As a proud Dublin city dweller, I wish to share my favourite walks. This list is not just for locals, but also tourists who are visiting Dublin and want to go beyond the “top” tourist attractions. The list is in no particular order, so base your pick on which neighbourhood you choose to explore on foot.
Please note that this list excludes walking trails that are not within the city limits such as the popular Bray to Greystones cliff walk or the trails above the picturesque seaside town of Howth.
So when you find yourself in the mood to go for a fun Dublin walk, preferably on a sunny day, here are 10 leisurely routes to take. Did I mention they are all free to enjoy?
1. Walk Along the Grand Canal Path to Portobello
Moorhens, and ducks, and herons better scurry, when you walk on the Grand Canal in a hurry…! This is one of my favourite walks because you’ll always spot a variety of wading birds along the way. It is a popular path for commuters and dog walkers too and the separate bike path makes it just as popular for cyclists. As you follow the path on either side of the canal from Grand Canal Street heading south, you’ll be walking a fine, but scenic line between Dublin 2 and Dublin 4. When you reach Portobello consider a stop at the traditional Bretzel Bakery for a treat.
Directions: Take the DART line to the Grand Canal Dock Station or walk from city centre to Grand Canal Street where it meets the canal and turn south. At the end of the walk in Portobello, make your way back to city centre on foot or via LUAS Green Line or reverse your walk on foot or by Dublin Bikes.
Alternatively, consider booking a canal boat dinner cruise to experience what it takes to pass through the locks.
2. Explore the Meandering Paths in the National Botanic Gardens
I always try to visit the Botanic Gardens in cities that I visit around the world and Dublin’s ranks among the very best. Our National Botanic Gardens of Ireland is always free to enter and has much to see, do, and explore. Try to time your visit for an expert-led guided tour or when they hold an annual event like their sculptures in context exhibition.
Directions: From city centre or Ballsbridge, take Dublin Bus number 4 and tell the driver you want to get off at the Botanic Gardens entrance. It is just around the bend from the stop. Grab a map when you enter and pick out a series of paths that will lead you through the park alongside the many landscape, garden, greenhouse, forest, and water features. Afterwards, take a break at their cafe or enjoy a Saturday or Sunday carvery at Addison Lodge just outside the gate.
3. Go from the Sandymount Strand to the Poolbeg Lighthouse
You can see the Poolbeg lighthouse from many vantage points in the city and often when flying to Dublin Airport from the European continent. Be aware of the tides as you gaze upon the sandy flatlands of the strand which stretches way out into the Irish Sea. As for the end point, the bright red coloured Poolbeg Lighthouse has a long history protecting Dublin Port. It’s current form dates back to 1820 but the original and the sea wall surrounding is said to be from the early 1700’s.
Directions: From the village of Sandymount, head to the coast just a few blocks away and turn left onto the Great South Wall walk. You’ll curve around the coastline until you make a beeline for the lighthouse. It is a long walk back by retracing your steps or going via Ringsend, so consider calling a Hailo taxi to pick you up from the road.
4. Follow the LUAS tracks from the Abbey Theatre all the way to Smithfield
Walking along the train tracks sounds like a dangerous idea, but you can stay on the footpath on your traverse of the North side. This walk takes you by many popular places in Dublin. You’ll pass the Abbey Theatre before crossing O’Connell Street nearby the General Post Office and the Spire and have an opportunity to shop at the mega Easons bookstore. After you get to walk past The Academy music venue alongside a plethora of pubs and restaurants and the Jervis shopping centre. Finally you’ll come upon the neoclassic Four Courts building before arriving in Smithfield Square where The Old Jameson Distillery is situated.
Directions: Start at either end, but I prefer at the Abbey Theatre where I walk due West following the LUAS tracks. You can’t go wrong! I like the fact that the shops and restaurants along this road are an interesting inner-city mix. While there are numerous places to stop for a break, go a block north or south to avoid missing more historic sites and shops. When you reach Smithfield, consider catching a film at the hip-modern Light House Cinema or keep on walking to Stoneybatter to dine at the top-rated L. Mulligan Grocer.
5. Loop around Blessington Basin, a Hidden Wetlands Park
We had heard about Blessington Basin before we stumbled upon it one day with the help of Google Maps on our phone. It is one of those surprise nature spots stuck in the middle of a residential neighbourhood. This secret garden started out as a reservoir and has been lovingly restored to offer you a peaceful walk around what has turned into a refuge for ducks and swans.
Directions: You’ll have to consult Google Maps if you don’t already know where it is. Don’t worry as it isn’t too far of a walk once you head north past the Gate Theatre, the Dublin Writers Museum, and the Hugh Lane Gallery. The challenge is finding this park, but once you are here the walk is just a simple rectangular path as 80% of the park is water. Do a couple of loops at your own pace and be thankful that this unique park was been preserved.
6. Take the Dodder River Footpath from Ballsbridge to the the Stadium
Ballsbridge is one of the more expensive areas in Dublin city. It is home to a majority of the foreign embassies which are housed in great Georgian mansions, but we’ll save that for another day. The walk along the Dodder River is a pleasant one along the recently remodeled footpath and reinforced stone wall to prevent flooding. Grab a skinny cappuccino at the Silverskin Coffee Roasters Kiosk or croissants at Roly’s Bistro before you begin. You’re sure to spot many ducks, seabirds, the occasional swan or heron, and possibly a seal who swam in from the River Liffey.
Directions: Take the 4 or 7 Bus from city centre to Ballsbridge or if you are staying in one of the many popular hotels nearby, you are already just a few steps away. The path goes both north and south from “Ball’s Bridge”, so be sure to turn north. Head towards the shining example of cool sports architecture, Aviva Stadium, which is better known as Lansdowne Road Stadium. When you reach that point you can hop onto the DART train or continue your walk all the way to the Liffey.
7. Walk the Length of the Largest City Park in Europe, Phoenix Park
OK this is definitely not my favourite walk, but I’d be remiss not to mention taking a walk in (one of the) largest walled city capital parks in Europe (but who’s counting?!). The main drag of Chesterfield Avenue is a very straight path diagonally across the entire length, so it may be too much of a slog for some. Renting a bike near the entrance is one easy way to make it from end to end. Otherwise I actually recommend a shorter stroll or loop through one or two sections. Consult the list of maps for Phoenix Park to find a path that suits.
Directions: The Main Gate a short distance from Heuston Station if you start from there via bus or LUAS. A popular alternative is to take a bus to the Ashtown Gate and walk towards Ashtown Castle and the associated Victorian walled kitchen garden. There are so many places to experience nature in the park including the herd of wild deer or stop to watch people playing polo. The wonderful Dublin Zoo is another place to enjoy if you have children to entertain for the afternoon.
8. Hit 3 Treasured Parks in a Row – Merrion Square, St. Stephen’s Green, and Iveagh Gardens
If you’ve been in Dublin for more than a few days you have surely been to either Merrion Square or St. Stephen’s Green. So I don’t need to explain those. The Iveagh Gardens is more of a mystery to many as it’s hidden behind the National Concert Hall and not on the tourist trail. I’ve experienced the Taste of Dublin in the park a couple of times and sat on the grass for free Shakespeare in the park too. My suggestion for a walk is to combine all three city parks in one fun day.
Directions: Start at Iveagh Gardens if you are doing this walk in the winter months as the park closes early, otherwise start in Merrion Square in the early morning when you have the place all to yourself. After doing a loop to all corners spotting each of the historic lampposts, walk to St. Stephen’s Green park. Take your time in this most popular of city parks and do a bit of people watching on a bench near the fountain. Finish off your walk at Iveagh Gardens (or Merrion Square if you did it in reverse) to enjoy this oasis in Dublin’s city centre. Pack a picnic (don’t forget a blanket) for a break at the park that best fits your style and mood that day. The Food Hall at Marks & Spencer up on Grafton Street is full of packaged food options.
9. Stroll the Clontarf Promenade all the way to Bull Island
Clontarf is the home town of Bram Stoker, the Irish author who wrote the original Dracula book, and 2014 was the 1000th anniversary of the Battle of Clontarf for those interested in history. However this walk focuses on the scenic promenade. You’ll be able to see EastPoint across the channel which is a modern office park home to Fortune 500 corporations. This walk will take you to the Southern entrance of Bull Island, home to beaches, golf courses, and a wetlands area to go bird watching. During warm weather days you may spot a coffee vendor at the pathway leading onto the island.
Directions: Take a bus or the DART train to Clontarf Road station and orient yourself to walk East towards the town centre. You’ll pass a few shops and cafes across the busy street, but stick to the waterfront side to enjoy the views. Keep walking until you hit Bull Island and if you have lots of time, hang out on the beach or consider a detour to the Clontarf Castle Hotel for a drink.
10. Take the Silicon Dublin Trail, walking past the European HQ for the Top High-Tech Companies
Silicon Docks is the name given to the former Dublin Docklands industrial area that has now become home to many of the top web and IT companies based here. It is common for the U.S. tech giants to base their European headquarters in Dublin and this one neighborhood is home to many including Google, Facebook, and Airbnb. Others such as LinkedIn, Dropbox, Twitter, Zynga, TripAdvisor, and Yahoo! are minutes away by car.
Directions: The best way to tackle this walk is to start from Barrow Street, right across from the Grand Canal Hotel. Walk past the Google campus which includes the skyscraper and glass bridge running across the street. Next turn right to see Airbnb or left then right to explore the stunning Dock district. Alongside the Marker Hotel and the sleek Bord Gais Energy Theatre is where you’ll find Facebook and several other familiar tech brand names. All around are many opportunities to take a coffee break such as the Art of Coffee or Lolly And Cooks.
Refer to this useful map by Ben Cotton (Content Marketing guy @Indeed) to locate your favourite tech giant and startup offices across Dublin as part of your own Silicon Ireland walking tour.
Dublin Top 10 Walks Map
Here is a map that marks the route for every walk included in this list of the top 10 fun walks in Dublin city.
Photo Credits: Dr. J of Sidewalk Safari (Ireland)