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Ireland Travel Guide

 Best Places to Visit in  Dublin, Ireland

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  Introduction  South of the Liffey River   North of the Liffey and Daytrips   Detailed Map  

 

 

 

  

Best Places to Visit in Dublin, Ireland  Click for a chart of Dublin's annual precipitation and temperature ranges.  

   
The River Liffey is the heart of tourist Dublin Read our recommendations on the best places to visit in Dublin, Ireland. This is the first page of our two-page Dublin Guide.

Located on the eastern edge of Ireland at the mouth of the Liffey River, Dublin is just a short hop (70 miles) across the Irish Sea from the coast of Wales.  The closeness to England led to invasions that shaped both the history of Dublin and the political/religious outlook of many of its inhabitants.  Invaded by the Vikings and later by the Norman Kings of England, Dublin and Ireland have had a mix of masters that proved volatile.

In Norman times, Dublin and the area surrounding it were known as the Pale.  Within the boundaries of the Pale, allegiance to the English king was observed or maintained (at least until the last century) and use of the English Language was enforced.  Beyond the Pale, Irish customs and beliefs were predominant, but were not politically correct, although sometimes openly practiced.   During the 700-year reign of the English, Dublin mirrored the look, culture and religious orientation of England.  Even today, if you were to look only at Dublin's Georgian architecture, public buildings and Presbyterian cathedrals (Christ Church and St. Patrick's) you could easily convince yourself that you were in England.  Relative independence from the United Kingdom occurred in 1921 with the establishment of the Free State of Ireland, with Dublin as its capital. 

Approximately 1 million people or 25 percent of the Republic of Ireland's population live in the Greater Dublin Area, while a half-million live within the city itself.  Dublin is a noted European capital, center of high technology, and the literary core of the country.  Dublin has benefited from an economic renaissance over the last decade and growth has been significant.  Outside of Dublin, the effects of the economy and membership in the EU appear less significant. 

                         

Dublin is a fun, but crowded city that offers interesting architecture, several good quality museums and a number of attractive galleries.  Pubs, good food and good conversation are easy to find in Dublin, especially if you buy your new friends a round of Guinness.  Of course, Ireland is one of the most expensive countries in Europe for alcohol, so buying a round (include the bartender) can be a major investment .

In pleasant weather you will find walking between attractions a pleasant undertaking, but it often rains in Ireland, so be ready to take a taxi or ride the bus. Perhaps the best way to get between the sites is to take the bus.  For details see the tourist information section of the Dublin Bus website.

Most of the Dublin that would be of interest to tourists hugs the banks of the Liffey River .  We think the south bank of the river offers the best of Dublin and that is where you will find most of our choices for the best places to visit in Dublin. For centuries, the Liffey River was the lifeblood and major transportation artery of Dublin and you will see it often as you are touring the city.  It is not that the river is scenic; instead, it is the Liffey's history and centrality that endears it to Dubliners.

The bridge in the photo on the left is one of two pedestrian bridges that crosses the Liffey and is called the Ha'penny Bridge, because half a penny was the original fee to use it when it opened in 1816.  The bridge, originally named the Wellington Bridge, then renamed the Liffey Bridge, has become one of the most enduring images of Dublin.  The original naming of the bridge after Wellington, who defeated Napoleon at the battle of Waterloo, Belgium, reflected the Iron Duke's heritage as a native son of Dublin (born 1769).

Be sure to take some photos while crossing the Liffey on the Ha'penny bridge, as the combination of the two seems to capture the essence of this interesting city.

 

 

 

 

 

Climate Note

Ireland has a temperate maritime climate, modified by the North Atlantic Current. The country has mild winters, cool summers, but is consistently humid.  Expect it to be overcast about half the time.
Dublin Climate

 

 
Georgian architecture describes a style of building that was popular during the reigns of the four King Georges of England, who ruled successively between 1714 and 1830.  The style was classical and valued symmetry, proportion and regularity.  It included other styles such as Neoclassical.

 

 

At the Tourist information Center on Suffolk Street you can usually find good maps and  newspapers that cover the local entertainment scene.

 

 
2-Day Cork, Blarney Castle and Ring of Kerry Rail Trip from Dublin

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Dublin Literary Pub Crawl

From Viator Tours

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Dublin Historical Walking Tour including Trinity College

From Viator Tours

Dublin - South of the Liffey River

The Dublin Tourism Centre located just south of the Liffey on Suffolk street is a good place to start your tour of Dublin. You will find an abundance of pamphlets, a booking service for a variety of tours, information on transport, schedules for musical events and a friendly and courteous staff. Located in the former St. Andrew's Church, the DTC is located right in the middle of the best of Dublin's sightseeing.  After you have gathered the brochures of interest, head east on Suffolk Street to find the statue of Molly Malone at the intersection of Suffolk and Grafton Street.  Molly is one of Dublin's icons.

Molly Malone, so the story goes, was a young, beautiful fishmonger who sold cockles and mussels from a cart that she pushed through the streets of Dublin She died young from a "fever" and her brief life was immortalized in the popular song known both as "Molly Malone" and "Cockles and Mussels".   The revealing statue on Grafton Street portrays a buxom young Molly, perhaps because she was reputed to be a lady of the night, as well as a fishmonger.  In turn, this may be why some of the locals refer to the statue as "the tart with the cart". Molly's song has become the unofficial anthem of Dublin. If you want to hear Molly Malone sung by the famous Irish folk singing group the  Dubliners, click the video below.

Grafton Street is one of Dublin's major shopping venues.  Large sections have been "pedestrianized" and you will find a variety of good quality, fashionable stores, places to eat and drink, as well as a fair number of capable buskers (street entertainers) whose skills will add a little more  "Irishness" to your touring. 

                   

 

Just to the east of Grafton Street,  you will find historic Trinity College  .  Founded in the late 16th century, this was the first formal university in Ireland.  Its charter, granted by Queen Elizabeth in 1592 established Trinity as a Protestant university.  The deed conveyed an area outside Dublin's city walls including the grounds of an abbey closed by Henry VIII when he broke with the Church of Rome.  The school grew over time and today Trinity College educates over 12,000 undergraduates and approximately 2,000 graduate students.  See the Trinity College website  for more details.                

                     Trinity College has  provided Dublin with four centuries of scholarship

If you are interested in historic, hand-created manuscripts, we recommend that you visit the Trinity College Old Library to see the Book of Kells. The Book of Kells is a  beautifully illustrated, Latin manuscript that contains the four gospels created on vellum and, after it creation, bound in four volumes.  The Book of Kells dates from the early 9th century and was created during what has become known as the "Dark Ages", a period in European history when written records were scarce and Western Civilization was in decline.  Many attribute the creation of this well-preserved manuscript, by Irish monks, to be a critical factor in continuity of the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

The geographical origin of the Book of Kells is uncertain, although there is no dispute that Irish Monks created the significant manuscript.  Many believe that the Book of Kells was created at Abbey of Kells in County Meath, while others believe that parts of the manuscript were created at the Iona Abbey on the Isle of Iona off the coast of Scotland.  The manuscript was eventually sent to Dublin for safekeeping and given to Trinity College later in the 16th century.

While the Book of Kells is a stunning work, the Trinity College Library (especially the Long Room) is quite attractive in its own right.  For more information, see the web site of the Trinity College Library. Combo-tickets for the campus tour and entrance the Old Library and Book of Kells are available from the University.

                     

While in the area of Trinity College, we recommend you head south to Nassau Street, follow it as it changes to Leinster Street, then Clarke Street until you arrive at Merrion Square Park.   Along the way, you will see many Georgian buildings and some of the best architecture in Dublin.

Once at Merrion Square, take in the  statue of the recumbent Oscar Wide (he was raised on the Square at number 1).  After this, spend your time walking through the area's showcase of Georgian architecture. William Butler Yeats lived at number 82 and Merrion Square was also home to Daniel O'Connell, the Liberator (for more information on O'Connell, see our section on North of the Liffey).  Although most of the houses are now being used for offices, Merrion Square has a long and interesting history. To get the most of this area, we recommend taking a guided walk to get the inside scoop.   If you have limited time, take a quick look at the colorful doors, fanlights and elegant entry portal hardware that can be seen on many of the Georgians in this area.

In addition, you might want to take a gander at Fitzwilliam Square area, several blocks south of Merrion Square on Upper Fitzwilliam Street. Although a number of its Georgians no longer exist, this area was the source for many of the doors shown in the iconic poster "The Doors of Dublin".  If you want to see the interior of a classic Georgian, visit Number 29 - The Georgian House Museum on Upper Fitzwilliam Street to see a restored late 18th century Georgian house.  (In case you are wondering why the Electricity Board is sponsoring this exhibit, it seems they knocked down 20 Georgians to build their headquarters and Number 29 was the "quid pro quo".

Finally, you can find more Georgians surrounding St. Stephen's Green described at the bottom of the page in our shopping section.) 

While in this neighborhood (Merrion Square), you might want to visit the National Gallery of Ireland known for its fine collection of paintings and sculptures.   The Gallery is currently one of the best values in Dublin, as entry is free.

If you are interested in the history of Ireland, the National Museum has three locations in Dublin specializing in  Archaeology and History (on Kildare Street), Decorative Arts and History (Collins Barracks) and Natural History (Merrion Street, but currently closed until further notice).  For more information, visit the Museum's official website.   We think you will find the Museum of Archaeology and History (near Trinity College and Merrion Square) to be the most interesting, as it is the official repository of all archaeological items found in Ireland.  Its collection of prehistoric gold jewelry and historic ecclesiastical objects are world renowned and visually stunning.  Admission is free.

      

         Bedford Tower at Dublin Castle

Dublin Castle   provides a look into the past when the facility served as  the English Government 's operating center during their 700 year rule over Ireland .   Originally, the Vikings maintained a fort at this location, but it was destroyed by the Normans, who built a new wooden and stone fortification after establishing their rule.  During the 13th century, the Normans began work on an enlarged, fortified stone castle.   The original castle was positioned as a defensive bastion at the confluence of the Liffey and the River Poddle.  The Poodle, which was covered over in the 18th century, served as a harbor for the Castle.  For those of you interested in the origin of names, at one time the lake then formed by the Poddle, and used as a harbor of sorts, was known as "Black Pool, which translated in Irish as Dubh Linn.

13th Century Norman Tower and the Chapel Royal at Dublin CastleOnly a modest section of the current "castle" (the "Record Tower" shown on the left) reflects its Norman Heritage. Today's facility serves as a tourist attraction and host to official Irish Government functions, which require its public closure from time to time.    Most tourists take the guided tours of the State Apartments, which served as the residential and public quarters for the Viceroy's Court when England ruled Ireland.  In addition, you might want to visit the Chapel Royal and tour the Undercroft, for more on the history of the structure.  In addition, the Chester Beatty Library is well known for its collection of  popular religious art and manuscripts from around the world.   Visit Heritage Ireland for more details.

Christchurch Cathedral in Dublin has an interesting history.

Although the Republic of Ireland is known as a "Catholic" country, the two cathedrals of Dublin, St. Patrick's Cathedral (below) and Christchurch Cathedral (right), are associated with the Church of Ireland, a participant in the Anglican Communion.  Each cathedral has a long and interesting history, but neither building is particularly extraordinary. Curiously, the city does not have an official Catholic cathedral.

The present St. Patrick's Cathedral dates from 1254.St Patrick's , founded in the late 12th century,  was added-on continuously and underwent several  major restorations, the last  in the 19th century.  St. Patrick's contains the tomb of the noted author Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels) who was a Dean of the cathedral in the 18th century. See this site for more information on St. Patrick's Cathedral.

Christ Church Cathedral (the Cathedral of the Church of the Holy Trinity) dates from the 12th century (there was a Viking church at this location at the beginning of the 11th century) and the present structure is an architectural delight both inside and out. The Crypt is quite interesting and should be toured if you have time.  See the official web site for more information.

Kilmainham Gaol (Jail) is one of the largest unoccupied jails in Europe.  Between 1780 and its closing in 1924, the jail was filled with prisoners, many of whom were Irish political prisoners whose crimes were fighting for independence and against religious intolerance.  Many leaders of and participants in the five major Irish Rebellions were imprisoned here and many of these were executed at the facility. 

Visiting the Kilmainham Gaol is a thought provoking experience, as the stark building and excellent exhibition highlight the difficulties the Irish experienced during their pursuit of freedom.  This is a very popular attraction, especially during the peak tourist season of summer. 

Access to the Gaol is by guided tour only.  You can find details on visiting at the  Heritage Ireland website.  The Gaol is located approximately two miles to the west of central Dublin so plan to take a cab or the bus (from Aston Quay).Just in case you visit in winter or early spring please note that the Gaol's interior can be chilly, so bring a  coat.

 Shopping

There are number of areas of to shop south of Liffey.  As we noted earlier in this article, Grafton Street and its cross-streets offer a cornucopia of shopping treats.   In addition, be sure to see the Powerscourt Centre an elegant Georgian house converted into boutiques specializing in fashion, beauty products, antiques, jewelry as well as a number of restaurants and cafes.  Its entrance is on William Street south at the corner of Coppinger Row (follow Johnson Court from Grafton).

If you are looking an opportunity to combine  shopping  and sightseeing, you might appreciate  St. Stephen's Green Shopping Centre   next to St. Stephen's Green at the south end of Grafton street.   For many, the stylish Georgian houses of the 'Green" help make St. Stephen's Green one of the top rated garden squares in Europe.  The Shelbourne Hotel at 27 St. Stephen's Green was a hangout of James Joyce.

If you are looking for items with an Irish flavor, try Avoca  on Suffolk Street (11-13 Suffolk -at the top of Grafton near the Trinity College.  Avoca was originally a co-op of weavers who met with great success and have branched out from fabrics to glassware, ceramics and other interesting specialties.   If you continue east to Nassau Street you will find other stores focused on Irish goods and Irish crafts.

The George's Street Arcade  offers an eclectic mix of fashion, books, food and souvenirs.   It is located on South Great Georges at Exchequer Street.

If you are looking for street markets, try Temple Bar, an area known for its nightlife.  On Saturday and Sunday, the Temple Bar Book Market is held in Temple Bar Square . Two other events are held in the area on Saturdays only.  The Temple Bar Food Market is held at Meeting House Square and features many delectable foods .  The Designer Mart is held outdoors at Cow's Lane  and merchants sell handmade designer pieces produced by Irish artist or other artists living in Ireland.  For more information on these markets and the Temple Bar area, visit the website of the Temple Bar Cultural Trust.

Entertainment

There are close to 1,000 pubs in Dublin, so choose wisely.

While you won't find an absence of food or pubs anywhere in Dublin, the Temple Bar Area is known for entertainment and nighttime frivolity.   Located South of the Liffey near the Ha'penny Bridge, the area is centered on Temple Bar Street, radiating toward  Dame Street on the south, Parliament Street on the West and Westmoreland on the East.   Temple Bar has the feeling of "old time Dublin" and is beginning to become something of a "cultural area".

For those of you looking for something special in a pub, try Davy Byrne's at 21 Duke Street, just off Grafton.   (Its website can be found here.)  Davy Byrne's is the pub mentioned in James Joyce's epic novel Ulysses and a staple of the literary pub-crawls.  Many travelers also visit the Brazen Head, a location that reputedly has hosted a pub since the late 12th century.  The Brazen Head is at 20 Bridge Street on the west side of the street near Usher's Quay. Click here for the official website of the Brazen Head Pub.

For many, a trip to Dublin is a chance to visit the Guinness Storehouse (St. James Gate), the official "home" of Guinness.  The Storehouse includes a tour of the brewing process (but not the Guinness Brewery) led by a master brewer, a retail store, an advertising museum, the Source Bar where you can learn to pour Guinness in the correct manner, and  the Gravity Bar, where your free pint will be dispensed.  For details on visiting, see the Guinness Storehouse website.  The Gravity Bar provides 360-degree views of Dublin nearly twelve stories above the ground.  The Guinness Storehouse is approximately a mile and half walk west from Temple Bar area.  

In May of 2008, Diageo (owner of the Guinness brand) indicated that it would shut half the plant at St. James Gate, as well as smaller operations in Kilkenny and Dundalk.  A new brewery will be built on the outskirts of Dublin, while the rest of the plant at St. James will be revamped.

Tourism

There are a number of interesting attractions in Dublin and we recommend visiting Dublin's Official Online Tourist Office  for more complete details on "what's on" during your visit to Dublin. 

We think the best way to experience Dublin is to take a guided walking tour.  Dubliner's may never forgive us for this, but the city's buildings and attractions are underwhelming. On the other hand, the stories about them are usually very entertaining.  It is the Irish spirit and its well-known characters that attract most visitors to Dublin and you usually can find some of the best of them leading walking tours.  The Tourist Office can hook you up with several capable operators.

More Places To Visit in Dublin

Click here to explore Dublin North of the Liffey River and for our suggestions on Day Trips from Dublin.

Or, click the link menu on the right-hand edge of this page to explore other areas of Ireland.

If you need information about another travel destination, try our Destination Guide Index or Googling ThereArePlaces.


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Dublin and Vicinity

The Southwest
Cork, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Blarney Castle and more.

The West
Galway, Connemara, Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Aran islands and more.

The Southeast
Waterford, Rock of Cashel, Jerpoint Abbey and more.

The North and Northern Ireland
Donegal, Sligo, Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Belfast and more.

Introduction to Ireland

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Explore more of Dublin's best places to visit in our section North of the Liffey

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dublin and Vicinity

The Southwest
Cork, Killarney, Ring of Kerry, Dingle, Blarney Castle and more.

The West
Galway, Connemara, Burren, Cliffs of Moher, Aran islands and more.

The Southeast
Waterford, Rock of Cashel, Jerpoint Abbey and more.

The North and Northern Ireland
Donegal, Sligo, Giant's Causeway, Dunluce Castle, Belfast and more.

Introduction to Ireland

     
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