Our last stop on our European vacation 2015 was to a location that had long been on my travel bucket list…Dublin, Ireland. This unique city was surprisingly easy to navigate and was fun for the whole family to explore. Finding great adventures in Dublin with kids couldn’t be easier. Read on to find out some of the best things this European capital has to offer families!
Exploring Dublin with kids - what to see and do.
1) Trinity College Library and the Book of Kells
2) Guinness Storehouse
3) Celtic Nights at the Arlington Hotel
4) A Day Trip to Howth, Ireland
5) St. Patrick's Cathedral
6) Afternoon Tea at Queen of Tarts
7) Dublin Castle
8) Ha'Penny Bridge
9) Jameson Distillery
10) Temple Bar
11) St. Stephen's Green
12) Kilmainham Gaol
Where to stay in Dublin with kids
Books, books, and more books…a librarian’s dream come true
First up on the list was taking a tour of the Trinity College Library. Photos of this place are all over Pinterest, and in those lists about great bookish places that pop up on Facebook. (Hopefully, I’m not the only one who always clicks on those!) Anyway, the photos are amazing, but they don’t hold a candle to the real deal. We were all in awe at the size and the grandeur of the Long Room, which is the main chamber of the Old Library.
The kids loved seeing all of the old books (6 million volumes!), but there was also a great display of children’s literature, like Harry Potter in Gaelic. You’ll also get a chance to see the Brian Boru Harp which dates back the 14th or 15th century, and is one of the three oldest surviving Gaelic harps. The Brian Boru Harp is the official emblem of Ireland.
The Book of Kells
The Trinity College Library is also home to the Book of Kells, a beautifully drawn manuscript of the four Gospels that dates back to around the 9th century. It is truly an amazing work of art and an incredible historical artifact. Visitors to the library will wind their way through a museum that details the history of the document before entering the room where it is displayed.
Admission to the Trinity College Library and Book of Kells:
Need to rest your feet? Try a hop on-hop off bus tour!
Book a tour with Big Bus ahead of your visit and save. It’s a great way to see the major sites of Dublin, rest tired feet, and get some fresh air!
Guinness…more than just beer
After visiting the library, we took a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Now, I know a lot of readers may think that taking children to a brewery is an odd choice, and I was skeptical myself, but there were actually a lot of children touring the Storehouse. It is a very kid-friendly experience that is more about agriculture and the origins of this very Irish tradition. You’ll learn all about the Guinness family and the pride the Irish have in the craft of making the beer. I personally don’t like beer of any kind, but I found the tour fascinating.
There are plenty of things for kids to enjoy, like looking at the big indoor waterfall and the old historical Guinness advertisements. You will also see hands-on displays, you’ll explore Irish culture and tradition, and you will get to see the 9,000 year lease that founder Arthur Guinness signed on the St. James’s Gate Brewery. Now, that’s some foresight! And, don’t forget, this is the same Guinness of the Guinness Book of World Records fame.
The final stop on the tour is the Gravity Bar which offers spectacular 360 degree views of Dublin. You will also receive your free perfect pint of Guinness (or soda for the kids).
Adults From €14
Students (with student ID) €18
Family (2 adults and 4 children under 18) €48.50
Seniors (65+) €18
Children 11-17 (under 10 are free) €13.50
Michael Flatley, Lord of the Dance, doesn’t serve you a meal
A night of dinner, dance, and music at the Arlington Hotel
Probably our favorite experience in Dublin was the dinner and Irish dance show at the Arlington Hotel. We chose this venue for our Irish dance fix because we thought the more informal and intimate setting would hold the kids’ attention better, and boy did it ever. We were seated at long, family-style tables, and we were lucky enough to be right by the stage. Our little tap dancer, Cadence, was awed by the speed of the dancers’ feet.
The show began with Irish music that was second-to-none. As people continued to be seated and orders taken, the performers told us about the history of some of the songs, and they did a little audience participation. The second half of the show included the amazing dancers who performed various types of Irish dance, like soft shoe, hard shoe, and a broom dance. Throughout the show, the performers explained the types of dance and how they were different from each other.
The show itself is worth the price of admission, but the food was excellent, too. The kids had plenty of options that made them happy. The Arlington definitely made this a family-friendly experience all the way around. For fun things to do in Ireland, put the Celtic Nights show at the top of your list!
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Spontaneous is my middle name…a day trip to Howth
One of the more spontaneous parts of our entire vacation included a day trip to Howth. I loved this experience for many reasons, but part of that was due to how it came about. On our Versailles day in Paris, we experienced scorching temperatures, huge crowds, and several frustrating public transportation setbacks. It was one of those days where we were all a little tired and cranky, and starving for a good ol’ American burger. Hard Rock Cafe has become a bit of a tradition for us, and on that day it was definitely a welcome dinner destination. Well, of all people, our waiter happened to be from Ireland. When we told him our next stop was Dublin, he said, “Well, then you have to go visit my hometown of Howth.” Since our schedule for Dublin was not jam-packed, we thought Howth sounded like the perfect day trip adventure. As it turns out, Howth is a fantastic little town, full of great seafood and scenery to explore.
What to do in Howth
Howth, a little fishing village on the eastern edge of Ireland on Dublin Bay, is only a short ride on the DART rail from Dublin. Families can spend the day watching sailboats, exploring Howth Castle, or shopping for Irish crafts in Howth Market. We had lunch at one of the cafes along the pier where they serve up some of the best seafood dishes around. We also took a short hike to see the gorgeous views of the harbor from the high cliffs above. Families looking for something quirky to do can check out the Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio.
More to explore in Dublin with Kids
Capping off our trip to Dublin, we spent the day exploring the sites on a walk through town. One highlight was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. This beautiful cathedral dates back to 1191 and is the tallest and largest church in Ireland. One of its most notable features is the burial place of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was Dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745.
Adult €6.50 – OAP/Student €5.50 – Family (2 adults & 2 children under 16) €16.00
We also enjoyed tea and snacks at Queen of Tarts, a bakery and tearoom in the heart of Dublin. We thought the food was delicious and the atmosphere was perfect.
Visitors to Dublin might also want to see Dublin Castle, whose tower dates back to 1228 and is the only surviving part of the original medieval castle.
Admission: Adult €7 – Senior (60+) €6 – Student (valid student ID required) €6 – Child (6-17) €3 – Family (max. 2 adults & 5 children) €17
Other places of interest
Ha’Penny Bridge, a pedestrian bridge over the River Liffey.
The Jameson Distillery, which dates back to 1780, offers tours, tastings, and a gift shop.
Temple Bar, a historic and popular bar with active nightlife. But, Irish pubs have great food and are kid friendly before 9:00 PM.
St. Stephen’s Green, a beautiful central park which is adjacent to the city’s main shopping district.
Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison turned museum, and an important piece of Irish history.
Where to Stay – Family Hotels in Dublin
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Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge
We stayed at the Clayton Hotel Ballsbridge during our short stay, and it was a great hotel. What sold us were the family rooms – some of which have bunk beds for the kids.
This is a great option for families because it is spacious, affordable, and there are nearby bus/train stops making it easy to get around on the public transit system. The hotel sits on beautiful grounds that was once part of a 19th century school. Dinner in the restaurant was delicious and service was excellent. Everyone took special care to make our kids feel welcome.
Other amenities include free wi-fi, plasma TVs in the rooms, and an Aircoach drop-off right outside the hotel – perfect for getting to and from Dublin Airport. Family rooms sleep up to two adults and two children. Although not in the city center, We enjoyed the peace and quiet, and we had no problems catching a bus to get to where we wanted to go.
Things you’ll love: This is a quiet, reasonably priced hotel that will appeal to cost-conscious families. The family rooms with bunk beds are perfect for families with school-age children.
Who should book: Families who don’t need to be right in the center of Dublin and are fine with using the public transit to get around.
The Merrion Hotel
If you’re looking for 5-star luxury, The Merrion is your hotel. Located near St. Stephen’s Green, The Merrion is one of the finest hotels in Dublin city center, and is within walking distance of Dublin’s most famous attractions. Their kids program – the Miss & Master Merrion programme – caters to kids with special amenities, service, and activities.
King and Queen rooms will accommodate two adults and one child, while suites can accommodate two adults and up to four children. Enjoy dining at one of the hotel’s restaurants including the sophisticated Restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, which holds two Michelin stars. For weary parents, a trip to the spa might be in order, but the kids will enjoy the 18m infinity pool.
Other great features at The Merrion include their bicycle rental program. Rentals include a helmet and optional tours will have you seeing all of Dublin in no time. Kids will enjoy the nearby playground at Merrion Square and the kid-sized bathrobes for the pool. Parents will appreciate the kids’ menus and kid-friendly room service served in custom crockery just for them. Cots, cribs, and baby sitting are also available.
Things you’ll love: Along with the rental bikes, the hotel’s prime location will give you access to all that Dublin has to offer. Kids will love the pool, and parents will love the beautiful Georgian styling.
Who should book: Families who are looking for a luxurious stay in Dublin and want the finest Dublin has to offer.
We Think You’ll Love Dublin!
Overall, we felt like we saw a lot of what Dublin has to offer families, but our short time there left us craving a longer trip to Ireland in which we can visit some of Ireland’s most spectacular sites. We can’t wait to go back!
Have you visited? What is your favorite thing to do in Dublin?
If you're planning a trip to Ireland, check out our Ireland Destination Guide.
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