Dublin Guide: Planning Your Trip

Where to stay, what to see and how to get around

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Dublin is the capital of Ireland and is the largest city in the country. The city center is small but lively and full of characteristic pubs and restaurants, shopping districts, theaters, parks, government buildings, and museums.

Dublin is a lovely European city that is easy to navigate thanks to its compact size but still offers plenty to keep any visitor busy. Come for the small town feel of the local pubs, and stay for the fine dining, castles and world-class exhibits. Here is how to make the most of your trip to Dublin:

Planning Your Trip

Best time to visit: The best time to visit Dublin is in late spring (April and May) and early autumn (September). These months offer the best combination of smaller crowds but better weather. Dublin weather tends to bring at least 10 days of rain a month, regardless of the time of year, so be prepared with a small umbrella in every season. The warmest days arrive in June, July, and August, but these months tend to bring huge crowds of visitors and English-language students.

Language: The spoken language in Dublin is English, with a heavy dose of local Irishisms and expressions thrown in. You may also notice that many street signs and other notices are also translated into Irish. It is rare to hear Irish spoken, but it is the first official language recognized throughout the country of Ireland.

Currency: The currency used in Dublin is the Euro. International credit cards are also widely accepted, but it is a good idea to have some cash on hand – particularly if you plan to take Dublin Bus, which only accepts exact change in coins.

Getting around: The best way to get around Dublin is to walk. The city is compact enough that most of the major sites and best places to eat can be reached within 15 minutes on foot so renting a car is usually more hassle then it is worth. If you prefer to use public transportation, stop by O’Connell Street for a map and schedule of Dublin Bus.

Dublin is also fairly flat which makes it an easy city to bike, as long as you are confident about sharing the left side of the road with regular traffic. DublinBikes is a cycle sharing program stands throughout the city where you can unlock and rent a bike to drop off at any other station using a three-day pass or an annual card.

If you are looking for a riding-hailing app, MyTaxi (previously Hailo) is the most popular taxi app in Ireland. Taxis can be found at stands in the city center, as well. Uber Black does exist but it is much less common than in the US.

Travel Tip: It is never bad to be the early bird, but things in Dublin tend to open a bit later than in other cities so don’t be ashamed to sleep in a bit – you won’t miss a thing.

Things to Do

Small but busy Dublin has something to suit every taste, but it will particularly appeal to visitors who like to explore parks and admire classic Georgian architecture before settling into a cozy pub to catch a live Irish music session. In between, there are cathedrals, museums, and lots of shopping opportunities to take advantage of, but you certainly cannot miss:

  • Dublin Castle: book ahead to visit the richly decorated State Apartments, or stop by to admire the 13th-century towers and beautiful gardens. 
  • The Guinness Storehouse: visit the birthplace of Ireland’s favorite beer, learn how to pour a perfect pint, and enjoy a drink overlooking the rooftops of Dublin in the Gravity Bar.
  • Trinity College and the Book of Kells: tour the beautiful university in the heart of the city and its famous library – home to the gorgeously illustrated Book of Kells.

Explore more attractions with our full-length articles on the best things to do in Dublin, free things to do in Dublin and the best things to do in Dublin with kids.

What to Eat and Drink

One of the most typical places to eat in Dublin is in the pub. Bars often have simple menus full of food designed to fill you up before a night of pints. Expect to start with vegetable soup and a side of brown bread. Move on to the carvery, which is a buffet with meats like turkey, roast beef and ham (all with a generous side of gravy), plus mashed potatoes and cooked garden vegetables. Another Irish favorite is bacon and cabbage, which is a kind of ham with boiled cabbage. But, don’t expect to find corned beef in Dublin - that dish is more of an American invention.

For lighter traditional fare, recent years have brought many newer farm-to-table restaurants like the Winding Stair to the city, which specialize in using fresh Irish ingredients in new ways.

Of course, it is possible to visit Dublin without drinking, but it would be a missed opportunity to try some of the local favorites. Both Guinness and Jameson whiskey come from the Irish capital and are available at pretty much any bar in the city. Create a self-guided tour of the best pubs in Dublin to find your favorite place for a pint, and mix things up with a Smithwick’s, Murphy’s or O’Hara’s – all Irish beers. The speakeasy and cocktail scene is expanding in Dublin, but it is still a city that is best for traditional pubs and a night of live Irish music.

Where to Stay

One of the best areas to stay in Dublin is right around St. Stephen's Green. The well-heeled area near the park is central but quiet at night, with pubs and restaurants within an easy walk. Traditional hotels are very popular in Dublin though Airbnb has grown in recent years. However, given the relatively high rents in the city center, the prices for short-term holiday homes are almost on par with regular hotels.

Getting There

The most direct way to get to Dublin is to fly into Dublin Airport. The airport is close to the city center and well connected by bus, as well as taxis. If you have rented a car and are planning to drive in Dublin, take the M50 into the city (but remember to pay the automatic toll online within 24 hours).

Dublin is the main hub of Bus Èireann, the national coach service which offers links from most Irish towns and cities, as well as from Belfast Airport (in Northern Ireland) and Shannon Airport (in the south of the Republic of Ireland). Dublin also has a train station, but the trains are generally more expensive and less frequent than the private buses running to the city.

Culture and Customs

Visitors will likely recognize many of the customs in Dublin as familiar but there are a few differences between what is polite in Ireland versus the US. Tipping, for instance, is almost never done at the pub (unless you are telling the barman to keep the change), and most restaurants add gratuity automatically as part of a service charge. Feel free to tip your tour guide, but don't leave any tips at a B&B or other family-run businesses. Here is a full guide with more information on tipping in Ireland.

Expect to hear a bit of swearing when you are out and about in Dublin. The swear words are used much more casually in everyday conversation and are not meant to be offensive. However, keep in mind that Dubliners never greet each other with "top of the morning to you," nor do they ever suggest a toast that includes "may the road rise up to meet you." Both of these sayings are Irish-American inventions and might make locals feel like you are making fun of them.

The center of Dublin is generally safe, but taking an official taxi at night is always the best way to get home.

Money Saving Tips

  • Dublin has some great museums, and most of them (like the national museums, Chester Beatty Library, and Hugh Lane Gallery) are completely free.
  • If you need a break from the city buzz, pop into Trinity College or make your way out to Phoenix Park for a free place to wander and stroll. St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square are two additional free green spaces right in the city center.
  • Happy hour is not really a thing in Dublin, so don’t expect discounted drinks. Stick to Irish brands for the best value when you are out in the pub.
  • If you want to hear live music without buying a drink in a pub, walk along Grafton Street where street performers (known as buskers) set up to put on a free show in hopes of earning a few tips.
  • Dublin is a very walkable city but be sure to invest in a Leap Card if you plan to make a lot of use of public transportation. The reloadable card offers discounts on every trip.
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