Living in Dublin for a year back in 2003 is one of our favorite travel memories.
Being able to spend so long in Dublin gave us a great chance to get to know it and learn about the things to do through the eyes of a local.
It’s no secret the Irish are known for their hospitality and the love of a pint of the black stuff, Guinness. Many nights we spent in a cozy traditional Irish pub built of character, and filled with live music whilst digging into a hearty meal.
There are SO many pubs in Dublin, but our list showcasing 10 of the best Dublin pubs and bars is a good place to start. One pub we forgot to mention on that list which is a locals favorite is The Stag’s Head.
Whilst Ireland is famous for having one of the best pub scenes in the world, that’s not all it’s got going for it.
It also has spectacular coastal and countryside scenery, charming towns, historic castles, friendly people, and lots of interesting history.
Things to Do in Dublin
Most visitors arrive and exit out of Dublin, and we recommend you spend a few days walking around and getting to now this city. It’s not a big city by world standards, but it’s big on energy, history, and atmosphere.
St Stephens Green
A Victorian park that is free to enter on the South side of the city, and is one of those relaxing things to do in Dublin. It is the largest of the Georgian Square parks.
It was one of my favorite places in Dublin to sit and relax, watch the world go by, and have a beautiful picnic lunch. You will find it popular with visiting tourists, students, and workers taking a break from a busy day at the office.
Is the largest Georgian square in Dublin. Take a leisurely stroll around this park and admire the red brick townhouses with their colorful doors and check out the monuments including one to Oscar Wilde.
Located right in the center of Dublin, it’s Ireland’s oldest University and most well known. The cobbled stones of Trinity College will transport you to the 18th century when the magnificent old Library Building was constructed.
And you can see the famous Book of Kells, a ninth century gospel manuscript famous throughout the world.
Take a Literary Pub Crawl
Ireland is not just known for its black ale and leprechauns , but for the incredible literary talent. One way to learn more about these literary geniuses is by doing a Literary Pub Crawl through the streets of Dublin, visiting these author’s old writing and drinking haunts.
Two actors take you on a tour through the maze of narrow streets into several pubs where they act out scenes from the work of Joyce, Behan, Beckett, Yeats, Oscar Wilde and more.
Grafton Street Shopping
Grafton street is on the South side of the Liffey and is high end street for shopping.
If you don’t have the money to spend in boutique and departments stores such as Brown Thomas, you can window shop as you walk amongst the crowds along the cobble stoned street, people gazing and watching the ever-present buskers that line the streets.
I love the atmosphere on Grafton St.
The Wicklow Mountains and Guinness Lake
An hour south of Dublin is a scenic drive that takes you through Glendalough and the Wicklow mountains to an impressive lake set in the valleys.
Guinness Lake is aptly named for its dark color, and with its white sand sitting at the top makes it look like a foaming pint of Ireland’s finest. I have heard it is named for the Guinness family whose property surrounds the area, but I like the other reason better.
One of the largest city parks in the world and is a place to get away from it all. This park has lots of green space, monuments, and plenty of benches to rest on after taking a leisurely stroll. Free to enter.
No trip to Ireland would be complete without a visit to the Guinness factory.
It is not just a pint of Guinness that comes with the entry fee, that is worth the visit, the museum gives a fascinating insight to the history of Ireland’s favorite drink, how it is made and the influence it has over the world.
You won’t taste a better pint than the one poured here, and the bar atop the factory has huge wrap around glass windows offering the best views over the Dublin city skyline.
Visit the outer Suburbs
Dublin has many great outer suburbs that are worth visiting for a taste of local living. Our favorite was of course our student village, Rathmines, that was full of great bars and Irish pubs.
Donnybrook and Ballbridge are two of the more affluent suburbs in the South of Dublin, and are worth a leisurely stroll to see some of Ireland’s finest Victorian architecture. Shrewsbury Road in Ballsbridge is the 6th most expensive road in the world.
Dalkey and Killiney is where you may run in to celebrities such as Bono and Enya, who have homes in these upmarket neighborhood’s by the sea. You can reach these towns by the DART, the Dublin Area Rapid Transit (train service).
And Howth is a small fishing village popular for the climbing of the 171m high hill on Howth head, is located an easy train ride to the south of Dublin.
Temple Bar District
Whilst there is an actual “Temple Bar”, the name really refers to the “Temple Bar District” which is basically one main thoroughfare of pubs and clubs.
If you must visit this very touristy area, the best pubs are “Quays Bar” for live music and the Porter House. And be sure to have a pint at Ireland’s oldest pub “The Brazen Head“, just on the outskirts of the district.
Dublin is a great walking city. It’s flat, relatively compact, with lots of interesting things around each corner. Wander down O’Connell street, one of the widest in Europe, and see the main Dublin Post office, the Spire, and other statues.
Also Dublin Castle, Christchurch Cathedral and the Temple Bar District is easily accessible.
Self Drive Ireland
The best way to see Ireland, and the way we did it, is to self-drive. It’s not a big country, and navigating the roads and towns is relatively easy, although signage is not the best in the world by anyone’s standards.
Head north and visit Belfast and do a black cab tour. It will give you an up close and very personal look at the history of Ireland’s struggles and the incredible painted murials. Belfast is much less touristy than Dublin and has a nice Botanical Garden.
And take a tour of the impressive City Hall.
Check out the Giants Causeway and the rugged Antrim Coast which has views all the way to Scotland on a clear day, before heading south-west to Donegal.
One of our favorite towns on the west coast was Doolin, a small town with charm and a great live music scene in some of the coziest of Irish pubs. And close by are the famous Cliffs of Moher.
Galway and Connemara
Galway is a fun town with a great vibe and being a university town has a great student atmosphere. It’s a a slower pace than Dublin but big enough to keep you entertained for a day or two.
It’s also very walkable and has a nice central square and provides for easy access to the Connemara.
A highlight of our road trip was The Connemara Loop which had incredible rugged scenery and is not to be missed.
Other scenic highlights for a road trip is the Ring of Kerry and The Dingle Peninsula. We actually preferred the Dingle Peninsula over it’s more famous counterpart, but if you have the time drive both.
And the town of Dingle is wonderful set right by the ocean with cozy pubs and great food.
The West Cork region and Mizen Head also provided for more of Ireland’s spectacular famous scenery. And the city of Cork is also worth a day or two as an alternative experience to Dublin and Galway.
Kinsale and Kilkenny
Heading back up the east coast we found Kinsale a charming little fishing town by the sea with classic Irish pubs and eating options to die for.
Further up the town of Kilkenny is worth a visit. Go check out the well known Kilkenny Castle and enjoy a pint of Kilkenny, our favorite of all the Irish beers and one of our top three in the world.
Castles in Ireland
Ireland is almost as well known for it’s castles as it is for it’s pub culture.
Some of our favorite’s were Kylemore Abbey on the west coast, Dublin Castle, Malahide Castle, and of course the famous Blarney Castle.
Drink in a Pub and Enjoy Irish Music
No trip to Ireland is complete and you won’t get a better understanding of the Irish culture unless you spend some time in their pubs. Going to Ireland and not drinking a pint in a pub is like going to Sydney and not seeing the Opera House.
Ireland has a pub on almost every street corner and one in between.
Back in Dublin see our post on 10 of the best Dublin pubs and bars for some ideas, or just find a pub in whatever street or town you are in and enjoy the craic.
See a Hurling or Gaelic Football Match
One of the best live sporting matches I have ever seen was the semi-final of the All Ireland Gaelic Football match between Donegal and Armagh in Croke Park, Dublin
The stadium was a sea of brightly colored orange and green jerseys, and the team flags madly waving in the crowd were incredible. The atmosphere was electric with fans screaming and cheering with every play of the ball.
It was a great cultural sporting experience and highly recommended if you get the opportunity.
Eat Irish Style
When we lived in Dublin we were meat eaters. Not too sure how we’d go now being vegetarians, but Irish food is delicious and hearty.
Some of our favorites were potato and leek soup, bacon and cabbage, Guinness or Irish stew, and of course potato.
Each dish you order will come with three varieties – mashed, baked, and boiled. The Irish don’t want you forgetting about those famine years.
Facebook Fan Suggestions
- Michael Figueiredo – The most obvious thing is go to the Guinness Brewery and have a pint, overlooking the city.
- Michelle Lara – Definitely the Cliffs of Moher, the Blarney Castle, and Killarney Lake.
- Earl Winston Squirrelson – Yeh the Guinness brewery is awesome, I did a sham rocker tour of southern Ireland, loved everything I saw and did. I would say you must talk to as many locals as possible, they rock! Don’t kiss the Blarney stone, people pee on it! Definitely go to the west coast and see the cliffs of Mohr.
- Lauren Fritsky – Bunratty Castle for a feast and a show.
- ToursByLocals.com – I wouldn’t normally advocate hitchhiking, but my sister and I did this all around south and West Ireland and met so many wonderful people. Especially loved walking through the Gap of Dunloe, near Killarney. With the soft golden light, tumbling stone ruins and green fields, it really felt like a leprechaun could jump out at any moment.
- Diana Cianelli Gabriel – Wicklow Mountains! And the library at Trinity College, one of the most beautiful libraries I’ve seen…
- Beers and Beans – Before you have the pint at the Guinness factory, make sure you buy the dark Guinness Chocolate bar in the gift store. Then go up, have your pint and eat the chocolate – most amazing flavors ever.
- Travis Ball – My Suggestions (in no order): Cliffs of Moher, Blarney Stone, Giant’s Causeway, Murals in Derry and Belfast, Guinness Brewery, and hit up a pub in each and every city you stop in along the way for music and conversation.
- Marian Krueger Cliffs of Moher and the Burren
- Catherine Sweeney – All of the above, plus: Rock of Cashel, Newgrange, Mizen Head (Cork coast), Connemara, stay in a farmhouse at least a couple of nights, & don’t spend too much time in Dublin — get out into the rest of the country.
More Posts About Ireland
Plan Your Trip to Ireland
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