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Posted by on Nov 2, 2009 in Around Dublin, Dublin, Q&A | 31 comments

Things You Should NOT DO in Dublin

http://www.flickr.com/photos/_fabrizio_/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

Visitors to Dublin all seem to make the same mistakes. So we’re going to lay out those errors and offer some travel-wise alternatives.

Don’t Drive

The challenges of driving on the left side of the road are only made worse by Dublin traffic and aggressive urban drivers. Having a car in city centre also means you’ll be faced with parking in a city that was never intended for automobiles.

Instead, drop the rental car at the airport or stay outside of city centre and take the train or bus into town (towns along the DART – train line – are excellent options). Sites in Dublin are generally within walking distance of each other, so take advantage of your own two feet as well.

Don’t expect breathtaking views from Guinness’ Gravity Bar

If Ireland’s rainy weather isn’t clouding your view, the truth is, Dublin’s skyline isn’t particularly impressive. On a clear day, this bar atop the Guinness Storehouse gives an interesting perspective of the city and the Wicklow Mountains, but it’s really the Black Stuff that draws the crowd.

Instead, see the city from the top of the hop on/off bus. Dublin is much more appealing from street level, and riding atop a double-decker bus is my favorite quick-fix for experiencing the city. The trip is even more engaging when the drivers provide their live commentary… not all tour companies have talking drivers, so you’ll need to make sure you’re on the Dublin Bus tours (green buses) and confirm the narration is not pre-recorded before you buy your ticket.

Don’t choose a traditional music session from a flier

There are several places promoting live, traditonal music… many with Riverdance-style dancing. They’re easy to spot, colorfully printed brochures with a pretty girl dancing, a guy with a fiddle and a promise of diddle-dee-dee six nights a week. Most are quite entertaining, but they’re not as authentic as what you’ll find at a night not intended for tourist consumption.

Instead, look for traditional sessions in smaller towns or ask the locals for their recommendations. In Dublin, you might prefer spending your evening with Irish Folk Tours, the Literary Pub Crawl or the Traditional Irish Music Pub Crawl.

Don’t expect to see much of the Book of Kells

The illumninated manuscript is under glass and you only get to see two pages per day… keep your fingers crossed that the day you arrive will be a day when they have it open to one of the most elaborately decorated pages.

Instead, take in the information displayed on the walls before you reach the book, and when you’re done there, spend extra time in the phenomenal Long Library before you are released into the extensive gift shop.

Don’t take a cab from the airport

Unless you’re staying in an obscure location, you need door-to-door service or you’re traveling with several people who will split the bill, a cab from Dublin airport to city centre isn’t necessary.

Instead, take the Dublin Bus Airlink or one of the other bus companies with routes between the airport and city centre. The buses I’ve taken have been clean, roomy and peaceful, and the drivers were quick to remind me when I was nearing my stop. Then again, skipping the cab ride will eliminate your chance at getting a Dublin cabbie’s world view, so it might be worth the extra price just for the conversation.

Don’t eat or drink in Temple Bar

It’s been crowned Dublin’s Cultural Quarter, but it’s also charging tourists insane prices for a pint or some food. Add to that its nightly flow of young and often drunk tourists and you might lose your appetite, anyway.

Instead, visit Temple Bar during the day to check out the sites. Then, wander a few blocks down the street or visit another part of city centre for some grub and a pint.

Don’t cross the street like a local

Dubliners are notorious for jaywalking and disobeying traffic signs. This practice may work for an experienced resident, but for visitors, especially those who aren’t used to traffic coming from the right, it can be deadly.

Instead, be patient and obey traffic signals. It’ll feel like you’re waiting an eternity for the lights to change, but the alternative could actually last an ETERNITY, so stay safe.

Don’t fly into Dublin Airport

If you have the choice, opt for one of Ireland’s smaller airports. You’ll save yourself some stress and if you’re renting a car, you’ll be on the road much more swiftly. When it’s time to visit Dublin, it’s pretty easy to take public transportation into the capital from just about anywhere on the island… of course, if your itinerary keeps you close to the capital city, then Dublin Airport offers your best bet.

Instead, see if you can get a flight into Shannon (the only North American alternative), Cork, Killarney, Knock, Waterford or even Belfast.

Don’t limit your shopping to Grafton Street

It’s Dublin’s premiere shopping street, but Grafton Street and St Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre are not the end-all in Irish shopping.

Instead, wander north of the Liffey and explore some of the shops on that side of the city, and be sure to save some money to spend at the fine shops in other parts of the country. Much of the best shopping is available outside of the city. Pat Preston even has written a book on the topic called “The Smart Shopper’s Guide to Ireland.”

Let us know if you have any of your own Dublin Don’ts.

Photo credit http://www.flickr.com/photos/_fabrizio_/ / CC BY-SA 2.0

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31 Comments

  1. Don’t try to do everything! There is lots to see in Dublin, and if you are only there a couple days, there is no way to see it ALL. Find out what items are most interesting to you, clump them by location, and see each clump at a time. If they are all on the Hop-on/Hop-off bus route, even better – you can use the bus ticket for 24 hours to visit items along the way, and have some great architecture and people-watching on the way. Experiment – if you wave to the truck drivers standing at a light next to you while you’re on the bus, chances are they’ll wave back :)

  2. As a local in Dublin I think you are right on the money about the cabs and the airport. Disagree a little about the Guinness Gravity Bar but I’ve only been there at night – and the lights out across the city were great. I was impressed.

    Amongst the things you should do, I’d count some of the sights of County Wicklow. Glorious countryside and not too far from civilisation.

  3. Green Dragon & Izzy – Thanks for the suggestions! I agree with you both.

    Must confess, I haven’t been to Gravity Bar at night… and since the visitor centre closes at 5 (7 in the summer) and the hop on/off bus is usually done by dark, I think a lot of tourists don’t make it there at night. Sounds like something to make plans to check out.

  4. Some of the touristy things are fun to do if you keep your tongue in your cheek. For instance, we spent our last night on the Dublin Ghost tour. It was cheesy, but we laughed and had a great time. We went to the little gift shop at Dublin Castle to eat breakfast and lunch. The food was good and relatively cheap. And on a nice day, you can eat outside. It’s not very far from Temple Bar, either. We walked everywhere. And slept really well for it!

  5. Wholly agree on the driving – it was hard enough just getting out of town once we’d rented the car!

    I know the on/off buses are in other cities, but my first experience was in Dublin and I loved the ease of it. We were in Dublin for one full day before we took off to see the rest of the country and the bus allowed us to hit all the high points while choosing to spend more or less times at the places that did or did not interest us. For instance, while the Gaol was cool, the tour was a bit long for us on our one day, so we ducked out and headed back to the art museum before getting back on the bus.

  6. Great tips, Corey. So practical and I agree with every one of them. I love Dublin, but it can be confusing and is certainly difficult to navigate by rental car. So many visitors just follow the tour books and guides, spending too much money on manufactured culture.

    One additional Don’t….. Don’t stand under the clock at Clearys for too long unless you’re looking to attract a lover. It’s bewitched.

    More anon.

  7. another alternative to the Book of Kells — spend some time in the National Museum, where among other things you will find the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch — and shoes said to belong to Saint Bridgid

    if you take Dublin Bus — the city bus service, bus marked 747 is most common airport to city center one — into town from the airport, your ticket will allow you unlimited Dublin Bus travel for the rest of the day.

  8. Some very excellant tips indeed! For my first and only visit (so far) to Dublin, I succeeded in following about half the tips without knowing about them first! We flew in to Shannon, which eliminated the panic driving in Dublin. We did however take a cab from Dublin airport after dropping the rental off and as it is stated above, we got an excellant driver who clued us in on some great facts on our way to our hotel. We were not in Dublin for more than 2 nights, so it was a mad dash around the city to see what was on our priority list. Lol…I was expecting the ‘view’ from the Guinness Storehouse, but was certainly not disappointed at the product that awaited me at the top! The first night we got suckered into eating in Temple Bar…the second night we got a bit smarter! All my life I had waited to see the Book of Kells and unfortunately was extremely disappointed we got there just before closing time and it was not open at a very elaborate page..sigh..guess I’ll just have to go back again to see it! But as we ran through the rest of town, we did fit in some very wonderful sights. Time did not allow us to go shopping to another district other than Grafton Street and unfortunately we were even too tired to check out some pubs for trad music by evening! I guess what I’m trying to say here, is plan for more time in Dublin if you go, which is what I will do next time :)

  9. Georgia – I’ve been on the Ghost Bus twice and loved it. It was especially fun with my nephew who was 16 at the time (oh dear, he’s 21 new). If you return to Dublin Castle also try the cafe at the Chester Beatty Library around the corner… amazing Middle Eastern food.

    Nicole – I agree, Dublin is pretty easy once you get your bearings. Once you figure out where everything sits in relation to the river, that can help you keep your orientation.

    Mindie – If I had known that little tidbit about Cleary’s when I wrote this, I would have definitely finished the post with it. Love it!

    Kerry – Great tips as usual. Thanks!

    Deborah – Sounds like you saw a lot in a whirlwind tour of Dublin. Sounds like you have a great to-do list for next time :)

  10. I agree with all the don’ts but….
    We’ve had some fascinating conversations with cab drivers on the way to Dublin airport. My husband was fascinated to hear about one cab driver sneaking into golf courses as a child and his reviews of all the courses in the area.
    The Farmer’s market in Temple Bar is worth going to, as well as tasty.
    I found some of the shops off Grafton Street to be unique and worth a look, although I admit that I love the Kilkenny shops.

    However, I do agree with the don’t drive in Dublin. We got lost on the way to the airport to drop the car off and had a tour of Dublin I’m not sure I’d like to repeat. Finally flagged down a truck driver to ask for directions. He asked us how we ever got to where we were.

  11. This is all so superbly spot on !!!
    The number of times I echo all of these thing to clients, but the over-ruling influence seems to be some peer pressure. I get several clients tell me “I believe what you say is true, but my friends say I should ….. so I must get to these places to at least take pictures”
    However, some of your tips are also safety tips, and nothing to do with where to take pics.

    One other tip I add, is don’t spend your first days of your Ireland vacation in Dublin while tired and disorientated. Save Dublin to savour at the end of your vacation when you are in he Ireland vibe and used to the time change, currencyand oter things.

    Our main service is getting people out west to Co. Sligo for their first couple of days to settle in quietly, get into the Ireland vibe instantly and smoothly and then we take them onto their car or tour. Thanks for the plug for Knock airport, our local airport !!!

    The best taxi cab story I heard was some clients taking a cab to the airport at the end of their vacation and asking his advice for the best “traditional Irish music”. He insisted they bought Daniel O’Donnell, so they did, 5 cds :-) . Google him and listen to some audio and youtube of him .

  12. I worked in Dublin for a while, and sadly, I missed some of the tourist sites. I will always regret not legging it out for a tour bus ride or two. I will state that the Long Library is far more engaging than the two pages of the Book of Kells, and St. Kevin’s Bus to Glendalough from Dublin was one of the best investments I ever made of time and money.

    Definitely dodge the taxis if you have the initiative and time, as you meet friendly people at every step of the way and the trains are cheaper. I helped a lady haul her bags up the stairs at the Dart station and got some inside info on a small, local church ruin to add to my sketch book, and where to go to get the key to the gate.

    That being said, don’t think that the train is going to take you everywhere you want to go, or that it isn’t going to be an uphill climb when you get there. (I stayed in Killiney for a while.) Taxis are awesome when your feet are tired and the day is damp and chilly. And every taxi driver I’ve met has had some good info on local sites and pubs.

    My “don’t” for Dublin? Whatever you do, don’t stop for the weather. It is unlikely to get any better or any brighter. Bring rain gear and keep on going. The tea and biscuits taste better on a wet day anyway.

  13. Loving the comments… many of them sound worthy of their own post! Thanks!

  14. Being a native of Los Angeles, driving in Dublin, through the center of town even, wasn’t all that bad in comparison :) [does that make me a masochist?] Granted, I didn’t actually have to stop anywhere as my “destination” wasn’t where google/mapquest said it was (seems Irish addresses only sometimes refer to the county, and when street names are the same, well…) but I managed to get through “rush hour” in about two hours (sure glad it was an automatic, though…)

    BUT, that said, if you do fly in to Dublin and rent a car, MAKE SURE you pre-pay for the M1 “toll road” and simply drive around the city [presuming, of course, your actual first destination is NOT Dublin proper…] While driving “on the left” may be unusual for many, it turns out it’s not that difficult – the YELLOW line is STILL on the left side of the car, makes things easy for U.S. drivers :)

    If you actually are headed into town, there is a free bus service run by “paddywagon” bus tours (yeah, perhaps the cheesiest name ever…) runs every couple of hours, stops at 7 or 8 in the evening though. (I think they operate in conjunction with a hotel chain – I suspect they’ve been contracted to be the hotel’s “airport service shuttle”, and since there are usually extra empty seats aboard, well…)

  15. Yes, I agree don’t drive in Dublin.The street names change every block or two.And then the big thing is to find a sign with the name of the street.
    A tour of Croak Park is worthwhile and they have an excellent museum there for history buffs…particularly if you are into sports.
    A tour of the stadium and looking through the museum will take three hours of your time.

  16. Gotta chime in again…
    Don’t skim over the island just to hit the familiar places. Yes, I’m sure everyone you talked to has their favorite spots you ‘must’ see. Blarney, Moher, Cashel, which are very nice, but look a little closer. (Did you know that St. Valentine is buried in Dublin?) Have your friends been to Inisfallen, Dyseart O’Dea, Castle Salem or Beaghmore? Glencolumcille in Donegal? Have they stopped by the side of the road to see the Grange Stone Circle?

    Wouldn’t you rather tell your friends about awesome places that they haven’t been? I’ll confess I’m not much of a shopper, so I can’t tell you where to get the best woolens, but the view from the Avoca at Moll’s Gap in Killarney is awesome, and they have tea.

    Buy maps and do just a bit of research before you go, or get in tune with small, local tour services. The internet is full of stuff. And another, far more important “Don’t” is:

    DON’T ever say you are only going once.

  17. The comments about driving also reminded me

    DON’T look on street corners for street signs. We found them mounted on walls, on the ground, halfway down the road – it’s bad enough driving when you’re scared witless, but then you’ve got your head on a swivel trying to figure out which street is which.

    I went about 5 years ago – do GPS’ help with this now?

  18. Don’t pay peak season rates for city centre hotels, when you can stay in a gorgeous, clean & comfortable, en suite room at Trinity College for much less (during the summer holidays).

  19. I have an idea……….just don’t go to Dublin………….

  20. I enjoyed visiting The Brazen Head, an old dublin hotel with some charm. But don’t go there at peak times it gets full as a catholic school, or as we say in Oz, full as a plumber’s ute.

  21. I must say I did almost everything right… I for sure did not rent a car.. I’d be the crazy American that would halt traffic. I did a great Musical pub crawl on the suggestion of a couple I meet at Trinity College while checking out the Book of Kells. I tell ya I was more impressed by the LONG HALL :)
    I did fly into Dublin BUT I took a Shuttle to my B&B and from there I bought a 5 day rambler ticket & took the bus/coach everywhere. I also did the Hop On Hop Off bus.. If it is your 1st time in Dublin I highly recommend the HOP ON HOP OFF..26 points of interest, very cool. Grafton St did not impress me & neither did Temple Bar.

  22. A fun out of the city drive would be a tour around the Slieve Bloom Mountains…enjoyable and not crowded…many fine place to eat see history and drive at your leisure…pure pleasure~~!!

  23. Thank you for all these great tips!! I will remember them when I visit Ireland, one day! :D

  24. Dont call any Irish person “British”. The most polite response might be a few less than polite words.

    And hey!! Fly to Dublin Airport!! If you wanna spend 4 or 5 hours getting a bus from Shannon (not including the wiaitng around for the bus) to Dublin, knock yourself out!!

    And yeh, Temple Bar!! over priced!! Oven O’Neills which is five minutes walk outsiude Temple bar, is far better!

  25. It’s been a decade since I visited Dublin and I agree with your advice. My big mistake was spending too much time in Dublin and not enough in the more rural areas. Once you’ve seen the required landmarks, etc., then get on a train and head out to Galway…and DO rent a car and start heading for the country.

    Since I have designed and edited Maureen O’Hara’s official website for the last 17 years, my mission in Ireland was coached by “herself.” It doesn’t get much better than that.

    Now that Ms. O’Hara has retired and living in the village of Glengarriff..there is much happening there now as they have begun publicity and fund raising for a proposed museum and film school in her honor. So…at certain times of the year the average tourist can indeed meet Ms. O’Hara when she appears at her film festival in the month of June…and other special events in the Fall. She celebrates her 91st birthday this August 17th.

    Checkout her official website on Face Book or Maureen O’Hara Magazine on line. Lots of recent pics and things happening.

  26. I agree with everything on this list except the bit about not flying into Dublin airport. Dublin airport is quite a nice airport – kinda small for a capital city airport, but we’re a small country. It’s well laid out and easy to find your way around. I’ve been using it regularly for years and years and I have never ever regretted my decision to use it.

  27. What’s wrong with Dublin Airport? It’s easy to rent a car there and it’s easy to get on the motorway and get the heck out of Dodge, if that’s what you’re aiming for. Don’t diss the Dublin Airport. There is easy access into town with bus service; in fact, there is a bus called the Airlink 747 that goes right to the centre of town.

    However, I do agree you should ALWAYS obey the traffic lights and crossing signals. Bus drivers will make a point to get as close to you as they can when they catch you jay-walking. I’m talking about centimetres. Do not do anything that will slow down a Dublin bus because one of two things will happen, guaranteed: A) You will get an involuntary nose job from a Volvo B9TL, or B) an Eastern European driver named Crazy Ivan teach you some new swear words you’ll never forget.

  28. Make a list before your get to Dublin. Is it history you are after? Well, you could begin with bus trip to Tara (Kings of Ireland ceremonial ground) and Newgrange Negolithic tombs/burial sites. Back in Dublin, National Museum of Ireland for bog bodies. Kilmainham jail for 1916 and War of Independence.

  29. This is a terrible review of Dublin. There is some truth to pieces of it as in Don’t drive in Dublin. I think this site is condescending to people who they think don’t have the cop on to even cross the road!
    Dublin Airport is awesome! Really nice and easy to get into town from! Temple bar might be expensive but it’s a great place with a great buzz :)
    Dublin is an amazing place and I really hope this appalling untruthful review doesn’t change people’s minds about it

  30. hi
    nice of you giving local tips to tourists. very original thinking and helpfull.never so something like that befor.
    keep doing good .
    good luck
    beni

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