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Dublin

Loved it.

I reported on where we stayed and ate in the hotel and restaurant review forum. In summary: we had a 2-bedroom apartment at Trinity College. Excellent choice: clean, quite, central, and relatively cheap. We had some bad experiences with RS recommended restaurants, but one huge success: go to the Trocadero!

Here are a few more comments:

The Book of Kells is worth seeing, but the College does a bad job of managing crowds. Despite having advance tickets, we were shoved and crowded throughout the rather brief tour. Worth the money? Maybe. Best part is a visit to the Library--the Long Room. If you are a lover of books, it will make you drool. It will also remind younger visitors of the Hogwarts library. Get tickets online and way ahead of time.

If you want to visit the Kilmainham Gaol, get tickets in advance. No possibility even a few days ahead.

Temple Bar is, as RS writes, "Dublin's rowdiest neighborhood." Unless you are 25 and love being squeezed and shoved around while you drink too much, it's worth avoiding.

The Trinity College tour, on the other hand, is better than I expected. About an hour's worth of great stories from Trinity's smartest students. Great fun, easy walking. And who wouldn't want to see where Bram Stoker's dorm room was.

O'Connell Street reminded me of Brussels or the Ramblas in Barcelona: dirty, dangerous, crowded, awful. Filled with homeless people--why isn't Ireland doing a better job at that? Take a HOHO and see the statues and buildings from above, or skip it altogether.

Dublin Castle: Take the tour. You'll see things you can't see on your own, like the newly discovered Viking ruins under the castle.

Guiness Storehouse: Sort of like Temple Bar with manners. Very high tech venue in which to worship beer. Some very interesting information. Entry includes a lesson on pouring the perfect pint; do it. If you don't like heights, it's a scary place, with floating escalators that go up 6 floors and a high viewing platform at the top. The gift shop carries everything Guiness but feels like Macy's during a sale. To get there, take the HOHO.

Dublin Writers Museum: Only gets one triangle in RS's guide, but for people who love writers and books, it's a 3 triangle stop. Ireland probably produced more great writers per capita than any other country in the world (including ours). If you love Wilde, Joyce, or the Irish playwrights, it's a must see.

Abbey Theater: Still producing great Irish theater after a hundred years. Get tickets online and way ahead of time. Also check out the Smock Alley Theater; saw a great show there.

Sprinkle your speech with "fecking" and "shite" in every sentence and you'll pass as a local.

Posted by
1956 posts

Monty,
I enjoyed your trip report - we also enjoyed some of the same things 2 years ago you write about.

I concur with your comments about the Book of Kells, the crowds are unmanageable, in fact, the College really does nothing to manage them. We thoroughly enjoyed the Library, I loved the way it was organized.
Kilmainham Gaol was fascinating, we loved our tour guide. We bought our tickets before we left home.
Guinness Storehouse - fun and interesting history. Had a pint at the top in the 360 degree Gravity Bar. Great views. I agree with you about the gift shop, it does feel like a Macys sale.
Dublin Writer's Museum - we loved it! Agree, if you love books and writers, go! Lots of original material.
Abbey Theatre - saw a play, don't remember the name of it but it was marvelous being in such a historic place where WB Yeats breathed and created.
Glasnevin Cemetery - where many of Ireland's famous are buried.

We also went to the Passage Tombs of Grange which I wasn't that interested in.

Thanks for your report, it was lovely to relive some of my favorite moments from Dublin!

Posted by
290 posts

Thanks for the information. We're headed to Dublin in 6 weeks. I had a feeling that Temple Bar area wasn't a place that I wanted to visit. We're going to be there for a couple of days before we start our Rick Steves Best of Ireland tour. Is there anything else that you enjoyed? Are there any restaurants that you liked or didn't like? Thanks for your help.
Janet

Posted by
430 posts

The National Archaeological Museum is great. Guess we were lucky at Book of Kells as it was not overly crowded.

Posted by
285 posts

Thanks for taking time to write a trip report for Dublin...and including your impressions of the Temple Bar area and O'Connell Street. We're heading to Dublin in a couple of weeks to begin our Best of Ireland Tour. We're arriving a couple of days early and will look into a guided tour of Dublin Castle.
I'm listening to Irish songs in anticipation of spending time in pubs mainly for the music played there...even though I'm a non-beer drinker.
Can you recommend any pubs?

Posted by
14335 posts

I would also recommend the Literary Pub Crawl and Dublinia, a hands-on museum about the real Vikings (their helmets did not have horns) and with a combined ticket, you can cross the bridge and visit Christ Church Cathedral.

Carol - the pubs have lots more than beer, including cocktails and soft drinks. For something alcoholic, try the cider. The Brazen Head Pub is the oldest. Every pub I went into was interesting - explore them. You don't have to get a drink unless you decide you want to stay for a while. The neighborhood pubs are less crowded but they usually have music only one or two evenings a week, and often it is not trad.

Posted by
145 posts

My favorite things in Dublin were the tour of Trinity College, the Long Room (part of Book of Kells tour), the Writers Museum, and the Trocadero Restaurant. Also, a show at the Abbey Theatre was superb.

I suspect the pub experience is tied to one's age. I might have enjoyed the raucous energy in my 20s, but in my 70s, it was too much.

Posted by
285 posts

Chani, thanks for the tips on drinks in Pubs. I don't drink beer because I just don't like the smell and taste of it, but enjoy mixed drinks and/or soft drinks.
Monty: I guess you report has credibility with me because I too am in my 70s...and I KNOW my tastes and interests in the "nightlife" in Dublin is different from my kids and grandkids!

Posted by
18 posts

We ate at The Farm the first night of our RS Tour, it was very good. We ate twice at the Boxty, which is in the Temple Bar Area, the Irish Stew w/beer was very good. We walked through the Temple Bar area and just went to the Boxty. We also ate at Bloom Brasserie, it was pricey but being a birthday celebration we enjoyed it. The Hairy Lemon was a good pub. I usually look on Trip Advisor for the best restaurants in each city we visit. The restaurants on the tour were all good, the guide made recommendations for the nights when there was not a group dinner. The Italian restaurant he recommended in Galway found many from the tour having dinner on their own.

Be sure to go to the Irish Emigration Museum, ask for the RS discount. We took the train to Howth one day, a very scenic town. My husband races sailboats and there was a race that day, so it was fun to watch the participants. There is a nice cliff walk at the end of the harbor. Be sure to walk on Grafton Street, nice shops and street entertainers.

Posted by
145 posts

As of last week, The Farm had a big sign saying "closed until further notice."

Posted by
290 posts

Chani
I see that you recommend the Dublinia museum. Rick calls it "Fun and Kid-friendly" in his book. I was concerned about the substance of the museum. The Viking part of the museum sounds interesting. So, I might put it on my list of places to visit. Thanks for the tip.

Posted by
14335 posts

When I was there, the adults were having as much fun as the kids, if not more. There is a lot of serious information as well.

Posted by
1790 posts

I highly recommend watching the Irish Pub documentary (was on Netflix, not sure if it still is). Gives great insight into pub culture. Then visit the Palace Bar in Dublin which was on the documentary.
I disagree with OP about O’Connell street. A highlight of my time in Dublin, crossing the ha’penny bridge and going to the post office where the 1916 Easter uprising took place, the bullet holes are still in the columns of the post office.

Posted by
145 posts

I agree that O'Connell Street has some fascinating history. It's just that it has to be dug out from under the dirt and mess.

I was in Rome in 2000, just before all the millennial celebrations, and was stunned to see how beautiful a historic city could be if enough money was spent to clean it up. I wish Dublin would invest in some street cleaning and graffiti removal...

Posted by
233 posts

I'm sad to hear that Dublin is experiencing a lot of the problems that are currently plaguing Portland. When we were there in 2012 we were struck by the scarcity of panhandlers and homeless camps that were becoming prevalent in our home town. Given Dublin's size I guess that big-city issues were inevitable.
We, too, really enjoyed the Trinity College tour. Our guide was extremely knowledgeable and quite entertaining. I wish we had arranged to see a play at the Abbey--it never occurred to us and at the time I wasn't following this Forum so didn't get the benefit of others' experiences. Thanks for sharing yours!

Posted by
68 posts

I just returned from Dublin and stayed near O’Connell Bridge. I felt quite safe on O’Connell St. There are homeless in the area because they offer free meals at the GPO on north O’Connell. I asked a local guide about the homeless situation and it sounds as if they are managing it quite well. According to the guide they have about 10,000 homeless. They do not try to force them outside the city center, but actually provide hotel rooms at night for the approximately 8,500 that will accept it. The other 1,500 have drug problems and turn down a place to stay, but they are still provided basic necessities. I saw none of the problems I saw when I visited Portland - human feces in the street and bodies sleeping all over. Yes, there were a few in doorways around Merrion Square, but I never felt uncomfortable or threatened.

Posted by
10 posts

Appreciate this wonderful report Monty! We depart for DUB 20 september and will benefit from your report. Many Thanks.

Posted by
5641 posts

Was lucky to visit Dublin years ago before the Celtic Tiger infusion into the economy and before tRS influenced travel.

No lines for the Book of Kells. Nothing like how it’s laid out now and what I remember most of that day was walking up the stairs to the Long Room with my friends younger sister. We walked in, stopped and walked back out to wait. My friend who is an avid reader made her way up the stairs and we let her walk in first. She stopped, turned around and announced “ this is where I want to be buried.”
Still makes me smile.

Posted by
145 posts

A few responses:

  • Carol, I agree with Chani that The Brazen Head is fun. Most of the historic pubs are fun. The food is remarkably good (especially when compared to American bars). I just didn't like the crowds in Temple Bar. And it's a bit hard to find traditional music in a traditional setting (not in a Riverdance-type venue). It's weird to walk past an Irish pub and hear Neil Diamond...
  • The history of O'Connell Street is moving. Yes, the bullet holes in the post office are still there. I just find the crowds, the dirt, and the homeless situation depressing. I'd like to see Dublin cleaned up (and an international effort to help all the people living rough--it's just getting worse and worse, including in my hometown of San Francisco and my current home in Portland, Oregon.) But I had the same problem with Brussels.
  • Janet, the Trocadero (despite the name) is the best restaurant in Dublin. Great ambiance, great food, and superb service. See how many Irish actors you can name from the photos on the walls.
  • One last bit of Dublin advice: Don't fly Aer Lingus if you can avoid it. They overbooked our flight home (by 17 seats), said they could still put us on the plane but they had given away our (paid for) extra leg room, offered to pay us 600 Euros each for the error and get us leg room on a Virgin flight (which required we fly first back to London, and ended up having a 6-hour departure delay, and there were no seats with extra leg room). Then when we got home, we had a heck of a time cashing the checks because they were in Euros (my son's check took 6 weeks and $60 to clear; my bank wouldn't do it and I finally had to insist Aer Lingus re-issue mine in dollars, which took nearly 2 months and multiple emails to resolve). Not going to fly them ever again.

But I STILL loved Dublin. Go.

Posted by
3533 posts

The National Museum leads an unexpected double life. Partly it's the Collins Barracks, a venerable military establishment which contains much material on Ireland's fraught military history. But it's also the decorative arts museum. Taken together, the compound is a formidable example of sturdy military architecture. One point for trivia players: The army section mentions that, of the many “Irish” regiments in Commonwealth countries, only one is kilted, based in Canada. The museum helps make clear the problems of allegiance for “Irish” regiments in the British army.
https://www.museum.ie/Decorative-Arts-History/Visitor-Information

My favourite pub, far enough away from Temple Bar to be considered a “local”, is the Black Sheep. It features craft beers, some from Galway which is the craft centre of Ireland. Decent food, too.

http://galwaybaybrewery.com/blacksheep/

Posted by
440 posts

Dublin is a fantastic city full of great sites and things to do.

Posted by
681 posts

Sounds like a fabulous and busy trip. Glad you enjoyed your time in Dublin.

Posted by
1 posts

Completely disagree about O'Connell Street. I did not find it dirty, dangerous, or crowded, nor was it filled with homeless people -- didn't see a one.
Also, in reply to a few comments here: The Literary Pub Crawl is a joke. The actors are welcoming and well-meaning. BUT -- meeting at the Duke St. Pub is fine, and if you get there early, you can get a drink. Too much time spent there with a long scene from "Waiting for Godot." Yuck. Then a trek to Trinity College where we stood around for about 30 minutes listening to the talk. After sightseeing all day, I was not in the mood for standing for half an hour. Then another trek to a pub for a twenty-minute "break." In that time, you're supposed to find a seat in an incredibly crowded pub, maybe take a pee, order a drink, drink your drink, and then pay for your drink. 20 minutes??? Not going to happen. At that point, we left the so-called "pub" crawl. It could be done MUCH better. Waste of money.
Not mentioned here by Monty: The Chester Beatty Museum at Dublin Castle. Fascinating, award-winning, one of the best small museums I've ever been to. This is a DO NOT MISS, in our opinion.

Posted by
8 posts

Hi. I’m taking my 75 year old mother next summer. Do you recommend your apartment? If so, can you share details?

Posted by
145 posts

Allison,
I am 71, and it worked for me. We were up 2 flights of stairs with no elevator, but I suspect you could ask for a ground level or first floor apartment if your mother has trouble with stairs. The apartment itself was spare but clean and comfy and bright. It included 2 bedrooms, with a single bed, desk and chair, and large wardrobe in each room. The bedrooms also had tall, deep windows, looking out over Dublin (but they were double windows and if you closed both, the room was silent. The bathroom had a shower. The living space had a sofa and chair, a table with 2 chairs, and a small kitchen (stove, fridge, sink, cupboards, microwave, dishes, pans and flatware, and they left coffee, tea, sugar and milk for us). The two large windows in that room looked out over the tennis courts. The housekeeping staff came every weekday and quietly emptied trash, made beds, replaced towels, tidied the bathroom.

One of the really nice things about staying at Trinity is how safe it feels; the apartment has double locked doors (ground level and apartment), and the college itself is surrounded by a tall wall with only 3 entrances, 2 of which are closed at night and the third has a watchman. It couldn't be more central--as if Dublin was built around it--but I could walk on the lawns at night and not see a soul.

I didn't much like the "and breakfast" options (the oatmeal was expectedly good as were the scones, but the rest of the food was cafeteria quality. I recommend you don't pay for the full breakfast as part of your reservation; you can always walk to The Buttery and pay cash if you want.

They also have a little laundromat on campus and an ATM and a college store with postcards, stamps, candy bars, and Trinity College swag.

The best thing about the stay was the lovely college students who check you in, answer your questions, and do tours of the college. They are bright, friendly, easy-going, helpful. I loved my stay. (Be sure to ask someone to point out where Bram Stoker's dorm room was.)