College and Dublin castle that I heard on this tour ranged from fascinating to downright hilarious. I left still laughing about how female students at Trinity College make an annual event of putting ladies underwear all over the statue of a man who said women would never be allowed on the campus! My full review here.
Tour type: fascinating, fun. Tour provider: LetzGo City Tours
Kilmainham Gaol Walking Tour
The Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced “jail”) tour is a one hour walk through dark parts of Dublin’s history. Kilmainham was built in 1796, and closed it’s doors in 1924. This means it was operational through the Great Irish Famine, and 5 rebellions. It saw numerous executions, and held prisoners of all ages.
Entry to Kilmainham Gaol is only though the tours. It’s very popular, so book in advance if possible. 3 days out is recommended, and if you’re already travelling when you book and have no way to print your tickets, don’t worry – they’re all set up to print them out for you when you arrive.
This is not a happy or feel good tour, but it is fascinating, and an important piece of Irish history that everyone who visits needs to see. Walking the halls of the gaol gave me chills, and a deeper appreciation for Ireland’s history.
Tour type: fascinating, heartbreaking. Tour provider: Kilmainham Gaol
The Literary Pub Crawl
Literature and pubs? Yes please! The Literary Pub Crawl is ranked as one of the best walking tours in the world, and I have to agree. This night was so much fun!
Through out the evening, make your way from one pub to another. Every pub is related to literature in some way. On the way from one pub to another, the actors who lead the tour play out scenes from famous Irish books and theatre. James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yates, and many others make appearances.
What’s more, there are trivia questions at the end. Does it get any better? Hands up if you love learning things about literature, drinking, and then being quizzed on what you learned! Yep, this tour is everything you’ve ever wanted.
Tour type: fun, more fun. Tour provider: Literary Pub Crawl
North Side Political Walking Tour
The North Side tour is a free walking tour (by donation) that takes you through Dublin’s political history, and to some interesting sites not covered in other tours. The Garden of Remembrance, the Custom House, and the General Post Office, just to name a few.
Once the heart of Dublin, many historical sites are located on the North Side, and many important events took place there. The tour is both entertaining and interesting, and gives a very thorough account of important leaders and politicians in Irish history.
The tour runs everyday at 3PM, starting from the Spire. You can’t miss it – the Spire is massive, and pointy, as the name would suggest. It’s a 3 hour tour, and I recommend tipping at least 10 euro per person that attends.
Tour type: entertaining, fascinating. Tour provider: Dublin Free Walking Tour
The Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship
While not technically a walking tour, the Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship tour takes you inside a replica ship of one that sailed between Ireland and Canada during the Great Irish Famine.
The Famine is a devastating time in Irish history, so I expected this be a difficult and sad tour. The famine was horrendous, and a great many people died. Even so – this tour inspires hope by focusing on the good. Here, you’ll hear the stories of the doctors, businessmen, crews, and everyday people who did the right thing, and ultimately made it possible for the Irish to survive this terrible time in history.
It’s the kind of tour that reminds you that, no matter how bad things get, there are always good people willing to do the right thing.
Tour type: hopeful. Tour provider: Jeanie Johnston
Historical Walking Tours I Wish I Knew About
While in Dublin, I learned about a couple of walking tours that I would have loved to incorporate in to the trip, but I just ran out of time. Maybe you’ll have a chance to!
Glasnevin Cemetery Tours: The Glasnevin cemetery, which can be reached on one of the hop-on-and-off bus routes, offers 3 free walking tours every day. There’s a History General History Tour at 11:30AM and 2:30PM every day, and a Dead Interesting tour at 1PM.
Visit the crypt of Ireland’s founder, and the graves of important figures from Irish history like Michael Collins and Charles Parnell. Tour provider: Glasnevin Cemetery
The General Post Office: The GPO served as the headquarters of rebellion leaders during the Easter Rising in 1916, an event which would eventually lead to a rebellion and Ireland’s independence in 1922. Guide tours of the GPO Witness History exhibit run daily at 3:30PM.
As an added bonus, there is a statue of Daniel O’Connell up the street from the GPO that is full of bullet holes from 1916 that you can check out any time. Tour provider: GPO Witness History
Have you been on any of these tours, or the ones that I couldn’t make?
Which ones looks most interesting to you?