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Trip Report: A Long Weekend in Dublin, Ireland

by on March 3, 2012 · 31 comments

in Trip Reports

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I find that people sort of brush off Dublin because it’s not one of Europe’s bigger, more glamorous capitals like London or Paris. It’s smaller and more quaint—which is exactly why I like it. It’s not a busy, sprawling metropolis, so it’s easy to handle, and you can see a lot if you plan your time right.

If you know Irish history, the people have experienced centuries of hardship and repression, and despite the current economic problems there, the people we met were warm, welcoming and super-friendly, and because their economy’s not doing well, it was actually an inexpensive trip overall—at least compared to other European destinations.

Getting In

After the quick flight in Delta’s Economy Comfort to Dublin, we only had a few days in the Irish capital, so there was a lot to get to!

My family had originally arranged a car service for the five of us, but that turned out to be exorbitantly expensive (like 300 euros!), so we just took two taxis instead, which only cost about 24 euros each since the airport isn’t too far from the city. You can also catch the airport bus to the Busarus station not too far from the center of town. Remember how I was extolling the friendliness of the Irish? Well, the cabbies might just be the friendliest of the bunch. Every single one we had, including the ones who took us to the Westin Dublin were very talkative and eager to share their top picks for the city. Plus the fares were pretty cheap compared to other European cities.

A gorgeous weekend to spend in Dublin walking along Grafton Street.

Things We Did

Shopping on Grafton Street: Not too far from the hotel and Trinity College is a beautiful pedestrianized shopping street called Grafton Street…where you’ll find my new favorite store: Brown Thomas. It’s sort of like the European version of Saks 5th Avenue; upscale and sophisticated but with a casual vibe to it. I also loved the younger, hipper brand with lower price points that the store rolled out called BT2. In general, the afternoon we spent walking around here was one of my favorite moments—it was a gorgeous sunny day, and it was just fun window-shopping and people-watching.

Scallops in mushroom sauce at Pichet.

Meals: We had dinner our first night at the Pig’s Ear, which was recommended by several TPG readers, and was an awesome choice, so thank you! It’s menu was what I’d describe as high-end contemporary Irish cuisine—so for instance, I had peaky toe crab salad for a starter and a beautiful duck entrée, and the absolute best chocolate tart I’ve ever had for dessert. The service was great and the environment was warm and welcoming.

The pork belly entree at Pichet. So good!

The other fantastic meal we had was at a restaurant called Pichet, on Sunday night. We actually didn’t mean to come here, but the concierge at the Dublin had recommended a restaurant that ended up being closed that night, so Pichet was next door, and it was just a lucky coincidence since it turned out to be a great meal. As we were walking in, a man who was coming out said, “I don’t know you and probably will never see you again, but if it’s the last thing you do, you have to get the pork belly.” If that’s not an endorsement, I don’t know what is. In addition to the pork belly, which was indeed amazing, we also had some phenomenal seafood including John Dory with clams and a gorgeous apple tarte.

Our first stop: the Hapenny Bridge Cafe.

Musical Pub Crawl: We got this idea from some TPG readers and it’s one of the top-ranked Dublin activities on TripAdvisor. It cost 12 euros per person (not including drinks), started at 7:30 pm, lasted about 2.5 hours, and just stopped at two pubs (the first one, the Hapenny Bridge Care, was great, the second pub, not so much), so it wasn’t much of a crawl—more like a hop. There were about 20 people with us from all over the world, so it was nice meeting them and doing impromptu sing-alongs. Sure, it was touristy, but it was just a fun, cheap way to spend an evening—and it definitely got better with every beer! By the time we were out, it was 10:00 pm and it was a little hard to find a restaurant that was open at that time, so if you do this, beware and plan ahead In the meantime you can watch a quick video I made of some of the evening’s musical entertainment at the Hapenny Bridge Cafe here: DublinMov

The Queen's Pub in Dalkey.

Town & Country: We also did a few more things both in the city and out in the countryside. I’d been to Dublin before, so I spent Saturday morning sleeping in while my parents took the Dublin Bus Tour hop on hop off bus around the city to get a quick overview of the sights and see the famous Kilmainham Gaol where the leaders of the 1916 Easter Uprising were imprisoned and executed.

Me and mama TPG halfway up Kiliney Hill.

On Sunday, we took the train 30 minutes to a seaside village called Dalkey that was recommended by readers and when I arrived, I understood why. It was a nicely manicured town with cobblestone streets and is right by the Irish Sea. We had lunch at the Queen’s Pub, which was brimming with locals, before doing the hike up Kiliney Hill. It was a great walk, and we were all huffing a little bit by the end, but it was worth it since it was a sunny, clear day, and I’m told that sometimes you can even see all the way across to Wales.

Homeward

Before we knew it, our weekend came to an end, and it was back to the airport for the flight back to the U.S. What made that nice, though, is that Delta is in Dublin’s fancy new terminal, and you go through customs and immigration on the Irish side, so when you get back to JFK, you land at the domestic terminal and are out of the airport immediately, making it super convenient.

The new terminal at Dublin's airport where Delta flies out of.

For flyers from the east coast especially, I think Dublin is a great weekend trip destination—the flight is quick (6 hours), fares are cheap at the moment, and the Westin is a great place to stay and convenient to all the major sights, plus it can be a really good deal with Cash & Points (it’s an SPG Category 5, so 4,800 points +$90, though room rates are also low at the moment, so consider just paying cash). I’ll definitely be keeping it in mind for weekend getaways in the futures!

Giveaway: I have two Irish folk music CD’s I picked up along the musical pub crawl. For the chance to win one of them, leave me a comment below telling me about your favorite Irish song and why.


Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

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  • Eddie

    One of my favorite pub songs is: The Unicorn. Yes, its embarrasing but I first heard (and ridiculously danced and sang to) the song at an Irish pub in DC that my friend Brianne frequented. It was my first Irish pub experience and I remember seeing what felt like a hundred people all drinking, laughing and doing the funny dance with it…C’mon, whats not to love about a song that says:

    “There were green alligators and long neck geese.Humpty back camels and chimpanzees….”

    Here is a YouTube video (sorry it was a really fast search so nothing Oscar worthy!) of the song and dance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWReQpjNUO4&feature=related

  • http://twitter.com/jamucsb Jamison

    great trip report!

  • annie

    Enya songs!

  • http://profiles.google.com/eheinz Erik Heinz

    Ya got Booster (the ginger) on the musical pub crawl. He’s the best! Had has or had at one point a modern band called Caliban. Good stuff.

  • http://profiles.google.com/eheinz Erik Heinz

    And there’s not a chance in hell I can name a favorite Irish tune. I’ll pick a couple I like but there are just so many.

    Kilkelly, Ireland. It’s a sad song based on letters found from their great-great-grandfather to his son. I like most Irish music because they tell wonderful stories.

    To the City of Chicago by Luka Bloom, though usually heard performed by his brother Christy Moore. Another song of emigration to the US started during the 1847 famine.

    The Parting Glass – I want this song played at my funeral.

    Star of the County Down – I had to list at least one upbeat song. :) This one’s fun and it’s set in the north. I love all 32 counties but I find that the 6 of the north are fascinating for the more modern social and cultural history between the two countries, though this song isn’t about that in the least. :)

  • Brennan

    Well neither of them are Irish but two of my favourites are The Scotsman by Bryan Bowers and The Night That Paddy Murphy Died by Great Big Sea

  • Bob in NH

    My favorite Irish song is a Dublin song, The Ferryman. It is sung from the point of view of a Guinness ferry worker who is out of work, and commisserating with his wife. It is sad and sweet and positive all at the same time, and you can’t not sing along with the chorus when the Dubliners sing it.

    I also love The Ferryman because one of my favorite memories is singing along to it with a crowd of friends and strangers at the Oliver St. John Gogerty’s pub in Temple Bar, I’d relive that evening any time.

    And, it is my daughters favorite Irish song as well…

  • Stephan

    Hey, nice job taking your folks! I was able to send my mom and dad LH first class to Europe with tips I learned from your site even though it’s so much tougher to earn miles up here in Canada. Best gifts ever as they never experienced something like that!
    Stephan

  • miffdb

    I love all Irish music….if it can get you tapping your toes and wanting to get up and dance… I love it. Even the soulful ballads touch me in a way no other music does.
    Susan

  • Will

    Awesome report TPG! I really enjoyed hearing your stories. We’ll be in Dublin in May and I’ll definitely be taking your tips into consideration. Question… We’re staying in the Conrad. Is that near the Westin at all?

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002539773497 Johnny Bench

    Kiliney Hill is my #1 Dublin area spot to visit! (Jealous much.) As for my favorite Irish song, I’ll have to go with a couple: (Dublin) “In the Rare Olde Times” is one of the greatest. Really brings a nostalgic melancholy for those old enough to remember Dublin before it was completely transformed into the place it is now. And #2 would have to be “Summer in Dublin” by the Bagatelles. Not a folk song but definitely Irish and one that always takes me back to the time I lived in Dublin waaaaay back when the song was actually written and played everywhere on the radio there: 1980 (or was it 1979 or 1981?)

  • caravan70

    Glad you enjoyed The Pig’s Ear! I had a lunch of smoked haddock over poached eggs last time I was there that I won’t soon forget… Dammit, now you’ve got me looking for decent fares to Ireland in the spring…. :)

  • DeanT

    Amhran na bhFiann

    The Irish National Anthem.

    DeanT

  • thepointsguy

    Toe tapping = playing “the boot” per our tour guides!

  • thepointsguy

    I’m very fortunate to have a great set of folks, so traveling with them is a huge treat. I don’t think they mind putting up with me too much either!

  • Michael

    Molly Malone! Surely you saw her statue there. Did you get a chance to sing it in a pub?

  • Charles Clarke

    Gaelic Storm’s “Kiss Me I’m Irish”

    If the music makes you feel like dancing, but you’re shy, try contra dancing. Depending on who is playing, the music is either Celtic or Old Time music (which still makes you want to dance!). Usually there are lessons and they call the dances, so you don’t have to lead anyone. Just do a search with your city/state and contra dancing. It is all over.

  • newfie49

    Sounds like you had a nice visit, similar to the trip my wife and I took to Dublin a couple years ago, Queen’s Pub, great food. We loved walking around Dalkey.
    “Queen of the Slipstream” by Van Morrison, I like anything by Van Morrison, I believe he was born in Belfast. Great Song

  • LBB Flyer

    The Wild Rover! No, nay, never *clap clap clap clap* No nay never no more, will I plaaaaay the wild rover…. no never, no more! Such a great chorus. Anybody who’s ever had too much to drink can certainly identify with it!

  • Lucy Turner

    So hard to pick one favorite Irish tune. But can’t pass over “Danny Boy.” Isn’t that the “Casablanca” of Irish songs? Yes its predictable and everybody loves it — but its just so good.

  • Carcheria

    Enjoyed your commentary on Dublin. Although we have been to Ireland about 9 yrs ago and loved it, we spent most of our time exploring the enchanting Irish countryside and didn’t see Dublin, so it’s always on the list for a return trip. As you said too, the people were extremely friendly and helpful and that was years ago before they were in economic hardship. For our last night, we did the touristy banquet at Bunratty Castle, which turned out to be a lot of fun. I can still recall them playing The Fields of Athenry and watching all of the Irish people attending singing along. Of course, we didn’t know the lyrics at all, but it remains one of my favorite songs, aside from the more popular ones that we hear all the time!

  • Ari

    Can “Drunken Lullabies” by Flogging Molly count as a favorite Irish song? :) Nostalgia…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1089866725 Tracy Eastridge

    When Irish eyes are smiling—-makes me smile as I plan for my first Irish trip this summer! Thanks so much for the great trip report! Planning to start and end in Dublin (at the Westin on points!) so this is a big help. Using British Airway miles to fly Aer Lingus for the four of us to Dublin!

  • Brad

    Damn…. I just arrived here at the Westin from the airport and the driver must have taken the long way around….. 38 euro which includes some sort of extra 3 euro charge….. :(

  • TexanInDC

    I just did the same thing – Flew out on Continental on Feb 29 from EWR to DUB and flew back on United on March 4. Great weekend (except for the crud I picked up). Did the hop-on/hop-off bus to get acquainted, then hit a few sights I wanted to see (including Kilmainham Gaol). I also did an afternoon in Belfast – took the train for a quick 2 hour ride each way (wanted to add Northern Ireland to my “Country List). Flight was great, people were great, cabbies were great. I’m ready to go back and see more!
    For a $450 R/T Airfare and a long weekend, it can’t be beat!

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  • http://chicagonow.com/chewables-chicago Rachel

    Really enjoyed your post on Dublin, particularly since we were heading that way just a week later. We stayed at the Conrad (booked early, since hotels were hard to come by St. Patrick’s Day weekend) and have to say, wish we had had some of your suggestions earlier! I’ll be posting about our Dublin/Ireland experiences on my blog shortly and will let you know. In the meantime, thanks for the great blog posts!

  • Rachel

    Here’s what we thought of the Conrad in Dublin (and some other adventures):

    http://www.chicagonow.com/chewables-chicago/2012/03/ireland-a-newfound-love-of-soup-and-brown-bread/

    Enjoy!

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