Three Days in Dublin with Kids

Touring with children means taking a different approach, building in time for them to chill and to have some play as well as making sure you are near suitable places to eat at the appropriate times.

Kids on the Beach in Dublin by boldorak2208

There is little more likely to frazzle everyone’s nerves than too many museums or attractions packed into one day. So these are suggestions for three very different days in and around Dublin, specifically intended to keep all the family entertained and amused without inducing cranky tiredness.

Day 1: Sightseeing in Dublin

Kids and sightseeing and not always the greatest combination, but the aim to-day is lots of variety, not too much walking, a minimum of ‘boring bits’ and with morning and afternoon quite different from each other and a fun picnic in between.

While the kids are fresh in the morning it’s a good time to take in some of the major sights. I’d suggest starting in the city centre, visiting first Trinity College and then the National Museum, both good visits for adults which kids will enjoy too and not far apart.

Pick up some food for a picnic lunch in one of the excellent delicatessens or sandwich shops along Nassau St as you go from Trinity to the museum.

After the museum go to the park at St Stephen’s Green where there are open green spaces to run around in, ducks on the pond, mini ‘forests’ to explore and plenty of quiet places to sit and have lunch.

There are two good options for the rest of the day, both of which have stops on St Stephen’s Green.

Afternoon Option 1. Open-top sightseeing buses

These run on a hop-on, hop- off basis around the main attractions in Dublin and are a great hit with kids – be sure to sit up top if the weather allows, so that they can wave at everyone! You can take either the Red or Blue Route, both of which you can board at (Stop 7) just outside St Stephen’s Green, on the north side. This PDF route map will orientate you.

Note that if you are going for this option that the bus also stops at the previous places mentioned, so you can use it all day. A 24 hour family ticket (2 adults, up to 4 children) costs €38 euro.

I’d suggest any of the following as particularly good hop-off options for kids:

  • Dublinia and the Viking World (Stop 13)
    Lots of fun and with some suitably yucky exhibits that are relished by most kids. They have a nice History Hunters trail and worksheet for younger kids that will teach them loads as well.
  • The Guinness Storehouse (Stop 14)
    It’s not all about alcohol, there are lots of interactive exhibits for kids to play with.
  • The National Museum, Collin’s Barracks (Stop 20)
    Quite different from the earlier museum and very child friendly. The huge central barrack square is often a bigger hit than anything inside.

Afternoon Option 2. Viking Splash Tours

The tour also conveniently departs from Stephen’s Green –  at the Grafton St entrance – and takes you on a trip around Dublin partly on land, partly on water in an amphibious vehicle. There is interesting commentary for adults and plenty of bad jokes for kids to enjoy.  And of course the chance for everyone to don a funny had, grab a wooden sword and connect with their inner Viking!

It’s a wee bit pricey for a tour lasting about an hour and 15 minutes – €65 for 2 adults and 2 children – but the tours really are tremendous fun for everyone, especially the bits where you get to make Viking war cries at people on the street!

Day 2: Around Dublin Bay By Train

Many children love a train ride and the Dart, Dublin’s suburban service, takes a wonderful route right around the coast of Dublin Bay with terrific views almost all the way. Buy a family day ticket, so that you can get on and off the trains as you wish all day.

There are two options, equally enjoyable.

Go North: Howth and/or Malahide

Catch a north-bound train to Howth, a pretty fishing port and an expensive coastal suburb of Dublin.

In Howth walk along the pier to the lighthouse – look out for King George IV’s footprints on the West Pier (really!).

If you are lucky you will see seals playing on the rocks near the lighthouse.

The Martello Tower is one of several around Dublin Bay built by the British to fend off an expected attack from Napolean, who in the end never showed up.

The tower now houses Ye Olde Hurdy Gurdy Museum of Vintage Radio, a fascination collection of old wireless sets, gramophones and music boxes, which will utterly baffle and intrigue children of the Internet age.

In the centre of Howth there is the 12th century St Mary’s Abbey which has a fascinating graveyard to explore. If you are an energetic family, one of the best walks in Dublin is around Howth Head, from where there are spectacular views over Dublin Bay.

It’s also fun just to spend some time watching the fishing boats unload at the portand the yachts setting out from the Marina.

You have to eat fish when in Howth (it’s a rule!) – so have lunch near the pier at The Bloody Stream, a yucky name but great seafood fresh from the local boats and very good value, at Beshoffs for great fish and chips or if you’d like something more upmarket at Deep, where the staff are friendly, kids are especially well catered for and the enormous fresh sea food platter is a joy.

In the afternoon, visit Malahide Castle (though be warned, it is a good 15 minute walk from the Dart station) where there are extensive grounds and gardens outside and a very good kids playground. I’d skip the house/museum tour unless you are really interested in local history it’s only so-so, and the gardens are free to explore.

If the weather is good, you may prefer to get off the train at Sutton instead, and go to Sutton Strand, a long sandy beach with life guards on duty throughout the summer months.

Day 3: Dublin Zoo & the Phoenix Park

This is a kind of laid back day though quite active, the sort of day out that many Dublin families regularly enjoy. It’s a break from ‘touring’ proper and a chance for the family to just have some fun together. There is lots to do in the Park, so take your pick from any of the suggestions below.

Dublin Zoo

Dublin Zoo is always a hit with kids and  has a particularly good Children’s Corner, where kids can handle and occasionally feed animals.

This will easily occupy the whole morning – try to get there as early as possible to avoid the crowds, especially at weekends.

Phoenix Park Visitor Centre

This is an excellent place to go for lunch – the food is much better than anywhere in the Zoo. On Sundays there are excellent workshops for kids (not as heavy as that might sound!) at 10am which are well worth checking out. Taking in one of those before going to the zoo will give kids a chance not just to learn more about the park but to meet young Irish people of their own age too.

Bike Tours

At Conyngham Road, just at the main gates of the park you can hire bikes to tour the park itself. You’ll need bikes to see the park as a whole  – with 1752 acres to explore this is the largest enclosed park in Europe.

They have child seats available as well as little pull along trailers for smaller children, while older children will enjoy it best if you rent tandem bikes.

Just wandering around the park on bikes, stopping off at anything that looks interesting, is a real pleasure. The park is very varied, with garden areas, sports fields (including pony polo) and wilder areas that feel miles away from the city.

See the Deer

If you are very quiet and move slowly you can get quite close to the herds of fallow deer which roam wild in the park. They tend to be easiest to find in the area around ‘the fifteen acres’ – head for the large papal cross which you can see from almost everywhere. Look especially at the wooded areas, but they are generally harder to miss than to see.

Visit the President!

Aras an Uactaráin, the residence of the president of Ireland, is open for tours on Saturdays only. The tours are free but tickets are required and can be obtained at the Phoenix Park visitor centre. The American Ambassador to Ireland also lives in the Park, and although his residence is not open to the public you can get a great view of it from an area known as the Fifteen Acres.

Farmleigh House

Check for special events taking place at Farmleigh House in the Park, which is always a pleasure to visit when it is open – it acts as a guest house for visiting heads of state and other dignitaries, so isn’t always.

More Useful Info for Dublin with Kids

Dinner Suggestions for Dublin

Gallagher’s Boxty House is casual, good for kids, serves decent food and is good value. Cafe Bar Deli on Grafton St is excellent, there may well be lines though as they don’t take reservations and are very popular. If burgers are a must, Captain Americas is the place.

Rainy Day Entertainment for kids

A rainy day can kill the best laid plans, and it’s always good to have something in mind if it really is too wet for touring.

Imaginosity is a fantastic place, especially for under-10s, with so much to do that it may just be worth going even if the sun shines. It’s nominally a museum, but the kids won’t think of it as one – though they will be learning more than they realise!

The Ark is a cultural centre for kids, with a programme of exhibitions, performances and workshop all year round.  Many need to be booked in advance however, so check the site before you travel to see if there are events of interest.

Most Dublin cinemas show family films in the early evening on weekdays and both morning and afternoon at weekends. Cineworld on Parnell St and the Savoy on O’Connell St are the best bets.

All the Dublin City Libraries have very good facilities for children and many run regular events, including art classes, story telling and toddler groups, at which visitors are very welcome. There are over 20 branches throughout the city but the most convenient one for those staying in the city is at the Ilac Centre.

Article updated: April 11, 2017 | Image Credits

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