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
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
section of the Dublin Bus website.
Most of the Dublin that would be of interest to tourists hugs the banks
of the Liffey River
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
While in this neighborhood (Merrion Square), you might want to visit the
National Gallery of Ireland known for its fine collection of paintings and
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
There are a number of interesting attractions in Dublin and we recommend
visiting Dublin's Official Online
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.