A week in Dublin!
May 16, 2018 10:25 AM   Subscribe

My sister and I will be spending a week in Dublin at the end of May. What should we do? I'm really into plants and animals. I'm also vegetarian. She doesn't like museums. We are considering taking a day trip out to see the Cliffs of Moher. Any recommendations?

We think we'll go to the National Botanic Gardens and the Dublin Zoo. That and the day trip is about all we've got planned so far! I'd love places to go/things to do, restaurant advice, and general advice. Neither of us have been to Ireland before and probably won't return for some time if at all.
posted by vegartanipla to Travel & Transportation around Dublin, Ireland (20 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
The cemetery and botanic gardens were well worth the visit for us, and if you go to the botanic garden then you are going to want to go to the John Kavanagh's aka Gravedigger's and I am not joking.
posted by ftm at 10:32 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Take a day trip to Newgrange and the Boyne Valley. I don't see any day tour offers listed on the Bus Eireann site any more, but there are private companies that offer tours up there, and it shouldn't be missed.
posted by pdb at 10:45 AM on May 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

Take a bus to Kerry and stay there for the week! The west of Ireland in general has a far more interesting landscape than the east.
posted by Lucy_32 at 11:25 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

We did an evening of pub crawl through the city and it was great. There are a ton of suggested itineraries online for that. Glendalough is a short trip out of the city and is gorgeous. Lots of lovely hikes through there and the surrounding area. I agree with a trip to Newgrange. It was really one of the highlights of the trip for me.
posted by goggie at 11:47 AM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Definitely Glendalough.

My must do when I'm in Ireland is to take the Dart all the way to each end. Take a walk along the Bray seaside.

Also, I always grocery shop. I love Dunnes.
posted by Ftsqg at 12:00 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

It’s about 2 1/2 hours to Belfast by bus. You can check out the Titanic museum.
posted by monotreme at 12:28 PM on May 16, 2018

We were in Dublin last summer, and were pleasantly surprised by how much there is to do. Some of it, I admit, was museums. But the tour of Trinity college is very interesting, as is St. Patrick's cathedral and Dublin Castle and just walking around in central Dublin. There's lots of shopping too. Farther out (but still in the city) is Phoenix Park, which contains a pleasant zoo, and the National Botanic Gardens, which are wonderful. If you're a fan of Joyce or Wilde, that gives you even more to do. This should keep you busy for three to four days. We filled up the rest of our week with a three-day trip to Galway and the nearby Aran Islands. Honestly, WE were sorry we didn't stay in Dublin the whole time, but we like museums (of which there are plenty).
posted by ubiquity at 12:56 PM on May 16, 2018

Day trips to the National Stud (with a detour to St Brigid's well), the hill of Tara and Dun Laoghaire. The men who made the glass flowers at Harvard also have a collection of glass marine animals at the natural history museum.
posted by brujita at 1:12 PM on May 16, 2018

Kilmainham Gaol is another site that was pretty incredible to visit. Provides a very sober overview of the fight for independence.
posted by goggie at 1:57 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

I can't imagine what anyone would do in Dublin for a week*, or that one would have an idea of what Ireland is like just from seeing Dublin and the Cliffs, which are... I mean, they're very pretty but they look exactly like they look in photos?

I think I would figure out how to get to Garnish Island; the garden is spectacular. On the way, you stop at Seal Island, which is exactly what it sounds like. Whatever combination of travel you take to get there will go through beautiful landscape and some nice towns and villages.

(*Having said all of this, I am a fan of slow travel so spending a week in a place doing exactly whatever, nothing much is how I prefer to do tourism. I just wouldn't do it in Dublin because meh.)

posted by DarlingBri at 2:08 PM on May 16, 2018

Best answer: Assume rain. Also, I'm going to pretend you're not thinking of distances in American/Australian terms, whereby you might actually decide to do Garnish Island as a day trip from Dublin. So as a 'Spotted By Locals' type response, and not being sure of your actual dates, for nighttime check out what's playing at Bord Gais Energy Theatre, the National Concert Hall, Vicar Street (Finbar Furey has a date there in late May), the Olympia, and Whelan's, for example.

The Dublin International Literary Festival will run from 19-27 May so, again, check out its website to see if anything appeals. It has a good line-up of names this year (Neil Gaiman, for one). You mentioned that your sister doesn't like museums but, if art is exempt, I genuinely think the National Gallery is worth a visit: Emil Nolde runs there until June. For pubs, I'd recommend the Stag's Head. For plant pangs, visit them in Stephen's Green or the lesser known Iveagh Gardens. I also have a soft spot for the Clontarf area in general and it has Bull Island and St Anne's Park.

Smithfield is a nice area to wander and now has a cat cafe called the Cat Lounge, although you have to book in advance. For vegetarian restaurants, Govinda's (three locations) is great if you're in a hurry, Cornucopia is trusty on Wicklow Street, and Umi Falafel on Dame Street is cheap, cheerful and reliable. I'd also recommend an odd choice, however: The Rustic Stone on South Great George's Street. It's definitely not vegetarian - meat dishes may sizzle on your neighbouring diners' stones - but the vegetarian choices are excellent and options flexible (small plates, sides, half portions). Sova Vegan Butcher is another candidate, although I wasn't 100% sold when there, but perhaps had had my expectations raised too high in advance. It's in an area though that's also nice to wander. Finally, Brother Hubbard (which has two branches, South and North) is wonderful for vegetarian breakfast or brunch, although again is not strictly vegetarian. It's the North branch I'm familiar with, which might be the better option anyway because it extended recently and has more seating. And I'll round up with The Fumbally as another great spot for breakfast/brunch, coffee or dallying.
posted by Lilypod at 2:21 PM on May 16, 2018

I lived in Dublin for years and could quite happily fill a week just eating, drinking and chatting my way around it. But as you won't be back in Ireland for sometime I do think it's a good idea to see more of the country and the cliffs of Moher are spectacular.

Definitely go to the Botanic Gardens. Also recommend taking a stroll through St. Stephens Green, the Iveagh Gardens and Merrion Square parks in the city centre (all very close to each other so can be done in an hour or so). Grab a hot chocolate or iced coffee from the Butlers Cafe on the Green before you set off.

Phoenix Park is also worth a visit (and it's the home of Dublin Zoo) and if you're lucky you will see the deer. Can be combined with a visit to hipster neighbourhoods of Smithfield and Stoneybatter for some nice coffee and food in places like Third Space, Mulligans or Slice.

Pubs: Stags Head, Library Bar, Cobblestone in Smithfield for a traditional Irish music session, grab a seat outside Grogans for the best people watching spot in Dublin, VCC for speakeasy cocktails.


Fallon and Byrne: the restaurant it pricy but there is a great and inexpensive deli at the back of the supermarket on the ground floor. You can get food to eat in, take away or carry downstairs to have with a glass of wine in the wine bar.

Cornucopia is the classic Dublin veggie restaurant.

Queen of Tarts for some tasty treats.

Hatch and Sons on Stephen's Green have great food, including sandwiches made with blaas, the famous bread from Waterford. It gets super busy at lunch time from local office workers.

Your sis doesn't like museums but she might enjoy the science gallery! The national museums are all free so it would be easy for you to nip in for 10 or 20 minutes to check out some of the exhibits. I recommend taking a look at the Caravaggio in the National Gallery and the bog bodies in the National Museum. The Hugh Lane does free concerts on Sundays (arrive early for a seat) and you could sneak a look at the Francis Bacon studio while there. They also have a great cafe and shop.

If you're into fashion check out the Siopaella shops in Temple Bar. They do consignment and have amazing prices on everything from high street brands to Chanel.

Lovin Dublin is a good guide for everything Dublin. This is a (slightly whacky but nonetheless useful) guide to free events in Dublin.

General advice: Dublin is amazing and a very happening place that is also soaked in literature and culture. The city centre is compact and very walkable. You will have no problem getting veggie food as Irish cafes and restaurants are very clued in when it comes to that. Great food is available at all price points if you do a bit of research first. The city is quite happening and full of young people with a very hipster vibe in many parts.

There is a strong boozy culture and even as a committed boozer I can find the streets a bit wild come Friday and Saturday evening. Temple Bar is lovely during the day but a den of iniquity at night. There is also a bit of a heroin problem so you will see quite a number of addicts begging around the city. They are mostly harmless but it's good to keep your wits about you. I add those as warnings but really don't worry about it. Irish people are genuinely super friendly and love talking to and advising visitors so you will find plenty of friendly faces and helping hands all over the place.

If you will be there around May 25 be aware that a referendum is taking place about removing the 8th amendment to the Irish Constitution (which bans abortion). The debate is getting pretty heated and divisive and you can expect it to be a hot topic whatever the outcome.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:31 PM on May 16, 2018

Cliffs of Moher from Dublin is a very long day trip--I'd suggest staying overnight in Clare if that is your must-see destination.

To add to Liliypod's comment, the likelihood of rain means that the cliffs could have little visibility. And if that is the case then you've made a very long trek to not see something you want to see. I think the above suggestions for nature and heritage trips around and about Dublin are all good ones. The Wicklow mountains, for example, have lots of amazing things to see. And as they're only a long hour from Dublin by bus you can be flexible and choose a good weather day for them and for other outdoorsy things.

This is not the opinion of a Dublin local! Just someone who spends 3-4 weeks a year in Ireland, all seasons.
posted by Morpeth at 2:33 PM on May 16, 2018

Oh and as an animal lover you will either love or hate the Natural History Museum but it's worth poking your head in for 5 minutes to see which it is. It has been described as 'a museum of a museum' as it is still in a Victorian style layout with stuffed animals in glass cases. At the very least it will give you a quick and dirty overview of the fauna of Ireland.
posted by roolya_boolya at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2018

Another vote for the Natural History Museum. I loved it. It is so bizarre and not like any other modern museum. It would be a fast visit too. The Virtual Visit thingy is pretty neat if you want to check it out.

Glendalough is incredible, as is Newgrange. They are in opposite directions from Dublin but could be done in two different days.
posted by apricot at 3:28 PM on May 16, 2018

Definitely go see the Cliffs of Moher -- they are breathtaking! They're a little far from Dublin though so perhaps stay a night or two somewhere on the West Coast. I made a two-night trip out to Galway and booked a day-long bus tour through my hotel that took us to the cliffs and more, which only cost 30 Euros and would have been worth triple that. Your sister may decide to skip it but I really recommend EPIC - The Irish Emigration Experience in Dublin because it brought tears to my eyes. I liked the Jameson distillery tour and tasting; I sadly missed Guinness but need to go next time! Btw, the National Museum of Ireland - Archaeology has a wonderful gift shop with reasonable prices if you're looking for souvenirs. I didn't expect to shop much while in Ireland but I found so many great things and enjoyed my chats with shopkeepers.

I'm not a vegetarian but I often eat veg and there were many options. I was pleasantly surprised by how delicious, diverse, and filling the salad options were. For example, I remember one with baked brie, various greens, berries, nuts, and more -- yum! Add fresh baked bread and butter and a cider or stout and you've got one excellent meal.

As for hotels, I totally recommend Stauntons on the Green for its central location, classic feel, and excellent service. Their breakfast is delicious if you like to eat early. My hotel in Galway was so-so but I do recommend visiting that city for a contrast! I had a good experience taking the train and recommend just buying your round-trip ticket at the station from a clerk if you decide to go anywhere because they are flexible on your the day of travel.
posted by smorgasbord at 4:52 PM on May 16, 2018

I visited Dublin for a week a few years ago, and am going back in the fall. The most valuable tips I would recommend would be to pick up a traveler’s transportation pass in the convenience store in the airport (only place you can buy them) which gives you 4 days of unlimited rides on the buses, light rail, and commuter trains all around Dublin for about €40. Likewise, if you want to travel to other cities, you can buy an unlimited train pass at Connelly Station, which are sold in either 4-day or 7-day passes. Really good deal.

As an American, I was surprised by the following aspects of Dublin. One, the city center is tiny. Population-wise, the city is about the size of Minneapolis, so I incorrectly expected the geographical size to be similar to Minneapolis, but it’s not, it’s about 1/3 as large. You can’t really get a sense of the scale from maps, but just for example, it’s about a 20-minute walk from Croke Park to Trinity College. Temple Bar is about a block long, and I personally didn’t find it very iniquitous because I blinked and missed it. It is incredibly easy to get around via public transportation and the streets were crowded, even late at night. I personally felt that American-style vigilance was major overkill because I was constantly surrounded by hundreds of people, and, well, it’s not like anyone is going to pull a gun on you. Yes, there were some homeless people, but they were quite nice and even if they hadn’t been, all you have to do to get “away” is basically cross the street. All in all, I felt like American-style “stranger danger” did not apply in Dublin.
posted by Autumnheart at 5:25 PM on May 16, 2018 [1 favorite]

Seconding Kilmainham Gaol - buy and print your tickets ahead of time. Viking Splash tours look like fun. We got the regular hop on and off tour and it got stuck in traffic once, but otherwise it was a good deal.
posted by soelo at 6:44 PM on May 16, 2018

I would definitely go for a walk along the cliffs at Howth. The village is a quick and inexpensive ride away (on the DART) from Dublin. My first visit there was around this time of year, when everything was in flower, and I remember it as one of the most beautiful places I've ever been to. When my husband and I flew through Ireland to go to another city a few years ago, we did a one-night stay-over in Dublin just so that we could do the Howth walk again.

I'd also enthusiastically second a few of the suggestions above: a visit to the bog bodies in the National Museum; a traditional music session at The Cobblestone; a meal at Hatch and Sons. I'm not a vegetarian but my favorite things to eat in Dublin were vegetarian-friendly: the brown bread; the scones; the fresh butter and cream; the cheddar cheese. For reasons I don't understand, Guinness really is especially good in Ireland. As a woman I also loved being able to order beer by the half-pint, which is a totally normal thing to do over there.
posted by 826628 at 9:31 AM on May 17, 2018

Best answer: So, a couple of notes: the medium range forecast is saying that it's going to be pretty sunny and clear and mostly rain free at the end of May, so that's good news.

Which leads me on to one very important thing: The sun sets after 9:30pm at this time of year. You will have abundant long, light evenings, so you don't have to rush to see all the outdoors before it gets dark, and you need to start planning your evening meal before there's even a hint of dusk, and you can go out again after dinner as well.

The one garden that I know to visit not mentioned yet is Powerscourt, which has a spectacularly beautiful view over to the Wicklow Mountains, and is an easy enough bus ride from Dublin, either on a tour (possibly including Glendalough) or getting a number 44 Dublin Bus to Enniskerry. Mount Usher Gardens is also very highly regarded and fairly easily accessible from Dublin.

The Dublin Mountains are the most easily accessible part of the Wicklow Mountains, and a good place for an easy day hike in proper hills with heather.

I'd also strongly second walking around Howth Head. It's an easy walk, and worth keeping an eye out for porpoises and seals. Possibly you could combine that trip with a boat trip to Ireland's Eye, an uninhabited small island just near Howth. Just south of Howth, and bordered by Dublin proper, Bull Island is flat and full of seabirds. And going south on the DART, you can get to Sandycove, which has the Forty Foot swimming spot, where I've swum with a seal and Neil Jordan.

If you're in Dublin on the last Sunday of the month, a trip to the Dublin flea market is a good way to see the feel of the city. Other Sundays, there are different markets, also worth seeing. It's also next to the Teeling whiskey distillery, which has a tour, and also makes fairly highly regarded whiskey.

Have a great time, whatever you choose. As you can see, I really like Dublin, so I'm sure you will.
posted by ambrosen at 5:47 AM on May 19, 2018

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