Dublin is the perfect city for music and history fans. Not only does the city have a long, varied history that is sure to keep your ears perked, it also has a great reputation of producing some of the world’s best music. About the latter, I can assure you, there is nothing like grabbing a Guinness and settling into a traditional Irish music performance — I go into this in detail below.
During my stint in Dublin, I spend a good amount of time visiting both history and music sites, sometimes at the same time. Here are my fave history and music sites in Dublin!
10 Things To Do in Dublin for the Music and History Lover
Visit the Guinness Storehouse
Dublin’s Guinness Storehouse was the absolute first thing I did after stepping off the plane (after getting through customs and showering, of course). Located in St. James’ Gate, the Storehouse is one part museum, one part rooftop bar, and all parts fun.
The museum will take you through the history of Guinness, including the brewing process and fun old marketing techniques.
There’s nothing I love more than learning and drinking at the same time (ask me about my college experience sometime).
If whisky is more your speed than Guinness, then the original site of the Jameson Distillery is also nearby in Smithfield Village.
The museum of Dublinia is the perfect stop for learning a varied history of Dublin. Located at Christ Church, the museum has four exhibits, including ones on Viking Dublin and Medieval Dublin. In purchasing a ticket for the museum, you can also climb St. Michael’s Tower for a unique view of the city.
See Live Music
Were you even in Dublin if you didn’t catch some live trad? Going out to different pubs, grabbing a Guinness, and listening to seriously talented musicians was one of my favorite things to do in Dublin, no matter the time of day.
My recommendation is to skip the ever-popular Temple Bar (the bar itself I mean, not the neighborhood, as it’s always packed and seriously overpriced) and head to a more low-key pub instead. Darkey Kelly’s, Merchants Arch, The Cobblestone, O’Donoghues, and the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn are all worthy of your time and Guinness dollars.
To experience a different side of Dublin nightlife, head out to a few bars or clubs. Judging by the few days I was there, Dublin has an awesome nightlife scene that is sure to suit your taste, no matter what that may be.
In one night alone, my friends and I went to Gypsy Rose Rock and Blues Bar (which has since closed), a strange, but cool, little place called Club Hell, and the infamous Copper Face Jack’s nightclub, or “Copper’s” as the locals call it. Copper’s is the place to go if you want to get glammed up and then drink your face off while listening to pop jams.
No matter where you end up, just remember to get garlic fries at the end of the night whether it be by food truck or restaurant. It’s like the poutine of Ireland and it will help to sop up all the alcohol.
Visit Phil Lynott’s Statue
If you’re at all a fan of the band Thin Lizzy, then paying a visit to the statue of frontman and bassist Phil Lynott is a must. The statue was erected in 2005 on Harry Street between Chatham Lane and Grafton Street, just outside of Phil’s favorite Dublin pub, Bruxelles. Although Phil wasn’t born in Ireland, he spent much of his childhood in the city, having been born to an Irish mother and an English father.
For some more Ireland music inspo, check out my post The Ultimate Ireland Playlist.
Check out some U2 History
A pedestrian bridge built in 1816, the Ha’penny was named as such due to the toll people had to pay to walk across it. The bridge was constructed to replace some very old, brittle ferries that would take people from one side of The Liffey river to the other. To help cover the costs, the halfpenny toll was put in place for 100 years.
Chances are, if you’re hanging out downtown Dublin and walking by the Liffey, you’ll probably walk across the Ha’Penny without even noticing. But knowing the history of these things just makes the whole experience sweeter. Not only is this one of the most recognizable sites in Dublin, it’s also famous from some early U2 promotional photos.
Located in Temple Bar, Claddagh Records was once a record studio called STS, and is the site where U2 recorded some of their Achtung Baby album (they actually did a bit of the early recordings at Hansa Studios in Berlin as well). Today, this is a record store that sells a lot of great traditional Irish music.
Owned by The Edge and Bono, the Clarence is an upscale hotel located in Temple Bar. While there is a slim chance you’ll run into either band member here (although, there still is a chance!), the hotel is also a popular spot for press events to be held, so you may just run into some other celebs.
Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Founded in 1191, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and is a beautiful and regal site to see in Dublin. The Cathedral itself was built on an ancient well that St. Patrick supposedly used at some point, and has had many different stages of life since the initial construction – both physically and denominationally.
Today, while still a religious site for many, the Cathedral is a great place to go regardless of belief or denomination. The stained glass windows and architecture are reason to visit alone!
Visit Trinity College Library
If you’re at all a book lover, or if you’re just into grand halls with old books towering above in every direction, then visiting Trinity College Library is for you. Serving both Trinity College and the University of Dublin, the Library consists of multiple buildings, the oldest of which was founded in 1712, and is home to upwards of 6 million books.
This is honestly one of the grandest, most awe-inspiring libraries you’ll ever see, and contains some of Ireland’s most famed and oldest works of literature and poetry. For example, the library is home to the Book of Kells, a 1200 year old manuscript that has garnered its own exhibit.
Tour Kilmainham Gaol
Paying a visit to Kilmainham Gaol is a deeply moving experience, one that my friends and I did not take lightly while walking its stone halls.
Built in 1796, Kilmainham Gaol was a prison that caged not only perpetrators of violent crime, but ordinary men, women, and children, as well as rebel leaders from multiple Irish wars. Many leaders of these rebellions, once captured, were detained and then executed inside Kilmainham. The conditions of the prison at the time were horrific, with prisoners greatly malnourished and many people crammed together into extremely small cells.
While not an uplifting experience, paying a visit to Kilmainham Gaol will give you a glimpse at a very poignant part of Irish history. Also, photography is allowed, but remember to be respectful.
Visit the Oscar Wilde House
“Nowadays most people die of a sort of creeping common sense, and discover when it is too late that the only things one never regrets are one’s mistakes.” ― Oscar Wilde
Went hog-wild for The Picture of Dorian Gray? Were you moved by reading (and re-reading) The Ballad of Reading Gaol? Then get your butt over to the Oscar Wilde House stat.
Wilde was born in 1854 at Number One Merrion Square in Dublin 2, and spend much of his childhood at the house. While the house isn’t always open to the public for tours, you can book a guide in advance to take you through the immaculately restored Georgian house.
If you don’t book a tour, well there’s a plaque you can take a photo of.
What are some of your favorite musical or historical sites in Dublin?