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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.