How to Explore Dublin Like a Local
Dublin is an amazing city to visit. With a vibrant nightlife, rich pub culture and friendly people, there is always something to discover. While it’s no secret that Dublin can be pretty expensive, you know the truth – best things in life are free. You can do Dublin on a budget if you drink less, use advantages of free attractions and hit the supermarkets. In this post, I’m gonna show how to explore Dublin like a local.
How to Explore Dublin Like a Local
Dublin is the capital and by far the largest city of the Republic of Ireland. The republic encompasses most of the island of Ireland, the westernmost country of the British Isles. It contains twenty-six counties. The six counties in the northeast make up Northern Ireland – a part of the UK. The two neighbors are very different in ambience and infrastructure.
Ireland has been an independent republic since 1922, after prolonged uprisings and discontent with British rule. Many of the insurgencies took place in Dublin and on my travels in the city, I saw the references and old photographs, which celebrate the hard-fought struggle for independence. An example is the 1916 Easter uprising at the General Post Office in O’Connell Street. This is commemorated in several locations, including the statuesque building itself.
Dubliners are very proud of the rich culture associated with the city and it has produced many world-renowned poets, authors, artists, and musicians. Every time I wandered through Dublin I discovered some unknown references to the city’s famous sons and daughters – Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, WB Yeats, Francis Bacon, Iris Murdoch to name but a few.
Dublin is irrevocably linked to Ireland’s turbulent history. It is a port city and from here, many poor emigrants left during times of hardship – such as the potato famine of the 1800s – to settle in faraway places including England, USA, Australia and South Africa. Ireland has a current population of nearly five million – two-fifths of whom live in the Greater Dublin area. There are also countless millions of folk living all around the globe. They are proud and celebrate their Irish roots.
Ireland joined the European Union in 1973 and since then Dublin has become an important international business center and financial hub. It has suffered from its own success, however. The cost of living in the city is now amongst the highest in Europe. There are many prosperous people in the city but many also who are struggling to make ends meet. I was dismayed during my recent visit to see several homeless people and street beggars.
How to Reach Dublin
Dublin International Airport is located about 10 kilometers north of the city and has direct links with North America, Europe, Africa the Middle East and recently Hong Kong. It is the headquarters of Ireland’s flagship carrier Aer Lingus and has frequent flights to major cities in Ireland and the UK. There are daily car ferries from Liverpool in England and Holyhead in North Wales. I also took advantage of an extensive motorway system within the country with links to other Irish cities and Belfast in Northern Ireland.
Getting Around Dublin
There is no metro in Dublin but there is LUAS light rail system. It was opened in 2004 and currently, there are two lines and 54 stations with plans for further extensions. Dublin has an extensive bus network and a railway line, which follows the coast. Metered taxis are plentiful and there is a very successful bike hire scheme in operation in the city. Motorists drive on the left and the driving standard is good. If you plan to travel further afield in this fascinating country, car hire is a viable option.
Weather in Dublin. What to Expect.
Dublin’s weather is not its biggest asset and summer temperatures average only about 16 or 17 degrees Celsius. The warmest month is July. The winters are mild by Northern European standards – January at 5 degrees being the coolest. It rarely snows but it does get more than its fair share of rain. The climate can be unpredictably changeable and locals know that.
Top Things to See in Dublin
The city center is relatively compact and I visited many places of interest in one day by walking. A good central starting point is O’Connell Bridge, which crosses the River Liffey, and is unusual for being wider than it is long. Nearby is the famous Temple Bar area. This is a cobbled pedestrian area of pubs, restaurants and quirky clothes shops. I very much enjoyed wandering in the area and listening to some of the Irish Traditional Music played in many of the pubs and by buskers in the street. The area really comes to life at night.
Nearby, and providing a good photo location, is the excellent Molly Malone statue. Molly was a fictitious shellfish vendor from the nineteenth-century music hall song, which begins “In Dublin’s fair city, where the girls are so pretty.” It is the unofficial anthem of the city.
A short walk from Molly will bring you to the grounds of Dublin’s famous center of learning, Trinity College. You can wander freely around the grounds of the very impressive buildings and there has been a university on the site since 1592. The current buildings date from the eighteenth century and surround two large quadrangles and playing fields. The college library contains the Book of Kells, which is the world’s most famous illustrated medieval manuscript of the four gospels from the Bible. It is written in Latin and dates from the 9th Century. For 10 EUR you can view some of the original folios.
From the college, walk along Grafton Street where you are sure to be impressed by the street’s grand and tall Georgian townhouses, many dating from the early 1800s. Now they are mainly used as business premises or professional institutions. They still show the grandeur of days long gone when they were homes of the wealthy, complete with basements and servants’ quarters.
Merrion Square is a small park just off Grafton Street and in one corner, you will find Oscar Wilde’s reclining statue. On the day I visited, there was a display of fine paintings by local artists attached to the railings all around the perimeter of the square.
You can’t visit Dublin without exploring its bridges. The River Liffey with many bridges across it flows through the center of Dublin and flows into the Dublin Bay. I believe it is because of the number of lovely bridges, I now remember Dublin as a city of bridges. As you stroll along the Liffey long banks you can find O’Connell Bridge, Samuel Beckett Bridge, Rory O’Moore Bridge, Sean Heuston Bridge and, of course, Ha’penny Bridge. Each one of them has its own history and worth spending some time gazing into the Liffey water. However, my favorite one is the James Joyce Bridge.
James Joyce is one of the most widely read Irish novelists and writers. If you’re a James Joyce fan make sure to pay a visit to his statue near the O’Connell street and the bridge that is named for the writer. One of Joyce’s short stories was set in the house facing the bridge on the south side.
The bridge was opened in 2003. The thing I loved the most is the fact that the bridge has cozy benches along the lane and I spent two hours reading “Ulysses” there. This modern-style bridge somehow reminiscent of Samuel Beckett Bridge, but I think it is organically fit into the urban landscape. It looks even more spectacular at night when the streetlights turn on.
Where to Find: South Quay to Blackhall, Blackhall Place
Irish people love animals and placing bets. Shelbourne Park Stadium is the only place in Dublin to enjoy the greyhound racing after closing of Harold’s Cross Stadium in 2017. Races are held daily. With a cozy restaurant, it is still better to visit the stadium in a group to save money on food. Booking table in advance is preferable. You can bet starting from one EUR.
I was a complete novice but the waitress helped me a lot and explained how to bet. The race is a fun indeed! If you go there on a low budget, expect to get extra fun as the race results usually determine if you get another Guinness. Despite the fact that greyhound racing is a bit of gambling, you will notice that locals come here with kids to get some family fun. Don’t forget your student ISIC card to get an extra discount.
Where to Find: South Lotts Rd, Ringsend
Located not far from St.Stephen’s Green Park, Iveagh Gardens are filled with tranquility and serenity. During my stay in Dublin, I found it to be less crowded than St.Stephen’s Green park because the Gardens are almost completely surrounded by buildings so it takes more efforts to notice it. That is the reason why you should visit it at least once, and if you are lucky enough to see the rose blooming. There also was a lawn near the Earlsfort Terrace entrance, a lovely waterfall and a maze with a sundial in the centre. I would totally recommend going there if you want to unwind from the hustle and bustle.
Where To Find: Clonmel Street, opposite side Russell Court
Shopping in Dublin
There are plenty of Irish souvenir shops in Dublin. Favorite locally produced goods include linen, tweed, crystal glass and whiskey. A lucky Irish leprechaun (elf) is a favorite keepsake. For best shopping experience, visit Creative Quarter that is home to a bunch of galleries, shops, and restaurants. Another place not to miss is the Powerscourt Centre. Located not far from Molly Malone statue, this re-purposed mansion is now turned into a shopping mall with piano music playing Irish songs.
Food in Dublin
Dubliners are cosmopolitan people and there are restaurants of many cuisines in the city. If you want to try some hearty local food, however, I recommend Irish stew, boxty (potato pancake) and coddle. This has layers of meat and vegetables and was a traditional way of using up leftovers. When in Dublin you must try a pint of its most famous beer – Guinness – that was invented in the city in 1759. You can find that food in Dublin can be a little expensive.
So if you want to save a few Euros for staying longer in Dublin, here are some budget food options to check:
I am very fond of Dublin. It is an enchanting and friendly city where it is easy to break into conversation with the locals, who are well known for their wit and conversation skills. I have also discovered that Dubliners are among the frendliest people in Europe. They are ready to share the city secrets and letting you know how to explore Dublin like a local.