Grocery bags dragged my shoulders down and the sky was about to open up. I weaved in and out of a crowd of weekend shoppers and inattentive tourists, trying to reach the bus stop before the rain could hit me, all the while wondering: “why do people come to Dublin?”
Why travel to Dublin when you could be at a restaurant in Paris or at the beach in Barcelona? Then it all came back to me. That long gone day of February I had landed in Dublin in search of work, when I had known instantly Dublin would become my home.
That day I had fallen in love; madly in love with the old pubs always full past office hours, with the small basement shop selling questionable vintage jackets, with the luscious chocolate flapjacks from the corner grocery store. More than a city, Dublin is a character full of life that grabs your attention in thousands of unexpected ways. It caught mine almost a decade ago and hasn’t let go.
From the Viking invasions in early Medieval times to the 1916 Easter Rising, Dublin is a city steeped in History with beautiful landmarks waiting to tell you their very own stories. Among those not to be missed are:
All the major museums in Dublin are free of charge! Whether you are travelling on a budget or a museum aficionado, here is your chance for an inexpensive cultural experience. I recommend:
Ireland is world famous for its whiskey and beer, so a detour to a distillery or brewery should be on your bucket list.
The Guinness Storehouse is the one everybody thinks about when coming to Dublin. Possibly a tad overpriced, it is still a very interesting dive into the story of Guinness, a company intricately tied to the history of Dublin.
When it comes to Irish whiskey, the Jameson Distillery comes to mind but you won’t see the whiskey making process in action as no Jameson whiskey is produced in Dublin any more. My advice: visit the Teeling Distillery instead. There, visitors can access the huge copper pot stills in operation. On an empty stomach the tasting at the end of the tour went straight to my head!
Dublin’s nightlife reputation has travelled beyond the borders of the Irish Republic and many choose Dublin to celebrate…anything! The Irish pub is a quintessential part of life in Dublin and some will say you haven’t seen the city until you drink a pint in one of its pubs.
What is Dublin’s best pub then? That’s a question people could argue over for days. Everyone has a favourite depending on what they are looking for: the crowd or quiet socializing, modern or traditional (live!) music, Irish beers or foreign imports.
Although you can find a pub at almost every corner, let me suggest a few popular neighbourhoods to help you find your own favourite pub:
Finding the city crowd too overwhelming? Why not go on a day trip outside Dublin to escape the city’s hustle and bustle. There are some great spots around the Irish capital easily accessible by public transport.
Head North to Malahide, a seaside town just 30 minutes on the DART with a superb medieval castle and walled garden to visit; or go to Howth, a quaint little harbour with quality seafood restaurants and a food market straight outside the train station.
Head South to Bray, a sleepy seaside resort with a long stretch of pebble beach. There the path at the end of the beach will bring you along the cliffs to the village of Greystones under just an hour with great views ahead of you. Or get on a bus to Powerscourt Estate and discover its magnificent landscaped gardens. The 47 acres include romantic ornamental lakes, an exotic Japanese garden, dramatic terrasses and much more.
Looking to buy a new outfit or fill your suitcase with souvenirs and gifts? You’ll find all your favourite high street brands in Grafton Street, a posh pedestrian-only street on the Southside of Dublin. While on the Northside two shopping centres and three department stores can be found down Henry Street.
Back to the Southside, Dublin’s Creative Quarter is home to Irish design and craft shops. At its heart can be found the Powerscourt Centre, a beautiful 18th century townhouse converted into an elegant shopping venue with fashion boutiques, jewellers, antiques, arts and crafts stores.
Vintage is your thing? Dublin is not short of vintage boutiques. Labelled as Europe’s oldest shopping centre, George’s Street Arcade is a colourful mix of quirky cafes, vintage and second-hand shops. Temple Bar is another hotspot on the vintage scene. I like to browse the many vintage boutiques found around its cobbled streets.
Like every capital, Dublin has its fair share of parks and manicured gardens you can visit for free. Probably the most famous of them is Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed park in Europe. As you cycle around the 707 hectares you may stumble upon a herd of 400 wild deer.
My all time favourite garden in Dublin is the National Botanical Garden in Glasnevin, created in the late 18th century as the first botanical garden in Ireland. Its 19th century glasshouse – made of curved iron and glass – houses a fantastic collection of tropical trees and cacti.
Dating from the 18th century, manicured Georgian squares such as Merrion Square, St Stephen’s Green and Fitzwilliam Square are worth a visit. They are exceptionally popular during the summer months where locals love to spend their lunch break on the grass and soak up as much sunlight as possible.
Dublin has festivals running almost all year round. So if you happen to be around the corner at the time of St Patrick’s Festival, music or arts festivals, why not join in!
In March the week-long St Patrick’s Festival culminates with the St Patrick’s Day parade on the 17th March. Many travel to Dublin to celebrate the Irish national day in the Irish capital. So brace yourself for the crowd and join the green and orange tsunami!
Among the most established music festivals in Dublin is the Temple Bar TradFest running in January. Taking place in June, the Forbidden Fruit Festival is a massive music event conveniently organised on the grounds of the Irish Museum of Modern Art.
For the film lovers, Dublin International Films Festival usually runs around February or March, while in September Dublin Tiger Festival brings an eclectic range of theatrical performances to its Dublin audience. Other Arts festivals include Dublin Dance Festival, Bram Stoker Festival, GAZE Festival and more.
Genealogy is a hobby that is growing in popularity and more people every year travel to Ireland in search of their Irish roots. In Dublin, two places should be on your radar to get the answers you need:
With many airlines offering direct flights to Dublin International Airport from almost everywhere in Europe and beyond, it has never been easier to travel to Dublin. Low cost Ryanair is of course the airline that comes to mind when planning a trip to Dublin. Although don’t disregard other companies offering very competitive prices such as Aer Lingus or Air France/KLM. From Asia, airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways fly all the way to Dublin. It’s also very easy to travel from the United States with Aer Lingus or American Airlines direct transatlantic flights.
From Belfast in Northern Ireland you can very easily reach Dublin by train. No security or identity check is required (at least for now) to cross the border with the Republic of Ireland. Twice as cheap as a train ticket, several bus companies also depart regularly from Belfast city centre.
Thought about travelling to Dublin by ferry? You can board a ferry from Holyhead in Wales to Dublin with a sailing duration of just a few hours. Dublin is also connected by ferry to Cherbourg in France but be prepared to spend the night at sea.
Dublin city centre is fairly compact and you won’t really need to use public transport. You’ll be mainly walking between the city’s main landmarks and museums so make sure to pack comfy walking shoes.
If you need to cover more distance between the airport and the city centre for example, buses will be your main option. You’ll find all the information you need about Dublin Bus in their office on O’Connell Street. From the airport, public double decker buses or private coaches will get you to the city centre. Taxis are also available outside the terminals.
Dublin has recently expanded its tram network called the Luas with two lines now intersecting with each other.The green line connects the north to the south of the city while the red line goes east to west connecting Dublin’s main train stations.
Unique to Dublin, the city has a railway system called the DART connecting coastal towns nestled around Dublin bay like picturesque Howth or posh Dun Laoghaire. It is Dubliners’ favourite means of transport to escape the city for the day when the warmer months arrive.
You want to stay as close as possible to Dublin city centre so you don’t have to rely on public transport to get back to your hotel, especially at night time (no buses run after 11:30pm on weekdays).
Hotels on the south side of the Liffey can be expensive. If you can afford it, by all means stay at the luxurious Merrion Hotel (known to host celebrities!) or the iconic Shelbourne Hotel overlooking leafy St Stephen’s Green. You won’t find better than that in central Dublin.
If you’re on a budget and still want a room in a central location, you’ll find several reputable hostels in the city centre. The Isaacs Hostel is one of them. Book early as private rooms don’t stay available very long though. If you’re hoping to enjoy a good night’s sleep, you’ll want to avoid hostels located in Temple Bar. As for hotels, those located on Dublin’s Northside will save you a few bucks.
The unpredictable weather makes it almost pointless to figure out what month is best to visit Dublin. Showers regularly make way for dry spells while temperatures never go too low in winter or too high in the summer. You basically have to take a chance and bring the rain jacket along.
The tourist-y season usually kicks in with St Patrick’s Festival in March. It is then a slow build-up until August when Dublin is so busy that it can be difficult to walk around the city centre.
My favourite months to visit Dublin are April/May and September. The crowds are manageable and the sun makes regular appearances (I’m not kidding). You get to enjoy much longer days than in winter and the hotels are still affordable.
These are my favourite websites when it comes to researching and planning a trip to Dublin. You’ll find a selection of international and trustworthy booking websites that every traveler should know about. I’ve also included some go-to local websites used on a daily basis by every Dubliner.
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