Commentary: Your four-day weekend guide to Dublin, Ireland
February 21, 2014
DUBLIN (Feb. 21, 2014) -- Having lived in Germany for three and half years, it was a nice break to visit a destination where the locals spoke a language I could understand. In Dublin, Ireland, the people are friendly, the food satisfying, and the culture memorable. Definitely take the hop over to the island of Ireland before leaving Europe. Here's a destination you can knock out in a four-day weekend, but easily extend into a seven -day excursion if you venture outside the city a few afternoons. Either way, your visit will be chockfull of sites and tours.
Top 5 Tips:
1. Bring an umbrella, pack layers and wear good walking shoes. The weather is perpetually damp and chilly, especially during the spring months. It's no wonder wool is popular here. Check out the Aran Island sweaters.
2. Purchase the Dublin Pass upon arrival. This pass can be purchased for 1, 2, 3 or 6 days and will allow you free entry to 32 of the city's sites for a value of 39-105 euros depending on the length of your visit. Also, you will have free airport transfer via coach bus to the city center. Visit www.dublinpass.ie for the details. (Note: I have shared the single adult entry fees for the city sites in this article in case you choose not to purchase the Dublin Pass).
3. Find hotel accommodations close to the city center, somewhere between the Custom House and Merrion Square (designated as D1 and D2 respectively). When planning your accommodations, it's important to know that the city center is compact and offers plenty of options within walking distance to just about everything interesting in Dublin.
4. Try the traditional food offered at your hotel or local eatery. The full breakfast is comprised of meat (bacon, sausage and black/white pudding), eggs, vegetable (tomato), bean, potato and bread. It will help you make it through the cold, damp morning and give you the energy to walk your way through the city. Bangers and mash, stew, fish and chips, and sammies (sandwiches) are all good choices for lunch fare to keep up your energy as the day fades to night.
5. Use the Dublin bus system to travel from/to the airport or to get to a location that you deem too far to walk. It's easy to understand, bus drivers will help and the system's routes are reasonably priced. A trip to and from the airport to Dublin city center -- about a 30-minute ride -- is 6 euros. Visit www.dublinsightseeing.ie for more. Remember, traffic comes from the right side, so be sure to stand on the correct side of the street for the bus.
Without much time or effort you can view what this city has to offer. A quick five-minute walk will lead you to the statue of literary genius James Joyce (read his Dubliners for more). Keep going and walk toward the General Post Office on O'Connell Street, one of the many historical buildings of interest in the city center. If you head down any of the side streets, you will find plenty of shopping and food options. Cross over the Quays (pronounced Keys) along the Liffey and you will find Trinity College. Enjoy the campus, take a tour and stop in the library to view the Book of Kells (10 euros). If you enjoy old books, it's amazing to walk through. The Long Room of the library smells of musk and paper with its 200,000 books.
In Dublin, there's no shortage of food or drink. For that Irish pub feel, try Grogan's or Kehoe's, and for fab whole food sandwiches, head to Cornucopia -- all located close to the Grafton Street area.
Other highlights along your walk through the city include the Oscar Wilde Memorial at Merrion Square and beautiful St. Stephen's Green. You can begin making your walk back to the Quays by walking along Grafton St. to shop or use Kildare St. and visit the National Museums and libraries. I ended up doing both but on different days, so take your time and do what you like.
Next, take the customary tourist photo outside of the Temple Bar and then go in and imbibe of the spirits. In Dublin, Guinness is the beer of choice. Drink it only if you know you like it, though. It does taste a bit better in Ireland than anywhere else. If you don't prefer the taste of Guinness, choose Smithwicks (pronounced Smith-icks). It's a red ale beer that is a lighter option. Ask for a beer anywhere in Ireland and you'll likely be served Guinness.
Make your way back to the hotel after this eventful day and prepare for an evening show at the Abbey Theatre. I enjoyed "The Picture of Dorian Gray" by Oscar Wilde. Tickets for shows begin at 20 euros, depending on the show and/or seats. Visit www.abbeytheatre.ie for more.
The second day, venture outside of the city of Dublin. Search for a day tour that fits your interest. County Meath, for example, is a good destination of choice. The Boyne Valley in County Meath is known for Slane Castle, Newgrange, Hill of Tara, Knowth, among many other interesting sites and ruins. Newgrange, said to be an ancient passage tomb, is best visited during the winter solstice. However, it offers plenty for tourists to enjoy year round. Coach bus tours begin at about 35 euros for a tour of this area.
Upon return of the excursion, take the liberty to eat and drink your way through a few more recommended restaurants and pubs. Leo Burdock's Fish and Chips located by Christchurch, Kennedy's on Westland Row, Whelan's past St. Stephen's Green, and Oliver St. John Gogarty's in Temple Bar are just a few options to consider.
Day three, pick up the local bus and ride to the Kilmainham Gaol (pronounced Kill-mane-um Jail). It is worth the 6 euro ticket for the tour of this historic jail. Then, cross over the Quays to the Dublin Zoo (16.50 euros) in Phoenix Park. Be sure to plan on spending a few hours wandering through the park and the zoo, though. It is said to have plenty to occupy an afternoon.
End the afternoon by visiting the Old Jameson Distillery, 14 euros for the tour. After the taste testing, walk your way through the Legal Quarter toward the Jervis Shopping Center and find souvenirs or other local goods. Once retail therapy is complete, I encourage you to prepare for another evening of culture at the Gate Theatre. Prices and availability vary so be sure to visit www.gatetheatre.ie for details.
On the fourth day, wander over the Quays via the Liffey Boardwalk and visit St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral and Dublinia (7.50 euros), the Viking/Medieval area (which includes Dublin Castle for 4.50 euros) and the Old City Walls. Afterwards, make your way over to the Guinness Factory/Storehouse for a fun tourist stop. It's a bit more pricey, beginning at 15 euros for the tour, but it's self-paced and you receive a complimentary pint of Guinness in the Gravity Bar.
There are many more sites, tours, ruins and activities to take advantage of while visiting this historic European city. Remember, the Hop On/Hop Off Bus is an option if you don't have time to wander through, but I don't recommend it. Go out and search for the adventure by foot. It will prove to be well worth the time and effort.