St. Patrick’s Day is just around the corner, and although I’m currently on a beach somewhere in St. Martin (one guess as to what next month’s travel post will be…), a trip to Ireland seemed appropriate. It may be obvious to indulge in a pint of Guinness or glass of Jameson while in Dublin. But don’t forget to take in the many sights of the emerald city in between pub crawls.
For a nice morning stroll, visit the Garden of Remembrance, which commemorates those who died in Irish wars, and near the Dublin Writer’s Museum. A walk down O’Connell Street beginning at the statue in Parnell Square and heading toward the river, leads you to the General Post Office, a majestic and historic building badly damaged in all the fighting for which Ireland has come to be known. Just a bit down from there are various amusingly posed statues dedicated to writers and poets, as well as the O’Connell Monument and the repulsive Spire erected to commemorate the Millenium even though it went unfinished until 2003 (hilarious).
Now that you’ve managed to (soberly) soak in a few historical sights, you can continue learning more about the drinking culture of Dublin. Even if you’re not a fan of the dark brew, check out the modern-looking Guinness Storehouse. (NB: get tickets from the machine for a 10% discount if you pre-pay and worth it to avoid the lines.) It’s a self-guided tour with a ton of technical info. A confident man, Arthur Guinness was so certain about his beer-making venture that he took out a 900 year lease on the original property. Of interest is the large display of advertising campaigns over the years — anything but PC as you can see.
You can also sample roasted barley and end, of course, with a free pint at the Gravity Bar for an incredible view of Dublin and the surrounding areas.
Also high on the list should be a tour of the Old Jameson Distillery (NB: be sure to book online to save 10% and ensure a space). Those into molecular gastronomy may be surprised to learn that John Jameson studied the science of whiskey-making, and his findings are reflected in the highly technical process employed during distillation. After a silly short film, there’s a lengthy guided tour (unlike the one at Guinness) that will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about the process of distilling whiskey, followed by a tasting!
Of course there’s a large store area where you can purchase whiskey and other Jameson-branded items. If you’re abiding by the Jameson motto “Sine Metu” (Without Fear), consider purchasing the extremely expensive Middleton, which utilizes only hand-picked barley. Available in limited quantities only at the Distillery and sold in numbered bottles, you must sign a special book to evidence your purchase.
For a pub crawl, in no particular order, I recommend a stop at Bull & Castle for an O’Haras (similar to Guinness but more flavor IMHO) where you can pad your stomach with the house specialty, pan-seared lamb kidneys with a delicious, creamy leek sauce, and some bread for dipping, or some chips if you’re less game for the game.
Follow it up at Bruxelles off Grafton Street, for a Bulmer’s cider, and then check out the nearby Neary’s, if you’re looking for a more civilized establishment. Of course, no pub crawl would be complete without a stop at Stag’s Head, a venerable institution with a giant deer head over the bar. End your day with a stop at Bewley’s for an Irish Coffee or just a regular coffee if you’ve had enough to drink.
Considering all the imbibing you may be doing, it’s nice to balance it out with a visit to St. Patrick’s or Christ Church Cathedral (unlike most churches, there seems to be a fee to enter the ones in Dublin). You’ll also need to plan ahead for a guided tour if you want to see Dublin Castle, in case you’re interested. And don’t miss Trinity College both for the campus and the infamous Book of Kells.
It’s worth the time to take an informative and funny guided walking tour of the campus given by a current student. It’s about 10€ (to see the Book of Kells alone costs 9€). You can also spend a good chunk of the day walking around the beautiful St. Stephen’s Green or simply relaxing in the park, if you have some free time.
After resting, you’ll surely feel the need to visit the aptly named Temple Bar area, where the streets are lined with drinking establishments (Auld Dubliner, Temple Bar, Quay’s and Oliver St. John Gogarty to name a few). You can also hear live music at most places, even if it’s a cover band and you’re in the midst of countless stag and hen parties. For a good burger to soak up the booze at the end of the night, try Elephant & Castle.
If you can squeeze in a day trip, check out Howth (pronounced like “both”), a quaint, seaside town about 25 minutes from the city center on the DART train. The Bloody Stream is right next to the train station and has decent seafood at good prices. But if you can wait, walk down the pier where you can catch the seals splashing in the water and waiting to be fed. Like the locals, try Octopussy for cheap oysters and a bowl of seafood chowder.
Or grab some fish and chips at one of the many take away places while you’re strolling through town. Note that Howth Castle, now a private residence, is also used as a cooking school should you be interested. It has beautiful gardens, but it’s a bit of a trek from the train station if you’re walking.
- Take the Airlink bus from the airport to most hotels for 6€ (have correct fare if you land in Terminal 2 because there are no ticket machines).
- Pick up a free map of Dublin at almost any hotel and download the Dublin City walks app for some good recommendations.
- Don’t stay at the Fleet Street Hotel unless you like the smell of urine, but for a hotel in the Temple Bar area, I HIGHLY recommend the Morgan, a boutique hotel with spacious and well-furnished rooms for a relatively decent price that includes a breakfast buffet.
- Eat before 10pm at most places unless around Temple Bar or you’ll be stuck with some bad pizza.
- A “baby Guinness” is simply a shot of Guinness and not a small pint.
- Jaywalking is acceptable.