Whatever your interests you will easily spend four amazing days in Dublin. The City offers a pastiche of experiences including literary history, distilleries, music, political history, pubs and parks.
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Dublin is located on the East Coast of the Irish landmass, at the mouth of the River Liffey and overlooking the Irish Sea. Dublin has a rich history dating from 500BC when a camp was formed at a ford near the Liffey. The City was invaded by the Vikings, who began to urbanise the area, before the Normans arrived in the 12th Century and began the process which ultimately saw Ireland fall under British rule.
The history of Ireland is long and somewhat torturous and not possible to cover in a blog post, but definitely worth understanding before traveling to Dublin. Suffice to say for now, that Dublin is part of Southern Ireland which is a Republic and a member of the European Union. The currency is the Euro, as opposed to Northern Ireland where the currency is the Pound Sterling (worth keeping in mind if you plan to do any driving in Ireland, as the border loops up and down from East to West (oh and the speed signs change too which is interesting, but I digress).
Arriving in Dublin
Dublin is serviced by many international airlines, as well as by ferries between Ireland, the UK and Europe. If you are planning to fly to or from Dublin to the European continent you will be spoilt for choice, from low cost airlines like Ryan Air to full service airlines. We flew with Cathay Pacific from Hong Kong direct to Dublin.
The main airport is Dublin Airport where there are two terminals. We arrived at the older terminal and were processed efficiently on arrival.
From the airport it is approximately 10 kms to the City Centre and the Airlink Express Bus makes for an easy transfer to the City and on to the main station at Heuston. This bus provides a return service and operates every day of the year except Christmas Day. We recommend you book in advance to avoid the queues at the airport on arrival. You can also combine the Airlink Express ticket with the 48 hour Hop on Hop Off tour, which we highly recommend as a great way to get an overview of the main tourist attractions in Dublin.
On leaving Dublin we had an early morning flight and stayed at the very pleasant Premier Inn Dublin Airport and would not hesitate to recommend it to you. Not only was it convenient but it was also less expensive than many of the City hotels.
Where to stay in Dublin – the main locations
Dublin offers a variety of accommodation choices from right in the heart of things to more local areas.
Grafton Street, the mall and the lovely local laneways that surround Grafton Street, are very central, and of course busy as a result, but if you plan to visit the main tourist attractions this is a great spot and you will also enjoy a wide choice of restaurants and shops. You will be able to catch the Hop on Hop Off Bus to attractions further out of the City Centre.
Close by Grafton Street is the stylish Merrion Square area with it’s stunning Georgian architecture. Merrion Square is also right in the heart of things but a little more subdued.
The lively Temple Bar area is possible one of the best known tourist areas of Dublin and definitely the most lively. This is the weekend destination for those seeking out music and merriment. It may or may not be an ideal location for a good night’s sleep.
Kilmainham & The Liberties is the oldest neighbourhood in Dublin and the area where we stayed. We stayed in a pleasant Airbnb apartment in the Kilmainham area. It was relatively inexpensive being a little out of town, but also very local and may not suit your requirements as it was located down a quiet laneway. I would not have been comfortable in that area on my own. There are of course many other Airbnb apartments to choose from. Having said that there was a Hilton Hotel just down the road from us and it was an easy walk to The Guinness Storehouse and there were very pleasant areas of Kilmainham close to the Modern Art Museum. Again the Hop on Hop Off Bus stops close by.
You may also wish to consider staying in the area north of the Liffey, in the vibrant Docklands area, or the affuent southside. Each area is quite distinctive and we recommend you determine your budget and your planned activities and pick your accommodation on that basis. Dublin is an expensive City in relative terms so choose wisely
If Airbnb is not your prefence, we recommend you use Booking.com for your accommodation bookings in Dublin, as they offer a choice of hotels, apartments and bed and breakfasts across the City. Use the map and search box below to check options for places to stay in the various areas of Dublin.
What to see in Dublin
The rich history and culture of Dublin makes it an exciting destination for all interests, and then of course there are the distilleries and breweries to visit. Most visitors make there way to both the Guinness Storehouse and the Jameson Distillery.
Neither of us are great lovers of Guinness, but we enjoyed getting an understanding of the history of this famous brew, and everyone will tell you that it tastes best in Dublin at the Guinness Storehouse. The tour is self guided and as it does get very busy we recommend you prebook your tickets rather than queuing up. You can take your time through the distillery and there is an opportunity for a break part way through for a coffee or something to eat. You might want to fortify yourself, as there is a pint of Guinness included in your ticket. Be warned that the upstairs bar gets very busy, but even if you are not a Guinness fan it is worth walking up for the view over the City.
We also visited the Jameson Distillery and despite our expectations found this to be an excellent tour. At the distillery you will be booked in for a specific time and enjoy an informative tour of the Distillery and a blind tasting of three different whisky styles. We felt this tour was better value for money and better organised and the area around the Distillery was also interesting to explore.
Another highlight for us was visiting Trinity College. We were fortunate to meet up with a local who had studied at Trinity College which made it even more special, but even without that connection the Campus itself is lovely and the Book of Kells and the Long Room of the Library are must sees in Dublin. We winged it to get tickets to see these treasures but that was a mistake as the queues were long. You can easily book your tickets online. You can do that independently or as part of a guided tour along with Dublin Castle.
Along with making sure you enjoy some Irish music whilst you are in Dublin it is a great City to soak up some literature, and not just at Trinity College Library. Literary heroes of Dublin include Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and James Joyce, to name a few. You can do a Literary Walking Tour of Dublin to soak up this part of Dublin’s history.
Ireland’s political history is well documented and the famous Kilmainham Gaol is open to the public. The Gaol opened in 1796 as the County Gaol and has ‘hosted’ many a revolutionary over the years, as well as many of those who awaited there for their passage to the Australian Penal Colony. You can book your tour tickets online, catch the Hop On Hop Off bus to the door and enjoy a guided tour. Tours are strictly by advance booking and tickets can be booked up to 60 days in advance (recommended).
These are just a few of the highlights of a Dublin visit. As mentioned earlier, music runs through the veins of the Irish and you won’t go short of places to listen to traditional and non traditional tunes. We greatly enjoyed the music of Crazycrow, a Dublin based Irish Blues Rock Band. At the time of our visit they featured regularly at the Patriot Inn across from Kilmainham Gaol.
Eating, drinking and shopping in Dublin
On our first day in Dublin the similarities with Australian culture were obvious, with pubs, sports bars and betting shops prominently found. And as well as enjoying a pint or two at our local we were also treated to some delicious cocktails in the very stylish The Morgan Hotel. If you are looking for a special experience you might like to add this to your list (and they have accommodation too).
Because we were jet lagged for the first couple of days and because we had a small kitchen in our apartment, we didn’t eat out a lot, but Dublin is a big international City and offers an enormous choice of eating experiences for all styles and budgets. We enjoyed beef and guinness stew in a pub and delicious pastries and sandwiches at Bewleys on Grafton Street. Do make sure you go to Bewleys, and take the time to enjoy the sculptures and stained glass in the body of the restaurant.
We found good coffee hard to find in Dublin, and indeed in Ireland generally, but we did have a couple of excellent cups, one at Pacino’s Restaurant, Bar and Venue in Suffolk Street. The food looked pretty good too but we didn’t eat there. We also enjoyed good coffee and a selection of teas and treats at Java Republic, a specialist coffee roaster which has a pleasant courtyard in its Molewsorth Street location.
Dublin also offers great shopping opportunities from large department stores like Brown Thomas, through to specialist yarn and knitwear stores, as well as the selection of humorous tourist picks (humour is in great supply in Ireland). You are unlikely to come away empty handed, particularly if cold weather clothing is your yen.
Dublin in summary
We only scratched the surface of Dublin during our 4 day visit, so we recommend you plan your time carefully. Do use the Hop On Hop Off bus to get around and familiarise yourself with the layout of the City. Pre-book your tours for the first couple of days and then consider enjoying just wandering through the central areas and locations. You might also enjoy a wander through the beautiful and historic Phoenix Park which includes the Dublin Zoo. There is one thing for sure, you won’t be bored in Dublin.
Looking for more on Ireland?, click through for our post on The Wild Atlantic Way.
So tell me, have you been to Dublin? What did you most enjoy about it? If you haven’t yet been have we inspired you to visit soon?