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A narrated hop-on/hop-off bus tour of the city is an enjoyable way to orient yourself in Dublin. A large portion of the city's national museums, galleries, and libraries have free admission so culture and history-lovers can feast here on the smallest of budgets. Dublin Castle (built in 1204), Trinity College (which houses the Book of Kells), and the Dublin Writers Museum also draw international visitors year-round.
Dublin is also famed for performing arts, so book ahead for a performance at the Abbey or Gaiety Theatre. Beer-lovers flock to the Guinness Storehouse, and if you're in town around St Patrick's Day, get ready to experience the city in a very different way. If you're short on things to do in Dublin at any point, just ask a local what they'd suggest — you might have a whole other adventure.
Food and drink
With more than 1,000 pubs in Dublin, you'd be hard pressed to try them all. Rock stars, politicians, the literary set, and the locals are all equal at the pub. Whichever of the 1,000 pubs you chose — whether you're tucked by a fireplace with a whisky, or drinking a pint of Guinness in a beer garden in summertime — you'll get a slice of culture, custom, and reasonably-priced food. Consider starting near St. Stephen's Green, Grafton Street, or Temple Bar and just work your way along from there. You'll also find Italian, Middle Eastern, Indian, seafood, Asian, and vegetarian Dublin restaurants. Don't fret if you want something more upmarket; this city does Michelin stars too.
Where to stay
Dublin accommodations have ample representation from all budget brackets. If you're looking for an alternative to hostels, try university campus accommodation. There are great quality rooms, both self-catering and serviced, available at select times of the year. Experience a local welcome at a bed-and-breakfast or guesthouse. If you don't need to stay in the city itself, and would like some quiet, why not try a farmhouse in County Dublin? If you're set on a hotel, you can find good deals at what were once much pricier properties. A handful of stylish, beautifully-appointed hotels include The Shelbourne, The Westin, and The Westbury.
Central Dublin shopping at its best is in the area between O'Connell Street and Grafton Street. Grafton Street is home to Dublin's most expensive department store, Brown Thomas. Antique hunters will find a delightful array of shops along Frances Street, and stationery lovers should seek out the basement store within Eason's-Hanna's Bookshop, opposite the side entrance to Trinity College. Dublin also has an eclectic mix of indoor and outdoor markets. Get among the locals at Cow's Lane, the arts and crafts market at Newmarket Square (the Dublin Flea Market is also here on the last Sunday of each month), and the Christ Church Cathedral Lunchtime Market.
Dublin like a local
There are a few gems tucked away, and in plain sight, that visitors may not come across on their own. Start your day with a little slice (or baguette) of France on Moore Street at the Paris Bakery. Pay a visit to St Audeon's Church, the oldest city church still in use and possessing the last remaining city gate. Uncover haunted Dublin on a tour with Hidden Dublin Walks. See the cages readers were once kept in at Marsh's Library, and finish the day amid the lilt of Gaelic, with a brew, at Conradh Na Gaeilge bar. If you're feeling energetic, add a lesson during the day on the skills and history of Ireland's sports at Experience Gaelic Games.
A 'Break' in Dublin
Want to take a quick trip to Dublin? Take a look at Liberty Travel’s EURObreaks – short European getaways tailor-made for you. Best of all, each EURObreak includes a City Insider, an expert who lives in and loves the city you’re exploring. They’ll give you an overview of the city and its history, highlighting what’s trendy, tried and true, or a combination – they’ll even give you a quick lesson in the city’s public transportation! Your City Insider helps ensure that your vacation memories will be unforgettable.
Things to see and do
Trinity College Dublin
Established in 1592, this venerable higher learning institution can boast that famous literary alumni such as Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, and Samuel Beckett walked its hallowed halls. As Ireland's oldest and most famous college, the prestigious Trinity College Dublin, officially The University of Dublin or, more commonly, TCD, is a masterpiece of Georgian architecture and landscaped gardens.
Built on the former Priory of All Hallows in the now centre of Dublin, the over 400-year-old Trinity College has many sights for visitors to peruse, the most famous being the Old Library and the Book of Kells. This gloriously illustrated 9th-century gospel manuscript is housed in the 18th-century Old Library's Long Room with the college's other literary antiquities and treasured volumes. Other notable buildings and sights include the Oscar Wilde Centre for Irish Writing, which houses the School of English, and Samuel Beckett Theatre.
Established in 1204, Dublin Castle has witnessed many tumultuous events in Ireland's history, from its establishment on a Viking fortress, through invasions and wars, fire and neglect, to the restoration of the historic buildings. The site is now a tourist attraction and events center hosting luminaries from the European Union as well as business and industry leaders.
Located in the center of Dublin near the River Liffey, after 900 years all that remains of the original 13th-century Anglo-Norman fortress is the southeast Record Tower, finished in 1258, which was used as a high-security prison for native Irish hostages and priests during Tudor times. The tower is now the Garda (Police) Museum, which is free to enter via prior arrangement. The remainder of the site was rebuilt in the 18th century in a mix of architectural styles. Access to the State Apartments and medieval Undercroft within Dublin Castle is by guided tour only.
Dublin Guinness Factory
Located within the center of St. James's Brewery, Guinness Storehouse is Ireland's most popular tourist attraction. Visitors to the seven-story historic building can learn the history and secrets behind Ireland's national drink of Guinness stout — a world-famous dark porter brew with a tight, creamy head made with only four ingredients: water, barley, hops, and yeast.
While you can't access the actual brewery, you can take a self-guided tour of the Market Street storehouse, which, built in 1904, was the first building in Britain to be constructed in the Chicago School style of architecture, and was used for fermenting beer until 1988. The Guinness story starts with Arthur Guinness who founded the brewery in 1759 and began brewing porter, a stronger type of stout, in the 1770s. The visitor experience begins in the central glass atrium shaped like a giant pint glass where you can also see the 9,000-year lease Arthur signed for the property.
An aristocratic park just a few blocks from St. Stephen's Square, Merrion Square is bordered on three sides by well-preserved Georgian townhouses with the National Gallery, Natural Museum of Natural History, and Leinster House on the remaining end. The prestigious square was also home to distinguished Dubliners such as Oscar Wilde's parents, and writers W.B. Yeats and Sheridan LeFanu.
The rows of stunning Georgian houses are some of Dublin's best examples of this architectural style and boast colorful front doors complete with ornate door knockers, intricate fanlights, and even foot scrapers for its formerly well-heeled residents. Today, these houses are mainly used as offices.
National Gallery of Ireland
Opened in 1864, National Gallery of Ireland is one of Europe's finest small art museums with over 15,000 artworks dating from the early 13th century to the mid-20th century. The permanent collection contains major European masterpieces and the world's most comprehensive selection of Irish art.
The gallery consists of four interconnected buildings: Dargan Wing, established in 1864, followed by Milltown Wing in 1903, and then Beit Wing in 1968. The final edifice, Millennium Wing, was opened in 2002. Within the gallery are examples of paintings, sculptures, prints, drawings, and objets d'art. The four major collections are the National Portrait Collection, Yeats Collection, and the galleries of painting and sculpture, and prints and drawing. The comprehensive collection of historic Irish art dates back to the 17th century when the tradition of easel painting was established. Of note is the Yeats Collection featuring the works of the Yeats family, including Jack B. Yeats, brother of writer W.B. Yeats.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
What could be more Irish than St Paddy? While the site has contained a church since the 5th century, where its namesake St. Patrick reputedly baptized new Christian converts at an onsite well, the current St. Patrick’s Cathedral dates from around 1220 to 1259. Crafted from local limestone and Bristol stone, the Gothic cathedral is in the shape of a cruciform and has evolved greatly over the years.
Surviving numerous storms and fire during the 13th and 14th centuries, after the English Reformation the cathedral became an Anglican church and was modified to suit. By the 19th century, St. Patrick’s was in a state of dire disrepair and underwent restorations between 1860 to 1865, which included the addition of flying buttresses. Ireland’s largest cathedral undergoes regular restorative work to ensure the ancient church survives and the sacred and historic stories live on.
The interior of the cathedral contains the 19th-century St. Patrick’s stained glass window, which tells the saint’s life in 39 different images. Dean of the cathedral from 1713 to 1745 and author of ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, Jonathan Swift’s grave lies within the cathedral with his self-written epitaph along with several other mementos, including his death mask and a copy of his skull. The beautifully decorated Lady Chapel is dedicated to the Virgin Mary and was built in 1270. It includes a chair said to have been used by King William III as well as geometric floor tiles, monuments, and stained glass windows.