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World > Ireland > Dublin
City Guide Dublin
General Information
The capital of Ireland, Dublin is a vivacious and interesting city with a long history. It is a port city and combines a cosmopolitan diversity and energy with quaint old-world charm. The population of Dublin is around 1.5 million, making it the largest city in Ireland and home to more than one-third of the country’s residents. There are buildings from the Medieval, Georgian, and modern periods which give the city a classic and dignified atmposphere, but they can also appear quite gloomy on first glance. Especially under an overcast sky, the dark Irish granite gives the impression of a solemn and monochrome city. But this impression is fleeting, for as soon as one makes any kind of acquaintance with Dublin, its cheerful and comfortable pubs, trendy coffee shops and juice bars, top-notch restaurants, museums and unique shops show how much the city has changed since its stodgy, turn-of-the-century days. Now Dublin is one of the most popular European tourist destinations, and a fascinating and complex place to explore. In addition to all that the city has to offer, just outside of town you will find the beautiful seaside villages of Dublin country, rolling rural landscapes, and the unique natural beauty of Ireland’s mountains.
Ireland has a very moderate climate due to the Gulf Stream, despite its being fairly far north. Its reputation for rain is deserved, however, and no matter the season, gray days and drizzle are common. The sun never stays away for too long, but even sunny days can have some passing showers in them. The warmest weather comes in July and August, directly coinciding with the peak of the tourist season. Summer temperatures are usually between 20-26˚C (68-79˚) and rarely reach 30˚C (86˚F). Spring and autumn are generally delightful seasons as well, featuring crisp mild weather, and the crowds are much smaller at these times of year. Winters are also very mild, and snow is rare.
Ireland has two official languages, English and Gaelic. English is the main language, spoken in all areas of the country, but the Irish are proud of their Gaelic and efforts are being made to revive the language. Gaelic is the native language of about 83,000 of Ireland’s residents living in the western and southern areas of the country. Counties known for their Gaelic include Kerry, Galway, Mayo and the Aran Islands. Many documents and signs are printed in both English and Gaelic, and in rural areas it is not uncommon to only find signs in Gaelic.
The main religion in Ireland is Catholicism, practiced by about 70% of the entire country and 85% of southern Ireland. The remaining religious population is mostly Protestant, with Church of England being the most popular denomination. There is also a small yet growing Muslim population. The number of Jews is also very small, and has been declining in recent years. More than 4% of the country belongs to no religion.
The currency used in Ireland is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €100, €50, €20, €10 and €5 and the coins in use are €2, €1, € 0.50, € 0.20, € 0.10, € 0.05, € 0.02 and € 0.01.
The proper amount to tip in a restaurant in Dublin is between 10-15%. Sometimes this amount has been already added to your bill, so make sure to check this before figuring out the tip. If the service charge is already included, no further tipping is necessary unless the service was really excellent and you want to give extra. It is not customary to tip in pubs or bars unless you are served by waiter, and doing so might even get you some strange looks. Cafés often handle tipping by having a jar near the cash register into which people put loose change, usually up to € 1. If porters or taxi drivers help with bags, a tip of about 50 cents a bag is appropriate. Otherwise tipping is not expected for taxi rides, but it is normal to round up the bill. Tipping is generally not expected for hotel services, but for longer stays or to reward better-than-average service, you can leave € 5 or so in your room.
The value added tax in Ireland is 17.36%, but non EU residents can get this money back on many purchases. Whether or not this is possible depends on the shop where you buy the items, and in most participating shops you have to spend a certain amount of money to qualify for the refund. You also have to take the items out of the country within three months. To get the money back, all you have to do is present the form you got from the shop to a customs official at the airport and collect your refund from the appropriate desk.
The country code for the Republic of Ireland is +353, while for Northern Ireland it is +44, the same as England. To call Dublin from abroad, dial +353 and then the local number. There are public telephones all over Dublin, most of which accept phone cards and credit cards, and some accept coins. Phone cards are available from tobacco shops, newsstands, telephone shops, and some supermarkets.
Dublin has many internet cafés and an increasing number of wireless hotspots. If you bring a laptap, chances are good that you will be able to connect to the internet with it in your hotel or at a local café.
Emergency Numbers
There two emergency numbers that work for all of Ireland, 112 and 999. These are numbers you can call for all emergencies, and connect to the police, ambulances, fire department, and coastal rescue services.
Opening Times
Shops in Dublin are typically open Mon - Sat from 9 am - 6 pm, and on Thursdays many shops stay open until 8 pm. Sunday opening hours are more limited, and many shops are closed the whole day. Post offices are open Mon - Fri 8.30 am - 5.30 or 6 pm, and Sat from 9 am - 12 pm. Banks are usually Mon - Fri from 9 am - 4.30 pm, and some are open Saturday morning as well.
Public Holidays
On the following days, most shops, banks and musuems will be closed, and public transport is likely to be more limited. 1 January, New Year’s Day 17 March, St. Patrick’s Day Good Friday Easter Sunday and Monday 1 May, May Day First Monday in June, Bank Holiday First Monday in August, Bank Holiday Last Monday in October, Bank Holiday 25 December, Christmas 26 December, St. Stephen’s Day
Dublin is a fairly safe city, and it is very unlikely that you will be the victim of any crime while visiting if you follow common-sense safety precautions. For example, carry your belongings in a bag that cannot be easily pulled off, with valuables in secure pouch. Always be aware of your surroundings, especially when in crowded, touristy locations. It is better not to carry your passport or large amounts of cash with you on the street.
Dublin has a very diverse variety of attractions, including beautiful castles, stimulating museums, and scenic parks. In general, there are more tourist attractions south of the River Liffey, which splits the centre of Dublin in two parts. This area of the city includes most of the museums, both Cathedrals, the shopping district, Trinity College, and Leinster House, the home of the Irish Parliament. The southside of Dublin is also known for its elegant leafy streets and parks in the more affluent neighbourhoods, full of stately Georgian mansions. There are places of interest north of the river as well, such as the odd museum or landmark, but it is also a great place to get a feel for the distinctive atmosphere of the city, more removed from the touristy hubbub. Streets such as Moore Street and Henry Street are great ones to explore here, for example.
Dublin Castle
This castle was built during Norman times, and construction began in 1204. The largest original fragment from the 13th century castle that can be seen is the Record Tower, and most of the other sections were built later, often because restoration needed to be done. The Chapel Royal that currently stands, for example, was built in the 19th century in imitation of the Gothic style. The majority of the interior of the castle had to be rebuilt in the 18th century and it is this version that survives today. In addition to touring the rooms and grounds, you can also see some recently-excavated Viking artifacts on display in the “Undercroft” area of the castle. Admission is only as part of guided tours, which begin every 20 minutes. Large groups need to book in advance. Opening times: Mon - Fri 10 am - 5 pm, Sat and Sun 2 pm - 5 pm Entrance price: € 4.50
Guinness Storehouse
The Guinness company is the largest exporter of a single kind of beer in the world. It was begun in 1759 by Arthur Guinness, who developed the distinctive brew, and the St. James’s Gate location is where he set up his original business. The brewery itself is not open to visitors, but the Guinness Storehouse is an innovative and modern musuem that tells you everything you might want to know about the famous drink. The building is a converted warehouse that has been shaped to look like a giant pint glass. Each floor of the museum explores a different aspect of beer making and Guinness lore. At the end of the tour, all the visitors are invited to a free pint of stout in the Gravity Bar at the top of the building, which offers a fantastic view over the rest of Dublin. Opening times: Daily 9.30 am - 5 pm (but open until 8 pm in July in August) Entrance price: € 14
Trinity College
This historic college is one of the most famous places of higher learning in the world, and was where many world-renowned Irish authors were educated, including Jonathan Swift, Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, and Samuel Beckett. Trinity College is part of Dublin’s oldest university, founded in 1592. It is located in the centre of the city, but has retained a sequested and peaceful atmosphere with its grand buildings, beautiful gardens and quaint cobbled squares. One of the main attractions of Trinity College is the Book of Kells, a wonderful illuminated manuscript from around 800 AD. Visitors can see it in the Old Library, a grand and venerable room full of interesting books. Opening times of the Old Library: Jun - Sep: Mon - Sat 9.30 am - 5 pm, Sun 9.30 am - 4.30 pm, Oct - May: Mon - Sat 9.30 am - 5 pm, Sun 12 pm - 4.30 pm Entrance price: € 7.50
The National Library
A peaceful and beautiful place to read, as well as an interesting place to explore, the National Library is home to a wonderful diversity of reading materials, and also contains a heraldic museum. This has exhibits of coats of arms and banners, as well as a genealogical office where the staff helps visitors to trace any Irish roots that they might have. One of the highlights of the library proper is the large domed reading room, a grand and airy place to dive into a book and a favourite haunt of James Joyce. Opening times: Mon - Wed 10 am - 9 pm, Thurs - Fri 10 am - 5 pm, Sat 10 am - 1 pm
Dublin Zoo
This zoo is set in the idyllic location of Phoenix Park, and spread out over 59 acres of land. It also borders the north bank of the River Liffey on one side. The zoo is modern and humane, with lots of space for the animals to roam, and every effort is made to provide them with a good simulation of their natural habitat. These habitats are home to more than 235 species of wild animals, including many tropical birds. Different features include “African Plains,” “Fringes of the Arcttic,” and “World of Primates.” There is also a children’s petting zoo and children’s train ride. Families can get group rate deals on their entrance tickets that vary depending on the number of children. Opening times: Summer: Mon - Sat 9.30 am - 6 pm and Sun 10.30 am - 6 pm, Winter: Mon - Sat 9.30 am - dusk, Sun 10.30 am - dusk Entrance prices: € 14 for adults, € 11 for seniors, € 9 for children, and free for children under 3
Dalkey Castle and Heritage Cen
A small museum located in a 16th century tower house in the south suburbs of Dublin, the Dalkey Castle presents exhibits about the history of this old and charming town. You can take a guided tour, which might move a bit slowly and tell you more than you wanted to know, or explore on your own. Outside you can climb up the battlements of the castle and enjoy the refreshing panoramic view, as well as descend to the quaint medieval graveyard of the Church of St. Begnet, right next door to the heritage centre. The castle is easily accesible from the city centre via DART. Opening times: Apr - Oct: Mon - Fri 9.30 am - 5 pm, Sat and Sun 11 am - 5 pm, Nov - Mar: Sat and Sun 11 am - 5 pm Entrance prices: € 2.50 for adults and € 1.50 for children
Christ Church Cathedral
This church was founded in 1172 by the Earl of Pembroke, and is built on the site of an old Viking church. It is an impressive old stone church with interesting nooks and crannies and some surprising items on display. Highlights include a mummified cat and mouse found in an organ pipe, the heart of St. Laurence, who is the patron saint of Dublin, and a large crypt full of other unusual relics. Also interesting is the “leaning wall of Dublin,” the north nave wall of the church, which has leaned a total of 46 cm since 1562 when the roof collapsed. Opening times: Mon- Fri 9.45 am- 4.30 pm, Sat and Sun 10 am- 4.30 pm Entrance price to cathedral and treasury exhibition: € 5
St. Patrick''s Cathedral
This is Ireland’s largest church, dating back to the 12th century and located on the site where, according to legend, St. Patrick baptized his converts to Christianity. The church has needed to be extensively restored over the centuries, and much of what you see there today was redone in the 18th century. The writer Jonathan Swift was dean of St. Patricks from 1713- 1745, which is the period in which he wrote Gulliver’s Travels. Swift is buried at St. Patrick’s, and visitors can see his tomb as well as his pulpit. Opening times: Mon - Sat 9 am - 6 pm (closes 5 pm on Sat from Nov - Feb), Sun 9 am - 11 am, 12.45 pm - 3 pm, and 4.15 pm - 6 pm (Sun hours from Nov - Feb are 10 am - 11 am and 12.45 pm- 3 pm) Entrance price: € 5 (adults only)
St. Teresa''s Church
The first Catholic church to be legally established in Dublin, St. Teresa’s was built between 1793 and the early 1800s, and founded in 1810. Its construction was made possible by the Catholic Relief Act of 1793. The church was enlarged several times during the 19th century and didn’t reach its current dimensions until 1876. Highlights inside include John Hogan’s sculpture Dead Christ beneath the altar and seven intricate stained-glass windows by Phyllis Burke. Opening times: Daily 8 am - 8 pm, sometimes later
St. Michan''s Church
This 17th century church was built on the site of a much older Danish chapel, from 1095. St. Michan’s is known for its lovely organ, dating from 1724, on which Handel is supposed to have played the Messiah. The ornate wood carvings and intricate decorations in the church are also beautiful and noteworthy. One of the biggest attractions, albeit the most macabre, however, is the underground burial vault. This vault is unusual because it has an exceptionally dry atmosphere, and bodies have lain here for centuries without appearing decayed. It is said that Bram Stoker got his ideas for Dracula after visiting these vaults. Opening times: Nov - Feb: Mon - Fri 12.30 pm - 2.30 pm, Sat 10 am - 1 pm; Mar - Oct: Mon - Fri 10 am - 12.45 pm and 2 pm - 4.45 pm, Sat 10 am - 1 pm
Phoenix Park
The biggest city park in all of Europe, Phoenix Park is comprised of more than 1,752 acres and includes both landscaped gardens and wilderness areas. It is located on the western edge of Dublin, and its first use was as a royal deer park in the 17th century. Now, a large section of the park is devoted to the Dublin Zoo, and in other areas the Irish president and other high-ranking officials have residences. 30 acres of the park are completely open to the public, and feature landscaped gardens, nature trails, and some grassland. The park is open 24 hours a day, though the zoo and other attractions within the park close around nightfall.
National Botanic Gardens
An amazing showcase of horticulture, the National Botanic Gardens are located on 49 acres of land in Glasnevin, north of the centre of Dublin. The gardens feature more than 20,000 different varities of plants, and special areas include the Great Yew Walk, a bog garden, a water garden, a rose garden, and an herb garden. There is also a series of Victorian-style greenhouses filled with tropical and exotic plants. Most of the gardens are wheelchair accesible, with the exception of the rose garden. Opening times: Apr - Oct: Mon - Sat 9 am - 6 pm, Sun 11 am - 6 pm; Nov - Mar: Mon - Sat 10 am - 4.30 pm, Sun 11 am - 4.30 pm
Irish National Cemetery
This cemetery is located in Glasnevin, not far from the Botanic Gardens. It was founded in 1832 and covers a wide expanse of land, with peaceful grassy areas and some nice old trees. Most of the people buried here were ordinary citizens, but some famous graves include those of Charles Stewart Parnell, Michael Collins, Daniel O’Connell, and Roger Casement, all well-known Irish rebels and political heroes. There are also some well-known literary figures interred here, including Christy Brown and Brendan Behan. Guided tours are given every Wednesday and Friday at 2.30 pm, and leave from the main gate. Opening times: Daily 8 am- 4 pm