Dublin’s Best Hidden Gems for Nerdy Travellers
Although worthwhile, there is more to see in Dublin than the Guinness Storehouse and Temple Bar. Step off the beaten path with this guide of historic, yet alternative, places to see in Dublin. From a hidden garden to an old church turned distillery, from a library frozen in time to the Guinnesses’ rustic retreat, I give you Dublin’s best hidden gems for nerdy travellers.
The Marsh’s Library
Barely noticeable behind tall walls and a black, wrought iron gate, the Marsh’s Library is one of the most beautiful libraries in Dublin. Dating from the 18th century, the modest red brick house located at the back of monumental St Patrick’s Cathedral is one of a kind.
The Marsh’s Library was the first public library to open in the city. Archbishop Marsh donated most of the 25,000 books that are found today under its roof. They form a collection of rare books from the 16th to the 18th century.
Since its opening in 1707, not much has changed inside the library. Passing its door is like stepping back in time. The smell of old books, the antique wooden shelves, the old cages where readers were locked up to stop them from stealing the precious books! An era long gone takes shape in front of you. Famous writer Bram Stoker was himself familiar with the place. Was the Marsh’s Library an inspiration for Dracula?
Want to know more about Dublin’s libraries? Read Visit Dublin’s Most Beautiful Libraries.
The Pearse Museum
Those of you familiar with the 1916 Easter Rising will recognise the name. A museum dedicated to Patrick Pearse, leader of the Irish rebellion against British rule, plays hard to find in Dublin’s southern suburbs. A 40-minute bus ride would finally take me there.
The Pearse Museum has found a well suited home within the walls of the Hermitage. Surrounded by well-kept lawns and gardens within the lush ground of St Enda’s Park, this dignified manor house was once the home of Patrick Pearse. The Hermitage was also a boarding school founded by the man.
In the basement fans of Irish history will enjoy an eye-opening and educational exhibition about Patrick Pearse and his involvement in the Rising. On the ground floor the house has been kept as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. Metallic beds in the kids’ dormitory, a study hall for lectures, Patrick Pearse’s own study filled with antique furniture. Visitors can go back in time as they wander through the rooms of this historic house and last home of Patrick Pearse.
Want to know more about 1916 Easter Rising? Read 5 Museums to Learn About Dublin’s 1916 Easter Rising.
The Iveagh Gardens
The Iveagh Gardens are sometimes referred to as the secret gardens of Dublin. Located at the back of the Department of Foreign Affairs on St Stephen’s Green, and surrounded by protective walls, the Iveagh Gardens try to keep to themselves.
Once the private property of the Guinness family, the Iveagh Gardens are now a public park providing a welcome respite from the constant bustle of the city. There is an indescribable idleness attached to the gardens. On warm summer days people nap under the trees, read a book or simply bask in the sun.
Statues reminiscent of the Ancient World hide under the tranquil canopy, vying for the gaze of the stroller. The gardens also feature a rosarium, a quiet hide-out for discreet chatter. In the silence only broken by distant car horns, the soothing sound of rushing water catches the visitor’s attention. At the end of the gardens, a cascade framed by giant ferns puts the final touch to this meditative place.
You might also be interested in:
– Where to Stay in Dublin | A Guide of the Best Neighbourhoods
– Is Temple Bar A Tourist Trap? Enjoying Dublin’s Cultural Quarter Like A Local
– Top Historical Sites to Visit in Wicklow
– Phoenix Park, Dublin | A Guide to Its Historical Treasures
14 Henrietta Street
Tucked away in a quiet cul-de-sac largely ignored by tourists, 14 Henrietta Street is a real find. Henrietta Street used to be one of the most desirable streets in 18th century Dublin and number 14 a prime example of the wealth of elegance attached to this era.
But visitors are not here to admire crystal chandeliers and colour-rich upholstery. The house lost its luster long ago and only clues of its elegant decor now remain. From opulent townhouse to legal offices to tenements for the poors, the house takes the visitor on a journey through time and Dublin’s social transformation.
More than beautiful antiques, it is Dublin’s social history of the last 300 years that is revealed through the fate of 14 Henrietta Street. A must-see for those who want to understand the harsh reality of living in Dublin following the Great Famine in the 19th century.
Though its remote location on the western edge of Phoenix Park makes it slightly difficult to reach by public transport, Farmleigh House deserves your attention. This 18th century mansion, now in the care of the Irish State, was once the property of the famous Guinness family.
The guided tour takes the visitors through the lavish rooms and corridors adorned with antique Italian tapestries and over-sized paintings. We discover a surprising Billiard Room with striking red wallpaper, a luxurious wood-clad library, a ballroom with elegant chandeliers and a magnificent conservatory.
The house is set in beautiful gardens dotted with modern Art, and free to wander around! As you exit Farmleigh Estate, stop by the Boathouse Café overlooking the lake at Farmleigh for some rewarding tea and cake in this almost rural setting !
The Pearse Lyons Distillery
The Pearse Lyons Distillery is without a doubt the most architecturally striking distillery in Dublin. Located in the Liberties, the Pearse Lyons Distillery is amongst a new wave of distilleries that have settled back in the neighbourhood after the last one closed in the 1970’s.
The new distillery has chosen a disused 12th century church as its home. Pearse Lyons, its founder, and his wife painstakingly restored the church, replacing its collapsed steeple with bold, glass panels.
Inside the church, two unusually shaped stills stand under the church’s arches, the light from the new stained-glass windows bouncing off their copper bellies. Ironically they now produce the devil’s water right under God’s nose. Whiskey tasting is of course compulsory at the end of the tour!
Want to discover more distilleries? Read 4 Working Distilleries in Dublin for Irish Whiskey Lovers.
Lost in South Dublin working class suburbs, squeezed between a school and housing estates, Drimnagh Castle seems out of place. In fact, the little castle has proudly stood its ground since the Medieval Ages in the face of attacks by fierce Irish clans and even soul-crushing urbanisation.
The castle dates from the 12th century Anglo-Norman conquest and has transformed from a wooden structure to a more robust stone castle surrounded by a flooded moat (the only one left in Ireland). Unquestionably the highlight of the tour is the castle’s 15th century great hall that took 10 years to expertly restore.The superb oak roof was entirely rebuilt using medieval techniques and the floor beautifully retiled using material borrowed from St Andrew’s Church in Dublin.
Often overlooked by tourists, yet sought after by international film crews, Drimnagh Castle is the perfect decor for period dramas. It has been the location for TV series like The Tudors and the movie Ella Enchanted starring Anne Hathaway.
Interested in visiting more castles? Read 4 Castles to Visit in and Around Dublin.
The Hugh Lane Gallery
The art lovers will not want to miss out on visiting this free art gallery. Well known locally for being one of the best art museums in the city, its location on the Northside of Dublin, away from the main tourist trail, can unfortunately be a deterrent.
Still, the Hugh Lane Gallery deserves a worthwhile detour. Found in Charlemont House, an elegant 18th century townhouse, the museum has worked hard to promote modern and contemporary art ever since its creation in the 19th century.
Hence the gallery’s impressive collection of impressionist art. Paintings by world-renowned artists like Manet, Degas and Renoir can be found under its roof. The museum has also opened its doors to famous figurative painter Francis Bacon. The artist’s London studio was donated to the Hugh Lane after his death and its entire content, dust included, relocated and recreated inside the gallery in Dublin.
Essential Tips for Visiting Dublin
- Getting There | Skyscanner is a great search engine to find flight deals. It also has a great tool to help you plan the best route to reach Dublin, especially when departing from an airport with no direct flight to Ireland. If you’re travelling from the UK or France, you can also sail to Dublin with Irish Ferries.
- Where to Stay | Dublin has accommodation for every budget. I would recommend staying in the city centre (and booking early!) so you won’t have to rely on public transport late at night. Avoid Temple Bar if you are a light sleeper. Read my guide to the best neighbourhoods to help you decide where to stay.
- Getting Around | AirCoach is my favourite bus company to travel from Dublin Airport to the city centre and also the fastest. Dublin Bus website and its free app will help you navigate the city transport network if you ever need a bus. Read How To Get Around Dublin by Public Transport for more tips.
- Planning | Lonely Planet Dublin city guide is one of my favourite guides when it comes to researching and planning a trip to the Irish capital. Buy a copy online and take it with you to Dublin, it always makes for a great travelling companion! For an extensive and detailed list of things to see in Dublin, I recommend getting The Rough Guide to Ireland. This book has everything in it!
- Travel Insurance | Don’t forget to buy travel insurance before visiting Dublin. Heymondo has a nifty app to help you get the assistance you need while on the go.
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