Sunday, 20 March 2016

Travel | Dublin, Ireland

If you've been reading my blog for a while then you would know that at the moment I am on a gap year with plans to travel. I have already been to Spain so far with friends and on February the 10th my friend Antonia and I went to Dublin for 3 days. Neither of us had been to Dublin or Ireland. We only booked it a month previous and just thought, why the hell not? 

To give you a bit of context, Dublin is the capital of the Republic of Ireland and is not in the UK. Down the middle the River Liffey lies with either side being the North side and South side. 

Dublin 72 Hour Freedom Pass

We found that the best way to get around Dublin was to buy the Freedom Pass on Expedia for £25.50. The Freedom Pass lasts for 3 days which is how long we were there for. With the ticket you get to ride the green hop-on hop-off open top bus tour as much as you want as well as being able to use the public buses to your hearts content. It also includes a bus to and from the airport, a free ticket to the Little Museum of Dublin, a guidebook, a city map and vouchers to other attractions and restaurants. This seemed the cheapest and easiest way to get around the city without the risk of getting lost or confused. We didn't use any public buses but we relied entirely on the tour bus as it ensured we could get directly to all of Dublin's attractions and then back to our hotel. 

As soon as you get to the airport you can collect your pass and guidebook and someone gives you the low down on how it works and what they recommend to go see in Dublin. Then, there was a bus already waiting to take us to the city centre. The pass is so easy because all you have to do is scan it on a chip-reading machine and away you go! The buses always came regularly, I believe it was every 10/15 minutes and they really helped you to get where you wanted to go with ease. The best part was that every bus driver does their own live tour where they give their own take on the city with all kinds of facts and jokes. You get to learn so much about the city and get to see it all clearly at the top of the bus where there is only a roof on the first quarter of the bus. The whole tour lasts just just over an hour. I do recommend actually sitting throughout the whole tour and not getting off so you can see how the bus driver describes the city and its history in their own unique way. You also get to see so many beautiful buildings. If you want to be a real tourist then I really recommend getting this pass so you can use the sightseeing tour bus. 

Tourist Attractions

There are plenty of things to do in Dublin. Dublin has such a rich history which you will hear about repeatedly at a lot of the attractions so if you are interested in history and the Easter Rising then you will like this. Dublin is packed full of statues in memory of various icons in their history and you'll find roads, monuments and houses all dedicated to various figures. James Joyce is a name that pops up a lot!

Before we went to Dublin we knew we wanted to visit the famous Guinness Storehouse which the bus stops directly outside of. Guinness is a beer that Ireland pride themselves on and all the locals will talk about it and drink it. The Guinness Storehouse is amazing because you get to see how it is made, the history behind it and get a complimentary pint for yourself. The building is even in the shape of a pint of Guinness! We bought our ticket in advance on Expedia for £13.91 which I do recommend as it is the cheapest way to buy it and it also means you can skip the line. There are multiple levels. You enter on -1 and then you go to the ground floor for an introduction to Guinness and the four ingredients in it. Then you go to 1 where you learn about the brewing process and how casks are made and the methods of transport used over the years to transport it around the globe. Level 2 is the taste experience where you learn how to fully appreciate a pint of Guinness. Level 3 then is where you see all the advertisements they have used throughout the years whether on TV or on paper. You can even go into a photo booth where you become apart of an advertisement! Then there is level 4 which is my favourite; the home of the Guinness Academy. Here you are taught in groups how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness in simple steps and then you get to try it yourself. After you've completed the lesson you get a certificate and even get to drink the pint you poured. I've never poured a pint before so this was really fun! With Guinness you have to pour it at an angle to a specific height and then leave it to sit for a while before topping it up again. The perfect pint keeps its white frothy head the whole way through. We didn't bother with the next level but the next level is a restaurant where you get to experience traditional Irish food with Guinness. But the main event is the top floor where the Gravity Bar is. Here you can drink your Guinness with a 360 degree view of Dublin and you can get giddy by sitting on comfy sits right 
against the windows. Don't look down!

We also visited Kilmainham Gaol which is an old prison in Dublin. It is a mix of a prison of very old design, to the newer form of prison where the prison cells are circled around the middle so the guards can see all. You get taken on a tour through the prison by a guide who tells you so much about the prison and the people who were in it. It is so creepy when you get to look into the old cells which are dark, cold and eery. At one point you get to stand exactly where political prisoners had been executed by firing squad and stand in the room where the executioner measures the prisoner up ready to be hanged. Additionally there's a museum attached where you get to read old artefacts and even read a letter a prisoner had written to his mother before he was executed which is a pretty heartbreaking read. I strongly recommend visiting and you will leave feeling emotional.

Our freedom pass allowed us into the Little Museum of Dublin so we took a trip there. On the outside it looks like a normal old Georgian house in a street of other houses, but on the inside it looks so grand. On the bottom floor you can see/view the Easter Rising in comic strip form along the walls which helps if you find reading texts boring and we also got to see about the people who were executed at Kilmainham Gaol which we were at previously. Upstairs you then get to see all kinds of history in relation to Dublin, whether its to do with the war, women's rights, newspapers, fashion or the famous band, U2. It is all, or mostly, donated by those who live in Dublin so it feels very homely and community driven. This is a nice short little visit if you've got some time to spare!

Another attraction worth visiting is the National Wax Museum Dublin which, as the name suggests, is a museum of wax figures. There are various rooms and levels which teach you about figures of Dublin's past, Irish athletes and other notable Irish public figures. There are also plenty of singers, film stars and animated figures such as LaLa from the TellyTubbies and The Simpsons! One of the funniest parts is that there is a recording studio which drums and a keyboard. You can select a song and you are filmed in the music video singing and playing along. We did have people walk in on us screaming the words to a High School Musical song! Additionally there is a horror area with a few jump scares. You can take a photo with Freddy Krueger, watch Hannibal Lecter try to escape his prison and see casual human skins hanging from the ceiling. Not real of course!

Our last stop on our trip was to Dublin Castle. A wander around the grounds and going inside the castle is lovely, taking in all the beautiful furniture and d├ęcor. There is so much gold and luxury! It was nice to look around and see how royalty lived. They have lots many mirrors, even mirrors that you aren't even tall enough to see in! There is plenty of art and in one of the rooms there is art all over the ceiling. They have long benches in that room so I suggest lying down on them and taking a look at the ceiling. It doesn't take long to wander round overall so this could be a good one to do on your last day. 

These were the only attractions we managed to visit in our time there, but because the sightseeing bus takes you all around Dublin you get to see everything from the bus even if you can't be there. There are plenty more attractions we didn't physically go to such as Temple Bar, Phoenix Park (one of the largest city parks in Europe) and the famous Dublin Zoo, but we got to see them from the bus. You're spoilt for choice on what to do really.


Dublin seems lovely for shopping. We were really close to the shopping centre where they have plenty of fashion stores. I was particularly excited about the fact that Primark is called Penney's in Ireland so went there purely just to say I've been to Penney's! They also have the likes of Forever 21, MAC, Zara, H&M and New Look. I didn't buy any clothes but did go to the Inglot stand in the mall to buy some eyeshadow. There are stores that you will find in England and stores you will not so its a nice mix of both. Had I brought a suitcase with me on the trip I might have done a bit of shopping!

Eating Out and Pubs

Dublin is expensive, there's no denying that. You will need to make sure you have spending money if you plan on eating out and going out at night. There are pubs a plenty in Dublin so you won't be short on alcohol but you will be paying high prices. I paid 6 euros for a cider! As for eating out, we tried to go for cheaper places but there aren't many. Also, as vegetarians my friend and I didn't feel we had much choice in restaurants. We had to stick to Italian during our trip. Our favourite restaurant was The Italian Connection on Talbot Street. For breakfast, we found that it was cheaper to just go to Tesco and get pastries. We also stuck to Tesco for lunch and just got ourselves a meal deal. The breakfast at the hotel was 9 euro per day per person and had we eaten out for all our meals it would have been one expensive trip. My advice if you're on a budget is to buy what you can from the supermarket and only eat out on the night. TripAdvisor is your friend for finding what you need from a restaurant. Also, I weirdly noticed that in all the restaurants we visited they didn't offer much alcohol wise. They had wine and Guinness, maybe a beer on draught, and that was literally it. I usually go for a cider on a meal out but had to reluctantly stick to lemonade. 

Our Hotel

We stayed at the Beresford Hotel, situated on Store Street, which is close to O'Connell street, where we could catch the sightseeing bus. It was really hard to find and took us an hour and asking 2 people but we finally got there. It is a budget hotel which fit our needs. The staff were friendly and the rooms were basic. They seemed fairly clean but the walls are thin so you will hear the people above you/next to you in their rooms. The room was also annoyingly hot and we had to have the window open at night. It wasn't a luxury stay but if you're just going to be in and out of the hotel and only need somewhere to sleep, that's cheap and in walking distance of restaurants and bus stops then I would say this is right for you.

Overall we had a lovely (yet tiring!) trip to Dublin. It was a quick 3 day trip in the week but we fit a lot in and I was home in time for work the next morning. Admittedly I had my doubts because I read a lot of views online that Dublin was a rough area. I was originally planning to go alone but everyone I told had doubts due to hearing that it was rough. Despite this I experienced zero problems in Dublin and never felt unsafe. To be fair Dublin is a capital city and whenever you're in a big city you should always take care of your belongings and making sure you don't walk in rougher areas anyway. And anyway, contrary to this we met many lovely Dubliners who were very friendly and helpful! If you're wanting a budget friendly, last minute city break then I think you should really consider Dublin. I'm glad I visited and it was a great experience. The flight out there with RyanAir was only £9.99 too!

I'm sorry this was so long- I had so much to say! Nevertheless I hope this was interesting to read and that you would enjoy seeing more posts like this when I visit more places this year. There is so much more I could say and so much I have missed out but I'd be writing a long essay otherwise!

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