City guide: Dublin

A while back, the Irish Tourist Board invited me to take part in a 48-hour fit-as-much-as-you-possibly-can-into-two-days-and-come-home-flipping-exhausted, challenge. Naturally, I swiftly accepted and hopped on the next plane to Dublin with my bestie Kate.

To be honest, I could have written a couple posts about our trip, where to stay, what to do etc.. but I thought that actually, it’d be more useful to bundle it all up into one compact-ish (I’ll let you be the judge of that) city guide!

So to help you navigate I’ll split this up into the following sections;

  1. Getting to Dublin (from the UK admittedly but there are few tips in there for everyone)
  2. Where to stay – the area as well as a hotel recommendation
  3. Getting around
  4. What to do
  5. Where to eat & drink

1. Getting To Dublin:

Flights: Ryanair, everyone’s favourite yellow and blue, fanfare playing airline fly to Dublin from just about every city in the UK. They allow 10kgs of hand luggage which is more than enough for a short break, so no need to check your bag.

*Toptip: because Ryanair allow 10kgs of hand luggage per person, they anticipate that there will be more hand luggage than space in the overhead lockers – so 9 times out of 10 they’ll be looking for people to check their hand luggage for free (either at check in or as you’re at the boarding gate) – if you’d rather check your bag but don’t have to (i.e. 10kgs is enough for you), I’d hold off paying for a bag when you book your ticket and just ask when you check in if they’re looking for volunteers to check their bags to help with the overhead locker space.

The flight is ridiculously short, only about 45 minutes so don’t bother buying food/drink on the plane. 

Airport Transfers: Dublin airport is about a 20-minute drive outside of the city centre and you can get a taxi really easily but I’d actually recommend that you just get the bus! The Dublin transport system is incredibly well set up, for tourists anyway. The Airlink 747 goes straight from the airport to a tonne of different city stops and is just €6 one way or €10 return. Tickets can be bought in advance online here or at the bus stop ticket machines at the airport.

There is public transport to and from the airport 24 hours a day – our return journey to the airport took place in the middle of the night (3am to be precise!) and while there is a ‘Nightlink’ service that runs we actually hopped on the Aircoach which for €7 each (less if booked in advance I think) was a more direct route and described as ‘luxury’ – which we felt we needed at 3am!

2. Where to stay:

Area: Temple Bar – it took me a little while to figure out that Temple Bar wasn’t actually, a bar, but in fact, an area full of bars… It is promoted as ‘Dublin’s Cultural Centre with a lively night-life that’s popular with tourists‘. And it was certainly popular with us! 

For daytime delights, it’s just around the corner from Trinity College, one of the bus tours pick up points and right on the edge of the beautiful River Liffey.

At nighttime, Temple Bar comes alive. Like the flip of a switch, the bars and restaurants overflow into the cobbled streets and the carnival atmosphere takes over – helped, of course, by some of the extremely talented street performers that take up residence. I’ve linked to the video I shared on Instagram of two incredible street performers playing guitar and drums. 

Amazing street performers in Dublin!

Hotel: We stayed at The Morgan hotel and while I’ve never stayed anywhere else in Dublin (because was the first and only time I’ve been), I can wholeheartedly recommend it. Being a designer boutique hotel, the decor is beautiful and super stylish – and that goes for both the hotel itself and the rooms (because sometimes I find the rooms to be a let down in these super stylish hotels, no?). I also need to point out that the bed was also one of the comfiest I’ve ever slept in which is SO important for a city centre hotel because city breaks are KNACKERING and lack of sleep can ruin everything.

*Toptip: Look out for the Mona Lisa like you’ve never seen it before.

3. Getting Around:

Bus: Kate & I were both given a Dublin Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Tour pass which was valid for two days and an absolute godsend! This is by far the best and easiest way to get around Dublin.

We arrived at The Morgan at about midday on Friday and after we’d freshened up and grabbed a quick coffee, we decided to hop on the bus tour. What makes the bus so good is that it doubles as a narrated sight seeing tour (multilingual options available) AND a regular bus – meaning it stops at all the main attractions so you can ‘hop-on-and-off’ as you please.

The buses run every couple of minutes, travel along 2 different routes (so you can choose your fave) and have open tops which, albeit freezing in October, were great for taking pictures. 

*Top tip: Take the whole bus tour when you first get there and use it to 1. get the narrated low down on the city and 2. decide what attractions you want to see, plan the stops you need to get off at and the best order to see them in. 

I’m not sure what we’d have done without these bus passes, for just €22 per adult for two days (you get two kids free per adult too!) they’re so worth it.

4. What to do:

Dublin Pass: Dublin Tourism very kindly provided us with a Dublin City Pass each. These handy little cards get you free entry and queue jumps in the vast majority of Dublin’s tourist attractions. At €73 each for an adult two-day pass, they do seem a little pricey but they include free airport transfers (we didn’t realise this), free entry to the AquaZone at the National Aquatic Centre, Dublin Zoo, The Guinness Factory, Dublin Gaol (jail), Malahide Castle, The National Wax Museum, The Old Jameson Distillery and literally tonnes of other places as well as discounts at restaurants and bars.

*Top tip: With the bus pass and the Dublin Pass we actually didn’t spend a penny on anything other than food & drink! Perfect if you need to stick to a budget for your trip.

Museums & Galleries: Both of us being big fans of Museums and Galleries, a lot of our time was spent visiting some of Dublin’s huge array of cultural houses. The National Gallery was a particular highlight, home to some of Ireland’s masterpieces and art from all over the world. We also enjoyed visiting Merrion Square Park which is just across the road from the old home of the literary hero that is Oscar Wilde.

Guinness Factory: We, of course, visited the Guinness Factory and it was here we were most thankful for the Dublin Pass – the queues looked hours long but we were able to skip straight past them and into the factory in about a millisecond. Especially useful in a place that can take 4 hours to look around. When we eventually reached the top of the giant pint glass (yes, the factory is shaped like a pint glass) we were greeted with our free Guinness and spectacular views over Dublin. Whether you’re into Guinness or not, I feel like this is a Dublin must-do, the museum is great fun with lots of interactive bits to keep it interesting. 

National Wax Museum: Another, albeit weird, highlight was the Wax Museum. Probably best suited to families with kids, (apart from the dungeons, don’t go near those with kids, I almost burst into tears and I’m a fully grown adult who can handle horror movies), we were sure this place was a wax works that’d seen better days 20 years ago and were gobsmacked to find out that it was actually, a newly opened! 

It feels like lots of attractions thrown together (it probably is). One minute you’re walking through ‘a history of Ireland’ with wax models of famous historical figures and the next minute you’re face-to-face with Homer Simpson, a snoring Santa, Gollum and a green screen ‘make your own music video’ camera room, which we obviously utilised to the fullest extent (the people of Ireland have never seen Billie Jean performed quite like that). But all things considered, it was a fun hour or two so it’s certainly worth a visit if you have the Dublin Pass (free entry with it) and you have kids.

But seriously no dungeons, I mean it, nightmares ever since.

Dublin Gaol: The only disappointment we had was Dublin Gaol, this was near the top of our list of things to do but being the last stop on the bus tour we arrived there at about 2:30pm on our second day (after having been to the Guinness Factory before hand) only to be told that all the tours for that day had been booked out. There is only one tour an hour and as tickets can only be bought on the door, they’re sold on a first come first serve basis. This means you have to turn up early in the morning to queue and buy a ticket which will be for a tour later on in the day, go away and come back at your allocated time. Not a huge issue if the website or info leaflets explained this. 

We did try and use the fact that we were with the tourist board (I have no shame) and writing a piece about visiting Dublin to tag onto a tour but we were (actually quite rudely) turned away. I think the main problem is that they only run one tour an hour despite clearly being in much higher demand than that. It’s a shame because we saw at least 30 people turned away, and it’s not like we were close to closing time. 

5. Where to eat & drink:

Lunch: Brick Alley Cafe has the biggest hot chocolate menu I’ve ever seen! I think we counted 18 and it is proper thick old school hot chocolate. The soup and bagels were delicious too.

Dinner: The Old Mill is nestled in the heart of Temple Bar – I’ll be honest it’s looks a little rustic (read: cheap & cheerful) but the food was absolutely delicious and incredibly reasonably priced, especially for the area. The three course menu was about €18 a head and it’s actually rated #77 out of about 2000 restaurants in Dublin on TripAdvisor – definitely a hidden gem. 

Cocktails: I couldn’t finish this post without another little shout out to The Morgan, the hotel we were staying in. It has a pretty damn snazzy bar on the ground floor. Disclaimer: the cocktails weren’t cheap – but they were bloody delicious and came with table service (which is such a luxury these days, right?!). The cool hip-hop beat DJ did a great job of filling the place with head bopping background music and a sizzling atmosphere too – just what we needed to catch up after a busy day of sight-seeing. 

And there we have it! I hope you found that useful – Are you planning a trip to Dublin? Or have you been? Let me know in the comments! 

S x

Disclaimer: This trip was paid for by the Dublin Tourist Board in exchange for an honest review of my experience in the city - everything in this city guide (the good and the bad) is 100% my own opinion.

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