A Day in…Dublin: Part 1 – Getting Around

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Liffey at Sunset (image courtesy of Visit Dublin)

Liffey at Sunset (image courtesy of Visit Dublin)

We all think we know Dublin. Let’s state the obvious. It means pubs and bars, good conversation and Guinness, friendly people and a zest for life. Is it still like this now that the attraction of being the Celtic Tiger has suffered such a hammering of late? Dublin appeals to those wanting a weekend break that isn’t too far away. (only about 50 minutes by plane from any of the London airports and closer from Cardiff, Manchester or Glasgow) It also has good flight connections from just about any biggish UK airport, not forgetting the ferries or the train from Belfast. But what can you do in just a day. In the days of the £1 flight on Ryanair, it was a popular day trip destination. Now with all the taxes and fees, it is unlikely to cost you less than £40. That’s still cheaper than often heading from the north to south in England and vice versa.
Assuming you’ve flown into Dublin, the planes which arrive early are usually the cheapest but then you can get stuck in the morning commute into the town centre. Although there are bus lanes it can still take more than 40 minutes so I have a habit of nipping up to the food hall two floors up from arrivals and having a full breakfast before I leave the airport and that sets me up for the day. No need to stop at lunch unless I want to. A full Irish breakfast is similar to the English/British variant except for white pudding but watch which restaurant you go to at the airport. Prices vary. At The Real Food, a full breakfast is €8.50 with the price of tea or coffee on top. In the far corner at The Eating Place, it is €7.50 and tea or coffee is included. It may have only been on the day I visited but it shows the places compete unlike at some other airports so check before you decide.
The same applies to the buses to take you down to the centre. The blue Air Coach is a €10 ride but does have the advantage of dropping you at hotels south of the river. On the express airport link bus you will pay €6 each way if you buy a ticket on the bus. Buy it at the machine and you can get a day long rambler ticket for the same price which enables you to hop on and hop off buses all day long. Just validate the ticket at the machine as you get on each bus. There are two express buses you can catch. The 747 will take you to O’Connell Street and then to the bus station whilst the 748 will go near the bus station and then south of the river along past Grafton Street and by Temple Bar and then to Heuston station. Generally, the journey should take about 25-30 minutes. Leave more time if you are returning to the airport in the evening rush hour which starts from about 4pm.
The first stopping off for many people is O’Connell Street. It is here that Clerys, the department store that is the Harrods equivalent, can be found almost opposite the post office. Not many post offices are such a tourist draw as this one because this was the site of some of the fighting in the Easter uprising in 1916. A small museum is to be found which is not just dedicated to stamps. (entry is €2: www.anpost.ie/historyandheritage.) This is a major location for the history of Ireland. O’Connell Street is wide, short and slightly out-of-place as though it doesn’t quite know what it is. From the top with the memorial to Parnell to the bottom with the statue of Daniel O’Connell, it has a mix of hotels, Clerys, Dr. Quirkey’s Good Time Emporium (which is like the arcade games you find at a seaside resort) restaurants varying from takeaways and a Burger King to pricier ones. It seems to combine catering to tourist tastes with being where Dubliners would shop themselves. But most shoppers will head south of the River Liffey to Grafton Street where a much wider range can be found. And up until just before Christmas you’ll find two Christmas markets, one in Docklands and the other near the 02 arena. Otherwise every weekend, you can catch the Blackrock Market with its antique, jewellery and book stalls.

<"]Dublin Pub Exterior Temple Bar (image courtesy of Visit Dublin)

Dublin Pub Exterior Temple Bar (image courtesy of Visit Dublin)

Just as shoppers head to Grafton Street, people looking for a drink, a meal and company will probably lean towards Temple Bar, again south of the river. In one long, cobbled road running almost parallel to the river with a slew of lanes packed with eating places branching off, you can find a place to eat. But not easily. You can take longer to decide, there are so many. What takes your fancy? Irish, Chinese, Nepalese, Italian, French, Pan Asian, Mongolian? You’ve got at least 23 to choose from just in this small area. Each January they hold the Tradfest a festival of Irish culture and music. Definitely not to be missed if you’re there. (www.visit-templebar.com)

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