Despite only being a 40 minute, £20 return flight away, it’s only this year that I finally visited the Irish capital, Dublin. But you know what? I’ve already made a return trip, and am planning other for next year…
Natural History Museum
If the weather isn’t great (likely) and you’re fed up of the bars (unlikely), check out the free Natural History Museum for a money saving activity. Unfortunately the top floors are unavailable due to safety reasons so you can’t see their prized dodo, but you can spend an hour checking out the impressive collection of creatures on the first two floors.
A big draw of Dublin is the pubs and nightlife. OK, you haven’t exactly got the cool clubs of Berlin or the swanky bars at the top of London skyscrapers, but the vibe in Dublin is one of friendliness and fun. Head anywhere in the evening (or the daytime for that matter!) and not only will you find some of the nicest locals who want to share their experience of living in the city with you, but also some of the best live music you could ever wish to hear! My favourite is Oliver St John Gogarty’s pub in the famous Temple Bar area – yes you might need a bank loan to afford drinks there, but you cannot beat the vibe and traditional music you’ll definitely experience.
Oh, and check out O’Sheas just off O’Connells Street for reaaaaaally good lunch grub at reaaaaaally decent prices…
Dublin Walking Tour/Bar Crawl
The daily Sandemans walking tour is a must do on your first trip to Dublin; from a history lesson at the Castle to learning about what the Irish really think of the Queen, from hearing about brothel keeper/serial killer Darkey Kelly to singing the Dubliners’ classic Molly Malone at her statue, you can get a really good overview of Dublin’s past and present. Our guide Kieron was brilliant and really knew his stuff (you could tell history was his passion), and although the team do promote their nightly bar crawl a couple of times towards the end of the tour, we gave it a go and it was surprisingly good fun! It was well organised, unlike some bar crawls I’ve been on, and once you buy a 12 euro wristband it’s valid for the rest of the year which is great if you’re tempted to return.
EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum
One of the highlights of my last trip to Dublin was visiting the Irish Emigration Museum; with the friendliest staff I’ve ever met at a museum, it was full of interactive exhibits where you could really learn a bit more about Irish history. I had no idea that so many people were transported to Australia way back when, or even the numbers of young people still leaving the country now – Ireland really has had it tough over the years. The videos projected onto the walls are a welcome change from other museums where you spend all of your time crowded around a small sign trying to read it, and the last few rooms about Irish culture are great fun. You even get a passport to stamp in each room, how cool is that!
I’ve stayed in two different hostels in Dublin, and have been pretty impressed; Abigail’s Hostel is in the middle of Temple Bar, right on the River Liffey, so couldn’t be better for stumbling back after a night out! Lockers are big, dorms are en-suite and there’s a daily breakfast which is decent enough. Jacob’s hostel is a bit further out at a fifteen or so minute walk from Temple Bar, but is a bit cheaper and the dorms are huge! You need your security pass to be let in and then your card to get into the dorm area, so is definitely one of the best hostels in terms of security. Neither had any activities going on (although Jacob’s advertised a paid for bar crawl) and catered for large groups so weren’t the most sociable of hostels, but I’d definitely stay in both of them again.
Viking Splash Tours
Fancy being complete tourists for an hour? Check out the Viking bus boat tour! What the heck am I on about? Well, you sit on a bus in a Viking hat, make Viking noises at bemused tourists walking past, listen to hilarious commentary from the guide and end up on the Grand Canal Basin. Is it the most cultural thing you’ll do on your trip? Probably not, but there are worse ways to spend your time…
Overall Dublin isn’t a cheap place to visit, but I love its chilled out vibe and relaxed pub culture, and can’t wait to visit again next year!