Dublin is a vibrant city filled with trendy pubs, cultural activities and shopping – where everything is generally within easy access. The Irish capital has experienced tremendous growth in the last decade, and the result is a mix of modern facilities that adds to the historic Georgian architecture and charm. And, most importantly, you’ll enjoy the Irish hospitality.
Dublin is organized into six quarters, and it’s possible to experience all neighborhoods even if you have a short amount of time. If your focus is travel to Dublin to spend time in the city, renting a car may be more of a hindrance than helpful. But if you want to leave the city and drive on the wrong side of the road … on the wrong side of the car, Sixt Street Car Rental has a location at the airport as well as central Dublin (about a 10 minute walk from St. Stephen’s Green). Dublin is a relaxed city, so rely on the Hop-on Hop-off bus, walk the streets, and use taxis as needed to maximize your time.
Dublin is scenic, friendly and safe. It also offers state of the art conference facilities. This is important to business travelers and others when choosing to travel places. So, if you’re traveling to Ireland for a meeting and find some spare time in your schedule or wish to extend your business travel for a day in Dublin, you have plenty of choices. Consider the following travel tips when visiting Dublin:
Tour the Guinness Storehouse and View the City from Gravity Bar
When you think of Dublin, you think of Guinness. The Guinness Storehouse was originally the fermentation house built between 1902 and 1904. Today, it is one of the most visited attractions in Dublin – a seven floor visitor center that provides a comprehensive overview of the brewing process that goes into the famous stout. The Guinness Storehouse begins on the ground floor with the world’s largest pint glass that rises through the center of the building. But it’s at Gravity Bar – on the top floor – where you will have an opportunity to taste Guinness and view Dublin from its vantage point. It is open daily at 9:30 a.m. and the last admission is at 5 p.m. Travel tip: take the hop on/hop off bus to visit. (Museum Quarter)
Tour the Kilmainham Dublin Jail
Initially built in 1796 and closed in 1924, Kilmainham Gaol (it’s official name) was a prison for men, women and children. The majority of Irish leaders in the rebellions were all imprisoned there, including Robert Emmet, Charles Stewart Parnell and the leaders of the 1916 Rising. It also housed prisoners during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21). This is a busy tourist attraction, but the tour of Kilmainham is worth the time and wait. A tour of the Kilmainham jail may be one of the best ways to understand Ireland’s past and it’s sense of nationalism today. Travel tip: take the hop on/hop off bus to visit. (Museum Quarter)
Visit Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral
A trip to any European city seems as if it must include a visit to the local castle and churches, and Dublin is no exception. Dublin Castle by its own admission is not an architectural wonder, but it does have an interesting 800 year history. And the 1 hour guided tour is definitely worth taking. From here, take a short walk to Christ Church Cathedral, founded in 1030. It has a rich cultural history which can be traced from the Vikings and the Anglo-Normals to the present. Make sure you head downstairs to the crypt where you can view many artifacts and other historical features. I noticed two somewhat unusual exhibits that are unique to Christ Church Cathedral that you will not see elsewhere. The first is “The Cat and the Rat” (you’ll have to visit to learn its significance). The second is a must-see for fans of the Showtime series, “The Tudors,” because some scenes have been filmed here. There is a display of the wedding costumes used by the actors who played Henry VIII and Jane Seymour who was Henry’s third wife. (Historic Quarter)
Tour the Old Jameson Distillery and Enjoy a Whiskey
Many people believe that whiskey was first distilled in Scotland, but the Jameson Distillery tour will teach you that it first started in Ireland. Regardless, a visit to the Old Jameson Distillery shares the story of John Jameson and how he transformed three ingredients – water, barley and yeast – into a smooth golden spirit. The tour ends with a Jameson drink of your choice and a whiskey comparison tasting for a few lucky volunteers (unfortunately, I wasn’t selected). Travel tip: take a taxi here to save time. (Museum Quarter)
Shopping on Grafton Street and Henry Street
Dublin is an amazing city that should be walked, but two pedestrian only streets exist specifically for shopping. Grafton Street (South Georgian Quarter) runs from St. Stephen’s Green to College Green. Here, you’ll find popular spots like Brown Thomas (designer retail) and Bewley’s Café. Henry Street (North Georgian Quarter) is located on the north side of the river and you’ll find more of the popular shopping, including Arnotts and Marks and Spencer. Henry seems longer because it extends into Earl Street and further, but you don’t notice the change so don’t lose your spot on the map. On both streets you’ll find a mix of shops, pubs, high end retail and street performers. Travel tip: it’s an easy 10 minute walk to Henry Street from Jameson Distillery – this was the path I followed.
Enjoy a Dublin Pub (The Bank)
Dublin is filled with cafes, pubs and restaurants, so whether it’s lunch or dinner, you should choose a spot where you can sit back and relax. The Bank on College Green is conveniently located near Trinity College, Dublin Castle and Temple Bar, and serves Irish cuisine. The Bank is named in reference to The Belfast Bank, which opened its doors here in 1895 with remarkable Victorian architecture that remains today. My choice: a pint and the Braised Beef & Guinness Stew. If you’re alone, feel free to grab at seat at the bar and chat with the bartender. The Bank has received several hospitality awards. (South Georgian Quarter)
Experience Croke Park
Like other Dublin attractions, Croke Park is located within a convenient walk or taxi ride. Europe’s third largest stadium with a capacity of 82,300, Croke Park is home to the Gaelic Athletic Association. Consider a stadium tour, including the GAA Museum, or check the schedule for tickets to a game, cultural event or possibly concerts. (North Georgian Quarter)
Join a Literary Pub Crawl and Stroll Dublin by Night
Whether you’re traveling alone or with someone else, it always makes the trip more memorable to join group tours. Doing this in Dublin means you should participate in a pub crawl – and a literary pub crawl is perhaps one of the best ways to learn a few details about the city’s past while experiencing Dublin at the same time. My Dublin Literary Pub Crawl began at The Duke where actors Derek Reid and Frank Smith sang songs and shared the stories of famous Irish writers (e.g., James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde). In addition to pubs, some stories are told on the streets, and my tour stopped at Trinity College along the way. So although I did not have enough time to include the Book of Kells at Trinity College on my visit, at least I had a chance to walk through the courtyard. Roughly 35-50 people participate in the pub crawl. Remember to grab something to eat before to the crawl! (Temple Bar Quarter)
Experience an Irish Music and Dance Night (Dinner Theater Show)
The Arlington Hotel O’Connell Bridge is centrally located and offers daily dinner theater shows that include Irish food, Irish music and Irish dancing. Dinner sittings begin 30 minutes to as much as 1 ½ hours prior to the show, and the meal is fantastic. The Irish Braised Beef in Guinness (fork tender) with caramelized red onion, fondant potato and rich au jus was hearty and fantastic. (Temple Bar Quarter)
Join in Dublin Nightlife: A Pint, Whiskey and Music
Temple Bar in Dublin is a small area where you’ll find restaurants, shops and pubs, but it’s definitely a spot that’s part of the nightlife here. Tip: it is an easy walk from the Arlington Hotel, so head here after the dinner theater show. The Quays (pronounced “keys”) bar is an iconic pub where you’ll hear a mix of live Irish and popular music. Patrons at the bar sing along and find a few inches of space to dance. It may be small and crowded, but it’s a must for tourists (locals enjoy it, too). For a more traditional Irish experience, stop by Oliver St. John Gogarty just down the street. Or if it’s a more subdued spot you’re seeking, The Palace Bar is popular for a whiskey (and also down the street). You are in Dublin, so you will have more than enough choices for the evening. If you’re staying near St. Stephen’s Green and looking for something a bit more upscale, Café en Seine, located on Dawson Street across from the Mayor’s residence, is one of Dublin’s most stylish bars (check times for when they close).
Choose a Dublin Hotel
The Shelbourne Hotel Dublin is ideally located on St. Stephen’s Green, and is Dublin’s larest 5 star hotel with 265 guestrooms, including 19 suites. This is where I stayed (South Georgian Quarter). The Shelbourne is a Marriott Renaissance Hotel, but when you step inside you’ll know you are in a historic hotel associated with Ireland’s political elite. (I noticed Jonathan’s Barber Shop in the lower lobby, but did not have the opportunity to use it.). The Lord Mayor’s Lounge is comfortable restaurant that’s opened daily for breakfast and lunch. It offers a pleasant, full Irish breakfast (i.e., fried eggs, sausage, bacon, mushrooms, blood pudding and beans), as well as fruit, cheeses, breads and other meats for those of us who may prefer European continental breakfast choices. It’s worth highlighting that my experience with the front desk and concierge was excellent. Dublin has more than 200 hotels and guesthouses.
If you’re looking for help with planning your visit, the Dublin Tourist Office is available. Learn more about what to do at VisitDublin.com.
Updated. Initially published September 23, 2011.