I had never been to Dublin before, but had a lot of associations with the capital on Ireland: Guinness, the green of Saint Patrick and fun people who like to party. Luckily I found all of this and even more when I recently visited for the first time. I had friends to show me around, but if you arrive in Dublin clueless and without plan, maybe this list of 10 awesome things will give you a kickstarter!
1) City Bikes
Just like many other European cities, Dublin has public city bikes. The city center is rather small, which makes it extremely convenient to explore by bike and see everything there is to see without exhausting amounts of walking. Locals get a yearly subscription for €20, but visitors can opt for a 3-day-pass for only €5. The first half hour is free of charge, and every succeeding hour costs €1 – that means these bikes are ideal to get around in town, but less appropriate for day trips. To keep the costs low, return your bike to the nearest station after use, and take one again when needed. The stations are very easy to reach (check out the station map here), and there are bike lanes in the city (but be careful with the left-hand traffic).
via William Murphy
2) Kilmainham Gaol
This abandoned jail – the biggest in Europe – was perhaps the most interesting place in Dublin for me. It was built in 1796, and during the almost 130 years it was in operation, many famous people were imprisoned here. Particularly during the Irish independence period there were many British leaders and soldiers incarcerated and executed here. In the 1960’s volunteers renovated the jail and it has since become one of the most frequented historic tourist attractions in the city. Many movies have also been filmed at Kilmainham Gaol, including The Italian Job (1969), The Whistle Blower (1987), and In the Name of the Father (1993). Apart from the small museum at the entrance, the building is only accessible with a guided tour in small groups. The tickets are €6 for adults.
3) Street Performers
Something that makes the atmosphere in Dublin so unique are its street performers. The main streets are full of musicians and virtually all of them are truly talented. It was really hard to get anywhere, because I had to stop at almost every corner and spend a few minutes to listen to them and experience these most magic moments. They truly brighten up the city!
4) Doors of Dublin
It is a tradition in Dublin, that most doors are coloured differently. According to one myth, people painted their doors individually to avoid entering the wrong house when they were drunk. Another explanation could be a law which was passed by the English – accordingly every door had to be painted blue (the queen/king’s colour) or black (in case the queen/king died). The Irish revolted and painted their doors in which ever colour they wanted. I have no idea if either of these stories is true, but it doesn’t really matter why – those colourful doors are pretty either way.
5) Guinness Storehouse
Another interesting, and very typical place to visit in Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse. It is a seven-storey building next to the Guinness factory, which serves as a museum recounting the history and production process of Guinness. It is quite interesting to see the beer production steps from scratch, and of course the museum ticket includes one pint of Guinness. Although it is possible to get your drink in any of the small bars located on each floor, I’d recommend to keep it until the end when you reach the top floor. The Gravity Bar on the 7th floor has a panoramic view of Dublin, and it is the best place to enjoy the pint.
6) 3FE Coffee Shop
Just before I took off for Dublin I had read an article on “25 Coffee Shops Around The World You Have To See Before You Die”. When I saw that one of the shops, 3FE, was in Dublin I had to set out and find it. It is an artisan coffee shop, located close to Grand Canal Dock, which changes its coffee offering weekly. I tried the ‘trio tasting’, which is basically three cups of coffee prepared with the same type of bean but in different variations. If you live coffee, this is the place to go! They are mainly focused on coffee, but they also serve breakfast, lunch and some sweet treats. It is also possible to buy your favourite coffee beans, and some branded items such as cups or tools.
7) Friendly People
Dublin is a very lively city. People are friendly, open and tend to have long conversations with people they don’t know. They get even more outgoing when the bars and pubs get crowded in the evenings. I figured that alcohol might stand in a positive relation to the happiness of people here – at least to a certain extent. Admittedly, Dubliners have a distinctive accent, which is hard to understand in the beginning, but a few hours in, you’ll get a hold if it.
8) Steak on The Stone
There is a great variety of restaurants in Dublin, but the famous ‘steak on the stone’ at The Lotts Cafe & Bar shouldn’t be missed. The meat is served raw on a hot stone and you have to slice and cook it yourself. The DIY feeling makes for a good atmosphere when having a leisurely meal with your friends.
Dublin is an amazing city to go out, as there is a pub at literally every corner. Irish people love to drink beer and ales – especially Guinness; then a lager beer, then Guinness again, and then beer, and lastly Guinness… It is said that Dubliners get drunk with regular beer and polish it off with a Guinness. Weirdly, getting drunk seems like something to be proud of in this city. However, even if you’re just in for a drink or two, you’ll certainly find a nice pub for every taste.
10) Trinity College
The campus of this well-established and popular university is one of the best places of Dublin to take a walk, live the student life and meet new people. There is a huge green area on campus where many events are hosted during spring and summer. Students will often come here with their friends and have a picnic between classes. Other highlights are the Old Library and the other historic buildings on site. There are guided tours available, but even just strolling around on your own is a great experience!
Although Dublin is not one of the big metropolises of Europe, it has a lot to offer. On the one hand it is incredibly progressive, with strategic offices of some global players like Google, Facebook and Yahoo; on the other hand it maintains its historical charms. It is not only a great starting point for your Ireland adventures (be it by bus, train or rental car), it is also absolutely worth exploring the city for a couple of days on its own.
Have you ever visited Dublin? What are your memories of the city?
*Guest post by Sweden-based traveller Gizem Özdemir, who blogs over at her own blog here.
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