I had finally arrived in Dublin. The flight, although it being my first flight in quite some time, went very well and I was even able to beat jetlag and get some sleep.
A little more about Dublin. . .
With a population of over 1.9 million in the greater Dublin area, it is not only the capital of the country but also the most populated city in Ireland.
Dublin is divided into several districts, the most popular of them being: the medieval district (which includes Dublin Castle, Christ Church, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral), the Georgian district (Dublin is renowned for its Georgian architecture), and the cultural district (which includes Temple Bar and the surrounding area).
Dublin has more green space for parks per square kilometer than any other European capital city. As of today, 97% of its city residents live withing 1,000 feet of a park area. Dublin is listed as the 13th most expensive city to live in the European Union and 58th most expensive in the world.
It’s also one of Europe’s most youthful cities with over 50% of its population being under 25 years of age. It sits at the mouth of the River Liffey which divides the city in half and has become a cultural divide.
After taking a while to find my hostel, I finally found My Place Dublin Hostel and met my bunk mate, Santiago, from Uruguay. One can find a bed at My Place Dublin for as little as $12 per night. It was my first taste of hostel living, and it was not the greatest atmosphere I’ve ever witnessed in a hostel.
I’m not sure if it was just because I felt like the newbie hostel stayer or if My Place Dublin just wasn’t very inviting, but I have definitely been to better hostels. I would recommend finding another place to stay in Dublin.
As I learned from another man I met in the hostel, Frankie, only about 5% of Americans ever make it outside of the U.S. Whether that stat is true or not, I do not know. Frankie was about 50 years old, from Cape Town, South Africa, and was a very knowledgeable man. He works in Northern Ireland now but still speaks very highly of his hometown, as if almost to defend it.
He opened my eyes to a lot of things one morning as I was cooking breakfast. We talked about virtually everything in one of the most profound conversations I’ve ever had with someone. He said South Africa, despite its bad image in some areas, is actually 200 years advanced structurally than any other governing body. The way he spoke made me believe him with his great knowledge of the rest of the world as well. He was a very nice and well-rounded guy. He left the hostel that night. I’m glad I ran into him.
As for some touristy things that I did in Dublin while I was there:
On my first day, I walked around city center to get a feel for Dublin and landed at the historic Trinity College. Wow, what a campus and the Book of Kells is phenomenal. The campus was also seemingly the only place near city center that the people of Dublin weren’t sprinting to their next destination.
You can use the DART, which is Dublin’s rail system, however, it is quite pricey. I much preferred to use their public biking system. There are over 40 bike terminals stationed throughout Dublin. This is becoming a more popular option in a lot of larger cities worldwide.
The idea is that you pay $3 for a short-term access pass (usually around 3 days long) and you are able to use any bikes at these terminals as long as you return the bike to another terminal. In Dublin, you can ride any bike for the first 30 minutes for free.
After the first thirty minutes, you are charged based on the distance you take your bike. No worries, however, I was never on a bike for more than thirty minutes. In fact, Dublin is fairly pedestrian-friendly if the bikes make you feel uncomfortable (don’t forget, they drive on the opposite side as the U.S. in Ireland!)
First Impressions. . .
If you are interested in shopping, I suggest the infamous Grafton Street with a large variety of large department stores, traditional markets, and even a huge trading market nearby on Moore Street.
That day, I did a hop on/hop off bus tour of the whole city of Dublin. If there is one thing I recommend about Dublin, it is the hop on/hop off bus tour. Simply put, it will just make your life less stressful for an affordable price. It will take you to all the major sites and let you see every attraction Dublin has to offer within a day.
There are a lot of sites to see and even more knowledge to be learned from the excellent bus tour guides. Sites saw: St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Georgian neighborhood, Jameson Whiskey Distillery, Book of Kells, and Temple Bar among others. Many attractions in Dublin are reduced in price for students or those holding ISIC cards.
Cliffs of Moher (day trip)
On my second day, I spent all day making it out to the Cliffs of Moher. It was beautiful, and easily my favorite tourist attraction in Ireland. I got to see so much of the green, rolling hills countryside that I’ve seen in movies and pictures. There are a few tour bus day-trip options available all generally around $50 ($40 for students) for a return trip. It’s about three hours away, so it makes for a long day.
The cliffs themselves are magnificent and if I could have spent more time there, I would have. The soil starts to give around the cliff’s edges and can get a little spooky looking down at hundreds of feet of free-fall below you. If you are lucky, you will get to see a pretty magnificent sunset at the Cliffs of Moher.
Pro Tip: Leave a whole day open to do this trip. I left at 6 o’clock in the morning and our tour bus didn’t return until 8 that evening.
On my third day in Dublin, I toured the world famous, and Dublin’s most famous tourist attraction – the Guinness Storehouse. I learned how to pour a perfect pint of Guinness as well as just about everything you could know about a glass of beer. I drank my complimentary pint atop the tallest building in Dublin with a beautiful view of the historic city. The tour of the brewery costs around $20 with the free pint and several tastings included. I was not entirely impressed with the tour, but it seems to be one of those “must do’s” of Ireland.
On my last night to see the city, I got the unique opportunity to take part in Dublin’s once-a-year Culture Night, where every culture of Dublin showcased a part of their culture and it was loads of fun. I played a HUGE drum with like thirty other people in front of another 50 bystanders until I had blisters on my hand. Everybody was smiling as we made up beats simultaneously. It’s definitely one of those memories that I will remember for the rest of my life.
On my last day, I woke up and toured several of Dublin’s free National Museums. I even made friends with a bus driver who was about to start his shift. After asking him for directions (which I did A LOT), he offered to give me a free ride. He gave me all sorts of information about the touristy side of Dublin. It made me feel like a VIP of the city.
All museums in Dublin are absolutely free, but like most free attractions, run on donations from the goodness of people. So if you spend time in a museum you like, make sure you give a donation of some amount. Museums are not really my thing, but there are so many in Dublin. You are bound to find one National Museum the piques your interest.
After that, I attended a festival called “Around the World in 80 Steps”. It was alright, but Dublin had got the best of me and I was worn down. I decided to call it a day in the early evening and get some good sleep before my early morning flight. On my walk back to the hostel, to my surprise, there were hundreds of people participating in a marathon swim in the River Liffey. No idea if this was a common thing, but it sure was cool to see!
Overall, Dublin was about what I had expected. Ireland is a nice country, but I don’t know when I’ll go back. I was indifferent about my experience there.
Other Attractions, Bars, and Restaurants. . .
– Phoenix Park (enormous green space in the heart of the city)
– Christ Church Cathedral (one of the most mesmerizing medieval churches)
– Belfast (day trip to beautiful neighboring city up north)
– St. Stephen’s Green (park with original Victorian layout)
– Doors of Dublin (my own made up attraction in the Georgian neighborhood)
– The Pavillion (cheapest place to drink in public in Dublin – sit on the grass with a few friends and beers)
– The Bernard Shaw (“cheap” drinks in Dublin, good live music, and good pizza)