Standing at a relatively small size for a European capital city with a population of just 500,000, Dublin can easily be visited for a long weekend or a mid week getaway.
However, that’s not to say that those four days won’t be jam packed with amazing things to do. From its rich history, lush green spaces and of course its abundance of pubs and bars, Dublin is a wholly under-appreciated cultural hub. This is your go-to guide for what to fill your time in the Irish capital with- other than, of course pints of Guinness.
Upon landing at Dublin airport, the easiest and cheapest way to get to the city is by bus. For slightly higher a price an Aircoach service exists. However, immediately outside Terminal One is the stop for the 747. At 12 euros return this is cheaper and just as quick. To be as central as possible, hop on and head to O’Connell Street. This is a street name you shan’t forget when you arrive; O’Connell Street is Dublin’s epicenter. If you’re ever lost in the city, work out your bearings from here. You will have no difficulty finding it; just look up for “The Spire” a large stainless steel pin-like sculpture which, by way of a light is visible even in the dark. O’Connell bridge at the end of the street passes over the River Liffey, the river that flows through the city which is another excellent point to work out your directions from.
Once in the city, there is little need to worry about public transport as most things are accessible by foot. As I mentioned, Dublin is very compact. However if you need to use anything, take the LUAS tram service; it is much more comfortable and reliable than the Dublin Bus service. The Green Line which operates from St Stephens Green has just one stop to Harcourt Street, which along with adjacent streets Camden and Wexford, is where you will find most of Dublin’s best restaurants, bars and nightlife (I’ll explain more about this awesome area later on). The tram is 2 euros for a single trip or 3.60 euros return in Zone One which, on a four day trip you won’t need to venture outside of.
If you want to go to Dublin’s most famous tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse, take the LUAS Red Line from either the Abbey Street or Jervis stop (both of which are just off of O’Connell Street) and get off at Heuston Station. The brewery, still churning out barrels of the famous beer today, has seen 4 million visitors through its doors since it opened to the public in 2000. If each of these people had a pint of Guinness however it still wouldn’t be enough to fill the huge pint glass that the exhibition is shaped around. It is in fact the world’s largest pint glass, and one works their way up it through live exhibitions on the beer brewing process, eventually finishing in the Gravity Bar at the top. Here you can enjoy your free pint of Guinness, pulled by yourself or by a barman. For those who are not a fan of the black stuff, don’t despair; you can instead have a soft drink or, as I opted for, a “Black Velvet” cocktail made from Prosecco, creme de cassis and finished off of course with Guinness. The Gravity Bar is certainly the highlight of the Storehouse experience, offering fantastic and unparalleled views across the fair city.
The ticket price for the experience is somewhat steep, standing at 20 euros for an adult and 18 for a student. Nevertheless, being almost THE Dublin landmark makes the brewery a place one should aim to see at least once in their lifetime, in the same vein as landmarks such as the Empire State Building and the Colosseum. You’ll find out the amazing history behind one of Ireland’s biggest worldwide exports, and lets not forget that the ticket price includes a drink! In addition, my other sight seeing recommendations for the city are either free or inexpensive, leaving you plenty of euros to use for the Storehouse.
While on the theme of museums (and let’s not kid ourselves; Dublin does have a lot of rainy days) my must see recommendation would be EPIC, the Irish Emigration Museum. Located eastwards along The Liffey from O’Connell Street, EPIC is an interactive exhibition which takes the visitor from the beginnings of Irish immigration across the world, a pattern which hasn’t ceased for almost 1000 years.
A “passport” which one stamps in each room leads through areas displaying Ireland’s greatest achievers in the fields of sport, literature, music, the arts and politics. This also includes some of the millions of people who can claim Irish ancestry. Did you know, for example that Barack Obama’s great great great grandfather was a cobbler’s son from County Offaly? As someone with Irish relatives myself, the museum felt very personally special. Nevertheless, its wide array of interactive features and amazing factual content means that its a must see for any visitor- especially as a student ticket costs only 12 euros.
Music lovers will not want to miss The Irish Rock and Roll Museum. Located in Temple Bar, the student ticket of 14 euros includes a tour of various rock and roll memorabilia, finishing off in the famous Sun Studios. The studios are still in use by many artists to this day and as such, entry to the downstairs working studio is not permitted. Nevertheless, you’ll be taken into the old studio upstairs which is no longer in use. Recent recordings in Sun Studios have been made by Paolo Nutini, The Script, Editors and Sinead O’Connor while the place remains most famous for being where Irish rock sensations Thin Lizzy recorded much of their material. Be prepared that the museum is somewhat of a shrine for the band’s charismatic front man Phil Lynott, with memorabilia such as his iconic mirrored bass on display. Unsurprisingly, the name “U2” is also thrown up quite a lot. Nonetheless, its a must for those with a passion for all kinds of popular music- especially as you get the opportunity to form your own “band” with guitars and drums at one point!
If you’ve already spent all of your dough in the pub however, The National Museum of Ireland is the place to head to. Entirely free to enter, the museum has three sites in Dublin, showcasing Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History and- my personal favorite- the Natural History Museum located at Merrion Square. Aptly nicknamed “the dead zoo” by locals, the charmingly small building features specimens of creatures old and new, living and extinct. Sadly, there are no dinosaurs; the skeleton of a giant Irish prehistoric deer does come as a close contender.
The area of Merrion Square, including the public park, is also a sight to behold. This is Georgian Dublin at its best; rows of gorgeous square houses, each with a differently coloured door to their neighbour. In the park, be sure to have your photo taken next to one of Dublin’s most famous sons; a statue of the poet and author Oscar Wilde, perched upon a rock.
Wilde himself attended Trinity College Dublin, and no trip would be complete without a glance inside at its grand campus. Most of the area is open to the public, and you can even enjoy a drink looking out onto the college’s green sports field at the Pavilion Bar. From Trinity, take a right and head up busy Grafton Street. At the end you will find St Stephen’s Green, another gorgeous leafy inner city park complete with a lake. Though best appreciated on a warm day, the beauty is something to witness at any time of year.
One of the most pleasing things about Dublin is that as a city so aesthetically beautiful, many of its best features are completely free to experience. Be sure to take a walk along the Liffey at night, especially to Butt Bridge which comes alight with rainbow colours. Take a stroll through the bustling Temple Bar area of an evening, soaking in the sounds of music and chatter.
When in Temple Bar however, I recommend that you keep walking. Unless you’re a huge fan of traditional Irish music and don’t mind crowds, the pubs in the area are huge tourist traps and the price of drinks are extortionate. Other bars are much more varied, creative and slightly cheaper. Just outside the immediate vicinity of Temple Bar for example, you can bag yourself a better traditional Irish music and drinking experience at Bad Bobs. The pub, filled to the brim with vintage rock star paraphernalia has live music every night of the week and a live saxophonist on a Friday and Saturday. It offers the Irish pub classics with a wide selection of beers, as well as an extensive cocktail and shot menu.
Speaking of cocktails, a place not to be missed is Pygmalion, located at the side of the Powerscourt Townhouse Shopping Center. This funky and colourful spot boasts two for one cocktails (which amounts to 13 euros for two, or 6.50 euros each) every day except Saturday. It is also a hub for live DJ and techno sets. My personal recommendation from the “Pygtails” menu would be the “Tangle Twister”, a cocktail that is both sweet and sour and is made with Absolut Pear Vodka, Black Raspberry and Cranberry juice.
Another great spot for cheap cocktails and live music is Sin E. Located further up the Liffey to the west, this grotty hard rock joint is the perfect place to start off a wild night in the capital. If you want to escape the raucous upstairs, chill on the downstairs sofa and enjoy one of the 6.50 euro Capriahnas, which come in four delicious flavours (strawberry, raspberry, blueberry and passion fruit).
For an area packed to the brim with independent and quirky bars and restaurants, head towards Camden Street and Wexford Street just south of the city. Highlights here include Las Tapas De Lola, a gorgeous and authentic Spanish tapas restaurant on Wexford Street, Zakura Sushi and Noodle, the delicious Persian cuisine of Zaytoon and Veginity, an elusive vegan restaurant which changes its menu every week.
Heading south from Camden Street, The Bernard Shaw on Richmond Street is the place to be for a supreme eating and drinking experience. With a huge beer garden equipped with outdoor heaters (again, due to that unpredictable Irish weather) this bohemian hangout can probably claim to serve the best pizza in Dublin. The flavors are as avant garde as the decor, with toppings including walnuts and pear in addition to the classics. What’s more, you can eat the pizza on a big blue bus, permanently parked at the rear of the garden- who wouldn’t want to do that? The prices are between 8-11 euros for an 11 inch pizza, offering a satisfying and reasonably priced meal.
For lighter bites, visitors often notice that Dublin is going through something of a burrito renaissance. There are no shortage of spots to choose from, but my personal recommendation would be Saburrito on North Earl Street, immediately off of O’Connell street. Its generous fillings, coupled with the fact that a burrito and a drink costs just 6.95 euros for a student, makes it especially accessible for those travelling on a budget.
Cute coffee shops can also be found dotted around the city. After basking in the beauty of St Stephen’s Green it would be a sin not to head to the Beanhive on Dawson Street. The downside is that this cafe is extremely small and at peak times, one will struggle to get a seat. Head there between 4 and 5 o’clock however and you should be able to sit in and enjoy one of the many hot beverages, all of which include a drawing on the foam by the in-house latte artist for no extra cost! The creamy Green Forest Matcha Latte is to die for, and the baristas are happy to make your drink with soya or coconut milk in place of dairy.
An extremely cute spot next to the Liffey is the Dwarf Jar Cafe. The rustic cafe offers a selection of brunch options. However, the real highlight is the amazing selection of real leaf teas on display! From the wacky and wonderful such as Peanut Butter and Jelly flavour, to classics like Earl Grey and English Breakfast, the Irish devotion to a “cuppa” takes on a whole new meaning.
If you fancy checking out the Irish club scene, most of the famous (or rather, infamous) places can be found on Harcourt Street. The most popular spots are Dicey’s, DTwo and Copper Face Jacks. As long as you don’t mind getting the “shift” (a kiss) from a “culchie” (an Irish boy from the countryside) these are the places to go for a night that’s sure to be intense until the early hours of the morning. If you’re looking for something that’s a tad calmer but just as fun, head to Flannery’s on Camden Street. This club plays a mixture of music, but the play-list is mainly cheesy pop and chart hits. What’s great about this place is that while the big Harcourt Street names charge between 5 and 10 euros entry per night, entry into Flannery’s is absolutely free!
For a change of tune go to Dublin’s premier indie club, Workman’s, located by the River Liffey at 10 Wellington Quay. This converted warehouse offers a truly unique clubbing experience, with an atmosphere and decor that feels more like a huge house party than a club. With dance hits on the bottom floor and old school indie on the top, its location is superb and on all nights except Wednesdays, entry is free!
Of course, after packing your days full of food, drink and the “craic” (Irish for “fun”), you’re going to need a place to stay. As I said previously, O’Connell street is your epicenter. If your hotel or hostel is not too far from here, you know you’ve got a good spot. Be prepared; like the price of alcohol, hotels in Dublin can be pretty expensive, starting at around 110 euros per night on average. Abbey Court Hostel is a trustworthy spot on the Liffey, with hostel beds from 13.50 euros. It also has private apartments which sleep up to 3 people from 60 euros per night. Another good spot is the Hotel St George in Parnell Square, towards the top of O’Connell Street. This pleasing 3* spot becomes more expensive at weekends, but mid week deals are as cheap as £68-£86 per night. My advice on this front would be to book as far in advance as possible, for the best chance of grabbing an affordable deal.
I was lucky enough to live in Ireland’s amazing capital for just under a year, and thinking about what a tourist can do in just four days feels like I am only scratching the surface. My experience afforded me insight on both sightseeing highlights and lesser known gems. I hope to have given an eclectic combination of the two, so that your visit to Dublin will be unique as well as entertaining. The Irish are some of the friendliest people I’ve met, and a four day trip to Dublin is sure to be as welcoming as if you had lived there for ten years.
Slainte! (Irish for cheers!)
Words by Paige Tracey
Words by Paige Tracey