If you are checking out Ireland’s capital solo, you’ll be happy to learn that Dublin’s a famously social city, and you’ll have no problem getting involved in the pubs, coffee shops and restaurants whilst travelling on your own. If you prefer some quiet time, though, there are plenty of activities that lend themselves to finding a bit of peace too. Here are a few of the best options for those going stag in the city of Wilde and Joyce.
Explore the National Museum of Ireland – Natural History
The spot known to local children as the ‘dead animal zoo’ is a great drop in, in part because there are subtle historical undertones to be taken from the ornately displayed wildlife. From international endangered animals (all killed a century ago) upstairs to the local flora and fauna downstairs, you’ll learn about the difficulties faced by the mammoth great Irish deer, the size of the fish that used to reside in the Liffey River, and just how big a lobster can get. (There are lots of other good museums too.)
One of the capital’s less heralded must-dos, the Great South Wall is a 1.5-kilometre (0.9-mile) sea wall jutting into the Dublin Bay, creating, effectively, a road to nowhere. On the trail between two stretches of sea, you’ll see ferries pull into the port, watch seabirds soar ahead, and eventually arrive at a stark red lighthouse and walls decorated with loved-up hippie graffiti. It’s perfectly serene.
Dublin’s pubs fall into loose categories. There’s a growing abundance of craft beer pubs competing for the most original array on tap. There are ample sports bars. And then there’s the ‘old man pub’, which is distinct from the tourist pub in that it tends to pass on the faux-trad and, typically, be so empty that economic sustainability confounds. These pubs have all the hallmarks of Irish pub culture and are the perfect place for a quiet pint and an indulgent, atmospheric bit of reading or writing. The Boar’s Head, address below, is one of the city’s best.
One of Europe’s largest walled parks, Phoenix Park is full of attractions, ranging from the President’s House (Aras An Uachtarain – where tours are sometimes available if booked ahead) to the zoo, the magazine fort, visitor centre, and the famous herds of deer. Tracking the latter down can be an all-day adventure, and the park – which acts as the city’s lungs – is a wonderful place to spend a mellow, colourful day.
Tucked away to the south of St Patrick’s Cathedral, Fumbally Cafe is an organic, hippie-leaning café where the menu changes regularly, and it is one of the best spots to slow down in the city. Think unusual drink combinations, colourful salads, healthy breakfasts and fiercely varied roasts in the coffee grinder. Their policy insists that no table belongs to any one group, making the ‘share tables’ a perfect place to go it alone.
The Trinity College Library’s less glamorous cousin has the scent of ancient tomes as soon as you walk through the ornate doors. With over 25,000 books, including some of Ireland’s most important, this was the country’s first public library when it first opened in 1707 and so has seen much of a nation’s great literary heritage come and go. Added entertainment, such as a hunt for hidden Lego figurines, makes this a great place to explore in depth. (Closed Tuesdays and Sundays).
It can be hard to find good trad pubs in Dublin – some locals preciously guard their favourites, and most of the ones recommended in the guide books will be noticeably absent of actual Irish people. They’re there, though, and this musical pub crawl is a good way to get a glance at a few of them whilst meeting some new people and hearing some tales. You’ll be exploring both Irish music and the national pastime, drinking, which is a little frowned upon to do alone. It’s a great way to dig in.
Join a casual Dublin running group
There are several groups that meet regularly on various evenings, inviting strangers to plod around the city streets at various degrees of pace and ability. Most of these events – in typical Irish fashion – close with sociable pints and are a great way to get to know a few people and explore the city at the same time. A good way to learn about the groups (and plenty of other sociable events) is through the MeetUp website. We particularly like this one, which is impressively multinational.
Try walking Dublin’s only (known) pub-free route
There’s a map commonly sold in Dublin marking the city’s greatest evils. According to that map, those evils are pubs, and what it makes painfully apparent is that there are a lot of them. So many that James Joyce joked in his classic Ulysses that it would be impossible to cross the city without passing one. It turned out that problem took 89 years and a software developer to solve (finally, in 2011), but it makes for a unique alternative stroll across the city – followed by a pint, naturally.