My Favorite 15 Things to do Dublin
My Favorite 15 Things to do Dublin - Understand
The Irish capital of Dublin is now famous and is a prime destination for Europeans seeking a better work and life experience. It has also gained a lot more tourists but is not yet a major tourist mecca like London or Paris.
Dublin does not have a lot of 'must-see' attractions and the food and coffee scene is just emerging. Dublin is rather spread out and the city center doesn't have much to offer after a few hours of exploration.
Nevertheless, the friendly Irish people and their humorous spirit will make your visit enjoyable. The area is easy to visit, there are precious few crowds and it's easy to move around.
Always plan for four seasons in a day here. Temperatures hover in the low 60s in summer and the upper 40s in winter. Expect lots of wind and rain showers at any time (usually followed by intense sunshine right after that). Don't take an umbrella, but a good windbreaker, as the 30mph wind renders umbrellas useless.
My Favorite 15 Things to do Dublin - Safety
Dublin has a surprising number of 'rough neighborhoods' that wouldn't be places where I'd like to engage in 'friendly discussions' with the locals after dark. Besides that, I found the city very safe.
My Favorite 15 Things to do Dublin - Get Around
Unfortunately, the Dublin taxi lobby has successfully kept UberX out of the city, though UberBLACK is available. Taxis are expensive, at EUR 5-6 per mile without traffic. We decided to stick to public transport - mainly buses and the DART rail system. Those work reasonably well, but make sure you have exact the change in coins for the buses (as notes are not accepted) or buy a Leap Card.
There are so few buses, though it's rather easy to figure out directions with Google Maps.
My Favorite 15 Things to do Dublin - Sights
Dublin City Center
Dublin City Center is a surprisingly run-down affair with lots of dirty fast food places and homeless people. Think of a better version of San Francisco Market St (which has largely become too dangerous to walk along now).
General Post Office (GPO)
This historic post office still functions as such, but also features a number of exhibitions of the Irish independence struggle after the First World War. It's free admission.
Trinity College - Book of Kells
Trinity College is the oldest college in Ireland (really?) and has a beautiful green campus right in the middle of downtown Dublin. The main draw for most tourists is the Book of Kells. This Gospel book has been there for almost 500 years and was written by a monk in the 9th Century. The book and the adjacent main historic library can be toured for EUR 11 admission. I found the admission too high for the short walk through, but it is certainly a unique experience.
Chester Beatty Library
Unfortunately this library was closed when I was there, but the area around it is beautiful and there is a design museum next door which has more normal opening hours.
The area has undergone a recent gentrification and is indeed pretty, but somehow its soul is missing.
Howth Cliff Walk
Just a few miles northeast of the city center is the Howth Cliff Walk, which is very easy to reach via DART (as it is the terminus station). From the train station you can make up your way to the cliff walk. The whole loop will take you 2 to 3 hours, but the sheer beauty makes up for the strenuous walk. It's very much a nature walk and the paths are grown over with plants. After you pass the last houses you will really be on your own, so know your way back before darkness falls.
Bray and Powerscourt
Bray is the other terminus of DART and has a pretty location along a wide bay. The beach is just big pebbles, though (not that you can actually really go swimming in Ireland).
The main draw is the Powerscourt Gardens, a few miles inland from Bray. There is a public bus (but only once an hour - don't miss it) that gets you to the estate's outer fences, but it's still a 30-minute walk from there. This is not Versailles, but it is still a great experience. The gardens feature a 17th Century building that has a proper Baroque garden, a Japanese tea garden and lots of roses. It's a hefty EUR 9.50 per person in admission. The gardens close at 5.30PM sharp, even in summer.
My Favorite 15 Things to do Dublin - Eat & Drink
Much to my surprise, Dublin DOES NOT have a big ethnic food scene. Food and drinks are also much more expensive than in the UK (even before the recent drop in GBP). I would have pictured Ireland as a rich and very diverse place, as it went through the 'Celtic Tiger' phase. This hasn't translated into many food experiences.
Third Floor Espresso (3fe)
Third Floor Espresso is easily the best place to eat and have coffee in Dublin. Usually good coffee does not go well with good food, but it does here. We had the flatbread and the ceviche tacos, which were both delicious - the flatbread extraordinarily so. Third Floor Espresso also provides 'espresso tastings' with 2 or more espressos, using their self-roasted beans.
The coffee was fantastic and the staff were knowledgeable and super-friendly. Clearly there must be a catch? It's not cheap but easily worth it, given the high quality.
Umi Falafel is a haven for the healthy and vegetarian foodies in Dublin. The hummus, tabbouleh and falafels were all excellent. It's down to earth, clean and modern and the staff could kill you with their friendliness.
There is no Dublin visit complete without fish and chips and the city's best places are Leo Burdock outlets or Beshoffs of Howth. I'm not sold on the fish and chips craze, though; it's just bad for you and does not even taste like much.
This place does not look like much, in the middle of a mall in a shopping street. But two things stand out - the coffee comes from 'The Barn' - one of Berlin's best coffee shops - and the staff swear by Ethiopian coffee - easily my favorite brew. When I was there, 3 different Ethiopian coffee beans were available for espresso drinks. This resulted in a great drink. A lucky guess this one - I never saw it coming.
Against the Grain
This is a perfect watering hole in a nondescript location. There are so many beers on offer that I lost track. The IPAs we tried were yummy and I loved the simple yet comfortable atmosphere.
Described as the favorite hang out for the 'Dublin Googlers', The Bath was true to form when I was in town, as I felt transported to Mountain View's breweries with the conversations. The Bath offers a 'tasting menu' at just EUR 6 for four different beers; I made big use of that and tasted a bunch of different beers.
The outdoor patio is marvelous on a sunny day.
OMG - this pizza was heavenly. Given the low standards of other food experiences in Dublin, I did not expect much, but that was a mistake. The Naples-style pizza was so good I could not stop eating. The service is friendly, you can sit outside in a beautiful spot and the pizza arrives fast. There is only one problem - the prices are easily on top-notch SF level (which is too high if you ask me).
Platform Pizza Bar (Bray)
If you make the trip down to Bray, stop by Platform Pizza. It does not look like much from the outside but the chef is serious about making fantastic flatbreads and pizza. We had the Moroccan chicken flatbread and the margherita pizza. The flatbread comes with hummus and some of the best marinated chicken I've ever had. Fantastic dish! The pizza was good, but not that great.
My Favorite 15 Things to do Dublin - Where to Stay
I spent two nights at the InterContinental Dublin and thought it was a great hotel - just not necessarily in the best location. Dublin can be an expensive hotel market during summer as supply is limited and demand is high during the season.