Rick Steves Snapshot Dublin


By Rick Steves

By Pat O’Connor

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You can count on Rick Steves to tell you what you really need to know when traveling in Dublin.

In this compact guide, Rick Steves and Pat O’Connor team up to cover the best of Dublin, including tips on arrival, orientation, and transportation. Embark on a traditional pub crawl, tour the Kilmainham Gaol, or view the Book of Kells in the Trinity Old Library. You’ll get firsthand advice on the best sights, eating, sleeping, and nightlife, and the maps and self-guided tours will ensure you make the most of your experience. More than just reviews and directions, a Rick Steves Snapshot guide is a tour guide in your pocket.

Rick Steves Snapshot guides consist of excerpted chapters from Rick Steves European country guidebooks. Snapshot guides are a great choice for travelers visiting a specific city or region, rather than multiple European destinations. These slim guides offer all of Rick’s up-to-date advice on what sights are worth your time and money. They include good-value hotel and restaurant recommendations, with no introductory information (such as overall trip planning, when to go, and travel practicalities).



This Snapshot guide, excerpted from my guidebook Rick Steves Ireland, introduces you to the city of Dublin. From its lively pubs filled with Guinness-fueled craic (conversation) and traditional music, to its stately Georgian sights, to its powerful rebel history, the Irish capital delights its visitors. Stroll vibrant O’Connell Street for a lesson in Ireland’s long struggle for independence, cheer on the local hurling team at Croke Park, and pore over the intricately decorated ninth-century Book of Kells. Pious, earthy, witty, brooding, feisty, and unpretentious, Dublin is an intoxicating potion to sip or slurp—as the mood strikes you.

For a break from the big city, venture to sights near Dublin: the prehistoric tombs at Brú na Bóinne, the site of the pivotal Battle of the Boyne, the stout ruins of Trim Castle, the impressive Gardens of Powerscourt, the monastic settlement at Glendalough, and the proud Irish equestrian tradition at the National Stud.

To help you have the best trip possible, I’ve included the following topics in this book:

Planning Your Time, with advice on how to make the most of your limited time

Orientation, including tourist information (abbreviated as TI), tips on public transportation, local tour options, and helpful hints

Sights with ratings:

▲▲▲—Don’t miss

▲▲—Try hard to see

—Worthwhile if you can make it

No rating—Worth knowing about

Sleeping and Eating, with good-value recommendations in every price range

Connections, with tips on trains, buses, and driving

Practicalities, near the end of this book, has information on money, staying connected, hotel reservations, transportation, and more.

To travel smartly, read this little book in its entirety before you go. It’s my hope that this guide will make your trip more meaningful and rewarding. Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar.

Happy travels!


With reminders of its stirring history and rich culture on every corner, Ireland’s capital and largest city is a sightseer’s delight. Dublin punches above its weight class in arts, entertainment, food, and fun. The vibe is infectious and by the time you depart, Dublin’s fair city will have you humming, “Cockles and mussels, alive, alive-O.”

Founded as a Viking trading settlement in the ninth century, Dublin grew to be a center of wealth and commerce, second only to London in the British Empire. As the seat of English rule in Ireland for 750 years, Dublin was the heart of a “civilized” Anglo-Irish area (eastern Ireland) known as “the Pale.” Anything “beyond the Pale” was considered uncultured and almost barbaric...purely Irish.

The Golden Age of English Dublin was the 18th century. The British Empire was on a roll, and the city was right there with it. Largely rebuilt during this Georgian era, Dublin became an elegant and cultured capital.

Those glory days left a lasting imprint on the city. Squares and boulevards built in the Georgian style, such as Merrion Square, give the city an air of grandeur (“Georgian” is British for Neoclassical...named for the period when four consecutive King Georges occupied the British throne from 1714 to 1830). The National Museum, the National Gallery, and many government buildings are in the Georgian section of town.

Throughout the 19th century, as Ireland endured the Great Potato Famine and saw the beginnings of the modern struggle for independence, Dublin was treated—and felt—more like a British colony than a partner. The tension culminated in the Easter Rising of 1916, followed by a successful guerilla war of independence against Britain and Ireland’s tragic civil war. With many of its grand streets in ruins, war-torn Dublin emerged as the capital of the British Empire’s only former colony in Europe.

While bullet-pocked buildings and dramatic statues keep memories of Ireland’s struggle for independence alive, the city is looking ahead to a brighter future. In the last decade, the tentative “green shoots” of a hoped-for financial recovery from the devastating 2008 crash have sprouted into a forest of cranes sweeping over booming construction blocks and expanding light rail infrastructure. Dubliners are energetic and helpful, and visitors enjoy a big-town cultural scene wrapped in a small-town smile.


This bustling city is a must for travelers interested in Celtic/Viking artifacts, Irish literature, or rebel history. For most people, Dublin deserves three nights and two days.

Be aware that some important sights close on Mondays. Reserve Kilmainham Gaol in advance or risk it being sold out. Consider this ambitious sightseeing plan:

Day 1
9:00 Visit the Book of Kells and Old Trinity Library ahead of mid-morning crowds.
11:00 Take the guided Historical Walking Tour.
12:30 Browse Grafton Street, have lunch there, or picnic on St. Stephen’s Green.
14:00 Head to the National Museum: Archaeology branch (closed Mon).
16:00 Visit Epic: The Irish Emigration Museum.
17:30 Return to hotel, rest, have dinner.
19:30 Go for an evening guided pub tour (musical or literary).
22:00 If you still have the energy, find a pub with live Irish music.
Day 2
9:00 Tour Kilmainham Gaol (reserve ahead; opens at 9:30 Sept-May).
11:00 Take the Dublin Castle tour.
13:00 Grab lunch.
14:30 Follow the self-guided “O’Connell Street Stroll” in this chapter, taking in the GPO Witness History exhibit en route (in the General Post Office).

Evening Options: Catch a concert, a play, the storytelling dinner at The Brazen Head (or one of the other recommended dinner shows), another guided pub tour (musical or literary), or more live folk music in a pub.

Orientation to Dublin

Greater Dublin sprawls with well over a million people—more than a quarter of the country’s population. But the center of tourist interest is a tight triangle between O’Connell Bridge, St. Stephen’s Green, and Christ Church Cathedral. Within or near this triangle, you’ll find Trinity College (Book of Kells), a cluster of major museums (including the National Museum: Archaeology), touristy and pedestrianized Grafton Street, Temple Bar (touristy nightlife center), Dublin Castle, and the hub of most city tours and buses. The major sights outside this easy-to-walk triangle are the General Post Office (“GPO” to locals; north of the center), and Kilmainham Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse (west of the center).

The River Liffey cuts the town in two, and most of your sightseeing will take place on its south bank. Many long Dublin streets change names every few blocks, including the wide main axis that cuts north/south through the tourist center. North from the O’Connell Bridge, it’s called O’Connell Street; south of the bridge, it becomes Westmoreland, passes Trinity College, and becomes the pedestrian-only Grafton Street to St. Stephen’s Green.

Two suburbs, Dun Laoghaire to the south and Howth to the north, offer quiet home-base alternatives to Dublin (with easy 25-minute transit connections into town). By staying outside the city, you’ll save about 25 percent on your hotel costs.


Dublin’s busy main TI has lots of info and brochures on Dublin and all of Ireland (Mon-Sat 9:00-17:30, Sun 10:30-15:00, a block off Grafton Street at 25 Suffolk Street, tel. 01/884-7700, www.visitdublin.com). A smaller but equally helpful TI is just past the Spire, on the east side of O’Connell Street (Mon-Sat 9:00-17:00, closed Sun). Watch out for other shops that claim to be TIs, especially on O’Connell Street. They’re aiming to sell you tours and collect commissions.

Dublin Pass: This sightseeing pass covers 25 sights and landmarks (but not the Book of Kells), hop-on, hop-off buses, and the Aircoach airport bus—one-way from the airport to the city only (pass-€52/1 day, multiday options available, purchase online and collect at TIs, www.dublinpass.ie). If you already have the Heritage Card, skip this one, as the card already covers two big Dublin sights (Kilmainham Gaol and Dublin Castle).

Maps: At any TI, you can pick up the free Dublin Pocket Guide, but the best free city map is the one created by the Kilkenny Shop (6 Nassau Street, bordering the south side of the Trinity College campus)—available at tourist outlets throughout the city.


For details on Dublin’s airport, as well as ferry connections between the UK and Dublin, see “Dublin Connections,” at the end of this chapter.

By Train: Dublin has two train stations. Heuston Station, on the west end of town, serves west and southwest Ireland (45-minute walk from O’Connell Bridge; take the LUAS light rail or bus #90—see below). Connolly Station, which serves the north, northwest, and Rosslare, is closer to the center (15-minute walk from O’Connell Bridge). Each station has ATMs but no lockers.

The train stations are connected by the red line of the LUAS light-rail system and by bus #90, which runs along the river (€2, 4/hour). From the city center, to reach Heuston Station, catch bus #90 on the south side of the river; to get to Connolly Station and Busáras Central Bus Station, catch #90 on the north side of the river.

By Bus: Bus Éireann, Ireland’s national bus company, uses the Busáras Central Bus Station (pronounced bu-SAUR-us). Located next to Connolly Station, it’s a 10-minute walk or a short ride on bus #90 to the city center.

By Car: Don’t drive in downtown Dublin—traffic’s terrible, parking is expensive, and there are plenty of smarter options. If you have to park in central Dublin, a good option is Q-Park Christ Church, on Werburgh Street behind Jurys Inn Christ Church (€3.50/hour, €16/day, tel. 01/454-9001).


Pickpockets: Irish destinations, especially Dublin, are not immune to this scourge. Be on guard—use a money belt or carefully zip things up.

Festivals: Book ahead during festivals and for any weekend. St. Patrick’s Day is a four-day March extravaganza in Dublin (www.stpatricksday.ie). June 16 is Bloomsday, dedicated to the Irish author James Joyce and featuring the Messenger Bike Rally (www.jamesjoyce.ie). Hotels raise their prices and are packed on rugby weekends (about four per year), during the all-Ireland Gaelic football and hurling finals (Sundays in September), and during summer rock concerts.

Meet a Dubliner: The City of a Thousand Welcomes offers a free service that brings together volunteers and first-time visitors. Sign up online in advance and pick an available time slot. In Dublin you’ll meet your “ambassador,” head for a nearby tearoom or pub, and enjoy a drink (paid for by the city) and a friendly, informal conversation (of up to an hour). It’s a great way to get oriented to the city (meet at Little Museum of Dublin, 15 St. Stephens Green, tel. 01/661-1000, www.cityofathousandwelcomes.com).

Mass in Latin: The Roman Catholic Mass is said in Latin daily at St. Kevin’s Church (Mon-Fri at 8:00, Sat at 9:00, Sun at 10:30, corner of Harrington and Synge, about six blocks south of St. Patrick’s Cathedral, www.latinmassdublin.ie).

Bookstores: The giant granddaddy of them all is Eason’s, five minutes north of the O’Connell Bridge (Mon-Sat 8:00-19:00, Sun 12:00-18:00, 40 O’Connell Street Lower, tel. 01/858-3800, www.easons.com).

Laundry: Krystal Launderette, a block southwest of Jurys Inn Christ Church on Patrick Street, offers same-day full service (Mon-Sat 8:00-20:00, Sun 12:00-17:00, tel. 01/454-6864). The All-American Launderette offers self- and full-service options (Mon-Sat 8:30-19:00, Sun 10:00-18:00, 40 South Great George’s Street, tel. 01/677-2779).

Bike Rental: River Cycles is right along the south side of the River Liffey on Usher’s Island quay, about four blocks west of The Brazen Head pub. From here, consider a low-stress ride into the huge, bike-friendly Phoenix Park (€4/2 hours, €5/4 hours, €10/day, daily 10:00-19:00 “weather depending,” 10 Usher’s Island, mobile 086-265-6258, www.rivercyclesphoenixparkbikehire.com).


You’ll do most of Dublin on foot, though when you need public transportation, you’ll find it readily available and easy to use. With a little planning, sightseers can make excellent use of a two-day hop-on, hop-off bus ticket to link the best sights. Also, keep in mind that (for cross-city travel) the expanding LUAS light-rail system does not get bogged down in traffic like buses and taxis do.

By Public Transportation

You can buy individual tickets for the bus, DART, and LUAS, or get a transit card that can be used on all three (described below).

Bus: Public buses are cheap and cover the city thoroughly. Most lines start at the four quays (riverfront streets) that are nearest O’Connell Bridge. If you’re away from the center, nearly any bus takes you back downtown. Some bus stops are “request only” stops: Be alert to the bus numbers (above the windshield) of approaching buses, and when you see your bus coming, flag it down. Tell the driver where you’re going, and he’ll ask for €2-3.30 depending on the number of stops. Bring coins, as drivers don’t make change.

The Dublin Bus office has free route maps and sells the transit cards described below (Mon-Fri 9:00-17:30, Sat-Sun 9:30-14:00, 59 Upper O’Connell Street, tel. 01/873-4222, www.dublinbus.ie).

DART Train: Speedy commuter trains run along the coast, connecting Dublin with suburban Dun Laoghaire (south) and Howth (north). Think of the DART line as a giant “C” that serves coastal suburbs from Bray in the south up to Howth (€3.25, €6.15 round-trips valid same day only, buy at machine, 4/hour, tel. 01/703-3504, www.irishrail.ie/home).

LUAS Light Rail: The city’s light-rail system has two main lines, red and green. The most useful for tourists is the red line, with an east-west section connecting the Heuston and Connolly train stations (15-minute ride apart) at opposite edges of the Central 1 Zone; in between, the Busáras, Smithfield, and Museum stops can be handy. Useful north-south green line stops are at St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity College, and both ends of O’Connell Street (€2, buy at machine, 6/hour, runs until 24:45, tel. 1-800-300-604, www.luas.ie). Monitors at each boarding platform display the time and end destination of the next LUAS train; check to make sure you’re on the right platform for the direction you want to go.

Transit Cards: The Leap Card is good for travel on Dublin’s bus, DART, and LUAS routes, and fares are lower than buying individual tickets. Leap Cards are sold at TIs, newsstands, and markets citywide—look for the leaping-frog logo—and can be topped up (€5 refundable deposit, www.leapcard.ie).

For those staying in Dun Laoghaire or Howth—or on a long-term stay in Dublin—the Leap Visitor Card may be a better option. It enables unlimited travel on Dublin’s buses (including Airlink Express to and from the airport), DART, and LUAS trams (€10/1 day, €19.50/3 days, €40/7 days, each “day” equals 24 hours from first use, http://about.leapcard.ie/leap-visitor-card). It’s possible to buy the card online in advance, but it’s just as easy to pick one up at the airport (transportation desk in Terminal 1 or at the Spar in Terminal 2) or from several Dublin city center locations (main TI, Dublin Bus office, or Discover Ireland Centre at 14 Upper O’Connell Street).

The Do Dublin transit and discount card covers the Airlink Express, public buses in Dublin, and the Do Dublin hop-on, hop-off bus, while offering some sight discounts. Purchase in advance online, at the Do Dublin airport desk (Terminal 1), or the Dublin Bus office (€33/72 hours, tel. 01/844-4265, www.dodublin.ie).

By Taxi or Uber

Taxis are everywhere and easy to hail. Cabbies are generally honest, friendly, and good sources of information (drop charge—€3.60 daytime, €4 nighttime, €1/each additional adult, figure about €12-15 for most crosstown rides, €40/hour for guided joyride).

Your Uber app will get you two choices in Dublin: “Uber” is actually a taxi (with the standard metered rate, but no tipping and billed to your account); “Uber Black” is an expensive chauffeur-driven car.

Tours in Dublin

While Dublin’s physical treasures are lackluster by European standards, the gritty city has a fine story to tell and people with a natural knack for telling it. It’s a good town for walking tours, and competition is fierce. Pamphlets touting creative walks are posted all over town. Choices include medieval walks, literary walks, Georgian Dublin walks, and traditional music or literary pub crawls. Taking an evening walk is a great way to meet other travelers. The Dublin TI also offers a variety of free, good-quality, downloadable “Dublin Discovery Trails” audio tours.

▲▲Historical Walking Tour

This is your best introductory walk. A group of hardworking history graduates enliven Dublin’s basic historic strip (Trinity College, Old Parliament House, Dublin Castle, and Christ Church Cathedral). You’ll get the story of their city, from its Viking origins to the present. Guides speak at length about the roots of Ireland’s struggle with Britain. As you listen to your guide, you’ll stand in front of buildings that aren’t much to look at, but are lots to talk about (April-Oct daily at 11:00, May-Sept also at 15:00; Nov-March Fri-Sun at 11:00). All walks last 90 minutes and cost €12 (ask for discount with this book, free for kids under 14, departs from front gate of Trinity College, private tours available, mobile 087-688-9412 or 087-830-3523, www.historicalinsights.ie).

▲▲Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl

This entertaining tour visits the upstairs rooms of three pubs; there, you’ll listen to two musicians talk about, play, and sing traditional Irish music. While having only two musicians makes the music a bit thin (Irish music aficionados will say you’re better off just finding a good session), the evening—though touristy—provides a real education in traditional Irish music. The musicians clearly enjoy introducing rookies to their art and are very good at it. And they are really funny. In the summer, this popular 2.5-hour tour frequently sells out, but it’s easy to reserve ahead online (€14, ask for discount with this book—use code RSIRISH online, beer extra, at 19:30 April-Oct daily, Jan-March Thu-Sat only, no shows Dec, maximum 65 people, meet upstairs at Gogarty’s Pub at the corner of Fleet and Anglesea in the Temple Bar area, tel. 01/475-3313, www.musicalpubcrawl.com). They also offer a dinner-show version.

Dublin Literary Pub Crawl

Two actors take 40 or so tourists on a walk, stopping at four pubs, and with clever banter introduce the high craic of James Joyce, Seán O’Casey, and W. B. Yeats. The two-hour tour is punctuated with 20-minute pub breaks (free time). This is an easygoing excuse to drink beer in busy pubs, meet other travelers, and get a dose of Irish witty lit (€13, at 19:30 April-Oct daily, Nov-March Thu-Sun only; just show up, but reserve ahead in July-Aug when it can fill up; meet upstairs in the Duke Pub—off Grafton on Duke Street, tel. 01/670-5602, mobile 087-263-0270, www.dublinpubcrawl.com). Connoisseurs of Irish pubs enjoy the excellent Dublin Literary Pub Crawl guidebook by pub-crawl founder Colm Quilligan.

1916 Rebellion Walking Tour

This two-hour walk breathes gritty life into the most turbulent year in modern Irish history, when idealistic Irish rebels launched the Easter Rising—eventually leading to independence from Britain. Guide Lorcan Collins has written a guidebook called The Easter Rising—worth seeking out—and is passionate about his walks (€13, ask for discount with this book; March-Oct Mon-Sat at 11:30, Sun at 13:00; Nov-Feb Fri-Sun at 11:30; departs from International Bar at 23 Wicklow Street, mobile 086-858-3847, www.1916rising.com).

Pat Liddy’s Walking Tours


On Sale
Jan 16, 2018
Page Count
104 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

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