“In Dublin‘s fair city
Where the girls are so pretty
I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone
As she wheeled her wheelbarrow
Through the streets broad and narrow
Crying “cockles and mussels, alive, alive, oh…”
If you’re planning a trip to Dublin, the capital of the Republic of Ireland, you must already start humming the above lines. The unofficial anthem of Dublin city, it is sure to set the mood for what’s coming. Yes, the Irish love their songs. Many an Irish town, street, landscape have been immortalised in melody. While Dublin may not appear in the list of prettiest cities in the world, it certainly packs a good deal of variety for every kind of traveller.
Think cobblestone streets, the handsome towers of Trinity College, ample green spaces, the Georgian-period buildings, quiet squares, artsy cafes and more.
Whatever you do in this vibrant city, make sure to end your day with a fresh pint of Guinness at one of the storied old pubs. This is where you’re likely to encounter funny, sociable Dubliners. In no time, you will find yourself having a craic with a bunch of new friends — it’ll be the most memorable part of your trip to Dublin.
EXPLORE THE CITY CENTRE AT YOUR OWN PACE
The city is the largest in Ireland, and its ever-increasing immigrant population brings people from around the globe. This mix of cultures is evident in various aspects – energy, character and culinary scene. That said, Dublin has retained some of its classic characteristics as well as traditions, theatre, fine literature, folklore, customary music and dance, and of course, Irish whiskey. Take a free walking tour on your first day in Dublin to get your bearings and make a list of places you want to revisit. Dublin is fairly small for a capital city. You don’t need more than two days to cover all the highlights; keep three if you’re someone who likes to take it slow. All you got to do is grab a map, a camera and a pair of comfortable shoes and get going.
What might first catch your attention is The Spire at O’Connell Street, a large, stainless steel, pin-like monument, 121.2 metres in height and designed by Ian Ritchie Architects, who sought an elegant and dynamic simplicity bridging art and technology. At dusk the monument appears to merge into the sky. A lot of walking tours begin at The Spire. While you may be aware of the contentious divide between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, you may not realise that the capital city has its own cultural divide, splitting the city into two distinct areas – the Northside and the Southside – separated by the River Liffey. When Dublin first became fashionable in the Georgian era, the Northside was considered the place to be. However, the Earl of Kildare decided that he would like his new extravagant palace on the Southside, and that’s how the fierce debate started. The economic divide took the shape of cultural differentiation and a common source of stereotyping. Till date, the north is stereotyped as being rough and rundown, the south as ostentatious and spoiled. These conventional images are so common that you find them everywhere including ruthlessly cruel Irish comedy and wit, literature and entertainment!
The city centre comprises of a few medium-sized neighbourhoods and most landmarks are at walking distance from each other. Don’t hesitate to spend a few hours exploring the banks of Liffey River in the central part of Dublin. This is where the past meets the present.
Don’t miss the Trinity College, a beautiful old university in the middle of Dublin. The surrounding grounds with their cobbled quads and the signature bell tower, are a glorious place and deserve your quality time. Take one of the student-run tours that tell you all about Trinity’s wealth of history and architecture. However, the main attractions are the Old Library and the Book of Kells, a richly decorated Gospel manuscript with a history dating back to the 9th century. One of Ireland’s greatest cultural treasures! Moreover, the library boasts of oak bookshelves and barrel-vaulted roof that leave you amazed.
If you’re not in favour of a busy day, spend an afternoon at St Patrick’s Park or St Stephen’s Green – a tranquil respite from the bustle of the city. Simply relax and watch the city go by.
Right in the centre of the town, this stretch of greenery is where you see college-going teens having a hearty laugh, families picnicking, couples sneaking some romantic moments and people simply napping under majestic trees without the fear of being judged or stared at. One of the most simple pleasures of life yet very satisfying! Victorian-era fountains, duck ponds, ample floral beauties and a bandstand further make the park picturesque.
UNCOVER IRISH HISTORY
Dublin is steeped in heritage and there is a lot of Viking history waiting to be uncovered here.
As you ramble, imagine the Viking warships cruising into Dublin Bay; the sights and sounds of silver and gold souks and the aroma of exotic spices. Visit the archeology and history branch of the National Museum of Ireland; it diplays swords, bows, jewellery made form amber, bronze, silver and gold, boardgames, toys and other day-to-day items and artifacts unearthed from the Wood Quay excavations. If you wish to don a horned helmet yourself, dress up in marauding Viking style and hop onboard an amphibious World War II vehicle, make sure to book a slot on one of the spellbinding group tours!
Make a stop at Kilmainham Gaol, the city’s famous former prison.
The jail once held some of Ireland’s most notorious prisoners, particularly Irish nationalists and republicans, along with thousands of ordinary men, women and children. The crimes ranged from petty offences such as stealing to murder and rape. A guided tour takes you through an exhibition detailing the political and penal history of the prison and its restoration. A cradle of Irish nationalism, Dublin’s imposing General Post Office is a neo-classical building at O’Connell Street which is now restored. When here, spend about an hour at the new and impressive ‘Witness History’ exhibition that takes you back to April 1916 when the Irish Republic was proclaimed, thus setting the stage for the violent Easter Rising. The exhibit explores the event, its context and its impact.
Lastly, spare some time for the country’s most iconic castle. Founded in 1204, Dublin castle remained the main centre of English and British rule in Ireland for about 800 long years. Today, this sprawling complex houses formal quadrangles, the Gothic Chapel Royal, the Viking-era Undercroft, the splendidly ornate State Apartments, which once housed the court of the British Viceroy and a number of free museums. Pause at the idyllic Dubh Linn Gardens, a formal piece of landscaping styled with a touch of Celtic nationalism or head to the Silk Road Café that occupies two rooms in what used to be an 18th century clock tower building and serves fresh, delicious Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean delicacies.
FIND YOUR SOUL IN THE CREATIVE QUARTER
Looking for a place to go to in search of yourself? Just a few blocks west of Grafton Street, Dublin‘s Creative Quarter is home to many inspiring, exciting and creative businesses, eclectic shops, artisan boutiques, cafés, galleries and restaurants with a very local ambiance and flavour. This is where you are likely to meet Irish writers, artists or simply people who you might want to have a meaningful conversation with. The area which stretches from South William Street to George’s Street, and from Lower Stephen’s Street to Exchequer Street has a long-standing history dating back to the 18th century and is emerging stronger day by day. As the name suggests, it is a hub of design creativity and innovation!
Drop in at J Grogan that was established in 1899 and till today holds its position as a refuge for the literary in the vicinity. All kinds of art adorns the walls of this charming place with youthful energy. This is where the young and old mingle without the distraction of music or television. If you’ve managed to get a table at this hippie spot any time of the week, you better hold on to it!
NOT WITHOUT AN IRISH PINT
There’s nothing like visiting an Irish pub in Ireland and Dublin, post evening, is a buzzing Mecca of nightclubs, pubs, restaurants and bars. In fact, its pub-to-person ratio is the envy of many cities.
Yes, you have a dynamic choice of clubs regardless of your definition of a nighout or your taste in music. Whether you want to dance the night away or simply linger with a velvety pint of Guinness and finest Irish music by a local band, the city won’t disappoint you. The best part? Dubliners never drink to get drunk. For them, it’s part of their social tapestry; a way to have a fun time with their friends.
While you may inevitably find your way to the Temple Bar district – city’s riverside neighborhood with cobbled pedestrian streets and a high concentration of bars, it can often get overcrowded and touristy. Instead, leave the city’s well-trodden streets behind to discover some of the most underrated drinking holes where you can screech your heart away to some good-old Irish songs. Visit The Brazen Head, officially the oldest pub in Ireland that dates back to 1198. It has left a lasting impression on Irish popular culture and you realise it once you enter the space with imposing walls. James Joyce made references to it in Ulysses, as did satirist Jonathan.
TIP: All said and done, Ireland’s fascinating pub culture can hit your wallet hard. If you have to work around a certain budget, cutback on your expenses by making the most of happy hours or drinking at home before you hit a pub.
TIP: The Guinness Storehouse is a must-visit for every beer lover. This will give you a chance to learn about history and brewing process of Ireland’s most famous export. Finish the brewery experience at the rooftop Gravity Bar that offers a 360-degree view of Dublin!
ART AFTERNOON TEA AT THE MERRION
Located just a few minutes away from the famous St Stephens Green, The Merrion Hotel has a sensational collection of Irish art and you could spend hours admiring the pieces on display. In fact, their art collection is good enough to eat! Treat yourself to a two-course lavish afternoon tea in the drawing room of the hotel and indulge in delectable miniature sweet creations inspired by the work of J.B Yeats, William Scott, Louis Le Brocquy and others. Oh so elegant and sophisticated! A perfect way to spend a relaxing afternoon in a luxurious setting!
KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
WHERE TO STAY
View from my room at The Westbury Hotel
Want to surrounded by grandeur and opulence in the heart of Dublin? Put up at The Westbury (A member of the Leading Hotels of the World) which is at very center of the city’s social and cultural riches. Yes, you can see all the action from your room! At its front doorstep lies Grafton Street, renowned for its colour, street performers and swanky boutiques; whilst Dublin’s Creative Quarter, with the city’s top theaters, museums and art galleries, is situated within a short walking distance. Modern, edgy and sophisticated, the family-owned hotel which is a part of the Doyle Collection has a unique personal touch to its interiors. To complete the experience, make sure to have a meal at it’s restaurant Wilde that celebrates best of seasonal Irish produce.
WHEN TO GO
Dublin rarely gets very warm or cold; January is the coldest month while July and August are the warmest with temperatures ranging between 12 to 18 degrees Celsius. In the winter the temperatures are usually in the low 40s. Summer is the best time to visit the city. However, expect some rain regardless of when you visit as most months get around 15-20 rainy days.
While there are no direct flights to the Irish capital, there are frequent connecting flights from cities like New Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru.