Dublin is a fantastic place to visit. The Emerald Isle’s capital is a fun, exciting and increasingly cosmopolitan city where the pub nights are long and the locals impossibly friendly. Although Dublin’s reputation has suffered in the past due to its attraction for large groups of partying men (mostly on ‘Stag nights’). The Gardá (otherwise known as the Irish police) has since banned all male groups from the most popular drinking area, Temple Bar. Groups of Ladies however, are still very welcome as this tends to attract local lads willing to part with their hard earned cash! Most people would associate Dublin and Ireland with drinking and whilst I admit the ‘pub’ is a large part of life, there’s still plenty of attractions for visitors.
Visitors only usually come to Dublin for a short time and tend to pack in a lot in a few days. If you are visiting Dublin for a only a short while, these are my suggestions for covering the main sites. My whistle-stop tour also recommends some great places to eat and the best places to enjoy a few drinks along the way. This is my guide to touring Dublin in a Day:
Early Morning Start
You will need a good start to your day. I would recommend trying an Irish breakfast to set you up for a long day ahead. Irish breakfasts are very similar to the classic English breakfast (e.g sausage, bacon, fried egg, etc.) the only difference is that an Irish breakfast includes white pudding. Strangely this simple added ingredient adds a whole new dimension to your breakfast and I personally think it’s worth trying. A great place have your large Irish breakfast is The Bad Ass Cafe which is located in the centre of Temple Bar.
Once your breakfast has settled, cross over the river and jump on the Luas (Dublin’s city tram). Make sure you get off at the Suir Road stop (Heuston station direction), here you can visit Kilmainham Gaol. Guided tours around the 18th century gaol will cost you €6; it’s a very informative tour where you will learn all about the history and it’s occupants. As you can imagine it isn’t very pro-Britain so if you’re English be prepared for a bit of Brit bashing!
By the end of the tour you’re likely to be ready for a pint. A great time to head to the Guinness Storehouse in South Dublin, you can walk but I would suggest jumping in a taxi. The Guinness Storehouse will take about two hours to walk around and unsurprisingly it’s Dublin’s most visited tourist attraction. If you decide to visit you’ll get a free pint at the end of the tour in the Gravity Bar which overlooks the city – an impressive view on a clear day. The entrance fee is a little steep, it costs €15.00 but you can get a 10% discount if you book online. It’s not just about getting a “free” pint, you will also learn about Guinness’s history, the ingredients used and a have a chance to visit the tasting laboratory. My personal favourite part of the tour is the Guinness advertising through the ages. Here you can view all the company’s adverts spanning several decades.
Late Lunch the Irish Way
Next stop is the famous central square Temple Bar and when here I would highly recommend a visit to the Elephant and Castle. If you do decide to make a stop make sure you try their chicken wings. If you ask any Dubliner about the Elephant and Castle, they’ll grin and say “chicken wings”. The burgers are also very good, as are the desserts and there is a nice selection of wines. Although if you are after something a little lighter, do as the Irish do and buy a soup and a sandwich from one of the many pubs. For those on a budget, a cheaper option would be to head across the Ha’penny Bridge to the Epicurean Food Hall. Here you can find food from all around the world – I would recommend La Corte Coffee Shop for an excellent salami calzone.
After a busy morning my suggested itinerary will now let you wind down a bit. I would recommend taking a stroll around Trinity College, especially if you are interested in beautiful manuscripts. For a fee in the college you can see the famous ‘Book of Kells.’ Once out of Trinity College you will find yourself near the bottom of Grafton Street. Make sure you say hello to Molly Malone (aka the Tart with the Cart!) before taking a walk up the well known shopping street. Grafton is a great area for shopping and has a large range of independent stores and boutiques shops. Although if you’re budget is tight, be careful – Grafton Street is the fifth most expensive main shopping street in the world! If shopping doesn’t appeal, take a walk around the beautiful Iveagh Gardens. They’re an impressive sight and were originally designed back in 1865 by Ninian Niven.
Once you’ve seen some sights, enjoyed the historical gardens and browsed some expensive shops you cannot possibly consider leaving Dublin without trying a pint in one of their world famous pubs. In every pub I’ve visited in Dublin (although admittedly I haven’t been to them all) I find they always offer a good pint of Guinness. To be honest I couldn’t see a pub in Dublin lasting long if it didn’t serve great pints of black stuff.
Dinner and a lively evening
Now you will probably want to eat dinner before the evening activities start. Parallel to Grafton Street is Dawson Street and here you will find lots of great bars and some very good restaurants. Two places that I would personally recommend are Marco Pierre White’s Steakhouse and Grill and Fire. If your pockets are quite deep and you fancy having the best steak in town then head to Shanahans on the Green. If none of these take your fancy just head to Temple Bar and you will find lots of lively mid range restaurants ranging from traditional Irish to American themed diners.
After dinner head to the bars on Dawson Street where you will find many of the locals drinking. Alternatively you can stay in the main tourist hub Temple Bar. You could also consider greyhound racing. The Irish love to gamble and I personally think dog racing is a great night out – you will even see children as young as ten placing bets! There are two race tracks, one is Shelbourne Park (open Saturdays) and the other is Harolds Cross (open Fridays). You can bet as much or a little as you want, enjoy a few drinks and hopefully have a good time. After the races, head back into town to spend your winnings, alternatively (if you’re like me) drown your sorrows.
Dublin is definitely worth a visit – it’s a fun and lively city as well as being beautiful, atmospheric and romantic. As you can probably imagine there are plenty more things to do in Dublin, these are just a few suggestions. If possible I would suggest staying a bit longer than a weekend and travel a bit further afield to Ireland’s other great cities of Cork, Galway, Kerry and a personal favourite of mine-Kilkenny.
by regular contributor Scott Balaam – please also check out his great Football blog FootieFun