Dublin is a fascinating city, cut through the centre by the Liffey River and circled to the south by the great canal. It’s compact and easy to navigate, most of the main sites being within a half mile of the flowing river. It’s easy to see around as it hasn’t got a huge amount of tall buildings, so why am I suggesting the best travel tip is to buy one of the travel passes that lets you onto the hop on hop off bus service?
The answer is that because Dublin is so compact, the bus service is the best way of seeing as many of the sights as possible in one big loop. It might seem strange to tour a city known for its street characters and pavement culture, but it is an ideal way of dropping into places that otherwise would take all day. Plus you’ll have the evening to stagger round the pubs in Temple Bar!
Here are some suggestions based on a trip I took recently. Pick up the hop on hop off bus service anywhere on the route. The easiest area I found to do that was St Stephens Green, as it acts almost as a terminus and you can have your pick of the buses.
Once you’re settled on board, you can enjoy the live commentary from the driver (I tried four or five and they were all excellent) while you’re whisked around the streets. I started in the Natural History Museum (known as the dead zoo to Dubliners) which was an amazing throw back to the Victorian era, full of glass cases of every type of animal. Beautiful, if a little sad, it’s a tribute to zoology and the style of building in one.
Next, over to Saint Patrick’s Cathederal, another stop on the tour, where you can see Jonathan Swift’s grave (of Gulliver’s Travels fame), who was the dean of the cathedral for over twenty years. The inside has a serenity that comes partly from the filtered light and a little from the tattered battle flags of the Irish regiments that lined the central hall.
Then back on the bus, and north of the river. First stop was the Kilmainham Gaol, which you can read more about here, then I admired the Modern Art Museum, housed in the old hospital near the memorial park. The art is great, but the building spectacular, grouped around formal gardens and a central cobblestone square. It’s an easy walk back to the bus stop, and then a ride around the loop to the National Irish Museum, now taken over the old barracks to the north of the Liffey.
It’s a great museum, having history and art in its many galleries. I chose the military galleries and learned a huge amount about Irish participation in wars since the 1500s. The piece on involvement in the American Civil War was especially eye opening, Irish soldiers fighting on both sides.
The trip took about 6 hours, and you might notice that I haven’t mentioned the cost of the day, for good reason. Other than the tour ticket (priced at around €19 per adult, depending on the company you go with), the only entrance fee to be paid is to get into the cathedral at €6. Amazing value, and a real mix of art, military history, religion and natural history. Just remember to pace yourself and stop off for a reviving Guinness at some point!