Dubliners are a friendly lot and know their city like the back of their hands, so if you’re trying to find a great restaurant or secret speakeasy bar, someone will always point you in the right direction. However, if you’re still at the packing and planning stage of your trip, Culture Trip has you covered with this Dubliner-approved list of tips for getting the most out of your stay.
Short on time during your stay? Make the most of your brief visit by combining three of Dublin’s strengths at once – its gastronomy, its history and its gorgeous green spaces. “Take a picnic – some oysters or an Irish tuna salad and a cold craft beer from our restaurant, The Washerwoman – and go sit in the historical Glasnevin Cemetery. You can see the historical graves or trace your Irish genealogy,” says Elaine Murphy, director of The Winding Stair group of restaurants. “Walk through the famous Botanic Gardens, and relish the restorative air of the Victorian hothouses.” St Stephen’s Green, with its shady sycamore trees and idyllic duck pond, is also an ideal picnic spot.
Dublin’s main mode of public transport is the Luas, or tram system – two lines (Green and Red) access most central Dublin landmarks. For others, there are frequent buses, and for short hops to the coast, the DART railway network is your friend. Get a Leap Visitor Card to save yourself time and money. “It’s simply the best and easiest way to get around Dublin on the Luas and the other rail and bus transport options,” says Dervla Brophy, communications manager for Transdev, which operates the Luas. “You can even travel to and from the airport at the start and end of your trip without any additional charge.”
“Pack for all seasons,” continues Brophy. “Dubliners carry sun cream and umbrellas and talk about the weather all the time – it’s a national pastime.” Layers are always a good idea. Since Dublin’s buildings can be well heated in the colder months, you’ll often find yourself having to shed your clothing indoors. If making a day trip to Bray or another coastal town, remember that temperatures can be far colder than in the city centre. Remember to pack green clothes if you’re visiting for St Patrick’s Day – a tradition that originated among Irish immigrants in New York before being imported back to the homeland.
“Visit the Dublin Writers Museum and be inspired by our literary heroes and heroines,” says Cathy Kavanagh, operations supervisor for the Dublin Writers Museum. Ireland’s literary heritage is woven into its culture and land, from its landscapes to its pubs. You could fill several weeks hitting all of Dublin’s literary landmarks, from Oscar Wilde’s statue to Jonathan Swift’s grave, not to mention all the boutique bookstores. A great way to take it all in is with a guided tour or a literary pub crawl, which takes in the pubs frequented by James Joyce and other Irish literati.
“Soak up the culture by experiencing some of the many guided tours available – including the Irish Whiskey Museum tours, of course,” says Megan Palmer, marketing manager at the Irish Whiskey Museum. “Ireland has a rich, turbulent history, and no one tells a story quite like the Irish!” Unique Dublin tours include literary pub crawls (see above), musical history tours where you’re encouraged to join in with the songs, historical “Hidden Dublin” walks and, of course, the classic hop-on, hop-off bus tour. It’s also recommended to take one of Dublin’s many museum tours that bring centuries-old artefacts to life.
Dubliners are a sociable lot, so fiddling with your phone won’t win you any friends. “Put away your phones, talk to as many people as you can and have the craic,” says Eoin Bulfin, general manager of The Hairy Lemon pub. Another pub etiquette tip: Always order the Guinness first, as those pints need time to settle while the bar staff attend to other drinks. The pub is the classic Dublin meeting place, but you can also mix it up by joining a traditional Irish music “session” or hang out at a VR gaming night or “speed-friending” festival at Dublin’s quirky “anti-café,” The Clockwork Door.
“Try not to stay in the Temple Bar area for too long,” continues Bulfin. As fun as it is, the area has gained a reputation for being overpriced and clichéd. Beyond the leprechauns and Guinness hats is a modern, innovative Dublin just waiting to be explored. Try northern Phibsborough, recently voted as one of the coolest neighbourhoods in the world. The Royal Canal Way is a gorgeous stroll through its tree-lined avenues, while Woodstock (a deli, bakery, carvery and wine bar) on the high street has a community feel that belies its hipster looks. No time to take the Luas? Try central Camden Street, a strip of buzzing bars and restaurants hailed as “the new Temple Bar”.
Learning a new skill means that you can come home with more than just souvenirs – and Dublin has no shortage of world-class professionals ready to teach you. The Waltons New School of Music offers Irish music taster sessions for tourists, including tin whistle and bódhran (traditional Irish drum) lessons. For an additional fee, you can take home an Irish instrument. Dublin’s culinary capital status means you can access quality cooking classes, with the Dublin Cookery School offering day courses in everything from family meals to Guinness bread. Goldsmith Deirdre O’Donnell runs traditional jewellery-making courses from The School of Jewellery – you can even make a wedding ring!
Dublin can be an expensive place to visit, but if you’ve got the energy to cover multiple attractions each day, get a Dublin Pass. For a one-off fee, you get fast-track entry to over 30 top attractions – including the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo and the Jameson Distillery Tour – plus unlimited hop-on, hop-off bus journeys. It’s better value the more days you purchase. Other ways to save money include getting a Leap card, avoiding the pricey Temple Bar area and asking locals for restaurant and bar recommendations. Dublin also has a surprising number of free (or donation-only) attractions – check out the Chester Beatty Library, National Gallery of Ireland and National Museum of Ireland.