With a flight time of just an hour and return trips available from under £20 returns (yes, really), there’s always an excuse to pop over to the Irish capital for a night or 2 of Guinness, sightseeing and Irish dancing. Ryanair operate multiple flights a day from both East Midlands Airport and nearby Birmingham Airport, meaning it’s even possible to head over for a day trip (depart Birmingham 8am and arrive Dublin at 9.10am then depart Dublin at 9.30pm the same day), but with it being such a vibrant city why not stay a little longer?
The airport’s just a bus ride away from the city centre, which costs you €10 return and drops you at multiple stops throughout the centre so it couldn’t be more convenient. The River Liffey flows through the centre of Dublin as we jumped off the bus in the busy shopping district of O’Connell Street and made our way across the river’s many picturesque bridges towards Temple Bar. It’s a city that’s best explored by foot, there’s no question of that, and with so many great sights to see, pubs to pass and people to befriend, why waste the time stuck in a taxi?
As with any major city Dublin is littered with hotels, B&Bs and accommodation options but we opted for a serviced apartment just a stone’s throw from Temple Bar at StayCity’s Saint Augustine Street block. StayCity are a growing company and have 4 different residencies across the centre of Dublin. With 1 or 2 bed apartments, free wifi, spacious living areas, most of the apartments also have a balcony and cost from just €99/night. The apartments provide the perfect base for exploring Dublin, with their modern design and spotless presentation, as well as being so centrally located and giving you enough space to crash out after a busy day exploring, or a long night drinking! They’re also ideal for groups of friends travelling together with a 2 bed apartment sleeping 2 in each bedroom and an added sofa bed in the lounge, meaning that 6 people could comfortably share.
When most people think of Dublin their minds will go to Temple Bar. Located on the south side of the river, Temple Bar is know as the city’s cultural quarter, but in reality it’s perhaps more famed for its nightlife and famous pubs including The Palace Bar and the Temple Bar Pub. Drinking aside there’s an awful lot to be seen in the area from the Irish Film Institute to the Irish Photographic Centre and the Arthouse Multimedia Centre. For our dose of culture we drifted towards the Olympia Theatre, which is a stunning venue in the heart of Temple Bar, that’s been open since 1879 and we just happened to be in town when Cool As favourite, Frank Turner was playing.
His biggest ever Dublin show he cried from stage as he proudly performed in the beautiful old theatre surrounds to a packed audience. The sound quality was incredible, better than any venue I’ve been to in recent memory and if you head towards the back of the middle balcony you’ll find a fantastic bar area, which despite the almost sold out audience was completely deserted. Frank’s performance was as energetic as ever as he ploughed through hits old and new, from past favourites Long Live The Queen and Photosynthesis to Get Better from his recent Positive Songs for Negative People, and also the name of the tour. The highlight? Having promised to play some requests he apologised for not having a kazoo with him for the next track, Hits and Mrs, before a young couple in the crowd came to the rescue and got up on stage to fill in the kazoo gaps in the beautiful song. As Frank heads towards his 2000th show, you could tell that these moments and getting to play venues as special as Dublin’s Olympia Theatre still meant something to him. (Note. There’s still time to catch the tour nearer to home as Frank hits Nottingham’s Rock City on Friday 9 December!)
Spilling out of the venue the crowds drift through to Temple Bar, as I image they do after every show of the week. With pubs down every street welcoming you in, you’ll be spoilt for choice of where to go. Be warned though, Dublin’s a little pricey and you can expect a Guinness (you’ve got to have one when you’re there, of course) to set you back at least €5. The area is wonderfully vibrant whatever night of the week and at 11pm on a cold November Wednesday there was live music spilling out of countless venues as Irish singers took to their stools with their acoustic guitars.
Don’t go with a plan. Go where you’re drawn into, which for us was The Quays bar, as we got pulled in by the sounds of a man performing Hotel California. The pub was buzzing on a Wednesday night as musicians rattled through their back catalogue from The Eagles to Coldplay, managing to grab a few bar stools it’s easy to forget how quickly the time is going as you’re sucked in by the atmosphere. The same can be said of the pubs all over Dublin, whichever one it is that pulls you in, you won’t be leaving in a hurry.
Of course in Dublin there’s always plenty to do including the hugely popular tours of the Guinness Storehouse and the Old Jameson Distillery, but sometimes walking around a city and soaking up the atmosphere can be the very best way to experience it.
A notable shout out to The Brazen Head pub, situated on the riverside between Temple Bar and the Saint Augustine Apartments, which is Irelands oldest pub est. 1198. For the live music, fine food and historical value, it’s well worth a visit.
Or if you fancy a break from the Guinness, for a daytime stop head to the Queen of Tarts, who have 2 gorgeous patisserie shops in Temple Bar on Cows Lane and Cork Hill. The owners, who trained as pastry chefs in New York, returned home to Ireland to open up the cafes and they’ve won award after award. The best chocolate scone we’ve ever tasted.
Dublin’s a glorious city to explore, with so many hidden gems. We’ll certainly be back to discover more of them!
Ryanair fly to Dublin from both East Midlands Airport and Birmingham Airport, with multiple flights daily. Return flights cost from just £19.99. For full details visit the Ryanair website.
Olympia Theatre has a full annual programme of events, to check all upcoming listings please visit their website.