Top 50: Reviews
concise reviews of the attractions
A comprehensive, clear and concise guide
(visitingdublin.com writers' reviews)
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Abbey Theatre, The
The Abbey is Ireland's most famous and oldest theatre. Established in 1904 by W.B. Yeats, the Abbey theatre has since its establishment seen an almost unending run of plays. Only the onset of World War I and the Irish Rebellion of 1916 almost caused the closure of the theatre. One interesting fact about the Abbey is that in 1924, it became the first state-subsidized theatre in the English-speaking world. While the Abbey continues on its tradition of showcasing Irish plays, it also stages a wide range of new works from around the world.
Book of Kells, The
The Book of Kells is a 9th century illustrated manuscipt of the gospels. It is housed in the Old Library of Trinity College.
The good news:
- It is the top 'must-see' attraction.
- The Old Library will take your breath away and bring you to a different time.
- Combine with a leisurely walk around the historical Trinity College.
- It is central.
The bad news:
- There is a charge and maybe a queue.
- Like the Mona Lisa, you may need to peer over someone's shoulder to get a glimpse of the Book of Kells.
Brown Thomas located on Grafton St., Ireland's most upmarket shopping street, has been in operation since 1849. Recognised as Dublin's most exclusive lifestyle store, it appeals to a wide audience, selling both pret-a-porter and haute couture clothing and accessories. With many big names such as Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Christian Dior, Gucci, Armani Cosmetics, Molton Brown, Tiffany & Co, housed there, make sure your pockets are deep! Ladies boutiques include Chanel, Valentino, Versace, Jimmy Choo, and many others. For the trendsetter teens out there, Brown Thomas's BT2 store across the road is a mecca for new teens to try out styles from up-and-coming designers.
Chester Beatty Library, The
The Chester Beatty Library houses a collection of manuscripts, miniature paintings, prints, drawings, rare books and some decorative arts assembled by Sir Alfred Chester Beatty (1875-1968). The main exhibition is based around the theme of the main world religions.
The good news:
- It's free!
- Noted as one of the most unique museums in Europe.
- It Is rarely crouded.
- It is calm and the perfect antedote to the busy city.
- The Silk Road cafe has cheap middle eastern food and snacks.
The bad news:
- It is closed on Mondays from October to April.
- You need to carefully follow a map and signs to find it.
Clarence Hotel, The
The Clarence Hotel is centrally located in Dublin's Temple Bar district and provides something of an oasis within the bustling tourist hot spot. It is a rather upmarket hotel with advanced entertainment systems installed in the rooms. The Octagon Bar in the west wing is a great place to enjoy a cocktail in the evening or a coffee in the afternoon. The hotel is owned by the rock group U2 and this writer has observed The Edge relaxing with his family whilst flicking through the Financial Times in the Octagon Bar on a Saturday afternoon. The Tea Rooms Restaurant in the east wing has a beautiful interior and provides high quality food at a reasonable price.
Croke Park Sports Ground
The headquarters of the GAA or Gaelic Athletics Association.
The good news:
- It is close to Dublin's city centre.
- It offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience to flavour the excitement of a Gaelic football or hurling match.
- The GAA Museum is a must for GAA fans.
The bad news:
- It is recommended to book in advance.
- Most matches are held on Sundays and some can be booked out.
Customs House, The
Located just five minutes' walk south of O'Connell Bridge on the north quays of the River Liffey, the Customs House is arguably the most impressive building in the City. It was built in the 18th century, designed by Englishman James Gandon. Gandon moved to Dublin from London having been commissioned for the project, and following completion, elected to remain in Dublin for the remainder of his life. During this time Gandon designed other major landmark buildings such as O'Connell Bridge, the Four Courts and the Bank of Ireland building on College Green. The Customs House Visitor Centre was closed in 2008 due to government cut-backs, but visitors are welcome to walk around the grounds. The building currently houses the government's Department of the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. The environs also provide a good view of some of the key buildings of the Irish Financial Services Centre which lies adjacent to the site further down the river.
Dublin Zoo, located in the Phoenix Park, was established formally in 1831 at the Rotunda Hospital by members of the medical profession. It is reputed to have received its first giraffe in 1844, just before the Irish Famine killed off a sizeable portion of the Irish populace. Whether the locals developed a taste for this long-limbed animal during this time is not known! It has had known financial hardship at other times, and some of the less prized animals were fed to the lions and tigers during the Easter Rising of 1916 when food became scarce again. Some of the lions achieved world fame, with 'Slats' being used in 1928 by the Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer film studio as one of the models for their mascot Leo. Since the early 1990s the zoo has enjoyed increased government funding which has turned the zoo into one of the main tourist attractions in the city. It receives over a million visitors each year with the African Plains, World of Cats, and the World of Primates proving particularly popular.
This is the home of Guinness, the world-famous black beer.
The good news:
- There is a free pint of Guinness at the tour end.
- The building is impressive.
The bad news:
- Best reached by hop-on hop-off tour bus.
- Can be quite noisy.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
OPENING HOURS: Tuesday - Saturday: 10.00am - 5.30pm; except Wednesday: 10.30am - 5.30pm; Sunday and Bank Holidays: 12noon - 5.30pm; Monday, Good Friday and 24 - 26 December: Closed
Admission Free (except special exhibitions)
The Irish Museum of Modern Art (IMMA) is not to be missed. Located in its beautiful home in the Royal Hospital Kilmainham (RHK) a visit will always be enjoyable even to the art cretin within (yes, we all have one). If the subtle message in that contemporary piece is lost on you, provokes a fit of giggles, or leaves you wondering if it's all a case of 'The Emporer's New Clothes', worry not. Sneak out the door, frolic through the courtyard to the delightfully unkempt fields or flop out in the manicured lawns of the formal gardens and enjoy the clouds floating by. Pretty clouds. The exhibitions and installations can be a mixed bunch, but some gems are still to be found in that sea of pretention. Don't miss them. Go treasure hunting.
Of late (June 2012), IMMA has been going through renovations which mean that exhibitions are not currently held in the main building. However, the grounds, including the courtyard, formal gardens and surroundings are all accessible. The new digs, currently located in the New Galleries on the same grounds and the latest, IMMA @ NCH (The National Concert Hall), are perfectly adequate and the NCH offers the Iveagh Gardens as a fill-in for the lovely grounds of the RHK. The coffee shop in the basement of the RHK is still operational for coffee & cake with your culture and the NCH has a somewhat more upmarket offering if you want to include lunch or dinner with your visit.
Rainy Dublin day? Like to Drink? If you answered 'yes' to either of these questions, then the place for you is the Old Jameson Distillery. In addition to the tour, the site offers an extensive gift shop, a restaurant, and a very swanky bar-lounge.
Follow the guided tour through the various stages of Irish whiskey making and learn why Jameson is a distinctive beverage. The tour concludes with a complimentary glass of Jameson served straight up or as a cocktail.
Tip: Get there early as this is a popular attraction in Dublin and wait times for the guided tour may exceed an hour! Of course it doesn't hurt to wait at the bar, enjoying a drink to help pass the time ;)
Tip: A taste-testing event may be offered during the tour, make sure to volunteer immediately when asked as there are only 8 participants allowed for the challenge.
K Club, The
The K Club is one of Ireland's most prestigous golf and leisure clubs. It is located in Straffan, Co. Kildare, just a 30 minute drive from Dublin and is set among 550 acres of mature estate lands. While the Club's activities include fishing, family activities, horse-riding, falconry, walking and cycling, it is best known for its golf and wonderful hotel facilities. It has two golf courses, one being The Palmer Ryder Cup course which hosted the Ryder Cup in 2006. This championship course is quite simply a majestic parkland golf course which challenges the most gifted golfers! The club's second course is known as the Palmer Smurfit course and provides a completely different, though also challenging, golfing experience. While it has been described as an inland links course because of its unique design, it is also a fantastic championship course.
The Kilkenny Design shop is in an easy to find, central location: it is on Nassau Street just three minutes' walk south-east of Trinity College Dublin's front entrance. Although primarily aimed at tourists, natives of Dublin also shop here from time to time. The store is not terribly expansive and is comprised of just two floors. On the ground floor you will find Newbridge silverware, women's clothing and jewelry, homeware, crockery, paintings, etc. You will also find souvenirs including traditional food stuffs, celtic brassware, postcards, and so on. The store is a suitable place to look for those more up-market souvenir gifts. The first floor is a canteen-style restaurant with a large capacity but a somewhat basic comfort level. Hot meat and fish dinner options, as well as smaller meals such as quiche and salads, are available. During the summer season, tour buses regularly bring crowds to this shop, so you may find it difficult to find seating for a group during the peak time period of 1pm to 2pm.
Little Museum of Dublin, The
The Little Museum of Dublin opened in October 2011. The museum is spaced out on 2 floors of a Georgian house. It recalls what Dublin was all about during the 20th century and the exhibition has been widely praised in the international media.
The Little Museum of Dublin tells the story of Dublin city from 1900 up to 2000 and showcases the remarkable transformation that the city went through in the last century. Visitors to the museum will witness the violent birth of the Irish nation, the conservative years that followed the false economic hope of the 1960s and the Celtic Tiger boom of the 1990s. Photographs, art and newspapers are some of the artefacts that tell the story of the city along with the influence of politics and power.
The exhibition begins with a photograph of Queen Victoria arriving in Dun Laoighre in 1900. Some of the various artefacts that are displayed include a gas mask from the Emergency in 1939, the lectern that John F. Kennedy stood at during his speech to the Dáil in 1963 and the first issue of Nouveau magazine from 1999. This was a magazine aimed at the rich during the Celtic Tiger years. It closed shortly after publishing its first issue. The temporary exhibitions cover subjects as varied as the early days of U2 and the problems of tenement housing in 1913.
The museum is open from 9.30am - 5pm Monday to Sunday with a late opening until 8pm on Thursdays.
Admission is EUR 6 for an adult but there are discounts available for Senior Citizens, Jobseekers, Students and Families. Johnson, Mooney and O’Brien have also sponsored the Big J Wednesdays at the museum which entitles visitors to free entry every Wednesday afternoon from 1pm to 5pm. Guinness sponsor the museum on Thursdays which allows free entry from 3pm to 8pm.
The museum runs free guided tours on the hour and private tours can also be arranged, as well as free civics classes for Irish school-children. Their new cafe, Hatch & Sons, was described by the Irish Times as celebrating "all that is good about Irish ingredients and confident cooking."
Merrion Hotel, The
The Merrion Hotel, situated just off Dublin grand Georgian square of the same name, is for many people the quintessential olde worlde hotel in Dublin. Its credentials are impeccable, and one of the buildings can lay claim to being the birthplace of Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington. It is still a place for the rich and famous; on his last visit, this writer spotted Gabriel Byrne and Edna O'Brien enjoying a tete-a-tete at a nearby table. It is often the place where visiting dignitaries will stay on visits to Dublin, having hosted the Obamas on their 2011 visit to Ireland. It is also the location of Ireland's only 2 Michelin star restaurant, Patrick Guilbaud.
National Wax Museum, The
The National Wax Museum is probably worth the entrance fee -- but just barely. The ground floor houses wax statues of modern Irish cultural and sporting heroes, but the main room looks like a disused scouting hall. The layout is decidedly random and, frankly, quite bare looking. While it is indeed nice to see Irish scientists such as Boyle (who developed Boyle's Law of Gases) venerated, the science area -- primarily targeted at young people -- looks like a relic of 1980's recessionary Ireland. On the positive side, if you have an interest in Irish history, you will almost certainly love the basement area which houses statues of the heroes of Irish independence such as Daniel O'Connell. The atmospheric displays wholly redeem this attraction.
The O2 opened in Dec-2008 and was built on the former site of the Point Theatre (1988 to 2007). The arena has a capacity of over 14,500 (8,000 standing & 6,500 seated) or 9,500 (all seated), with the furthest seat being 60 metres from the stage. The new building was designed to keep as much of the outer stone wall character of the Point Theatre but also provide a state of the art concert venue, attracting many incredible world tours. Inside feels somewhat like a warehouse with high vaulted roof, with exposed iron structure & air conditioning system. The Stage area is massive and could easily hold stadium size stages if required. If seated, there's not a bad view in the house, and if standing, you're always close to the stage. Sound in the venue is excellent!
Such artists as Lady Gaga, Kylie, Guns & Roses, Leona Lewis, Florence & The Machine, The Script, Cast of Glee, P!nk, British dance group Diversity and Michael Flatley have performed here. Shows such as Cirque du Soleil, Batman Live, the worldwide arena tour, Comedians Lee Evans, Peter Kay, Ricky Gervais, Bill Bailey, Alan Carr and Michael McIntyre have all performed here also. There's a constant line-up for events, so if in Dublin and looking for something to do, you never know who could be on. If tickets are sold out, you can always find people buying/selling tickets outside the venue, but you take the risk that the tickets could be fake.
Inside the venue, there are numerous bars and snack shops available, so queues are never an issue. Drink is about 5.50/6 euro for a pint of lager. Soft drinks, sweets, popcorn, hotdogs & nachos available, a bit over priced, but isn't that always the way in these venues. There is NO cloakroom, so consider what you're wearing before going. Official merchandise stalls are available inside the venue. Anyone selling items outside the venue is not official merchandising. Staff inside are friendly and helpful!
If you're an O2 mobile phone customer and have time for a drink before or after the show, go to the BlueRoom Bar, located on the ground floor, at the river end of the building. It's a full bar and you get served in a glass but can't take glass out of the bar area. Look out for the O2 Angels (the girls in the white dresses), they'll take your mobile number and then let you and your friends in.
For those looking for more VIP treatment, there is the Audi Club VIP Bar and the Premium Club, but you need to be a member. Membership has additional benefits such as Priority booking for shows.
Located beside the O2 is the Gibson Hotel, for those of you that want to be as close to the venue as possible. Great for a pre-concert drink or food, but if staying in Dublin for a few days, it's a little removed from the city centre and the only other entertainment in the area is the Odeon cinema next door. So if looking for a lively few days in Dublin, stay closer to town. The area is quiet during the day and on the nights when no shows are on.
Or check out the MV Cill Airne Bar & Bistro. Docked on the liffey, this 1960's restored liner offers good found and an interesting spot for a drink before your show. It's then a 5 min walk to the O2 from there.
The LUAS light rail Red Line is the easiest way to get to the venue. If travelling into Dublin by the DART, the LUAS connects Connolly station to the venue. Dublin Bus number 151 provides a regular service to the venue. Car parking is available in the area but costs 10 euro, and given the level of traffic in the area before and after, you're better off parking in the city centre or even as far out as the Red Cow Park & Ride facilities and getting the LUAS in. (Give yourself 45 mins to get to the venue from Red Cow Park & Ride. 15 mins if getting LUAS from Jervis or Abbey Street stop). There can be queues for the LUAS when leaving the O2.
Alternatively, it takes about 15/20 mins (maybe longer in heels ladies) to walk from O'Connell Street to the venue, following the River Liffey along its North Side Quay, taking in Dublin's boom years architecture. On a warm night, it's fine, but on a cold one, wrap up. A wind blows up and down that River!
Phoenix Park, The
This the largest urban park in Europe and is actually celebrating its 350th year anniversary this year. It is home to recently upgraded and above average Dublin Zoo, a fallow deer herd (try out your photography skills with these guys -- you won't ne disappointed) and also the President of Ireland has his principal residence here. In terms of activities, there are a myriad of things to do and look at to keep you entertained in and around the park such as model airplane flying, kayaking in the Liffey River at the Strawberry Beds (some nice weirs for the experienced) or even pack a picnic as there will always be quite serene spots available. If exercise is your game, the park is very popular with running clubs and individuals with numerous races and triathlons happening over the summer season. Rollerblading is also very popular. Single men should be aware that certain parts of the park are gay pick-up areas, so if you get a smile and a wink from a passerby, he's probably looking for more than a discussion about the weather!!
Powerscourt House and Gardens
Powerscourt House and gardens are located just outside of Dublin in County Wicklow. You can get the 44 bus from Dublin city centre, the cheapest way to get there (bar cycling). The trip takes approximately an hour and brings you to the centre of Enniskerry, a charming town beside the Powerscourt Estate. Stroll up the hill to the entrance to the sprawling estate. The walk in is very peaceful with trees lining the long driveway in, and stunning views of the mountains around Wicklow. The House and gardens remind you of a smaller and more serene version of Versailles. Go straight for the gardens at the back of the house, which are the highlight of the Estate. They truly are spectacular and you can spend a couple of hours strolling around and relaxing here. The highlights are the lovely lake, the Japanese gardens, the pet cemetery, the Tower and the many statues scattered around the gardens. It is actually perfect on a cloudy day, where you really feel the mood of the gardens. End the day with a well deserved lunch at Avoca, located inside the House. I recommend the hearty soup, brown bread and follow with a cappuccino. Nearby is the Powerscourt Waterfall, which is spectacular and also worth a visit.
Shelbourne Hotel, The
The Shelbourne Hotel, founded in 1824 by Tipperaryman Martin Burke and located on the northern side of St Stephen's Green, is one of Dublin's most famous hotels. It was here in 1922 that the constitution of the state was drafted. It was extensively refurbished and renovated over eighteen months at great expense and re-opened to great fanfare at the height of the Celtic Tiger in March 2006. The main bar is a great place to socialise and engage in a bit of celebrity-spotting, with the Horseshoe Bar unrivalled for a quiet drink. More restrained types can enjoy afternoon tea in the nearby tea room. Of all Dublin hotels, it is probably the one with most finely balances mix of olde world charm and modern comfort.
St. Stephen's Green
Smaller than Phoenix Park but much more central is St. Stephen's Green at the top of the main shopping boulevard, Grafton St. This is a really pretty park, and on a summer's day, rare and all as they are, it will be thronged with international students, busy executives grabbing a sandwich and families feeding the many ducks in the waterways. On the negative side, one can get an awful fright seeing so much pasty skin, as with the first sign of the sun, Irish people will fling clothes off with abandon to get some of the worst sunburn you're ever likely to see.