City Guide: Dublin & the Cliffs of Moher
Happy new year, IA fam! I spent New Year’s Eve in Paris, but then I headed to Dublin to spend a few days exploring and soaking up the culture – and the Guinness!
I’ve been lucky to travel to many beautiful cities, but none that have captured my heart like Dublin. From the crooked cobblestone streets to the many kind people I met along the way, I felt at home from my first night there.
I arrived at Dublin City Airport about 2:30 p.m., and after a breeze through border control, I headed outside to catch the 747 bus. This bus is an “express” bus that stops at many convenient places in center city Dublin. I got off at O’Connell Street and headed to check in to my hostel – Abigail’s.
I really recommend a stay at Abigail’s if you’re planning on staying in Dublin. The location is extremely convenient and I was able to walk everywhere from there. I paid a few extra euros to stay in a room just for 3 women instead of a larger dorm. I had an en-suite bathroom and towels and linens were included. My room was off to one side of the hostel, so I didn’t get a lot of noise from other residents, and my room overlooked the River Liffey. It felt more like crashing with a friend than staying in a noisy hostel. I was lucky to share with three different really nice women throughout my stay there.
After relaxing for a couple hours, one of my new roommates and I headed down the street to have dinner at The Old Storehouse. I had cottage pie (minced beef with mashed potato on top) and a local Irish beer – Hop House 13 – and then headed back to the hostel to get a good night’s sleep.
I helped myself to the free breakfast at my hostel, then hopped on the 69 bus to go to Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison in Dublin. You can buy tickets by walking in, but I will warn you and say that that sell out fast. I had a 10.30am tour and when I checked in, the desk was selling tickets for the noon tours. When I finished my tour at noon, they had completely sold out for the rest of the day. Booking online also saves you one euro. With my student ID, I paid 5 euros – 4 for the tour and 1 in processing fees.
Kilmainham was one of my favorite stops of my trip. I learned so much about Irish history, the prison system there, and how Ireland came to be independent from British rule. I highly recommend a stop there.
After leaving Kilmainham, I stopped into one of my favorite chain restaurants, Nando’s, for a chicken burger and peri-peri chips. (Peri-peri is a type of seasoning.) I popped into H&M where I actually ran into the girl I was sharing my hostel room with and invited her a long to the free walking tour I was headed to. She hadn’t eaten lunch, so we went into a cafe, KC Peaches, and I had the most divine piece of Vegan Banana Chocolate Cake.
We headed to meet up with the walking tour provided by Next City Tours. Our tour guide, Keith, is Irish and studied History at Trinity College, so he knew what he talking about, and he had a great sense of humor. I found it really helpful to take the tour on my first day as it helped me learn my way around that part of the city. I definitely recommend exploring with Next – they also do tours in Barcelona, Berlin, Budapest, and Prague.
After the walking tour, I headed back to the hostel to get a couple hours rest. A new girl arrived in my room, and she and I headed to have dinner at The Porterhouse, a great multi-level pub/brewery and live music venue. I had the chicken & pancetta pie with their Hop Head beer. It was great comfort food after a lot of walking.
I got up this morning and headed out to do some church hopping. First, I walked about 20 minutes to St. Patrick’s Cathedral where Jonathan Swift, cleric and author, is buried. You may be familiar with his novel Gulliver’s Travels which was published in 1726. St. Patrick’s was founded in 1191, is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland, and is the tallest and largest cathedral in Ireland. With my student ID, it costs just 5.50. You can book online or just walk in.
Then, I strolled down the street to Christ Church Cathedral, a church that is actually older than St. Patrick’s, having been founded around 1030. The coolest part of Christ Church is underground – the crypts built in the 12th century. You can wander downstairs and see bits and pieces of the churches history including the mummified cat and rat found in the church organ. (Yes I have my own picture, but thought I would spare the more sensitive stomached of you.)
Keith, my tour guide the previous day, said the best fish and chips were to be found at Leo Burdock’s, a fish and chip shop open for just over 100 years, which is just around the corner from Christ Church. I walked over and picked up the fresh cod and chips (fries), and headed back to sit on a bench next to Christ Church.
I finished up and then walked over to Trinity College to see the magnificent Book of Kells. The Book is a manuscript produced around the 9th centuries that is an ornate illustration of the four gospels of the Christian Bible. There’s a really interesting exhibit about the book explaining it’s different authors and illustrators as well as the type of inks and imagery used. I couldn’t take pictures of the book since it is in a dark room in a glass case, but if you are interested in Biblical history, it is definitely a must-see.
It’s actually cheaper to buy tickets at the door. The advantage to buying online is to skip any lines there may be, but when I went, there was no line. If you’re going at a busy tourist time, like St. Patrick’s Day, or in the summer, there may be, but I walked right in. Included in the ticket is the ability to visit the Trinity College Long Room, which is a breathtaking part of the library containing the 200,000 or so oldest books in their collections.
From Trinity, I walked back to the hostel to rest for about half an hour. Then, I headed north to the Dublin Writer’s Museum. A friend had recommend it, and while I thought it was interesting, I would say it’s only worth a visit if you’re really interested in literature. They have sections about James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, and more Irish authors. I felt like it’s only worth it if you have a deep interest in literature and would truly appreciate the artifacts and information they have there.
Then, I hopped on the bus and headed to the Guinness Storehouse to take a tour and enjoy my first pint of Guinness right at the source. I was a little disappointed as the tour is mostly self-guided. You do get a taster and a guide tells you about the four main flavors of Guinness and how to differentiate between them, but for the most part you’re on your own. I feel it’s overpriced at 20 euros, but if you book online and aren’t picky about the times, you may be able to get an adult ticket for as little as 14, which I think is a much better price. You do get a ticket for a pint of Guinness which you can redeem at either the Gravity bar on the top floor with a 360 view of Dublin or the more touristy Guinness Academy where you can learn how to properly pour a pint and get a certificate.
I had a bit of time before my evening activity, so I returned to KC Peaches on Dame Street (the place with the banana chocolate cake) for dinner. This cafe quickly became my favorite because of how affordable and organic everything is. You can choose from three different plate sizes and there’s a flat rate for each plate size. You go through the little cafeteria style bar and pick from any salads or hot dishes and put whatever you want on your plate. I went for some sesame kale salad, hot cheesy potatoes, and some delicious meatballs.
After dinner, I joined a walking Haunted History Tour from Hidden Dublin. We spent about 90 minutes walking through Temple Bar (an area of Dublin) and learning about some of the more sinister characters in Dublin’s history. I felt like it was really interesting, but not quite what I was expecting. I guess I wanted to see a ghost! 😛
This day was easily one of my favorites, even though I spent much of it in a bus. I took a day trip with Paddywagon tours out to the Cliffs of Moher (pronounced Mower) which are majestic 700 feet high cliffs on the west side of Ireland.
After returning to Dublin, I had dinner back at The Old Storehouse, where I ate my first night. This night, I had the Beef & Guinness Stew and a pint of Guinness of course.
Sadly, this was my last morning in Dublin. I checked out of my hostel and stored my bag in a locker and then headed to Queen of Tarts. Keith, the tour guide, said it had the best Bailey’s Chocolate Chip Cheesecake, and of course I had to test his claim. I picked up a slice and a savory scone to go and walked over to the National Museum of Ireland, the Archaeology branch. I enjoyed my scone sitting outside and then headed inside the free museum.
I headed inside the museum to see one of the things I was most excited about – the bog bodies. Ireland has numerous bogs which are wetlands that accumulate peat moss. Through construction and farming, people have discovered several bodies buried in the bogs. Due to the peat, which blocks out oxygen, the bodies are incredibly preserved and we’re able to see the dried skin, fingernails, and even hair of bodies that should have long ago decomposed. Kind of morbid, but really cool. Through modern science, they’ve been able to determine everything from the type of foods the people ate in their last few months to even finding what they used to use as hair gel on one of the heads.
I won’t post pictures here, but you can click here to see some over on Atlas Obscura.
Then I headed back to hostel to pick up my bag, relax a few minutes, and try that Bailey’s cheesecake. Yes, it was delicious.
Sadly, I then had to catch that 747 bus back to the airport and head back to Rotterdam. I loved my time in Dublin, and there’s still so much I didn’t get to see that I wanted to.
Have you been to Dublin? If yes, let me know your favorite places there. If no, what would you make time to do there if you could visit?