Dublin, the heart of the Republic of Ireland, is a truly wonderful city to visit. Located on the country’s east coast along the River Liffey, the cultural capital is full of historic buildings and landscaped gardens.
The lively pub scene is one of the best in the world, and the amount of literary and cultural history here will definitely inspire you. The city has produced some of the world’s best thinkers, as well as the best liquor! From Oscar Wilde to Guinness and Jameson, the locals will show you how to expand your mind during the day and have an enjoyable evening out.
As you’ll soon find out, there’s an endless amount of incredible Dublin attractions that will keep you entertained throughout your entire trip. Follow this Dublin travel guide to discover all of the best things to see, do, and eat in the Irish capital.
This ultimate travel guide to Dublin will show you all the most beautiful places in Dublin, what to expect when visiting, where to stay in Dublin and things to do in Dublin which will help you in planning a trip to Dublin.
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How to get to Dublin
Dublin’s international airport is 10 kilometres north of the city. Many low-cost airlines now fly to Dublin and there are hundreds of daily flights, so visiting is more affordable than ever.
To get from the airport into the city, there is an express bus service called Airlink. This public bus departs from Terminal 1 Arrivals and takes about 40 minutes. It costs €6 one way or €10 for a return fare. There’s also Aircoach, which is a 24-hour service. It departs from both Terminal 1 Arrivals and Terminal 2 Departures every 15 minutes. The fare is €7 one way or €12 return.
Travellers coming from the UK can also arrive via ferry. Dublin Port is minutes from the city centre by the number 53 bus. The Liverpool to Dublin ferry takes around eight hours, while the Irish Ferries can take you from Holyhead, Wales to Dublin in three-and-a-half hours.
What to expect in Dublin
English and Irish are both official languages in the Republic of Ireland. Despite Irish being the first national language, English is more predominantly spoken as a native language. In fact, less than a third of the country’s population can speak Irish, compared to the 99% who speak English. As a result, you’ll find English street signs and menus everywhere you go.
The currency used in Dublin is the euro. 10 per cent tips are happily accepted, though not necessarily expected unless you are somewhere particularly touristy. There has been some recent controversy this year around service charges going towards the owners of an establishment, rather than to the servers. If you see a service charge is listed but want to make sure your servers are being tipped, feel free to ask and personally tip in cash.
How to get around Dublin
Dubin has numerous modes of public transport, making it easy to get anywhere you need. That being said, the central area is very pedestrian-friendly, so you may not even need to use transport very often.
If your feet get sore, the best option around the city is the Dublin Bus. An adult fare within the city centre is €2.15 and can be purchased on board using exact coins. If you’re planning on exploring the main sites in Dublin only, the hop-on-hop-off bus is perfect as well.
If you’re travelling between the north to the south sides of Dublin, or along the Dublin Bay coastline, Dublin Area Rapid Transit (DART) is the most convenient option. These trains are fast, yet will be busy during peak commuting hours. The LUAS tram network also connects the city to outer neighbourhoods if you’re looking to explore further.
The best time to visit Dublin
If you don’t mind higher hotel prices and increased crowds, June to September is the best time to visit Dublin. Not only is it summertime and therefore the warmest weather, but it’s also when the majority of festivals are held.
In June, there’s Taste of Dublin and LGBTQ Pride, and in July and August, you’ve got the Dublin Irish Festival and the Electric Picnic Festival. There are a lot of art and theatre events in September, include the Dublin Fringe Festival and the Dublin Theatre Festival, as well as the Dublin Festival of History.
Another popular time to visit is during Saint Patrick’s Day in March. Experiencing Dublin during the city’s biggest festival of the year will guarantee your trip is one to remember.
On the other hand, if you’d like to avoid the crowds, spring and autumn are milder yet enjoyable seasons.
Things to do in Dublin
Wondering how to pass the time during your trip? Here are some of the best things to do in Dublin, Ireland:
Shop along Grafton Street
The number one place to shop in Dublin is Grafton Street. It’s one of the most expensive shopping streets in the world, with many global fashion brands and fancy restaurants. The narrow, winding thoroughfare begins at Saint Stephen’s Green and ends at College Green, spanning only 600 metres.
If you’d prefer to window shop, there are always street performers and buskers about to keep you entertained. Coming to Grafton Street on Christmas Eve is a popular tradition among Dublin families, as the intimate street becomes its most fun and festive.
Get to know Dublin Castle
The historic heart of the city, Dublin Castle, takes up over 44,000 square metres near Dame Street. The Irish government complex dates back to the 13th century and has been used as a royal residence, military garrison, and defence fortification. The Record Tower, next to the Chapel Royal, is the only remaining tower of the original medieval castle. This well-known attraction is ideal for learning about Ireland’s history, or simply wandering around and appreciating the historical architecture.
On the grounds of Dublin Castle is the Chester Beatty Library, a museum which houses a range of unique collections. The two main collections, Sacred Traditions and Artistic Traditions, both display Persian, Turkish, Arabic, Islamic and Western pieces. You’ll find a range of fascinating manuscripts, drawings, papyri, and religious texts.
Check out Temple Bar
While the name might confuse you, Temple Bar refers to an entire neighbourhood within central Dublin. It’s one of the top cultural hotspots in the city and has become super trendy over the past few decades. Today, the area is made up of cobbled pedestrian-only streets, a ton of busy pubs with live music, and incredible restaurants serving international cuisine.
Of course, there is a bar within the area called Temple Bar. The iconic dark-red corner building always has people coming and going. With a selection of over 450 different whiskeys, scotch and bourbon, this is no surprise! Since this bar is so popular with tourists, it can be pretty crowded and difficult to find seating. That said, it’s worth stopping by for a look before moving on to other more low-key pubs.
Visit the Oscar Wilde House
The famous poet and playwright Oscar Wilde was born and raised in Dublin. The Wilde family home, now a part of Trinity College, is open for guided tours by appointment. Even from the outside, you can see that the house is a stunning example of Georgian architecture. Wilde’s mother would hold salons here as he was growing up, and many prominent literary figures would gather to discuss poetry.
Across the street in the corner of Merrion Square is a stone statue of Oscar Wilde lounging on a large white quartz boulder. The surrounding park is filled with granite pillars engraved with many of his best-known quotes. Take some time to stroll around this green, leafy area at your leisure
Admire the Christ Church Cathedral
One of Dublin’s foremost architectural gems is the Christ Church Cathedral in the middle of the city. Founded in 1030, it’s one of Dublin’s oldest structures, though it has been rebuilt over the centuries. For instance, the exterior was almost completely resurfaced during restoration in 1875, yet the original Norman style of the church remains.
A guide can take you up to the top of the bell tower and give you some interesting insights into the church’s long history. Even if you don’t have time to go inside, stop by and marvel at the incredible stonework, stained glass windows, and landscaped gardens.
Explore the old Kilmainham Gaol
The former prison known as Kilmainham Gaol is a fascinating attraction in Dublin. Decommissioned as a prison in 1924, the building was eventually restored and opened to the public as a museum in 1971.
You can enter the cells of renowned prisoners like Robert Emmet and see crafts made by past inmates. Both genders were imprisoned here without segregation, although women were treated far worse than the men.
During the late 18th and early 19th centuries, public hangings were conducted in front of the prison. Many will tell you eerie stories about hauntings and ghostly sightings. The gaol has become a significant part of Dublin’s history and culture, with numerous movies being filmed here, including the video clip for the U2 song ‘A Celebration’.
What to eat in Dublin
Irish cuisine is full of many hearty and traditional dishes that you’ll love trying out. Here are some of the top local foods to taste while in Dublin:
- Soda bread: Slices of bread made with bicarb soda and buttermilk, eaten with a ton of butter. There are so many family recipes for soda bread that no two will taste the same. Some prefer it sweet with honey and sugar, while health nuts will include seeds and oats.
- Irish stew: A one-pot dish made with mutton, potatoes, onions, parsley and thyme. These days, lamb is more commonly used in place of mutton, which is harder to find. On a cold day, this will be your go-to meal.
- Colcannon: A common side dish of mashed potatoes, cabbage, butter and spring onions.
- Boxty: A traditional potato pancake topped with spring onions. It’s usually served for breakfast alongside eggs and bacon. Fancier cafes or restaurants, however, may plate it up with smoked salmon, cream, and grilled tomato. (pictured below)
- Bacon and cabbage: A pretty self-explanatory family favourite. Large boiled bacon chunks are used, rather than the thinner rashers you may be used to. Mashed potatoes are often added as well, and a parsley sauce is poured liberally over the entire plate.
Where to stay in Dublin
For the trip of a lifetime, stay at the extravagant Merrion Hotel. Created from four Georgian townhouses, the hotel includes a cocktail bar, a spa, a steam room, private dining rooms, and a two-star Michelin restaurant. Many of the elegantly designed rooms and suites overlook beautifully landscaped gardens. At the Merrion, you’re guaranteed to experience old-world charm with the very finest service.
For a comfortable stay without the hefty price, there’s the Sandymount Hotel. The rooms are warm, cosy and minimalist. Located right by the Lansdowne Road DART station, the hotel is a relaxing place to come back to for a peaceful night’s sleep.
There aren’t many budget-friendly accommodation options in Dublin other than hostels. Fortunately, many are modern, clean and centrally located. Ashfield Hostel and Abrahams Hostel are two of the top-rated hostels in Dublin City Centre, with both dorm beds and private rooms available. Free walking tours and a simple breakfast are offered daily.
Airbnb is also a great option for short or long stays.
Tours to do in Dublin
One of the most enjoyable ways to see the city is on the Dublin Viking Duck Sightseeing Tour. Take to the River Liffey in a remodelled amphibian warcraft boat while you wear a Viking hat. You’ll pass attractions like the Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle and Saint Patrick’s Cathedral as you practice your Viking roars. If you’re travelling with your family, don’t miss this entertaining tour for all ages.
A two-hour electric bike tour is an option as well. See both the top attractions and the lesser-known sites as you easily get around on a motorised bike. It’s a great way to soak up the charming culture and history of Dublin without getting too tired.
As you discovered earlier, Dublin has some incredible culinary options. A three-hour food tour will introduce you to some of the city’s most popular restaurants and pubs that offer traditional Irish cuisine. You can also learn how a classic Irish coffee is made.
Once you’ve covered the food scene, you can become better acquainted with Irish whiskey! A one-hour guided tour of the Irish Whiskey Museum starts by educating you about the development of whiskey throughout the centuries and amusing you with a few anecdotes. It ends with a complimentary whiskey tasting session, where you can sample different brands of Irish whiskey.
If you want to visit the popular Guinness Storehouse, you can purchase a skip-the-line entrance ticket in advance on Viator. This tour is self-guided so you can explore at your own pace. It’s recommended that you set aside at least an hour and a half, although you’ll likely find yourself wanting to stay for as long as you can.
Throughout the seven floors of the brewery, you can learn about the history of Guinness, the brewing process, and its founder, Arthur Guinness. Of course, you can also sample a free pint at the Gravity Bar, which overlooks the city from high above. Since the Guinness Storehouse closes at seven o’clock, you should definitely arrive by mid-afternoon at the latest.
Day trips from Dublin
Dublin’s location creates a myriad of opportunities for fun day trips.
Firstly, there’s a 13-hour day trip to the Cliffs of Moher, a 14-kilometre stretch of sea cliffs. Take a luxury coach to County Clare, where you’ll embark on a walk across the amazing cliffs. Look out and see the stunning Aran Islands, and explore more of Burren National Park. You’ll also get a chance to visit the charming village of Doolin for lunch, then wander Galway’s vibrant Latin Quarter.
Another great trip you can take is to the famous Blarney Castle. Depart from central Dublin in an air-conditioned coach to County Kildare, a few kilometres from the city of Cork. The medieval castle stands 27 metres high and dates back to 1446.
The castle is perhaps best known for the Blarney Stone. Legend has it that those who kiss the stone will receive “the gift of the gab”, or eloquence when speaking. After kissing the stone, continue travelling through the picturesque Irish countryside and visit Cahir Castle and the Rock of Cashel.
A different scenic tour to go on is a nine-hour trip to Wicklow County. Take a guided tour of the sixth-century monastic ruins in Glendalough, hike through the breathtaking Wicklow Mountain National Park, and shop for unique Irish crafts at Avoca Handweavers. You can also stop at Sally’s Gap, where scenes from Braveheart were filmed, as well as the romantic bridge from the movie ‘P.S. I Love You’.
Recommended tours in Dublin
- Cliffs of Moher Day Trip from Dublin
- Wild Wicklow Tour including Glendalough from Dublin
- Blarney Castle Day Trip from Dublin
- Limerick, Cliffs of Moher, Burren and Galway Bay Rail Tour from Dublin
- Northern Ireland Highlights Day Trip Including Giant’s Causeway from Dublin
- Celtic Boyne Valley Day Trip from Dublin
- Skip the Line: Guinness Connoisseur Taste Experience at the Guinness Storehouse
- Book of Kells Early Access Tour with Dublin Castle
- Jameson Distillery Bow St. Experience
- Game of Thrones® & Giants Causeway from Dublin (Touring Exhibition on Summer)
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