Pip's Pages • Doing Dublin - a city guide
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After recent trips to Dublin, I was so taken with the place I decided I needed to write a page about it. There's so much to see and do... however, if you're only going to be there for a few days, as I was, what you really need is a quick and dirty guide to the fair city. Read on... click on the Top anywhere to return here.

Before you go   Getting around   Where to stay   Sightseeing   Places to eat/drink   Miscellaneous

  • Get a guidebook - you could just print this page off. Or you could spend a couple of quid on the excellent value Berlitz pocket guide... small, yet perfectly formed. If you want something more substantial, I recommend DK Eyewitness Travel Guides: Dublin... - colourful, easy to read and digest and packed full of info! Alternatively, if you're looking for a general Ireland guide, try the excellent Spiral Guide to Ireland, beautifully presented and with a spine that is very hard to damage! Okay, so those nice people at Lonely Planet do a very popular guide but it's a bit on the big/heavy side for the jeans pocket. Also good reading for your trip, though not a guide, is the very amusing Round Ireland With A Fridge by Tony Hawks in which our hero hitch-hikes around the Emerald Isle (with a fridge, obviously) to win a bet - since his trip begins and ends in Dublin, what better reading material for your trip could there be? Or you could try the excellent McCarthy's Bar, by Pete McCarthy, or anything by Roddy Doyle - I'd recommend The Barrytown Trilogy (which comprises The Commitments, The Snapper, and The Van).
  • Get wedged up - you can convert your £/$/¥/whatever into Euros (€) with the Universal Currency Converter. You might as well throw any old Punts you've got knocking about away, or give them to charity, as Ireland has embraced the single European currency.
  • Get a weather forecast - courtesy of Yahoo Weather.
  • Flying - RyanAir have a regular scheduled service to Dublin from many UK cities. It's particularly easy from Stansted, where a return flight costs around £59. AerLingus offer a comparable, but more expensive, service. If you can get a window seat, have your camera ready when you're coming in to land as you can get a nice aerial shot of the Howth peninsula on a sunny day (click here for an excellent example - thanks to Dermot for this).
  • Buses - since Dublin airport is quite a way out of town, the bus service is one of the first things you'll want to find out about. You can catch a Dublin Bus 41, 41a, 41b, 41c or 747 right outside the arrivals lounge. The 747 is a direct shuttle to Dublin's bus station, the Busarus, and costs around €4. All the 41 services are less direct and stop along the way, but they're also cheaper (about €1.50). By the way, if you see An Làr on the front of a bus, it's headed for the city centre.
  • Trains - the train is certainly the best way to see more of Ireland during your stay. The three most central stations are Connolly, Tara Street and Pearse. Best of all is the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transport) which is kind of an overground Tube service. €4 or thereabouts will buy you all all-day travel card, allowing you to roam as far afield as Arklow in the south to Dundalk in the north.
  • Ferries - Irish Ferries (formerly the B&I Line) operates a regular service from Holyhead to Dublin, whilst Stena Sealink run a ferry from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire. The latter also have a high-speed catamaran service from Holyhead to Dun Laoghaire which only takes 90 minutes. If travelling to Dun Laoghaire, the easiest way to make the 8 mile journey into central Dublin is to catch a DART.
  • Taxis - taxis are plentiful and, better yet, because their fares are centrally regulated you shouldn't get too ripped off. Be a little wary of getting cabs late at night if you're a bit wasted though, as some cabbies might take advantage of your not knowing where you are to drive you round in circles, clocking up the fare all the while... Anyway, a cab from the city centre to the airport should set you back around €20. Also, whilst you won't find any London-style black cabs here, MPV taxis are quite numerous if you need to carry more than 4 people.
  • Driving there - if you're driving, the RAC can help plan your route - you might also want to check the traffic. Be aware that parking isn't always easy (or cheap) here though.
  • Maps - a fully scalable map of the city is available here.
  • Lower Gardiner Street - just around the corner from the Busarus and Connolly Station, Lower Gardiner Street is serious guest-house country. To get anything half decent, I'd advise you to book in advance - the Irish National Tourism Board (Bord Failte) can help you here. Should you leave it til you get there, pop into their office in Suffolk Street (nicely converted from the former St Andrew's church) where they have a city-wide room finding service. Typical of the accommodation available is The Glen, 84 Lower Gardiner Street - rooms are clean and have en-suite facilities, and a full Irish breakfast is included in the room rate (€70 per night for a double-room).
  • Hostels - if the budget won't stretch to a B&B, there are many hostels to be found in Dublin, where you can get a roof over your head from as little as €9 per night (Backpackers, just a few doors down from The Glen in Lower Gardiner Street). The Irish Youth Hostels' Association (An Oige) can be quite useful in this respect.
  • Alternatively... - if you fancy something a bit more upmarket, without going totally overboard, try The Mont Clare Hotel, just off Merrion Square. It's posh enough to make you feel like you're really hob-nobbing it, but it won't empty your wallet completely - rooms start at around €150 per night, including breakfast.
  • Let someone else find a hotel for you - for a fast, reliable and easy-to-use way of comparing nearly 400 hotels in Dublin, and quickly finding which have availability for when you're travelling, I recommend easytobook.com - the great thing about this website, in addition to the user-friendly design, is that, unusually, it also lets you search for, and make, group bookings. It's not just limited to Dublin either, but offers hotel rooms for cities in over 130 countries around the world. Recommended.
  • Walking tours - the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl is an absolute must. Tickets are €8 (€7 for students) and can be bought in advance from the Suffolk Street Tourist Information office. Basically, you meet in an upstairs room in The Duke pub (in Duke Street, funnily enough) at 7.30 where your genial hosts (if lucky, you'll get Derek and Brendan) greet you with an amusing Irish song and your first snatch of Irish drama. In the course of the evening, you'll walk between any 4 of 10 pubs, stopping in the grounds of Trinity College and taking in the old Houses of Parliament (now the Bank of Ireland. In between all the acting and story-telling (which includes works by Joyce, Wilde, Beckett, Behan, and others), you'll have about 20 minutes drinking time in each of the pubs, which is just enough time to fathom the answers to the quiz! Yes, questions get asked throughout the evening and, come the end of the crawl, whoever shouts their answers loudest first wins. The prize is a Dublin Literary Pub Crawl T-shirt with Jameson (the walk's sponsor) whiskey knick-knacks for the runners-up. Please do not e-mail me for answers anymore, as the organisers have very politely asked that I stop helping you lot win so easily!
  • Cathedrals - Dublin has two cathedrals, St Patrick's and Christ Church. These two are close enough for there to be a friendly rivalry and, although their architectural styles are not dissimilar (both were massively renovated in the 19th century), there's enough variation here to make them both worth visiting. St Patrick's is larger, the largest religious site in Ireland, I think, with some fine stained glass, plus the oldest peal of ringing bells in the country. The author Jonathan Swift was dean here, and he's buried near the entrance, next to his mistress, Stella. Christ Church, on the other hand, has a beautifully intricate tiled floor - it's a Victorian copy of the original, but none the less impressive for that. Another point of interest is St Lawrence of Arabia's heart, which hangs on the wall in an iron casket, coolly enough. There's also a pretty fine crypt which doesn't feel as if it changed much for years and years and years... although in medieval times, it doubled as a tavern! Anyway, see both cathedrals - compare and contrast!
  • Other fancy buildings - in particular, look out for the Four Courts (just down the road from Christ Church Cathedral) and the Customs House (near the Busarus). Both are jewels of the Dublin sky-line and, since they both nestle on the north bank of the Liffey, provide good photo opportunities. If your camera's up to it, visit these at night as they look particularly impressive when flood-lit. Funnily enough, the General Post Office in O'Connell Street is also worth a visit, as it has an interesting place in Irish history: rebels holed up here, it got heavily shelled by the British and (someone please correct me if I'm wrong) Patrick Pearse read the first declaration of Irish independence on the front steps. Inside, as well as buying stamps, you can take in a series of ten fine paintings that illustrate key points in Ireland's path to autocracy.
  • Be merry - think Ireland, think Guinness! And it's true, the black stuff really does taste better in Dublin (I think this is something to do with not being pasteurised, as it has to be by law in the UK), even if it does take forever to settle. Afficianados should take a trip out to the Guinness Hop Store on the west side of town, where you can take a tour of the world-famous brewery site (with free samples at the end). It's hard to believe the range of Guinness-related merchandise available, from the obvious (pint glasses) to the less so (Guinness boot laces, anyone?). Okay, so it's all a bit touristy, but you can't go to Dublin without doing this, can you?
  • Get educated - the Dublin Writer's Museum, just off Parnell Square, is just one of many excellent establishments that will stimulate your brain-cells before you deaden them with Guinness. You can find out all about all the writers mentioned on this page, and more besides, so it's quite a good idea to go here before you take the Literary Pub Crawl - that way you'll know a bit of the background, and maybe a few of the quiz answers! There's also a good audio guide available if you don't mind wearing headphones and carrying an oversized Walkman round the museum with you. Strangely, there's also a fine collection of miniature furniture on show upstairs, although quite what this has to do with literature I don't know. Another couple of worthwhile attractions that might appeal to the more discerning tourist are The National Gallery of Ireland and the Natural History Museum, both of which lie on the west side of Merrion Square and both of which are free. The former houses a fine collection of paintings and prints - in particular look out for Danby's The Breaking of the Sixth Seal, and Lanfranco's interpretation of The Last Supper whilst the latter houses a vast collection of taxidermy. Now stuffed animals aren't really to my taste (a bit too Norman Bates) but there is also an impressive collection of animal skeletons, including whales, elephants, a giraffe and a number of huge Giant Irish deer, sadly long since hunted to extinction.
  • Georgian doors - take a wander round the lovely Merrion Square, where every door has a different style. Oscar Wilde grew up round here (number 1, I think, now owned by the American College Dublin), and Yeats lived in the square for a while too. The gardens in the middle of the square are lovely, a real haven from the hustle and bustle of the city - in the north-west corner, you'll find a statue that appears (to me anyway) to show Wilde choosing between two other figures: a male torso and a naked pregnant woman. Read into that what you will, whilst pausing to read Oscar's quotes that adorn the two figures' pedestals. Only dull people are interesting at breakfast, after all...
  • Trinity College - this places houses all manner of interesting sights! Most of the tourists come to see the Book of Kells, which is an ancient (11th Century?) religious manuscript, beautifully illustrated by the scholars of the day. The exhibition then leads into the College's Old Library which, in itself, is quite a sight: in the Long Room, row upon row of antique books are lined with busts of historical figures. You can get a joint ticket for €7.50 which also gets you in to The Dublin Experience, a 30 minute multi-media show that takes place in the College Arts building, just across the square from the entrance to The Book of Kells. The College itself was commissioned by Elizabeth I - the stone under the campus' central campanile commemorates this fact on the site of the first building work. It's said that the bell only rings when a virgin walks under the campanile...
  • DART (1) - North Jump on a DART train and head up to Howth - it's on a little peninsula, the south side of which offers fine views over Dublin on a sunny day (be warned though - it's a bit of a hike to the south side, although you can take in the Howth lighthouse en-route if you follow the scenic cliff-top path). From Howth harbour you can (depending on the mood of the boat's skipper) get a boat-trip out to Ireland's Eye, which is a little island just off the coast - it's calm and peaceful, has a small golden beach and is a haven for bird-life, if ornithology is your thing. Whilst in Howth, pop into Maud's cafe, half-way between the harbour and the DART station. Try some of their award-winning ice-cream - since you're in Ireland, you might as well try the Guinness flavour! From Howth, take another DART to Malahide (you'll have to change at Howth junction). Turn right on leaving Malahide station and you'll find Malahide Castle after about 500 yards, on your left - it is certainly worth a look.
  • DART (2) - South Nip down to Bray first, which should allow you to take in a little rolling green scenery on the way. Again, there's a pleasant coastal walk you can follow up towards Sandycove (where you can find a James Joyce museum based in his old house). Also in this area is Killiney Bay, a rather exclusive neck of the woods that is home to some of Ireland's more famous sons and daughters, including racing driver Eddie Irvine.
  • Gallagher's Boxty House - Temple Bar. Keenly priced traditional fare (boxty is a sort of potato pancake, stuffed with various fillings) make this place very popular. It is good though, and the lunchtime set menu is great value - 3 courses (soup, boxty and ice-cream, for example) for €7.50! The portions aren't small either. They do serve food other than boxty, which isn't too everyone's taste, but if you're going to go here what's the point in having anything else?
  • O'Dwyer's - Lower Mount Street. After a spot of Georgian door spotting in Merrion Square, turn off into Lower Mount St and before you know it you come to O'Dwyer's, an establishment that proves it is possible to combine a pub and a pizzeria. A basic meal consists of a huge wedge of pizza and a mountain of the best chips (fries) in Dublin and it's great for the budget - Hawaiian pizza, chips and a mug of tea will only set you back €5! The other good thing about O'Dwyers is that it's a little bit off the beaten tourist track - however, it is very popular with local office workers and so gets pretty busy at lunchtimes. It's worth the walk and the wait for those chips though. Later in the day, check out the licensed late bar (Howl At The Moon) where you can drink 'til 2am seven nights a week.
  • Bewley's - There are a number of branches around the city, but head for the original one in Grafton Street. Eat in the Harry Clarke Room to admire the unorthodox and increasingly collectible stained glass, amidst faded art deco. The food is only average but it's the surroundings you come for. Having said that, the strawberry cheesecake is excellent.
  • Captain America's - 42 (?) Grafton Street. If you just fancy a burger and chips one day, this is the place to go. Why? Because it doubles as rock'n'roll museum. Where else could you sit below the first drum kit that Larry Mullen of U2 ever had? Other highlights include a guitar from The Edge, a Rickenbacker signed by all four members of R.E.M., signed Rolling Stones ephemera and, bizarrely, a cami-top belonging to Cindy Crawford. But back to the restaurant side of things - it's has three big advantages over the average burger bar: waitress service, real cheese on the cheeseburgers (as opposed to those plasticky slices), and a bar. Also, it's quite popular with local twentysomething's, so I guess it must be a pretty cool place to hang out. The disadvantage: it's marginally more expensive.
  • Lanigan's - Eden Quay. Lanigan's is a huge pub on the side of a hotel, on the north bank of the Liffey. It's tremendously popular in the evening, offering really good food (I particularly recommend the steak in pepper sauce) at reasonable prices and live music most nights. If truth be told, it's the traditional music that is the draw, as the acts are very good and, if you are lucky, you might get to see Lisa do some Irish dancing as well. Get here before 7pm or expect to wait for a table.
  • The Knightsbridge Arms - Ormond Quay Walk. Another big pub on the side of a hotel. Despite the excellent value (the evening set menu is €17.50 for three courses), this place is less busy than Lanigan's which is a shame because it has plenty of potential. It's particularly good if there is a major live sporting event on, as the bar-staff will wheel out the projection TV for your enjoyment. A final recommendation - have the spicy chicken fingers starter, it's excellent.
  • Auriga - This restaurant enjoys an elevated position overlooking the centre of Temple Bar. It's altogether very civilised and, as you might expect, this is reflected in the prices - it's probably the dearest of all the restaurants featured on this page but you can still get a three course meal for less than €35. The food is pretty damn good too, and the staff are very accommodating. The three-pepper sauce on my steak was very hot, which can either be a recommendation or a cautionary tale, depending on your personal preference.
  • Kitty Kaboodle's - The menu choice is great, as is the relaxed atmosphere, but the best thing about this place is that each table is furnished with a paper tablecloth and a pot of crayons for your mealtime doodles. The walls are festooned with the artwork of previous diners. Also, O'Donoghue's pub is just next door, which is just as well since the choice of beers in Kitty Kaboodle's is the only thing that lets it down.
  • Eamonn Dorran's - Quite possibly my favourite pub in Dublin. Go downstairs (there's a restaurant upstairs) into the dark confines of the bar area. The service is friendly, the jukebox is excellent and there's a small stage where local bands play regularly. Try to make it here on a Thursday night, where they have an indie club night, playing the best in popular alternative music. As an aside, this was the venue for Chris Evans' TFI Friday St Patrick's Day broadcast.
  • The Old Strand - Formerly known as The Monico, this was a favoured haunt of Michael Collins, who met his informers here. Nowadays its purpose is far less clandestine - the pub has two semi-circular bars, the larger of which has plenty of room to sit around whilst tucking into the simple but appetising food. The location is nice and central too.
  • The Temple Bar - Funnily enough, in Temple Bar. A fine and deceptively spacious pub - it seems like a bit of a warren though, since it integrates seemlessly with another pub and a hotel, as far as I could tell.
  • The Oliver St John Gogarty - Temple Bar. Particularly good in warm weather, as the windows are actually just holes in the wall (don't worry, they have shutters over in cold/wet weather). There's a spacious bar upstairs which showcases regular live music - be warned, this is very popular, particularly with camera-wielding tourists. Expect standing room only upstairs after 9pm.
  • The Auld Dubliner - Temple Bar. Another popular pub, also with a spacious upstairs bar. There's a greater chance of finding somewhere to sit here though as the live music is slightly less of a 'big thing', which in itself is nice (when I went the band were just sat at one of the many tables rather than being asked to occupy the spotlight). A good pub to finish the evening in, and only three large strides across the road from The Oliver St John Gogarty!
  • The Duke - Duke Street. Starting point for the Great Literary Pub Crawl, this is a cosy pub with a traditional feel. It's nice and central too, being just off Grafton Street and, handily enough, is just ninety seconds from Captain America's.
  • Davy Byrne's - Duke Street. Just up the road from The Duke, this offers a pleasing contrast - it's 1930's decor is bright and airy, unlike the somewhat 'earthier' Duke. If memory serves, this pub was immortalised in a scene from Ulysses... but I could be wrong.

Page updated 21-Nov-2006 10:56:55 GMT

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