Ready to explore Dublin on foot? Follow this guide to cover the compact Irish capital and see all of the main sights without needed to hop on a guided Dublin tour.
Starting Out on O'Connell Bridge
A walking tour of Dublin, self-guided, does it need a lot of preparation and map-work? Actually, it does not, as Ireland's capital is ideal for a leisurely stroll that will take in most of the top attractions too.
Most of the best sights of Dublin are situated in a comparatively small area. To get a good impression of this lively and historic city you only need to take a walk. And you can travel light as shelter from rain and refreshments can be found virtually everywhere. The whole tour of Dublin's Fair City should take anything between two and six hours - two hours for energetic walkers and without lingering too long at any place, six hours including stops, the Trinity College tour and a pause or two in a café. So put on your walking shoes and off we go ...
Start your walk on O'Connell Bridge, the nearest equivalent of a central place Dublin can boast. Reputed to be one of the only bridge in the world that is wider than it is actually long, this is the heart of Dublin, admire the view for a few minutes, then start walking up O'Connell Street. Cross over to the central reservation and have a good look at the O'Connell Memorial with its magnificent statues full of allegory. See an angel crushing a serpent, spot the faithful Irish wolfhound and notice some bullet holes. These were caused by gunfire during the fighting in 1916 and have never been repaired.
O'Connell Street and the General Post Office
Further statues and "The Spire of Dublin" await you—the latter was erected to mark the millennium and is also known as "The Stiletto in the Ghetto."
Of the impressive buildings on O'Connell Street, the General Post Office takes pride of place. This was the central fighting area of 1916 but has been lovingly restored - it is open to the public during daytime as it still is Dublin's GPO. Have a look around and maybe buy some commemorative stamps in the Philatelic Office. Then continue up O'Connell Street, past the trompe d'oeil Carlton Cinema and on to the Parnell Statue.
Charles Stewart Parnell is remembered more low-key than O'Connell but his monument is among the most beautiful in Dublin. Walk around it and read the names of all 32 counties ... including pre-independence "King's County" and "Queen's County". Carry on past the "Ambassador" (a former cinema converted to a rock venue) for a walk around Parnell Square. You will pass a small monument with a broken chain and an Irish inscription commemorating the founding of the nationalist Irish Volunteers in 1913 on your left.
The Garden of Remembrance and Moore Street Market
Continue towards the magnificent Presbyterian Church and reach the Garden of Remembrance. These were established to honor all the victims of the fight for Irish independence - at all times. The theme is mythical. The large pond, forming a cross, has representations of discarded bronze age weapons at its bottom. The focus of attention will almost invariably be on the massive statue showing the transformation of the "Children of Lír", an evocative and fitting memorial.
When you leave the Garden continue the walk by turning left and then left and left again, passing the historic (and still very busy) Rotunda Hospital and the low-key headquarters of Sinn Fein until you hit Parnell Street. Turn right and then left again into Moore Street, noticing how Dubliners have elevated jaywalking to an art form. Moore Street itself is a semi-pedestrian zone and a collision of Dublin old and new. Traditional street traders hawk their wares from barrows and you might jostle for a place with a horse looking for a snack. The modern ILAC-Centre is on your right, countless Asian, African and East European "supermarkets" are on your left. Smuggled tobacco and cigarettes are sold next to butchers who do a mean breakfast roll. Take some time to enjoy this truly cosmopolitan and colorful area and then take a right into Henry Street to see South Dublin's premier shopping street.
Ha'penny Bridge, Temple Bar and the Bank of Ireland
Now turn left into Liffey Street and walk down to the river of the same name. You will see the "Hags with the Bags" on your right just before having to cross the river using Ha'penny Bridge (officially "Liffey Bridge"). Dublin's most photographed river crossing was originally financed by a toll of one Halfpenny, hence the name. Today crossing is free.
On the south bank, a small (and sometimes very smelly) thoroughfare will take you straight into the "bohemian" Temple Bar area, the hub of Dublin's trendy nightlife. Assuming you will make this walk during the daytime you may wonder what the fuss is all about - especially in the mornings Temple Bar is near deserted. Most of the action would be in the streets to the right - have a look and judge for yourself whether to come back later.
For now, you may well walk straight on past the looming Central Bank until you reach Dame Street. Take a left here and walk to College Green. On your left is the stately building that once was Ireland's parliament and now is the Bank of Ireland - take a look at the slightly dated security measures including small cannons. The Irish parliament is known as the only democratic representation that voted itself out of existence, effectively accepting direct British rule at the start of the 19th century.
Trinity College and Environs
Exactly opposite to the Bank of Ireland, the entrance to Trinity College can be found - do not, under any circumstances, attempt to cross the road without using the regulated crossings. Even hardened Dubliners only attempt this in utter desperation!
After the crossing, you will want to enter the inner courtyard of Trinity College through the arch. It will be a revelation - a wide-open space with the impressive campanile at its center awaits you. The effect can be stunning, so watch out for fellow visitors stopping dead in their tracks right in front of you. Also, watch out for the more daring students trying to cycle through the narrow entrance! Immediately after coming out into the open again you will be invited to join the tour of Trinity College for a fee of € 10. As this includes the entrance fee for the library and the Book of Kells it is a worthwhile option. Should you have no time or restricted funds just have a look around the college grounds and then exit through the same gateway again.
After leaving Trinity College and turning left you will have to brave throngs of people waiting to catch a bus. On your right, you will see a statue of Molly Malone in a very kitschy music hall style. Nearly every tourist has his or her photo taken here and some scurrilous street "performers" regularly frequent the site. Watching for a few minutes before continuing to Grafton Street can be very amusing.
Grafton Street, Stephen's Green and Merrion Row
Further on you will then find the pedestrian zone of Grafton Street, Dublin's "posh" shopping area. Do some window shopping but also have a look at the magnificent details to be found on the upper facades of the buildings themselves.
At the upper end of Grafton Street, some excellent buskers can occasionally be found performing on the streets for tips. Don't miss the life-size statue of Phil Lynott in a street to the right. The singer of "Thin Lizzy" was Ireland's rock hero long before Bono.
At the end of Grafton Street, the magnificent Stephen's Green Shopping Centre will dazzle you - the faux-Victorian metal and glass building holds dozens of shops plus a good food court and is the perfect place for a quick refresher.
Opposite the shopping center, you'll then notice the Fusilier's Arch, the grandiose entrance to Stephen's Green proper. Take a leisurely stroll through the park and also take in the surrounding areas. In the park, you will find a number of monuments, a garden dedicated to W.B.Yeats with a cryptic piece by Henry Moore, a quaint lodge and numerous ducks on the lakes. You will also find shop assistants, office workers and students having their lunch al fresco.
Exit the park at the Wolfe Tone Memorial (commonly called "Tonehenge" for obvious reasons) in the northeast corner and then turn into Merrion Row. Here you will find the picturesque Huguenot Cemetery on your left and O'Donoghue's Pub on your right - where the seminal folk group "The Dubliners" started their rise to worldwide fame.
Merrion Square and Kildare Street
When you reach Merrion Street turn left and walk past the impressive Government Buildings, the Natural History Museum (the "Dead Zoo") and the National Gallery. You are now in the center of Georgian Dublin and near the Center of Irish politics. Merrion Square is on your right and in the northwest corner, the strange monument to Oscar Wilde is to be admired - opposite his childhood home. If you are feeling energetic take a stroll around the park, originally earmarked for construction of a cathedral. As the Catholic Church ran out of funds and steam for this project the park was presented to the citizens of Dublin. Today it hosts memorials, flowerbeds, pleasant walks and the buried remains of a bomb shelter.
From Oscar Wilde's statue carry on into Clare Street and then straight on to Leinster Street. At the corner of Kildare Street, the former Kildare Street Club can be admired - look at the curious carvings at the windows, from squirrels playing the lute to monkeys playing pool. Today the French Cultural Institute and the Heraldic Museum are based here. Walk up Kildare Street past the National Library and have a look at Leinster House and the National Museum. On a normal day, you will see protesters in front of Leinster house proclaiming worthy or simply bizarre causes. The gardai on duty seem to have seen it all and are usually visibly bored.
Dawson Street, Burgh Quay and the Custom House
Carry on up Kildare Street and at Stephen's Green take a right and then a right again down into Dawson Street. On your right Mansion House, the official residence of the Lord Mayor of Dublin is seen. A palatial building with the Dublin coat-of-arms on display and frequently used for official functions.
Walking on you cross the road at the bottom of Dawson Street and then bear left, following the footpath right past Trinity College, finally taking a right onto College Street. There you have to cross the street opposite D'Olier Street. Admire the gothic Pearse Street Garda Station to your right, the romantic D'Olier-Building in front and the charming bronze sculpture showing the way to the "Screen" cinema in-between. Walk down Hawkins Street towards the Liffey, passing the faux-Tudor building of the Dublin Gasworks on your left. At the end of the street, you will find a nice memorial to a policeman who died saving the lives of Victorian workmen trapped underground.
You are now at Burgh Quay and will have to bear right to walk downstream along the Liffey. Do not worry if the Liffey seems to flow in the opposite direction, this will be just a strong tide coming in. After a short walk, you will have a splendid view of the faithfully restored Custom House on the north bank of the river. Cross over to the Northside using the modern Talbot Memorial Bridge and you will see the International Financial Services Centre on your right, dwarfing the moving Famine Memorial just beside the river.
Back to O'Connell Bridge ... or Further?
From the bridge, you might also see the replica "famine ship" Jeanie Johnston lying at berth in the redeveloped Dublin Docklands to the right. Have a closer look if you like, then head back westwards (or upstream) along the quays, passing Custom House until you come to the unashamedly ugly Liberty Hall (the Trade Union Headquarters) and turn right. Tucked away under the railway overpass and facing Liberty Hall is a memorial to James Connolly, the Irish-American socialist who fought and died with his small Irish Citizen Army in 1916.
Near the tram tracks take a left turn into Abbey Street and you will be guided towards the Abbey Theatre - Ireland's national theatre founded by W.B.Yeats. Unimposing on the outside but still putting on top-notch productions, though the scandals of O'Casey's days seem to be truly a thing of the past. Just a few yards more will bring you to O'Connell Street and O'Connell Bridge is to your left.
Your walking tour of Dublin has ended.
If you still feel energetic (maybe after a coffee and some cake) you could hop on a LUAS tram going westwards. This will take you to the Four Courts, the National Museum in Collins Barracks and on to Kilmainham Gaol. You will also be able to see the sprawling Guinness brewery and could even walk up to the Phoenix Park.