Here’s the truth of the matter, of which many of you will no doubt disagree: I don’t love Dublin. There, I said it. I’ve now visited the Irish capital a handful of times, and it just doesn’t jive with me. This trip was no different. From the moment we got to our gate in Edinburgh until the time we left Dublin for Killarney, everything seemed to go wrong. And the frenzy of the downtown area—when walking, when driving, when on the bus—did not help matters. But if you know where to go and what to do in Dublin, it can be bearable.
My recommendation for those planning a trip to Ireland is to fly in and out of Shannon and focus on the impressive west coast instead. However, if you do find yourself in Dublin, I’ll give you the silver linings we found.
1. Guinness Storehouse. Need I say more? I’ve now done this tour twice, and I would do it twice more if given the chance. Who doesn’t want to learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness? Though I don’t think subsequent visits will compare to my last: It’s not every day you get to meet a living member of the Guinness legacy!
2. The waterfront. After a highly stressful day, we took a walk along the quay and witnessed the most fantastic sunset. That and Dublin’s gritty beauty at dusk was enough to turn our frowns upside down.
3. National Leprechaun Museum. I didn’t actually get to go to the museum due to a lack of time, but I have no doubt it’s awesome. It’s a highly interactive experience during which you learn much about Irish folklore. I plan to pay a visit there when I’m back that way in May.
4. Porterhouse. Twitter friends sent me here, and I loved the big brewery vibe with a huge selection of local beers and ciders on tap (we tried several). Porterhouse is now a chain, but the Temple Bar location was Dublin’s first pub brewery.
5. The Westbury. This five-star Dublin hotel was so gorgeous and relaxing, it’s hard to believe it was just a stone’s throw from the bustling pedestrian street Grafton. I’m admittedly a bit of a hotel snob, and the Westbury passed my travel litmus test.
6. Arthur’s Day. If you find yourself in Dublin during the biggest party day of the year, I suggest you adopt a “When in Rome…” philosophy … and then try to get as much insider info as you can to see some of the world’s hottest acts. I’m still bummed I missed out on one of my favorites, Mumford & Sons, as they were in Cork, not Dublin, the night we were chasing them around the city (or so we thought).
7. Kilmainham Gaol. While morbid-sounding, this former prison was built in 1796 and is central to Ireland’s political history. Many leaders of Irish rebellions were once housed here; today, it is a museum with a fascinating audio-visual tour.
I love Dublin, but my opinion is definitely biased. I did an exchange there as a sophomore in high school, and it was my first trip abroad. So Dublin, for me, is completely inseparable from the high of being abroad for the first time and of traveling independently. But thinking about it objectively, the things I love about it have so much more to do with the daily life of it (and my awesome host family) than with the city itself, particularly as experienced by a short-term visitor. I’d definitely agree that there are other parts of the country that are more interesting and fun for a traveler.
Living in a city definitely gives you a different opinion of a place. On the flip side, I actually think San Francisco is horrible for living (city government, cost, unfriendly people) but a great place to visit short-term when you’re just in and out for a week or so.
I wasn’t that big of a fan of Dublin either. I loved the rest of the country though! The Storehouse was fun and I didn’t know there was a Leprechaun Museum! The whole time I was wondering why there wasn’t even a mention of Leprechauns. I’ve heard it said that people in Ireland were super nice, but I did’nt get that in Dublin. The bus was kinda a mess, never told ya where you were going! Then all the scary fights we saw breaking out while we were just searching for food wasn’t cool. Yeah, Dublin didn’t win me over.
Agreed. Love Killarney, love Galway, love all the other small towns in between. But Dublin is just very “meh” for me. Didn’t feel like the rest of Ireland.
I also love Dublin; it reminds me of a manageable London. Lots of history and architecture, but not as frantic or touristy. I love that you jumped on the Bulmers bandwagon. They just started selling the U.S. version (Magners) here in Dallas and I try to always have a bottle in my fridge.
I used to drink Strongbow all the time when I lived in Scotland (in 2003) and anytime I’d come back for subsequent visits. Then I discovered Magners while living in NYC and drank it often. But it took me until halfway through our trip this time to discover that Bulmers and Magners are actually the same thing!
I love your posts. I have never been to Ireland but dream of the day that I will. I think that if we had been in Dublin and seen Mumford and Sons, it would be redeemed instantly. That is my husband’s favorite band. So sorry you didn’t see them.
I did see them just two weeks earlier in Franklin for the CMT Crossroads taping, so at least I had that!
Unfortunately I have done none of these activities in Dublin – but I have to agree, it’s not my favorite city either. I’ve been there twice and think that the west coast is the true treasure of Ireland (i.e. Dingle, Galway, Aran islands. etc.)
Oh, the west coast is just dreamy. I haven’t been anywhere on the west I disliked. From now on, I’m flying in and out of Shannon and not even bothering with Dublin.
I did a week-long tour with my mom a few summers ago and actually, I wish we had spent more time in Dublin and less time in the small towns. Our experience was quite the opposite, perhaps because it was summer so less crowded?? The people were extremely friendly. We didn’t use the bus much so I can’t speak for that — we used the hop on-hop off bus to hit the major spots. We also did a musical pub crawl, which was awesome and not as touristy as you might think. We stayed at Trinity in one of their dorms, which is a very affordable option and plenty nice enough.
The one thing we do agree on is Kilmainham Gaol, which was AWESOME.
I loved Dublin! I highly recommend an all-day-self-toured pub crawl. I found that everyone we talked to was so friendly (maybe because they were drinking? or because we were?) and they gave us great pub recommendations that we never would have known about otherwise! We rotated beer between water so we could go all day without getting sloppy, and it was just such a great day & night, wandering around the city, listening to a lot of live music, and having great conversations with all the people we met. In fact, I’m hoping to make it back there with my sister for her first visit this spring! P.S. So jealous you got to drink with a Guinness!
Oh, I’ve never met an unkind Irishman (or woman). That wasn’t the problem. I just feel that Dublin could be any big city anywhere and that it lacks defining characteristics that other major European capitals have. Also, it’s quite gritty, and like my cities more pretty and polished like Edinburgh.
I get it. I have a soft spot for gritty cities, probably because I’m from Philly 🙂
I love the idea of the National Leprechaun Museum! I’m not one for too many cities when I travel – they seem to become monotonous after a while. I’d definitely visit Dublin just for that museum though!
Dublin was the first stop of my big 2006 trip to Europe. I thought it was a great place for me to get adjusted to solo-travel in Europe, but I definitely wasn’t overly impressed. Kilmainham Gaol was probably my favorite part. I hope to get back to Ireland soon and explore the country more!
I was also there when I solo traveled around the area, and I agree: It’s a pretty mild first stop for someone learning the ropes of traveling by themselves (particularly given the language is the same…well, kinda!).
I didn’t do any of that back in August, darn! While I didn’t fall in love with the city, I did enjoy my time there. I think it always helps when you have locals to show you around. I can’t help but see a place in a positive light when you have dear friends showing you their home!
i was there for a very short weekend in 2001 and wasn’t in love either. i had heard the people would be super friendly, but all i encountered was a very forward, OVERLY friendly guy at a bar who out of nowhere leaned over and planted a kiss on me. ick. the guinness factory tour was definitely the highlight and at the time i disliked beer, especially dark beer, but it made me a convert. my friend and i also had an unexpectedly amazing aubergine pizza. would love to go back to ireland to experience the west coast and stay out of the city.
Same! The first time I went, I disliked all beer, especially dark. But the Guinness factory makes it taste so delicious, right? I’ve now been to the west coast twice, and I definitely think the west is the best!
I’m not a beer drinker so so much of Ireland tourism is lost on me, however that hotel looks super chic and I would LOVE the leprechaun museum — I’m a total kitsch addict.
You and me both, sista. I’m back with the ship in May, and that’s the only thing I plan to do besides spend the day in a pub =)
Yet ANOTHER reason we need to travel together. We could attend all the Loch Ness Monster exhibits, Leprechaun Museums and other roadside attractions with abandon!
I have yet to visit Dublin, or Europe for that matter, but I’m keeping a mental list of all of these recommendations. A leprechaun museum? I think yes.
I think yes definitely. I will be going when I’m back in May for work!
Glad you could find some silver linings! And I would love to spend some time on the water front, looks stunning.
Have a fantastic day 🙂
I visited Ireland with my mom back in 2004 (focusing on Southern/Western and stayed at Dromoland like you) and we never even made it to Dublin! Next time (which we are planning for next summer) we want to focus more on Northern Ireland with maybe a juant to Scotland or England. Who knows where we’ll end up but if we end up in Dublin we’ll definitely check out your recs!
Jaunt to Scotland! Jaunt to Scotland! You must.
I will be in Narn Ireland briefly in May/June, so let me know if you find yourself up that way…
Yay! You went to Porterhouse! I love Dublin, but I agree that the west coast is much better. I was a touch underwhelmed by the Guinness Storehouse (and to be fair, I’m not a Guinness fan), but the view from the Sky Bar was worth the trip. We missed the Leprechaun Museum but loved the Dublin Writers Museum — there was so much history packed into a two-room museum.
I didn’t make it to the Writers Museum, and I tried for the pub tour which you recommended, and even booking in advance, they had NO spots available for weeks. Blimey.
And yes, thanks for the Porterhouse rec–we loved it!
Never been, but I would definitely check out the Leprechaun Museum. I think I could amuse myself there for a couple of hours taking funny photos.
Oh, for sure. And even though I didn’t go, I stopped by to check into tour times, and the guy running the desk was so cute and funny and charming, it just made me want to go all the more.
I kind of feel that way about visiting any big city. They’re all…cities. They may have different shops and restaurants but still they’re more the same than different.
Also just want to let you know the Visit Britain video started playing on its own and I had like 45 tabs open so I couldn’t figure out what was playing and my volume was turned way up and it made me SO ANGRY. haha
Is there a way you can make it not auto-play?
I am so sorry! It’s not supposed to do that! Scott is working on cleaning up the code so it only plays when you allow it, too. THANK YOU for letting us know…
For some reason I’ve never been drawn to visit Ireland! But, you may have swayed me a bit with this post. LOVE that bridge shot!!!
Just promise me you’ll spend time in the countryside instead, because truth be told, presence of Guinness aside, Dublin could be any city, anywhere.
Did you make it to the castle? that was a disappointment too.
Scotland> Ireland. But you and I already agreed on this eons ago
What about Scotland vs England? Go..
I’m not a huge fan of London—I find it too loud and frenetic and overwhelming—and I haven’t spent enough time in the England countryside to formulate a fair opinion. However, what I have seen, I loved (Bath especially)! I still think Scotland will forever hold my heart, though.
I 100% co sign on Bath. Did you make it to the modern natural thermal spa?
and when the pigs were all dressed up?
Dublin was probably my least favorite city in Europe. Loved the Irish countryside (the small portion I saw), but didn’t really care for Dublin. Though, I agree with you, the Guinness Storehouse was a definite positive for the city 🙂
Dublin has some wonderful places which is worth a visit. The places which I like the most is Kilmainham Jail (it’s a bit outside the city, but only five or ten minutes on a bus)Temple Bar (for pubs, nightlife, restaurants etc). I went on tour to St. Stephens Green and I must it’s beauty is just beyond words.
Dublin was not my favourite city either. Frankly, it’s just so expensive and doesn’t have a lot of great sites. That said, I agree with your suggestions and the Guinness storehouse is truly a fantastic experience and way to see the city. Joyce lovers will also “rejoice” in the authour’s landmarks.
I studied abroad in Galway, and I always give people the exact same recommendation: see Dublin for a day if you have to, but it’s just another large international city (it actually reminds me of Chicago, where I’m originally from, with fewer minorities) – instead, visit Galway and the west, which is full of gorgeous countryside, coastline, and cute towns.
I’m a Dubliner – so I’m biased! Yes I agree that it has its bland and boring bits that could be from any cityscape anywhere (globalisation anyone?) but I would strongly encourage visitors to spend a few days here and consider avoiding the obvious. For example – I love Paris – but there is so much more than the Eiffel Tour and the Louvre. So how about taking the DART train to the suburb of Dun Laoghaire (pronounced Dunleary) and walking along the pier. There are very few European capitals with such amazing sea and mountain views with minutes of the downtown area. And you’ll get to meet real Dubliners – still (I hope) some of the most friendly and talkative people in Europe.
This hotel looks amazing. I stayed at two hotels when I was in Dublin and both were horrible (one reminded me of a dungeon because it was poorly lit and it had no atmosphere whatsoever). When I return to Dublin (hopefully as a rich woman), I am going to check this place out for sure!
Thanks for sharing, Dublin looks fun, I am heading there is October and can’t wait. Will
You have certainly put the cat amongst the pigeons, and also got plenty of interesting comments back as well. I am from Dublin, but have lived in Spain since 2003. This means that I love coming back to my home town a few times each year, and see it as a both a native and a traveller. For those of you who would like to learn some fun, quirky things – I wrote this piece – 7 of the best quirky things to do in Dublin over at A Luxury Travel Blog.
For you personally Kristin, maybe try to arrange to go to Biddy’s Cottage in Dalkey – you’ll see it as the 1st quirky place that I talk about in the post.
I adore the West of Ireland also, having spent lots of time there, in Connemara in my childhood.