Connected by the commanding Samuel Beckett Bridge, the Grand Canal Dock and Spencer Dock areas boast their fair share of compelling cultural attractions and exciting activities. From emigrant heritage to showstopping entertainment, sightseeing tours with a twist and watersports that unleash your wild side; it’s all happening in Dublin’s docklands.
Here are just a few things to see and do around lively Grand Canal Dock and Spencer Dock.
Hit the water
Dip a toe into the energetic world of watersports at Surfdock and Wakedock. Masters of all things water-related, these guys teach stand-up paddleboarding (SUP), windsurfing, kayaking, wakeboarding and even SUP yoga, all within the calm waters of Grand Canal Dock.
Ideal for all ages and with group sessions available, this is a really great way of enjoying high-octane fun while soaking up the best of the area’s modern architecture. Of course, if you’re already a dab-hand at aqua activity, you can always rent the equipment and head out on the water yourself. Wetsuits at the ready?
The great escape
Revel in a thrilling escape challenge with a difference... afloat on an Escape Boat! Enjoy some friendly rivalry as you crack codes, solve puzzles and gather clues in an attempt to break out of this unusual vessel.
Suitable for all ages, this nautical experience pits pals and families against each other in a good-natured game where only the sharpest wits win. Channel your inner MacGyver and discover this unique day out at its handy Grand Canal Quay mooring.
Float your boat
Indulge in a gentler pace by hiring a beautiful barge all to yourself. The delightful self-catering cruising barges, the Scéal Eile and Tig Beatha invite you to indulge in a Dublin mini break with a difference. With its king-sized bed, bunk beds and sofa bed, the cosy Scéal Eile is suitable for up to four adults and two children. Its charming sister barge Tig Beatha can accommodate two adults.
Based in Grand Canal Dock, experience life on the water as you cruise from the dock to right up the Grand Canal as far as Baggot Street Bridge. Delightfully adrift is quite a way to spend the day.
On the record
A mecca of modern musical history awaits just a five-minute walk from both Grand Canal Quay and Grand Canal Square. On Ringsend Road you’ll find Windmill Lane Recording Studios, a site that’s welcomed a plethora of national and international musical greats.
Closely associated with U2, seven of their 14 albums were recorded or partially recorded there, the studios’ name comes from its 1978-1988 location, on nearby Windmill Lane. Tucked away by Grand Canal Dock for three decades now, as well as hometown heroes U2, the likes of Van Morrison, David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Lady Gaga, Hozier, Kate Bush, New Order, Spice Girls, R.E.M., Sinéad O’Connor and more, have all recorded in this hallowed space.
While it is a working studio, you can book an exclusive tour in advance. On this one-hour audio-visual visitor experience, you’ll gain incredible insight into how magic manifests behind the mic and discover how some of the most iconic albums of the past 40 years were made.
A marvellous massage
As if a stroll around Grand Canal Dock wasn’t relaxing enough, you can take it up a notch by indulging in a massage on a barge! Moored at Grand Canal Quay in the shadow of the stunning Alto Vetro building and historic Boland’s Mill, this pretty barge is a haven for Thai massage, Swedish massage, aromatherapy treatments, Indian head massage and more.
Complete with four custom-built treatment rooms and of course highly-skilled therapists, its Thai-inspired decor makes for a lovely oasis of calm in the heart of the docklands.
A showstopper from the outside alone with its eye-catching four-storey glass facade, enjoy a taste of Broadway at Dublin’s renowned Bord Gáis Energy Theatre. Overlooking the waters of Grand Canal Dock, this state-of-the-art theatre has hosted everything; from the likes of The Russian State Ballet to West End productions of Les Misérables, War Horse and The Sound of Music. Whether you’re catching a star-studded show or a concert from an international music icon, an exceptional evening’s entertainment is guaranteed.
Remembering a Dubliner
At Spencer Dock, you’ll find a very recognisable face. Just by the water on Guild Street, singer, musician and founding member of The Dubliners, Luke Kelly is remembered with an unmissable sculpture. Nestled around the corner from his childhood home on Sheriff Street, the work by Vera Klute depicts an oversized Kelly’s head, complete with wild red hair, lost in the magic of song.
A colourful corner
An easy three-minute stroll from Spencer Dock, explore stellar contemporary art at Green On Red Gallery. One of Ireland’s most dynamic and exciting art spaces, it has represented some of the very best in homegrown and international work since 1992.
Showcasing around 10 solo exhibitions and one or two group shows per year, just some of the artists who have shown and continue to show here include Alan Butler, Nigel Rolfe, Natalia Black, Mark Joyce and Aoife Shanahan. Perfectly-placed on Spencer Dock’s Park Lane, enjoy an injection of culture and creativity at this vibrant gallery.
A walk in the park
Spencer Dock is also home to the six-hectare Royal Canal Linear Park. A compact patch of greenery among the area’s impressive mix of architecture, it’s a great spot to nab a bench and pause for thought by the water itself.
Green and global
Just an eight-minute stroll along the quays from Spencer Dock, you’ll uncover inspiring tales of Irish people’s impact abroad at EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. Voted Europe’s leading tourist attraction, at this fully-interactive museum you’ll discover why 10 million people left Ireland and just how their influence was felt worldwide. From politics to art, sport to literature, music, comedy, innovation, humanitarian efforts and everything in between, you’re likely to leave feeling a little prouder to be green.
Step back in time to the single greatest disaster in Irish history – the Great Famine – by boarding The Jeanie Johnston. Six minutes from EPIC and 12 minutes from Spencer Dock, the impressive tall ship is a replica of the 19th-century famine ship that first set sail from Kerry in 1848 with starving emigrants bound for Canada. Take the on-board guided tour and follow in the footsteps of the millions who fled poverty and hunger in the hope of a better life in North America. You’ll discover the true stories of the ship’s former passengers, find out how arduous the journey was and why so many emigrants tragically died before reaching their destination. As emotive as it is compelling, not to mention the beauty of the ship itself, this is a must-see.
Footsteps of the Famine
Also near Spencer Dock, and only three minutes’ walk from The Jeanie Johnston, you’ll find the city’s arresting Famine memorial. These commanding bronze sculptures were created by Rowan Gillespie to commemorate the one million Irish people forced to emigrate during the Famine in the 1840s. Appropriately located along the quayside, the memorial depicts six haggard, starving Famine victims making their way towards Dublin Port.
The Great Hunger is also commemorated through the National Famine Way, a walking route from Strokestown, Roscommon to the Jeanie Johnston, Dublin. Largely following the Royal Canal (from Longford onward), the route retraces the exhausted steps made by 1,490 starving Roscommon locals, who were forced to emigrate in the summer of 1847.
Find more ways to explore Dublin Canals, check out our Highlights section.