DUBLIN TRAVEL GUIDE

Dublin is Ireland’s capital and largest city, with 1,417,700 inhabitants in metro Dublin in 2020, and is located on the east coast. Like in the rest of Ireland, there are two official languages spoken here: Irish (Gaelic) and English, so don’t be surprised about bilingual signs! For many tourists, Dublin is the gateway to their Irish adventures, which is why I chose this city as the first part of my Ireland Travel series! 😀 

Things to See and Do

Our first stop is the Guinness Storehouse, which tells the story of Ireland’s most famous beer! It’s a seven-floor building at St. James’s Gate, and used to be the fermentation plant of the brewery. Since opening its doors in 2000, more than 20 million people have been to this iconic attraction! Visitors learn about the four ingredients needed to make Guinness (water, yeast, hops, and barley), the brewing process, how it’s been stored and transported around the world, and “meet” Arthur Guinness (the inventor)! Equipment that was used for brewing Guinness (e.g. a Steele’s Masher from 1880 for mixing milled barley and water) is displayed as well. Moreover, don’t miss the many advertising slogans that promoted Guinness over time, and you can even learn to pour your own pint at the Guinness Academy!

For a pick-me-up during your visit, take a seat at the Cooperage Café or Arthur’s Bar and 1837 Bar & Brasserie, that are ready to serve hot and cold drinks, snacks, and traditional Irish food! Once you get to the 7th floor, you deserve a free pint of Guinness (or non-alcoholic drink) at the Gravity Bar, as well as a 360° panorama view of Dublin! Lastly, buy some cool souvenirs at the gift shop, like t-shirts, hats, pint glasses, socks, magnets, key chains, coasters, and even Guinness chocolates! Ticket admission is 26 EUR for adults, and it’s recommended to book on their website before your visit.

From the top left to bottom right: Entrance gate, water used for beer brewing, barrels, a Steele’s Masher tool (1880), the lengthy brewing procedure, introduction of Arthur Guinness, ship used to transport Guinness, vintage advertising poster from the 1930s, and 360° view of Dublin.

Trinity College. This popular attraction was founded back in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, and is Ireland’s oldest university. Many famous Irish people went to school here, including Oscar Wilde, Sally Rooney, Samuel Beckett, and Douglas Hyde (Ireland’s first president, who served from 1938-1945). But the most popular spot of Trinity College is the Book of Kells exhibition. It’s a 680-page manuscript written in the 9th century AD, that, according to the Book of Kells Facebook page, “is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript”. Every day, one page is turned, so it takes 170 days to finish this book. Moreover, the Long Room inside the Old Library, which opened in 1732, has 200,000 ancient books, as well as Ireland’s oldest harp (built in the late Middle Ages)! It’s strongly recommended to purchase tickets online for a timed visit of 30 minutes (starting at 18.50 EUR), to guarantee entry into the exhibit. Unfortunately, we didn’t know about this, so it was already sold out for the day …

But it’s fun walking on the cobblestoned paths of the campus, looking at the amazing Georgian and Victorian buildings, such as the Campanile (completed in 1853), and the ‘Sfera con Sfera’ (Sphere Within Sphere) bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro (1982/83). You can book self-guided or guided tours around the campus and the Book of Kells exhibit. Lastly, it’s possible to book rooms (single/twin/double or apartments) at the Trinity College Campus and Dartry (15 minutes from the campus) during the summer months.

Entrance of Trinity College (Photo by Stephen Bergin on Unsplash), The Campanile, ‘Sfera con Sfera’ bronze sculpture, campus grounds, and The Long Room (Photo by Hanna May on Unsplash).

Temple Bar. This historic district is both Dublin’s cultural quarter and nightlife hotspot. It’s right next to the riverbank of the Liffey, which flows through downtown. Temple Bar used to be a wealthy neighbourhood in the 17th century, but this changed drastically in the 1800s, when it was one of Dublin’s main red-light districts! It was still a crappy area towards the end of the last century, but in 1991, it was modernized. Today, the most famous spot is the bright red Temple Bar Pub, where you can check out Ireland’s largest Whiskey collection, and it has live music every day. This pub was established in 1840, and is known for its flower decorations outside, low hanging lamps, and a bronze statue of James Joyce. The Temple Bar district has many other pubs, night clubs, cafés, restaurants, hotels, hostels, and lots of shopping opportunities, but is also home to many art galleries and the Irish Film Institute.

Thanks to its high popularity with tourists and locals, this area can be pretty crowded. Moreover, it’s often more expensive than in other parts of Dublin, and petty crime, like scams and pickpocketing, can happen sometimes. But as long as you watch your valuables, you should be fine. 🙂

The Temple Bar Pub (Photo by Leonhard Niederwimmer on Unsplash) and the Liffey River.

If you love Irish music, there’s no way to miss the Irish Rock’n’Roll Museum on Curved Street. The Wall of Fame outside, that displays many Irish Rock’n’Roll legends, including U2, Rory Gallagher, Thin Lizzy, and Sinead O’Connor, is a great first impression of this place! We join a guided tour, and look at a bunch of vintage guitars and records by Irish musicians, like The Cranberries, Enya, The Undertones, and The Boomtown Rats. Next, there’s Michael Jackson’s pajama and a jacket he wore while touring with the Jackson 5 (Fun fact: He lived in Ireland for a while in 2006!). After watching a short movie about Irish Rock’n’Roll legends, we move to a room dedicated to U2, that has tons of exclusive material! But this place is not just a museum, as it also has a recording studio (Rihanna and The Script recorded here) and the Button Factory, a music venue, and to get the real Rock Star feeling, we jump on stage as well!

Moreover, this is Dublin’s major rehearsal space for unknown and famous bands, and as we enter one of these rooms, our guide encourages the musicians in our group (including me) to start a jam session! After this completely unexpected experience, we check out Thin Lizzy’s recording studio and a selection of Phil Lynott’s guitars and a jukebox. Lastly, we find a few things related to Rock legends who have Irish roots, like Johnny Rotten’s sleeveless jacket , a Nirvana gig poster, and Beatles memorabilia! The Irish Rock’n’Roll Museum is open 7 days a week, ticket admission is 16.50 EUR, and only guided tours can be booked.

The Wall of Fame, cool vintage guitars and records by Irish musicians, Michael Jackson’s pajama, the Button Factory stage, a drummer in action, U2 and Beatles memorabilia, Johnny Rotten’s jacket, Thin Lizzy’s recording studio, and Phil Lynott’s guitar.

If you need a break from the busy city, hang out for a couple hours at some of Dublin’s parks. Phoenix Park is perfect for walking, having a picnic, playing sports, and relaxing. You can also rent a bike with Phoenix Park Bikes at the main entrance, and ride along the park’s 14 km (8.69 miles) of cycle trails. It was founded in 1662 as a royal hunting area, and has been open to everyone since 1747. At 1,750 acres, it’s Europe’s largest city centre park (it’s twice the size of Central Park in New York City!). The Irish President lives at the Áras an Uachtaráin residence inside the park, same as about 600 wild fallow deer, which have been here for many years, and are free to move wherever they like! There are ponds to look at, a Visitor Centre, the Papal Cross, Victorian Flower Gardens, a Biodiversity Information Centre, Phoenix Café, and Tea Rooms as well. Lastly, you can also find the Wellington Monument inside Phoenix Park. It’s Europe’s tallest obelisk, and was built to honour the Duke of Wellington in 1817, who’d beaten Napoleon two years earlier. But the builders ran out of money, so it wasn’t completed until 1861, after he’d already died!

Trees and flowerbed, the Wellington Monument, and one of the ponds in Phoenix Park.

St. Stephen’s Green Park has 750 trees with a Victorian layout, and is right in the heart of Dublin. Until 1664, it was a marshy common for sheep and cattle to graze, and even public executions and witch burnings happened here! In 1877, Arthur Edward Guinness (Arthur Guinness’s great-grandson) asked the City of Dublin to open St. Stephen’s Green to the public, which was done in 1880. The park also played a role during the Easter Rising of 1916, when rebels of mainly the Irish Citizen Army dug trenches and took it over. St. Stephen’s Green Park also has several monuments, like a bronze statue of Theobald Wolfe Tone, the leader of the Irish rebellion in 1798, and a memorial to the Great Famine from 1845 to 1849. Moreover, many birds and plant species live here, and there’s a playground, the Ardilaun Lodge (Superintendent’s Lodge), built shortly after 1880, flowerbeds, an ornamental lake, waterfall, as well as a garden for the visually impaired.

Map of St. Stephen’s Green Park, beautiful flowers, and the Ardilaun Lodge.

There are many stores and shopping malls in Dublin, so get your credit card ready to be maxed out! A popular shopping spot is Grafton Street, a pedestrian street only minutes away from St. Stephen’s Green Park. There are tons of shops, like The North Face, Disney store, Levi’s, but also the Card Gallery, Ulysses Rare Books, the Irish Design Shop, and Aran Sweater Market (handknitted Irish wool clothing). It’s also a great area to watch street performers and buskers, especially during the summer. Some well-known musicians started their career while busking here, such as Bono, U2’s lead singer. He also plays here every year on Christmas Eve, to help the homeless people of Dublin. How cool is that?

We also check out St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, which has many European and Irish chain stores, like Game Stop, Flying Tiger, Butler’s, Eason Books, United Colours of Benetton, and Carroll’s Irish Gifts. The latter is our favourite, which sells jewelry, knitwear, Irish-style (shamrock) clothing, chocolates, mugs, tea towels, green Leprechaun top hats, keychains, bookmarks, and more! We also like the design of this shopping centre, especially the large clock and all the balloons!

George’s St. Arcade is a market inside a lovely Victorian-style red brick building in downtown Dublin, and is perfect if you’re into unusual stuff! It’s been around since 1881, and has several independent shops and stalls with vintage clothes, records, jewelry, book store, art gallery, crafts from Asian countries and West Africa, and many more! My favourite is Elevation Music Movies Comics, which, for example, sells cool vintage music and movie prints, comic book merch, buttons, patches, key chains, and magnets!

St. Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre, Grafton Street (Photo by Sophi Raju on Unsplash), and George’s St. Arcade from the outside (photo courtesy of The Layden Group).

A great way to see lots of Dublin’s downtown attractions is through a bike tour. We join a tour with Lazy Bike Tours, which takes about 2.5 hours, and you can rent a push bike (cruiser bike) or e-bike, and rates start at 35 EUR. Our first stop is Dublin Castle, that was built in the early 13th century. But the powder storage of the castle exploded in 1684, that’s why the round tower (right side of the photo below) is the only original part still intact today. The hard dirt that was left from the explosion was later turned into a Georgian palace. Next, we look at St Patrick’s Cathedral, completed in 1260, which is one of the few medieval buildings in Dublin that still exists. You can also find Jonathan Swift’s grave here, and there’s a nice park right next to the cathedral.

When we arrive at the Teeling Whiskey Distillery, opened in 2015, we learn that it’s the first distillery that opened in more than 125 years! Ireland’s whiskey making history started in the middle ages, and fast forward to the 1800’s, a production boom happened, with 30 distilleries all over the country. But in the 20th century, the industry declined drastically, because of the damage due to the two World Wars, civil wars in Ireland, and a changed consumer taste preference.

Dublin Castle and St Patrick’s Cathedral.

We also stop at The Liberties, Dublin’s oldest working class neighbourhood. In the 12th century, when Dublin was a walled city, this area was one of its suburbs, and many distilling and brewing families (including the Guinness family) lived here. The Guinness brewery is still here today, that a very optimistic Arthur Guinness leased in 1759 for 9,000 years! You can also find many antique shops and small shops, that sell all kinds of knick-knacks. As we get to the Guinness Storehouse, our guide tells us that Arthur Guinness was advised by businessmen that he’d be more successful producing whiskey instead of beer, as it was perceived as the “poor people’s drink”. Who knows what would have happened if he’d listened to them?! We also ride by some amazing Guinness street art murals painted by Holly Pereira.

The most touching stop of this tour is the Kilmainham Goal Museum, where criminals (especially revolutionaries fighting for Ireland’s independence) were imprisoned and executed from 1796 until 1924. In May 1916, a total of 14 Irish rebels were shot by the British Army at the Stonebreakers’ Yard of this prison, soon after the Easter Rising had occurred. Today, visitors can look at 14 bronze sculptures across the street, which were put up to honour these brave men. They are standing in a circle, blindfolded, and each one has holes where the bullets hit them.

If you want to learn more about Ireland’s history, the EPIC – The Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin’s Docklands district should be on your list! These days, more than 70 million people worldwide (many in North America, Australia or New Zealand) have Irish heritage, even if they never met their ancestors. First, you find out why many Irish people emigrated, whether it was extreme poverty caused by the Great Famine (1845 to 1849), oppressive laws from the government, civil wars, forced labour, a weak economy, or a lack of jobs. Others were looking for a romantic partner or land to buy abroad. You can also watch lots of short movies that show the Irish emigrants’ hopes and fears, which are very moving, and read some of the questions they were asked upon entering their new home land.

As the tour goes on, visitors learn how the Irish culture and identity have changed the rest of world. Many Irish communities were formed overseas with time, and emigrants were happy to share traditional Irish music and dance with their peers, which started in the mid-1800’s. Other Irish migrants and/or their descendants became politicians, actors, musicians, authors, journalists, directors, athletes, scientists, and so on. For example, did you know that several Canadian and Australian prime ministers and US presidents have Irish roots? Irish food and drinks have travelled the world, too, which is why today, we have at least one Irish pub in many bigger cities, and Guinness and Jameson’s Whiskey are famous! And let’s not forget about the many St Patrick’s Day celebrations worldwide on March 17th each year!

Wow, the EPIC Museum was just awesome! I really like that every visitor gets the EPIC Passport at the start of their tour, which gets stamped after each section is completed. You can also visit the Irish Family History Centre, to find out about your Irish ancestors, as well as the Gift Shop, which has many unique gifts and souvenirs. Self-guided entry ticket admission is 17.50 EUR for adults, and you can download a free audio guide in various languages to your phone. The museum is also fully wheelchair accessible.

Politicians and hit albums by musicians with Irish roots, books written by Irish writers, and my completed EPIC Passport!

Only a few steps from the museum you can find the famous Samuel Beckett Bridge, a cable-stayed swing bridge shaped as a harp, one of Ireland’s traditional musical instruments, and a big part of Irish culture. It crosses the Liffey River, is 120 meters (390 ft) long and 48 meters (157 ft) high, and was completed in 2009. Since then, it has become one of Dublin’s major landmarks.

Dublin also has more cool street art to look at, and we even saw a very colourful piano inside Connolly train station:

Where to Eat & Drink

If you’re looking for craic (Irish slang for good times 😉 ), you can’t miss Dublin’s diverse food scene!

Here are our favourites:

Camden Bites & Brews (9 Camden St Lower). This fun bar and restaurant is open daily, and is known for Italian coffee and cold drinks, DJ nights, and has hosted a flea market several times. They serve lots of pub food, like burgers, wings, Fish & Chips, calamari, and chunky fries. We’re having a Beef Burger and Piccolo Vegan Burger, and they are both really good! There’s also an outside terrace and we love the chessboard floor design! We also like that tap water is free, same as in North America, but that’s the case in pretty much all places we went to eat in Ireland.

The Little Pyg (59 Willam Street S). Wow, what an unusual name! This restaurant is inside Dublin’s Powerscourt Townhouse Centre (a mall with 40+ stores and restaurants), and they are proud to serve authentic Neapolitan pizza, as per Michelin Maestro Enzo Coccia’s recipe. It has 50% less calories than regular pizza, and their special deal is Two for One Pizzas 7 days a week, for 26.90 EUR… But we’re not that hungry tonight, so instead, we order their Tomato Soup and Mushroom Ravioli, which are very tasty, although a bit expensive, in our opinion. But even though this restaurant is inside a busy mall, it’s got a chill vibe, and the staff was very friendly and efficient.

Kale + Coco (18 Grangegorman Lower). This 100% vegan food café is perfect if you’re looking for a healthy and organic breakfast or lunch! They have smoothies, porridge, chia pudding, nourish bowls, smoothie bowls, banana bread and brownies, and of course, hot and cold drinks on their menu! All food is gluten-free as well, and prices are very reasonable. I’m having their Treat Yo’self Smoothie Bowl, that consists of bananas, almond milk, dates, raw cacao powder and Himalayan pink salt, and strawberries, granola, tahini maple caramel sauce, and cacao nibs for toppings. Wow, it’s so creamy and rich, that it keeps me full for a long time! I also love all the plants inside the café (whether they are real or painted on the walls), and cozy atmosphere, so no doubt that this a great spot for hanging out or getting some work done.

The Hard Rock Café (12 Fleet St). This iconic chain restaurant is right in the heart of the Temple Bar district, and of course, we have to eat here! We’re having The Big Cheeseburger and Cauliflower Wings, and finally some Guinness, so good! They even have a Guinness Burger, but like in any of their locations, it’s not just about the food and drinks, but also about all the Rock memorabilia on the walls. So while you’re waiting for your grub, check out Brian Johnson’s tweed hat, Jimi Hendrix’s silk shirt, Slash’s top hat, Ringo Starr’s drumsticks, and more! There’s also a drum set hanging from the ceiling, live music happens quite often, and don’t miss the Rock Shop with its iconic merch on your way out!

Gushi Asian Bar & Kitchen (48 Capel St). This place is perfect if you’re craving authentic Asian food (e.g. sushi, ramen, Chinese fried chicken, Thai Beef & Basil stir-fry, tapas, Tarpaki, kimchi burger, and Dakganjeong Wings). It’s on the north side of the Liffey River (opposite Temple Bar), which seems to be a trendy area for restaurants. They also have two bars with many drink options and a cocktail menu! I’m having their Green Dragon Roll and Avocado Inari Roll, which are very good! They were quite busy that night, so service was a bit slow, but it was more than worth waiting for this great food! 😋

Where to Stay

The Leeson Bridge Guesthouse (1 Upper Leeson St). This Georgian guesthouse is in Dublin’s south, a 20-minute walk to downtown, and bus stops are just a few minutes away. We love the red entrance door and the reception area is very pretty as well. Guests can choose between a Budget Double Room and Executive Suite, which has a sauna and jacuzzi. We book the first option, and it’s cozy and clean, and has a balcony, but for some people, the bathroom may be a bit small … Moreover, they don’t have breakfast right now because of COVID-19, but there are many cafés and restaurants within walking distance.

Entrance door and sitting area inside our Budget Double Room.

Clayton Hotel – Burlington Road (Leeson Street Upper). This hotel has 502 rooms and suites, so it’s a less personal vibe than at the guesthouse. But the rooms are bigger and have A/C, and they have a very tasty breakfast buffet (at 15 EUR extra per person), that also has plant milk options! Room service, a fitness room, meeting rooms, and work spaces are available, too. There’s also a bus stop right out the door, and some of them take you right to the airport or downtown.

Of course, Dublin also has tons of budget-friendly accommodations! I’m staying at the Generator Hostel, which is in the trendy Smithfield neighbourhood, and just a short walk to Temple Bar. The receptionist is very friendly, and there’s a bar with live music and a café/restaurant area on site! It has private or dorm rooms, a cinema room, games room, lockers, laundry, towels (for a small fee), and even bike rentals! There’s no kitchen though, and breakfast vouchers are available for 7.50 EUR per person. I’m staying in a 6-bed ensuite female-only dorm, and it’s great chatting with other travelers again, and the beds are very comfy! I just would have appreciated a privacy curtain when I wanted to be left alone, but otherwise, it’s perfect!

How to Get to and Around Dublin

Many airlines from Europe, North America, Dubai, etc. fly directly to Dublin Airport, Ireland’s busiest airport, with 32.9 million travelers passing through in 2019. The Dublin Express #782 (at 7 EUR per person) and Aircoach #700 (at 9 EUR per person) go to the city centre (and back), which takes 30 to 40 minutes.

Dublin’s public transportation system is very good, and double-decker buses go pretty much anywhere in the city. Fares range from 1.30 EUR to 2.60 EUR for a single trip, depending on how far you’d like to go. Please note that no change is given back if you pay with the bus driver. Also, it’s important to wave when the bus approaches, so the driver knows you want to enter. Otherwise, the bus may just drive by you!

Dublin also has a light rail system (trams) called LUAS, with two lines, that go to Central Dublin and some residential areas (mostly in the south and southwest of the city). Single trip fares range from 1.70 EUR to 2.60 EUR.

For travel to the suburbs, use the DART trains and Commuter Trains to satellite towns in the Greater Dublin Area, which are operated by Irish Rail. DART goes along the coast side close to Dublin (e.g. Malahide, Howth and Greystones), and fares start at 2.50 EUR.

One of Dublin’s double-decker buses. Photo by Nico Baum on Unsplash.

If you’re in Dublin for at least 24 hours, it’s recommended to buy a Visitor Leap Card, as it’s 31% cheaper than buying individual tickets, that can be bought online, or at Dublin Airport, or Dublin Central (59 Upper O’Connell St). It offers unlimited travel on buses, LUAS trams, and DART and Commuter Trains (within the Short Hop Zone, i.e. all of Dublin City and county).

If you’re just staying in and around Dublin, renting a car is not necessary. Traffic is often very busy, and parking spots can be hard to find and expensive. Moreover, driving on the left side of the road can be a challenge for tourists used to driving on the opposite side. Uber and taxis are of course available, but can be expensive.

You can also join a bike tour or walking tour of Dublin, to get lots insider information from a local guide. Or renting a bike or just walking around are great ways to explore the city as well, especially because many attractions are within the City Centre. Be sure to look into the right directions before crossing a street (there are some helpful writings on some roads, which are a nice reminder as a traveler, who’s not used to left lane traffic).

My Opinion on Dublin

Wow, we loved our stay in Dublin! It gave us a great first impression of what Ireland is like, and the diverse restaurant scene is amazing! The many red brick buildings are very cool as well. Although it rains a lot in Dublin (271 rain days on average per year), there are lots of indoor things to do for everyone, whether it’s shopping at a mall, touring one of the many museums, or hanging and drinking at a pub, lol! The best you can do is bringing rain gear on your Dublin visit, so you’re always prepared for weather changes.

We also meet some friendly Dubliners, who make us feel very welcome in their city, like our guides mentioned before, hotel receptionists, bus drivers, or taxi drivers, in particular. They all have cool stories to tell, and their sense of humour makes us laugh a lot! One of the cab drivers truthfully says that the Guinness at the Guinness Storehouse is the most expensive in Ireland 😆 Another one raves about tasty Indian food in Dubai, then tells us that while Dublin is beautiful, visitors should also spend some time in the rest of Ireland, and that’s what we did soon after! So stay tuned for Part 2 of this Ireland Travel series 😉

My favourite things to see and do in Dublin are the Irish Rock’n’Roll Museum and the EPIC Museum, hanging at the parks, and shopping at George’s St Arcade. But you can’t see everything Dublin has to offer in just a few days, so I hope to visit some of its literary attractions someday (Chester Beatty Library, Oscar Wilde Statue, a Literary Pub Crawl, etc.). So until then, I’m gonna read some books by Irish authors! I’d also love to see the Old Jameson Distillery, the National Leprechaun Museum, a few art galleries, and some “underrated” attractions next time, so if you have any tips, let me know in the comments 😉 Sláinte! 🍻

Disclosure: I only recommend products that I’ve used in the past, and all opinions expressed in this post are my own. This post contains affiliate links. If you use one of the links throughout the page to buy something, I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

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