Dublin, for many visitors to Ireland, is a prime vacation destination. And it should be. Filled with a vast history, a charming character, and countless attractions including world-class museums, galleries and theatres, Dublin is Europe’s fourth most popular city destination. And don’t forget the fabulous shops, restaurants and pubs!
Our visit to Dublin was relatively short but jammed packed. Having sailed the overnight ferry from Holyhead in Wales, we arrived bright and early. About 6 AM! As our overnight accommodation wouldn’t be ready until early afternoon, we had no choice but to get an early start touring the awakening city. Relatively small and accessible, getting around Dublin on foot is actually easy and safe.
Getting to Dublin
Whether travelling by air or sea, getting to Dublin is a breeze. Besides traditional airline carriers, many low-cost air carriers have made it easier and less expensive to get to Dublin. Or, if you want to bring a vehicle with you, consider the convenience and comfort of travelling by ferry.
Travel by Air
Direct flights to Dublin are available from most major cities in the UK, Europe, and North American hubs. The airport has two terminals. Terminal 1 serves most European flights, while Terminal 2 serves the transatlantic flights.
Dublin Airport is only 10km from the city centre. It is located close to the M50 and M1 motorways. From both terminals, Aircoach, Airlink and Dublin Bus provide fast and convenient access to the city. Metered taxis are readily available, as are several car hire companies, such as Enterprise. If hiring a car, try to avoid travelling into or out of the city during rush hour. Though it is not a great distance to travel, it could take an hour or more between the airport and the city centre.
Travel by Ferry
Dublin Port is just two miles from the city centre. From Holyhead in Wales, Irish Ferries offers several daily cruises and fast ferry options. The Irish Ferries Ulysses is the world’s largest car ferry, capable of carrying 2,000 passengers with a 3 hour 15 minute crossing time. Fast sailings take just under two hours.
With four daily sailings each way, Stena Line operates the Stena Adventurer and Superfast X between Holyhead and Dublin. While onboard, relax and enjoy free Wi-Fi and movies, or browse the vast retail areas. Restaurant and bar facilities are available. Sail from Holyhead to Dublin in 3 hours 15 minutes.
The Isle of Man Steam Packet Company connects the Isle of Man to Dublin in just under three hours. Between Liverpool and Dublin, P&O Ferries will transport passengers with cars in 3 hours. P&O Ferries does not accommodate walk-on travellers.
Dublin Port is Ireland’s most popular port hosting cruise liners and caters to 80-plus liners annually.
A shuttle bus service is available to all Irish Ferry and Stena Line travellers. Mortons Coaches operate the service. The shuttle picks up passengers at both the Irish Ferries and Stena Line terminals and drops them off at Connolly Station, Westmoreland Street and Heuston Station. While the shuttle connects with all Irish Ferries departures, it does not connect with all Stena Line departures. Check the ferries’ websites for details. If you are travelling to Dublin Port, Westmoreland Street is the only pickup location.
Dublin Bus connects Dublin Port with the city’s main bus station and city centre. You can catch the Dublin Bus 53 route to and from the port. Accepted fares include coins, smart cards, or pre-paid tickets.
Taxis are always readily available. Check Dublin Public Transport for details on getting to and from the port.
We got off the shuttle bus at Westmoreland and Fleet streets. Being early in the day, we didn’t have any immediate plans. But looking around, we noticed a sign for the Temple Bar area. It sounded familiar, so we started walking west along Fleet Street. We passed The Auld Dubliner. Too early to be open, many consider this pub to be one of the best traditional Irish pubs in the Temple Bar district.
Across the street, Gogarty Bar glowed in the morning sunlight. This award-winning restaurant serves great traditional Irish food with live music daily. If you are planning any time in Dublin, then Gogarty’s needs to be on your must-visit list.
A trip to Dublin would not be complete without visiting Temple Bar itself. The history of Temple Bar goes back to the early to mid-17th century when Sir William Temple and his son Sir John Temple acquired the land in the area we now know as Temple Bar. One can find this legendary pub at the corner of Temple Bar and Temple Lane South. It has been serving world-class whiskey in this spot since 1840.
If you’re planning to spend any time in Dublin, you must check out the nightlife in Temple Bar.
Time for Breakfast
Some shops were opening for the morning. Now hungry, we popped into Costa Coffee on College Green and Foster Place. This is another big brand coffee shop, but we hadn’t been in one before, so this was a treat. Their coffee was good and there was a variety of pastries. And the staff were friendly and quick. We sat by the window, planned our next steps while watching the locals rush off to work.
A good breakfast is an essential part of the day. There are so many great places in Dublin to grab a quick bite or, if time permitting, a delicious early morning meal. The Queen of Tarts in Temple Bar has been serving one of the best breakfast and brunch menus for close to twenty years. Using only the finest ingredients, their cakes, scones and brownies are renowned. Not to forget, their signature tarts, savoury and sweet, draw customers from all over.
Brother Hubbard, with two city locations, serve some of the finest coffee and the tastiest, freshest and most creative food around. For several years, McKenna’s Guides lists their restaurant as one of the best places to eat in Ireland. And for good reason. Whether for breakfast, lunch or dinner, visit the North location on Capel Street or the South location on Harrington Street, and treat yourself to their refreshing, creative, pure approach to food.
Perhaps it’s too much for every day eating, but no visit to Dublin would be complete without trying at least one traditional Full Irish breakfast. This most important meal of the day comprises sausage, bacon, eggs, baked beans, black pudding, and white pudding. Occasionally, locals include potatoes as well. Wuff, at 23 Benburb Street in Dublin, serves one of the city’s best. Their Clonakilty black and white puddings are made using secret recipes originating in the 1880s. They also serve a Small Irish breakfast. Same as the Full Irish but without the baked beans and pudding.
The Black Pool
Our plan of attack for the day was simple. Starting at Dublin Castle, we would make our way to the River Liffey and hike east along the north side to Samuel Beckett Bridge. After crossing back to the south side, we would meander through the city back to Trinity College and south toward our accommodation for the night.
This early in the morning, only a few workers were hanging around Dublin Castle. Most of the castle’s architecture dates from the 18th century, though a castle has stood on this site since the early 13th century. Erected on the site of a Viking settlement, the castle has served for centuries as the headquarters of English, and later British, administrations in Ireland. Although the castle serves as a government complex, it is also one of Dublin’s top tourist attractions.
Crossing Ship Street Little, we visited Dubh Linn Garden, a grassy sward with patterns of sea serpents cut into the lawn. Gardens have been a significant part of Dublin Castle since the early years of the seventeenth century. This lawn is near the site of the original dubh linn or “black pool” where the River Liffey and its tributary the Poddle meet. Covered by city development, the Poddle now runs underground. Historians believe that Vikings originally set up a trading post here. If you haven’t guessed, the city of Dublin derives its name from this black pool. Immensely popular during the sunny days of summer, the Castle Gardens were practically empty when we were there. The only other people besides us were a young couple and their photographer. I suspect it is a popular location for engagement and wedding photos.
We passed the Christ Church Cathedral on our way to the River Liffey. This medieval cathedral welcomes visitors to explore its history and reflect in the pure beauty of the place. Oh, there’s also a mummified rat and cat, and the cafe is in a crypt.
We walked along the south side of the river until we reached the Ha’penny Bridge. William Walsh built this landmark pedestrian bridge in 1816. Before this bridge, the only way across the river was by ferry. When the ferries became unsafe to operate, the city informed Walsh that he needed to repair the ferries or build a bridge. He chose the latter option. Commonly known as the Ha’penny Bridge, referring to the ‘half-penny’ toll paid to cross it, the official name is Liffey Bridge.
Now strolling the north side of the river, we passed Abbey Court, one of Dublin’s best hostels and famous for its excellent location, clean facilities, friendly staff and competitive pricing. Ireland’s famous Temple Bar hotspot is just two minutes away. They have a 24-hour reception desk, so there’s no lockout or curfew.
Just east of Butt Bridge, we passed The Custom House, a neoclassical building used today as a government office. Built back in 1791 to collect customs duties, the IRA burned the building’s interior and destroyed the dome during the Irish War of Independence in 1921. The city later restored the interior and rebuilt the dome following the Anglo-Irish Treaty.
Across the river, we could see George’s Quay Plaza – a complex of modern, iconic office buildings between Hawkins Street and Lombard Street. Primarily, it houses the headquarters of Ulster Bank.
The Great Famine
We soon passed the World Poverty Stone, a commemorative stone to mark International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. And then we happened upon one of the most photographed public art pieces in all of Ireland – The Famine Memorial. This set of sculptures, comprising emaciated men, women and a dog slogging along the banks of the river, is a sad reminder of the many people who emigrated because of Ireland’s Great Famine between 1845 and 1849. A few steps away, the Jeanie Johnston replica famine ship sits moored in the water and set up as a famine museum.
Across the street, EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum pays tribute to the people who emigrated from Ireland. Housed in the CHQ building, the museum contains a vast array of tasteful places to eat and shop. We stopped in for Starbucks Coffee and bought some Irish-made souvenirs at the EPIC Gift Shop.
Crossing back to the south side of the river when we reached the Samuel Beckett Bridge, this remarkable Irish harp shaped structure, with suspension cables forming the strings from one edge of River Liffey to the other, is a remarkable sight. And next to the bridge, the award-winning Convention Centre Dublin looms magnificently with its striking, leaning glass atrium. It is the first carbon-neutral convention centre in the world and can hold up to 8,000 delegates in 22 meeting rooms.
Heading back toward the city centre, we wandered through the world-renown Trinity College campus. Recognized for accomplished academic excellence since 1592, Trinity College has educated a community of alumni that have brilliantly shaped our world. Among many others, notable alumni include Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett.
Where to Stay in Dublin
As the day turned into afternoon, we made our way towards the AirBnB we booked for the night. Our townhouse room at 2 Emor Street was close enough to the downtown party action, but just far enough away to avoid the buzz of the city at night. The walk to town takes about 15 minutes. Before leaving the next morning, we enjoyed a lovely breakfast in the large downstairs dining room. Great place to stay and reasonably priced. If travelling on a budget, check it out.
If you want to immerse yourself in Dublin’s nightlife and love to party, Temple Bar is undoubtedly the top hot spot. Here are three great accommodations that will keep you close to the action.
- The Clarence Hotel – owned by U2’s Bono and The Edge, this rock ‘n’ roll boutique hotel offers bright and stylish rooms and many top-notch dining and drinking options.
- The Merchant House – a fully restored, early Georgian building in the heart of Temple Bar offers luxury guest suites with king-size beds, free Wi-Fi and light refreshments. With no reception desk, guests must communicate their exact arrival date and time to ensure a host is available to greet them.
- Harding Hotel – in a central and convenient part of historic Old Dublin overlooking the Christ Church Cathedral, this hotel offers clean, comfortable and spacious rooms at reasonable rates.
Do you want to shop? Grafton Street is Dublin’s premier shopping district offering a mix of cafes, vintage shops, local boutiques, and international stores. Here are a few popular places to stay if shopping is your goal and money is no object.
- Fitzwilliam Hotel Dublin – only a few minutes walk to Grafton Street. Irish hospitality that always puts a smile on your face. This five-star hotel offers guests a choice from standard Executive to Luxury Penthouse accommodations.
- The Shelbourne Dublin – a historic 5-star hotel just steps from Grafton Street, Trinity College and the National Museum. Rooms and suites exquisitely decorated offering magnificent views in an atmosphere of refined indulgence. For nearly 200 years, the Shelbourne has been a favourite destination for discerning travellers the world over.
I’d rather be someone’s shot of whiskey
than everyone’s cup of tea!
In the early evening, we headed back to the Grafton Street area for supper and a little more sightseeing. Zozimus Bar, with its coloured umbrellas flying high over the outdoor patio, is the most Instagrammed tourist hotspot in Ireland. So, we had to check it out. Zozimus bills itself as a high-end cocktail bar serving unique Asian cuisine and an extensive range of classic and signature cocktails.
Of course, I had to take pictures of the Zozimus umbrellas. Afterwards, we strolled around to Duke Street and ate supper at The Bailey – Bar & Café. USA Today said Bailey is “among the best 10 bars in Dublin”. A hub of literary and political activity, the bar welcomed a wide range of local figures and international artists over the years, such as Evelyn Waugh, and Charles Chaplin, Oliver St. John Gogarty, Samuel Beckett and Patrick Kavanagh to name a few.
For supper, Carole had the Shaved Beef Sandwich on toasted ciabatta with a side salad, and I had the Beef & Guinness Stew. With drinks, we like to try something new, particularly when travelling. We opted for two draught beers; Moretti and 5 Lamps Dublin Lager. Even though the place was crowded, the service was quick. Their food and drinks were excellent!
For dessert, we delighted our taste buds at Gino’s Gelato. Gino’s makes their gelato fresh at each location every day. Using only the best ingredients, including their own organic milk, their gelato pleases customers like no other. They have been making gelato with an authentic Italian texture for three generations.
Escape the Hustle and Bustle in St. Stephen’s Green
We ended the evening with a quiet stroll through St. Stephen’s Green. This historical park is a little piece of paradise in the centre of Dublin, and the perfect place to escape from the hustle and bustle of city life. Stroll around the ponds or meander the various paths. Over the last five years, St Stephen’s Green Park has received the Green Flag award for exceeding tough environmental standards in green space management and excellence in visitor attractions. Throughout the world, park visitors recognize this honourable designation.
Reflecting on our trip, Dublin was amazing! I enjoyed our visit much more than I expected. And we didn’t even get to tour the Guinness Storehouse or the Irish Whiskey Museum. This city has so much to offer. Next visit, we will undoubtedly plan for a longer stay!