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We recently took a summer break in UK and Ireland, and during our travel to Dublin we spent time doing some interesting touristy and non-touristy things in the city. Here’s what we have to share from our first trip to Dublin.
When visiting Dublin for the first time, my advice is to take a taxi or an Uber from the airport. It is totally worth ditching the AirCoach or the Dublin Bus and spending the extra money on that first taxi ride because engaging in a conversation with Dubliners is the best way to experience the city.
Our very chatty Uber chauffeur gave us free lessons in Irish history, told us about some untold U2 stories, gave us tips on tourist traps to avoid (hint: Temple bar is a tourist trap) and recommended us some great places to eat and drink while we were in Dublin. He was witty and funny and on our way to the Intercontinental hotel he also took a little detour and gave us a personalized tour of the city.
Though we spent only 5 days in the city the food, the music, the pubs and above all the friendly Irish people left a lasting impression on us. Here are my list of experiences to should put on your list when in Dublin.
1. Get a drink at one of the World’s Oldest Pubs.
There are over a 1000 pubs in Dublin and city is world renowned for its nightlife and traditional pubs. The Temple Bar area is famous among tourists but that’s not all. Dublin is also home to one of the world’s oldest pubs, The Brazen Head which dates back to the year 1168. The pub is 10 minutes from the Guinness Storehouse and usually packed with people in the evenings. This pub was our regular hang out and we spent 3 evenings here chatting with people and listening to some great live Irish music.
The Guinness Storehouse in Dublin is not only the historic headquarters of the beer giants but also a hugely popular tourist attraction. The world’s most famous brewery produces 10 million pints of Guinness daily in Dublin. The Gravity Bar at Guinness offers a 360-degree view of the city and is also the highest bar in Dublin.
3. Learn about the history of Irish Whiskey at Jameson Distillery
Here’s a fact, Jameson is the only Irish Whiskey to feature in the top 100 liquor brands list. The Old Jameson Distillery is located in the heart of Old Dublin.
The tour here was exciting and engaging experience. We learnt about the history of Irish Whiskey and it’s evolution since the sixth century. We followed the path through malting, milling, mashing, fermenting, distilling and maturing. The tour also included a blind tasting of Bourbon, Scotch and Irish Whiskey and that helped us understand how water, barley and yeast can be transformed into the smooth golden spirit, each with a different color hue and a distinct smell and taste.
4. Sip on some traditional Irish Coffee
How could we be in Dublin and not try the Irish Coffee here. Cream, whiskey, sugar, and coffee all stirred up together and it’s an easy peasy concoction. So we might think, but there is skill involved and there are competitions to see who makes the best one. We soon learnt that the choice of coffee and whiskey, and the consistency of the cream all matter in the formulation of a good Irish coffee.
We tried the Irish Coffee at the Michelin celebrated restaurant, The Pig’s Ear which is across the Trinity College. It was sinful and I can still remember the lingering aftertaste of the Jameson whiskey they use generously.
5. Spot homes of famous Nobel Laureates
Dublin is among the 6 UNESCO cities of literature. Walking down residential areas, it is common to spot homes of celebrated playwrights and Nobel Prize Laureates.We spotted a home where the famous poet, James Joyce lived and also the home of William Butler Yeats.
Other famous former residents include literary pioneers like Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, as well as Nobel Laureates George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney and Samuel Beckett. The city hosts over half a dozen book festivals every year and in honor of the city’s great contribution to historic literature, along with its many libraries, literary institutions and publishing companies, Dublin has been listed as a UNESCO City of Literature – one of only 6 cities in the world. Edinburgh (Scotland), Iowa City(USA), Melbourne(Australia), Reykjavik(Iceland) and Norwich ( England) are the remaining five.
6. Walk, stroll and run in the largest urban parks of the world
Dublin isn’t all about pubs and bookstores. This city also hosts the enormous Phoenix Park. At 707 hectares, Phoenix Park is five times the size of London’s Hyde Park and double of New York’s Central Park. The Park is also home to Dublin Zoo and wild roaming deer. Even the Irish president lives here.
We stayed in an Airbnb cottage which was just on the periphery of the park and couldn’t get enough of the greenery and massive space inside the park.
7. Get up close with the famous rock band U2
The whole purpose of flying 5,000 miles was to see U2 perform live in their home town. U2 are an Irish rock band from Dublin formed in 1976. Till date U2 have released 13 studio albums and are one of the world’s best selling music artists, with more than 170 million records sold worldwide. They have won 22 Grammy Awards which is more than any other band.
If you are not lucky enough like us to watch Bono sing in front of you then visit The Little Musuem of Dublin which also has an exhibition dedicated to the band U2: Made in Dublin that charts the story of the band over the last 40 years.
8. Stroll through the beautiful Trinity College campus
The famous Trinity College was founded in 1592 on the grounds of a former Catholic monastery. The Trinity Library is a sight to behold where endless rows of wooden bookshelves are laid in the hallways. It is also a legal deposit library, meaning that the college is entitled to one copy of every book that is published in the UK and in Ireland. The Library presently houses around 5 million books. The entry line to library at any point in the day is extremely long and you must be allocate a few hours if you want to glance through the original works of famous writers and poets or even original medieval manuscripts.
We gave the long queues at the Library a miss and instead spent time strolling through the beautiful college campus. Trinity’s buildings are a mix of classical and contemporary architecture spread around elegant gardens and cricket grounds.
9. Keep an eye open to admire the Dublin Street Art
We’ve witnesses some impressive street in Melbourne, and Dublin has some pretty amazing street art as well. Some more obvious ones are in and around Temple Bar and the Italian Quarter. However there is a lot of street beauty to admire when walking through back streets and down side alleys.
10. Spend a day hiking through the Howth Cliff Trail
You don’t have to go far outside to Wicklow or Glendalough admire the beautiful countryside. For breathtaking Irish landscape and some stunning views take a DART to this quaint seaside town named Howth. This cute little village of Howth is just a 30 minutes train ride from Dublin’s city center.
Once outside the Howth station, grab a cliff walking trail and follow any one of the paths. Our hiking trail took us past the lighthouse, a little hidden beach and some gorgeous houses on the coast.
The views along the way of the Dublin Bay are spectacular. And it took us more than 2 hours to complete the 6 kilometers trail because we stopped on the way to take photos and just spent time gazing on top of the cliffs. If the weather is good then this is one experience you should put on your must do list.
Tip : Keep about half a day aside for Howth. Chances are you will fall in love with the natural beauty of this town and land up spending a lot of time here.
Have you visited Dublin? Share with us how did you explore the city?