Dublin has a brutal charm that I keep falling in love with. Like the weather, it can slap you on one cheek and thenkiss you on the other. I want to share with you a local’s guide to Dublin outside of the tourist brochures. Enjoy!
Instead of: Walking everywhere
Dublin is small. But you would kill yourself walking it. On the map it may look OK to stroll from Trinity College to the Guinness Storehouse or Kilmainham Gaol.But it’s a long trek. Especially when you have to carry the bags of Guinness souvenirs back down Thomas Street.
Tip: Rent a Dublin Bike
These can be rented for the weekend using your credit card. The bike stations are everywhere they need to be. And if your journey is under 30 minutes (which it will be), you ride for free
Instead of: A hop-on hop-off bus
They are a good way to see the city if you are here for a day. But they are pricey.
Tip: Do a walking tour
Dublin is a small city. It’s very flat. And the best parts are central.There are a number of interesting walking tours. For the year that’s in it check out the 1916 Rebellion Tour. Or the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl.
Instead of: A drink in Temple Bar
The Temple Bar area is a great place to visit. It’s historic charm is echoed in the quirky pubs and cobbled streets. Enjoy a drink there. But you will likely only meet tourists. And will pay twice as much for your Guinness.
Tip: Drink South of Dame Street
Dame Street is to the South running the length of Temple Bar from Trinity College to Christ Church. Cross the road and drink with the locals without getting ripped off on price. Some of the best pubs in Dublin are here such as The Stags Head or The Long Hall. Read more in our soon to come guide to Dublin’s Best Pubs.
Instead of: Shopping on Grafton Street
Walk down it. Walk up it. But if you are on a budget the shops can be pricey. And are now just branches of high street stores you’ll find in any city. The buskers and entertainers can be good though.
Tip: Shop on the streets parallel to Grafton Street
Dart down one of the many streets off Grafton Street and in the next block you will find a treasure trove of Irish handmade goods, crafts and artisan outlets. Check out George’s Street arcade and the Powerscourt Shopping Centre.
Instead of: getting ripped off on pricey attractions
The hop-on hop-off bus tours, Guinness Storehouse and Dublin Zoo are expensive. And are tourist traps. You will quickly blow your budget on these attractions.
Tip: Visit Dublin’s free museums
There are many museums and galleries. And they are really good. But best of all they are free. The Chester Beatty Library, Museum of Modern Art and National Art Gallery are just a small sample and they are all highly entertaining. If you have kids, you cannot beat the Natural History Museum.
Instead of: just visiting the city centre
The city is great. It’s small and vibrant and hums day and night no matter what time of the year.
Whether it’s Georgian Dublin or the Camden crawl. But Dublin is also framed by mountains, countryside and the sea.
Tip: Visit the countryside and sea on your doorstep.
Head north to the fishing village of Howth. Work up your appetite walking the cliff top from Howth head down to the village & finish with fish and chips while watching the fishing boats bobbing in the harbour. Or head south to Glendalough. Take the paths around the back of the valley and explore the lake views from the summit.
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Instead of: eating Bacon & Cabbage
Nobody in Ireland eats it. Because it’s horrible. Nor do we eat Beef and Guinness Stew. Or Coddle*. These are on the tourist menu.
*An exception is my mum’s secret recipe for Coddle. It’s amazing.
Tip: Eat in one of the many amazing restaurants
Instead of: Buying souvenir crap
It’s cheap and tacky and you will look stupid when you return home wearing a “Kiss me, I’m Irish” cap.
Tip: Shop in the Irish craft and design outlets
You can find some items of stunning beauty and craftsmanship on Nassau Street. The Kilkenny Shop offers authentic Irish handmade goods.
Instead of: Tipping in Restaurants and Pubs
It’s ok to tip. But don’t overdo it. The barman doesn’t expect a tip. The wait-staff in a restaurant generally get 10% of the food bill. But you do not need to tip for drinks every time.
Tip: Tip the smaller guys
There are a number of free walking tours in Dublin run by locals with a love of their craft. Whether it’s literary, pubs, architecture or rebellion you choose, a tip to the tour guide might be appropriate here.
Instead of: Looking for Riverdance in Temple Bar
If it’s authentic Irish music and dance you are after you won’t find it here. True, the “musicians” are Irish. But so are Boyzone and Westlife.
Tip: Ask a Local
If it’s fiddley-piddley music n’ dance you are after check out the Cobblestone in Smithfield or O’ Donoghues on Merrion Row. These impromptu sessions fuelled by Guinness soaked musicians will have your foot tapping, Yeeoow!