Dublin is a marvelously compact city with a vibrant beating heart. Lots to see from beautifully historic buildings to relaxing city centre parks to add to the amazingly friendly atmosphere and all within a short walk.
So, a bit of background here. I have wanted to go over to Ireland for quite a while now but for some reason not ended up going, it’s strange really that in that time I have been to places such as New York, Moscow and Tokyo and yet never made the short trip over the Irish sea, I guess it’s one of those things like when people who live in a city never visit all the main things tourists come to see!
The main reason I have wanted to visit Ireland is because of my ancestry, 3 out of the 4 of my grandparents all had Irish grandparents themselves who came over mostly during the famine era. Ever since I was a child I have been told about the stories of their struggle and the prejudice they faced as Irish immigrants coming into England. How they grafted with monotonous hard labour jobs to feed and clothe their families as well as spending a little too much time down at the local pub after work.
I had heard that it was expensive though and I do think that may have had a bearing on not going, although I can say now that overall it is not really too bad. Flights were cheap as you like in the Ryanair sale and once you are there I found the cost of food and transport to be pretty much the same, if not cheaper, than home. I do have to say though I found the accommodation a little steep for what it was.
So, our trip!
Getting to and from the city is really easy and cheap from Dublin airport, although there are that many options it is a little confusing exactly which one is best. They have a range of bus and coach services running frequently and each offering a different price! When you step out of the airport you will be greeted by the most expensive coaches offering fares for around €10 each way, then you come across some slower air coaches for a cheaper €6… but keep walking (by this time you are outside terminal 2 but it’s a short walk) and you will come to the local buses heading for the city centre which will charge you €2.90 for a single into town (a little slower but great price and also have free WIFI!). We got the 16 which goes down O’Connell street which is right in the centre of Dublin and also has a LUAS stop at the main intersection.
Speaking of transport Dublin is easy to get around even though like many capital cities is does not have an underground system. It has many bus routes all over the city and you can pick up a day ticket for around €6.90 or a weekly for €27.50, tickets can be bought from the driver or machines at certain stops. It also has a tram system called the LUAS which only has two lines but can be useful for some of the further to reach places, to use the tram you can buy tickets on the platforms and chose which zone you will be travelling too. Tickets are a little pricey on the LUAS really for the distance covered. In all honestly the city is compact enough to travel around on foot to the majority of places and that way you also see so much more, the only time we used the LUAS was to get to the Guinness storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol.
What we got up to!
Well, on a short trip it is always hard to balance seeing as much as you can with also giving yourself time to take in the city, but we had a lot planned and managed to have a brilliant couple of days and see so many sides to this beautiful and historic city.
First off we ended up on O’Connell street straight off the airport bus and found ourselves in the buzzing centre of the city. The street itself also has some great features such as the post office which is one of Ireland’s most famous buildings having played a major role in the independence of Ireland. Along here there is also the magnificent Dublin Spire which at nearly 400ft looks almost unreal and is quite a contrast to the historic building surrounding it.
Halfpenny Bridge/ River Liffey
Next off it was a stroll down to the River Liffey across the O’Connell Bridge at the end of O’Connell street. A short walk down the river bank and we pay a visit to the beautiful little Halfpenny Bridge( Ha’Penny). Built in 1816 out of cast iron the name “Ha’Penny bridge” comes from the toll enforces for it’s use for the first 100 years of it’s existence. it’s official name is in fact the “Liffey Bridge” after it was originally called the “Wellington Bridge” and it was built to replace a ferry service used to cross the river before hand. The bridge is definitely a must see when visiting Dublin and is one of the cities iconic structures both beautiful and historic as well as affording some picturesque views down the river and it’s banks.
After that we had a stroll around the near by Temple bar, probably one of the most famous areas in Ireland. The streets around here really are quintessential Dublin and along with the cobbled streets and the constant stream of live Celtic music pouring out of each establishment this lives up to the Dublin you always imagined! It really is like stepping back in time and is one of the only places in the area to have kept it’s medieval street pattern, the narrow streets really extenuating the atmosphere! There is also a really cool alternative feel in the surrounding areas including art galleries, graffiti and independent and quirky shops. Of course, we returned later on in the evening for a few pints of Guinness and some live music to see the area really come to life after dark.
Trinity College & The Book Of Kells
After Temple bar we headed off the most famous of Dublin’s attractions: Trinity College & The Book Of Kells. Just a short walk over the river from Temple bar this is Dublin’s oldest university founded in 1592 and modelled after Oxford and Cambridge universities, it is not only a working university but also a major historical attraction within the city. The entire campus itself is great to walk around and has many features and buildings too see including the tranquil parliament square and the Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Sphere Within Sphere sculpture. But the main reason we are here is to visit the Library. The entrance fee is around €10 for adults and €8 for students and there is usually a bit of a queue to get in!
The Book of Kells itself is an illuminated manuscript Gospel book in Latin, containing the four Gospels of the New Testament and dates to around 800AD. It is widely regarded as Ireland finest national treasure and really is an amazingly decorative thing to see in real life. Unfortunately and understandably you are not allowed to take any photographs of the book itself but here is one I pulled from Wikipedia!
Then on to The Long Room which is probably the most iconic image of Trinity College and in no less impressive in the flesh! It is one of those spaces in which you can almost feel the history, the smell of the books and the wood, as well as it being quite dark in there gives it a great atmosphere and although it is usually full of visitors you could hear a pin drop! It was built between 1712 and 1732 and houses over 200,000 of the libraries oldest books. It also contains one of the last remaining copies of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic read out of the steps of the post office on O’Connell street as mentioned above. This is one of the places in Dublin I have dreamt about visiting and I have to say I did really enjoy it and would recommended it as a must see!
St Stephen’s Green
We decided after a busy morning to have a relax over at St Stephen’s Green, the sun was out and this is a glorious location to sit down on the grass and admire this tranquil oasis. The park itself has quite a central park like feel to it being so close to the centre of the city but yet feeling quite sheltered from the bustling streets. It also looks like a popular place with locals and you can see why, it had a great buzz to it with the grass being full of people chatting and sunbathing but the park being in immaculate condition. Walking through Stephen’s Green there is also the Fusiliers arch too see and the lake full of local wildlife.
After an exhausting first day in Dublin we headed back to our B&B to check in and freshen up. We stayed at HazelBrook House which is on Lower Gardiner street, it is in a great location only a short walk from O’Connell street and for the price was a nice place to stay. I did note the amount of other B&B’s as well as hostels on this street and this explained a lot to me about why the hostels in the city seemed to cost just as much as the B&B’s!
The Customs House
Well after that the sun was still shining and the streets still warm into the early evening. Before heading back into Temple bar for some food and drinks we took a walk along the Liffey close by to where we were staying to have a look at The Custom House a magnificent building opened in 1791 and as with many of the grand buildings in Dublin playing it’s role in the Irish War of Independence in 1921. It was burnt down in a failed IRA propaganda coup as at the time it was the centre of Local Government in the British administration in Ireland.
Famine Memorial / Jeanie Johnston
Along this stretch of the river there is also the Famine Memorial sculpture by Rowan Gillespie depicting a group of painfully thin figures walking towards the emigration ships on the Dublin Quayside. Further along the banks of the river is the Jeanie Johnston tall ship which is a replica of the original ship which Between 1848 and 1855 made 16 voyages to North America carrying immigrants as a result of the Irish Famine. The ship itself has sailed all over North America before being moored in Dublin as a floating museum. Unfortunately it was closed by the time we came by but makes for a great feature on a walk along the river.
Christ Church Cathedral
Our second day in the city was a little bit more relaxed although we still managed to pack quite a bit in. We headed over to Christ Church Cathedral which is the older of the two medieval cathedrals in the city having been founded in 1030. The building itself is a wonderful piece of architecture from the outside but once inside is quite magnificent. You pay a small entrance fee and have the whole place to explore including the altar and crypt (the largest in Britain). The organ was also being played as we made our way around the building and the dean was in attendance and greeting guests.
One of my favourite places we visited was Kilmainham Gaol Prison, it is a little out of the way of some of the other things in the city but we stopped off at the “James” stop on the LUAS and walked around half a mile to get up there. Not only is the building itself and especially the main hall an amazing sight but the whole place is steeping in history and it could be argued the “Stone breakers” yard within this prison is the most important spot in the history of Ireland!
The prison was built in 1796 as a new time of detention centre which concentrated on reforming the inmates through a harsh disciplinarian regime instead of the old style prisons in which most prisoners came out worse than when they went in. The prison is most well-known for the incarceration of some of the most important figures in the struggle for Irish independence, when these prisoners entered the prison public opinion favoured the British. As these men where one by one put to death their stories began to touch the hearts of the Irish public, they saw their executions as unjust and so began to rise up again the British rule and support the rebellion thus changing the course of British and Irish history forever.
To visit the prison you must go in at set times in a group with a guide, this is normally something I hate, but actually I have to say it was brilliant. The guide not only told us so much about this place but also gave us a history lesson about Ireland in general, I could almost feel my brain cells increasing! He also gives you plenty of time to photograph the main hall but if you want to take photos as you go around I would advise hanging around at the back of the group! Tours run every hour and they usually have a bit of a queue and only let the first 30 or so in.
The price is also ridiculously cheap costing us only €2 each for student entry (Adults are €6).
St James’ Brewery / Guinness Storehouse
Only a short walk away from Kilmainham is the St James’ Brewery or the Guinness Storehouse so we headed that way. Now I am going to be controversial here and say that I don’t actually like Guinness, I know, I know, I do try though! But that being said, it is an Irish institution and no visit to Dublin would be complete without visiting the mecca of Guinness! The building itself is really interesting with lots of great features and history, I even partook in the taste experience! The highlight for me is the gravity bar in which you can enjoy a 360° view of the city and the hillside beyond. Although I couldn’t bring myself to have another pint of the stuff we did enjoy sitting back and relaxing over the view for a while.
St Patrick’s cathedral
Well, after that it was nearly time to leave Dublin, we decided to head off for something to eat and a look over at St Patrick’s cathedral before be left. The cathedral itself was closed but the surrounding grounds are a lovely place to chill out for a while and watch the kids practice their hurling technique in the early evening sun.
So there you have it, an amazing couple of days in this vibrant and historic city. I would definitely recommend heading on over to Dublin, you will have a great time! As for me, I would love to return to Ireland to see more of Dublin and the country as well as Northern Ireland too.
Have you been to Dublin? Any recommendations that I missed out on? What were your impressions?