Dublin's best lookouts are giving you a glimpse of Ireland's capital that, in many cases, you won't have from the well-trodden tourist trail. Most will involve a bit of traveling and also a bit of walking. So, if you want to stretch your legs and see Dublin from another perspective, here's where to go.
One of the finest glimpses of Dublin can be had from a plane flying into the Irish capital, provided the Irish weather decides to play along and you are not descending through clouds and fog.
Many planes come in across the Irish Sea slightly north of Howth. You'll have a good view of Howth, Dublin Bay, the Wicklow Mountains and Dublin City from the left-hand windows in this case.
The other main flight path takes you across Meath, approaching Dublin from the West. Definitely less exciting, but you might just spot glimpses of the city.
Approaching Dublin by ferry is exciting too, though the fast ferries tend to be slightly challenging when it comes to observation decks. The slower ferries, however, usually still have one open “sundeck” high up and the view from here can be great.
Cruising into Dublin Bay you will see Dun Laoghaire, the Sugar Loaf Mountain, and the (often shrouded) Wicklows to port (the left), Howth and Bull Island to starboard (the right). There is also a great view of Dublin Docklands and the city beyond when docking.
While the fast ferry into Dun Laoghaire will not provide the best views, Dun Laoghaire Harbour itself is great. You can walk out onto the piers (a rather bracing experience at times) and enjoy the view of Dun Laoghaire and Dublin Bay, the 40 Foot baths and Joyce Tower to the east, Howth just across the bay and the beaches and ultimately Dublin to the northwest. Note that the East Pier is best for a stroll, but the more bumpy walk onto the West Pier provides a good view of the lighthouse. It is usually less crowded.
By train: Take the DART to Dun Laoghaire station for the East Pier, to Salthill & Monkstown Station for the West Pier.
By Dublin Bus: From the city center take 46A to Dun Laoghaire.
By Car: Follow the signs for Dun Laoghaire and the ferry.
Howth Harbour has some good views but plays the second fiddle to the Hill of Howth, the “Summit”. Here you can look right across Dublin Bay towards Dun Laoghaire and the Wicklow Mountains, see parts of Dublin City and enjoy the dramatic view of the Bailey Lighthouse below you (“below” being the operative and cautionary word). The Howth Cliff Walk is a great idea, but there are steep drops straight into the ocean (or onto rocks), so be careful.
By train: Take the DART to Howth, then walk up Abbey Street and Thormanby Road to the Summit.
By Dublin Bus: The 31 will get you right to the Summit.
By Car: Follow the R105 towards Howth, at Sutton Cross turn right into Greenfield Road and just carry on until you reach the Summit.
Out to Poolbeg Lighthouse (a Walk in Dublin Bay)
The nearest to actually walking on water, a stroll out to Poolbeg Lighthouse, situated at the end of a long sea wall right in the middle of Dublin Bay, has great views all around. The downside(s): You are on low ground (and you can't really see that far at sea level), you are buffeted by winds and the walking can be a bit wobbly over the old stones at times. But an experience to be definitely enjoyed.
By train: Take the DART to Grand Canal Dock or Lansdowne Road, then take a long walk east (bring a map).
By Dublin Bus: Bus No. 1 will take you out to Poolbeg Power Station, the sea wall starts east of the station.
By Car: Drive to Poolbeg Power Station and find a convenient parking space behind it.
Most people travel to the Pope's Cross in Phoenix Park and enjoy a glimpse of the Wicklow Mountains, but if you are up for a bit of walking, find your way to the forbidding Magazine Fort towering over the Liffey. From here you can actually look into the river valley and see the War Memorial Gardens. As the Magazine Fort is not as easily accessible by car as other places in the Phoenix Park, you'll find more tranquillity here too.
By train: Take the LUAS to Museum or Heuston Station (also a suburban and intercity terminus) and walk to the Phoenix Park, then follow the signs.
By Dublin Bus: Route 10 or 31 (amongst others) will get you to the park entrances.
By Car: From Chesterfield Avenue take Wellington Road to the fort, or enter via Chapelizod Gate and take the winding Military Road.
A splendid view of nearly all Dublin can be found when you take the road out to the Wicklow Mountains via Glencree. Just where the R115 takes a sharp turn uphill and to the right, you'll notice a somehow uninviting car park to the right. Pull in here (take care, loads of bottles litter the area at times and are not tyre-friendly), then make your way across the road (again taking care of passing traffic) to a viewpoint that seems to have been neglected and forgotten. Still, the trees and shrubs are occasionally trimmed back and the view from up here gives you a great panorama of Dublin City.
By Car: Take the R115, heading for the Sally Gap.
So you do not really want to drive, take the bus, walk? Well, stay in Dublin then, head for the Guinness Storehouse and up to the Gravity Bar. Up a pint of the black stuff while enjoying the view over the rooftops. Just be warned ... unlike all the other viewpoints named above, this one has a price tag!
By train: The nearest LUAS stations would be Museum and Heuston Station.
By Dublin Bus: All buses along the South Quays pass the brewery. So do most tour buses.
By Car: Don't use a car in central Dublin.