Choosing the right tour of Dublin is not an easy feat, mainly because you are spoilt for choice when visiting the Irish capital. The variety of tours on offer certainly is nothing short of bewildering, and you also have to sort the wheat from the chaff a bit - pub crawls, for instance, are notorious for appealing only to special demographics, so choose wisely before your evening in ruined. But generally speaking, any tour will give you a good first impression of Ireland's capital.
Yet how to pick one?
Let me help a bit ...
When visiting the fair city, you want to take in the best sights and attractions of Dublin - and you have several methods to explore the city at your disposal. From the easiest and cheapest, which would be a self-guided tour of Dublin on foot. To the mundane, as you could use Dublin's public transport system for a more extensive tour. Or you could also use a rental car to get around, but you'd have to be mad to take a car into Dublin as a tourist.
But seriously, the best (as in most comfortable and readily accessible) way to get to know Dublin without too much hassle, and with a knowledgeable commentary thrown in, is a pre-organised tour. And you actually have a choice of tours, just pick the one that suits you:
Hop On Hop Off Tours of Dublin
The tours offering a hop-on-hop-off service are actually the most flexible of them all. True, they usually stay on the same route all day, going in circles around the city center, but the flexibility for you comes with the opportunity to exit, and later re-enter, at any designated stop.
All of which will be convenient for one or more attractions in the vicinity.
You may have to plan ahead on these tours a bit, nonetheless - if you want to hit the Guinness Storehouse on them, for instance, you'll be out of circulation (so to speak) for a few hours.
- City Tour - circular tour run by Dublin Bus;
- Dublin Tour - a similar circular tour, run by Graylines;
- City Sightseeing - circular tour on a similar route, but with multilingual commentary.
Other Bus Tours of Dublin
I'd like to recommend two more bus tours here, even though they are less flexible:
- Viking Splash Tour - you'll be driven around Dublin and take a plunge into the Grand Canal in an amphibious vehicle, while mainly being informed about Dublin's Viking heritage. This is a fun tour and you take in most of the important sites, but you can't get off at any point.
- Ghostbus - this evening tour follows the trail of Dublin's ghosts, ghouls and grave-robbers, a specially converted double decker bus and with live actors (well, they say they are still alive). Not for the faint-hearted, and definitely not covering the main tourist spots, but a good evening entertainment. But best go when the nights are long and dark ...
Boat Tours in Dublin
Want to see Dublin by boat, like you saw Paris or London? Yes, it is possible:
- Dublin Discovered - a cruise up and down the river Liffey in a modern boat, which allows for panoramic views of the Quays and the Docklands area. The disadvantage: you are sitting very low, and at low tide (the Liffey is tidal throughout central Dublin) the views might be slightly restricted. The big plus: you see Dublin from a different vantage point.
There are also dinner cruises on the Grand Canal, but these are more focused on the food than on the sights (which are not as splendid along the canal anyway).
Dublin Outside the City Centre
If you want to drop out of the city center, Dublin Bus might be your first choice (unless you simply hitch a ride on the DART to Greystones or Howth). They are offering two tours that take in some attractions further afield:
- North Coast and Malahide Castle Tour - visit Malahide Castle and Howth;
- South Coast and Powerscourt Tour - visit the Wicklow Mountains and Powerscourt Gardens.
Or, if you feel really adventurous (and don't mind spending a lot of time on the road), Paddywagon runs day tours to far-flung places like the Giant's Causeway, the Cliffs of Moher, Connemara, and even Kerry.