Family Vacations to Dublin, Ireland

Family Overview - Dublin, Ireland
With a working model railway and dolls houses, beautiful Malahide Castle makes a great destination for the family (Irish Tourist Board)

Dublin Highlights

  • Roam the city and float on the river with a Viking Splash Tour.
  • Stroll through Phoenix Park.
  • Take teens to the trendy Temple Bar neighborhood.
  • Visit Malahide Castle with its elaborate gardens, dollhouses, and model trains.
  • View contemporary art work at the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

Dublin, the once "tired" city along the banks of the River Liffey, has morphed into one of Europe's trendiest towns. Teenagers, especially, will like browsing the Temple Bar neighborhood, home to cafes, clubs, galleries, and funky boutiques. For more finds, check out the clothing, jewelry, and crafts sold on Grafton Street.

There's lots of history in Dublin too. Ireland's oldest university, Trinity College, houses the Book of Kells, one of the nation's treasures. The illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels with its detailed and beautiful ornamentation dates to 800 A.D. Dublin Castle was first built in the 12th century. A tour takes you through the state apartments, the Chapel Royal, and the Undercroft, the site of an early Viking fortress. Christ Church Cathedral's roots go back to 1038 when a Danish king of Dublin built a church on the site of the present cathedral. The impressive Saint Patrick's Cathedral dates to 1191 and stands on a spot close to where Saint Patrick is believed to have baptized converts. Jonathan Swift served as a dean of Saint Patrick's and his grave is near the entrance.

Beyond the paintings and portraits in the castle and cathedrals, browse the National Gallery of Ireland for canvasses by Monet, Vermeer, and Rembrandt. For post-WWII works by Irish and international artists, visit the Irish Museum of Modern Art, housed in a 17th-century former hospital.

Some of the city's best preserved Georgian houses ring Merrion Square, laid out in 1762. For more green space, stroll the 1,760-acre Phoenix Park, one of Europe's largest urban parks and home to the zoo.

For a fun outing, board the Viking Splash Tour. You rumble past city sites in a reconditioned WWII amphibious vehicle that also plunges into the Grand Canal for a river ride. On board, your horned helmet-wearing captain leads you in Viking roars.

If you can only visit one castle, head to Malahide Castle, located on 250 acres about nine miles north of Dublin. Along with the usual stately rooms, the grounds bloom with acres of gardens. Also on site: Tara's Palace and Fry Model Railway. Tara's Palace features miniaturized models ("dolls houses" to the uninitiated). The structures, 1/12th of normal scale, present three 18th-century Irish mansions down to the tiny, hand-carved furnishings and portraits on the walls. There are dolls and antique toys on view as well. Trains toot along the tracks of the working model railroad, a 2,500-square-foot display that includes stations, bridges, and the River Liffey.

About nine miles north of Dublin, Howth, a suburb on the Irish Sea, has Saint Anne's Park. Amid the sweeping lawns shaded by chestnut trees, the rose garden—the Dublin area's largest—blooms in season with hundreds of yellow, pink, red, and multi-colored flowers.

Tip: The City Sightseeing Dublin Bus lets you hop on and off the bus at 20 stops, making getting around town easy.'s resident family expert Candyce Stapen has written the book on family travel, having authored some 1,400 travel articles and 27 books, 26 of them on family travel. She is the winner of the 2004 "Caribbean Travel Writer of the Year for North America" award and a three-time winner of the Society of American Travel Writers' Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism award. Her articles have appeared in publications including Nick Jr , FamilyFun , Parents , Better Homes & Gardens , Conde Nast Traveler , National Geographic Traveler , and the Family Travel Network , among others. Her book, the National Geographic Guide to Caribbean Family Vacations is available from

Published: 26 Nov 2007 | Last Updated: 9 Aug 2012
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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