Let’s leave the Guinness behind for a minute, because whether you visit Ireland on St. Patrick’s Day, or any day of the year, there are wonderful sites, restaurants, coffee shops, day trips, and hotel options in Dublin.
After spending nine days in Dublin, I’ve come to appreciate it as one of the world’s great cities. Here are my top reasons why.
Incredible Walking City and Many Parks
Dublin is truly an amazing city for those of us who like to walk and get out of touristy areas, fast! A stroll through many parts of this old city reveal charming old homes, pubs and eateries that are intertwined with lovely green spaces.
Phoenix Park is a wonderful destination. It’s the world’s largest enclosed municipal park and it’s filled with monuments like the Papal Cross, the Dublin Zoo, gardens and lots of open spaces and views of the city. After you leave Phoenix Park, it’s an easy walk back into town to the Guinness Storehouse for your tour and free pint!
Another good walking destination is Glasnevin Cemetery. This famous cemetery opened in 1832 and is the resting place of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins.
A great walk to get here would be to start from city center and walk along O’Connell Street across the bridge through the heart of north Dublin. You’ll see many monuments and statues along the boulevard. You’ll pass through Parnell Square and the Gate Theater area. Don’t forget to stop in the Garden of Remembrance. From there you can make your way to Glasnevin.
Merrion Square, on the south side of Dublin, is a lovely park to walk through and don’t forget to look for the statue of Oscar Wilde. It’s quite wild!
Incredible Historic Texts and Arts
For sites closer to the center of town, check out the Book of Kells at Trinity College. Book of Kells is an ancient illuminated manuscript that contains the four Gospels of the New Testament. On the way out after seeing the book you pass through The Long Room Library. This place is truly amazing. It houses 200,000 ancient books, many of them originals.
The room design and architecture is spectacular. Take some time to chat with one of the guards because they’ll show you some special books and tell you more about the library.
And while we’re on the subject of the arts, one thing I always do when I travel is see a film with a local audience. Dublin didn’t disappoint. Right in the heart of Temple Bar area is the Irish Film Institute, a very special art house cinema. It houses old style small theaters, a pub, and restaurant. On some Saturdays, they pull Irish films out of their archives and show them for free!
Surprisingly, Great Food
I never really considered Ireland to be a culinary capital, but the booming tech scene here has turned Dublin into a cosmopolitan culinary melting pot. Food is one of the main attractions in Dublin and when you need something besides fish and chips and Irish stew, try these places.
Avoca, right off Grafton Street, is a great place to meet friends for brunch or just enjoy some delicate, flakey baked goods with your flat white. I can recommend their scones with clotted cream and jam!
Do you know what a boxty is? Neither did I. A boxty is an Irish potatoe wrap. In other words, the humble spud made beautiful! Boxty, right in the heart of Temple Bar, has excellent boxty wraps along with a very creative menu of other Irish food as well. They don’t serve Guinness, but they do serve Beamish, which I like just as well. And you’ll enjoy the staff there too. They all have the gift of Irish gab – in a good way!
If you’re not feeling like a proper sit down meal, and just want some incredible food to take away or eat cafe style, you must go to Fallon and Byrne. All their food is great (I really love the chicken cacciatore), the prices are right and the portions huge.
And don’t forget a visit to Queen of Tarts. Many people like their breakfast, but I think the bakery goods are what’s special.
I hear you asking: “but what about coffee places”. While Dublin is unfortunately filled with Starbucks, if you’re like me and want to support the local coffee houses when you travel, then head to The Bald Barista or Coffee Angel.
The Coffee Angel location on Leinster Street is central no matter where you’re staying. Coffee Angel became my go to place for coffee so much so that when I left Dublin they gifted me a pound of the beans! Great people, great vibe, and excellent coffee. I’d rank this in the top five coffee places I’ve been, anywhere!
Day Trips From Dublin
Dublin also lends itself to two special day trips.
I suggest going to Belfast, Northern Ireland, at least for a day. There’s a lot to see and do, but the Belfast Peace Wall murals on Falls Road — an ode to the city’s violent and complex history and Ireland’s struggle with British occupation — were my top priority.
The train from Dublin goes to central station in Belfast; from there, hop on the local train to Great Victoria Station and you can walk to Falls Road from there. Read up on some Northern Ireland history before you go and the murals will have more meaning.
Day Trip to Howth
An easy — though challenging if you hike up in the hills — day trip outside of Dublin is the seaside town of Howth. It’s a charming town!
Take the D.A.R.T. from Tara Station and it’s about 30 minutes to Howth. Walk out to the lighthouse, and then take the challenge and walk up the cliff trails so you get above the sea. The path is well marked and the views are spectacular. After your hike, you’ll be hungry. Stop at one of the many small restaurants along the fishing pier – just don’t go to Crabby Jo’s. I had the worst seafood chowder there – it should be called seafood-LESS chowder!
Hotels in Dublin
They are about a mile apart putting them in slightly different areas but each are easily accessible to everything you’d want to see. The staff at the Raddison Blu was one of the best I’ve encountered anywhere. Friendly, helpful, wonderful to talk with and get the low down on all things Dublin. And if you score an upgrade or choose to have breakfast included with your stay, the buffet is perfect, offering a broad range of choices, cooked fresh or to order. Try the soda bread…..it’s addicting!
How I Got to Dublin
I flew Aer Lingus business class and it was a great way to start and end my Irish adventure. One tip is not to forget that when you fly business class into Dublin, they have an arrivals lounge. I used it to shower and get refreshed. There was only one other person in there, so I have a feeling most people don’t use it, but it’s certainly good to know about and a brilliant addition to the business class experience.
Enjoy your Dublin time and of course, in between all these ideas for fun outings there is still plenty of time for Guinness!