Dublin is one of my favorite cities in Europe, if not the world. It’s brash and boisterous without being obnoxious, and the Irish way of life is all about fun. Before you arrive you must grasp the concept of the “craic”. No I’m talking about illegal substances, I’m talking about great conversation, a bit of singing, maybe some dancing and a whole of good times. The craic is all about being with friends and sharing a few laughs, and in Dublin you don’t have to look far to find it. With over 1,000 pubs in the city, I think you know where to start the search!
The Irish have a fantastic sense of humor and in particular, Dubliners are huge fans of irony and sarcasm. As a visitor to the city, prepare to have “the mickey taken” at every opportunity and don’t believe a word they say. Many a gullible foreigner has fallen victim to outrageous tales of leprechauns and goblins, but don’t be too concerned, it is all in good fun and you will find the Irish to be very good natured.
However, the question still remains, what are the things to do in Dublin? I strongly suggest every first time visitor to the city gets themselves a ticket on the Hop on Hop off tour. This is a great way to get an orientation of the city, travel between the main attractions and discover what to do in Dublin. The live guides on the buses are also great entertainment and will give you a good introduction to Irish sarcasm. One of the attractions included on the route in Kilmainham Gaol which has played a large role in the interesting and turbulent history of Ireland. Understated and sombre as a jail should be, few people leave the premises emotional unaffected. To stand in the courtyard where the execution of leaders of the rebellions took place is a moving experience that gives an insight into Irish pride.
Other stops on the tour include Trinity College (where you can do a walking tour led by current students of the college for only a few Euros, and see the Book of Kells), Phoenix Park (home to Dublin Zoo) and the Old Jameson Distillery, and yes, one of the stops is the Guinness Storehouse - the most visited attraction in Dublin.
Another great way to become acquainted with the craic and the Guinness (they often go hand in hand!) is the Traditional Irish Musical Pub Crawl. Starting at the popular Oliver St John Gogarty pub in Temple Bar, your pub crawl is led by two professional musicians who will give you an introduction to traditional Irish music. I can’t recommend this tour enough, it really is great fun.
There are also some great day trips from Dublin. Ireland has a great rail system and due to the small size of the country, most major attractions outside of Dublin are easily accessible. Without the responsibility of driving, you are free to enjoy the Irish pubs and get a taste for Guinness along the way.
One of the most popular trips is to the South West of the country heading for County Cork and County Kerry. “THE” thing to do in Cork is to kiss the Blarney Stone! If you simply can’t leave Ireland without having done this, take a look at the Rail Tour to Cork, Blarney Castle and The Queenstown Story. In Kerry, head out to the coast for a drive along the scenic Ring of Kerry. Rolling green fields meet the rigged black rocks tumbling into the Atlantic Ocean on a spectacular coastal drive.
If you have a little extra time, why not combine both on an Overnight Rail Tour to Cork, Blarney Castle and Ring of Kerry. Spending a night in Killarney, there is plenty of craic to be found!
For something a little out of the ordinary, there is a great Rail Tour and Scenic Flight to the Aran Islands where you can see some of the ancient sites of Ireland including Dun Aengus, as well as get a taste for traditional Irish culture as parts of the Aran Islands still only speak Gaelic.
My favorite place to visit is on the West Coast in County Clare - The Cliffs of Moher. This is one of the most breathtaking areas of Ireland where the sheer cliffs dramatically drop to the Atlantic Ocean in amazing symmetry. Check out the Rail Tour to Cliffs of Moher, Burren and Galway Bay for a great day on the west coast.
I also love Newgrange, an ancient site which is older than Stonehenge and as mysterious as the Pyramids of Giza. It’s purpose is thought to be similar to that of the pyramids, as a burial chamber, but its construction is still a mystery.
Whatever your plans, however long you are there, you will never be bored in Dublin. If you don’t know where to start, find a friendly face and ask … so, what’s the craic?