“When I die, Dublin will be written in my heart”
“Like, it’s a lovely city.”
Planning a trip to Dublin? The articles you’re reading are probably right. The capital of the green isle is, at first, not bombarded with as many must-sees as other European cities. The essence of Dublin is often achieved in a drunken stupor, which suits most of the tourists who come to the city to attain the Irish craic. Check out these useful tips when planning your trip if you want to embrace Dublin’s local culture without missing out on the city’s highlights.
1. Watch these films before you go
The best thing you can do before you visit any place is to watch a film that highlights aspects of the local culture and that will get you excited about the trip. For visiting Dublin alone, try: Once (John Carney, 2006), The Commitments (Alan Parker, 1991) and A Film With Me In It (Ian Fitzgibbon, 2008). These films give you a good sense of the Dublin charisma and humor that you’ll recognize more easily on your trip to the city.
2. Dublin does History the fun way
If you’re not a history type of person but also feel compelled to experience some kind of historic culture in the city try these interactive (and honestly really interesting tours):
The Viking Splash: the only tour you need to do of Dublin. A bus/boat tour that involves wearing viking helmets and shouting at unsuspecting people on Dublin’s streets. On the bus part of the tour, experience a hilarious commentary from real Dubliners who know all the ins and outs of the city. Then, hold onto your helmets, as the bus drives down into the water of Dublin harbour and becomes a boat, taking you for a cruise along the canals. (€22).
Dublinia: if you want a bit of light history and are up for a bit of a laugh then Dublinia’s interactive and informative tour of Dublin’s Viking and Medieval history is the thing to do. Although aimed at children, the tour can be enjoyed by all ages, located in one of the oldest churches in Dublin (€9.50).
For those interested in learning more about recent Irish History, Kilmainham Gaol gives you a realistic and incredibly interesting look at the Irish Civil War through the eyes of people held in the prison. Most interestingly, the tales of the Irish rebels who were held in the jail by the British and executed at the end of the Irish Rebellion (€8.00).
3. Dublin’s Artistic Scene
Appreciate Dublin’s modern art and influences at the Hugh Lane Gallery for free! One of the most impressive pieces in the entire city is Francis Bacon’s studio, which was relocated by a team of archaeologists from his home in London to Dublin after the artist’s death and set up exactly as he left it before he died.
The studio is worth the visit alone but the gallery has other fascinating exhibitions and sometimes canvases painted entirely in one color for the true hipsters among us to consider.
Catch up on Dublin’s literary scene across the road from Hugh Lane at the Writer’s Museum with exhibitions, theater and readings: an easy and interesting way to find out about Ireland’s literary heritage all in one place (€7.50).
4. Meet the locals
Now that you’ve got the sightseeing out of the way, it’s time to get out of the hostel. In a lot of places around the world (especially those where language barriers are involved) a lot of the best people you’ll find are in the hostel bar. In Dublin, and all over Ireland, you’ll find the friendliest people outside the tourists, in pubs all around the city.
If you want to meet an old local or a mad one go the Whelan’s, Cassidy’s or Anseo– bursting with toothless Dubliners who will tell you their life story if you ask them their name. And, if you’re looking for the young saints and scholars of Dublin, try The Market Bar, The Bernard Shaw or Opium Rooms.
5. Have a Pint
Whilst you’re out listening to old men mumble into the snowy froth of their pints- it’s time to get yourself a Guinness, too. Grab a pint at any of the old man bars mentioned above or check out this list by FourSquare.com!
6. Eat like the locals
Traditionally, Irish people have grown up on potatoes (it’s not even an over-exaggeration, it’s the damn truth). In the cold winters, our ancestors poured over hearty broths and stews and didn’t eat much else. If you’re a stew kind of person, try The Brazen Head or The Storehouse to get your fill. Nowadays, Dublin locals are kept warm with central heating- nobody really eats stews anymore although potatoes still run rich in our veins. Typically, the average Irish twenty-something will eat staple food and sandwiches all week until they get drunk enough to allow themselves to pig out on some greasy food. The main Dublin staple now has transformed into an oriental brown paper bag dubbed the Spice Bag (a combination of chicken, chips and red, green and chili peppers). Grab yours in any Chinese takeaway, the best found outside Dublin in The Sunflower, Templeogue. If you’re feeling fishy however, grab a Leo Burdock’s famous fish and chips in Temple Bar.
7. Experience Harcourt Street at night
To really enjoy these aforementioned beautiful greasy cuisines: get smashed (drunk) before you eat them. Although you should spend a few hours listening to a trad session in Temple Bar at some point of your trip, you’ll find no better party than Harcourt Street during the weekends.
Be prepared for girls clip-clopping in 12-inch-heels, short dresses and bare legs even if it’s the middle of winter and snowing. Start off your night in Dicey’s Garden with an array of Brazilian students and people from the Irish countryside (so-called culchies), with good drink promotions and deals on Wednesday and Friday nights you’ll witness the best clubbing in all of Dublin. Copper Face Jacks is also another must-see although the party doesn’t kick off here until about 2 a.m. when all the other clubs start to close. This is the ultimate Dublin after-party full of all the best drunken people (that are still standing) that dance, drink and pull (the Irish term for kissing a person) until the early morning.
8. Hangovers in Dublin
Have a heavy night out but don’t want to ruin an entire day buried in your pillow? Here are some of the easiest way to survive Dublin when you’re hanging:
If you’re up before 12 try get a Full Irish Breakfast (sausage, bacon, pudding, egg, fried vegetables etc.), in The Hairy Lemon or just Lemon if you don’t like yours hairy ;). If you’re not really a breakfast person, sleep in until 1p.m. then drag yourself out of bed to get every college student’s cheapest treat: The Centra Chicken Fillet Roll: a basic baguette with deli chicken (plain or spicy) topped with your 3 favourite toppings found in every local Centra shop.
If you’re building up to another party night: catch an indie film among Dublin’s hipsters at the IFI or Lighthouse cinemas; grab a tapas dinner in Pyg and watch as the place comes alive slowly into the evening, allowing you an easy transition into another night out.
9. Tips for Dublin’s Transport System
Dublin is run by three forms of transport: the Dart, the Luas and the Dublin Bus.
1. If you’re going to Howth (north of centre) or Dún Laoghaire, Bray or Monkstown: take the DART from Pearse Station, behind Trinity College or Connolly Station. You can buy your tickets online or at the stations.
2. The only time you, as a tourist, will ever need to get the Luas is:
b) The Green Line: to Dundrum Shopping Centre.
3. Working out the Dublin Bus can be a bit scary, as a tourist I don’t know who tells you how to use it. If, for whatever reason you are looking to ride the Dublin bus system here’s a few tips:
- You either buy a visitor card for 1,3 or 7 days at a local newsagents or
- You pay for your single ticket on the bus (you cannot purchase a single ticket before you get on the bus).
- When you get on the bus you tell the bus driver where you’re going and he will tell you how much you need.
- The Dublin Bus does not give change and does not accept notes only coins.
- Figure out how much it will be for you here.
6. If you don’t have exact change: drop your euros into the machine and you will be a receipt that allows you to collect the change you’re due in the Dublin Bus HQ (which nobody ever does)
7. You can ask the bus driver to tell you when your stop is, just listen out when for when he calls it.
10. Explore outside the City Centre
Since Dublin’s transport system has been demystified for you, use your new knowledge to explore outside the city:
Check out the RDS: a 10 minute ride from town has many different events, exhibitions and conventions hosted throughout the year.
11. Be safe in Dublin
Just like your family and friends, people in your hostel and the people you meet in bars: the city pickpockets know you’re in Dublin to have a
good time. Pickpockets can come
disguised as drunken soldiers who just want a no-homo hug on Harcourt Street after Dicey’s or they can be practically invisible: their fingers in and out of your jacket pocket so quickly that you don’t even notice (until your trying to pay for McDonalds on Grafton Street 20 minutes later).
For girls: walking alone at night can be bloody annoying. Dublin is a small city so although all its bars, tourists, shops and restaurants are localized so are its nutters and druggies, not to mention lads standing outside bars smoking who just love talking you up. For every bad guy there’s two great ones, so if you’re feeling a bit off or have a bad experience don’t be afraid to join in with a group of people: girls and boys love just having a chat, they won’t even notice you’re on your own.
Bonus number 12: Know the Difference
(Not applicable for those living in Ireland and the UK)
Ireland is made up of two parts: North and South. Northern Ireland belongs to the United Kingdom (along with England, Scotland and Wales) whilst the South of Ireland is its own sovereign state. At no point should you refer to an Irish person in the south of Ireland as being British, English, Scottish or Welsh because it simply isn’t true. Go check out Kilmainham jail whilst you’re in Dublin to realize why there very well might be a problem if you do call them British. Although technically yet never mentioned: Ireland, like England, Scotland and Wales belongs to the British Isles but it in no case means you can ever refer to them as British.