We sample the cream of Ireland at the Guinness Factory's 250th birthday and give the Irish capital the ultimate student road test
If you're already a fan of a pint Guinness in your local pub then prepare to treat your taste buds to a completely new sensation in the Irish capital. If you thought you knew a good pint of Guinness, it's time to think again and road test a proper pint of Ireland's best. But Dublin has much more to offer than just glugging pints of the black stuff, as I discovered when myself and a friend flew out for three fun-filled days.
Dublin by day & those important money saving tips
Firstly, if you box clever, the flights to Dublin are cheap. Flying with RyanAir is probably the best option but beware they're notoriously good at adding hidden charges to your air fare, so make sure you look that up before you book anything. If you're willing to be flexible with your dates you should be able to get a good deal. We flew from Manchester to Dublin and back for £10 each.
Money matters and we had a great time in Dublin on a student budget without a problem. One simple tip is to use buses. Use buses all the time and to get to wherever you want go. They're really cheap and you'd be hard pushed to find one that won't take you to where you want to go. Ok, so the driver of the bus we got on was a cranky old geezer but he still got us where we wanted to go! Taxis are too expensive and as a tourist you always run the risk of being taken for a scenic ride 'the long way round' to get to your destination.
During the day Dublin is, like all cities, busy, and the bars are open all day with plenty of signs and adverts plugging the bands they’ll be sporting after dark. The middle of the city is busy and always in a hurry, there’s a wide array of shops, but with the € still outscoring the £ so heavily, it is rather expensive - window shopping was as far as it went for us frugal students.
We took a walk on our first day using the very handy city map, which I’d highly recommend if you’re looking to see the best Dublin has to offer – the maps will be available at your hotel/hostel or the local tourism office. Another money saving tip coming up too - stay in a hostel! There seems to be a bit of snobbery surrounding hostels, but trust me, the hostel we stayed in - Camden Place Hostel, Dublin - was absolutely fantastic. The rooms were clean, the beds were more comfortable than some hotel beds I’ve had the displeasure of sleeping, or at least trying to sleep in, and the owners were lovely people - and on top of that it was cracking value too. We paid €6 a night each, which is cheaper than a pint of Guinness in most of the pubs, and a heck of a lot cheaper than the hotels! We slept in a room with a few people we hadn’t met before, but it’s not as scary as it sounds and we met some really nice fellow travellers who were out to enjoy Dublin as much as we were!
On our trek around the city we first crossed the O’Connell Bridge onto the famous O’Connell Street, which is, according to the tourism office ‘one of the widest streets in Europe’. Soaked in history and awash with statues and monuments, O’Connell Street is perfect for a stroll and taking in the Dublin atmosphere, especially on the first day. The statues, monuments and particularly the ‘spire of Dublin’ are certainly impressive to observe as you wander down O’Connell Street. The street is so vast you’ll notice it all for yourself as you take a stroll, or alternatively you can take a bus right down.
The Guinness factory
Naturally, this place was at the centre of our plans, so immediately after we’d made ourselves familiar with the city we set off through the famous St James gates to celebrate 250 years of Guinness (A quick tip if you’re a university student like me, take your student ID card with you to the factory as you get a 10 per cent discount off the entry fee, which is usually €11). The factory has seven floors, all with different themes about all things Guinness. Distillery waterfalls, ton piles of barley and tasting...yes tasting! And don’t forget to keep your ticket safe because at the end of the tour you can exchange it for the fine reward of a complimentary, perfectly brewed pint from right there in the factory you’ve just toured. The complimentary pint is served in the Gravity Bar at the very top of the pint glass shaped factory, you sit in the head of the pint so to speak and enjoy a most stunning 360 degree view of Dublin.
Check out Dublin by the night
By the night Dublin is a colourful, exciting place to be. The cobbled streets and strong ale transport you back in time, and jovial folk aplenty revel in the traditional music. The bars, just like the streets, are rich in history. Pictures of Bono and other great Irish folk take pride of place on the interior walls of the snug bars. Dublin is proud of its identity and Dublin has got real class. There something ever so personal about the bars and the people within, the music unites everyone in foot tapping and revelry, the ales are strong, creamy and enjoyable and there’s a real appreciation for the talent of the great musicians. We checked out the Temple Bar area by night and bounced from bar to bar with the music the previous still ringing in our ears. For cheap ale (by Dublin's standards) we very much enjoyed and would recommend The Oliver St John Gogarty Pub and O'Neills Bar. We also saw a great band upstairs in Temple Bar itself. and ale was reasonably priced in there too You just take it as it comes, enjoying the seemingly endless number of bars and watering holes on offer, but be sure to take a quick peek at the price list outside before you go diving in and end up out of pocket after your first round. But the music really is highlight and you find some wonderful characters playing some wonderful Irish music.
Dublin is simply awash with culture. Museums, long walks, statues and monuments all add to the city's great attraction. It’s one of those trips you talk about for weeks and months afterwards, I’d definitely recommend a three or four day break for anyone, whatever your travel desires - Dublin can cater for it. For us, it was the ultimate student trip, we flew cheap, stayed in a cheap but fantastic hostel, and the trips were very reasonably priced and a great experience!