Why I went here? Firstly, it was new territory for me. I have always wanted to go to Ireland and Dublin is the logical starting point. Secondly, I have been touring the UK and needed a port of exit with cheap flights towards to continental Europe. Rather than return to London just to fly, I decided to cross the Irish Sea instead.
Best time to visit? The best times are definitely late spring into summer when days are longer, temperatures are comfortable, and the sun shines brightly on most days. Dublin is cold, damp, and cloudy otherwise.
Best way to get there? Dublin has a wide network of buses zigzagging the city. One-way fares range from 1.80 to 3.50 Euros so whether you are coming from Dublin Airport, the Port of Dublin or the train stations, buses will be your cheapest (though not the most efficient) option. Cabs are also available however think twice if traveling during peak times. Traffic is a major problem within the city center so a single ride to the airport can cost as much as 40 Euros one way depending on your destination.
What to see/do? Start your orientation of the city by taking a walking tour. You will find out soon enough that most of the main sights and attractions are within a mile radius of Dublin Castle. Sandemans New Europe, a travel company well known for its free walking tours around major cities in Europe, offers one of their better ones in Dublin. It lasts about three to four hours, depending on your guide, and takes you to all the major sights that includes: City Hall, Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, the Temple area, Liffey Bridge, Trinity College, and O’Connell St. The tour ends at one of city’s largest parks, St. Stephen’s Green. If you have additional free time to roam around, Christ Church Cathedral is worth coming back to for its crypt and its association with Nordic and Viking histories. The entrance fee is 10 Euros. Trinity College is also worth exploring. Roam around the grounds of one of world’s best universities and pay a visit to the Old Library and the Book of Kells. Lastly, pay a visit to the Little Dublin Museum, a boutique museum on the corner of St. Stephen’s Green, which focuses on the history of Dublin in the 20th century. The collection pieces are donations from the residents themselves and the guided tours are well worth the small entrance fee. When evening comes around, head back into Temple Bar and grab a pint. I wouldn’t normally recommend it because the place is very touristy, but it seems rather fitting to have at least one pint of Guinness there. Literature lovers should look into joining Dublin’s literary pub-crawl. The tour will take you into several traditional Irish pubs frequented by some of the country’s most famous authors such as James Joyce, William Butler Yeats, and Samuel Beckett.
Food and drinks: Surprisingly enough, Irish cuisine in Dublin is not that common apart from your traditional pub food, which like the English is heavy on meat and potatoes. Guinness beef or lamb stew is a one of the more popular items on the menu as well as Colcannon, the Irish version of mash potatoes but with a twist of vegetable: kale or cabbage. But even I will admit that I did not come to Ireland to eat. I came there to drink and Guinness tops that long beverage list that also includes whiskey, Irish coffee, and Irish cream. All pubs in Dublin sell draught Guinness, but for the hardcore fans, head over to the Guinness Storehouse and enjoy this infamous dark stout straight from the source.
Where to sleep? Travelers who are simply making a quick stop in Dublin and not renting a car should consider staying in the city center. There are plenty of mid-range accommodations around St. Stephen’s Green and Trinity College. I will, however, avoid the hotels or hostels in the Temple area especially if you would like to get a bit of sleep while you are there. For those staying longer and have cars, look into bed and breakfast options just a bit north and west of the city. Tripadvisor provides an extensive list of B&Bs that will suit every budget.
Daytrips: The highlight of my trip to Dublin was the daytrip to the countryside so I will highly suggest that you take some time to get out of the city even just for a day especially if your only stop in Ireland is in Dublin. There are a few places I will recommend: Howth, Glendalough, and Wicklow. Howth is a quaint fishing village not too far from Dublin. It is convenient to reach even with public transport. Just take a train from Connolly Station to Howth. The travel takes approximately 30 minutes and costs less than 5 Euros for a return ticket. Glendalough and Wicklow are a bit further off and will require a car. If you do not fancy driving (Ireland also drives on the left hand side like the UK), there are plenty of tour companies that offer both towns on their itineraries. When choosing a tour company, avoid those who offer bus tours and choose ones that accommodate smaller groups. Some of the best sceneries in both towns are inaccessible for large vehicles so you are likely to miss out if you go with a larger crowd.
Why I would go back? One word: Guinness. After trying it in Dublin, it is almost impossible for me to drink it anywhere else simply because it tastes much better there than it is here in the US. In addition, Dublin is a fun place to visit with friends and its accessibility provides a good starting point for touring the country, however, I do not know if I will necessarily visit again as a solo traveler. The city and I just did not have that instant connection. Perhaps it is the temptation of the Irish countryside that overshadows the appeal of the city.