When Kristi and I visited Dublin back in the spring of 2011 it was my second trip to Europe and her first. We found the Irish capital an ideal “Europe for Beginners” trip.
There’s no language barrier. There’s no cultural barrier. Dublin is full of other American tourists and helpful locals. The time change isn’t a killer. The climate is similar to New England. Getting there is a breeze. Using the Euro can be figured out by a novice traveler.
Close your eyes and you might think you’re in Boston. In fact, by the end of our trip, we were wishing Dublin was actually more “foreign.”
Dublin possesses the typical American big-city tourist destinations – museums, galleries, historical monuments, parks, etc.
The can’t-miss attractions
The Guinness factory is a can’t-miss. It’s super-touristy, but worth it for the view from atop of the tallest building in Dublin and a glass of the Irish Stout brewed on premises. Souvenir opportunities are endless. You’ll find Guinness available on draft in every pub in Ireland, branch out and try the other local stouts – Murphy’s and Beamish – both of which I prefer to their far more famous cousin.
It’s difficult to imagine anyone travelling to Ireland not wanting to sample the pub culture to some degree. We were fortunate to visit while the Europa League Championship game was being played in Dublin’s Aviva Stadium which provided a festive atmosphere along Temple Bar and throughout the cities bars.
Small, neighborhood pubs can be found on every corner. Simply wander and sample to find your favorite. Explore their nooks and crannies. Sample the various whiskeys and ciders. When you return to the states, these are the questions you’ll be answering.
Our favorite was O’Neill’s. O’Neill’s was homey with good food, good drinks and good cheer. Try a bottle of Swedish Rekorderlig cider in any flavor. Thank us later.
Trinity College and the Book of Kells were worth the wait. The college’s “Long Hall” was especially memorable.
I didn’t expect much from a tour of Croke Park. It proved to be an absolute highlight.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Ireland’s Natural History Museum, Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral shouldn’t be missed. Admission is cheap and ninety minutes gives you plenty of time to take in each attraction.
Try a literary pub crawl
Dublin offers a wonderful city-wide collection of statues memorializing famous citizens. Writers such as James Joyce and politicians like Big Jim Larkin can be seen around almost every corner. Busty Molly Malone of the song by the same name wheels her wheelbarrow down Williams Street offering a compulsory photo opportunity. A chilling tribute in bronze to the potato famine victims proved haunting.
Our favorite monument was erected for writer Oscar Wilde. Wilde’s statue and memorial captures his wit and whimsy with quotations etched into columns nearby.
“There is only one thing in the world worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about,” Wilde.
“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars,” Wilde.
In addition, we enjoyed a literary pub crawl much more than expected. Give it a try.
The surprise highlight
The highlight of our time in Dublin, however, was Glasnevin Cemetery. Everyone who’s anyone from Irish history is buried there, and the tour is worth your time. Watch the movie “Michael Collins” before you go, and you’ll be sure to recognize names all over the cemetery.
The headstones and monuments are stunning. The landscaping is spectacular. The place drips with solemnity, but many guidebooks don’t even mention it. Do not miss it – or nearby Gravedigger’s Pub.
Dublin is not particularly expensive by European standards. Ninety percent of everything you’d want to see can be walked to. Easy side trips by car or rail abound. The city’s highlights can be captured over a weekend while also offering enough depth of experience to easily fill a week if you choose.
After successfully tackling Dublin, Kristi and I were emboldened to become more adventurous with our European travel. If you’re wanting to visit Europe, but find the prospect a daunting having never been before, try Dublin as an icebreaker.