Since I’ve moved to Ireland, Dublin has become my favourite Irish city. I’ve been visiting Dublin on a regular basis until 2017, when I finally decided to move there. Now I share my experience and knowledge with you in this Honest and Practical Guide to Dublin. It’s recommended to read the whole article to see this city from a different perspective and to better plan your own trip!
1. Top Places To See in Dublin
Kilmainham Gaol is definitely one of the most awesome places to visit in Dublin. I believe prisoners didn’t feel that way once it was still a functional jail… The adult ticket costs less than €10 and it’s worth it, as you’re getting a pretty interesting guided tour and you can even lock yourself in a cell (for a few moments, at least).
The Chester Beatty Museum and Library
According to its website “Chester Beatty is the pre-eminent Irish museum promoting the appreciation and understanding of world cultures with holdings of manuscripts, rare books, and other treasures from Europe, the Middle East, North Africa and Asia”. It’s not only my favourite museum in Dublin, but also it’s absolutely free. And it’s located next door to Dublin Castle and its gardens!
The National Botanic Gardens of Ireland
For nature oriented travelers Botanic Gardens is one of the best hidden gems around Dublin city centre. And wait for the best part – the entry is free! Well, unless you drive and you need to pay a symbolic parking fee. The Gardens are changing during the year accordingly to blossom seasons. You’ll find there also a small gardening area with plenty of vegetables and worth visiting glass houses with exotic plants, flowers and it’s own microclimate.
This place is not about the lighthouse, it’s about getting there. Walking over 1.4 km long kind-of-pier is an unique experience in Ireland. During the walk you can see the Dublin Harbour, iconic “Poolbeg Chimneys” as well as gigantic ferries passing very close to you! I love going there in the evenings, even after dark, when the sea is quiet and the wind usually not that strong. It’s one of Dublin’s secrets, probably because you need a car or a bike to go there. However if you don’t mind walking a long distance, you can start at Sandymount beach and get there in less than one hour (perhaps if the tide is very low, you can take a shorter beach walk).
Howth is one of the most expensive Dublin’s villages famous for it’s lovely harbour, sea food and cliff walk. The last one is highly recommended due to the views of Dublin Bay and good nature experience not that far from Ireland’s capital city centre. Unfortunately this is not a loop, meaning loads of walking; to be precise it’s 7.7 km without coming back to your car. The solution may be taking a train and having only half of the route, or small loop suitable for children. See these options on the map I created (if you use Google Maps you can save it on your phone and show/hide the map’s layers).
The name of this place will probably cause some trouble to foreigners, but apart from that it will bring only joy. It’s another Dublin’s village and the best alternative to Howth for those, who do not want to walk too much. Two piers, short and long one, both ending with tiny lighthouses, lovely town centre, short coastal walk and nice ice cream are the main reasons to come to Dún Laoghaire. Cyclists may take about 15 minutes greenway from there to Killiney village, too.
The oldest and the most prestigious university in Ireland is also a significant tourist attraction located in the heart of Dublin. There’re few options of guided tours available on the college’s website. Getting admission ticket online to Book of Kells is recommended! Nevertheless for me the main attraction was the stunning and magical library itself instead of the over 1000 years old manuscript. Yes, it is possible to visit Trinity’s squares and grounds on your own free of charge, however it’s good to read about its history and buildings before. Note: you can buy some food, drink or a pint in one of the campus eateries.
Guinness Storehouse & Jameson Distillery
These are the places to visit if you’re a fan of the most famous Irish drinks. I’ve never been to Jameson Distillery as I don’t like whiskey, however I’ve visited Guinness Storehouse, which is probably the most popular indoor attraction in Dublin. I think it’s overhyped. Perhaps I was expecting to see more about the production process, while it’s a regular museum and a terrace with an average view. Although I’ve enjoyed the place, to be honest I would not pay €25 to see it again. Not sure about Jameson, but I would just skip it for the same reason, unless you’re a fan of Irish Whiskey.
There are two canals rounding Dublin City Centre: The Royal Canal in the north and The Grand Canal in the south. The first one is 145 km long and starts in Termonbarry, while the second one is 132 km long and starts in Shannon.
If you stay in the area, it’s a good idea to walk along the canals around the nicest places (Wilton Terrace, Hubert Place, Warrington Place and Docklands for The Grand Canal and Whitworth Road and Royal Canal Way for the other). It’s beautiful in the autumn and very lively around Wilton Terrace/Hubert Place in the summer evenings due to plenty of young people enjoying the weather and few pints (which is rather not allowed).
If you’re a cyclist, it’s even a better idea to cycle along The Royal Canal from the city centre to Phoenix Park. What I do is cycle around both canals which is a loop about 21 km long, but this is an option for people who are really into cycling. Note there may be a heavy traffic along The Grand Canal (do not miss a bicycle lane on the other side of canal that starts/ends by Emmet Bridge) and some of the passing areas of Royal Canal close to the city centre may be dodgy. It’s possible to make it about 3 km longer choosing alternative route through the Memorial Gardens. See these routes in the map below (or save it on your phone if you use Google Maps).
National Museum of Ireland
Complex of four different museums and several seasonal exhibitions, all with free admission. It’s rather poor compared to museums in other European capital cities, however if you’re into art or miserable weather has changed your original plans, why not give it a chance? If you’re travelling with kids, they should enjoy the great collection of animals in the Natural History Museum. It’s definitely better to come here than to pricey museums such as the Museum of Wax or National Leprechaun Museum, which may be considered as a tourist’s traps.