Full of history and lots of authentic Irish pubs: Dublin offers a huge range of outstanding things and great experiences. Suddenly you can find yourself in old libraries or you enjoy the famous Guinness beer in one of the great pubs in the city. You can explore the Dublin Castle or take a cruise in the Dublin Bay. Or if you want to spend some money, you can shop along the Grafton Street to find some souvenirs. But most of all: Dublin is one of the most walkable cities in Europe. Although the public transportation is quite good (busses, trams and trains), I walked to every place and easily made my way from east to west.
All in all, I had the chance to stay four days in the beautiful capital of Ireland (at my friend’s place). It gave me enough time to explore the best spots and do some day trips from Dublin. So I started my way to the Phoenix Park, walked through the Temple Bar area and visited the Trinity College where I reminisced about my earlier college days.
But these places are by far not all. To make it easier for you, here I summed up my favorite spots and top sights that are worth visiting. Also you find helpful information about the best travel time and what great food options I can recommend for Dublin. Sounds good? Then let’s dive in now!
Best travel time
Dublin was on my list for so long. But unfortunately, I always found an excuse due to the weather. I didn’t want to go during autumn or winter, because it was too cold. And I didn’t want to go during summer or spring time, because I preferred something warmer. By thinking this, I’m probably not the only one, which is so sad. Yes, the weather is changeable in Ireland. But I’ve learned that this shouldn’t be the reason not to visit Dublin, since it’s a wonderful city. And I just wished I made it there earlier. Lesson learned!
So when is the best time to visit Ireland? While May, June and September tend to be the sunniest months, July and August can be a flop compared to other European cities. During the winter months, Dublin can be really cozy. When it’s snowy and chilly outside, you can enjoy a hot chocolate or tea in one of the pubs with their charming atmosphere. But for a short weekend trip, I recommend going in May, June or September.
If you want to have some fun and celebrate a national’s day with the Irish, visit Dublin in spring. Then you have the chance to join the St. Patrick’s Day parade which takes place every year on 17th March. Around 600.000 people, including some of Europe’s best street performers, come together to honor St. Patrick within four days of partying.
If you’re more into movies, then July and August will be the perfect months. On Saturday night you can enjoy free movies at Jameson Movies On The Square. Tickets can be bought from the Temple Bar Cultural Information Centre.
Best things to see in Dublin (for free)
Dublin offers lots of free attractions. For example, you can go to the National History Museum, the National Gallery and the National Museum of Ireland-Archaeology without paying any entrance fees. But there is also one organization called Dublin Free Walking Tour that offers free unique tours through the Northern and Southern side of Dublin. To experience the Irish atmosphere on foot, the Southern tour starts at 11am and the Northern tour at 3pm every day. Meeting point is The Spire. It’s a great opportunity to discover the city and to learn something about Dublin’s history – all for free!
Who knew that Dublin can be so attractive! If you want to explore Dublin on your own, no problem! Here you find my favorite spots that are worth visiting and with a hint whether it’s for free or not.
Temple Bar (free)
Authentic streets with popular bars, cozy cafés and great art galleries make Temple Bar to one of the most charming neighborhoods in Dublin. It was wonderful walking around the streets and passing the only art-house cinema of the city or the Gallery of Photography. One thing is for sure: there is always something to discover in the Temple Bar area.
Tip: Every Saturday, the small open-air Temple Bar Food Market opens its doors with delicious food – from sushi to salsa, from handmade chocolates to freshly made crêpes.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
The St. Patrick’s Cathedral was built between 1191 and 1270 and is Ireland’s largest church with a height of 91 m (300 ft). For a long time the St. Patrick’s Cathedral was considered as the church of the nation where St. Patrick allegedly baptized converted believers. Today the church is still a place for various national and public festivities. The admission costs 7€ for adults.
Christ Church Cathedral
The Christ Church Cathedral is a major landmark in Dublin and already exists since 1028. Originally the Vikings built the cathedral as a wooden church until one century later it was established as a stone church. Today the Christ Church Cathedral stands out with a mix of Gothic and Romanesque features. Because it’s registered as a charity organization and doesn’t receive any grants, you need to buy tickets (6€ for adults) to get in. This way, the church can fund its maintenance.
Trinity College (free)
One of the must-visits in Dublin is the Trinity College. It’s in the heart of Dublin and an oasis for everyone who loves to enjoy the peace and beauty of the campus. The school was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I and is the oldest and one of Ireland’s most prestigious universities – not least because the Irish poet and playwright Oscar Wilde and the avant-garde novelist Samuel Becket already studied there once.
Tip: If you visit Dublin during a weekend, try to go to the college on Sunday morning when the campus still feels pristine.
Old Library & Book of Kells
If you admire books as much as I do, you shouldn’t miss out the Old Library. It houses around 200.000 books and some of the greatest treasures on the Trinity campus. The Book of Kells, a breathtaking, illuminated manuscript of the four Gospels of the New Testament, is the most famous one from that you catch only a glimpse, unfortunately. It can get really busy, so I recommend booking tickets online (around 11€). This way you avoid the long line at the entrance and you get admission to temporary exhibitions in the East Pavilion.
A visit to Dublin Castle takes you back to the city’s history. Until Ireland’s independence in 1922, this was the permanent seat of English rulers over Ireland. Today, the fascinating and big complex houses a number of free museums and occasionally hosts concerts. E.g. you can visit the Chester Beatty Library and wander around the castle for free. If you want to visit the magnificent and prestigious rooms, you have to book online-tickets in advance (7€). Once there, you should plan on at least two hours to get an impression of the castle’s attractions.
Phoenix Park & St. Stephen’s Green (free)
While the St. Stephen’s Green handles 9 landscaped hectares, the Phoenix Park counts unbelievable 709 hectares which is not just European’s largest, but also one of the biggest city parks in the world. Both parks are popular green lungs and perfect for joggers who go for a run, ramblers who walk their dogs or friends and families who have a little picnic. But as popular as they are, they can become quite crowded during summer. So if you need a little break from the big mass, visit the gorgeous Iveagh Gardens. They are just around the corner of the St. Stephen’s Green and less crowded.
A must for everyone who desires the Irish history: Kilmainham Goal. The former prison was opened in 1796 and played a big role in Ireland’s hard way to independence. It was finally closed in 1924, but even today, the cold grey building and the countless cells still have the power to chill. If you are interested in visiting the Kilmainham Goal, you should book online days in advance (9€, guided tours only). Thus, you get tickets to your preferred time.
One of Ireland’s most popular tourist attractions is the Guinness Storehouse which is part of the 26-hectare brewery. Whatever you always wanted to know about Guinness, here you get the answer! At the rooftop Gravity Bar you can top your Guinness experience with a fantastic 360°-view over Dublin and a free pint Guinness. Save time and money by booking tickets online and get up to 30% discount on adult tickets (17,50€). Otherwise, be prepared for a long line.
Hugh Lane Gallery (free)
This is for all the art lovers: the Hugh Lane Gallery. It’s the first known modern art gallery in Dublin which gives you a true insight into the life of Francis Bacon. You can explore his chaotic studio with all the art boxes and canvas or discover one of the other current exhibitions of several artists.
Grafton Street (free)
After all the busy sightseeing, sometimes it’s about time for a little reward. And there is no better place than going shopping along Grafton Street. It’s located between the Trinity College and the St. Stephen’s Green and is filled with plenty of boutiques, restaurants, cafés and traditional pubs. Even if you don’t want to buy anything, it’s nice to walk around and have a look at the shop windows. And who knows: maybe you find something special!
Best Food Options
The Temple Bar
Dublin wouldn’t be Dublin without its pubs. The most famous one is Temple Bar – just like the name of the neighborhood. They play Irish live music and bring the bar to life by night. Due to its popularity, the Temple Bar can get really crowded. But you find in that area lots of other pubs such as Long Hall or Stags Head where you can enjoy your evening just as well.
Lemon Jelly Café
I must confess, I have a weakness for crêpes. So when I walked by the Lemon Jelly Café I just couldn’t resist to taste one of their delicious French pancakes. You can also have bagels, omelettes and smoothies there – just perfect for a little break.
If you’re looking for a good brunch spot, you will find it at Brother Hubbard. They have two cafés in Dublin: one in the north and one in the south. So wherever you are, it’s easy to reach. If porridge, French toast or avocado and eggs – the Brother Hubbard is probably the best brunch spot in Dublin!
As you see, Dublin has plenty of food options. If you want to dive deeper into the city’s food scene, try one of the great food tours. I can recommend the Delicious Dublin walking tour by French native Ketty Quigley who has fallen in love with Dublin since 2004. Not just on her blog called the „French Foodie in Dublin“, but also during the food tour Ketty gives you a taste of the lesser known, but awesome restaurants and cafés.
Have you ever been to Dublin or is there anything you can recommend? Otherwise I hope you like my tips and they help you to have an awesome time in Dublin!