How to explore Dublin’s best attractions and hidden gems

To have visited Ireland once is to become a friend for life. Not only is the island nation impossibly picturesque – marked by stunning coastlines, verdant hills and quaint villages that speak to another era – but it’s also home to some of the best-natured folks around.

Dublin enthusiasts enjoy hearing live tunes in cozy pubs, clinking pints amid the buzz at the Guinness Storehouse and wandering tranquil parks like St. Stephen’s Green.

Liam Campbell, Manager International Publicity with Fáilte Ireland, describes the best aspects of his home as an “emotion” one feels here and an optimism that prevails. “We get an energy from people,” he says, “That’s our gift to the world.”

George’s Street Arcade is Ireland’s first purpose-built shopping center – and one of Europe’s oldest — Photo courtesy of Gareth Byrne Photography/Fáilte Ireland

He describes locals as authentic, empathetic, self-deprecating, always up for a bit of a laugh and rarely ones to take life too seriously. Having endured their share of hardship, the Irish people know how to “get on with things” and stay hopeful through it all.

Campbell refers to the nation’s “this too shall pass” philosophy, commenting, “No matter how bad things are, we know it could be worse.”

“Attitude is everything,” he adds. “We always empathize with the underdog.”

Perhaps partly because of this, the country has produced a trove of artists, writers, poets and musicians who have left (and continue to leave) their imprint on the world. Campbell reiterates the sentiments of Ireland’s Nobel Prize-awarded Poet W.B. Yeats: “There are no strangers here; only friends you haven’t yet met.”

Smooth flying

From Dublin, Aer Lingus can get you to other European hot spots like London — Photo courtesy of Aer Lingus

As if we needed more excuses to dream of an Irish return, Aer Lingus has made it that much easier to travel from the States to the Emerald Isle. 2018 marks the national airline of Ireland’s (founded in 1936) largest ever long-haul program, boasting 2.75 million seats across the Atlantic.

In addition to new routes from Seattle and Philadelphia, Aer Lingus’ transatlantic summer schedule has upped capacity across other routes, too, which include a daily service to both San Francisco and Los Angeles, as well as twice daily flights to Chicago.

We can think of a million reasons to fly Aer Lingus, among them its partnership with Alaska Airlines, wonderful in-flight programming and undoubtedly some of the friendliest, green-clad flight attendants around.

Perhaps the biggest allure? A pre-clearance experience that lets transatlantic passengers take care of customs in Dublin Airport, ensuring a speedy exit once back on U.S. soil.

On-land logistics

The Ha’penny Bridge by night is a welcomed Dublin sight — Photo courtesy of Fáilte Ireland

Comfortable and efficient Airlink buses are an easy way to get from the airport into city center, and locals are all about the two Luas tram lines once in town. Consider buying a Leap Visitor Card (sold at the airport in 24-hour, three-day and seven-day increments), which grants unlimited travel on Airlink, Dublin Bus, Luas and DART and Commuter Rail.

The Westin Dublin Hotel offers incredibly central accommodations, directly across from action-packed Temple Bar, as well as a delightful breakfast spread marked by hot dishes, fruit, flaky pastries and exquisitely fresh salmon.

When it comes to exploring, hard-core sightseers might appreciate the flexible DoDublin hop-on, hop-off bus ticket, for access to dozens of the city’s most visited attractions (from Dublin Zoo and Trinity College to Kilmainham Gaol), with the option to experience the surrounding countryside and coastal villages, too.

Guinness Storehouse goodness

The Guinness Storehouse is open seven days a week, with the last admission at 5 pm — Photo courtesy of Guinness Storehouse

Naturally, the bus takes passengers to the educational and fun-filled “Home of Guinness,” which surpassed all previous records in 2017 by welcoming more than 1.7 million visitors through its St. James Gate. It doesn’t take long to see why this bustling destination has kept its top position on Fáilte Ireland’s annual list of attractions.

The vibrant destination gives guests the chance to pour the perfect pint, enjoy delicious Irish cuisine (think oysters paired with a dark draft and Ireland’s beloved brown bread), peruse the “Wall of Fame” and stroll through an advertising exhibit that pays homage to some of the brand’s most lovable mascots, like the whimsical balancing seal.

Two things you can count on in Dublin? Beautiful flower arrangements and signs of “Guinness” around every bend — Photo courtesy of Andrew Bradley/Fáilte Ireland

Visitors learn how – throughout the company’s 250-plus year history – Guinness has employed so many from the local community and given so much back, too. Tour highlights range from seeing the property’s 9,000-year-long lease on the first floor to savoring panoramic city views (and a pint, of course) at the 360-degree Gravity Bar, located on the building’s tip-top level.

Those craving an intimate VIP splurge will want to book the Connoisseur Experience held in a private, luxe bar, and history buffs might want to pre-schedule an appointment in the Storehouse’s alluring Archives department.

Tourist to-dos with a twist

Pints flow freely at The Long Hall, one of the oldest pubs in Dublin — Photo courtesy of Gareth Byrne Photography/Fáilte Ireland

EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum spotlights how the Irish have influenced and shaped the world. The immersive museum, located in Dublin Docklands, takes visitors through 20 interactive galleries that investigate why 10 million people have left the island of Ireland.

In Dublin’s 1,752-acre Phoenix Park, enjoy a casual and fascinating tour of Áras an Uachtaráin – the President of Ireland’s official residence. Saturday tours are free; tickets are distributed on a first come, first served basis from the Phoenix Park Visitor Centre.

Afterward, sit among local running groups and cheerful families as you enjoy “cake and tea” in the lovely Phoenix Cafe courtyard. For more time among greenery, rent a car (or take a bus) out to stunning Powerscourt Estate, where you can spend an entire afternoon wandering the property’s 47 acres of gardens, before loading up on seasonal salads and sweet treats at the Avoca Terrace Café.

When it comes to mealtime in the city, savor posh tapas on the tucked-away rooftop of Fade Street Social, or grab a window seat at The Pig’s Ear, overlooking Trinity’s cricket fields.

And it would only feel right to explore a few of Dublin’s welcoming pubs as well. Try Camden Street for good music (Whelan’s), good craft beer (Against the Grain) and good craic (Bleeding Horse and Cassidy’s).

We absolutely guarantee it won’t be long before you befriend a local with whom to raise a glass. Sláinte!

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