Dublin is a city of almost 1.3 million residents. With three major universities and dozens of other third level institutions, there is no shortage of students or things to see and do in Dublin. There is an endless array of cultural events and various festivals on all year long in the city. Whether you are studying in Ireland or another European country, be sure to take some time out to travel to Ireland’s capital!
First things first…
Dublin is such a multicultural city, so it’s common to be on the bus or Luas (Dublin’s tram system) and not hear anyone speaking English! English and Irish are the two official languages of Ireland. You will notice that all road signs, street names, government departments, and many businesses and organizations have Irish names displayed. Irish is spoken in regions in the western part of the country called the Gaeltacht.
You’ll find that Dublin can be a fairly expensive city. A typical pint will cost €5-6, cocktails can be around €9-12. With these prices, those of you studying in the city should definitely keep an eye out for Livingsocial or Groupon deals for pubs, restaurants, and attractions around town.
Whether you are flying from the US or easily hopping from one RyanAir hub to another, you will fly into Dublin Airport. It’s about 10km/ 6 miles north of city center and from there there are a number of economical ways to get to the heart of the city. Dublin Bus no.16 or 41 will get you to city center in about 25 minutes for €2.80. There are other more expensive options such as the 747 or the Aircoach, which are slightly faster but cost more than double. Taxis are also easily available from the airport and around town.
If you are coming from another town in Ireland, Bus Éireann or Irish Rail will take you to Connolly Station or Heuston Station. Dublin is an extremely walkable city, especially if you are staying in the city center. If staying a bit further out, Dublin Bus, the Luas, and DART are all very easy to navigate and can get you to pretty much anywhere you need to go.
If you are travelling on a student budget, you are in luck! Dublin has so many unique hostels and budget hotels. The Kinlay House is in a great location in city center and easy to find. They put on open mic nights in the hostel, and actually offer free beds for those musicians, dancers, singers, magicians, etc. who are performing! The Barnacle House, located in Temple Bar, is a great option and was the 2013 winner of Best Irish Hostel on Hostelworld.com. Another centrally located hostel is the Avalon House. The Avalon House is a unique and environmentally friendly choice as it uses solar and wind power and has a full recycling facility. Also, if you are a coffee aficionado, one of Dublin’s best espresso joints, the Bald Barista Cafe, is on the premises.
When deciding where to stay in Dublin, depending on how many people you are traveling with, Bed & Breakfasts can sometimes be an affordable alternative to backpacker hostels. Often you will get a yummy home cooked traditional Irish breakfast of egg, tomato, sausage, rashers, and black and white pudding while you’re there! Check out TripAdvisor to find one. Check out this post for some more accommodation options.
• The Guinness Storehouse tour — it may be a bit touristy, but it’s an interesting and integral part of Dublin’s history. The 360 degree views from Galaxy Bar are worth the price of admission alone. Buy tickets online for a 10% discount.
• Take in some greenery– you’re in Ireland after all! Spend a sunny (or pleasantly Irish, i.e. cloudy and drizzly) afternoon in one of the city’s great parks: Stephen’s Green, Phoenix Park, Merrion Square, or Iveagh Gardens.
• Catch a trad session– No trip to Ireland is complete without a trad session (traditional irish music). Cobblestone’s in the Smithfield area is well known for putting on a session nightly.
• Art around town — check out some of the pop-up galleries, open spaces, and Dublin street art. Many spaces are nonprofit or are run as a collective. Exchange Dublin is a great place to start to get to know this scene.
• Take a day trip– Take the DART to Bray, Dun Laoughaire, or Howth to experience some great sea views and vibrant, but quaint, villages.
Dublin tip – If you are lucky enough to be studying in Dublin, check out the Dublin Event Guide for a list of free markets, concerts, get togethers, festivals, and more.
Eating in Dublin
Unfortunately, in the past, Ireland had a bad reputation for its cuisine, many citing it as bland and boring. Well, times have changed! In fact, Dublin has so many great artisan markets, amazing farm-to-table restaurants, simple cafes, and ethnic food eateries, as well as enough foodies to keep all these places on their toes. There is also a strong Ireland-produced, local, sustainable movement when it comes to food and other items. Spending time at Dublin’s unique markets is a fun and tasty way to get to know the city. Temple Bar, Honest2Goodness, Dublin Food Co-op, and the daily Moore Street Market are all great starting points.
If you want a more traditional sampling of Irish cuisine (typically meat, potatoes, and veg), stop by O’Neill’s which has one of the best carveries in town. Another fairly traditional meal option would be to head to your local “chipper” for fish and chips. Leo Burdock’s is known to serve the likes of U2, Anthony Bourdain, Rod Stewart, Charlize Theron, and scores more.
Pubbin’ in Dublin
You can’t go to Ireland and not visit a pub. There is nothing better than sipping on Guinness or tea (the Irish love their tea!) by the fire in a cozy pub on chilly, rainy evening. In a city with a thousand pubs, the choices are endless. Some of the more traditional ones we like are John Kavanagh’s (aka The Gravediggers because of its location by Glasnevin Cemetery), Mulligans, and O’Donoghue’s.
Temple Bar is a haven for tourists, so if you want a more authentic experience of the city, head down Wexford and Camden Streets to Whelan’s, Solas, The Village, or any of the happening bars nearby. Also, there are some pretty notorious late night eateries in this area that cater to the 3am crowd!
Dublin drinking tip– Whether going out in a group of two or ten, it is typical for the Irish to take turns buying rounds of drinks for the group. Not only can this be costly, but will force you to keep pace with the others. If this isn’t your thing, opt out of rounds ahead of time!
Got a favorite spot in Dublin that you want to share? Got a question about the city? Leave a comment!
Photo sources: Sarah Dilworth, Sarah Dilworth, LenDog64 via Flickr