Ireland's capital city is vibrant, cosmopolitan and buzzy. What gives Dublin added oomph is the spirit of its people. It may be a modern city of glass and steel, a favourite with business people, conference goers and tourists, but Dubliners remain friendly and plain-speaking.
Dublin's streets are Georgian and elegant, its shopping districts (Grafton Street south of the Liffey and Henry Street on the north) bustling and its pubs (Davy Byrnes and Mulligans of Poolbeg Street are two of its very best) cosy and welcoming.
The Irish have a deep respect for their past. The city's sights include the Book of Kells, an illuminated manuscript of the Gospels, which dates from the 9th century, and can be viewed in Trinity College Library, the Chester Beatty Library, Christ Church Cathedral, Marsh's Library, Dublin Castle, the Parnell Museum, Kilmainham Gaol, Francis Bacon's studio and, of course, the Guinness brewery at St. James’s Gate where the black stuff has been produced for more than 250 years.
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Summers in Dublin are in the teens (Celsius), with about 18 hours of daylight in July and August. Winters are mild and wet with the temperature in the 10s and rarely going below freezing. Rain is typical, but there are occasional snow flurries. Although Dublin is in one of Ireland’s drier areas, it usually rains 150 days a year.
When to fly to Dublin
There are a couple of peak tourist seasons. Summers and school holidays are very busy as are Christmas and New Year.
St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) is an exceptionally busy time. Make reservations and book Dublin flights as far in advance as possible.
The off season is mid-November through mid-March or Easter with the exception of Christmas/New Year. Prices will be lower in some cases, but fewer attractions and restaurants are open.
Autumn and spring are good times to visit Dublin. The seasonal hotels and restaurants open in the spring and usually do not close until November. There are often good deals on flights and accommodation to encourage tourism.
Getting around Dublin
Between public transport, taxis and your own two feet, the city is easy to get around. Walking is the best option in the centre of town. If you get tired, you can always hop aboard the light rail, LUAS, which has two lines accessing the main attractions. The bus network is also a great way to get around. It covers the city and has a small Nitelink service as well. To get out to the suburbs and seaside towns, the rapid transit train, DART, is the way to go.
Taxis are abundant, but fill up quickly on nights and weekends. Driving in the city can be very frustrating. All the traffic and parking problems, combined with expensive car rental rates, make it not really worth your time. If you want to rent a bike to get around, there are plenty of bike lanes around Dublin, but heavy traffic, bike theft and few bike rental shops around make it less than ideal.
Dublin insider information
- Dublin city is compact and the best way to see it is on foot. There are several walking tours available including a 1916 Rebellion Walking Tours, Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, Rock ‘n Stroll and Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl.
- The Phoenix Park is the largest urban enclosed park in Europe covering about 700 hectares (1,760 acres). It is just 3km (2 miles) west of the city centre and entrance is free. There are ornamental gardens, nature trails, lots and lots of grass and Áras an Uachtaráin, the President of Ireland’s residence, which is open to the public on Saturdays. The Phoenix Park Visitor Centre issues free admission tickets on the day.
- Take a tour around College Green, the Bank of Ireland’s largest branch. This is not as dull as it sounds. The impressive building opposite Trinity College was the Parliament of Independent Ireland before 1801 (and the Act of Union). Marvel at the architecture, guard in a tailcoat and top hat and coal fire in the lobby area – all free. There are also regular free concerts in the Arts Centre.
- Explore “old” Dublin. While visiting the Guinness Storehouse, wander around the Liberties and see St Patrick’s Cathedral and Marsh's Library (Ireland’s oldest public library), St Werburghs Church, Dublin Castle, the street markets on Thomas Street and Meath Street. Enjoy some fish and chips (cooked in lard not oil) from Burdock's.
- Witty Dubliners love to rhyme their public art. Look out for Molly Malone’s statue at the bottom of Grafton Street – the tart with the cart. The women at the Ha’penny Bridge are known as "the hags with the bags". The spire on O’Connell Street is known as "the stiletto in the ghetto", and the chimney stack with lift in Smithfield Village is often called "the flue with the view".