I have already told you all about my favourite eateries in Dublin (I am always lead by my belly, which explains the order of the information sharing) but even just a long weekend showed me that Dublin is so much more than just great food. There are also great places to visit, great things to see and get things to learn.
Before I departed for the green isle, I put a callout on Twitter for the best things to see and do in Dublin. I got some of the responses that I expected, like the Guinness Storehouse, but a friend also told me the best way to explore the city: the hop on hop off bus tour.
It stops at all of the key tourist attractions, including some that you might not have already considered, and it a great way to see the city and learn a little bit along the way. We opted for Dublin bus tours (the green buses), because rumour had it they were the best. I certainly wouldn’t refute that claim. The multilingual tours are pre-recorded to accommodate translations for those that require it, but if you are able to hop on a bus that has a ‘live’ tour guide I highly recommend it. They might sing you a little song and give you some extra juicy details that aren’t included in the official tour…
Although there were plenty of stops that we didn’t manage to fit in this time (I certainly plan on going back) here are my recommendations for the places that we did visit and enjoy…
Old Jameson Distillery
I have snuck this one in slightly, because we didn’t actually visit the Jameson Distillery as part of the bus tour, we went the day before we purchased our bus ticket as a birthday treat for Waverley – who is a bit of a Whiskey connoisseur.
Whiskey has never particularly appealed to me as my only run-in with the potent liquor was an ill advised shot in my late teens, so whilst I knew I would love hearing about the process and the history behind it, I didn’t think I would relish the taster that was included in our ticket price.
The tour was guided by a lovely and amusing man called Pat. At the start of the tour your guide gives you the option for eight people to take part in a proper Whiskey tasting at the end, you have to be quick and put your hands up but our birthday girl was quick off the mark and was one of the chosen ones. We pottered around the distillery, which is no longer a working site, listening to Pat’s quips and knowledge. He took us through the whole process and helped us to understand what makes Jameson’s whisky special (it’s triple distilled which contributes to its smoothness).
I won’t spoil the rest for you because I really do think that this is a must visit if you are heading to Dublin, and I want you to find out for yourselves, but even the tipple surprised me at the end. You can opt for a whiskey on the rocks or, for the less hardcore, a whiskey, lime and ginger. The whiskey tasting was a great addition as well, even for those that weren’t involved! You can book your Jameson Distillery tickets here, or turn up on the day.
If you ask anyone where you should visit when you go to Dublin this often comes top of the list. We visited the Storehouse as one of the stops on the bus tour, and I think that we timed it just about right, starting our tour at around 5.00pm (I will tell you why later)…
The tour itself is very different to the style adopted by the distillery – instead of a tour guide you wander around a self-guided tour with videos, sign-posters and arrows to direct you. Initially I thought that I would much prefer this style of tour, I like to go at my own pace, linger in the areas that interest me the most and take a few snaps as I go (the blogger in me can’t wander without snapping). However, we found that this meant we missed elements, I couldn’t say I am particularly wise in the process of making Guinness, and I think it would be easy to miss some of the key bits – we nearly managed to aimlessly wander past one of my favourite parts, where you could smell the different elements that make up a pint and then learn the art of tasting your Guinness… A bit gimmicky but it made the rookie Guinness drinker in me giggle.
That brings me to the Pièce de résistance… The Gravity Bar. I can genuinely say that the 360 degree view that the bar gives you of the city makes the Storehouse trip entirely worth it. You get a free pint (though some of us opted for a half… And even struggled at that) and the chance to soak up the atmosphere.
Which brings me to the reason that our timing was so great – we managed to land in the Gravity Bar when there was enough light to take in the views, but also to experience the city in twilight as the sun went down. I could honestly have stayed there just looking out on our surroundings for HOURS.
As a little aside, bus isn’t the only way to travel in Dublin… After the Guinness Storehouse we were off to Temple Bar for dinner and opted for horse power to get us there. It was great fun!
Take a walk
St Stephen’s Green
I am not really sure why St Stephen’s Green made it onto my list of stops to alight at, but I had a feeling that it was going to be beautiful. It sure met my expectations.
You can wonder by the lakes in blissful surroundings – we were certainly lucky with the weather on the day of our tour, the sun was shining in the sky and glistening on the waters and I suspect it made the whole experience even more idyllic than it might have been in the rain. If you are blessed with sunshine on your trip this is certainly a must!
There are places around where you can get your lunch and picnic in your lush surroundings, but even if you are just stopping off for a brief visit, a wander around St Stephen’s Green will give you a flavour of the beauty of Ireland’s landscapes (though I know there are many more still to be explored on another trip).
Add a bit of culture
There are lots of cultural stops to take in on the tour, many of which we didn’t get to sample (the Kilmainham Gaol is top of my list for next time), but Dublin Castle is one that we all wanted to visit so it was one of the first stops on our tour.
If you are a castle fan you should heed this warning – Dublin castle isn’t full of your typical turrets, medieval structures and crumbling walls. The castle was damaged in a fire in the 1600’s and therefore none of the original buildings remain, aside from the records tower.
The castle today has a stately home feel about it – but as much as I love a castle, stately homes are much more my thing and I was fascinated by how the city had built up around the castle site. There were brightly coloured walls and rooms that are still used for official business on occasion…and it was fascinating. But castle purists should go prepared, you might not find what you expect.
We took advantage of our 48 hour ticket to visit the National Gallery on the second day of our bus tour.
Galleries are something that I don’t think I pay enough attention to at home, so with a dedicated stop on the tour I was keen to take in some of the art that the city had to offer. As with galleries in most of the UK, admission is free to the main collection so it is also a great stop to lighten the pressure on your wallet (costs can stack up as you take in more and more attractions at each stop). I am not going to pretend that I am an authority on art, I am far from it, but it is the stories behind portraits, landscapes and sculptures that inspire me the most. I know what I like when I see it (and there were some lovely pieces on display at the gallery), and often the information notes by the side of the artwork give me little nuggets of writing inspiration.
It certainly encouraged me to take a trip to London and head to our own national gallery and treasure houses…
So that’s your whistle stop tour of some of the sights that we enjoyed on our trip. I’ve already said it, but there is so much more still to see… If you have visited Dublin and have any recommendations please do share them below – it will help me plan my next trip!
The small print
You can find all the information you need about the bus tour that we used, and the stops included here. We booked when we got there, but you do receive a discount for booking online so worth doing if you know it is something you want to incorporate into your trip
One other little note to bear in mind about the bus tour: If you are staying in the City Centre you can combine your hop-on hop-off ticket with an Airlinks ticket for just €24, or a ticket for the buses alone is €18. Your hop-on hop-off ticket is valid for 48 hours so you really do get the chance to cram in as much as possible (and you can see that we certainly tried)!
I would say don’t be afraid to stay slightly out of town, Dublin operate a tram system that is clean, efficient and regular. We stayed at the Ibis Hotel in West Dublin, which is very basic but suited our needs perfectly as we didn’t actually spend all that much time in the hotel, and the family room meant we could all share for a very reasonable rate. It was just a short walk from the tram station…Which in the most part served us very well and kept our travel costs down. However, there was a very windy bridge to negotiate so when the winds were particularly high we did occasionally opt for the comfort of a taxi instead – which were also very reasonable.
Happy travels one and all!