Infamous for its trendy, funky nightlife and of course its special brew — Guinness, Dublin is one of Europe’s top tourist destinations and its popularity is still rising. Travellers love the Irish craic (fun), its literary heritage, its atmospheric pubs, nightlife, museums and clean beaches.
Weatherwise, the sun comes out in July and August and the streets are alive with cafés and blooms. But if you don’t mind a spot of rain, Dublin offers year round festivals and sporting events.
Dublin is divided by the river Liffey separating Northsiders from Southsiders connected by the O’Connel Bridge. The area is often thought of as the spiritual heart of the city.
One of the joys of Dublin is that it is a wonderfully compact city and easy to get around on foot. Check out the sights or ramble down Grafton Street, Dublin’s finest shopping street, and flash some cash in Dublin’s sexiest department store, Brown Thomas on number 88 or relax at Bewley’s, at 78/7, the city’s best known café.
1Take a tour of the city
First timers, or short-of-timers should take a tour. Here are three ways to see the city:
Hop on Hop off bus tour
It lasts around 1 hour and 15 minutes and takes in 33 stops where you can hop off and back on and you even get a running commentary. This includes stops for Dublin Zoo, St Stephen’s Green, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle and Guinness Storehouse. There’s a bus every 15 minutes so you won’t have to wait long to hop back on to get to your next destination.
The ticket lasts 24 hours so you can start the tour one day and finish the next. When you buy your ticket you will get a complimentary city map and a book of discounts on admission fees for many attractions.
Timetable: 9.30am-3pm every 10 minutes, 3pm-5pm every 15 minutes, 5pm-6.30pm every 30 minutes. Last bus 6.30pm.
Ticket price: Adult: 19 euros, children 8 euro
You board a yellow truck, get given a viking hat and learn to roar at unsuspecting pedestrians. The truck tours the city with humourous narration about all the landmarks, then when it approaches the Liffey river that splits the city, the truck becomes amphibious and cruises. It lasts around 90 minutes.
These are not new trucks as they date back to World War II and when it rains, you get wet, however it is tremendous fun.
Timetable: Tours run roughly every 30 minutes during peak times and every 90 minutes off peak starting from 10am
Tickets: 20 euros for adults and 16 euros for kids. More info here.
Take a Boat Trip Along the Liffey
Dublin is cut in half by the river 120km long Liffey river and taking a boat tour offers another view of the city and its riverside attractions. On route you will get a a light hearted commentary giving insight into the history of Dublic City and the river from the arrival of the Vikings to date. You’ll also get to see some of Dublin’s most famous bridges such as the Ha’penny Bridge.
Address: Bachelors Walk
Directions: Walk to the bottom of O Connell street and turn right (It’s a big red boat
Tours last: 1 hour from 11am to 12 pm and 1.45 to 2.45pm. There are no tours in January or February or December.
Cost: Adults 14 euros, Kids 8 euros. Buy your ticket here.
2Guinness Storehouse aka ‘Church of Guinness’
If you have a spare afternoon then use it to visit this excellent attraction — even if you don’t like Guinness. That’s because this dark-brooding, world-famous beer is very much part of Dublin’s history — in fact 250 years of history thanks to Arthur Guiness who began brewing on this site back in 1759.
Located at the centre of St James’s Gate Brewery, a listed building, visitors can take in the brew’s story by entering via a pint glass-shaped atrium and touring the seven floors. On the way you learn how to drink it for optimum taste and become a master at drawing the perfect pint.
The tour ends at the Gravity Bar with a free pint and spectacular 360 degree views across the city.
This is a highly polished, Hollywood style operation and highly entertaining.
Address: St James’s Gate Tel: 00 353 (0)408 4800
Entry: 16.50 euros for two hours tour and a trip to the Gravity Bar.
Open: 9.30am – 5pm daily except July-Aug, until 7pm
3Jamesons visitor centre
If you’ve ever wondered what they do with old Jamesons bottles, then look up at the ceiling of the visitor centre and you’ll see chandeliers made of them. And a tour of the visitor centre takes you on a journey of how to make what goes in those bottles and finishes off with a tasting of three whiskes, the third being their triple distilled product. Do well in the tasting and you get a certificate declaring you are a master.
Address: Bow Street, Smithfield Village
Entry: 14 euros for adults, children 7,7 euros
Open: 9am – 6pm Monday to Thursday, Sunday 10am to 6pm
4Trinity College and the book of Kells
Trinity College is Dublin’s most prestigious university and home to the Book of Kells and a library in the amazing Long Room. This book is a symbol of Christianity and is more than 1000 years old. The college’s long hall is a sensational library that is hemmed with busts of famous academics, thinkers and writers such as Aristotle and Shakespeare. They say they have a collection of more than 45 million books.
Address: Old Library Building, Nassau Street
Entry: 9 euros for adults
Open: 9am – 6pm Monday to Thursday, Sunday 10am to 6pm
With 1,760 acres, Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed public park in Europe. Its walled circumference is 16km. It is home to Dublin Zoo — dating back to 1830 and is the oldest in Europe, the President of Ireland’s residence and the American Embassy. This is a haven of fabulous gardens and wilderness where wild Fallow deer have been roaming around since the seventeenth century. The name of the park means “clear water” and refers to a spring that once existed here.
Inside is the 90ft (27m) stainless steel Papal Cross stands tall on the sport where Pope John Paul celebrated Mass in 1979. More than a third of Ireland’s population attended the mass.
6Have a gourmet meal (Fade Street Social)
Dylan McGrath is a Michelin starred chef who is a celebrated judge on Irish Master Chef. He also owns 5 eateries in Dublin including Fade Street Social. The restaurant is probably the trendiest in the city right now and is buzzing most of the time. Somehow the staff manage to stay cheerful and attentive. As for the food, the dishes are so flavoursome that you may find yourself savouring each mouthful for ages. Classic dishes include Irish lamb stew with spiced cream, drops of potato mousse and crispy balsamic fillet, scented with lovage and celery leaves and beef cooked in Guinness with parsley, oyster cream and parsnip puree.
There is also a Tapas bar on the first floor, a cocktail bar on the second and a roof terrace for those heady summer nights.
Address: Fade Street
Tariff per head: 40 euros
7National Museum of Ireland
For an appreciation of Irish Celtic culture that has no connection to England, this is the place to come. Ireland’s finest treasures are at the National Museum of Ireland, dating back to the Celtic golden age before the Anglo-Norman invasion of 1170. The ground floor displays an impressive range of Ireland’s prehistoric gold, sometimes shaped as war trumpets and spare parts for chariots and jewellery. Upstairs is the Viking exhibition.
Address: Kildare Street
Open: Tuesday-Saturday 10am-5pm, Sunday 2pm-5pm.
8Have a pint
Everyone has an opinion on where you can get the best pint and there is plenty of choice. If you like music, O’Donoghues on Merrion Square is an atmospheric watering hole. Musicians turn up every night and this is where the Dubliners started their career. Celebrities such as Bruce Springsteen and Jo Hearny have been known to drink here.
The pub at Dawsons Lounge on Dawsons Street is famous as being the smallest pub in Dublin. You enter via a red door and once 20 people are in its starts for feel a bit cosy. Any more than that and it’s a case of rubbing shoulders. But it’s cute.
9Temple Bar Neighbourhood
Temble Bar is the Dublin where Dubliners party. The neighbourhood is full of eateries, bars, shops and nightlife and a Designer Mart — an indoor shopping complex. It is also home to a fabulously successful Saturday Market with aromas of baked bread, freshly brewed coffee and locally grown produce.
But the complex of cobbled thoroughfares reveal not only trendy boutiques but also a cultural centre. Culture vultures will love the the pint sized art galleries and easy to digest museums and street performers and saxophonists crooning from the side streets.
Address: South of the Liffey river
Built by Norman King John, this was the British seat of colonial power in Ireland for 700 years up to the early 20th Century. The Easter Uprising led to 50 defeated insurgents being executed with the castle’s walls. In 1938 the first President of Ireland was sworn in and today it is used as a government office. Architecturally, it looks more like an eccentric palace than a castle with hardly a turret in sight. There is a tour you can do that highlights the castle’s history, showing the state apartments where Nelson Mandela, Maggie Thatcher and other dignatories stayed. It takes in the various room with their gorgeous furniture an exquisite throne room, takes you underground to the moat and the oldest most ancient part of the castle. The tour puts 800 years of Irish history into context in just 30 minutes.
Dublin Castle is also home to The Chester Beatty Library which houses Europe’s greatest collection of ancient oriental manuscripts.
Address: Palace Street, Dublin 2
Entry: 6 euros
And if you still have some time left, visit:
St Stephen’s Square
As the old song goes: “Dublin can be heaven, with coffee at eleven, and a stroll in Stephen’s Green”, the latter being the most stylish square in all of Dublin and as such is a must-see. It comprises a 27-acre Georgian square blessed with fine lawns, flowers and waterfalls and surrounded by terraced houses. All this right in the centre of the city.
Little Museum of Dublin
While you are in the vicinity of St Stephen’s Green, make your way to number 15. This quaint museum tells the history of Dublin. Get there in time for a 20-minute guided tour for city nuggets. The second floor is dedicated to Bono.
Address: 2nd Floor, 15 St Stephens Green
Read also: Hotel Review: The Westbury, Dublin
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