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10 Must-See Castles in Dublin

Want to take a break from museums or just wish to escape the bad weather? Visiting Dublin’s castles is one of the best things to do around town.

Most people know Dublin, and the whole of Ireland, for the local nightlife and passion for drinking. But both the country and the city are equally impressive for the amazing castles and preservation of historic landmarks.

Dublin County has many castles in and around, some of which are also free to tour. Whether you’re looking for medieval ruins or fully restored buildings, there’s a bit of everything to see in Dublin.

1. Dublin Castle

Unless there’s a contrarian bend, any list of must-see castles in Dublin would start with Dublin Castle. It’s easily the city’s most iconic castle and one of the most impressive.

Initially a defensive fortification, it also held the seat for the British Government until the early 1920s. Although open for visitation throughout the year, the castle also hosts state visits, banquets, and other events.

2. Malahide Castle

One of the top things to do in Dublin is to visit Malahide Castle. It’s a bit outside the city and sits on 250 acres of land. The 800-year-old castle combines various architectural styles and has a unique place among Ireland’s castles and fortresses.

Malahide Castle served as both a private home and a fortress that features impressive interior decorations, art collections, and period furniture. You might want to make sure to also check out the Talbot Botanic Gardens before leaving.

3. Swords Castle

Another iconic Dublin castle is the Swords Castle. And if it looks familiar, you may have caught glimpses of it on the hit TV show The Tudors. 

The castle is mostly in a state of ruin now, but various restoration projects are in the works. Still, it has its place cemented in history due to the fact that Swords Castle bore witness to numerous battles.

4. Drimnagh Castle

This castle has one thing that no others in all of Ireland have – a floating moat. Its unique feature makes it one of the must-see castles in Dublin. 

Although it doesn’t offer much in terms of art collections or other features, it’s a gorgeous building with a completely restored Great Hall. The massive fireplace and medieval vibe are the main reasons it’s such a popular choice for weddings.

5. Howth Castle

Howth Castle isn’t among the oldest castles in Ireland. However, it’s a shining example of great preservation as well as innovation. The castle’s keep and gate tower are from the 15th century, while the castle itself is centuries older. 

Interestingly, Howth Castle occupies a special place in all of Europe, not for its historical significance but for being one of the oldest private homes. 

6. Rathfarnham Castle

Yet another one of the must-see castles in Dublin is Rathfarnham Castle. It’s one of Ireland’s youngest and most modern castles.

Its construction only goes back to the 16th century. Yet, even for that period, the style seemed very modern and influenced by continental defensive architecture. 

It went through various restorations in the 18th and 20th centuries. Today, Rathfarnham Castle houses the city’s Office of Public Works.

7. Puck’s Castle

Puck’s castle is one of the more unique castles in Dublin. There’s not much history known about it, which only gives it an air of mystery. Some even say it’s a haunted castle, perhaps to attract even more tourists each year.

What is clear about the castle is that it’s a late 16th century vintage. While most must-see castles in Dublin charge admission fees, Puck’s Castle doesn’t.

It’s an abandoned ruin that you can visit whenever you want. 

8. Ardgillan Castle

Often regarded as a hidden gem of Ireland, Ardgillan Castle is an awe-inspiring sight. It sits on a 194-acre parkland and features 18th-century architecture. 

That said, it also has more country-style exterior embellishments that create a unique appeal. It’s one of the top family-friendly Dublin attractions, in part because of its massive park.

It’s worth noting that thrill-seekers visit it to learn about the supposed spirit that haunts the castle grounds – the Writing Lady.

9. Bullock Castle

Bullock Castle is one of the smallest you can visit while vacationing in Dublin. Constructed by monks in the 13th century, its initial purpose was to act as a defensive fortification for the harbor.

After the dissolution of monasteries in the country, everything in the village, including the castle, found new owners in various families.

When you visit, you can see the storage room, take the spiral staircase, and check out some of its other rooms. The castle’s roof is arguably one of the most impressive features and an engineering feat of its own when it was constructed.

Note that there’s no admission fee for Bullock Castle.

10. Trim Castle

Just a short bus drive away from Dublin, you’ll find Trim Castle. Its ruins will forever remain immortalized since it served as the set of Braveheart.

Along with its cinematic fame, Trim Castle also has an impressive history. At one point in time, it was Ireland’s biggest fortified house.

King Henry II commissioned its construction circa 1176. And like many other similar structures in the area, Hugh de Lacy oversaw the process. In its heyday, Trim Castle boasted a 20-sided tower. The defensive structure took three decades to build.

The official tour of the ruins is only available on weekends. However, you can walk freely on the grounds during weekdays.

Explore the Local History

Some of Dublin’s castles are of significant historical importance. Others may not be of the same level of significance as the others, but they still have their own fascinating tales to tell their visitors.

Don’t be afraid to take a couple of tours and marvel at Dublin’s fortified homes, ruins, or fully-fledged castles. Each one is unique in its own way and may show you something you won’t see anywhere else. 

Trip Ideas

Exploring Dublin’s Nightlife? Don’t Miss These Pubs

Don’t let your nights in Dublin go to waste. Explore the city’s best pubs and see why they’re a big part of the local culture.

Is there any place better to have a few drinks than Dublin? It’s the beer lovers’ cultural capital as it’s filled with both modern and traditional-style pubs. 

The city offers a wide range of local, imported, and craft drinks. Most of the pubs also serve delicious Irish dishes and host live music sessions throughout the week.

If you do decide to go on a pub crawl, here are some of the best you should keep an eye on.

1. The Brazen Head

You can’t go to Dublin without having a few pints at the Brazen Head. It’s the city’s oldest pub in a coach house dating back to 1198. 

Despite the age, it’s still one of the liveliest and best pubs in Dublin. The venue still hosts live music on a nightly basis and features a wide array of memorabilia, old ads, posters, and photos on the walls.

It also serves a mean beef and Guinness stew, so it hardly gets more traditional than this.

2. O’Donoghue’s

Located on 15 Merrion Row in Saint Peter, O’Donoghue’s is one of the best spots to visit if you want to listen to Irish music. You can listen to traditional folk tunes played by seasoned musicians every night.

It’s also a very packed place, so it’s an ideal location if you want to mingle with the locals. Keep in mind that the fun starts early at O’Donoghue’s, so try not to arrive too late.

3. The Norseman

Don’t let its name fool you. The Norseman will still give you an authentic Irish vibe and a steady stream of live music.

What’s special about this gem in the heart of the Temple Bar area? 

It collaborates closely with local breweries. That’s why landing in the middle of a tap takeover is a common thing at The Norseman.

For more variety when experiencing the Dublin nightlife, The Norseman deserves a visit. It’s full of tasty brews, fun people, and an insane variety of local crafts.

4. Johnny Fox’s

One of the best pubs in Dublin is also one of the least-known, at least among tourists. Locals know it as one of the most legendary venues outside downtown Dublin. 

That said, it’s quite far from the city center. You have to take a 25-minute drive to reach Johnny Fox’s. However, the authentic Irish atmosphere, exciting vibe, and location on top of the mountains of Glencullen make it worth the ride. 

5. L. Mulligan Grocer

Once a grocery store, L. Mulligan Grocer, is now considered among the best pubs in Dublin. But what’s surprising is it doesn’t offer many wildly-popular beers. In fact, you may not even be able to order a Guinness. 

However, it features one of the largest collections of craft beers in the city. This makes it one of the unique pubs in Dublin 

The fact is, the pub’s menu is its biggest selling point. It’s a great place to sample some excellent Irish food.

6. The Oval Bar

This is one of the coziest Dublin pubs. And it once was a preferred refuge for soldiers in the Irish Citizen Army.

Although destroyed during the war, its owner rebuilt it and reopened it in 1922. It, fortunately, remained unharmed throughout the civil war. Today, the Oval Bar is a two-story pub with an authentic atmosphere, colorful décor, and ice-cold drinks.

7. The Long Hall

For another authentic experience, try having a drink at The Long Hall. But know that this is not your typical venue with a mix of bar stools and tables. The bar has mostly stools due to its narrow and long interior setting.

Both patrons and staff have great reputations, so you’ll have a pleasant time here. In fact, you may find bartenders who have been on the job for decades. The Victorian-era vibe and period interior make for a great night out with friends or mingling with the locals.

8. Davy Byrne’s

It’s probably to no one’s surprise that one of Dublin’s most popular haunts is a pub once favored by the likes of Arthur Griffith and Michael Collins. 

Davy Byrne’s has a cozy atmosphere and great beer and it’s not as packed as other pubs. In fact, it’s a great place to experience a tamer side of Dublin nightlife. Its history also makes it a must-see location on any Dublin literary pub crawl.

9. John Kavanagh’s

One of the most fun things to do in Dublin is to drink a pint of Guinness with friends. For that, locals and tourists alike often go to John Kavanagh’s or The Gravediggers. 

The pub got its nickname due to its location within the wall of a cemetery. But that’s not what made the place famous. 

It’s the quality of the draft Guinness that draws so many people to John Kavanagh’s.

It’s not the fanciest of places, but it’s also not as packed as others. The authentic vibe and fantastic Guinness quality make it worth a trip.

10. The Palace

Located in the heart of Temple Bar, The Palace is another Victorian-era style Dublin pub. It offers exceptional service and a great selection of beers.

The Palace is also one of the few venues in Dublin that took care in preserving the original décor. Most of everything you’ll find inside looks the same as it did over 180 years ago.

11. Slattery’s

Rathmines, which is a bit further away from the city center, is where you can find Slattery’s. It’s what locals call an authentic snug pub.

The pub is a great place if you want a cozy atmosphere, tons of privacy, and also an authentic décor. It has enough room for up to 10 people, so it’s ideal for an intimate party. 

Because Slattery’s is one of Dublin’s best snugs, it may be difficult to find a seat.

12. Darkey Kelly’s

When in the mood for live music, give Darkey Kelly’s a try. It’s a cozy venue most popular for its packed rosters and hosting live acts seven days a week.

You don’t even have to wait until late at night to catch a show. Artists start playing in the afternoon and go on until long after the sun sets on the Pale City.

If You Want to Drink a Pint in Ireland, Might as Well Do It in Its Capital

Dublin has hundreds of pubs, so it’s not difficult to find one to your particular taste. What’s even better is that the locals did a good job of preserving the authentic Irish atmosphere in most venues.

While there’s no shortage of modern nightclubs as well, Dublin’s pubs often make the best spots for a fun night out.

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