When I first landed in Dublin, I was heavily sleep deprived and unsure of how many hours my brain had just idled through. I had boarded the plane the day before, completely excited for the following 11 days in a country that stole my heart long before I ever stepped foot in it. I booked my ticket to Dublin on a whim, or rather on a borderline quarter-life crisis, the former sounding just a bit more adventurous.
As with most girls who’ve watched and re-watched P.S. I Love You more times than they care to admit, I came to Ireland not to find a man (I have a perfectly un-Irish one back home) but to wander the countryside and indulge my ears in authentic Irish music. I had no expectations for Dublin–or any European city for that matter–my only nibble of the sort being a brief layover in Amsterdam circa 2012 where I tasted a pint of bitterly cold Heineken and carefully avoided getting trampled by hordes of bikes.
One of the first things I learned about Dublin was that it’s actually quite easy to navigate once you learn the lay of the land…but don’t count on the street signs for guidance. It fancies itself a smaller city but with the hustle and bustle of a metropolitan mecca hanging in the air. The Guinness poured strong while the lads and lasses all appeared cheerful and welcoming; only a fraction of which was due to the impending bank holiday on May 2nd.
While I was perfectly happy walking for hours through the cobblestone streets, taking in the Spire and iconic Dublin Castle, I quickly learned that Dublin has much more to offer than just pubs and wistful thoughts on the bridge overlooking the River Liffey. Here’s a handy little guide to ensure you get the most out of this iconic Irish city.
What to See: The Highlights of Dublin
The Guinness Storehouse
A visit to Dublin isn’t complete without a trip to the Guinness Storehouse, even if that statement makes me sound like an uber-tourist. Open from 9:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (until 6 p.m. July – August) with last admission occurring at 5 and 6 p.m. respectively, a trip to the Guinness Storehouse will take you through various levels of beer making, history, marketing strategies, mastering the Guinness pour and finally a refreshing pint of Guinness (best enjoyed while standing in the Gravity Bar overlooking Dublin). Travel tip: Make sure to book in advance or get there early, tickets can sell out fast.
Spire of Dublin
The Spire of Dublin–also known as the Monument of Light (among other more vulgar names)–was erected in 2003. This extravagant, stainless steel monument rises 120 meters in height and is located on O’Connell Street in Dublin. A core-based sample of earth and rock formations encompasses the base of the Spire. Travel Tip: The Spire is an ideal meeting location and is visible from nearly everywhere in Dublin city.
National Library of Ireland
When you think of touring Dublin, a library probably isn’t the first thing to spring to mind but this library should be an exception. Designed by Thomas Newenham Deane, the National Library of Ireland is a reference library that will tickle the hearts of any literary nerd. While materials cannot be checked out, large quantities of Irish-related material can be flipped through sans charge. Travel Tip: Visiting the library is free, but be sure to check out their Events page for special tours throughout the year.
While I wouldn’t suggest diving into the water during the spring months, the River Liffey is beautiful enough to just sit and stare at for a while. A major supplier of Dublin’s drinking water, it conveniently flows through the center of town. A stroll along the bridge over the River Liffey will enhance any traveler’s itinerary of Dublin.
Irish Whiskey Museum
I’ll admit that I’m not your typical whiskey connoisseur but when in Ireland, you partake of your surroundings and sample a few pours of Irish’s finest. While they might not make the whiskey go down any smoother, the interactive tours at the Irish Whiskey Museum are informative, hilarious and unlike any other tour I’ve been on (bonus: they only cost 16 euro for a Classic tour!)
Trinity College Dublin
Located in the center of Dublin, one glance at Trinity College’s grounds gives you a feeling that you’ve studied with the greats (or are attempting to apply for Hogwarts). Founded in 1592, it is the oldest university in Ireland as well as one of the older universities in Western Europe. The 47-acre campus is sprinkled with cobbled squares and historic buildings just begging to be explored. Travel tip: Explore the grounds with a free walking tour from Sandemans.
The Snug at O’Niells
While maybe not the most iconic landmark to visit in Dublin, The Snug at O’Niells is a perfectly relaxing locale to enjoy a mid-day pint. Originally built for females, this charming snug has blossomed into a spot for an intimate date or a gathering spot for the infamous Dublin Literary Pub Crawl held every week in Dublin. Travel tip: Head to the snug first and then grab a pint, it tends to get crowded fast.
Not to be confused with the actual Temple Bar, Temple Bar is quite actually a row of pubs, coffee shops and hidden gems. Located on the south bank of the River Liffey, Temple Bar is branded as Dublin’s cultural hub, housing lively nightlife and a high rate of tourist traffic. Travel tip: Pints are more expensive here, but it’s well worth a stroll during the day.
Where to Eat & Drink
I’ll be completely honest and say that most of what I ate in Dublin was a mix of fish and chips (typically 10 – 15 euro) and pints of Guinness. I’ll plan on varying my diet the next time I find myself in Dublin – a good enough reason as any to come back for a taste of something new. Nevertheless, here are a few options I know won’t disappoint.
Quays Irish Restaurant
As the supplier of my first meal in Dublin, my expectations were high and rightfully met. Situated in Temple Bar, Quays was quaint and already flowing with authentic Irish sounds, even at 11 a.m. on Thursday. I’d suggest the smoked salmon sandwich, although I hear their fish and chips are on par as well.
Madigan’s O’Connell Street
Located in plain sight of The Spire, Madigan’s is a traditional Irish pub with some of the crispiest fish and chips I’ve ever indulged in. The decor features everything one would expect from a pub–an elongated wooden bar, large bookshelves and Irish music on nearly every night of the week.
Come in for the vibe, stay for the delectable Irish coffees. Handcrafted and sweeter than my Aunt May, these coffees will remind you why the Irish are so lucky to have these available whenever they want. Situated on South William Street, Dakota is a modern eatery by day and a flourishing destination for the finest cocktails and conversation by night.
Where to Stay:
The Westbury Hotel (Splurge)
The Westbury Hotel is a 5-star hotel nestled off Grafton Street. This immaculately furnished hotel features Sealy beds, LCD TVs, a fitness suite, superb restaurants on-site, and its own tea room, The Gallery. Be sure to top off the night with a visit to the Marble Bar, famed for its exquisite cocktail menu. While definitely a splurge at over $250 a night, you’ll feel like you’ve fallen asleep in Dublin and woken up in a little slice of heaven.
Trinity College Dublin (Moderate)
While only available from mid-June to the end of September, a few nights at Trinity College will surely be a welcoming stay in Dublin. Within walking distance to several attractions, shops and Temple Bar, this city location allows for a peaceful night’s rest and a beautiful view upon waking. Eight hundred residential rooms are open for only $40 a night, ranging from older traditional style to private, modern rooms; the varying styles are sure to satisfy even the most picky of traveler.
Egali Hostel (Budget)
Centrally located off O’Connell Street, Egali Hostel was the perfect destination for budget travelers like myself. Close enough to City Centre by foot, yet far enough of a jaunt to ease into a restful night of sleep. Ranging from 18 to 27 euro a night, this hostel comes with free WiFi, breakfast and three common rooms where meeting fellow travelers is highly encouraged.
Have you been to Dublin before? Share your favorite places and best travel tips in the comments section below!
Meet the Author
Laura is a freelance writer based out of Fort Collins, CO. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Nebraska. Her work has appeared in OBSEV, Travefy, Hello Hustle, Noble Brewer and more. She is an adventure seeker with an obsession with cardigans, craft beer and cycling. Laura shares her writing on her blog, Wanderlust. Bikes. Beers. Puns. Follow her on Instagram at @loraexplora or on Twitter!