Home See & Do Visiting Dublin: a travel guide for first time visitors

Visiting Dublin: a travel guide for first time visitors

by Mama Loves Ireland
Dublin St Patrick cathedral

Travel guide for visiting Dublin, Ireland. expert travel tips to make the most of your time in Dublin Fair City

Dublin, the beautiful capital of Ireland, is a lovely destination: whether you come to Dublin for a city break, a work meeting or use the city as a jump-off point for visiting Ireland, Dublin has something to offer.

Looking for history? Dublin has museums and a castle for you! In need for a fun night out? Dublin has lovely pubs, music venues and great restaurants 9did you know? Yes, really, it does!). Looking for family activities: Dublin has those too!

I have been calling Dublin home for the last 15 years and, over this time, I have faced all the questions of the visitors and found all the answers as a local!

This is my travel guide to Dublin for first-time visitors.

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How many days in Dublin?

Dublin is a dynamic European capital with many museums and things to do, however, most of its must-see attractions can be seen and enjoyed in about 3 days

This is not to say that 3 days will be enough to see everything or that you will get bored if you stay any longer.

Rather, it is the amount of time that I believe is ideal for a visitor to get a sense of the city, see some of its main sights and feel they have actually seen the place.

With three days in Dublin, you can have a nice stroll in the city center, enjoy Dublin’s pubs and restaurants, relax in a park, see some museums and even the Guinness storehouse, one of Dublin’s biggest attractions.

Where to stay in Dublin?

Dublin is a surprisingly large city with a compact city center and large residential areas sprawling towards the surrounding counties.

The best area to stay in Dublin for sightseeing is the city center and in particular, the areas around Trinity College, Merrion Square and Christchurch.

These areas are all on the Southside of the river and put you in close proximity to most of Dublin’s main sites and attractions. These are also areas that will allow you to discover most if not all of the city on foot.

The Trinity and Merrion Square areas are a little more expensive while around Christchurch you have more mixed prices.

Another good address I always recommend is the Hilton Garen Inn on the river. Unlike the other areas above, this is a stretch of Dublin on the Northside of the river and while it is not the most atmospheric, it will well connected to the city center and pleasant (it is also where the Epic Ireland exhibition is). This is a good mid-budget option.

Hotels I recommend in Dublin city center are:

How to budget for a trip to Dublin

Dublin is an expensive city, surprisingly so. How much or how little you spend is always down to own decisions however, to give you an idea, consider that:

  • A good room in a mid-range hotel costs easily between 100 and 200 Euro, closer to the 200 Euro mark
  • A cup of coffee is about 3.60 Euro
  • A beer is about 5.50 euro depending on size/brand
  • A nice dinner for two in a mid-range establishment is around 60 euro
  • Single hop bus ticket is 1.15 to 3.80 euro (depending on your exact journey and if you are paying cash/with leap card) – you can find more info on how to get around Dublin here

The best things to see in Dublin: Dublin must-see attractions

Dublin has many beautiful interesting attractions, most of them in the city center.

Trinity College and the Book of Kells

Trinity College and the Book of Kells, the unique medieval manuscript in its old library, is one of the most if not the most famous attractions in the whole of Dublin.

The College is right in the city center and therefore really easy to reach from almost anywhere in the city: I usually recommend it as the first stop for any Dublin trip both for location, interest and visual impact.

Worth seeing here are both the college grounds, the Library and the Book itself. Crowds can be intense so I do recommend you book tickets in advance.

A good offer is this one, which combines fast track entry to see the book and entry to Dublin castles, down the road from Trinity College and the next attraction on this list.

How to get there: any bus serving College Green, Luas Green Line Colleg Green, walking distance from O’Connell Bridge and Grafton Street.

Dublin Castle

Dublin castle is right in the center of Dublin and while not the most impressive castle you will see in Ireland, it is so significant in Irish history it rightly appears as a must-see place in Dublin.

The inside is also very beautiful and it is still now used for official State functions.

Dublin Castle is a short walk from Trinity College and you can visit both the college and the castle on the same day with this combined ticket here.

If you prefer to visit it separately, you can buy tickets on the official site or get hold of the Dublin Pass, which gives discounted and easy access to many city attractions.

How to get there: bus, walking distance from Trinity College and Christchurch cathedral

The Guinness Storehouse

Another heavyweight among Dublin attractions is the Guinness Storehouse, a place to famous and quintessentially Dublin to make a visit to the city without a stop here almost unthinkable.

The Storehouse is very touristy but also a lot of fun. The space itself is fun (it also has lovely spaces for drinks and events), the tour is fun and the view from the Gravity Bar at the end, where you can taste Guinness with a 360-degree view over the city is special.

Good to know: you don’t need to be a drinker to enjoy the tour. While you can taste a pint at the end, if you do not drink alcohol for any reason (whether you are an adult or a child) you will be offered a soda / juice instead. the tours is fun and informative anyway.

The Guinness Storehouse is very popular: I recommend you book skip the line tickets in advance here.

Jameson Distillery Visit

If you are more into whiskey than beer, then you may like to visit the Jameson Distillery in the area of Smithfield. This is a very fun visit that even I, a non-whiskey drinker really enjoyed.

The distillery itself is lovely and the tour fun (you also learn what makes Irish whiskey different from Scotch): definitely one I recommend! You can find cost and tickets here

St Patrick’s Cathedral

St Patrick’s Cathedral is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and a wonderful place to see when in Dublin. Dating back to the 13th Century, the cathedral is said to be on a well allegedly used by St Patrick’s himself and is beautiful to visit inside and out.

Admissions to the cathedral is ticketed and you can pay the small entry fee on arrival. Tours of the church are available: you can find official info and how to pre-book here

Good to know: beside St Patrick’s Cathedral lies the Marshs’ Library, which is an old library said to be inhabited by a ghost! Make sure you add a stop here when visiting St Patrick’s, it is just around the corner from the main entrance.

Temple Bar

Temple Bar is maybe the most famous street in Dublin, a pedestrianized road full of pubs, bars and restaurants. Temple Bar is nice during the day and can be fun at night but you need to know what you are in for, should you decided to go.

During the day and early evenings, you have a buzzy, dynamic atmosphere with lots of places to eat and drink and you have a huge variety of styles and people. later ar night, it becomes party central and you mostly have hen and stag parties.

Good to know both if you want to join them or avoid them!

Ha’Penny Bridge

Close to Temple Bar lies cute Ha’Penny Bridge, one of the most iconic bridges in Dublin. While not as impressive as the newer Calatrava ones farther down the river, the Ha’Penny Bridge is so quintessentially Dublin you simply have to see it and take a photo of its peculiar iron frame!

St Stephen’s Green Park

If you are in Dublin on a sunny day (and yes, you have many!), you may want to have a break in lovely St Stephen’s Green, the large city center park at the top of Grafton Street.

laid out with nice paths, a duck pond and kids playgrounds, this is a lovely place for a romantic stroll or just getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city and hang out with the locals.

EPIC Ireland

A newer and wonderful attraction in Dublin is the EPIC exhibition, the permanent exhibition about Irish Immigration. Hosted in a beautiful dedicated space along the Liffey, this is a place to learn about Irish emigration and find your Irish roots visiting the Irish Family History Centre located right at the exit of the museum

Fun things to do in Dublin

As well as Dublin attractions, there are many fun things to do in Dublin for all types of visitors.

Go to the pub

Dublin has a huge number of pubs and they are so varied in size, style and clientele you are sure to find one to your liking!

Some pubs offer a more traditional experience (no food, slightly older clientele, lots of chatter), some offer cooked dinners and even cater to families, some are more local, some have beer gardens and so on: whatever pub experience you are after, Dublin has one for you! Head to the streets behind Grafton street for the widest selection and just pick any you like

Go on a literary pub crawl

Dublin has a fantastic literary tradition and a wonderful way to learn about it while having a good time is to join a literary pub crawl. This will bring you to some cool establishments and will make you familiarize with Irish writers and writing thanks to the aid of skilled readers and actors. This is a great activity and something pretty special you can do in the city.

Take a hop on hop off bus tour

A hop on hop off bus tour is a touristy activity but a fun one in Dublin. While most attractions in the city center are walking distance from each other, other cool Dublin attractions such as the Guinness storehouse, the zoo and the botanical gardens are not. A hot on hof off tour is a great way to add something a little more off the beaten track to your visit.

You can see exact stops and book your ticket here

See Irish dancing

Another really fun thing to do in Dublin is to go and see Irish dancing, a show that is incredibly energetic, fun and addictive! You can see Irish dancing at the Arlington Hotel, the (wonderful) Johnny Fox’s pub on the Dublin mountains and on selected nights at O’Sullivan’s on 2 Westmoreland St, Temple Bar.

Useful Dublin Travel resources: how to get around Dublin

Dublin has a decent public transport network made of:

  • Buses
  • Tram (the Luas)
  • Light urban railway (the DART)

Bus tickets can be bough on the bus itself and must be paid with coins (no cards accepted): the fair depends on the number of stops you need to reach your destination and has a maximum fare of 3 euro.

If you are staying in the center, you are likely to only need the bus occasionally however, if you are planning on staying in Dublin longer or your hotel is not in the city center, it can be convenient to buy a prepaid visitors card that allows you good saving on individual tickets.

You can find all you need to know about getting around Dublin and how to use Dublin’s public transport here.

Visiting Dublin with kids

Dublin is wonderful to visit with kids. Most main sightseeing attractions are easy to visit with children in tow and, if you need some entertainment that is just for them, Dublin delivers with both indoor and outdoor family activities!

To give you an idea, Dublin offers:

  • Imaginoslity Children Museum
  • Indoor play centers (Jumpzone for trampolining, Climbing walls, Pottery painting studios etc)
  • A nice Zoo
  • Many parks and playgrounds
  • Dublinia (the interactive museum of Dublin’s Viking history)
  • Dublin splash tour

You can find my full guide to visiting Dublin with kids here and the best indoor activities for kids in Dublin on our sister site learning escapes here.

What to pack for Dublin

Dublin is a relaxed city and you can be as dressy or as casual as you fancy and be pretty sure you will fit in! The variety of styles in the city is one of my favorite things about it.

However, you always have to deal with the weather and since what you get changes every few minutes, some attires are better than others! I recommend you pack for Dublin your Ireland travel essentials plus:

  • Good walking shoes
  • Short-sleeve tops for the summer / long sleeve tops for the winter
  • LIght sweater for summer /warm woolen sweater for winter
  • Light jacket for summer evenings / warm waterproof coat for winter
  • Scarf, gloves and hat for winter
  • A nicer dress/shirt and shoes for going out
  • Sunglasses for the summer
  • Power bank for phone and all your tech
  • Travel adapter for Ireland (we use a 3 pin sock, like the UK)

You can find Here >>> my full packing list for Ireland, month by month.

What to eat in Dublin

In the last few years, Dublin has grown to become a real foodie destination with excellent restaurants catering to most types of palate. The most traditional food you find here is spring lamb and salmon, but ethnic restaurants now abound too.

While not as popular as you may expect in a city on the sea, seafood can be great in Dublin too. I personally love it in Howth, the coastal area of North Dublin with the fishing port.

I hope you enjoyed this essential guide to visiting Dublin: safe travels!

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