By Caitlin Kasunich
You certainly don’t need the luck of the Irish to find your fair share of things to do in Dublin. From cheery pubs to ancient castles and spine-chilling prisons, this upbeat and friendly capital surely has everything that a curious backpacker could possibly dream of…
Settle in at Abigail’s: With its location on Aston Quay – right in the heart of the city – the clean, serene and sociable Abigail’s Hostel is packed with friendly guests and welcoming staff.
King of the Castle: Calling all history lovers: Dublin Castle, located off of Dame Street on the south side of the River Liffey, should be your first port of call. The tall, grey-stoned fortress is as mesmerising on the outside as it is in the inside, and admission (with a 50-minute guided tour) is only €4.50 (or €3.50 for students). Free entry is offered on the first Wednesday of every month.
Wander through a wealth of elegant eighteenth- and nineteenth-century furnishings and antiques, from glittering chandeliers to colorful royal shields, and feel yourself slipping back in time…
Chester Beatty Library: Directly next to Dublin Castle, the Chester Beatty Library is home to a wide variety of artifacts, with East Asian prints and Japanese armour, English and French books from the 1900s and Chinese beds and cabinets. The Library, which is free to the public, has a tranquil roof garden for a rest after all that sightseeing.
Set your eyes on Molly Malone : As the old song goes, “In Dublin’s far city, where the girls are so pretty, I first set my eyes on sweet Molly Malone!” And anyone who comes to Dublin should swing by Grafton Street to see the copper statue of Miss Molly Malone. The statue is a popular photo spot for tourists and locals alike, and one older man even stops to give Molly two kisses on her cheeks on his way to work.
Fuel up: Head to Cassidy’s Bar (27 Westmoreland Street) to grab some traditional Irish cuisine. Fuel up on bangers and mash and Irish stew, washed down with a pint of Guinness or an Irish coffee for €6.50. Come to Cassidy’s during the day for a laid-back lunch or hang out in the bar at night to see the energetic live bands.
As you wait for your food and drinks, you can glance around the room at black-and-white photographs of old Dublin and English and Gaelic street signs.
Grab a Guinness: Located at St James’ Gate Brewery, you can tour the original Guinness Storehouse for €12.96 (buy tickets online here). Before you’ve even set foot on the Storehouse’s seven floors, you’re hit by the smell of oats and yeast.
On the top floor’s Gravity Bar, you can gulp down a complimentary pint o’ black while enjoying a breathtaking view of the entire city of Dublin. Make sure to keep your ticket stub, though, or your drink will go to someone else!
Pub crawl: After learning all about your average pint, it’s time to spend an evening sampling some of Dublin’s finest. Start at the Long Stone Pub (10 Townsend Street) with its long wooden bars, Irish flags and snappy pop music.
Doyle’s (8/9 College Street) also has a long wooden bar, but that’s where the similarity ends; Doyle’s has a much more relaxed and intimate atmosphere, with reasonable drinks prices, blue-cushioned booths and rosy-coloured walls.
Next up is the hipster-friendly Porterhouse bar, with flashing strobes and blaring music catering to a young and edgy crowd.
Become a jailbird: After your free breakfast at Abigail’s Hostel (we munched on cereal, tea, toast and chocolate) head to Kilmainham Gaol. Over 200 years old, this ancient Irish jail once housed and even executed political prisoners.
The prison’s hour-long guided tour is well-worth €6 (€2 for students) and begins in a museum to let visitors catch up on their history beforehand. Indeed, the very large and dreary grey-stoned building with its barred windows and dark iron gates send chills down your spine before the tour’s even got underway.
Trinity College: Reminiscent of an old town square, the bright and lively Trinity College is constantly flowing with bustling students who meander through the handsome university buildings, grey cobblestone streets and freshly cut grass. Home to the Book of Kells and the Old Library, Trinity College is the perfect place to take a relaxing stroll or pack a picnic on a sunny afternoon.
An elegant lunch: Dublin is definitely a foodie city, and Fitzgerald’s (on Aston Quay) may be a little pricier than some pubs, but makes up for it with its tasty food and relaxed vibe.
From lasagne and vegetable quiche to Irish potato cakes and southern fried chicken, Fitzgerald’s large portions leave you feeling almost ready to explode. If it’s cold outside, be sure to order a lip smacking hot chocolate – its thick whipped cream and sprinkle of cinnamon, can thaw you out on the most withering of winter’s days.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral: It’s only €5.50 (€4.50 for students), to visit one of the most moving and beautiful places in all of Dublin.
Although the lights are dim, the large arched ceilings, ancient wooden carvings, white statues and stain-glass windows are truly magical. In between hushed whispers, light footsteps and faint clicks of cameras, visitors solemnly pass between flickering candles.
Trinity bar: End your stay in Dublin at the Citi Hotel’s Trinity Bar – this bar on Dame Street was my favorite club in Dublin. The disco-like dance floor with its flashing vibrant colors is very Saturday Night Fever, but the rest of the bar is relatively spacious and cool.
What do Dublin locals do for fun, away from the tourist sights? Check out our guide Secret Dublin: Local & Quirky Things to Do for all the answers.
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Thanks to Sebastian Dooris for the image off Flickr. Please note, all images were suitable for use at the time of publication according to the Creative Commons License.