Dublin insider tips

Dublin is preceived as one of Europe's most expensive cities for a weekend break, but a lot has changed. Prices have fallen dramatically and value has never been better. Plan your trip around one of Dublin's countless free festivals or events, or if it's peace and quiet you're after, or you don't like crowds, avoid major festivals, sporting events and holidays, such as St Patrick's Day on March 17, as Dublin is small so fills up quickly. Read more on my When to go to Dublin page.

Eating and drinking

  • Love coffee? Butlers coffee shops (www.butlerschocolates.com) offer excellent coffee (even flat whites for Kiwis!) plus a free handmade chocolate of your choice.You're also guaranteed great coffee, and tasty bites, in Bewley's (78/79 Grafton Street, Dublin 2, +353 (1) 672 7720, bewleys.com), the Bald Barista coffee shops (www.thebaldbarista.com) and Fixx Coffee House (Dawson St, Dublin 2,  +353 (1) 6753947, www.fixxcoffeehouse.ie).
  • Check out Dine in Dublin - Restaurant Week in March and October when 50 top restaurants will offer special deals of 25 euros or 30 euros per person for three-course dinner menus. This is the best value you'll find all year in Dublin. Check out www.dineindublin.ie and read more on my When to go to Dublin page.
  • The most expensive restaurants are found around the Grafton Street shopping area and Temple Bar - this is more to do with location than quality in most cases. Check out my recommended Dublin Cafés and Restaurants to find the best value for money in the city centre. 
  • For a cheap lunch, head to a market, especially the Temple Bar Food Market every Saturday in Meeting House Square (10am-4.30pm) where you'll find plenty of tasty and organic treats and lots of leafy fresh fruit and vegetables, or the Point Village market (Sunday). The Coco markets take place in the seaside towns of Dalkey (Fridays), Dun Laoghaire and Howth (Sundays) and Marlay Park (Saturdays). 
  • Affordable and delicious lunches can be found in one of the quirky cafés inside Georges Street Arcade.
  • Vegetarians, head to Cornucopia (19 Wicklow St, Dublin 2, +353 (1) 6777583, www.cornucopia.ie) for great veggie and coelia coptions in their new premises.
  • Early-bird deals offer the best value if dining before 7pm.
  • The George Bernard Shaw pub (33 Synge Street Dublin 8, Co. Dublin, +353 (1) 4750854) offers pizza and a pint/cocktail for only 10 euros before 9pm
  • For a gourmet picnic, hit the deli in Fallon & Byrne (17 Exchequer St, Dublin 2, +353 (1) 4721010) for leisurely indulgence in one of Dublin's green spaces.

Getting around

  • Families can get around Dublin city on the Hop on Hop off Bus for only 25 euros for two days' travel.
  • The Ecocab (www.ecocabs.ie) is a super green and totally free way to get around Dublin city centre from April-December, between 10am and 7pm, or take advantage of the Dublin bike scheme and get some fresh air. Read more on my How to get around Dublin page.
  • Only rent a car if you’re planning to travel outside Dublin city. Excessive car parking fees in the city centre will break your budget and some five-star hotels charge overnight parking fees in excess of 20 euros. Using the public transport system and getting around on your own steam will save you heaps.
  • Don’t forget that Dublin is a coastal city and a DART (suburban rail) journey will carry you along Dublin’s scenic coastline to beautiful beach towns and villages just half an hour away. Pick up a one-day rail ticket for as little as 7 euros at any DART station and hop on and off as at towns such as Howth (North) for walking tracks, boutiques and seafood restaurants, as you'll also find in pretty coastal villages of Dalkey, Killiney, Dun Laoghaire and Malahide.

Sights and attractions

  • A Dublin Pass is well worth purchasing if you're planning to pack in the major tourist attractions in a short time frame. Buy a pass for one day (35 euros) or six days (95 euros, cheaper for kids) and this gives you free or discounted entry to more than 30 attractions as well as deals in retail, theatre, dining and tours, plus a free one-way Aircoach transfer from the airport. Log on to www.dublinpass.ie to find out more. This is money well spent if it's your first trip to Dublin.
  • Log on here http://dublinculturetrail.ie/ to take a virtual tour of Dublin's museums, galleries, historic buildings and cultural centres, and enjoy interviews with the artists and people involved, and you can also download an iphone application so you can easily find each cultural centre when in Dublin.
  • National Museums and Galleries in Dublin are free but also closed on Mondays. Don't miss The National Gallery of Ireland - home to 2,500 paintings and 10,000 works.
  • On the first Thursday of each month, 11 participating galleries and spaces host photography, art and cultural events, from 6-8pm throughout Temple Bar, Stoneybatter and Dublin 1. Check out www.dublin.lecool.com for details, and for information on new walking tours of Dublin , two hours for 15euro
  • Dublin's best known park is St Stephen’s Green at the top of Grafton Street, a popular weekend hangout. My favourite green space is The Iveagh Gardens behind the National Concert Hall off Harcourt Street. These beautifully landscaped gardens with a maze and water feature are a romantic hideaway!
  • Phoenix Park is ideal for families as parents and kids can rent a bike for 5 euros and cycle safely along clearly marked cycle lanes all over the park.
  • iPhone users can download an iWalk application at www.visitdublin.com for free. Be your own tour guide using downloadable history podcasts and maps.
  • For a pleasant stroll, find the canal and follow it in either direction, between Dublin's Georgian and Victorian buildings, admiring the 'leafy-with-love banks and the green waters of the canal' described by Irish poet Patrick Kavanagh, a statue of whom you'll pass between Baggot and Leeson Street canal bridges. 

Other useful tips 

  • To find out about live music, sporting events, concerts, restaurant deals, bars and Dublin goings on, pick up Hot Press or Dubliner magazines - both are excellent, or the weekend magazines of either The Irish Times or The Irish Independent newspapers contain up-to-date Dublin news.
  • Avoid the crowds at the LightHouse Cinema (Market, 7 Smithfield, Dublin, +353 (1) 8797601 www.lighthousecinema.ie) a cinema that champions independent and foreign films, in a white gallery space with a bar/café for a relaxing drink.
    A funky open-air art exhibition (www.merrionart.com) takes place around Merrion Square every Sunday in summer. Afterwards head to the Queen of Tarts (4 Cork Hill, Dublin 2, +353 (1) 6707499, www.queenoftarts.ie) for delicious coffee and cake.
  • Live music lovers, you have met your maker in Dublin where traditional Irish music sessions, or ‘trad’ sessions, spring up in pubs all over the city every night, often around Temple Bar, Dublin’s cultural quarter, but this is the most overpriced corner of Dublin so be sure to explore other areas too.
  • Be prepared for unpredictable weather! Our winters are usually mild (however recent years have thrown up -10C temperatures), but rain is likely all year round, even in summer (that’s why our rolling hills are SO green you see). Bring a rain coat to be safe so you’re not caught out in a Dublin ‘shower’.
  • Explore beyond Dublin city if you have a day to spare – Wicklow Mountains and Glendalough Monastery are an awesome day trip from the city centre.
  • Nightlife in Dublin is at its liveliest Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights when bars and clubs are open late (the latest being 3.30am or 4am, with a couple of exceptions). Other nights are busier for students, when bars and clubs offer student discounts, but with earlier closing times. Sunday is the quietest day/night.