Dublin is a full of life. From the fun in the pubs to the charm of the neighbourhoods, it is one of those cities that is top of the list for hostel folk who want to get under the skin of a city. Like most capital cities, the trick is to find the quality experiences that offer the best value. That is what hostelling is all about. Here is our list of top attractions with our hostel tips for getting the most out of the experience.
1. Pub Life
The Guinness Storehouse is the top attraction in Dublin, but at €18 a pop it is not the cheapest. However, we think it is worth parting with your cash. Guinness is iconic. The story of how this craft business became a global brand is a great tale about a man with 21 children, a 9000 year lease and a unique taste. It also tells you a more about Dublin life than any history book could, because it has been part of the city since the 18th century. The museum itself is shaped like a pint glass and rises 7 stories into the Dublin skyline. Each floor shows you how the drink is made and gives you a barrel load of fascinating drops that are connected to Guinness. You can even pull your own pint and get a certificate to prove you did it.
Hosteller Pro tips – Buy your ticket at our Dublin hostel reception for discounts and queue-jumping benefits. Yay! Make a decision on whether to use your pass on the taste experience (different versions of Guinness) or the pint at the end of the tour in the Gravity Bar. Having a pint of Guinness is no big deal to us so we went for the taste experience and we were happy with our choice.
2. Sport Life
You can tell a lot about a place by the way they play. Croke Park is the home of the Gaelic Athletic Assosciation (GAA), the grassroots cultural sporting force that has been at the heart of Irish life since the late 19th century. Even for people not interested in sports, this is a must visit as it really gives you an idea of what makes Irish people tick. Unlike most sports, the games are all played by amateurs and you have to play for the team where you were born so it is deeply parochial and it inspires an almost religious following among ordinary folk. The GAA has been shy of its success in Ireland but this is changing as the world is catching up with the sport since Sky Sports started to broadcast games from the 4th largest stadium in Europe. The new museum is amazing and the Skyline walk ontop of the stadium is one of the best ways to see Dublin in all its glory beneath you.
Hosteller Pro Tip – Go and see a game. National Geographic have voted the finals as “the experience of a lifetime” and overseas sports twitterati have described the national sport of hurling as a cross between hockey and murder. Plus it is only a sort walk from our Dublin International Hostel.
3. Wild Life
Temple Bar is the centre of tourist Dublin. It is like Croke Park for the craic. It is all cobblestones, bohemian shops, cafes and buskers singing their hearts out for the tourists. It also has a lot of commercial stuff, so if it is leprechaun hats and inflatable tricolour hammers you are looking for, this is the place. We go to Temple Bar for some good quality people-watching. This is the main sport in Dublin along with chatting. We love it because it is FREE!
Hosteller Pro Tip – Temple Bar can be expensive for drinks so soak up the atmosphere and keep your cash for cheaper spots. For culture vultures, check out the Photography Archive in Meeting House Square.
4. Past life
Say what you want about Ireland being an expensive place but the fact that our museums are free is a big plus. Go Ireland! The National Museums are where you will see all our EPIC stuff. We have perfectly preserved bog bodies, Viking ships, ceremonial stone axes, celtic brooches, religious objects that have more bling than Beyonce and prehistoric gold which makes you wonder about the fashion sense of the ancient Irish. When Dublin was part of the British Empire we also managed to get our hands on a few Mummies and treasures from the Egyptian expeditians along with Roman and Greek artifacts. We also have the Museum of Decorative Arts, and the Museum of Natural History (The Dead Zoo). Did we tell you they are all FREE!
Hosteller Pro Tip – Go to one of the Saturday morning workshops for FREE!
5. Modern Life
This is the new kid on the block and winner of all sorts of tourst awards. Imagine if you asked the people of Dublin to root around in their houses and donate anything they thought was important to a museum. This is what you end up with. A fascinating social history of Dublin in the 20th century. It has everything from the story of the Womens Movement to a display of early U2 posters and memorabilia.
Hosteller Pro Tip – Sign up for the City of a Thousand Welcomes and the museum will connect you with a Dublin ambassador who you can go for a pint or a cup of tea with and then you can get a tour for 50% of the price.
6. Plant Life
From flesh-eating exotic plants to rare species (so rare that some of them only exist here), the National Botanic Gardens is one of the secret spots that Dubliners go to when they want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It is an oasis of calm and beauty, and entry is free. A premier scientific institution, the gardens also contain the National Herbarium and several historic wrought iron glasshouses. It has an arboretum, sensory garden, rock garden, Burren area and sculpture trails.
Hosteller Pro Tip – View the newly built Viking longhouse and then pop across the road to Glasnevin Cemetery and Museum. After that pop in to the Gravediggers Pub. Day sorted!
7. Prison Life
Imagine a giant hostel for Revolutionaries and Rebels with dragons on the door and some really strict house rules. Kilmainham Gaol (the old word for jail) is the place. When the English (Boo! Hiss!) wanted somewhere to put their annoying Irish subjects, this is where they brought them. This imposing prison was one of the most notorious in Europe and is a must visit for anyone with a heart. This is where revolutionary Joseph Plunkett married Grace Gifford in a cell the night before he was shot and where Anne Devlin was held in solitary confinement for refusing to give up revolutionary, Robert Emmet. At €2 entry for students and €6 for adults, this is great value, and they let you out after (if you behave).
Hosteller Pro Tip – Watch The Italian Job or In the Name of the Father (fantastic movie filmed in the prison starring Daniel Day Lewis about Irish people falsely imprisoned for terrorism) first to get an idea of the space. Go on a weekday to avoid the crowds. Take a moment to stand in the centre of the gaol and just be grateful that times have changed.
8. Student Life
Since 1592 this part of the city has been home to that subset of young people called the student. Trinners, as they are known, are largely oblivious of the visitors that wander around the courtyards and buildings looking for the Old Library Exhibition. The university is located in between the busiest streets of the city, with traffic circling in a never ending loop and statues guarding the gates. Once inside, this place is an oasis. The Old Library Exhibition is reasonably priced and it gives you entry to the Book of Kells Exhibition and the Long Room (which was the inspiration for the Jedi Library in The Phantom Menace).
Hosteller Pro Tip – Lots. Watch a student cricket match on the pavilion or visit the exhibition in the Science Gallery or be blown away by the Thursday night evensong mass. Free!
Another freebie. This is one of the largest urban parks in the world and definitely the largest in Europe. It was originally built as a walled hunting park in the 16th century and still has herds of deer roaming in it. The Irish President lives here in a house designed by the same lad that designed the White House. Numerous ambassadors live here too. It is full of herds of deer, roller bladers, joggers and cyclists. It has a zoo, a polo field, a cricket pavilion and lots of playing fields. The Garda HQ is there so it should be safe. but you won’t catch us there after dark.
Hosteller Pro Tip – Free Saturday Yoga by the bandstand outside the Zoo.
10. Village Life
Dublin is made up of tiny little villages that sit beside each other like old men in a crowded pub. Each one of them has a story to tell. It can be tempting to stay in the city centre but this is not the hostelling way. We like to get out and about and explore the places that the crowds don’t even think about. If you want to discover what Dublin is really like, there is an easy way to do it. The DART service is the urban rail network that runs along the coast from North to South through the city. It is cheap (get a rambler ticket), fast and brings you through a number of unique parts of Dublin. We recommend you head for Howth to sample the Dublin Bay Prawns and discover radio hiostory in the Hurdy Gurdy Museum, go kite-boarding on Dollymount Strand, swim in the 40ft at Dun Laoghaire or sneak around Killiney trying to spot Bono.
If you are a repeat visitor, you will already have done these so we would love to hear what you thought of them?