Thinking of visiting Ireland with the kids, and wondering, is Dublin kid-friendly? Ireland’s capital, known for its nightlife and famous beer, also has lots historical and educational activities, interactive museums, nature and green space and a nice old town to stroll through as a family.
So, is Dublin worth visiting? Yes. Is Dublin kid-friendly? Absolutely. It goes without saying that Dublin is popular for people celebrating bachelor and bachelorette parties, or travelling there for the pub and party nightlife to enjoy the Guinness culture. As much as Dublin is popular for nightlife, it caters to a family-friendly crowd as well. Dublin is one of the most walkable cities in Europe, and stroller friendly. You should have no problem getting around on foot, and finding engaging and fun things to do with kids of all ages.
I loved exploring Dublin with my 3-year-old, mostly on foot. The city centre is very walkable, with most of the attractions being within a 10-15 minute walk from each other. I’m going to show you the best things to do, how to get around and show you that yes, Dublin is kid-friendly!
Is it Safe to Visit Dublin with Kids?
Is Dublin a safe city? Yes, the crime rate in Dublin is lower than other capital cities and around the United Kingdom. The U.S. Department of State ranked Dublin as “medium” when it comes to safety in walking around, but this was due the risk pickpocketing and mugging. (I never had any personal experience with this.) Inevitably, as with most major cities, there may be pickpockets that target tourists in Dublin. The population of Dublin is currently around 1.2 million people. However, based on statistics, the rate of crime is lower in Dublin than it is in other capital cities around the world.
Getting Around Dublin with Kids
Here are your options for getting around in the city with your family
Dublin doesn’t have a metro or any kind of underground system, so you have three options in terms of getting around:
- Driving (makes sense if you’re Irish and visiting from out of town, but as a foreigner, I wouldn’t recommend renting a car for Dublin only.) Ireland’s main parking garage chain is called Q-Park and there are several locations within Dublin where you can leave your car safely as you explore.
- Taking the bus or rail. Buying a Leapcard for visitors will allow you to go anywhere in the area using the bus or train, for about 8 € a day. They also have plans for 3 days or 7 days. The Leapcard is also applicable on the airport express buses, so its worth it to purchase your Leapcard before you land in Ireland.
- Stay somewhere central and walk. This is what we did, and from our experience, it worked out perfectly because the city is very walkable. Most of the activities below we travelled to on foot, with a 3-year-old, with no issues.
Is Dublin Kid-Friendly? Things to Do
Here are the best things to do in Dublin with kids
1. Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is a medieval church located right in the centre of Dublin that was built in 1030 – almost 1000 years ago!
A visit here can take hours, as there’s so much to see and learn. You can do self-guided or guided tours which can be booked online. Even with small children with you, you should still budget to spend a good hour at the Christ Church Cathedral. If you wanted to be really quick, you could probably see everything in 20-30 minutes, but we would suggest taking your time. Make it a leisurely excursion, and don’t be in a hurry.
First, you’ll come into the church grounds through a very medieval stone archway. Inside the church on the main floor, you will first enter the large cathedral. Its quite large and you will be in awe of the detail inside; the sculpted figures and shapes in the arches, the beautiful coloured stained glass windows, and even the decorative tiles on the ground. There is a vigil in the cathedral where you can light candles for family members and loved ones that have passed on, and write a few words in their honour. There’s also a gift shop.
After exploring the cathedral, you go down to the crypt which is just as impressive as the cathedral. Te stone walls and arches underground make it look very 11th century. Keep in mind, its a 17-step staircase to get down to the crypt, so it isn’t stroller friendly, so a baby carrier is your best bet.
Outside of Christ Church Cathedral, there are beautiful landscaped grounds and gardens. You’ll see a sculpture of a homeless Jesus (to children it will just look like a figure with blankets wrapped around them lying on the bench.) This is a bronze sculpture, made by a Canadian artist and its the first sculpture of this type outside North America. It was offered to large churches in Toronto and in New York, but both of them declined it – so it went to Christ Church in Dublin.
We took a break outside of the Christ Church in its landscaped gardens and relaxed with a picnic, and my 3-year-old ran around and burned off some energy.
2. Saint Stephen’s Green Park and playground
Located right in the centre of Dublin, St. Stephen’s is a historic, Victorian park and garden of 27 acres – so it’s quite large! Its been open to the public since 1880. It runs adjacent to Grafton street (mentioned below) one of Dublin’s main shopping streets. However, the park is surrounded by large, mature trees, so it doesn’t feel like you’re in an urban environment.
There are paths, trees, flowers and gardens on landscaped grounds. There is a pond where you may see ducks or swans. It has landscaped grounds, and beautiful flowers in the summertime. There’s also a playground for kids to play in.
In St. Stephen’s Green, you can:
- Bring a snack, and have a picnic
- Bring some books or activity kits and read by the pond
- Play at the playground
- Take a leisurely stroll, before or after visiting Grafton Street (mentioned below)
St. Stephen’s Green Playground is suitable for ages 1 through 12, as there are smaller structures for younger kids and a separate setup for older kids. It’s perfectly enclosed so you can relax on a bench and easily keep an eye on your little ones. The benches give you a view of the entire playground and there’s only one exit, so it’s easy to keep track of them. The playground itself, like the entire park, is well-maintained and well-rated. Like any city playground as you can imagine, it gets crowded at peak times, so try to come earlier in the day.
Don’t be too surprised if you have trouble finding the playground at first, as the park is quite expansive. Move inward toward the main courtyard in the centre, and then walk around it until you reach the playground. I’d personally put St. Stephen’s high on your list of things to do with kids in Dublin. It makes for a low-key outing with the family, especially on a nice day.
3. Grafton Street stroll and shopping
Grafton Street in Dublin is one of Europe’s busiest shopping streets. Its compeletly car-free, stroller friendly, and nice for an afternoon stroll, especially on a nice day.
Grafton Street is famous historical street, which started forming in the 1700s. Ed Sheeran mentions Grafton street in his song “Galway Girl.” A lot of traditional Irish bars, such as McDaids, Neary’s, The Bailey Bar and Cafe, and Kehoe’s Pub are found here. (Kids are banned from being in pubs in Ireland after 9 pm, but are welcome during the day.) There are also big brands on Grafton Street such as Holland and Barrett, Clark’s and Levi’s. There’s also a Disney store.
Expect to see street performers! Grafton Street has been known worldwide as a street performing destination for years, and several people who later became famous once performed here (Bono of U2, Rodrigo y Gabriela – a Mexican duo, Allie Sherlock, an Irish singer who went viral on Youtube) along with several other artists and musicians from around the world.) Bring some spare change – my 3-year-old loved throwing some coins into their guitars on the road. It’s not free for musicians to perform on Grafton Street; they pay 30 € per year as of 2019) so its nice to encourage children about supporting musicians.
Dublina is right beside Christchurch Cathedral. Its a Dublin history museum with a lot of interactive activities to do with kids. Perfect for a rainy day, or just to learn more about Dublin’s history with the Vikings and the Middle ages. Its a place the whole family can enjoy, from kids, teens to adults; the older family members would learn a lot from the exhibits, and the younger would learn from hands-on experiences. Budget about 90 minutes to walk through the entire museum.
The premis of the museum is to show you what Dublin was like in the past; from the viking area, through to the middle ages. For young kids, there are Viking outfits to try on, and Viking houses they can go inside, and learn interesting details, like how the Vikings kept their houses warm. There’s a large 3D map of Medieval Dublin.
Dublinia does not have parking right on the premises, but the closest place to park is the Q-Park (a parking garage) at Christ Church on Weburgh street. From there, its a 2-minute walk to Dublinia. It’s not free to park at the Q-Park, however, because you’re visiting Dublinia, you can get a 25% discount by using the code Dublina25. You’ll select the address “Q-Park Christchurch, Werburgh Street, Dublin, Ireland.” Your cost will depend on the time and date, but you can expect to pay 6-7 € in total for the parking, with the discount.
Tickets for Dublinia can be booked online. Children under 3 are free.
5. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patricks, along with Christ Church, is one of the only buildings left from the medieval period in Dublin. I wanted to go here for the name alone since St. Patrick is such a famous name in Ireland, and the holiday named after it. Its another beautiful cathedral, similar to Christchurch, with nice outdoor gardens to burn some energy off for young kids after exploring the medieval building.
You can buy tickets online for St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Children 0-5 are free. St. Patrick’s is about a 7-minute walk from Christchurch and Dublinia museum, so its apart of the very walkable and compact area of Dublin historic city centre.
6. Take a stroll through the historic streets of Dublin
Being from North America, I’m a sucker for European small alleyways and cobblestone streets. These streets in Dublin are lively, and don’t feel overly crowded. You get to experience the charm of Ireland on these old streets with small alleyways, with hole in the wall restaurants, cafes, and Irish pubs.
Similar to Grafton streets, most of these other streets are stroller friendly and car-free. A lightweight stroller will be your best bet.
Check out the following historic streets for a leisurely stroll in Dublin:
- Dame Court
- O’Connell Street
- Grafton Street (mentioned above)
- Moore Street
- Henrietta Street
- Kildare Street
- Cow’s Lane
7. EPIC The Irish Emigration museum
The name sounds like it might be boring, but don’t let it put you off. EPIC is actually quite fun and very interactive for kids! Its a popular place for locals to bring their kids, as well as tourists. EPIC doesn’t stand for anything officially; its just an acknowledgement to the “epic” journeys that the Irish have made over time.
You walk through 20 exhibits teaching you about the sacrifices, adventures and the influence that Irish people have had on the world. Adults will like it because of the history they will learn, and kids will be stimulated by the lights and engagement in the exhibits.
Like Dublina, EPIC is a very interactive museum, so children will enjoy it. It’s all very colourful, glowly and lit up inside so even younger kids (babies and toddlers) will be entertained.
Enter anytime between 10am and 5pm daily, and it closes for the day at 6:45pm. Give yourself about 90 minutes to explore this museum. Tickets can be booked online, and children 0-5 are free of charge.
8. Malahide Castle & Gardens
Malahide Castle is a nice day-trip idea while you’re in Dublin with the kids. If you don’t mind venturing a little bit outside of Dublin, this 800 year old castle is a great mix of historical, outdoor, and Irish magical fairies, and to top it off- there’s a playground. Fairy gardens are very popular in Ireland, so if you’re only visiting Dublin, Malahide Castle is a good place to get a chance to experience them.
To see the interior of the castle, you’ll have to book a guided tour (they don’t do self-guided.) You can visit outside of the castle, the botanical gardens and playground for free. There’s a large playground outside for kids with picnic benches, swing sets, a large tower with a slide.
Interesting Fact: According to legend, there is a ghost who lives at Malahide Castle.
There is also a Butterfly House (the only one in Ireand) and a Fairy Trail – these are paid ticketed activities that you can book online through the Malahide Castle website. The fairy trail is 1.8 km, and stroller friendly. It will take longer if your kids are old enough to be solving the cues.
Give yourself a good 2-3 hours to spend at Malahide Castle, plus the transportation, it will keep you busy for a day.
How to Get to Malahide Castle
Malahide Castle is about a 35 minute drive from the city centre of Dublin. There’s free parking onsite if you drive. You can take public transit from the city centre, which would take over 40 minutes.
9. Dublin Zoo
The Dublin Zoo was one of the first Victorian Zoos, open since 1830. Today, it is focused on rehabilitation, raising awareness about animals, and conservation efforts for animal habitats worldwide.
I’m normally not a big zoo person, but I wanted to visit the Dublin Zoo for my child. It was a nice and laid back day out. When I picture most zoos, I think busy and crowded. The Dublin Zoo however was quieter, well laid out and easy to walk around, with the layout is shaped like the number 8.
The exhibits are informative and engaging to read through, or to read to children. The animals truly seemed well cared for and in pretty big enclosures. The staff we encountered all seemed knowledgable and friendly.
Good To Know: You’re going to be outside most of the day, as there aren’t a lot of indoor enclosures, so dress accordingly. The food options for sale are slim, but the Dublin Zoo allows you to bring food in with you if you want. There are picnic tables and lawns around the zoo for you to grab a bite, break or snack anytime you need.
Tickets for the Dublin Zoo can be bought online, or at the door. There may be a line up to get in if you’re buying them at the door, like we did – so I would buy in advance online if you can.
How to Get to the Dublin Zoo
Dublin Zoo is about a 10 minute drive from the historic city centre, so its pretty close to the city compared to most zoos. You could literally walk here in 45 minutes from the city, (although I don’t think that would be a popular way to get here with small kids.) Parking is free if you do drive.
A taxi fare will cost about 12-15 € for the trip. The cheapest way without your own car is public transit: the Dublin Bus leaves from Westmoreland Street, stop 320 every 15 minutes, every day. The journey takes approximately 20 min. It arrives at Infirmary Road, stop 7877. From there its less than 5 minute walk to the zoo. (This was what we chose to do.)
Final Thoughts: Is Dublin Kid-Friendly?
Dublin is a kid-friendly city that offers something for the whole family. To sum it up, the following attractions can all be accessed in a less-than 20 minute stroller-friendly walk:
- Christ Church Cathedral
- St. Patricks’ Cathedral
- St. Stephen’s Greens
- EPIC museum
- Grafton street, and other streets in historic old town
A few other attractions, such as the Dublin Zoo and Malahide Castle are the only ones that you have to venture a little bit outside the city for, but they are still accessible by public transit and have free parking.
So, is Dublin kid-friendly? YES! We hope that this article helps you make an informed decision about a trip to Dublin with the kids. Another city consider right across the pond from Dublin is Liverpool, which also has fantastic activities for families.