Planning a visit to Dublin

So, you’re planning a visit to Dublin, Ireland? Exciting stuff! In this post we’ll do our best to outline the Dublin travel essentials for you to make the process of planning your trip that little bit easier.

You can expect to find information on getting to Dublin and navigating the city once you are here, information on where to stay and eat and also a brief overview of each quarter of the capital and the “must sees” to be visited!

Must- Sees

Georgian Squares – Dublin has many fine Georgian houses and squares such as Mountjoy Square and Fitzwilliam Square with the largest concentration around Merrion Square near Trinity College. These houses have been home to some of the country’s top writers and poets and many are famous for the ornate decoration of their doors.

Guinness Brewery and Storehouse – Arthur Guinness purchased the St. James Gate brewery in 1759 on a 9,000 year (not a typo) lease at a rate of £1 per year. The original site measured four acres while the brewery today covers 50 and the land was bought outright years ago. At the end of your tour, you’ll get to enjoy a free pint or soft drink from the Gravity Bar, which offers exceptional 360 degree views of Dublin.

Guinness at the Gravity Bar

Trinity College – Founded by Queen Elizabeth I, Trinity was intended to be the mother-college of a network of universities akin to Oxford or Cambridge and while that plan never materialised, Ireland’s elite university features fine architecture from across the centuries as well as pleasant spots for lunch and the world famous Book of Kells which you’ll see as part of the Long Room tour – an old university library.

World class museums – You’ll find Renoir and Monet paintings in Hugh Lane and Caravaggio and Picasso at the National Gallery of Ireland not to mention the delights of the National Museum of Archaeology and History, National Museum of Decorative Art and History, Writers’ Museum, and the Chester Beatty Library – the European Museum of the Year 2004 and home to permanent exhibits featuring some of the founding texts of most major world religions.

Getting Around the Capital

Many of Dublin’s key attractions are relatively close together – most within walking distance – but if you’re looking to go further afield or would just like to take the weight off your feet, the city has a fairly comprehensive bus service as well as the Luas tram network (though the two lines aren’t currently connected, an extension is being built to bring them together in 2016), and the DART – the world’s oldest commuter railway and you’ll get some stunning views of Dublin Bay if you take the train south.

The city also has a rapidly expanding public bikes scheme with stations throughout the centre.

Dublin can roughly be divided into these areas:

Dublin West: You’ll find the city’s two cathedrals, St. Patrick’s and Christ Church here as well as the smaller medieval church of St. Aodians and the Guinness Storehouse.

Temple Bar: The beating heart of Dublin’s cultural scene you’ll find many pubs, clubs, and restaurants as well as food and craft markets on weekends, the National Photographic Archive, the Irish Film Institute, and the Arc – a leading activity centre for children. There’s also Wax Museum Plus and Bank of Ireland College Green, which resides in the oldest purpose built parliament building in the world.

South side: Here you’ll find Dublin Castle and Chester Beatty Library, Trinity College, delightful public parks such as St. Stephen’s Green and the Iveagh Gardens and shopping galore on Grafton Street.

Georgian Dublin: South east of Trinity, you’ll find numerous museum and Government Buildings which can be toured at weekends as well as the quiet oasis in the city that is Merrion Square Park.

North side: You’ll find slightly cheaper shopping options north of the River Liffey as well as the elegant Custom House and the GPO – which was at the heart of the 1916 Rising and if you look closely, you might just see bullet marks still in the walls. Ireland’s premier theatre, the Abbey, can also be found here along with the Dublin Writers’ Museum.

Phoenix Park: The largest city park in Europe, here you’ll find Dublin Zoo (once home to the lion used by film company MGM for its logo to this day), the home of president of Ireland (which you can tour on Saturdays, access is from the Ashdown Visitor Centre).

Getting to Dublin and Navigating the City

Most visitors to Ireland arrive through Dublin Airport, one of Europe’s busiest, which is located 10 kilometres north of the city. Though relatively close for a major airport, your transport options are limited to bus, car hire, or taxi – there are no rail options to reach the city centre.

Dublin Airport and transfers to the city -

Dublin Airport has two terminals and passengers arriving from North America, the Middle East, or on an Aer Lingus flight from any destination will go through Terminal 2. Visitors from all other locations and airlines will go through Terminal 1.

Buses: Dublin Bus operates the 747 route which is the fastest way of getting into the city and will cost you €6 one way or €10 return – normally, you’ll be looking at a journey of around 20 to 30 minutes though this may be longer during traffic.

A longer but cheaper journey can be found on the 16A with a one way trip being €2.80, you cannot buy a return trip on this service so it may be worth your time looking out for the various passes and Leap cards (which allow travel on Dublin Bus, DART, and Luas) which are on sale throughout the city. If you’re unsure of what pass is right for you, the Dublin Bus Centre on O’Connell Street will tell you all you need to know.

Aircoach is a private service which runs a good quality coach route for €7 one way or €12 return and the company stops at most major hotels.

Taxi: Taxis are always waiting by the airport and can bring you into the city for around €20 to €25 plus tip (which don’t have to be large). You should enquire about your fare before leaving the airport.

Free Airport Transfer: Book one of our tours or stay with us and enjoy free return airport transfers to / from central Dublin!

Dublin Ferry Terminals -

The North Wall and Dun Laoghaire are Dublin’s two ferry ports and you’ll need a bus or taxi from the North Wall while you also have the option of the DART from Dun Laoghaire.

Irish Ferries has a reliable car and passenger route to Holyhead in Wales with passengers having the option of the fast ship Swift (about one hour and 50 minutes) or the larger but slower Ulysses (three hours and 15 minutes).

Stena Line also operates from both the North Wall and Dun Laoghaire and the journey will take you two hours and 15 minutes or three and a half hours depending on which Stena ship you choose.

It’s important to check the timing of your journey as these can vary by season and the weather can affect services.

Bus Services -

There are two main bus services in Ireland, Dublin Bus (for the city and surrounding counties), and Bus Eireann (for areas outside Dublin) and Busaras on the city’s northside is the city’s main bus station, it’s also right beside the Luas station that shares its name and less than a five minute walk from Connolly Train Station, the main hub for all north and west bound trains.

Aircoach also offers direct routes to most major cities and may be slightly cheaper than Bus Eireann.

The majority of Dublin Bus vehicles are easy to spot, being bright yellow and blue double deckers, while Bus Eireann opts for white and Aircoach tends to be blue. Most Dublin buses cross the city from one end to the other but virtually all navigate through the city centre at some point along the way.

Bus journeys within the centre cost €1.65 for adults and you don’t need exact change though you will need to visit the Dublin Bus Office on O’Connell Street with your receipt if you want a refund the amount specified on your ticket.

Many of city’s streets were built long before buses and cars and as such Dublin has one of the slowest bus services in the world, unfortunately, there’s not much anyone can do about it. The majority of Dublin Bus routes operate until around midnight after which a Nitelink service takes over – the charge is €5.

Car Travel -

First off, Irish motorists drive on the left and all road markings will be in kilometres (except in Northern Ireland where signs use Imperial measurements). It’s strictly illegal to turn on a red light, even if you see others doing it.

Gas prices are expensive, especially by US standards, with a litre being around €1.60 (the average spend to fill up a tank can be €50). Renting is also on the high side due to rates and a tax of 12.5 per cent. The cost of renting for a week can start at €260 during peak periods for even the smallest models.

You’ll find all major car rental firms at Dublin Airport and they also operate offices in the city centre. It’s recommended that you use a known rental company as some of the others you come across may not have licenses.

Dublin can be a particularly difficult city to navigate both because of the traffic and the one way streets which dominate the centre. You’re advised to invest in a GPS (the car rental firm should be able to loan one) and a physical road map. If at all feasible, you should only drive when you’re leaving the city, your hotel’s concierge will be happy to give you clear directions on how to get to your destination.

Taxis -

There are taxis everywhere in Dublin, with stations located at the main transit hubs and in key areas such as O’Connell Street and College Green but you’re never far from a cab looking to pick up a fare.

Taxis have signs on the roof and stickers on the door indicating that they are officially licensed and registered. Cabs are not standardised and if you’re travelling with a group or bringing a large amount of luggage, you may want to specify this when you call a taxi company to book a service. There will be a meter displaying your fare, which begins at €4.10 and increases by around €1.03 per kilometre though there will be no charge for luggage.

Hackneys, which have neither signs nor meters, are also available and may turn up at your hotel if you call or the concierge calls.

Trains and Trams -

Dublin was due to receive three subway lines but these plans have been suspended indefinitely due to the tough (though improving) economy of recent years. If you plan to get around by rail, your options are the Luas tram, the DART electric railway, and Irish Rail for locations outside the capital.

The Luas has two lines and for now, they’re not connected, but the Red Line is useful for getting the Guinness Storehouse (James stop) from the city centre and the Green Line will bring you to the shopping Mecca that is Dundrum Town Centre (the closest station is Balally, not Dundrum). Tickets can be bought at the stops or you can buy passes and Leap cards from stores throughout Dublin.

DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) go north to the fishing village of Howth, home to the Irish Transport Museum, and south to the seaside resorts of Bray and Greystones quite literally hugging the coast above Dublin Bay in places, the DART offers stunning views as you journey along the world’s oldest commuter rail line created by the legendary British engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

Irish Rail (sometimes referred to by its Irish name IarnrodEireann) has two main stations in Dublin, Connolly and Heuston. Trains to the north, including Northern Ireland, and along the east coast depart from Connolly while Heuston services the south and west.

Eating in Dublin

Irish cuisine was, until recently, a bit of a laughing stock with both visitors and locals for its dependence on the potato in virtually every meal but since 2000 or so there’s been an explosion of new dining options and the centre of Dublin is packed with restaurants selling great food from Ireland and around the world.

Granted, there’s a decent chance you’ll still end up with potato somewhere in your meal but they’ll be among the best you’ve ever had and there’s any number of exciting, experimental eateries around the city ranging from pizzerias, to Indians, to Chinese buffets, and American steak houses.

Wraps seem to be on sale everywhere in Dublin these days and are pretty cheap but you’ll also find a huge number of independently owned cafes and sandwich bars for lunch. Of course, you’ll find plenty of Starbucks and McDonald’s dotted about the city too.

Typically evening meals in Dublin happen around 7-9pm while lunch is generally 12-2:30pm but some restaurants have cheaper lunch menus available until 5pm. Read all about where to eat in Dublin here.

Staying in Dublin

If you’re looking for comfortable yet cheap accommodation, look no further than Paddywagon’s own Paddy’s Palace hostel near Busaras but as a general rule, hotels and hostels north of the Liffey tend to be less expensive but just as good as those on the Southside.

Service charges can vary from 15 per cent in upmarket hotels to nothing in cheaper establishments and you should check at the time of booking.

B&Bs in suburban areas are also viable options but can increase the cost of travel as you commute into the centre. Many hotels also offer special mid-week and weekend B&B offers at significantly reduced rates.

Touring Dublin

Dublin offers numerous great options for both walking and bus tours and being a city of storytellers, you’ll pick up lots of useful, witty, and fun anecdotes along the way.

Bus Tours:

Dublin Bus operates tours to locations along the city’s north and south coast which last between three and four hours. The sights include James Joyce Tower near Dun Laoghaire and the Casino at Marino, one of Europe’s finest neoclassical buildings. There’s also a one hour city tour which will bring you to such sites as Trinity College, the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (now the Irish Museum of Modern Art or IMMA), Kilmainham Gaol, and the Phoenix Park.

Tickets are available from the driver or the Dublin Bus office as well as official tourist centres and most of these tours are on open top double deckers. There’s also the Dublin Ghost Bus Tour which, as you might expect, takes place at night and lasts just over two hours bringing you to supposedly haunted locations across the city and an actor recounts the creation of Dracula.

The Viking Splash tour is popular with kids and adults alike. Using former US military amphibious vehicles, Viking Splash tours guide you around the city before entering the water near the city’s financial and tech hubs, the IFSC and Silicon Docks.

Paddywagon operates tours outside Dublin 364 days a year to destination including the Giant’s Causeway, Cliffs of Moher, and Connemara. You can find prices and full itineraries on our website.

Pub, Musical, and Literary Tours:

The self-guided Rock ‘n’ Stroll tour which will bring you to 16 location connected to the likes of U2, Bob Geldof, Sinead O’Connor, and Christy Moore among others.

A Traditional Music Pub Crawl starts at Oliver St. John Gogarty before heading for other famous Temple Bar establishments. This tour is organised by professional musicians who perform songs and tell stories of Irish music across the ages.

The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl brings you to numerous watering holes throughout Temple Bar where you’ll get to enjoy performances of some of the city’s literary luminaries.

Dublin Footsteps is a literary and Georgian Dublin tour which departs from outside Bewley’s Cafe on Grafton Street at 11am every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday between June and September.

Walking Tours:

Renowned Dublin historian Pat Liddy organises tours throughout the year but you can also engage in a Discover Ireland iWalk tour whose podcast is narrated by Liddy.

Trinity College history graduates also operate two hours Historical Walking Tours of Dublin which serve as an excellent introduction to the city. These tours, approved by the Irish tourist board (Failte Ireland), meet at the front gate of the college and take place between May and September at 11am and 3pm, there’s an additional tour at 12pm on weekends. These tours also operate during the winter months but only on Friday and Saturday at 11am. Tours are €12.

There are also walking tours of Trinity College between mid-March (the Patrick’s Day weekend) until September. Tours cost €10 and begin from just inside the main gate starting at 10:15am and every 45 minutes thereafter, you’ll get to see the Long Room and Book of Kells as part of the tour.

The 1916 Rebellion Tour costs €12 and meets at the International Bar between February and October at 11:30am Monday to Saturday and on Sunday at 1pm. These tours last about two hours and explore Dublin’s pivotal role in the 1916 Rising and struggle for independence.

Tourist Offices and Visitor Information

You’ll find a great deal of information about Dublin and the rest of the county at Paddywagon’s Tourist Information & Irish Souvenir Superstore at 14 O’Connell Street Lower, but the three official government tourist offices in the city (where we start and end our tours from) are located in St. Andrew’s Church on Suffolk Street, the Discover Ireland centre on O’Connell Street, and at Dublin Airport. There’s also a visitor information centre at the Dun Laoghaire ferry port.

paddywagon tourist information and shop  14 lower o'connell street

Dublin Pass -

Like many cities around the world, the Irish capital now offers a special card which can be used for access to many sites across the city at a reduced rate. The Dublin Pass is available for one day (€35), two days (€55), three days (€65), and six days (€95) with children’s passes being significantly cheaper.

Passes can be picked up the tourist office on Suffolk Street when you arrive and can be purchased online before you visit. Having the Dublin Pass will get you into the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Writers Museum, Dublin Zoo, and Christ Church Cathedral and you’ll be able to skip to the front of the queue at each of the 30 venues covered by the pass.