A Backpacker’s Guide to Dublin
Dublin is the obvious landing point for most tourists planning on visiting the Emerald Isle. In fact, for many people, Dublin is the only Irish city they will visit. As such, it’s understandable why the streets are so packed with people of such a wide demographic. One could easily become frustrated with the rapid pace of Dublin, but still, it works.
In many ways Dublin is like a big city squished into a village, or vice versa. Everything downtown is within a short walking distance and nothing really seems all too far away. Modern buildings are backed by medieval churches and castles, for ever man, woman and child there is a pub, and there are even some quiet parks where one can take a breathe of calming fresh air.
While Dublin might not be the quaint Irish town that you imagine it has all the makings of a great travel destination and it shouldn’t be missed.
Days Needed: 3-5
Budget: 40 Euros
Things to do in Dublin
For backpackers, one of the best things about Dublin is that going to the attractions isn’t going to cost you an arm and a leg, or at least is doesn’t have to. The national museums are all free which is a bonus. However, many of the churches will charge you a “donation fee” to enter, which I’ve never really understood. If I was to recommend one thing on your visit though, get out of the city at least one of the days.
If you don’t feel like walking too much and have limited time in the city you can get a 24 hour pass on the Dublin Hop on Hop off bus system for about 15 Euros.
- Castles: The Dublin Castle is worth a visit, but if you’ve already seen a bunch of European castles it’s not a big deal to skip it. It’s smallish, and stuffed in the middle of the city. It will also cost you about 5 Euros to go inside.
- Museums: Since the national museums are free I stuck to them with one exception. I went into the Writer’s Museum which cost me about 8 Euros. Of the free museums you’ll want to check out the Museum of Archeology which is fantastic. I also really enjoyed the National Gallery.
- Trinity College: Trinity College has an absolutely georgeous campus which on it’s own is worth a stroll. People are further drawn to the grounds because of a really old book: the Book of Kells. Personally, I could have gone without paying the 9 Euro fee to enter, but then again looking at books I’m not even allowed to read isn’t exactly my style.
- Churches: Again, you’ll have to pay to get into the main churches which upsets me a little bit. As such, I refused to enter any. However, I did take some photos of a couple and it seems as though the Christ Church Cathedral and Saint Patrick’s Church are worth visiting.
- Parks: I’m a big fan of parks. I generally head to a city park for a half hour each day just to sit and people watch and get myself grounded. In Dublin, I needed the parks as I felt rushed everywhere I went. Stephen’s Green is a really nice park, but it is really busy as well. Merrion Square is quieter and more relaxed.
- Guinness Storehouse: This is the top attraction in Dublin, and although the 15 Euro entry seems steep I’m sure people would still line up outside the doors if they charged 30. Personally, I thought the storehouse could have been more “hands on”. Most of the exhibits are videos of the brewing process, I’d like to see the brewing process in person. However, the 7 story museum is a must see in Dublin, and you are rewarded by the best view of Dublin and a pint of the good stuff from the top.
- Out of Town: I made my way to Howth for a day hiking the cliffs of Ireland and it may have been my favourite day. It’s only a 20 minute train ride away and the hikes available are great. There are also some decent pubs in town. I was also recommended a visit to Dun Laoghaire for some waterfront pier walks which is about 40minutes in the opposite direction of Howth, but I didn’t have the chance to get out there.
How to Eat on the Cheap in Dublin
I could easily list off a dozen restaurants here, but in a city with this many restaurants it is a little bit silly. Instead, I’m going to give some advice on how to save some money eating here, as the prices are sky high.
- Don’t Eat in Temple Bar: Dublin is already expensive, if you eat in Temple Bar you’re likely going to add 20-25% to your meal costs. Find somewhere outside o this zone to eat dinner.
- Go for the Early Bird Specials: Just about every restaurant offers a deal on a set menu between 6 and 8pm. Usually you can get a 2 or 3 course meal for between 8-12 Euros.
- Eat Pub Fare: Sure you might end up spending more on Guinness, but many of the pubs in Dublin offer pub fare for a decent 6-8 Euros.
- Stay at Kinlay House Hostel: At the hostel there are included meals 4 days a week which can significantly cut your costs!
Where to Stay in Dublin
I stayed at two different hostels while I was in Dublin, both of which I have reviews for coming up later this week.
- The Kinlay House was a smaller hostel that had a bit of a community feel to it. They have free dinner 4 nights a week which is a huge draw. They also have free wifi, loads of computers and a fantastic kitchen.
- The Avalon House is a massive hostel which I enjoyed but is maybe a different style hostel then the one I prefer. Again there is wifi and a few computers, breakfast is included and there are a lot of activities available organized through the hostel
- Check out my reviews of Kinlay House and Avalon House.
- Check out all the Dublin Hostel properties here.
Getting Out of Town
The main train station in town is Connolly Station, and the bus station just a block away from there. From here you can pretty much get anywhere overland. Unless you’re around during the busiest time of year there is no real need to book in advance. When it comes down to bus vs train, you’ll find the trains faster and more comfortable, but also more expensive. Buses leave every hour on the hour for Belfast and costs 15 Euros. The train costs 21.50 one way or 38 Euros round-trip. You can also get to Cork and other Irish destinations quite easily from Connolly station.
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