A weekend in Dublin: travel guide, attractions and things to do

Everything you need to know for a city break in Ireland’s capital

The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey at Temple Bar in Dublin
The Ha’penny Bridge over the River Liffey
(Image credit: ScenicIreland.com/Christopher Hill Photographic/Alamy)

1. Why you should visit Dublin

Ireland’s capital city Dublin has much to offer, whether for a quick weekend getaway, or a longer break. And with flights taking an hour or less from most UK airports, there’s little excuse not to take a trip.

“I love Dublin,” said the Nomadic Matt travel blog. It “isn’t the prettiest” city in the world – on a cloudy day it can feel “downright gloomy” – but there is so much literary and cultural history here “you can’t help but feel inspired as you explore”. It’s a lively city “brimming with traditional pubs, live music and dancing (so much Irish jigging), and a hearty, vibrant food scene”.

This is a “small capital with a huge reputation”, said Lonely Planet. And its “mix of heritage and hedonism” will not disappoint – all you have to do “is show up”.

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2. Top attractions: things to see and do

Enjoy a pint at the Gravity Bar inside the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, Ireland

Enjoy a pint at the Gravity Bar inside the Guinness Storehouse
(Image credit: Pascal Boegli/Alamy Stock Photo)

Guinness Storehouse

Dublin’s most-visited tourist attraction is the Guinness Storehouse, and with good reason. If you’re a fan of the “black stuff”, or even if you just like a museum with a good view, St. James’s Gate is the place to go. Still the main brewery for Guinness (three million pints are made there every day) the tour outlines the history of the makers. Finish at the Gravity Bar, a glass-sided round, top-floor space with views across the city and out to the coast and the Dublin mountains.

Jameson Distillery Bow St

It’s not just Guinness that has put Dublin on the drinking map, Irish whiskey brand Jameson also calls the city home. The Jameson Distillery Bow St offers tours, cocktail-making classes, premium whiskey tasting sessions and the chance to learn how to blend your own whiskey.

Dublin Castle

This “well-preserved” castle, which dates back to the early 13th century, is a “must-see” for anyone visiting Dublin, said Conde Nast Traveler. Tickets for guided tours are recommended, “especially for those eager to see the interior apartments and historic quarters”.

Museums and art galleries

The cultural pedigree of the Irish capital is “every bit the equal of larger cities across the world”, said TimeOut. And it is the museums that “showcase the iconic Irish soul”. Top museums to visit include EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum, the Irish Famine Museum (open 1 June to 30 September) at the Stephens Green Shopping Centre, and the National Leprechaun Museum, the place to head “if you’ve got the little ones in town”.

The National Gallery of Ireland is an impressive space across four wings, with a large collection of international pieces, including works by Picasso, Caravaggio and Vermeer, and of Irish art, including by John Lavery and Roderic O’Connor.

Go to the pub

Even in these times of “green juices and heart-monitoring apps”, the pub remains the “alpha and omega of social interaction” in Dublin, said Lonely Planet. A night out at the pub is one of the highlights of a visit, and with more than 1,000 of them spread about the city, “you’ll be spoilt for choice”.

3. Restaurants and bars: where to eat and drink

Patrick Guilbaud restaurant in Dublin has two Michelin stars

Patrick Guilbaud restaurant has two Michelin stars
(Image credit: Striking Images/Alamy Stock Photo)

Restaurants

The Dublin food scene has exploded in the past two decades. From fine dining to independent eateries, there is a wealth of options for the hungry traveller.

In the city there are two restaurants which hold two Michelin stars: Patrick Guilbaud (modern French) and Chapter One by Mickael Viljanen (modern cuisine). Also offering modern cuisine, Glovers Alley by Andy McFadden, Bastible, and Variety Jones all hold a single Michelin star. Four restaurants – Richmond (modern), Pichet (French), Uno Mas (Mediterranean), and Spitalfields (traditional) – have been awarded the Michelin Bib Gourmand.

A more casual option, but always bustling and busy, is Brother Hubbard, frequently lauded as one of the best cafes in the city. With a location on both the north and south sides of the river, they serve a mix of hearty plates such as Turkish eggs, pulled pork or dishes piled high with their delicious vibrant salads. Their desserts and cakes are also well worth a look-in, particularly the cinnamon scroll and frangipane cake.

Pubs and bars

Dublin’s “dynamic, diverse” nightlife doesn’t disappoint, said Neil Hegarty in The Telegraph. The Long Hall is “perfect for a quiet afternoon pint of Guinness” while Neary’s is “perhaps the most agreeable of Dublin’s old-time boozers”.

For some of the best drinks in the city, head to the Vintage Cocktail Club in Temple Bar. Hidden, speakeasy-style, behind an unmarked black door on Crown Alley, the club is based over three floors of a Georgian terrace. Trace cocktail history from the 1600s with punches and spiced, boozy teas, through to the Tiki craze of the 1930s with mai tais. From their signature specials menu, go for a weathered storm – poitin, raspberry syrup, plum bitters, dandelion and burdock, fresh raspberries and mint.

Coffee

If you’re looking for a pick-me-up between attractions, Dublin’s coffee scene is among the best. Take a stroll down Lower Grand Canal Street to 3FE, whose staff regularly come in the top tier of national and international barista championships. Other top spots to check out include Coffee Angel locations around the Grafton Street area, or Proper Order Coffee Company on Smithfield Square.

4. Hotels and accommodation: where to stay

The Merrion Hotel in Dublin

The Merrion Hotel in Dublin
(Image credit: Tim E White/Alamy Stock Photo)

The Merrion, opposite government buildings on Merrion Street, was the hotel of choice when the Obamas visited Ireland in 2011. Set in a beautiful traditional Georgian terrace, the five-star hotel boasts the two Michelin-starred restaurant Patrick Guilbaud, a private art collection which guests can tour, and a limestone swimming pool at the Tethra Spa.

According to the expert reviews on The Telegraph, The Merrion is one of six hotels in Dublin to get a 9/10 rating, along with The Dylan, The Fitzwilliam Hotel, InterContinental Dublin, The Shelbourne Dublin, and Stauntons on the Green.

An alternative option is The Marker, a boutique hotel in the city’s Docklands area, nestled between Silicon Valley European headquarter buildings and regenerated lofts. In an ostentatious, modern building with checkerboard-effect facade, The Marker offers boldly decorated rooms and suites, overlooking Grand Canal Dock. Guests can enjoy morning yoga on the roof with views out over the city and the River Liffey.

5. Transport: how to get there

Dublin Airport

Dublin Airport
(Image credit: Bernard Golden/Alamy Stock Photo)

Flights

Dublin Airport is the international airport serving the city. Located 10km north of the centre, you can travel between the airport and city via bus and taxis. There are direct flights to Dublin from multiple airports in the UK.

Cruises and ferries

As a city by the sea, Dublin is a popular call for passengers on cruise ship itineraries. There are two ports: Dublin Port, which is located 2km from the city centre, and Dún Laoghaire Harbour, 12km south of the city. From the UK, you can take a ferry to Dublin from Liverpool in England, Holyhead in Wales, and Douglas on the Isle of Man.

6. What the locals say…

Baily Lighthouse at Howth

Baily Lighthouse at Howth
(Image credit: Mauritius Images GmbH/ Alamy Stock Photo)

Most visitors make for the Temple Bar district, with its “narrow cobbled streets and cluster of cultural attractions”, said Neil Hegarty in The Telegraph. But don’t miss the city’s “classical” Georgian squares and terraces, and its “regenerating” docklands.

If you’re “feeling energetic” pedal out to the Howth peninsula, said Colin O’Brien in The Guardian. Jutting out into the Irish Sea, the fishing village of Howth is “well worth a visit” and a city bike will take you there in around 40 minutes “on a dedicated bike path that runs out along the edge of the bay”.

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