Ireland is a small country full of remarkable, breathtaking places. One trip to its capital and it’s easy to see why Dublin is top of the list. Whatever misconception you have about Dublin, its expense or its drinking culture for example, should be noted as ill-formed. Dublin oozes culture and warmth, the perfect combination for welcome visitors. It may be small but it’s most definitely larger than life. Over the past while, i’ve visited some of the city’s popular restaurants and attractions to see what exactly is on offer.
If you’re coming from another European city you will find transportation somewhat more expensive in Dublin, we may as well be honest to start off. 😏 Your options when you arrive into Dublin Airport are car rental, Dublin Bus or taxi. If you’re travelling out of Dublin, Bus Éireann will be your friend and you can check out their routes here. I personally recommend the bus (more info. here, Dublin Bus, Route 41, is only €3.30 from the airport to O’Connell Street) unless you want to spend over €20, depending on quantity, on a few minutes taxi drive. Of course, there are independent airport bus services; Aircoach come recommended at €22 return for 2 people or Airlink, Dublin Bus’ service, is €20 return. Note, you can pre-book or pay cash on the bus itself with exact fare. Dublin Bus will not accept notes, coins only! If you’re travelling around the county or country even, Bus Éireann will accept notes so fear not. There is good signage in the airport for the bus stops or don’t be afraid to ask someone for help, Irish people have an innate manner to assist and are generally very friendly. 👍 When you arrive into the city centre you’ve additionally got the Luas Red/Green tram line and the Dublin Bikes. At the moment the Luas Cross City line is being built so from late 2017 you’ll have a little less walking once the service is in use. Hailo and Uber are very popular taxi apps in the city which may come in handy. Overall, Dublin Bus is still the most popular/cheapest mode of cross city transportation. They also have a good night link service. Always be sure your group keep safe and stick together. 👪
Unsurprisingly, you can expect to pay higher rates on hotels in Dublin but to counteract that, the service is like no other. As I mentioned above, Irish people are generally very friendly so adding that to top class service and amenities and you’ve got a winning combination. From having done some travelling before, even if you’re staying in a 3 star hotel in Dublin they’re still pretty pleasing as regards ambience and service too so don’t be too disappointed if the 4/5 star hotels are out of your price range. The city itself is small in comparison to the likes of London so any hotel you choose to book will be within walking distance to the most popular shops and attractions. The hotels I have linked below are ones in which I have stayed or dined myself in the past so they come highly recommended. Prices for the selected hotels range from €140-328 per weekend night.
The standard of quality restaurants and eateries in Dublin has climbed phenomenally in the last few years. I can honestly say i’ve never been a victim to a horrendous meal (with the exception of fast food joints) which in my opinion, says a lot. In fairness, dining options are in abundance on almost every street with various offerings and the scene is quick on new trends so you’ll never be stuck for somewhere to cater for your needs. Dublin is one of the only European cities with fantastic night life and if that’s your thing, you won’t be disappointed by any means, whatever your taste. Cocktail bars, burger joints and donut cafés are the in thing at the moment so you’re sure to see a few on your travels. Dame Street is a great spot to find fantastic restaurants but wildly different patisseries etc. also. You’ll find the more you explore the city the more you’ll come across streets like so. With modern day society and an openness to inclusion you also have a variant of diets so if you’re vegan, a coeliac or otherwise, the majority of these restaurants will facilitate you with a decent alternative menu, Dublin has pleasantly evolved like that. Don’t be afraid to ask if not and don’t be afraid to complain if you need to!
Restaurants / Cafés / Bars: Coppinger Row, Fallon & Byrne, The Port House, The Bank on College Green, Balfes, Luigi Malones, Toscana, Riverbar (for foodie sports fans,) Café en Seine, Cornucopia (Vegetarian,) The Green Hen, Taste at Rustic, Farrier and Draper, Lemon & Duke, O’Neills (Traditional Irish,) Gotham Café, Michie Sushi, The Wollen Mills. / Industry & Co., Brother Hubbard, KC Peaches, Keogh’s Café, Ann’s Bakery, Metro Café, The Pepper Pot, Aungier Danger, Le Petit Parisien, Chopped / Zozimus, Dandelion, House, Sophies, Opium, PYG, Pantibar.
In addition to the above, I had the pleasure of being invited into The Residence Club last week to explore their features. Residence is a private members club but also caters to the public with Restaurant FortyOne. It’s located at St. Stephen’s Green and diagonally across from The Shelbourne Hotel. A perfect location if you’re with a group or meeting up with friends and you want a private, high standard setting but still centred in the city itself. A number of years ago I attended a press event in the Terrace and the building always stuck in my mind hence why I knew it’d be a perfect feature for the Dublin city guide. Everything about The Residence Club/Restaurant FortyOne is stunning, from the interior’s decor to the service and obviously, the food & beverages. Considering the fine dining there is and not to mention US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited it too, it’s still quite reasonable as regards affordability. While the restaurant caters for that end of business, The Residence Club is moving towards weddings and private functions like such. Check out more here.
Attractions/Things To Do
The Guinness Storehouse: Presented with the incredible award of Europe’s Leading Tourist Attraction last year, it’s certainly no wonder it’s so popular. While I awaited my tour on Tuesday of last week by one of Guinness’ beer specialists, as they’re known, I couldn’t help remark the vast amount of people constantly flowing through the doors. Even for 10.30am on a Tuesday! On a good day, the attraction can take in up to 5,ooo visitors. I was slightly puzzled as to what a ‘beer specialist’ would consist of but when I met the very kind Darren, he was a wealth of knowledge and worthy of the specialist title indeed. You could ask the beer specialists anything on the Guinness history or the city and he knew it all. These guided tours are private so I was blessed I had someone talk me through the history and facilities. Every level of staff are a credit to the company, it must be said. Anyway, the attraction itself is a building with eight floors held up by an ever-remaining steel structure and the world’s largest pint, made of glass in the centre. Impressive in itself. To be perfectly honest, I found everything massively interesting including what I was shown first, Arthur Guinness’ initial lease on the building, in pristine condition, wax seal and all.
Following on from that, you’re taken through to rooms and floors which consist of all original machines and ways in which Guinness was initially made. The craftsmanship was a sight to behold. I also loved how accommodating the Storehouse is; Darren brought me over to an impressive creation (pictured below) that was built for those with impaired sight so they can feel and explore the story of Guinness throughout the years. The Guinness Storehouse is wheelchair accessible too. The company, back then, had highly skilled labourers and a dedicated workforce which seems to have filtered down through the years only nowadays, technology is more assisting. I’m sure your eager to know can you grab yourself a pint and yes, indeed you can. After exploring the mesmerising history, you’re brought to the tasting rooms. 4 structures that release the scent of each ingredient in Guinness start you on your way as you’re given your generous Guinness sample. Demonstrated by another staff member you’re enthralled in discovering each sensual flavour there is. Now, it’s again no surprise that Guinness is renowned for its iconic advertisement. At some point, we’ve all identified with a logo of some description. Anyone remember ”a woman needs a man like a fish needs a bicycle?” My tour guide told me how he always knows its Christmas when their ad comes on but it’s true, they are that effective. The Storehouse has a dedicated floor to advertisement from its very first newspaper ad to the modern day screenings and all the quirky mascots in between. Restaurants, cafes and the Connoisseur Experience follow with excellent quality of menus in each, some of which you can avail of your free pint/soft drink in but most people wait till the Gravity Bar. I picked up a few recipe cards where Darren told me the head chef creates the official recipes Guinness is partnered with. I have yet to try my hand at any of them but I will report back if I have any success.
The most impressive feature of the Guinness Storehouse attraction has to be the Gravity Bar where my tour with Darren concluded. The views from this final floor are simply astonishing. You can cast your eye over all the architectural features of Dublin as well as the Wicklow mountains where Guinness still imports its water from. I was very lucky I was there on a bright sunny day as it made the views furthermore stunning. While I was taking in the sites from above, it was announced it would be a certain staff member’s last day and my word, would Arthur Guinness have been proud. Every pint and glass in the building was raised to send the guy on his way.
The day had an amazing atmosphere not only at that point but overall. When you’re used to a city you tend to put all these tourist attractions to the back of your mind but while standing there snapping photos as one does, I couldn’t help feel massively proud to be Irish. We’ve made our mark on the world in many respects, with Guinness at the centrefold. Book tickets or check out The Guinness Storehouse here.
The National Wax Museum: We’ve all heard of Madame Tussaud’s abroad which display some iconic wax figures of well known celebrities. Well, the Wax Museum is the Irish equivalent. You can spot famous Irish faces and those in the public eye too along with other fun things to do within.
Take a look at their website here.
The National Gallery of Ireland: Not to spoil it, you’ll evidently find an array of quite fabulous art in the NGI which displays the talent on our shores. Take a look at their website here for details.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral: A most beautiful building in the city and another I only recently visited for the first time. Check out the official website here for more information. Marsh’s Library is just down the street from it also, which I highly recommend seeing.
Kilmainham Gaol (Jail): An important and historic construction in that it’s the 100th anniversary of the 1916 rising in Ireland. There’s so much history to this building and an architectural wonder in itself. Well worth visiting to get a glimpse into the Ireland that was. Official website here.
Viking Splash Tour: Even Irish people still find this hilarious and it’s even more amusing when you’re experiencing the tour. The Viking Splash vehicle operates in water and on land to give tourists a fun way to explore the city’s River Liffey and of course, the best features of the capital. The tour guides have a brilliant sense of humour while giving all the info you need throughout the tour. If you’re with a group on holiday or otherwise, you can book a tour privately. You even get a viking helmet. Worth it, right? Find out all the necessary details here.
Dublin Zoo/Phoenix Park: Phoenix Park is host to Dublin Zoo which is a fantastic asset to the city. You can take a Dublin Bus from the city centre or take the Luas Red Line to Heuston and walk a short distance from there. There is the option of a taxi from Heuston too which shouldn’t cost a whole lot. You’d ideally want to go in the summer for the weather more so but pack a coat for winter visits and you may see some mystical creatures too shy for warmer weather. Recently, Dublin Zoo have also welcomed babies from different animal species. Book online here to avoid the queues. Phoenix Park itself is pretty special, you can find deer roaming the green while the President holds office in Áras an Uachtaráin. Every so often, the President donates land to the Zoo so you can be at ease that the animals are well looked after in sufficient space and surroundings. If it’s good enough for Beyoncé and Jay Z y’all.
Various other city institutions such as Croke Park are well worth getting tickets to. It’s one of the best stadiums in Europe for atmosphere and facilities and like many other things listed here, it has a steep history. If you would prefer not to attend a GAA game or concert, then you can take a tour or visit the GAA Museum. Find out more here. The National History Museum, which the Luas Red Line stops at, the National Concert Hall, the Butler’s Chocolate Experience, Dublin Castle, City Hall, the National Botanical Gardens, Trinity College/Book of Kells and St. Stephen’s Green are too worthy of taking time out to gaze upon. At Christmas time, the city hosts the Christmas market which brings about a wonderful atmosphere and festive cheer. Around Grafton Street/Stephen’s Green nearer to Christmas Day, you can find the likes of Bono or Glenn Hansard busking and celebrating the holiday whilst raising money for charity. Visit Dawson Street’s Hodges Figgis book store or the Dublin Writer’s Museum on Parnell Street if literature is your area of interest. Temple Bar is a great part of the city for music lovers as you’ll find traditional and other genres of live music in most establishments along the cultural cobblestones. For fashion/shopping fanatics, you haven’t a world of choice but Brown Thomas and Arnotts are two department stores considered a must-see and both withing walking distance of main streets. Dundrum Town Centre (take by Luas Green Line), Blanchardstown Shopping Centre and Liffey Valley Shopping Centre are well facilitated with plenty of amenities such as cinema, play centres and ice rinks as well as general shopping outlets if that’s an interest for your weekend. Brown Thomas located on Grafton Street is more on the luxury end of the scale although you’ll still end up dreaming in the designer/homeware floors. Arnotts on Henry Street is a lot bigger with more departments and you can find everything from furniture to books and clothing to technology.
If you want, you can take a train from Heuston Station to the Newbridge Museum of Style Icons if you really want to explore some fashion history. At the moment, they’ve got THE Marilyn Monroe gown she sang Happy Birthday to JFK in. Princess Diana, Audrey Hepburn and Kim Kardashian amongst other legends of the past also feature. Irish icon Maureen O’Hara, star of The Quiet Man with John Wayne, is being honoured on the anniversary of her death in Foynes Museum in county Limerick which she was a patron of. You should be advised to contact them or research your visit first; their website have details on planning your journey there. Maureen’s family have kindly donated belongings of the actress including her honorary Academy Award and a new permanent wing is in development for the pieces. Well worth the trip.
Dublin is compact but it has that pre-conceived friendliness that’s difficult to find elsewhere and as a tourist, makes all the difference when evaluating your stay. Everyone’s very proud to live there and proud of the city’s success which is so lovely to witness. Of course, you could spend a week or more in Dublin to grasp the Irish spirit but spend a weekend and you’ll travel home content. The Emerald Isle continues to inspire.
Citizens/Tourist Information points are located on O’Connell Street, Suffolk Street and College Green.