Irish Baile Atha Cliath
Time to return to one of our the less visited European capitals, Dublin. That has been a long time, it was back in May 2009 since the first and only one time we’ve ever come to this city, so it was well overdue the return for what is actually a fascinating city full of history, heritage, beautiful architecture and amazing nightlife; yet thriving day and night, any time. Why it’s been such a long time, over 7 years for not coming back, that I do not know any longer after this visit. The true fact is a wrong image I took with back in 2009: an expensive city, it was cold and rainy all day, and failed to impress me; however I must have been blind or my appreciation has changed a lot because this time we really love it and had a great time, looking forward to return soon.
It was not an easy task touring a city being 8 of us on this occasion, but we managed well. Of course this can only work with a rather small city with a very compact old town and city centre as I cannot imagine moving 8 people through a big city, that would have easily been mission impossible with some wanting to visit and sightseeing across with others wanting to do shopping and the rest wanting to maybe party, you never know. Nevertheless, it’s a good plus being in the position of revisiting a city than coming for the very first time, this way we took it very relaxed and lose, no rush anywhere and letting everyone enjoy because there was time for everything.
The good news is that a weekend is good enough to enjoy the city in full, including a short trip to the Baily Lighthouse and cliffs of Howth if you want, and a mandatory visit to the Guinness Storehouse. After all anywhere within the city centre are small distances easily covered on foot as the best way to explore the city, while for the few sights farther away there’s a tram stop next to them.
From a small Viking settlement to one of the finest cities architectural-wise talking, over a 1000 years of history, rising, falling and rising again better and better each time, it is world famous for its immaculate Georgian architecture that covers pretty much the entire city. Very few medieval areas were spared from the urban revolution of the late 17th century that transformed the city forever. This is now one of the must-does when visiting Dublin, capturing the colourful Georgian entrance doors. But of course there is a much older castle, fine old iron bridges over River Liffey, famous St Patrick’s Cathedral, Trinity College, Molly Malone’s Statute or an state of the art new business area by the docks to briefly name a few landmarks.
Yet the city is not only about its architecture and monuments, but about the overall experience and feeling with great food accompanied with a mandatory Guinness beer (or a few), extraordinary Celtic music you can hear on every corner and almost any pub, perhaps sipping a Jameson whiskey or a Baileys, and having a long night-out by Temple Bar.
Unfortunately there is a downside that applies not only to Dublin but generally across the entire Republic of Ireland: prices. Everything is really expensive! Even that pint of Guinness that comes from merely meters away is way more expensive than what you would usually pay in London. The entire hospitality sector will be a hit that you need to have in consideration when planning your trip. Hotels are way too expensive, more even in our case as it was Halloween weekend so costing even more. In the other hand I’m sure you will enjoy every moment and will be a much worthy trip.
For more information about Dublin check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Ireland’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Dublin
Since the city has a west-east layout, and by the old town its main axis meeting north-south, it is very easy to plan a sightseeing route covering all the areas of the city. Starting from the west:
- West of the city Mostly residential and industrial areas, very well connected by public transport with the main tram line running all the way towards the city centre.
-Guinness Storehouse Who has never heard about Guinness beer? I would say everyone knows. This is the place where it’s been brewed ever since. The historic building has been converted into the museum which follows a tour starting in the ground floor and ends up at the top Gravity Bar where you can drink a pint (or 2 and more of course) with views over Dublin and nice live Irish music. Adults €16,50, students and seniors €13. Nearest tram stop James, south of the river.
-Heuston Train Station Just a tram stop ahead from James and the Guinness Storehouse. A building of grand architecture dating from 1846. Right by the south bank of the River Liffey.
-Old Jameson Distillery Right along the tram line next to Smithfield station. Nowadays it’s only the museum as the whiskey is not produced in this place anymore but in a new distillery. Adults €12.50, students and seniors €10.
-The Four Courts By the riverside, few meters east from Smithfield tram stop. Home to the Supreme Court, High Court, Civil Central Criminal Court of the Republic of Ireland, all of which a perfect piece or architecture and landscaping, famous for the cupola at the main building.
- North of River Liffey – North of the city Here you will find the main artery and transport hub of the city. While there is not much to see comparing to what is at the south of the river, the historic old town; it is straightforward, easy and fast to visit.
-Henrietta Street Towards the northwest of the city, was developed in the 1720s, the earliest Georgian Street in Dublin, and as such marking the new architecture and urbanism trend that marked the development of the city.
-Honorable Society of King’s Inns At the end of Henrietta Street.
-O’Connell Street Named in honour of the 19th century nationalist leader Daniel O’Connell, is the main thoroughfare running on a north-south orientation, north of the river with its southern end the O’Connell Bridge and ending by the City Hall and Dublin Castle. Is the widest of any street in the city.
-Parnell Square At the very beginning of O’Connell in the north, where the monument to Parnell sits at the intersection.
-The Gate Theatre The most important stage venue in Dublin.
-Rotunda Maternity Hospital Side by side with the Gate Theatre, completes this corner of Parnell with O’Connell.
-Gresham Hotel One of the top of the class hotels in central Dublin, managed by Riu. Originally founded in 1817, mostly destroyed during the Irish Civil War and rebuilt in 1923.
-St Mary’s pro-Cathedral Not directly on O’Connell but just behind the Gresham, along Cathedral Street. Consecrated in 1825, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Dublin and Primate of Ireland.
-Department of Education and Science Right at the front of the Cathedral is this nicely landscaped square with beautiful buildings around.
-The Spire This monument, at 120 meters in height became the new landmark of the city when planted in 2003 in the spot where the Nelson’s Pillar once stood until it was blown up in 1966.
-General Post Office One of the major landmark constructions in the street, built in 1818 in neo-classical style.
-Clerys Just across from the Post Office, in the same way there is Selfridges in London’s Oxford Street, there was this up-scale department store in Dublin’s O’Connell Street. Unfortunately, the shocking news is that it closed down for business in 2015 after over 160 years of operation! The future is uncertain, although the building is highly protected landmark.
-O’Connell Bridge Marking the end of this street, crossing River Liffey and offering the best views towards the iconic Ha’penny iron bridge, other bridges and the Customs House farther away.
-Custom House Just 2 streets ahead of O’Connell, easily accessible by the riverside walk, is one of the most iconic and most known constructions in Dublin.
- South of River Liffey – West of Grafton Street The historic old town centre of Dublin can be split into two separate quadrants with Grafton Street diving through for easy understanding and navigation when sightseeing around. Starting from the west:
-Temple Bar District Right across the O’Connell Bridge you will reach one of the edges of the famous Temple Bar, one of the oldest areas in Dublin, and landmark number one day and night. The most picturesque picture is that from the north bank of the river, with Ha’penny Bridge and Temple Bar behind. Among the hundreds of beautiful old pubs famous for their live Irish music, you can find several sights such as:
-Bank of Ireland At the southeast corner of Temple Bar and across the road from the Trinity College on what is known the College Green. It was the world’s first purpose-built, two-chamber parliament house and served as the seat of both chambers (the Lords and Commons) of the Irish parliament of the Kingdom of Ireland for most of the eighteenth century until that parliament was abolished by the Act of Union in 1800 when the island became part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
-Christ Church Cathedral At the very west end of the Temple Bar district. Is the oldest building in Dublin tracing back to the 11th century, built by the Vikings. Entrance for adults €6, students €4.
-St Patrick’s Cathedral and park Founded in 1191, it is the largest church in Ireland, patron of the city. Easy to reach if continuing south along Patrick Street from Christ Church Cathedral.
-Dublin Castle Former seat of the British rule in Ireland until 1922, mostly built during the 18th century. There are guided tours for prices of €4.50 adults, students €3.50. This is a very large complex with many buildings all around, being the most notorious the round tower (the Record Tower) which you can get the finest views from the Dubhlinn Gardens which were completed in 1680.
-City Hall At the northern front of the Dublin Castle, facing Temple Bar towards Grattan Bridge farther north. Designed by Thomas Cooley as the Royal Exchange, was built between 1769 and 1779. By the north façade you can see a metal plate dating from 1870 which displays the exact standard measures in imperial and metric units.
- South of River Liffey – East of Grafton Street This quadrant retains majority of the Georgian fabric intact and is one of the landmark heritages of this beautiful city.
-Trinity College District Founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, is the oldest university in Ireland, an architectural masterpiece and major landmark in the city. This is a huge site with many buildings, for which here is a great Wikipedia article about it. But among the facilities, one is of especial mention, the Library and its famed spectacular Long Room. One of the guarded treasures is the Book of Keels, an illuminated manuscript book in Latin believed to date from year 800, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament. To see the library there is a €9 entrance, €8 for students & seniors.
-Grafton Street Along College Green, south of Trinity College you reach the most famous and historic street in Dublin.
-Molly Malone Statue It used to be at the very beginning of Grafton, but ever since relocated few meters west to Suffolk Street. Icon of Dublin since unveiled in 1988. It depicts one of the most famous popular Irish songs that has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin City.
-Bewley’s Oriental Cafe Opened by Ernest Bewley in November 1927 housed in a beautiful art-deco Egyptian style, became an institution and landmark on its own, expected to reopen after big restoration and upgrade as of late 2016.
-Dawson Street Parallel to Grafton, is another of the important places for upmarket clothes shops and restaurants.
-St Anne’s Church Designed in Lombardo-Romanesque style, the interior contains more stained glass than any other church in Dublin.
-The Mansion House Official residence of the lord mayor since 1715.
-Kildare Street The 3rd of the streets parallel to each other with starting point at Trinity College and end at St Stephen’s Green.
-National Library of Ireland Established in 1877 with its characteristic porticoed rotunda.
-National Museum of Ireland Opposite the Library, a symmetrical building one to each other.
-Leinster House The former ducal residence in Dublin of the Duke of Leinster. The building is the meeting place of Dáil Éireann and Seanad Éireann, the two houses of the Oireachtas. It interconnects the Library and National Museum completing the architectural work.
-National Gallery of Ireland Right behind the Leinster House, facing a nice garden with great views to the entire architectural complex.
-The Georgian Quarter This notorious architecture the city is famous for can be seen all over Dublin, yet there are certain areas simply a masterpiece, on the same way the city of Bath in England is. This are also some of the very first examples of such architecture ever built.
-St Stephen’s Green One of the largest public parks in the city, middle of the shopping district.
-Merrion Square One of the largest squares in Dublin and grand Georgian architecture at many of its surrounding buildings. At its centre there is a statue of the writer and dramatist Oscar Wilde and two marble columns covered in famous Wilde quotes.
-Fitzwilliam Square The third of the square/parks in the Georgian district, where you can grab your famous picture of the colourful entrance doors.
-Iveagh Gardens South from St Stephen’s Green, another of the many green areas within the city centre.
-National Concert Hall The main venue in Ireland for classical music concerts.
- The Docklands – East of the city Most of the former inner docks and industrial areas have been redeveloped for office and residences, in a great mix of new architecture.
-International Financial Services Centre (IFSC) This entire area on the north bank of the River Liffey, right after the Custom House is of recent creation. A brand new financial centre with over 500 companies housed in buildings of striking design in many cases by world renowned architects.
-Samuel Beckett Bridge The highlight bridge linking the north and south banks of the river. Designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
-South Bank-Grand Canal Right across from Samuel Beckett Bridge is this area with the brand new top of the class apartments facing the IFSC, and at the opposite side the Grand Canal where a mix of former industrial warehouses now converted into luxury apartments and the newly built blend together.
-Grand Canal Square The highlight in this area, designed by world famous architect Daniel Libeskind, comprising office blocks, a theatre and public piazza overlooking the canal.
- Outside Dublin – East of the city
-Howth By the small village you can reach the cliff walk leading towards the Bailey Lighthouse. It’s a very nice place to walk by the Irish Sea, however bear in mind if the weather is not too good then do not come. The best way to reach Howth is by the commuter train (DART) from Connolly Station.
Dublin International Airport is the largest in the island of Ireland, and one of the most important gateways linking Europe with North America and the Middle East. The connections with North America come from centuries ago, with cruises to/from New York City the principal destination to the thousands of emigrants. Getting a flight deal to Dublin is pretty much easy through the year at any time, bearing the summer months where this is higher as for any other country during high season. Flight frequencies between Dublin and the principal cities in England are vast, with too many airlines doing the routes so after all, this is one of the easiest routes to find a flight ticket to suit your best times. Flag carrier Air-Lingus and Europe’s largest low cost airline Ryanair are based in Dublin, and as you can imagine, almost the entire destinations route offered by Ryanair are reachable from Dublin.
From the airport there are several bus options to the city centre (all stopping at O’Connell Street) and the nearby districts of Dublin. From order of the fastest (and most expensive) to the cheaper (and longer journey time) are:
-Aircoach route 700 for 9 Euros single, 15 return. Every 15 min. journey time 30 min.
-Dublin Bus AirLink route 747. 6 Euros single, 10 return, heading towards Busáras (Dublin Bus Station). Every 15 to 25 min. journey time 30 min.
-Dublin Bus routes 16 and 41. 3.30 Euros for a journey. These buses are local and do more stops along the way, however, they take barely 10 more min than the other 2 options, so there’s not really a need on why to spend that much on the Aircoach.
Once in O’Connell if this is your stop, you can connect with the trams and many other buses to anywhere else in the city as your final destination.
Within the city there are 2 tram lines and countless bus routes. The tram is highly likely you will be using it, either to get to the west to the Guinness Storehouse or to Howth cliffs and lighthouse, or if you hotel is farther from the city centre and along the tram line. Ticket costs a minimum fare of 1.5 Euros in the city centre, more the farther you travel. Other than that, the historic city centre is very compact and easy to walk anywhere, furthermore majority of streets around Temple Bar are pedestrianised therefore that’s your only way to discover and enjoy the city.
As mentioned before through the guide, hotels in the city are very to seriously expensive. Finding a deal, unless this is really out of season at random days is almost impossible. This was the fact back in 2009, and worst now in our 2016 trip especially that this was Halloween weekend with almost every hotel booked out and extortionist prices.
A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers.
We found by miracle a hotel that could fit us all 8 of us in 4 room. It was either this or top class hotels what was left, but thankfully we hit spot-on. Hotel Red Cow Moran, although a bit far on the west of the city, was meters from the Red Cow tram stop with direct line towards O’Connell Street taking approx 25 minutes, with in-between stops next to the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Old Distillery, therefore, perfect for us in this occasion. Not only the tram, there are direct buses to Trinity College 24 hours taking around 20 minutes! Super convenient. While I would consider in the future staying at a more central hotel, we have nothing bad to say or comment about our stay. It was a nice and quiet place, bearing its proximity to a big motorway interchange. The rooms were very nice, large and comfortable, with a nice decor and very up-to-date, friendly and professional staff and what’s most important, a great rest what we enjoyed both nights after such busy days.