Exploring Dublin: Tips for First-Time Visitors

Dublin's compact geography makes finding your way around easy. Start with the compact city center and explore outward.

The charm of Dublin is its size; small is definitely beautiful in this compact city centre. Most of the highlights lie in Dublin 2 (lying south of the river) or Dublin 1 (north), with the majority of the city's must-sees within easy walking distance. Wear comfortable walking shoes and bring light layers and waterproofs—weather is unpredictable here, and it can rain any season!

Trinity College

The shopping hub Grafton Street runs from Trinity College south to St. Stephen’s Green. This area and the streets to the east are the centre of tourist Dublin, where you’ll find most of the most significant sights, the Georgian squares, and the city’s best restaurants and hotels. Lying to the west are Temple Bar, with its ancient, redeveloped streets a venue for merriment and bars, Dublin Castle and Christ Church Cathedral. To the southwest is an odd mishmash of areas, loosely defined as the Liberties and barely touched by the Celtic Tigerphenomenon of the 1990s. This is where you'll find St. Patrick's Cathedral and Marsh's Library.

Phoenix Park

North of the Liffey, O’Connell Street, one of the city’s oldest and grandest boulevards, is now cluttered with shop signs and statuary. It’s less tourist-focused than areas south of the river but has a great deal to offer thanks to its powerful historical associations and impressive literary connections—you’ll find the GPO and Dublin’s Spire here. Northwest of the Liffey is a relatively unvisited area with a long history, an ancient church, the city’s Four Courts and Smithfield market which used to hold weekly horse markets. Further west still are the old Collins Barracks, which house a branch of the National Museum, and, beyond that again, is Phoenix Park, the largest enclosed public space in Europe. Victorian and Edwardian Ballsbridge, southeast of the centre, is one of the most affluent neighbourhoods of Dublin, with some good restaurants, hotels and lively bars.

Heading north roughly along the Royal Canal brings you to Croke Park, scenes of exciting Gaelic Games and the GAA Museum, plus Glasnevin Cemetery and National Botanical Gardens.

Emma Levine
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