A local mum’s guide for a city break in Dublin with kids with all the tops things to do in Dublin with children
I have been living in Dublin for over ten years and for more than half of this time, I have been here with my children. The Rabbit and the Bear, as I call them, are now respectively 3 and 5 and together we always try to explore our city with the same curiosity we show for far away places. Sometimes we go into town for a walk, sometimes we visit museums, some other times we just go to the park and stop for lunch out.
Over the course of the years, we have discovered together many fun family things to do in Dublin with kids, and now I believe the time has come to put them into a mini guide for parents.
So here it comes, my mini guide for families visiting Dublin with children, packed with fun things to do in Dublin with kids, family activities in Dublin, attractions and activities in Dublin for kids and fun places for kids in Dublin.
- Top things to do in Dublin with kids
- Visiting Dublin with children: how to get around
- Where to stay in Dublin with kids: best areas
- Where to eat with kids: family friendly restaurants in Dublin
- Easy day trips from Dublin
Top things to do in Dublin with kids
Museums in Dublin also suitable for kids
There are numerous museums in Dublin, covering topics as varied as art and drink manufacturing and, among the many, I believe the following are the most fun for kids:
- Trinity College and the book of Kells: a historical and active University, Trinity College is a must see for all visitors both for its beautiful grounds and its historical library. Home of many important manuscripts and the famous Book of kells, it’s a good stop with children: it has a manageable size, it is impressive and if you have Star Wars lovers they will not miss the resemblance of its main library with the Jedi archive temple
- Natural History museum: located in the city centre, this is a museum with skeletons and stuffed specimens of many species of animals, most of them preserved in the museum since the last century. I brought my kids there when they were tiny and the reaction was mixed: fascination and a bit of fear – some of the animals are immense! Entry is free.
- National gallery: One of Dublin’s main museum and home of a wonderful Caravaggio, as well as of some interesting Irish paintings, the National Gallery enters this list because of good family friendly activities offered at the weekend and because of its cafeteria. Located on the ground floor, it is a popular spot for families with children as it is spacious, airy and buggy friendly. Entry to the National Gallery is free.
- The Chester Beatty library is a beautiful museum in the grounds of Dublin castle. Home to fabulous collections of art from Asia, the Middle east and Europe, the Chester Beatty library is not interesting for children per se but has a lovely outside space perfect for running around. With no cars allowed, we often go there to let off steam and the free entry to the gallery means you can visit at your own pace. They also have a nice coffee and gift shop and facilities.
- The Little Museum tells the story of Dublin in the 20th Century. Hosted in a Georgian house in Dublin city centre, their guided tours reveal the history of the city in the last 100 years: all aspects of culture are touched, from the visit of Queen Victoria to the global success of U2. Unlike the previous museums, this one is not free and not accessible with buggies of wheelchairs, due to the nature of the historical building.
- Dublinia: if your kids are into Vikings and history, this can be the most fun museum of all as it recreates the streets of Dublin as they would have been during the middle ages! A full immersion in history, here you can try on Viking clothes, visit a medieval kitchen and learn medieval games: it strikes a great balance between fun and education and both my kids adore it.
- Imaginosity children museum: for little children Imaginosity is a piece of heaven. Here you can play supermarket, doctor, rock star, you can drive a real car (kind of), build a house with foam bricks and even pretend to work at the post office. They also have soft play areas for children under 3 and a nice cafe.Outside of the city centre, you can reach it by the green Luas (tram line) and it is one of the most enjoyable things you can do in Dublin with kids on a rainy day.
- The Ark: located in temple bar, right in the centre of Dublin, it’s a space dedicated to teaching art to children. A good address especially on a wet day
- Guinness storehouse: What’s a brewery doing in a list of attractions for families? While kids will not be allowed to taste Guinness, the visit to the factory is a fun tour accessible to buggies and very much enjoyed by teenagers as well as adults. When I worked for a school of English we used to bring all our students there and they always loved it: a well stocked merchandising shop and a fantastic view over Dublin from the gravity bar, where the visit ends, are strong reasons for that. If you are over 18, you’ll have there the best pint of Guinness in the world.
- Imma museum of modern art: maybe the most family friendly museum of the whole of Dublin, Imma has wonderful landscaped gardens and a fabulous cafe with toys and free play area
- Kilmainham gaol: with caution, I am including Kilmainham gaol into this list, as suitable and interesting for families with older kids (teenagers). A place like no other to learn about Irish history, it’s a chilling site and one younger kids might find disturbing, but an incredible insight into the dramatic and complex history of Ireland.
Dublin has some wonderful parks: St Stephen’s green and Merrion square are lovely green spaces with beautiful playgrounds right in the centre of town and Phenix park has deer roaming freely and hosts Dublin zoo.
Outside of the centre, Bushy park and Markey Park are among my favourite hang outs at the weekend as they have nice playgrounds and a lovely farmers market. Marley park also hosts a small train ride that is super popular with kids! Nearby, it is worth visiting St Enda’s park, which also hosts the Pierce Museum.
Howth and Blackrock also have some wonderful green spaces and St Anne’s park, in the North of Dublin, is a fantastic place for a day out and often hosts family fun days with entertainers and fun for all ages.
One of the reasons why Dublin parks are so beautiful is the copious amount of rain they get, so it is worth noting down some indoor play alternatives should the weather not be on your side! Some addresses are: Kidspace and Mr Bs in Rathfarnham (with climbing frames and soft play areas), Funky Monkeys in Dundrum Shopping (climbing frames, slides and role play: very crowded at the weekends), Panda Play cafe in Ballsbridge (good for babies and small children) and Happy kids play cafe (this was recommended to me by another mum but I haven’t personally been).
Dublin is on the coast and has some beautiful large, sandy tidal beaches that are great for kids: you can run, spot birds, collect shells and on very good days even splash about (this depends very much on what kind of climate you are used to: I don’t go near the water here but kids and locals do). Some lovely spots are:
Sandymount: close to the city centre, great for collecting shells and close to Sandymount village, a pretty residential area with shops and restaurants
Killiney: in the south of Dublin and reachable by DART, one of the most beautiful beaches in the area, because of the wonderful view that stretches all the way to the Wicklow mountains
Howth: Just beside the Dart station, a fabulous soft sandy beach
Portmarnock and Malahide, on the North Side of Dublin, an area worth seeing also for the nearby Malahide castle
Bull island: windswept and wild, perfect for flying kites and watching kitesurfers
Dublin has a fun hop on hop off bus tour, handy especially if visiting attractions slightly removed from the city centre. It’s on a double decker open top bus, so some raingear can sometimes be needed….
If you want to mix mobility with a bit of fun, the best tour for you is the Viking splash tour. This tour brings you around the city in an amphibian ‘machine’ that will wheel you through the streets of Dublin and then dive into the river Liffey! Go with a good dose of self-irony as you will be offered to wear Viking horns: laughter and fun are guaranteed.
If you want to get an idea of how Dublin looks for the water, a fantastic thing to do in Dubin with children is to do a boat tour: some operate along the river Liffey and others bring you into the open sea, for great views over Dublin bay. (You can read about our day on a bay cruise here)
Dublin has some beautiful surrounding and if you have more than a couple of days it’s worth stretching outside the main city centre area. Some of my favourite places are the botanical gardens, the coast (Howth and Malahide in the north of the bay and Dun Laoghaire and Dalkey in the south), Dundrum shopping centre and, almost beside it, Airfield farm, a working farm in the city.
Howth has a special place in our children’s hearts as you can often spot seals, who flock here hoping for some leftover fish from the fishing boats
The best way to visit Dublin is on foot, but the city has a good public transport system including buses, tram (the luas) and urban light rail (the dart). Tickets for the bus can be bought on board while the ones for the tram and train are sold at vending machines at the respective stops. Small children go free.
One word of warning about the bus: while technically accessible, buses often do not allow more than one wheelchair user/buggy on board at any given time (due to perceived lack of space). This means that you might have to wait for more than one bus before you’re allowed in. Worth considering especially if you find yourself in a hurry. Taxis are easy to find and car seats are not compulsory (they are compulsory in private cars, so careful if you are renting one)
The safest and most convenient area of Dublin, location wise, is the city centre around St Stephens green.
Tried and tested family friendly address in Dublin city centre that are sure to surround you with elegance and comfort are the Merrion Hotel (right in the city centre and with extra touches specific for little guests such as special junior room service menu served on bespoke Miss and Master Merrion crockery, mocktails and mini bathrobes to access the spa) and the Intercontinental Dublin, offering special family packages often including a zoo passes, to facilitate city exploration. .
For a comprehensive list of accommodation options in Dublin, you can also check Booking.com (Please note: this is an affiliate link. This means that, should you make a booking through it, I will receive a small commission at NO extra cost to you.)
Dublin, especially in the last few years, has reinvented itself as a foodie paradise and the choices of where to eat are endless. Unfortunately not everywhere is child-friendly so it’s handy to have some addresses you can count on. My favourites are: Milano, Dunne and Crescenzi, Carluccio’s (all Italian), Yamamori (Japanese), Havana tapas bar (Cuban), the Gourmet burger kitchen, Cornucopia (vegetarian) and a fun Irish traditional restaurant called the Boxty house (in temple bar: with children, go early)
Dublin is often used as a base to visit the rest of Ireland and the area just around the city is often overlooked in favour of the wilder west. Nonetheless, there are some great day trips you can take from here, particularly pleasant especially if with young children. Some ideas are Glendalough, Powerscourt waterfall, Avondale house, Howth, Greenan Maze, Ardgillan castle and the skerries mills, the Japanese gardens in Co Kildare and Lullymore heritage park. The photo on the beach is taken in Portmarnock (Dublin) which is one of the many sandy beaches near the city (make sure you wrap up in winter!). You can find additional ideas for fun family days out near Dublin here
It is always difficult to wrap up a post about your current city, but after almost 2000 words I probably need to accept I will never feel I included all I wanted to include and trust I wrote enough to give you some ideas on what to do in Dubin fair city. If you do know Dublin and want to add something, I would love if you could let me know in the comments!
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