Dublin, the capital of Ireland, is the first city that springs to mind when thinking about traveling to the Emerald Isle. Even with a history of more than 1,000 years, the city remains vibrant and pulsing, with live music in packed pubs nearby stately monuments from a bygone era.
While many choose to visit the most well-known landmarks such as Trinity College and Book of Kells, the Guinness Storehouse, the Christ Church Cathedral, the Old Jameson Distillery, Dublin Castle, and the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, there are much newer destinations that are just as exciting and relevant to visit.
There are a number of easy ways to get around the city and view as many sights as possible. There are many bus and rail routes as well as biking and walking tours. I recommend The Dublin Freedom Ticket, valid for three days, which includes unlimited airport shuttles and central city bus travel, including the hop-on, hop-off service that goes by all major attractions, and discounts on many entry fees. Dublinsightseeing.ie
Check out the Wall of Fame in the cobble-stoned Temple Bar district, a tribute to some of Ireland’s most famous musicians. The nearby Irish Rock ‘N’ Roll Museum Experience, opened in 2015, celebrates the journey of rock in Ireland from its early days with ‘70s super group Thin Lizzy (“Jailbreak,” “The Boys are Back in Town”) to modern-day favorites Hozier and The Script. The “museum” is housed in the Temple Lane Studios which was begun in the ‘80s and is now one of more than a dozen studios in Dublin.
The guided tour by the engaging Connor began with halls and practice studios lined with photographs, albums and memorabilia that might surprise visitors, such as a jacket signed by Michael Jackson who lived in Ireland with his children for a short period of time. Well-known Irish artists such as Enya, Snow Patrol, Sir Van Morrison, the Pogues, and Sinead O’Connor have left their mark here as well. Dress up in outfits and play your heart out in a studio that my favorite band in the world, U2, would often rehearse in (although they never actually recorded there). There’s the green room backstage and it has some examples of the often outrageous requests musicians would insist on having their dressing rooms filled with (in order to make sure the venue would read the full contract). The intimate music hall, The Button Factory, offers live music four nights a week and holds a mere 600 guests. The working studio down the street, which many modern artists (Rihanna, Kanye West) continue to use due to its unique engineering desk, also serves as a type of shrine to Phil Lynott, the lead singer of Thin Lizzy, some of whose guitars and costumes were donated to the museum by his mother after his early death at age 36. The studio exit leads to a small gift shop where you can buy memorabilia and pose with life-size wax figures of the U2 band members. Irishrocknrollmuseum.com
The National Wax Museum, opened in 2017, is in walking distance, also located in the Temple Bar area. There are myriad opportunities for awesome photo ops! The Cinema Wall gives you the option to view the Solar System, Irish inventors, the history of wax, music or movies; maybe see them all. Even with its share of popular superheroes, movie and TV characters, famous entertainers and the like, this wax museum is also educational, sharing the history of Ireland starting with its Viking founders and highlighting Irish scientists and inventors in its Science and Discovery area. The five flights of stairs’ walls are covered with all manners of clocks; how fun! There is also a mirror maze and the whimsical Enchanted Forest, and through the museum’s innovative augmented and virtual reality technology, you can explore the future. If you dare, enter the Horror Hotel, Chamber of Horrors, and Dublin Dungeons, filled with all sorts of very scary creatures and scenarios. Waxmuseumplus.ie
Hop on the bus and cross the River Liffey to EPIC, The Irish Emigration Museum, located in the vaults of the historic CHQ (Custom House Quay) building. Opened in May 2016, it is one of the must-see destinations not only in Dublin, but in the whole of the island as it depicts the diaspora of Irishmen and the mark they have made on the world. My favorite part is in the beginning of the journey through 20 different, interactive galleries, where several holograms of emigrants typical of the some 10 million who have left the island explain why they chose (or were forced to) leave and what became of them. Galleries include famous writers, musicians, actors, athletes, and inventors, as well as the infamous rogues of Ireland. Interactive touch screens throughout allow visitors to delve deeper into history, take fun quizzes, and even send digital postcards. There are audio guides in a variety of languages so visitors can take their time exploring this expansive exhibit. At the end of the tour, be sure to visit the Irish Family History Centre if you have any Irish in your background; genealogists can help you trace your family tree! Epicchq.com; irishfamilyhistorycentre.com
Where to stay, eat … and dance
The four-star Trinity City Hotel is a treasure in the Dublin City Center. Located on busy Pearse Street, it is steps away from many of the local attractions and a bus stop is right across the street. There is a contemporary feel from the moment you step inside, yet you feel the gravitas of history as part of the 262-room complex is made up of Georgian buildings, including a former fire station. An elegant lounge invites you to relax while enjoying live music from a pianist, or enjoy a drink in the wood-and-leather-appointed bar. For a breath of fresh air, there is a courtyard patio. The service is top notch with employees catering to your every need (or whim!)
The breakfast buffet is a sight to behold, with tables laden with so much to choose from. In additional to continental menu items such as pastries, yogurt with granola, cereal, fresh fruit, a variety of breads (the Irish love their bread, and do it well!), trays of cold cuts and cheese, coffee, tea and juices, the hotel serves a traditional Irish breakfast. This consists of pork sausage, Irish bacon (more generously cut than ordinary bacon strips), black/white sausage or pudding, scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes, porridge, steamed tomatoes and mushrooms, prunes, apple sauce, and canned fruit. Each dish was clearly marked with signs indicating which allergens they included to make it easy for guests to choose what to avoid. A great way to start the day! The lunch and dinner menus offer contemporary takes on international cuisine as well as traditional fare, and room service is provided 24 hours a day in case you don’t want to leave the comfort of your luxurious, elegant room. Trinitycityhotel.com
If only in Dublin for a day, there won’t be much time to check out the many central city pubs offering live music (some with three different bands playing on three different floors at the same time!) while enjoying the hearty fare that Ireland is known for. Of course, THE Temple Bar is the most famous destination for drink and dancing, but the whole area has many other, not-so-crowded places to enjoy a pint while tapping your toes. I settled on the second floor of The Oliver St. John Gogarty and savored a generous portion of beef and Guinness stew for dinner. Served with Guinness and multi-grain bread, the stew was laden with chunks of beef, carrots, onions, mushrooms, potatoes and celery. While dining, I enjoyed a lively three-woman act, The Murphy Sisters. Seated on stools, they played on a banjo, guitar and accordion. Not only did they play traditional Irish music and favorite modern pop tunes, the lead singer engaged the audience by asking where they were visiting from and encouraging them to hit the dance floor. Gogartys.ie
Dublin has so much more to offer and tourists could spend weeks investigating all there is to discover, so check out visitdublin.com for more suggestions.