Dublin is not only the capital of Ireland, but also the largest city in the country. With its cobblestone streets and classic pubs, you will never get bored in this charming city. There are many landmarks, buildings, restaurants, pubs and monuments dating back hundreds of years within this bustling city. The people of Dublin are known to be some of the friendliest people and it rang true when I visited. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals for recommendations on where to eat, drink, or shop. Chances are they will be more than willing to help you out. I’ve compiled a list of some sights, restaurants and day trips to consider for first timers to Dublin.
Take a Stroll Down Grafton Street
Grafton Street is a main pedestrian street, which is a ton of fun to explore. It’s full of eclectic shops, old timey pubs and street performers galore. Grab a gelato, stroll up and down the streets and duck down a narrow lane way to escape into a quiet pub for a pint. Grafton Street will not disappoint you.
Get Lost in The Temple Bar Neighbourhood
The Temple Bar neighbourhood is the culture, art and entertainment mecca of Dublin on the south side of the Ha’Penny Bridge. A maze of narrow streets beside the River Liffey, this area exudes a boho, fun, hip and friendly atmosphere. Street entertainers are everywhere, pubs and restaurants are literally a stone’s throw away around every corner. Later in the night this neighbourhood turns into party central with pubs and nightclubs playing all kinds of music ranging from Top 40 dance music to traditional Irish tunes played by local artists donning banjos and harmonicas. Be prepared though, the Temple Bar area is highly touristy, so there will be crowds, especially trying to get into the infamous and iconic bright red Temple Bar pub.
Dinner at The Blind Pig
This restaurant is one of the coolest places I’ve ever heard of and one of the most unique ones I’ve managed to stumble upon while trip planning. The Blind Pig is a hidden gem. You must call and make reservations in advance and it’s in a “hidden location” and is a play on a speakeasy style pub from the famous Prohibition era. The restaurant’s name is a play on the terms meaning “blind cop”, since speakeasy bars were underground and hidden from police during prohibition times in Dublin. You must call a number and an employee from the restaurant will come and grab you and lead you to the restaurant, which is in an underground location beneath another restaurant. It was pretty cool and felt semi-badass. The drink menus are even discreetly hidden in old books on the tables, which makes the experience more unique. The drinks are strong and the food is fantastic, so The Blind Pig is definitely something one should experience while in Dublin. Make a reservation here.
Visit The Library & Wander The Grounds of Trinity College
Trinity College is the first university ever built in Ireland, with an old library that houses the world famous Book of Kells, a 9th century religious text. The visit to see the Book of Kells is self-guided, but you can get guided tours of the grounds if you’d like. Many of the guides are students, so this it’s a good way to get the inside story in a fun and informative way. Although we were strapped for time and the library was closed for the day, we still managed to wander around the university grounds and appreciate the architecture.
Take a Day Trip To Northern Ireland
Northern Ireland doesn’t get enough credit in my opinion. Taking a day trip up the the lesser travelled to Northern areas is a must in my books. We booked a day trip through Viator for under $100 CAD and had a guide, named Barry who was also our driver and he was chalk full of info and stories, ranging from lighthearted and hilarious, to historical, deep and informative. We went to the Dark Hedges, Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge, Giant’s Causeway and for an extra 15 Euro, we took a black cab tour of Belfast. The price we paid was well worth the money, since it was a full day from 6:30am until 8pm. The first stop on the tour was to the infamous Dark Hedges. These massive trees loom over the road, which is mostly known now for their appearance in the super popular Game of Thrones show. Nobody knows who planted the trees, but they are definitely a sight to see. The way they drape over the road and almost intertwine at the top to create a canopy-like structure over the road is beautiful.
Next, we set off to what was my favourite part of the Northern tour. We went to the Carrick-a-Rede Rope bridge. The bridge links the mainland to the tiny island of Carrickarede. It spans 20 metres (66ft) and is 30 metres (98ft) above the rocks and water below. Salmon fishermen have been building bridges to the island for over 350 years apparently. Over the years, the bridge has been made a lot safer for tourists around the world to cross safely. If you’re afraid of heights, don’t look down. This bridges swings, sways and bounces in the wind with every step you take. Once you’ve made it across the bridge, you’re rewarded with amazing views of the mainland cliffs and the turquoise waters of the Northern Atlantic ocean. We were lucky and had this tour on a bright and sunny day.
After lunch at a quaint local restaurant, our tour headed to the famous Giant’s Causeway. The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is an area consisting of approximately 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, which are the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. The story behind the site is very interesting. Watch your step as you hop from column to column though, as they are pretty slippery.
The day trip ends with a black cab tour of Belfast. The political background and tumultuous past of Belfast was extremely interesting to hear about from locals, especially while being driven around in a British black cab. On the tour, you get to the the world famous Catholic and Protestant political murals that paint a picture of Belfast’s colourful history, while the driver and guide gives you the background story behind each piece. You will learn about the times of the Troubles and then head over to the Peace Wall that separates the Catholic and Protestant communities. The wall is adorned with colourful graffiti with words of peace, love and hope scrawled everywhere from visitors across the globe. Grab a marker and leave a positive message for all to see!
Perfect Your Pour at the Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness Storehouse is a massive, Guinness themed tourist attraction that spans seven stories at St. James’s Gate Brewery in Dublin. Since the opening in 2000, the Storehouse has received over four million visitors. The ground floor introduces the beer’s four ingredients (water, barley, hops and yeast) and the brewery’s founder, Arthur Guinness. The other floors feature the history of Guinness advertising and include movie rooms featuring old commercials, which is pretty cool to see. The seventh floor houses the Gravity Bar with 360 degree views of Dublin and where visitors may drink a pint of Guinness included in the price of admission. Before reaching the Gravity Bar, you can perfect your pour with a quick class from a professional Guinness employee. Did you know that the perfect pour of Guinness should take 119.5 seconds at a 45 degree angle? Ya, neither did I until I visited the Guinness Storehouse. Learn more about Guinness and the Storehouse here. Oh, and to answer the question that everyone always asks, yes, it’s true…Guinness DOES taste better in Dublin!
For more info on what to do and see while visiting Dublin, check out the sites below! xo