From the minute I booked my flight to London last spring I already couldn’t wait to get to Ireland. I was able to experience Northern Ireland at the end of the Summer with a trip to Belfast and I was still itching to get to The Emerald Isle. Well, now I can officially say I’ve been & it blew my expectations out of the water! Located on the east coast of Ireland at the mouth of the river Liffey, Dublin was founded as a viking settlement, and became Ireland’s major city following an invasion by the Normans. Once a part of the UK, in 1922 Ireland separated from Northern Ireland becoming a free states as it stands today. With 4 days between jobs, and one of my absolute favourite people being around it was a no brainer to book the ticket, pack my bags and head off to The Dubs.
How to get there + Getting Around
RyanAir / Aer Lingus / FlyBe / British Airways (to name a few) all fly from London Gatwick to Dublin so you have some options. I opted to fly Are Lingus for this trip to avoid any dramas with RyanAir (re- flight cancellations upon airport arrival), and paid barely £60 for a 4 day return flight.
From Dublin Airport hop on the AirLink 474 Express, departing from Terminals 1 & 2 look for the signs to the bus where you’re able to purchase tickets from a kiosk or purchase them online by visiting their website .
Single = £6.00 /person or Return = £12.00/person.
Lay Your Head At Night
Smithfield Square, Dublin
If you choose to stay at this hostel, the ride on the AirLink bus will take about 35 minutes to Ushers Quay, and stroll less than 10 minutes to Smithfield Square. I’d been hearing a lot about the Generator chain of hostels since before my trip to Paris earlier this season, a higher end hostel chain boasting locations in major European cities including London, Rome, Paris & Barcelona (just to name a few). With a cafe/bar onsite, nightly activities, and it being Halloween weekend I knew there would plenty of buzz. The hostel itself is in a great location of Dublin with the Jameson Distillery right in it’s backyard & what turned out to be one of my favourite pubs right around the. Corner. The rooms are spacious and come with or without ensuite, each dunk has its own locker, reading light & two outlets (huge bonuses), and except for some less than hospitable dorm mates I didn’t spend a lot of time in the room to be mad about anything. One downside did come with the luggage storage, arriving pre check in (2pm) or leaving after check out (10am) you’re forced to take your bags around with you, or use the pay lockers in the basement. Be sure to have coins & choose your size appropriately before making your purchase for time to store your bags. 8 bed dorms starting at £12.00/night (best rates are direct through the website)
Where to eat
52 O’Connell Street
Okay so is this a chain diner? Yes. Is it something you can most likely find in lots of cities? Probably. But after a few pints it’s the perfect hunger cure, plus who doesn’t love a bit of a 50’s diner vibe happening (equipped with jukeboxes too)
When I travel (especially on my own) I tend to keep my food choices pretty easy & hit up a grocery store or local market. This is the best of both & right on the corner from the Generator hostel. Great fresh food section, meals made to order plus all the bits & bobs you need from a supermarket (don’t skip the pastry section here, it’s fantastic)
Beshoff Bros Fish & Chips
71 Dame Street
Because it should be a crime to visit Ireland and not have fish & chips right? Well I thought so, and got my friend & tour guide to take me to an establishment in Dublin that did not disappoint!
66 Dame Street
After a 13 hour day trip out to the Cliffs of Moher & a few Guinness at Temple bar nothing is needed more than a quick bite to eat and this kebab shop really did the trick. Be sure to try the loaded fries too (your on holiday #treatyourself)
23 Dawson Street
A perfectly located cafe right before you head on into St-Stephens Green, so grab yourself a coffee & stroll around checking out the swans. Coffees to take away and an awesome selection of grab & go treats, or if you're in the mood for breakfast they've got that too!
Pretty common in terms of corner shops & an easy place to grab something quick, the sandwich counter here is a good option to pick up some lunch h& head over to College Green & Trinity College to take in the views with a lunch that wont break the bank (plus there’s one right at the entrance to the college)
Get your Pints from
Chances are if you’ve only just heard of Dublin, you’ll have heard of Temple Bar. A legendary establishment that will have you willingly pay the little bit extra for that pint just because of the atmosphere. Not to mention the Temple area & the outside of the pub are absolutely gorgeous.
77 King St
Located in Smithfield Square this is the closest pub outside of the Generator & has been in the Mulligan family for 5+ generations. Live music every night will have you singing along to trad tunes like you’re a local.
The Hairy Lemon
Stephen Street Lower
While the name doesn’t sound all that appetizing, the atmosphere here makes up for it. The pub is housed in a 19th century home and the charm extends well past the outside, come in, stay a while & admire the years of memorabilia to be found.
The outside of this complex will draw you in with it’s stunning facade, but once inside you’ll realize this bar is also home to artisan shops, a restaurant and so much more. One of Dublin’s most famous establishments, be sure to get here early or risk queuing up for ages.
The Black Sheep
61 Capel Street
Fancy trying a cinnamon stout to change things up? (but lets be real you’ll still have at least one Guinness here) That’s my recommendation for this classic pub boasting craft beers from Galway Bay Brewery & boardgames to satisfy everyone.
See & Do
Trinity College -Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth, this stunning school was modelled after the likes of Oxford & Cambridge in England. The grounds give way for sweeping views of the gorgeous architecture, and if you want to spend the ££ you can hire a student as a tour guide to give you the lowdown. Or if you have a friend who is well up on all things Dublin (Brian ftw) then you’ll find yourself sitting for lunch on campus taking in the views & people watching. Also no visit to Trinity is complete without visiting the majestic library & The infamous book of Kells. Cost for this will run you £10-£13 and can be purchased in advance (avoid the line ups ) here. And if you time it right you’ll be able to explore the stunning library without the hoards (aka don’t go at 2pm like I did
Phoenix Park - Spanning an impressive 1750 acres just outside the downtown core, this park is home to not only the Dublin Zoo but also a castle, wild deer & some seriously impressive fall colours (in November at least). From the Generator hostel its barely 20 minutes walk to the entrance and from there you can dog any number of ways, or just wander through until you realize you’ve walked from one end to another. Ashtown Castle is a must see in my opinion because hidden back from the main paths, you’ll find this house sized castle that is the oldest building in the park & home to 5, 500 years of history for the park & the surrounding Dublin area
St-Stephens Green - Located right next to the main shopping quarter on Grafton Street , this park is the perfect spot for a stroll with a hot chocolate from Butler’s Chocolate Cafe. While you take in the fall foliage, watch the ducks swim the pond or even try to get close enough to some swans to make anyone person nervous. Rectangular in shape, the park runs along a few of the major streets in the city, dotted with pretty fountains in the centre as well as installations in place in honour of the famine. One of the more unusual aspects of the park lies on the north west corner of this central area, a garden for the blind with scented plants, which can withstand handling, and are labelled in braille.
Poolbeg Beach + Lighthouse -
Do yourself a favour and find yourself a Dublin local to show you some of the hidden gems. This spot is definitely off the beaten track & you may get twisted & turned around if you haven't got yourself a trusty Brian (aka my fave adventure buddy). Follow the Poolbeg stacks and you'll find the most incredible beach with the tide all the way out and follow it out until you find a big red lighthouse. A nice escape from the city if you need one. With a clear day you can see all the way to the other side of Dublin, and if you're luckier and the tide is all the way out you could possibly walk the beach to the other side.
Dublin Castle - With an entry fee of £10/adult I opted to tour the outside of the castle & the gardens instead (got to take advantage of the days it’s not raining in Dublin right?). And I was not disappointed. Until the early 1920’s this castle was the seat of the United Kingdom government’s administration in Ireland and is now used as a major government complex in Ireland. Be sure to check out The gardens for some incredible grassworks & a better view of the colourful towers. The towers are what attracted me initially to Dublin Castle as they contrast against the classic castle feel with the bright colours (blue, red & yellow to name a few)
Christ Church Cathedral - Called the “spiritual heart of Dublin”, this cathedral was founded in 1028 and is one of the top visited attractions in the city. With a cost of £6.50/adult I walked into the church with a quick look I didn’t think it was much to write home (or here) about in all honesty, but the outside is what gets you first. With it’s Gothic/Roman architecture is easy to see what makes it so impressive, with it’s steeple rising high into the sky, I also got the pleasure of listening to an incredible busker here which totally set the mood for everything I imagined Dublin to be (and more).
St-Patricks Cathedral - While this is the younger sister of the aforementioned Christ Church Cathedral, St-Patricks was founded in 1191, this is the one I found far more impressive. I even opted to pay the £6.50 entrance fee, to get the full experience. Gothic is design and with a 140 ft spire rising out from the top, this is a location that was used in the inspiration of J.K Rowlings Harry Potter books. In case you can’t tell this was inspiration for the Great Hall (can’t you just picture Dumbledore standing there during the sorting hat ceremony?) so it was a huge surprise to be able to recognize certain aspects of this right off the bat. The general setting inside the cathedral was definitely something worth seeing.
Natural History Museum - A huge bonus to Dublin is that all of their National museums have no cost for entry, which makes even the least museum inclined human being stoked to check them out! Maybe it was the kid in me in me or the fact that I loved Night at the Museum with Ben Stiller, I could not get enough of this museum! A cabinet style museum with the ground floor housing the “Irish Collection” of native animals current & gone from Ireland and the first floor is where you’ll find animals of the World. Take your time here you’ll be surprised at what you can find & just how big some of these animals were.
Ha’Penny Bridge - With the River Liffey running right through it’s middle it’s safe to say that Dublin has a plethora for bridges connecting both sides of the city. Officially named the Liffey Bridge, made of cast iron, and opened in 1816, you can see the Custom House & Liberty hall from here. This is a spot I saw thanks to Instagram & knew I needed to visit. The charm is in the cast iron works of the bridge itself and the details of the top, some people have even taken to turning it into a “love lock” bridge, which is not something I’m a fan so I’m glad it’s not over run with locks.
Gardens of Remembrance - On O’Connell street in Parnell square lies this tribute to all those who gave their lives to the cause of Irish Freedom. The main focal points of the garden would have to be the reflection pond and the sculpture of “The Children of Lir”, an Irish legend telling of a story of rebirth and resurrection. These gardens are created to commemorate freedom fighters of various uprising, including : the 1919 Irish War of Independence, 1848 Rebellion of Young Ireland & the 1798 Rebellion of the Society of United Irishmen just to name a few.
National Library - Established in 1877 and designed by Thomas Newenham Deane, this is a research library & so you’re not able to borrow books here, but another free entry location in Dublin & worth the visit. I would not have known about this place if not for my friend who recommended I make my way to the reading room for the view. Odd, to think a library could have a view, but be sure not to miss it, and don’t forget to look up. *To be noted, no camera's are allowed in here, but you can try to sneak a photo from the doorway. This one does more justice so thanks to Tripadvisor*
Token - Visiting Ireland over Halloween, you’d think I’d get into the spirit & go out to some kind of pub related halloween party, but alas I didn’t. Instead I spent the evening pub hopping & ended up in one of the coolest bars by far that I’ve ever been in. Noted as a “restaurant - bar - retro arcade - pinball parlour - event space” by the website, it was such a throwback to my childhood. With an age restriction of 18+ you can get a pint, grab a bite & kick your friends ass at Mortal Kombat upstairs. Or take on an old school pinball tournament in the lower level of the space. Whatever game you choose, you’ll be sure that if your a 90’s baby or from decades earlier you’ll find yourself feeling all kinds of nostalgia over this place.
Guinness Storehouse - When in Dublin, drink Guinness. While this isn’t the cities slogan (that I know of), it should be. I’m by no means a beer connoisseur, but damn the Guinness here had be begging for more. I’ve had maybe half a pint my whole life before this trip, and I would go back just for a pint again and again. Since opening in 2000, the St-James Gate brewery has welcomed millions of guests, and will continue to do so giving you a serious insight to not only the beer but the creation, the process & the branding. While some may say the price is a bit steep (essentially for a tour & a pint) you will save depending on the time of day you want to visit & do yourself a favour & book online to save more (I went at 11:30am & paid £17.50). On the day I went & met up with a friend from Canada it just so happened to be #nationalstoutweek so we ended up with a few more tastings before learning to pull the perfect pint (and ending up buzzed before lunch time).
Day trip along the Wild Atlantic Way - Saving the best for last, with a day trip to the Cliffs of Moher & then some. I had the best experience using Viator to book my GOT Tour in Belfast earlier this fall (no it’s not an ad I just love the site) so knew that I would use them to book this one & found the best one here. While this is a long day (13 ish hours) you’ll be so grateful you did it if you haven’t got a car of your own & want to see some of the countries most incredible scenery. You’ll cruise from Dublin out to the Cliffs of Moher with, if your lucky, a tour guide named Mike who will sing you Irish lullabies & tell you Irish legends throughout the trip. As soon as you step foot off the bus you’ll start to see the infamous cliffs, which 310 million years ago were deep under the ocean. Your time here will not feel long enough, even though you get a decent 2 hours to explore, do yourself a favour and from Brian’s tower head to the right to get some spectacular views of all the cliffs. I opted to go left and while the views are amazing, you’ll only see one portion of the cliffs. After taking 1000000000 photos & them some, & standing scarily close to the edge just because you told your mother you wouldn’t, it’s off to Burren National Park. Burren, which in Gaelic means “a rocky place” couldn’t depict the scenery any better. I could tell you more but I’ll let the photos show you. The last pit stop before heading back to Dublin is in Galway where you’ll be able to find every souvenir imaginable, as well as get a chance to see where the Claddagh ring originates from, definitely step into Dylan’s to find the master there creating rings in house. While the day is long, and you’ll be fighting off narcolepsy by the time the sunsets, I could not have visited Dublin without making a trip along the Wild Atlantic way, and neither should you!
After 4 days in Dublin it’s safe to say I’m absolutely in love with Ireland, the people, the culture, the atmosphere & the views definitely stole a little piece of my heart. I feel as if I only scratched the surface of Ireland by visiting Dublin and I’m definitely going to be looking at a few more Irish destinations to get stuck into over the next few months. The Ring of Kerry and Dingle are two that are top of that list, but if you have any suggestions for me to plan my next Ireland getaway I’m all ears!