Over the past nine years, I’ve been lucky enough to consider Dublin a second home during our frequent trips to visit my Irish husband’s family. Since my two kids were born we’ve been exploring Dublin’s kid-friendly side while it has re-imagined itself as a bustling, thriving city of food and culture.
With a variety of sightseeing attractions and a rich historical backdrop that offers kids (and adults) lots of options, Dublin is a small, easily navigable city even if you’re pushing a stroller or coaxing young children to walk.
Take a walk through the city centre
The first thing we do to reconnect with Ireland’s capital city is wander the streets and take in the urban atmosphere. Ireland is in the middle of a baby boom so visitors travelling with young kids will fit right in. We start at the top of St Stephen’s Green and walk down Grafton Street, a busy pedestrianised road that is home to shops offering Irish-focused souvenirs as well as big brands and the flagship Brown Thomas department store. It’s also home to a vibrant street busking scene. On any given day a variety of talented musicians perform for crowds of tourists as they wander in and out of the stores, keeping the atmosphere festive year-round as the sound of music echoes throughout the city centre. My daughters love dancing around and dropping change into open instrument cases.
From there, Temple Bar is a ten-minute walk north, the fabled neighbourhood that is home to Dublin’s traditional Irish music scene, eclectic restaurants and quirky boutiques. As we weave through the cobbled side streets towards the shore of the River Liffey, the sounds of fiddles and tin whistles drift out of the dark cavernous pubs.
The panoramic view from the middle of the narrow Ha’Penny Bridge, a historic pedestrian crossing that joins up the north and south sides of the city, is not to be missed.
Exploring Dublin’s history
There are many historical sites to visit in Dublin depending on the age and attention spans of your kids. One of our girls’ favourite places is the award-winning Little Museum of Dublin, an 18th-century Georgian townhouse filled with artefacts from the city’s history. Visits are scheduled as hour-long, family-friendly guided tours. On our last visit, our girls were given worksheets to fill out as they explore the history and collections of the house. The tour guides also involved them by asking questions and by making sure the kids felt included as the guides described the history of Dublin under British rule and the building’s role in the Easter uprising. Before leaving the museum, there be sure to take pictures of your kids at the old-time school desk or John F. Kennedy’s lectern.
After taking in some human history, we usually move on to see the animals at the Natural History Museum. Part of the National Museums of Ireland, its collection of stuffed and mounted specimens are displayed in 19th-century grandeur that brings you back to the era when the museum was founded. Because it’s a much more accessible collection than some of the bigger natural history museums in cities like New York and London, my kids are more engaged here and they’ve passed many hours closely inspecting the display cabinets without having to compete with swarms of people crowding them.
Meet the live animals at Dublin Zoo
The Dublin Zoo is located in the city’s rambling Phoenix Park, one of the largest enclosed outdoor spaces in Europe and a place that’s fun to visit in its own right—look out for the herd of wild deer that roam the park. The 28-hectares zoo itself is home to over 400 animals. Renovated a few years ago, the whole space engages kids at every opportunity. When we visited with our extended family, including several kids under 10, we spent over thirty minutes alone at the Orangutan Forest, an open-air space where we observed the animals climbing up and down trees without any bars or glass obstructing the view. The zoo’s focus is on conservation, so the kids also learned about endangered species during the animal feeding demonstrations and talks by zoologists. Our girls especially love the two-toed sloths, orangutans and Humbolt penguins. The last time we went, the African Lions were being fed, which was amazing to experience.
The Little Museum of Dublin
Open seven days a week, 09:30–17:00
Tickets €10 adults, €8 kids, €20 for a family of five
National Museum of Ireland – Natural History
Open Sunday/Monday 13:00-17:00, Tuesday–Saturday 10:00–17:00
Open from 09:30 daily, closing times vary by season
Tickets €18 adults, €13.50 children, three years and under are free
Take a relaxing break in St Stephen’s Green
Every time we visit Dublin we always end the day with a walk through St Stephen’s Green, a serene escape from the busy city streets that surround it. It’s a sprawling space with an ornamental lake, a sculpture garden, a children’s playground and lots of ducks. After stopping to feed the birds, the green lawns are the perfect place for adults to people-watch while the kids run around. During a visit last summer, several grey cygnets and a protective mother swan paraded past onlookers. Whether we’re enjoying a rare day of gorgeous sunshine or the more predictable light rain typical of Dublin’s climate, it’s the perfect way to end a fun-filled day in one of Europe’s friendliest cities.
Then and now
A Viking settlement in the 10th century, Dublin became a prosperous city of the British empire in the 18th century under the reigns of King George I through King George IV of Great Britain. Most of Dublin’s notable architecture dates from this period. Ireland’s fight for independence, beginning with the Easter Rising of 1916, the subsequent Irish War of Independence and Irish Civil War caused a lot of physical destruction around central Dublin, with bullet holes still visible in a few downtown attractions. The city’s landscape changed again during the late 1990s during the “Celtic Tiger” period of economic expansion, with significant investment in housing, business and transport transforming life in the capital.
The nonstop flight to Dublin on Qatar Airways flies daily and takes about eight hours from Doha.
Where to eat, drink and shop
78-79 Grafton Street
Recently reopened after a massive renovation, our girls love drinking a hot chocolate while sitting in one of the many velvet-lined booths in an expansive space reminiscent of the year it opened in 1927
38 Dawson Street
A chain of Italian restaurants that caters to young diners, every kids’ meal starts with their famous dough balls
Elephant and Castle
18-19 Temple Bar
We visit multiple times each year to eat their legendary chicken wings—a great option particularly if you have older or more
73 South Great George’s Street
One of the places our family in Dublin visits regularly, the menu has plenty of options for kids while offering up quality sushi and other Japanese classics
8 Anne Street South
A reliable family-friendly restaurant with an extensive menu and good kids’ options
Hodges Figgis Bookstore
56-58 Dawson Street
One of Ireland’s finest bookstores that features an excellent children’s section and an extensive collection of Irish fiction and non-fiction. It’s a must-visit for avid readers of any age