No trip to Ireland is complete without visiting the vibrant capital, Dublin. The good news is that the city centre can be easily explored in a short amount of time because it is relatively small.
We have been living in Dublin for over a decade and these are our tips on how to make the most of your trip.
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The most convenient way to get to Dublin is by air. Dublin Airport (DUB) is well connected with direct scheduled flights from many destinations in Europe, North America, the Middle East and Africa, with most flights operated by Irish airlines Aer Lingus and Ryanair.
There are also direct ferry services from Britain and France.
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There are no train or light-rail services from Dublin Airport but several bus services connect the airport with the city. Express buses (Aircoach and AirLink – routes 747 and 757) are the fastest, but the most expensive, and you can buy your ticket from the driver.
Four Bus Eireann (countrywide) services (2, 30, 32 and 33) also operate between Dublin Airport and Busaras – the central bus station in Dublin.
The cheapest bus connections are the Dublin Bus routes 16 and 41, but they can be slow. When paying the driver, make sure you have exact change (euro coins only). Or, you can buy the ticket at the ticket machine.
If you are planning to travel more, get a Leap Card to avail of cheaper fares. This is an electronic purse that can be topped up and which can be used on Dublin Bus services, LUAS (trams), DART (rail system in Dublin and surroundings), Commuter Rail and some selected buses. The Leap Visitor Card is convenient for tourists and it is valid for 1, 3 or 7 days.
You can also take a taxi. There is a taxi rank just outside the airport building.
If you are already on the island, you can use some of the bus or train services. There are two main railway stations in Dublin – Heuston and Connolly. The central bus station Busaras is located just next to Connolly train station.
If you prefer driving, there is a good network of highways connecting Dublin with the rest of the island.
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There is no subway in Dublin. Buses represent the main part of the public transportation system. This is one of the reasons why the traffic in the city centre is heavy and it is a good idea to avoid driving there. The main challenges for visitors are many one-way streets, restricted turns and jaywalkers. Parking is limited and expensive. It is better to leave your car at your accommodation or on the outskirts of the city.
Dublin Bus operates the typical double-decker buses. If you are getting the ticket from the driver, you will need to have exact change (euro coins only). Bus drivers don’t give any change back, only a Refund Due receipt that needs to be exchanged for cash at the Dublin Bus office in O’Connell Street, and this is rarely convenient.
The bus system might be confusing for visitors. Timetables usually mention only the times when the bus leaves the first stop. You need to calculate the approximate time of arrival to your location yourself. The Dublin Bus app is handy for real-time bus arrival times but it only works online. It is the name of the final stop which is displayed on the front screen of the bus. It is a common practice to wave at the driver for the approaching bus to stop.
There are also hop-on hop-off buses that stop at most of the main tourist attractions.
LUAS is the tram system in Dublin. There are only two lines (red and green). At the moment they aren’t connected and you need to walk between them (about 15 minutes). The lines are currently being linked and more stops added by the end of 2017. You can get the tickets at the machines located on the platforms.
The Dublin city centre is compact and flat and that is why the best way to explore it is on foot. You can use the Dublinbikes scheme too.
There is also a Dublin Pass that includes free entry to 25 top attractions, monuments and museums, free hop on hop off bus tour and more discounts and offers.
Start in O’Connell Street which is dominated by the 121-metre (397 ft) tall structure called The Spire. The General Post Office building (GPO) played an important role in Irish history. Henry Street, situated between these two landmarks, is one of the main shopping streets in Dublin.
Head south and cross the river Liffey with its many bridges. The Ha’penny Bridge is the prettiest and will lead you to the Temple Bar area, which is renowned for its busy nightlife. Walk through the district till you reach Dame Street.
Turn left at Dame Street to get to the historical grounds of Trinity College. Walk around on your own or take a tour to learn more. Don’t miss the stunning Old Library with the Book of Kells or the Science Gallery.
Walk to Grafton Street which is a famous shopping street. Continue straight ahead to get to St Stephen’s Green park for a relaxing break (weather permitting).
Keep going to Merrion Square with its pretty Georgian houses. Don’t miss the statue of the well-known Irish author Oscar Wilde which is located in the park.
Just off Merrion Square in Fitzwilliam Street Lower, is Number Twenty Nine, a completely restored middle class house of the late 18th century.
Start walking back and pass by Leinster House which is home to the Irish parliament. Either side of the main entrance to Leinster House, in Kildare Street, are the National Museum and the National Library.
Don’t forget to take a photo with the famous statue of Molly Malone. At the moment it is temporarily located in front of the Tourist Information Office at the corner of Suffolk Street (just off Grafton Street). The original location was at the other end of the street.
Walk back to Dame Street and behind the City Hall building turn left to discover Dublin Castle. You can explore the castle grounds and the Chester Beatty Library for free. You will need to join a tour to be able to access the State Apartments.
Keep following Dame Street which becomes Lord Edward Street. It will lead you to the stunning Christ Church Cathedral. It is connected with Dublinia which is an interactive museum where you can experience Viking and medieval Dublin.
Get across the big junction and walk downhill towards Saint Patrick Cathedral which is the largest cathedral in Ireland.
You have seen the most important landmarks of Dublin now and you deserve a drink or two. Come back to Temple Bar and explore its many pubs and restaurants till late at night. Listening to Irish traditional music and having a pint of Guinness are the musts.
Don’t stick just with Guinness, try a Baby Guinness. It is a shooter looking like a miniature pint of Guinness. It is made of a coffee liqueur (Kahlua, Tia Maria, etc.) topped by an Irish cream (usually Baileys). Yummy!
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Have you ever been to Dublin or are you planning to go? Let us know!