Earlier in 2016 I received a text message from a good friend, stating that flights to Dublin were currently insanely cheap. Moments later a second message appeared, with a breakdown of costs for a hostel in the city centre for a group of us. A few clicks, a vague look at my diary, and 15 minutes later I was booked to go on a long weekend to Dublin.
I had never visited Dublin before, and it wasn’t on my radar of places I wished to visit (ie not in Scandinavia…) until my Dad and Brother took a recent trip there and told me all about the museums, culture and the various beers they had consumed. The trip crept up on us all quicker than we’d realised, and it was only the week before that I began to look at guides and blogs for ideas of where I would like to visit. However, this was quite welcome in the end- I think it led to a more relaxed way of travelling: a good list of things if I found myself at a loose end but with no urgency to see absolutely everything (we knew we could always come back).
My favourite thing about Dublin was the size. You could easily map a walking route between many of the attractions, and most things were in walking distance. This meant time was not lost on buses (although I am a fan of the views of a city only the top deck of a bus can provide) and more time was made in the various cafes and pubs of Dublin, playing cards and relaxing.
Things to see and do
Walking Tour of Dublin (south of the river)
The first thing we did on Saturday morning was a walking tour of the city. A few of us had been on walking tours, and I used them a lot whilst travelling Europe a few years ago. I found it a great was to find your bearings, and also pick up details of places to explore further. We opted for Sandeman’s New Europe Tours. I had used these before, and was the walking tour recommended by our hostel- they also rely entirely on tips which I found shows in the quality of the tour, but also it suited our group who had differing budgets. Our tour guide Carl showed us the major sites on the south side of Dublin: Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral, Trinity College, Temple Bar and pointed us in the direction of many more. He also gave a good, brief view of Irish history, which helped me to contextualise the information delivered not just during the tour, but throughout the day.
Sandeman’s New Europe Tours Daily: 11:00 and 14:00- depart from outside City Hall.
Chester Beatty Library
One of the places I’d been researching was the Chester Beatty Library, situated just off the Dublin Castle Gardens. The library houses the collections of New York born Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968), of whom I was unfamiliar with until my visit to the library. A. Chester Beatty travelled throughout Africa and Asia collecting decorated and illustrated manuscripts (specifically Egypt where he lived, and Japan and China where he later visited). Knighted for his support of the allies in the form of strategic raw materials, he moved to Ireland and built a gallery for his art collection on Shrewsbury Road. He was the first honorary citizen of Ireland, in 1957.
The library hosts an incredible array of manuscripts, books, religious texts and prints from various world cultures and religions, and I would absolutely recommend a visit. It is close to many of the city centre attractions, and it is absolutely free.
March to October: Monday to Friday, 10.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M.
November to February: Tuesday to Friday, 10.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M (Closed Mondays).
Saturday, 11.00 A.M. to 5.00 P.M. (All year)
Sunday, 1.00 P.M. to 5.00 P.M. (All year)
Christ Church Cathedral
On Sunday morning we all opted to do our own thing. This was the lovely thing about the group I travelled with, we enjoyed hanging out together but also appreciated we all wanted to see different things and have different experiences over the trip. I previously wanted to visit the Cathedral in the centre of town, and decided to attend Mass in the morning. I’m not an especially religious person. My Dad is a catholic, and had catholic parents (my Grandma often asked me if I was being a ‘good little catholic girl), so it did not seem especially out-of-place, and I was comforted by the welcome I received. They stated that there was no associated parish to the cathedral, and they enjoyed having a ‘roaming congregation’ of travellers, and I really did like this idea. I ended up joining them for tea and biscuits afterwards in the crypt, and enjoyed meeting people from around the world, as well as locals.
Children (under 16) €2.50
Family (2 adults + 2 children under 16) €16.00
Free with the Dublin Pass
National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum has four museums each with a different focus: Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History and Natural History based in Dublin, and Country Life based in Castlebar, County Mayo. Due to a slight scheduling mishap (the Natural History museum is closed on Mondays) we only managed to see the Archaeology museum (which seemed to be most of our priority as a group of mostly archaeologists).
Firstly, this building itself was stunning. The entrance hall had a beautiful dome ceiling, and the floor was an interesting mosaic of the zodiac signs. Although the artefacts were amazing, and ranged in time period and material, it was the mosaic floors that really captured my interest. I also wanted to see the various ‘bog bodies’ on display, as I had never seen them before. Without venturing into an archaeology tangent, I found these quite controversial, and have still to work out my feelings on these, and their method of display- but this is a personal thing.
Definitely go for the archaeology, but take a moment to look at your feet and above your head, especially in the main hall.
Again, absolutely free.
Tuesday to Saturday 10am-5pm
Sunday 2pm- 5pm
Closed Mondays (including Bank Holidays), Christmas Day and Good Friday
St Stephen’s Green
When looking for somewhere to walk off a slightly woozy head, luckily we were close to St Stephen’s Green- a lovely park in the south of the city. There were interesting works of art and lots of wildlife who were either starving (which I highly doubt), greedy, or just partial to Swiss roll (aren’t we all!).
Open all year round.
Monday – Saturday: 7.30am – dusk.
Sunday and bank holidays: 9.30am – dusk.
Christmas Day: 9.30am- 12.30pm
Obviously no trip to Dublin would be complete without my first ever pint of Guinness. As part of the Storehouse tour, you can elect to pour your own pint of Guinness which seemed a very appropriate way to have your first. It turns out I quite like Guinness and my first quickly turned into many! I would recommend to take a visit here, even for those wanting to avoid the ‘touristy things’, because the whole experience was wonderful- the exhibition was full of interesting information without overloading thirsty brains, the shop had every Guinness themed item one could imagine and the Gravity Bar was a lovely place to see the sun set over the city.
St James’s Gate
Adult (18+) €20.00
Student (18+) (Student ID Required) €18.00
Family (2 Adults, 4 Children under 18) €48.50
Senior Citizen (65+) €18.00
Child 11-17 (Under 10 are free) €13.50
The Guinness Storehouse® is open 7 days a week 9:30am – 7pm (last admission is at 5pm)
Late opening during July and August: 9am – 8pm (last admission is at 6pm)
Open all year apart from Good Friday, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, & St Stephens Day.
Book of Kells, Trinity College
Trinity College in itself was very beautiful- a lovely coutyard flanked by wonderful examples of architecture. We were lucky enough to catch a graduation, which does remind you it isn’t a tourist attraction, but actually a university.
The Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels from the 9th Century, is housed in an exhibition attached to the Trinity College Library. This was one of the things we had decided to pay to do (a lot of attractions in Dublin charge) as a large number of the group were interested in seeing the manuscript itself.
The book was beautiful, and seeing the intricate design and scriptwork in person was so much better than seeing printed versions. The Trinity College Library was also beautiful and peaceful (good for nursing a Guinness hangover…). It is a little pricy for a small exhibition- albeit a price I was happy to pay for the conservation and upkeep of an important manuscript. We also visited quite early on, to try to skip the queue, and they also do student discount if you are studying!
Dublin 2, Ireland
Adults €10 – 13
You can book online to skip the queues!
Mon – Sat (May – Sept) 08:30 – 17:00
Sun (May – Sept) 09:30 – 17:00
Mon – Sat (Oct – April) 09:30 – 17:00
Sun (Oct – April) 12:00 – 16:30
Food and Drink
I couldn’t speak about Dublin without mentioning the places we ate (and drank!). I will mention my two favourites- funnily none of which were Temple Bar…- mostly found through the help of the Spotted by Locals App, which one of the group had installed on her phone.
Now this was quite the find. We travelled all the way to Ireland to have… pizza. And what a glorious pizza it was. Yes it was hipster, but oh my it was tasty. Especially the kilo of houmous and flatbread, and the incredible chilli honey you could drizzle over the pizzas.
19 Crane Lane
This was one of the bars I’d seen in guides and decided to perhaps avoid to try and miss the tourist crowds. However, I’d also heard they do really good toasties… so obviously the toasties won, and as we walked past on a quiet Monday morning we decided to pop in. We spent a few hours playing cards (we thought we were playing Sevens, yet as one of us turned up later and asked what we were playing we realised we weren’t playing Sevens at all and we had just invented a game). The walls of the pub are decorated with the works of local artists, some which I really liked, some I had to squint sideways to work out what was going on. But, hey, art is subjective right? And I really appreciated this dedication to supporting local creatives,
And the toastie? It was amazing. When asked if I wanted cheese, ham, tomato or onions, I panicked and said ‘everything’ and it was the best choice.
15 South William Street, Dublin 2, Ireland
Monday – Thursday: 10:30am – 11:30pm
Friday – Saturday: 10:30 am – 12:30am
Sunday: 12:30pm – 11pm
Would I recommend Dublin? In a heartbeat. It’s great for solo and group travelling, and if you plan a little in advance it’s easy for work out basic iteneries and route plans, and keep to a budget. Things are a little more pricey (it is the capital after all, and the tourist bars aren’t shy to overcharge you for a pint of Guinness!) but this can be offset with good planning .
Would I return? A long weekend is a great amount of time to spend in Dublin, yet there is so much more I would love to see. I’d like to explore the northern side of Dublin a little more, and venture to Newgrange and places slightly further afield. So yes, absolutely!