Dublin Holiday Planning Guide
A history spanning over a thousand years, vibrant nightlife, and a mix of Georgian and modern architecture make Dublin a popular European tourist destination. Founded as a Viking settlement in the 9th century, this sprawling urban center often surprises visitors with its sheer size. Nearly 2 million people live in the greater Dublin region, which represents well over a third of Ireland's total population. The city center, however, remains a relatively compact area, easily explored on foot or by bicycle. To experience the garrulous locals and their culture in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere, spend some time in a traditional pub--a staple of Dublin's social life and a favorite stop for the majority of the city's foreign visitors.
Best Neighborhoods to Visit in DublinGrafton Street
: With its historic architecture and colorful atmosphere, this pedestrian road and its surrounding area top many Dublin itineraries. Renowned as one of the best shopping areas not just in Dublin but in the whole of Ireland, the street is also home to many of the city's famous restaurants and cafes.Temple Bar
: Located right in the center of the city, this neighborhood is the home to some of Dublin's most popular pubs, bars, and clubs. After dark, this is the place to go if you're looking for a party, while during the day you can browse numerous quirky shops and galleries. O'Connell Street
: One of Dublin's best-known streets and its main thoroughfare, O'Connell Street is a busy road lined with hotels, restaurants, and theaters, as well as some of the city's most famous monuments. The Liberties
: Just outside the center of the city, this is the neighborhood where history meets the vibrant energy of modern-day Dublin. With some of the city's oldest buildings located here, this is of the best places for historical sightseeing in Dublin. Merrion Square
: Renowned for its blend of greenery and Georgian architecture, Merrion Square is famous as the place where Oscar Wilde and W. B. Yeats once lived. Today, it's one of the best places in Dublin to go for a relaxing stroll without getting too far away from attractions located in the city center.
Things to Do in Dublin
Popular Dublin Tourist AttractionsGuinness Storehouse
: Taking a tour of one of the world's most famous breweries remains among the top things to do in Dublin for any beer lover. Kilmainham Gaol
: From the late 18th century to 1924, this notorious prison held, among others, many of the prominent fighters for Irish independence. Today, you can take a tour of the facilities and experience what life was like behind the prison's walls. St. Stephen's Green
: Scenic and tranquil, St. Stephen's Green is one of Dublin's most beloved parks. This is a great place to relax, enjoy nature, go for a picnic, or bring your kids to play.Trinity College Dublin
: Experience the lively campus atmosphere and admire the architectural beauty of Ireland's most famous educational institution. Over four centuries old, the university has an incredibly rich library that, among other treasures, holds the celebrated Book of Kells. Jameson Distillery Bow St
: A distillery from 1780 until 1971, this iconic building is now a very popular tourist spot. See the original stills, learn the history of whisky making in Ireland, and don't miss the chance to try some Irish coffee.Dublin Zoo
: For those who admire wildlife, Ireland's largest zoo is the place to visit in Dublin. Over a million visitors stop by the zoo every year to see everything from traditional Irish farm animals, to some of the world's most exotic creatures. Glasnevin Cemetery Museum
: This museum preserves the memories of the 1.5 million people buried at Dublin's largest cemetery. Here you can hear the stories of the people who shaped Irish history and trace your own Irish heritage at the genealogy research center. National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology
: From ancient Egyptian and Roman, to Celtic and Viking, the museum is a true treasure chest of archeological artifacts. It is also one of the perfect places to explore the age of Viking rule over Dublin. Phoenix Park
: Admire a collection of historic buildings and elegant monuments while strolling or riding a bike through one of Europe's largest walled parks. With a series of gardens and lakes, as well as resident deer and birds, the park is a true oasis of nature. Chester Beatty Library
: Not to be missed by any history and art enthusiast in Dublin, this museum houses an extensive collection of religious artifacts and artworks from a range of cultures. Especially renowned is its collection of Islamic and Far Eastern items, the museum holds everything from original manuscripts to decorative arts.
Planning a Dublin Vacation with Kids
Things to do in Dublin with Kids
In addition to its history and architecture, Dublin is also known for its warm and welcoming atmosphere, making it a great spot for a family vacation. The city boasts a range of kid-friendly attractions for young travelers to enjoy while traveling with their parents. If the weather is nice, there are plenty of things to do outdoors, such as visiting Dublin Zoo
or St. Stephen's Green
. While you can easily see the city on foot, you can also go for more kid-appealing tours of Dublin, such as Viking Splash Tours
. History enthusiasts of all ages will be thrilled by Dublin's architecture and sights like Dublin Castle
, but there are also several museums where you can get a first-hand experience of the city's past. One of the best is Dublinia
, where the whole family will be transported right to the heart of medieval Dublin. A great place to visit in Dublin with younger kids is Imaginosity
, a museum where the youngsters can enjoy numerous interactive activities and displays.
Tips for a Family Vacation in Dublin
Tourism in Dublin experienced a boom at the beginning of the 21st century, making the city a well-suited destination for travelers of all tastes and ages. Finding good family accommodations should present no problem, and plenty of the city's restaurants have special kids' menus and areas where youngsters can play. Home to over a million people, Dublin provides all the amenities a family with children might need.
Dublin is very easy to navigate on foot or with a stroller. You can also use public transportation for longer distances or if the weather is not suitable for walking. Driving, however, can be a hassle because of the narrow one-way streets and frequent traffic jams in the city center. Renting a bike is a much better option for getting around if you're visiting with older kids. A drawback of Dublin's increased popularity with tourists, big crowds often gather around main attraction and form long wait lines. If you're travelling with younger kids, make sure to keep an eye on them so they don't get lost in crowded areas.
Dining and Shopping on Holiday in Dublin
Cuisine of Dublin
From international specialties to traditional Irish dishes, Dublin boasts a vibrant culinary scene that suits all tastes and budgets. You can choose from a large number of fast-food establishments, trendy bistros, gastropubs, and fine-dining restaurants. All over the city, more and more emphasis is being put on Irish cuisine. Plenty of restaurants serve soda breads and Irish stews prepared using centuries-old methods, but many of the city's chefs also like to add their own modern twists to traditional recipes.
Use your vacation in Dublin to try some of the local seafood specialties the city is famous for. A truly authentic seafood dish, and an absolute must-try, lobster cooked in cream and whisky serves as one of the city's signature delicacies, known as the Dublin Lawyer.
No trip to Dublin is complete without tasting local whisky and beer, which remain integral parts of the city's authentic cuisine. Most beer and whisky enthusiasts take tours of Guinness Storehouse
and Jameson Distillery Bow St
, but there are also several smaller breweries and distilleries worthy visiting during your exploration of Dublin.
Shopping in Dublin
One of the first places keen shoppers head to is the famous Grafton Street
, but there are plenty of other shopping destinations worth visiting in Dublin. Another shopping area in the city center is Henry Street
, where you can find a variety of stores selling everything from clothes and accessories, to electronic gadgets. If you're looking for original designs, artwork, and souvenirs, check out the stores at Temple Bar
. On Saturday mornings, this area also hosts one of the city's main farmers markets. Bargain hunters on a holiday in Dublin rarely miss a chance to unearth treasures at Dublin Flea Market
Know Before You Go on a Trip to Dublin
History of Dublin
Much of Dublin's earliest history is shrouded in mystery. Though Greek geographer Ptolemy wrote about a settlement called Eblana that might correspond to County Dublin, few historians agree that this village was a precursor of modern Dublin. Nevertheless, archeological evidence does prove that this area contains some of the oldest settlements in Ireland.
Most historians agree a Viking settlement called Dyflin was founded in the place of the modern city around mid-9th century CE. During this period, Dublin was ruled from Thingmote, located on the site of today's O'Neill's Bar and Restaurant. In the 12th century, the Norman invasion of Ireland turned Dublin into the seat of English power in the region.
Based around Dublin Castle
, medieval Dublin was a relatively small and close-knit city, despite the English efforts to introduce new settlers from England and Wales. The best place to visit in Dublin for medieval history enthusiasts is Dublinia: Experience Viking and Medieval Dublin
, which captures the true spirit of the time. English rule over Dublin became much stronger from the 16th century onward, when the whole of Ireland was controlled from London.
The religious turmoil of 16th-century England quickly spilled over to Ireland and Dublin. Trinity College Dublin
was built as a center of Protestant learning, despite major opposition by the city's Catholic majority. In the face of ever-present sectarian unrest, Dublin's population and economic importance grew, and by the 1700s the city became one of the largest centers in the British Empire. New developments like O'Connell Street
and Merrion Square
sprang up, enhancing the city's appearance and making it resemble other European capitals.
In the 19th century Dublin saw a constant growth of Irish nationalism and calls for the country's independence. These notions culminated in the early 20th century, the period masterfully described in James Joyce's "Dubliners." Dublin provided a stage for political and armed conflicts for decades, before finally becoming the capital of the Republic of Ireland in 1937. Much of the city's former glory had disappeared by that time, and throughout the 20th century Dublin struggled with economic hardship.
At the end of the 20th century, Ireland went through a major economic boom which greatly affected its capital. In addition to the construction of modern buildings, efforts have been put into preserving the city's historical heritage. Today, taking a tour of Dublin allows visitors to experience the city's perfect mix of old and new.
Holidays & Festivals in Dublin
The atmosphere in Dublin is always lively, but it usually reaches its zenith during the annual festivals and holidays. Just like everywhere else in Ireland, Christmas and Easter are major religious holidays in Dublin, though they inevitably take second place to St. Patrick's Day. Celebrated on March 17, the biggest Irish holiday is marked with colorful parades, street performances, fireworks, and endless amounts of beer.
Dublin's artistic heritage is celebrated throughout the year through numerous festivals. Many film buffs plan their trip to Dublin for February, when the city hosts its International Film Festival. Some of Ireland's, and the world's, best writers come together in June for Dublin Writers Festival. Every September and October, the city hosts Dublin Theatre Festival, the oldest festival of its kind in Europe.
Dublin Travel Tips
Climate of Dublin
Dublin shares many of its weather features with the rest of Ireland, though the city's climate tends to be a bit sunnier and drier. July and August are the warmest months of the year, with average temperatures around 16 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit). January is the coldest, with temperatures staying around 5 degrees Celsius (41 degrees Fahrenheit). Though not as wet as some other parts of the country, Dublin regularly sees over 100 rainy days per year. Summer is the most popular time for a Dublin vacation, offering fine weather for pleasant sightseeing.
Transportation in Dublin
As Ireland's main transportation hub, Dublin is easy to get to by plane, road, or sea. Inside the city, however, public transportation can be a little hectic. Even though a system of commuter rail does exist, it's not particularly branched out, so transportation in the center mainly relies on busses. Bus lanes are numerous, but traffic jams in the center can affect their timetables. Riding a bike remains one of the most economical ways to tour of Dublin, but cycling infrastructure is somewhat lacking--don't be surprised if you find that you often have ride in traffic to go between destinations. If you decide to drive in Dublin, prepare for big jams and not a lot of parking space. Bear in mind that the Irish drive on the left side of the road.