Dublin is one of my favorite places in the whole world. I’m lucky enough to have visited seven times, one of which included going to school at University College Dublin for four months. I actually just got back from my most recent trip a few weeks ago! (Recaps here and here.) I have especially loved getting to experience the city with my Godparents and friends that live there, allowing me to get to know some off-the-tourist-track spots.
If you’re visiting Dublin soon, first time or not, I am SO excited for you!! I hope you love the city just as much as I do and have the best time taking in it’s history and magic. I can’t wait to be back soon.
Here are my 10 tips for visiting Dublin!
1: Buy a Leap Card for transportation. You can buy one at the airport or at almost any little convenience store in the city. You just add on as much money as you want and you use it to ride the city bus, the DART, the Luas and more. Public transportation in Dublin is GREAT. Leap Card fares are usually 20% cheaper than regular fares, too! You can get pretty much anywhere you’d want to go with it and then you don’t have to worry about having the correct change on you.
2. Try the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour if it’s your first time in the city. For 15 to 20 euro, you can see all the hot spots! There is a great recorded guide explaining some history, a rooftop where you can sit outside and take it in, and the opportunity to hop on and off at any time for the whole day. Even if you don’t want to get off and see all the spots at which it stops, it’s a grey way to just get a feel for the city and a lay of the land.
3. Take the Old Jameson Distillery Tour. I may not be in the majority here, but I prefer it to the Guinness Factory tour. The Jameson Distillery has a live (usually very funny!) guide, Jameson has a great history and unique distilling process, and you get to do a whiskey taste testing at the end. Guinness is definitely fun, too, because of the great views from the Gravity Bar, but I don’t think the tour is as well done.
4. Book ahead to see the Kilmainham Gaol! I still haven’t gotten to see the Gaol because it is always sold out when I try to go!! This is a popular spot apparently, so get your tickets online. This was the county jail for Dublin from 1796 to 1924 and so contains a ton of history from the Irish rebellion against Great Britain. I’ve only heard great things about it.
5. Walk Grafton Street and listen to buskers. Grafton street is the big outdoor shopping street and there are always live musicians and other acts set up trying to make a little money. You get to see and support some great talent! Not to mention the shopping is great 🙂
6. Go to O’Neill’s Pub for some well priced, all you can eat, traditional Irish food. It’s a bit touristy, but if what you want is a hearty Irish meal in the city, it’s hard to beat. You can get a full Irish breakfast there as well. We always brought family and friends there when they visited us studying abroad. They also have live music 7 days a week. If you’re looking for a nicer meal, Roly’s was fantastic and I’m sure a quick Yelp search can steer you to some of Dublin’s finest.
7. Temple Bar is great for tourists and getting that “typical” Irish pub feel, but I’ve learned that some of the more hip young adult local bars are around George’s Street. I’ve spent plenty of time in Temple Bar as well as at some of the younger college-aged dance clubs (like this place), but I definitely prefer the more sophisticated and hip feel of George’s Street. I loved going to The Bar With No Name with some girlfriends.
8. Get active by taking a walk, run, or renting bikes in Phoenix Park. Phoenix park is HUGE, easy to get to via Luas, and has so many different outdoor activities. It’s also where the US Embassy is and where the president of Ireland lives. Go get some exercise in on a pretty day!
9. Go north or south of the city for an afternoon to get a more small-town Irish feel. If you’re traveling all around Ireland you’ll get plenty of this, but the costal towns outside of Dublin are a gorgeous treat if you don’t have time to travel west. Howth, Malahide and Dalkey are super easy to get to via the Dart and offer beautiful water views, boating, and adorable shops. Spend an afternoon eating fish and chips from Beshoff’s on a bench by the sea!
10. Bring a travel umbrella!! It might be a pain to carry around, but you won’t regret it.
11. Pop into Trinity College at the city center and see The Book of Kells, a beautifully illustrated version of the four Gospels created by monks and completed in 384 AD.
12. Dress in layers. It can be warmer during the day but get very cool at night. A cardigan and a raincoat with pants and good walking shoes will work for summer, and something warmer for winter months. Your weather app will be very beneficial:)
13. If you’ve got money to spend, stay at the Shelbourne or Merrion Hotels! At the Shelbourne you’ll be greeted by a man in a top hat, and the Merrion is partially owned by Martin Naughton, a co-benefector of the Notre Dame Institute for Irish Studies. Both are 5 star and always ranked the top in the city.
15. Visit a genealogy center to trace your Irish roots. I have family that immigrated to the US during the famine and it was so neat to go back and see their records. I learned so much more about family members, and even about my great great grandmother’s dog!
Ireland natives or anyone else familiar with the city — share your tips in the comments!!