Dublin, Ireland is one of my favorite cities in the world. There are several reasons for this. And, without further ado – here are my…
top 15 reasons to love Dublin, Ireland
Population-wise, Dublin has about 527,000 inhabitants, and covers an area of about 44.4 square miles. Much of what a tourist wants to see and do is packed into only a few square miles in the city center and this results in a very accessible, walkable town.
I’ve spent a day walking one end to the other – starting around the Grand Canal Dock at Samuel Beckett Bridge and strolling along the Liffey all the way to Phoenix Park and Kilmainham Gaol. It takes a few hours if you stop here and there to see the sights, and it may not be great if you have older folks in your group, but it’s a definite plus that you can see most of the sights on foot if you want.
Ease of public transportation
You can take public transport all around the city and skip taxi cabs all together if you like. Take the DART from the outer neighborhoods to Tara Street and you’re smack in the middle of Temple Bar, for example. Or, take the DART out of the city to Malahide or Howth and take in the beautiful sea views.
The Luas, a relatively newer light rail system, hits the city’s shopping streets north of the river, but it doesn’t go many other places that a tourist would want to visit. Nevertheless, DART and Luas tickets are cheap and are a great option for travelers who are solo or are in small groups (when splitting a taxi doesn’t make sense).
Direct flights to Dublin from many cities
Dublin’s status as the capitol of Ireland and a tourist destination means that it’s easy to get to from many world cities. There are direct flights daily from the U.S. cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York and Orlando, for example. The best airlines to get you there would be Ireland’s own Aer Lingus, or the other major carriers like Delta, American Airlines/US Air, and even Emirates. I love Aer Lingus personally because you start getting the hospitality and flavor of Ireland the minute you step foot on the airplane.
Temperate Weather Year-Round
Yes, that’s true. Dublin does get very cold and damp, and can get very hot (or at least, into the 80’s Fahrenheit). But, Dublin’s usually warmer than New York City during the winter time and cooler than New York City in the summer. I’ve even been there in January where they have had 65* Fahrenheit weather and sunshine – an anomaly, yes, but still… Don’t just think that Dublin’s always cloudy and rainy. There are beautiful, sunny, clear days to enjoy year-round.
The best times to visit, in my opinion, are in May and September, when you’re more likely to see the sun and wear short sleeves. I always pack layers, just in case.
Everyone speaks English
For me, this is obviously a perk. It just makes things THAT much easier if you’re in a country where you can ask for things and directions and you don’t need to think twice about it. I speak foreign languages, but it’s still easier to be in an English-speaking country for obvious reasons. I should note that, during the time of the Celtic Tiger (the economic boom in the early ‘naughts’), many Polish migrants were coming to the city to work and take advantage of the economy, and many street signs began popping up in Polish, in addition to English and modern Irish. That seems to have dissipated since the economic downturn.
If you want somewhere easy to visit, with a rich culture other than yours and where you still don’t feel like you could be in Anywhere, USA, then Dublin’s definitely for you.
The Irish people
The Irish are my absolute favorite people in the world. After dealing with such a tumultuous history of famine, political strife and economic tragedy, the people of Ireland have an amazingly, self-deprecating sense of humor about themselves and about life in general. There’s a reason why there are phrases like “Irish hospitality” and “Irish eyes are smiling”.
You’d be hard pressed to find an Irish guy or gal who wouldn’t make you feel welcome and treat you as just a friend they haven’t met yet. Like the saying “Cead Mile Fáilte” (a hundred thousand welcomes), the Irish are welcoming and warm people.
Dublin has an amazing history
Dating back to the times of the Celtic tribes, the city of Dublin traces its history back to over 1,000 years ago. In the early days of the city, the monastical monks and the Vikings settled parts of the city on each side of the Liffey and kicked off the permanent occupation of the lands which would later see settlements and conquering of the lands by the Irish clans, Anglo-Saxons, and the English. My personal favorite place to learn about the early history of the city is Dublinia, an interactive Viking museum located adjacent to Christ Church Cathedral – great for all ages!
Beautiful, varied architecture
A lovely mix of Gothic cathedrals, Georgian houses, Edwardian buildings, Neoclassical monoliths, medieval castles and modern glass mammoths, Dublin’s eclectic architecture is a feast for the eyes.
Check out the Georgian houses that line the famous squares (like Fitzwilliam Square) and note how the windows get smaller as the floors go higher – they’re meant to play tricks on the eye and you may not even really notice unless you pay attention!
The Breweries and Whiskey Distilleries
If you go to Dublin and you don’t visit the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’ Gate, then I just cannot help you. You need to do it at least once. You could even blow through the museum part and tours and just go straight to the Gravity Bar up top, enjoying a pint of the black stuff and taking in the best views of the city from the 360 degree floor-to-ceiling windows. But, the museum is really neat and worth a few hours of your time. Trust me.
A visit to the Jameson whiskey distillery is next up on my list of new things to do next time I’m in Dublin. Just remember that whiskey in Ireland has an “E” in it; in Scotland, there is no “E” in whisky. Slainte!
Delicious Irish and International food
Hear me out here, people. Irish food gets a lot of flack for being bland and crappy, but let those ignorant people say that they want. It’s not all potatoes and corned beef. In fact, the Irish food scene is blowing up – there are tons of modern, exciting restaurants popping up around Dublin that serve not only Irish food, but amazing international cuisines as well. Check out my review of Brother Hubbard right here. Other favorites include delicious Indian spots like Ravi’s Kitchen or Chinese at Kites in Ballsbridge. Want some Thai or Vietnamese noodles? Try Diep Noodle Bar in Ranelagh. If you’re in the mood for sushi without breaking the budget, check out Yamamori or even the conveyor belt fare over at YoSushi!.
If playing it safe is your thing, national, casual Italian chain Milano doles out some decent pizza pies and the locations are found all over the city. You also can’t beat the fresh fish and chips from Leo Burdock’s – the oldest chipper in Ireland.
The Irish literary and musical traditions are still very much alive
The Irish poets and other writers of the past are very much alive in the city that bred some of the best in the English language. Oscar Wilde, my personal favorite, walked these streets and you can visit his home today, just off of Merrion Square (where his colorful statue sits perched atop a rock, casually regarding passersby). James Joyce’s Ulysses inspired its own holiday – Bloomsday is celebrated every June 16th. Literary enthusiasts can visit the Dublin Writer’s Museum on Parnell Square and take a walking tour – or even do a tour that includes live readings of iconic Irish works at the pub.
If I’m in the mood for some good Irish music sessions I do the whole tourist thing and head to Oliver St. John Gogarty’s in Temple Bar. It’s an expensive pub, but the music is great and it’s a guaranteed good time.
No trip to Dublin’s fair city is complete without a little detour to a few pubs in Temple Bar. If the tourist scene isn’t your thing, you at least need to stroll the cobblestone streets of Temple Bar for some people watching before shuffling off to a quieter, historic pub like The Brazen Head– or even a more lively spot outside of the city like the historical Johnny Foxes Pub, which is Ireland’s highest pub.
Shopping in Dublin isn’t all about Irish wool, cashmere, claddagh rings and kilts. You can definitely find great products like this that are made in Ireland (not in China – sorry, China) all around the city. Try Kevin & Howlin for beautifully made hats for men and women.
You’ll also find high-end designer labels and other high street shops along Grafton Street. A personal favorite is Brown Thomas, a luxury department store located in the middle of Grafton Street. Its younger sibling, BT2, is also on Grafton Street. A few times a year, there are massive sales on (early January being one of those times) and you can score designer label duds at a significant discount. For example, an Alexander McQueen men’s scarf for 35 Euros and a pair of Gucci high-heeled sandals for 220 Euros (retail value $795). True story. Another favorite? Ted Baker on Grafton Street – and yes, I know it’s not Irish and it’s English, but this is one of my more favorite Ted locations.
Emerald green parks and Plazas all throughout the city
The grass at Trinity College is one of the most pristine lawns I’ve ever gazed upon – just do not walk on it! (There are signs… I might know from experience…)
The various squares throughout the city – Fitzwilliam Square, Parnell Square, Merrion Square, St. Stephen’s Green, St. Patrick’s Park and the enormous Phoenix Park all have amazingly green turf and beautiful gardens to stroll around if you’re craving a little bit of nature.
Dublin’s a great jumping-off point for day trips To Nearby spots in Ireland
Dublin’s amazing, but the towns outside of Dublin are beautiful, too. My favorite day destinations are Powerscourt Estate and Gardens in County Wicklow, and the seaside villages of Howth and Malahide. You can take the DART to Howth and Malahide, but Powerscourt will require a car, or you can book the Dublin Bus tour that includes a stop there at the famous, award-winning gardens.
What about you? What do you think makes Dublin so great? Leave a comment and let me know!