Top 10 things to do in Dublin Dublin Guide

Top 10 things to do in Dublin

Dublin has a bad reputation for being an expensive city - where the price tags rival the expense of London. The truth however is that it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg to enjoy the Irish capital. Here are some top tips on how to save, what to see and where it’s worth getting your wallet out.

Book your hostel now in Dublin

Top 10 things to do in Dublin; Getting There

If you’re flying into Dublin from London, then the cheapest approach is to book a flight with Ryanair and jet out from Stansted Airport. With hand luggage only, a European Passport and Online Check In, you can knock the cost down to a mere £20 return. This includes taxes. Also this combination of tricky, online box ticking automatically entitles you to priority boarding, which means that those emergency isle seats with extra leg room are yours! When you exit the terminal there are two options for the budget conscious when it comes to getting to the city centre.

The €6 regular bus of the €7 luxury Aircoach. The air conditioning, speed and leather seats are most certainly work the extra Euro. On the other hand if you have a little more cash and time to spare and you fancy a scenic route to Dublin through the English and Welsh countryside, grab a train from London Euston, ride it all the way up to Holyhead and board a ferry. There are over night and fast track boat options when get to Holyhead.

11 Dublin Avalon House

Accommodation

The Avalon House is snappy little hostel where you can make the most of the free Wifi, gorge yourself on the very generous breakfasts and walk into the city centre with the greatest of ease. There’s a great communal atmosphere, travellers from every walk of life and some classic architecture to boot. You’ll find it at 55 Aungier Street, just south of the river and the plethora of attractions that make Temple Bar so buzzing.

There’s also a self catering kitchen for those days when the travel budget has been stretched beyond its elastic limit and you need a cheap eat. Alternatively the receptionists are bursting with great tips for cheap eats at local restaurants. A tried and tested example is Café Bliss, just south of the hostel on Charlotte Way. You can’t go wrong with three courses for €10! On rainy days you can swap a deposit for an umbrella at hostel reception and there are usually free lollipops on offer here too!

Money Savers

I was dubious as to whether a global enterprise like the City Sightseeing Bus Tours could offer a unique and enjoyable experience when the commentators drive the same route every day and answer the same questions. Cynicism aside the Dublin Tour is in fact an entertaining experience, a great shelter from the unpredictable, year round torrential downpours and a fantastic way to get around the city – with the hop on, hop off option.

The clockwise city circuit takes in Trinity College, St Stephen’s Green, the ecclesiastical clusters around St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo, the Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin Writers Museum and much more. Tickets are valid for 24 hours and will cost your around €15 each.

The Dublin Writers Museum

The Writers Museum is crammed with intriguing snippets from the literary past, including an extensive collection of Oscar Wilde relics and also, a fair few James Joyce masterpieces. Other enthralling exhibits include a wealth of information on realist Irish writer – Maria Edgeworth, a great chunk of fun on George Bernard Shaw and some amazing insights into the offerings of word smith extraordinaire, William Butler Yeats.

His work – Countess Kathleen is explained in great detail, noting the countess who sold her soul to save her peasants. Apparently the subject was based loosely on the unobtainable love of Yeats’ life – Maud Gonne. You’ll find this dinner party trivia and much more in the museum, and if you’re lucky, you’ll drop in on a day when new writers are premiering their work for no extra cost! Tickets are a worthwhile investment at €7.25.

The Old Jameson Distillery

Branding a tour of the 228-year-old Jameson Distillery as hip, edgy, and fun is no simple task. Some would argue it’s as difficult as two Irishmen going to the pub for one drink – impossible in a culture where buying rounds is second nature. The hip, edgy and fun titles are however thoroughly earned by a creative approach, regular audience involvement and generous whiskey samples.

From the crisp introductory video and multi sensory media to the guided whiskey tasting and friendly staff, you can be assured that you’ll leave the distillery with an ability to tell Jameson apart from perhaps lesser, Scottish or American whiskies. The Jameson Whiskey Experience truly is an essential addition to any Dubliner’s itinerary. Try the whiskey cranberry mix when you finish the tour in Jameson’s JJ Bar. It’s surprisingly good. Cheers.

The Guinness Storehouse

As your introductory tour guide may inform you, Guinness is not in fact black. It’s actually a really, really dark shade of red. The simple ingredients are Hops, Barley, Water and Yeast, and you get the best taste by smelling, swirling, sipping and swallowing. Your first Guinness sample comes midway through the tour and is the perfect appetite whetting, lip licking precursor to the full pint at the end in the Gravity Bar.

The Gravity Bar on top of the Storehouse visitors centre at the St James Gate Guinness brewery in Dublin Ireland. Image shot 2008. Exact date unknown.

 

The views from this top floor, glass walled, circle bar – over Dublin and the surrounding countryside are quite simply stunning. Your ticket stub can be exchanged for a pint but during the handover, why not ask if they have anything else on tap. That one can’t get old. Other highlights of this multi-media tour include international advertising campaigns throughout the ages and useful Guinness trivia. For example did you know that four million pints of Guinness are brewed in Ireland every day. Two million are for export and the rest are for domestic consumption. The population of Ireland is just over four million. Standard tickets are €15.

Trinity College and the Book of Kells

The college is also home to the Book of Kells – regarded by some as one of Ireland’s most notable national treasures. In a nutshell it’s a text collection compiled by Celtic monks in the eighth century. It boasts four gospels of the New Testament, many incredible illustrations and back in the day, it was one of the most valuable objects in Ireland.

Think of this college at the Irish equivalent to Harvard or Cambridge. It’s super scenic and for €10 you can follow a starving student around the campus, exchanging your beer funding cash for historical high jinx. One particularly memorable tale involves former university Provost – George Salmon. His response to the English monarch declaring universities open to women was: “Over my dead body.” Ironically when women were allowed in, it was through a gate above his burial ground.

Christchurch Cathedral

This isn’t a massive cathedral by any standard but if you want to tick the ecclesiastical culture box, there’s more than enough inside here to keep you entertained. In the not too distant past the organ was replaced and inside one of the vacuum pipes, the mummified remains of a cat and a rat were found. The two almost perfectly preserved creatures are now on display in the extensive underground tombs. To this day they look like they’re engaged in the chase and both still possess the whiskers that you think, would have saved them from such a fate.

Also in the tomb (strangely restored with funding from a private health care company) you will find an intricate history of Ireland – complete with poster timelines and video installations. On a sidebar – avoid the horrific Dublina exhibit next door to the cathedral. It’s a dire experience crammed with irritating, high pitched school children and should be given a wide birth at all costs. That’s if you wish to maintain a shred of sanity.

christchurch cathedral

The Hugh Lane Gallery

You’ll find this completely free exhibit, slightly north of the city and next door to the Writers Museum on Parnell Street West. The best bit of this is unquestionably the Francis Bacon studio – shipped over from London and painstakingly reassembled to display, inch by inch, the workspace as the great artist left it. Paints were tested and mixed on walls, not much was ever thrown away and the canvas in progress is where Mr Bacon placed it last. Surrounding said studio is a gallery and the completed pieces on display include the pause inducing, Kneeling Figure – Back View c. 1980 -82. This is related to the artist’s exploration of the human body and Bacon’s ethos: “I believe in deeply ordered chaos.”

Once upon a time during a cash flow crisis in Monte Carlo, Bacon started painting on both sides of the canvas to make as much money as possible from his gift and thereby fund his journey out of there. Doing this however taught Bacon that painting on the wrong (brown) side of the canvas actually enhanced his work and from then on most of his pieces, including the ones in the gallery, were painted like this!

national concert hall

National Concert Hall

When tickets for the majority of performances start at €10 each, you can’t really go wrong. Also like most things in Dublin, it’s a short walk away from the Avalon House hostel.

This national treasure can be found on Earlsfort Terrace, just south of St Stephen’s Green. The acoustics in here are good enough to match most world class stages and you’re assured a talented treat every time you buy a ticket, because to play here you have to be world class. At intermission they serve gingerbread men and if you rock up late, you can watch the beginning on a huge plasma TV screen in the foyer, before being ushered in between pieces.

Performances here range from The Hiberian Orchestra’s Summer Promenade to Billy Connolley and beyond.