Thanks to Ryanair, getting to Dublin is a dream from the UK, with all six London airports operating flights to the Irish capital, never mind those from the rest of the UK. This meant that I could fly from London Gatwick, Viv flew from Bristol, and we met in Dublin Airport, conveniently after work on the Friday night. We hadn’t planned for much time in Dublin (Friday night to Sunday afternoon), partly because our trip wasn’t very long in general, but also because we weren’t aware of many things we wanted to do there. On reflection, I think we made the right call. Dublin would be a great place to live, but you don’t need more than a weekend to see the city as a tourist.
So what do tourists do in Dublin? Here is a wee sample:
(1) Guinness Warehouse
Did you know that, on average, a new Irish pub opens somewhere in the world every single day? This is what I learned when I first visited the Guinness Warehouse in 2007. Every time I quote this fact – which has been many times since I picked it up on that trip – I have doubted myself. It seems impossible, right? Whether or not you’re a fan of the Irish stout, I think a visit to the warehouse is a Dublin must. Viv, who went on our first day in Dublin, agrees. With Guinness being one of the most successful beer brands in the world, you can imagine they had a fair amount of money to invest in Dublin’s number one tourist attraction. As well as learning about how the brand started, and the process of how it’s made, you are provided with many an interesting fact/quote/comedy photo opportunity along the way, before arriving at the sky deck of the warehouse to enjoy your complimentary pint of Guinness with arguably one of the best views of Dublin.
Adult entry when booked in advance is €14.
For fans of musicals and specifically if you love your a cappella harmonies, let me introduce you to the Irish gem: Once. Initially a film of the same name released in 2007, the musical production was introduced to the world in 2011. Fun facts: in 2012, the musical received 11 Tony Award nominations and won eight of those, including Best Musical. One of the headline songs from the film/musical also won an Academy Award. This musical is legit.
It was apt that we went to see it during our weekend in Dublin because the story is set in Dublin and tells the tale of a Dublin busker, struggling to make ends meet as he sings on the streets, whilst also supporting his father’s hoover-fixing business. He meets a Czech woman, an accomplished pianist and singer, and they enter into a very confusing relationship whilst also creating a music album. It may sound random and to be honest, it is, but I’m a huge fan. The stage is also a pub where you can get a drink before the show starts and during the interval. Cue comedy photos being taken and being shouted at by stage managers for moving stage furniture…
Unfortunately, the show is not currently running in Dublin (summer only, so sorry) but the American version is on tour until April 2017 so if you’re dropping by stateside… I originally saw it in London so you never know, it might be back!
(3) Traditional music scene
Linked to the above, Dublin – and Ireland in general – does not disappoint in its provision of traditional music and busking heroes. Temple Bar is the most famous pub in the city and if you’re happy battling your way for space to the bar, I would say it’s worth a visit, based on my 2007 trip. However, this time round, one of my favourite memories from the trip was wandering into the Merchants Arch, located beside the River Liffey in Dublin city centre, sitting down for a drink, and watching an incredible duo of guitar and whistle bust their way through some trickster folk tunes for the enjoyment of those watching. A delightful way to pass a Saturday afternoon.
(4) Trinity College Dublin and the Book of Kells
Trinity College Dublin is the best-known university in Ireland and its campus becomes a natural part of any tourist wanders due to its location in the heart of the city centre. Even if you weren’t trying, you would probably stumble across the beautiful 18th century Old Library (the long queues outside may give it away) where you can view the Book of Kells, a richly decorated manuscript that records the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. The manuscript dates back to the 9th century and as such, is one of Ireland’s most precious holdings. Thanks to Nico being a student, she was able to take me into the exhibition for free #winning However, as cool as it is in theory, I found it difficult to fully appreciate the historical value of the manuscript, I think in part due to the touristic nature of where it’s displayed. Entry also allows you to visit the Old Library itself: all the old books in the world and spiral staircases inside an architectural treasure – undoubtedly the highlight of the tour for me.
If you’re not fortunate enough to have a Nico (or student) in your life, adult entry will either cost €14 (online fast track, skip the queues) or €11 on the door (embrace the queues).
(5) Silicon Docks
Viv and I stayed in an Airbnb in Rathmines, a student area of Dublin in the south of the city, recommended by Nico who has been living in Dublin with her Chilean husband Joseph for the last three years. Rathmines and nearby Ranelagh are full of hipster coffee and brunch spots to provide for the growing 20s/30s population moving to the areas. On the Sunday, we met up with Nico and Joseph for breakfast before taking a relaxing Sunday stroll along the canal to the Silicon Docks, nicknamed as such because of the high number of high-tech firms located in the area, including Google’s European HQ. Next-door Hanover Quay is the location of U2’s very own recording studio. This area is a key example of development in Dublin over the last decade though unsurprisingly, it felt much like the City in London on a Sunday: a wee bit dead.
Dublin was a fun city break and I’d happily spend a weekend there again. However, by the end of the weekend, I was itching to get out into the countryside and see what else Ireland had to offer. After saying our goodbyes to our lovely Dublin hosts, we took a bus back out to the airport, picked up our hire car (after the longest journey from an airport to a hire car in global history) and set off on our merry way through County Kildare and County Offaly, ending at our second stop in Ireland by early evening: Hello County Galway.