We recently spent a week in Ireland’s capital with our kids. Dublin has a bit of a reputation as being a small European capital that likes to party big. Let’s just say, having a pint or two, (or three!) in a lively pub seems to be the reason many young travellers make their way to the narrow streets of the Temple Bar area. But, if you are traveling with kids, rest assured, there is plenty to around Dublin that doesn’t involve boozy late nights and a sore head in the morning. We’ve put together a list of 5 things to do in Dublin with kids, which should keep everyone entertained in the city that could also be known as the city with a big heart.
Did you know that Dublin Zoo is Ireland’s most popular family attraction? Over one million visitors passed through the gates last year. Located in the Phoenix Park in the heart of Dublin, the zoo is easy to find. It covers over 28 hectares and is home to over 400 animals. As one of the world’s oldest, yet popular zoos, focused on education and conservation, we found it to be a great day out for kids and parents. Family tickets for 2 adults and 2 children cost €46.50, and you can easy spend a whole day there. Be sure to check out their website for feeding and zoo keeper talk times. We caught the Elephant zoo keeper talk, and really enjoyed it, there were baby elephants! It’s an outdoor activity, so be sure to rug-up if you’re visiting in the colder months like us, but rest assured, many of the viewing areas are under cover – the Irish are no strangers to making rain provisions! It’s surprising how many animals you get to see up close, tigers on just the other side of the glass, and cheeky monkeys that look as though they could actually leave the enclosure if they were inclined to do so! There are ample food and drink opportunities and there is also a great playground in the zoo where your own cheeky monkeys can let off some steam whilst mum and dad rest with a coffee 😉
As a side note, did you know that ‘Slats’ the Dublin zoo lion, was the first lion used for the Hollywood film studio Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer? Born at the Dublin Zoo in 1919 and originally named Cairbre, Slats was used on all black-and-white MGM films between 1924 and 1928.
The National Museums
There are actually four museums that make up the National Museum of Ireland, and the great news is, all of them are free to visit. The huge collection of artefacts is divided over four sites: Archaeology, Decorative Arts and History, Country Life and Natural History. So far we’ve only visited the first two, spending about half a day in each. The kids particularly enjoyed the ‘bodies from the bog’ in the Archaeology museum, some of which have been recovered from bogs in Ireland 2000 years after they were murdered! There is also a very impressive collection of Celtic gold artefacts showing off the skills of ancient artisans. The museum of Decorative Arts and History was a great way to spend a cold, rainy morning indoors. The children received activity books in the foyer which lead them through the museum looking for particular items on display. I’m not sure if they had these in the Archaeology museum and we just missed them, but I will definitely be looking for them in the future, as it was an excellent way to keep the kids engaged and interested at their level. Because museums are great for spending as much or as little time as the children can handle, we plan to visit the Natural History museum when next in Dublin and the Country Life museum in County Mayo as well.
Dublin’s great green spaces in the city.
During our week in Dublin we visited both St Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park. Perfect for letting the kids stretch their wings and burn some energy, we often find ourselves looking for a green space for a bit of relief from a busy schedule of sightseeing. Even in the chilly Autumn weather, these two did not disappoint. St Stephen’s Green is conveniently placed at the end of Grafton Street, making it the perfect spot to munch on a sandwich from nearby Marks & Spencer. There’s a pretty lake and a rotunda, winding paths to explore, plenty of park benches and an excellent play-ground. Phoenix Park is huge! Its 11 km perimeter wall encloses 707 hectares (1,750 acres), making it one of the largest walled city parks in Europe and home to the Dublin Zoo, manicured gardens, a playground, a castle, plenty of monuments and even a resident herd of deer! You could spend years in Dublin an probably not discover all of the parks secrets (we never did find the castle 😉 ) but it’s certainly a lovely place to visit.
O’Connell and Grafton Streets
These are the two big shopping strips in the city centre. O’Connell Street is North of the River Liffey, and perhaps not as ‘polished’ in appearance as Grafton Street, but there are plenty of statues along the road to interest the kids and you can learn about the 1916 rebellion in the General Post Office. Our kids also loved Eason’s book store which has an excellent children’s section and puzzles and games on the top floor. Luckily the staff don’t seem to mind browsers, because we certainly don’t have room to carry more books with us in our luggage! Grafton Street is beautifully decorated for Christmas at the moment, so it’s worth staying out until after dark with the little ones (luckily that’s at about 5pm 😉 ). The window displays are incredible, and the twinkling lights make it all a Christmas Wonderland. Of course the kid’s favourite store on Grafton Street is The Disney Shop. The staff there were great at interacting with their little customers and encouraged them to play with displays and take photos with life-sized models of favourite Disney Characters. This store was such a hit that the kids asked us to visit it three times in a week, without making a purchase! (Yup our two have really got a handle on this no-more-stuff-I’ve-got-to-carry-it-now thing!).
Queen of Tarts Pastry Shop and Café
Hands up if your children would not enjoy a visit to an amazing cake shop with lots and lots of yummy cakes on display… yep I thought so. This gorgeous pastry shop and café not only has a lot of character, but the desserts are to die for. There are two locations, a smaller one on Dame Street, and a larger one just around the corner in Cow Lane. Luckily both are very close to Dublin Castle and the Chester Beatty Library. Sadly, neither of which are particularly interesting to kids. So we bribed them with a visit to the cake shop if they would indulge us a visit to the Chester Beatty Library, which is in fact a (free) museum of some of the earliest examples of hand drawn manuscripts and books. The huge slice of chocolate cake that Oscar received at Queens of Tarts was enough to reconcile him of the fact that the Dublin Castle was not the cool four towers and moat kind of castle that he was hoping for – yay for cake!
So there you have it. 5 things to do in Dublin with kids. Sprinkle these in among your visit to Dublin and you’ll be sure to keep the whole family entertained in the little capital with a big heart.
Have you ever visited Dublin? Can you recommend any other activities for our next visit?