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BlogDestinationsThe Go Ahead Travel Guide to Dublin
looking down anne street at saint anns cathedral in dublin
Destinations

The Go Ahead Travel Guide to Dublin

Nov 05, 2020 by Laura Cooper

This destination guide was created for you by our global team here at Go Ahead Tours! Whether we’re designing new trips or writing guides like this one, everything we do is handcrafted. Read on to get our staffers’ insider tips from their travels.

As the capital of the Republic of Ireland, Dublin is rich in history and alive with culture—and it’s a favorite location to visit again and again, both as a solo traveler or with a group of friends and family! Delicious food and friendly people are a few things that make Dublin one of our staffer Laura’s favorite places to visit when she’s traveling solo. Check out our Dublin Travel Guide for some of her and her fellow colleagues’ tips for traveling to Dublin, including things to do in Dublin, Dublin top attractions, and more.

Currency: The euro

Language: English is the predominant language spoken in Ireland, although there is a resurgence of Irish Gaelic within the country.

Getting around: “Walking around Dublin on tour is such a wonderful way to experience the city and see all the Dublin top attractions,” said Laura. “When I visited, I walked pretty much everywhere with no problems. On a few occasions, I hopped on Dublin’s city transport with ease to visit sites that were a little farther away—there are so many things to see in Dublin!”

Phrase to know: “What’s the craic?” That’s how you ask, “what’s happening?” when you’re on tour in Ireland. Craic (pronounced “crack”) has a long history—in Middle English, the word crak meant “conversation” or “loud bragging.” Today, it’s a way to talk about fun times, and one of our Dublin travel tips is to soak in all the craic the city has to offer!

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WHEN TO TRAVEL TO DUBLIN

Ireland can be perfectly summed up with this Scandinavian phrase: “There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes.” The weather in Ireland is a bit unpredictable no matter the time of year, but if you’re prepared, each season brings another reason you should visit Dublin on tour.

  • Spring: Go Ahead staffer Chloe visited the city in March, right in time for the St. Patrick’s Day parade, and highly recommends visiting Dublin on tour in the spring. “There are fewer crowds, and the weather’s not too hot or cold,” she said. “Some days were so beautiful with clear skies and sunshine.” Spring in Ireland also means the countryside will be full of beautiful wildflowers and adorable lambs.
  • Fall: “I visited Dublin in September, and this time of the year truly shows why Ireland is called the Emerald Isle,” said Laura. “There were a few days where rain would make a sudden appearance, but overall, the weather was perfect. There were also fewer crowds, as autumn lands in Ireland’s off-season. If you’re a lover of all things spooky, October is also a great time to travel to Dublin for our Haunted Halloween Tour!”
  • Winter: Winter holidays bring an air of excitement and cheer in Dublin. Celebrations like the Wild Lights display at the Dublin Zoo, the Solstices Celebration, and Christmas Markets throughout the city make it a dreamy time to visit. Plus, visiting Dublin in the winter is a perfect excuse to warm up after a chilly day with a pint (or two!).

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WHAT TO PACK FOR A TRIP TO DUBLIN

“When traveling to Ireland, I recommend bringing a friendly spirit—everyone I interacted with was so nice and I’d frequently have conversations with the people I passed by!” said Laura. “I’d also recommend bringing your appetite for all of Ireland’s amazing and hearty dishes. And of course, one of my best tips for traveling to Dublin is to pack well. Here are some items to have in your suitcase.”

  • A rain jacket and umbrella—no Dublin travel guide is complete without these! Irish locals are no stranger to rain, and having something to protect you against the occasional shower is a must. “The rain showers I experienced never lasted very long, so I’d recommend bringing a bag to place your wet umbrella and jacket in once the rain has subsided,” said Laura.
  • Comfortable walking shoes. Dublin is a very walkable city, and one of the top things to do in Dublin is wander around and see everything. Most of the sidewalks are paved but there are some cobblestone streets, so bringing comfortable walking shoes is extremely important.
  • Layers. Early mornings and evenings can be a bit chilly on tour in Dublin, so one of the best Dublin travel tips it to bring a light jacket or cardigan. “When I traveled in September, I had a lightweight, long-sleeve cardigan, and it was perfect to throw on at dusk before I turned in for the night,” said Laura.

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PLACES TO VISIT IN DUBLIN

“There are stories to be found on every street corner in Ireland, which is what made this list of things to do in Dublin so hard to put together!” said Laura. From St. Patrick’s Cathedral and St. Audoen’s Church to statues of Molly Malone and Oscar Wilde, there are countless attractions in Dublin to check off your bucket list. Here are some of the top things to see in Dublin on tour.

  • Kilmainham Gaol. This jail is a must-see for anyone interested in Dublin’s history. It opened in 1796, and housed several revolutionists and political prisoners including Nelson Mandela. “It was a breeze to get to—just a few stops on the metro and a short walk,” Laura said. “I’d even purchased tickets ahead of time so there was no waiting in line, which is one of my top tips for Dublin.”
  • Guinness Storehouse. “Everyone I talked to in Ireland asked if I’d been to the Guinness Storehouse yet, and I can see why,” Laura said. The storehouse and museum are the perfect places for some history (and shopping) wrapped up with a nice pint at the end. During your visit, you can enjoy a pint at the Gravity Bar while taking in breathtaking 360-degree views of the city, and learn to pour a perfect pint with experts in the Guinness Academy. Once you master the Guinness-pouring skill, you receive a certificate to show off to everyone back home.


tall black bookshelves and statues in trinity college library

  • The Book of Kells at Trinity College. The Book of Kells was created in 800 A.D. and is considered one of the greatest cultural treasures Ireland has to offer. It’s situated at the end of the long room in the old library and is full of medieval art and handwritten text, which makes including it in our Dublin travel guide a no-brainer. “I also recommend taking a stroll around the college itself; the architecture is breathtaking and full of history,” said Laura.
  • Christ Church Cathedral. Dublin is home to several stunning cathedrals, and Christ Church has such an interesting history that it had to land a place here in our Dublin travel guide. “During our tour, I had the chance to climb up the bell tower and ring the famous bells,” Laura said. Below the cathedral lies a crypt as rich in history as the cathedral itself. The crypt used to host a tavern called “Hell,” which might possibly have links to the Hellfire Club—we’ll let you investigate and decide on your own.
  • Abbey Theatre. Founded by W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory in 1904, this theatre has been an arena for art and ideas since the doors opened. Oscar Wilde, Samuel Beckett, and Sean O'Casey are a few of the famous names to come through the theater. Tours of the working sets are available during the day. “If you’re still wondering what to do in Dublin, I’d recommend attending a production if you have the time,” said Laura.

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FREE TIME TIPS FOR DUBLIN

Free time in the Irish capital is always a good thing—there are so many things to see in Dublin! From supernatural locations to one of the biggest city parks in Europe, here are a few ways to spend a free afternoon on tour in Dublin.

  • Do some reading at Winding Stair, one of the oldest surviving independent bookstores in Dublin. It’s located across the Ha’penny Bridge, and just getting there is even a chance to experience history (No worries! The toll to cross the bridge was dropped in 1919). “I suggest heading up the steps to the cafe to enjoy an afternoon cup of tea while you take in the sights of the River Liffey,” said Laura. “It’s one of the most unique places to visit in Dublin.”
  • Stroll through Phoenix Park. This is a perfect place to take a break from the hustle of exploring the city. “I grabbed a few things for a picnic and spent some time wandering around the park, which is over 1,750 acres and home to sites like the Magazine Fort, Phoenix Monument, and Dublin Zoo,” said Laura. There’s also a space that could be called a “wood pasture,” which is a created habitat for a herd of wild deer… keep your eyes peeled!

old stone building on the hellfire club tour

  • Visit the Hellfire Club and take a ghost tour! “I visited Dublin near the end of September, just in time for spooky season, and had to jump on the opportunity to take a ghost tour,” Laura said. “There are several spots within Dublin with supernatural stories, and I had a blast going on a tour to learn about them.” Fellow staffer Maggie went to Montpelier Hill, better known as the Hellfire Club, for her haunted tour. “While located a bit outside the city, I recommend taking the trip if you can,” she said. Dublin has plenty of haunted locations where you can hear a tale or two and maybe you’ll come home with a story of your own.
  • Sip whiskey at the Jameson Distillery. The word “whiskey” has some Gaelic roots, and one look at Dublin, you can imagine why. Dublin’s home to around 35 whiskey distilleries (and there are distillery crawls offered to several of the most popular distilleries if you’re feeling brave!). “I went to the Jameson Distillery on Bow Street,” remembers Laura. “While not an active distillery, there was still plenty to learn—and taste!—while I was there. We ended our tour with a tasting of American, Scottish, and Irish whiskeys, and there’s even a store where you can pick up exclusive whiskeys only available at the distillery.”

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WHAT (& WHERE) TO EAT IN DUBLIN

Dining in Ireland is a true experience. Hundred-year-old restaurants and pubs decorate this list and frequently have live music to add to the ambience of your meal. “Live music during the meals made everything so memorable” said staffer Sally. “It was great to hear some local musicians while we ate!” Here are some things to try and places to visit in Dublin for a top-notch meal.

  • Full Irish breakfast. There’s an old saying that goes, “Eat breakfast like a king,” and nobody takes that to heart as much as the Irish do. The Irish breakfast has everything from bacon and sausage to eggs and beans, and was our staffer Sally’s favorite meal while she was on tour in Dublin. One of the best places to get a plate would be O’Neils Pub—yes, you read that right, we’re sending you to a pub for breakfast! O’Neils has been around for 300 years, so they know a thing or two about breakfast.
  • Irish stew at the oldest pub in Dublin. If you thought the 300-year-old O’Neils Pub had been around for a long time, it has nothing on the Brazen Head, which dates back to 1198! “When I went, there was live music and a mix of locals and tourists alike, which made for a very fun (and very historic) meal,” said Laura. “Soak in the history while you enjoy traditional Irish stew, which is made with lamb and vegetables and is topped with mashed potatoes. I also recommend the beef-and-Guinness stew here.”
  • Afternoon tea and treats. The perfect way to pause after a morning of exploring central Dublin is to sit down with your new travel friends and have afternoon tea and cake—lots of cake!—at the Queen of Tarts in the Temple Bar area. Make sure to bring your sweet tooth, because this afternoon tea comes with fresh seasonal pastries and scones.
  • Fish and chips. “One of my favorite places to eat this staple dish was at a small takeaway shop called Leo Burdock,” said Laura. It was named after the Burdock’s son Leo in 1913, and is another establishment that has been a part of Dublin’s history. Cod is the traditional fish in fish and chips, but sole and scampi might also be available depending on the catch of the day. “Make sure to ask for the ‘crispy bits’ when you order—you can thank me later!” Laura said.
  • An expertly crafted cocktail at a speakeasy. “We celebrated my sister’s birthday while we were in Dublin and wanted to have dinner somewhere special,” remembers Laura. “We came across the Blind Pig, a traditional speakeasy hidden in the center of Dublin. It sings an ode to the prohibition era of the 1920s, when the lower class would often sneak out for dancing and drinks. The atmosphere was intimate and really brought a speakeasy vibe with its cocktail menu hidden at the table and the velvet seating throughout the bar. Make sure you make a reservation online so you can have the location and the password to enter!”

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SOUVENIRS TO BUY IN DUBLIN

It’s always fun to pick up unique souvenirs that remind you of a favorite destination. Sometimes there’s so much you want to bring home that you need another suitcase (“Speaking from experience here,” said Laura). Here are some of the best souvenirs to pick up on a Dublin tour.

  • Lemon Soap from Sweny’s Pharmacy. This is the same pharmacy that author James Joyce visited to discuss a prescription idea for his famous novel Ulysses. In the novel, the main character visits the pharmacy and takes lemon soap with him as a talisman for his journey. Today, that same lemony scent fills the air at Sweny’s and bring’s Dublin’s rich literary history to life. It’s no longer an active pharmacy, but you can still purchase the soap and pick up a secondhand book while you’re there.
  • Whiskey! Whiskey distilleries are plenty in Dublin, and bringing home a bottle or two of your favorite from Jameson, Teeling, Roe & Co., and beyond is one of our top tips for traveling to Dublin. Impress your friends back home as you talk about how many times it was distilled and the notes that you taste while you sip.
  • An Aran sweater (or scarf!), which staffer Sally said is a must-have souvenir from your tour of Dublin. The wool garments are made near the Aran Islands rather than in Dublin itself, but the Aran sweater has been a symbol of Irish clan heritage for generations and is still a highly sought-after garment.
  • Art from Jam Art Factory. This spot opened in 2011 with a desire to give emerging artists a place to display their work. If you’re an art lover, visiting this local gallery is one of the best things to do in Dublin.
  • Breakfast tea, which is black tea intended to be paired with a full, hearty breakfast. An Irish breakfast tea has a nice malty flavor and comes off more reddish than black, which is different from English breakfast tea or even Scottish tea. Breakfast tea is a great souvenir to bring home to remind you of those full Irish breakfasts you had on tour in Dublin.
Have you ever visited Dublin on tour? Share your favorite things to do in Dublin on our Facebook page!

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About the author | Laura Cooper
Laura was bit by the travel bug in college during a trip to Italy, her favorite thing about traveling is being able to wander through the streets of wherever she is visiting and soaking everything up. She is always up to learn about a new place and discover places to visit. When she's not helping our travelers or out exploring the world, Laura can be found walking through secondhand bookstores looking for a new book to read or listening to her favorite podcasts.

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looking down anne street at saint anns cathedral in dublin
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The Go Ahead Travel Guide to Dublin