Like a typical Irishman, Dublin plays up its ‘Irishness’ for international visitors, but for UK tourists who dig a little deeper (and for whom an Irish accent is hardly a novelty), it’s the history, innovation and glamour of Dublin mixed with its trademark down-home hospitality that will keep you coming back. Dublin is Bono enjoying a pint in peace (admittedly in his own, seriously swanky hotel – The Clarence in Temple Bar); Dublin is glamour, global relevance and intelligence wrapped in a cosy, charming setting.
Having said this, of course, some of the best experiences in Dublin are still to be had at the pub. Just steer clear of the artificial Irish-themed pubs and head off the beaten track for the real Dublin drinking experience – the small, cramped old pubs that look more like a living room than a drinking hall and where traditional music rings out.
Aside from this, there’s lots to see – from the Guinness Storehouse(it really does taste better over there), Kilmainham Gaol or Fry Model Railway to Dublin Castle, the National Museum of Ireland and Trinity College.
Of course, if you’re in town for St Patrick’s Day, it goes without saying that Dublin’s cosmopolitan and cultural gems are forgotten completely and you have full permission to don green garb, drink into the wee hours and hurl yourself with gusto down the streets singing (or just find a quiet corner to hurl). It’s to be expected, so put away that British reserve and go crazy!
A Beautiful Day in Bono’s Dublin
The capital of Ireland moves in “Mysterious Ways” and overflows with enough culture and character to provoke a severe case of “Vertigo”. From the “Elevation” of the Spire of Dublin to more clandestine corners “Where the Streets Have No Name”, a Dublin adventure can be the “Sweetest Thing”. The best way to tackle Dublin, however, is to relinquish control, consult a local and submissively declare “I Will Follow”. A local such as U2 frontman Paul David Hewson, for instance.
Yes, Bono. The “One” and only. Rock royalty, activist/philanthropist, entrepreneur and showman supreme. If you wake up one fine Dublin day, look in the mirror and glumly avow “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” and “Desire” more, take a hint from the man in the wraparound sunglasses. “Walk On”, develop “The Wanderer” within and explore Dublin from soup to nuts. You may just find yourself “Numb” from the experience.
U2 puns aside, Dublin is magical. Not in a starry, ethereal kind of way, however, but in the city’s uptempo, workaday realness. One visit and you may well agree with Bono himself: Dublin is truly “In God’s Country”.
Dublin's Top 10
10. Newgrange It’s a Stone Age passage tomb that dates back to 3200 BCE. Seriously old, in other words. Don’t be put off by the nondescript exterior – underneath lurks a real slice of history.
5. Dublin Castle Dublin’s top tourist attraction Learn about the nasty things we did to our neighbours during our 700-year rule. Not the place to be wearing your England shirt.
9. Iveagh Gardens Called ‘The Secret Gardens’ by Dubliners, here’s the place to go for a taste of Narnia (C.S. Lewis was born in Ireland) with its cascade, rose garden, grotto, fountain and maze garden.
4. Kilmainham Gaol Spooky, fascinating and filled with history and education, this is fun for kids and adults alike.
8. St Stephen’s Green Dublin’s most picturesque park – perfect for picnics, parties and pouring over maps searching for the next attraction.
3. Croke Park Home of Gaelic Football (take in a match if you can, and just try to work out the rules), it’s also the site of the Bloody Sunday massacre in 1920.
7. Dublinia Slightly touristy, but worth a look if you’re interested in seeing what Ireland was like back in the day. (Hint: It was still very green and prone to rain.)
2. Fry Model Railway Something a bit different than your average museum or monument.
1. Guinness Storehouse Thick, black, creamy... you’ve got to at least try it.
- General Post Office – The bullet marks are still visible on the walls of this site, in which Irish insurgents began the Easter Rising of 1916.
- Dublin Castle – John, King of England, built this medieval defensive work in the early 13th century.
- O’Connell Street – Renamed in 1924 for a famous Irish politician of the 19th century, this is the city’s main thoroughfare.
- Saint Francis Xavier Church – This Jesuit church is located on Upper Gardiner Street and built in the 1830s.
- Trinity College – Queen Elizabeth commanded the foundation of this university in 1592.
Dublin Art & Culture
- The Book of Kells – This Latin manuscript of the Gospels was prepared by Irish monks in the 9th century and is on display at Trinity College.
- National Library Of Ireland – A reference library containing the intellectual record of Ireland.
- Irish Museum of Modern Art – Ireland’s leading collection of modern and contemporary art.
- The Abbey Theatre – This theatre has held performances of many Irish playwrights, including J.M. Synge, Sean O’Casey and W. B. Yeats.
- The Temple Bar – In Dublin’s cultural quarter, it is frequently surrounded by street exhibitions and other performances.
- Grafton Street – The world’s fifth-most-expensive shopping street runs from St. Stephen's Green.
- Brown Thomas – This department store holds boutiques such as Tiffany and Chanel.
- Dublin Food Co-op – This organic market also hosts many community events.
- Stephen Green’s Shopping Centre – The site of U2’s earliest gigs includes gothic and alternative clothing shops.
- The Square Shopping Centre – It is home to many fast-food restaurants, as well as a multiplex cinema and other attractions.
Dublin Gay & Lesbian
- The Dragon – This is Dublin’s biggest gay bar, located on South Great Georges Street.
- Mother – An alternative musical festival at which all are welcome is held in Copper Alley every Saturday night.
- Fake - A special night for women held every first Friday in different locations.
- The George – Dublin’s oldest gay bar has a section for older clientele called Jurassic Park.
- The Boilerhouse – On Crane Lane, this is Dublin’s biggest gay sauna.
- The River Liffey – This tranquil river runs through the centre of Dublin and offers varied recreational opportunities.
- St. Anne’s Park – A public park and recreation area located on the north side.
- The Dublin Zoo – This centre for conservation and study covers 24 hectares and is home to many exotic animals.
- Phoenix Park – One of Europe’s largest walled, urban parks is also home to a herd of wild deer.
- Bull Island – Sitting at the mouth of the River Liffey, this island was created by man-made efforts to deepen the harbour and now attracts people to its sandy beaches.
- Croke Park – Hosts games of many traditional Irish sports, such as hurling and Gaelic football.
- National Aquatic Centre – Go swimming at the indoor water facility, which is open to the public.
- Aviva Stadium – Catch a game of Irish rugby at the stadium, which opened in 2010.
- Dublin Marathon – The city race is held on the last Monday in October.
- Shelbourne Park – Enjoy greyhound racing at Shelbourne Park on the southside of Dublin.
Yes, Temple Bar is touristy, but don’t let that put you off. Because all around the Disneyland fakery of ’80s-installed cobblestones and renovated ‘historic’ buildings are people going out of their way to have a good time. Tourists mingle with trendy young students and tolerant older locals, everyone with a pint in their hand and soaking up the laughter in the air.
Aside from eating and drinking at some of the best pubs, clubs and restaurants in Dublin, Temple Bar is also home to the Irish Film Centre, the Project Arts Centre and DESIGNyard, all of which are worth a gander.
If partying is not your cup of tea, have a quiet pint (or cup of tea, for that matter) at the Auld Dubliner pub after browsing the stalls at the Temple Bar Market. And if you’re looking for a solid eight hours of uninterrupted sleep during your Dublin stay, don’t stay in Temple Bar. The whoops, cheers, laughter and drunken renditions of Danny Boy from the tourists do not a sound slumber make.
This is Dublin’s fair city, where the girls really are so pretty – and where you really can find Molly Malone. A statue of her stands on Grafton Street, Dublin’s famous shopping mile. Known locally as the ‘tart with the cart’ her collection of cockles and mussels look a little incongruous now surrounded by designer stores where Dublin’s trendy and monied spend up ready for big nights.
Dublin’s City Centre is also home to Trinity College, Dublin Castle, a host of museums and galleries and the city’s two most picturesque parks, St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square.
In something of a lazy naming effort (or an ironic assumption about visitors’ lack of intelligence), Old Dublin is in fact, the oldest part of Dublin. Go figure. There are beautiful old buildings to be discovered, as well as some new life peeking through in a number of cafés and restaurants where you can rest your weary feet for a while, particularly on Francis Street, where you’ll also find a number of galleries and the Tivoli Theatre.
Far less touristy than Temple Bar, Old Dublin is home to some of Dublin’s best live music pubs (on Vicar Street). For a change of pace, though, check out the Meath Street markets.
Dublin Eat & Drink
Elephant & Castle It may be full of tourists, but that’s because the brunch here is good enough to write home about.
Gourmet Burger Kitchen: More traditional burgers than Jo’burger. Try the Kiwi Burger with beef, cheese, egg, pineapple and salad. Open wide!
The Pepper Pot: Homemade traditional Irish fare.
Bewleys: Dublin’s most iconic coffee shop. Perfect for breakfast, lunch and later on.
Jo’burger: Awful pun for the name, but you’ll forgive that when you taste the delicious organic burgers. Rathmines
Avoca: Cheap, unpretentious food and a fabulous atmosphere.
Wolfes Irish Artisan Bistro: It’s hidden away on Capel Street, but worth seeking out just for the Guinness-flavoured ice cream.
Temple Bar Market: Sample local delights and browse the classically Irish food stalls.
Queen of Tarts: Blow that diet while gorging on cakes and cookies. Isn’t that what holidays are all about? Dame St
Clarence Hotel: Who’s that bloke with the funny sunglasses sitting on the plush lounge next to you? Is it… really… him? Yep, this is Bono’s hotel and yep, he really does drink there when he’s in town. (The bar food is also great and the full Irish breakfasts are unbelievable!)
February plays host to the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival.
March brings the promise of the famous St Patrick’s Day celebration, where it is not only acceptable, but damn-near mandatory to get hopped up on green Guinness and make a fool of yourself. Alternatively, just go along and watch the American tourists there to ‘get in touch with their ancestral history’ do just that.
June brings with it the Dublin Writers Festival, which dishes up a banquet of readings, discussions and public debates. Judging from some of the literary talent to come out of tis city, aspiring writers should pay close attention!
Second only to St Pat’s as far as fame goes, Bloomsday is the Dublin festival and public holiday celebrating the date that set the scene for James Joyce’s famous novel Ulysses. This takes place on June 16.
The Electric Picnic rolls around in August for a three-day celebration of comedy and music.
Dublin Fringe Festival is brought to you in September and plays host to innovative acts from around Dublin and the globe.
October brings with it the Dublin Theatre Festival, showcasing the best acts from Ireland and around the world.
When To Go
Tourist season in Dublin generally begins after Easter, reaches a peak in mid-summer and starts to die off in September.
Ireland is hardly noted for its gorgeous weather, so either take a brolly or find a pub where you can happily watch the rain fall down.
You can get direct flights to Dublin airport from most major cities around the UK, with regular buses taking you into the heart of the city. Alternatively, the ferry to Dun Laoghaire takes longer but is somehow more romantic (and windswept).
Travelling around the city itself is best done on foot or, if you’re planning to travel further afield, outside peak hour.
Buses are relatively cheap and easy to use. They cost around €1.15 for up to three stages or €2.20 for up to 23. You’ll need the exact change, otherwise you’ll be given a receipt that you can get reimbursed at the Dublin bus office.
Bicycles were introduced into Dublin in 2009. Simply buy a €10 Smart Card (and pay a €150 deposit) in order to ‘free’ a bike for use. Bikes are free for half an hour and then €0.50 for each half-hour after that! Highly recommended.
Taxis are a great way to get home after a boozy night (well, better than walking alone!). It can sometimes be tricky to find a cab after the pubs shut, so it’s best to book ahead.
What To Miss
21 Westland Row is not a museum, so don’t head there expecting to see inside Oscar Wilde’s birthplace. (It’s actually the writing centre for the Creative Writing and Irish Literature Masters of Philosophy students at Trinity College, Dublin.)
If you’re out in Temple Bar be careful of pickpockets at night and some quite unhygienic happenings in the streets. Where Paris may see you dodging dog piles on the pavement, here you could be dodging piles of upchuck.
Molly Malone. Yes, we know, she’s Dublin’s most famous working girl, but it seems like a lot of crowded fuss over a pretty standard statue. Avoid the crowds and visit the statues of Thin Lizzy's Phil Lynott on Harry Street or James Joyce at North Earl Street.
Spectacular, historic Dublin has been the chief beneficiary of the Irish economy's wicked tear in recent years. Cranes on the skyline may be the bane of photographers but they remain the most indelible symbols of Dublin's miraculous rise.
Always a favorite with tourists, thanks to Irish hospitality, charm and an embarrassment of heritage sites, the city now ranks as one of the most expensive in the world.
Dublin is the cultural epicentre of Ireland, with an incredibly active and vibrant arts community you are sure to have plenty of entertainment options available. Dublin's most internationally-famous Temple Bar area with its cobbled streets on the South bank of the River Liffey is a good place to start if you are looking to check out some of the local bands, small arts productions or simply just to enjoy a Guinness or two.
As the capital of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin has some important political monuments spread across the city. The best of the lot, from a tourist standpoint, are the Leinster House and the aptly titled Government Buildings.
Although horribly cliché, the Guinness Storehouse in St. James's Gate Brewery is nonetheless a requisite experience while in Dublin. If you plan to pub crawl in the city and sample the famous stout, why not visit the icon's headquarters? Tours normally end with a pint or three at The Gravity Bar, with a wonderful panorama view of Dublin.
The city of Dublin has no less than eight castles, each with their own distinct charm. While some remain relatively unspoiled, others are now resorts and hotels, most notably Luttrellstown Castle, where David and Victoria Beckham were wed. Swords, built in 1200, and Rathfarnham, a beautiful Anglo-Norman structure, may be the best bets for traditional castle tours within the city limits.
Saint Patrick's, a medieval cathedral built in 1192, has undergone many restorations over the years. Formally known as The National Cathedral and Collegiate Church of Saint Patrick, it represents the best of several cathedrals in Dublin.
Farmleigh, once the palatial manor of the Guinness family, was bought by the Irish government in 1999. Now a functional guest house for state visits and foremost tourist attraction, tours of the superb estate and private gardens are available.
Trinity College is the oldest and most reputable academic institution in Ireland. The campus grounds are wonderful for a long walk and several of the university buildings are worthy of exploration.
Grafton Street is one of the foremost retail districts in Europe. The most famous pedestrian section of Dublin is home to several historic monuments and shops, most notably Bewley's Oriental Café.
Dublin hosts many major events throughout the year at Croke Park. With a capacity of over 80,000, only three stadiums in Europe are larger. Premier events here include Gaelic football, rugby and soccer. Of course, if you have the chance to see native sons U2 play here, by all means do so.
The Festival of World Cultures, held in August, is a massive celebration of music and arts that draws a quarter of a million people.
Heritage Week is a festival that commemorates the very best of Irish culture, history and traditions. Held at the end of August, it marks one of the best occasions to be a tourist in Dublin.
Eurocultured is the offbeat, orphan child of festivals in Dublin. Also held in August, it brings together the best street performers and artists from around Europe.
Tourist season in Dublin generally begins after Easter, reaches a peak in mid-Summer and dissipates in September. The city receives a fair amount of rain, with a monthly average of 30mm.
- Winter (November to February) 1-10°C
- Spring (March to May) 3-15°C
- Summer (June to August) 9-20°C
- Fall (September to October) 6-17°C
Dublin is that scruffy bloke who’s the first to the bar and the last to leave. He’s a little rough around the edges, but once he winds up, you’re laughing for a week solid before you realise it’s home time! Every second word you hear in Dublin is likely to be a swear word, but there’s normally more charm than malice attached to them, and it shows how wonderfully unpretentious Dublin is. After all, where else can you find U2’s Bono hanging out completely unmolested between tours?
We’re not going to lie to you – some of the best experiences in Dublin are to be had at the pub. With a beer in hand and a pie on your plate, how can you really go wrong? Be warned, though, Dublin is home of the sort of Irish themed pub that can be found everywhere from Brisbane to Buenos Aires. If you’re a lover of generica, you’re in for a treat, but head off the beaten track for the real Dublin drinking experience – the small, cramped old pubs where traditional Irish music rings out.
Aside from this, there are loads of things to see – from the quirky like the Guinness Storehouse (yes, more drinking), Kilmainham Gaol or Fry Model Railway to the traditional attractions such as Dublin Castle and Trinity College.
Whether you’re soaking in the history at the National Museum of Ireland or downing a pint, you’ll want to stay for as long as it takes you to imitate the accent of the locals. Good luck!
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