The first thing visitors will see after arriving in Dublin is Irish faces. Not just those of locals returning from trips abroad, but faces on display artistically in Dublin’s brand new Terminal 2. Large portraits—ranging from everyday Irish men, women, and children to sports celebrities and politicians—hang throughout the glass and steel terminal.
From the airport, “town” (as locals call it) is a short bus or taxi ride away. Once you’ve stored your bags at a Dublin hostel or hotel, it’s time to make the most of your weekend. Hit the pavement on a Friday afternoon and you’ll witness Dublin at its cheeriest; locals are ready to welcome the weekend over pints with friends and see where the work-free days take them.
Grafton Street, Dublin's pedestrian shopping and busking street. Photo: Phil Romans
First-time visitors to Dublin should start on Grafton Street, the pedestrianized shopping street in the heart of the city. Beyond shops, Grafton Street is known for street performers (or buskers) that range from one man on a violin to groups of young locals singing Oasis and U2 to one particularly popular puppeteer. If you’re looking for a snack, grab a table at Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street, preferably up on the 2nd floor overlooking the street action below.
After a walk in nearby St. Stephen’s Green—the main artery of Dublin city center—head west to Dublin’s best known attraction, the Guinness Storehouse. Buy tickets ahead of time to skip the line and spend the rest of the afternoon learning through interactive exhibits how four ingredients combine to make the “black stuff”. As happy hour approaches, climb the stairs to the rooftop watering hole, the Gravity Bar, for the pint included in your admission fee. This is the perfect vantage point for watching the sunset behind the Dublin skyline.
Post-pint, head back into the city center for dinner. For a light bite, nibble on tacos at the bar of local hotspot 777 on Georges Street. This neighborhood offers several bars for after-dinner drinks until last call around 12:30.
The Saturday morning Temple Bar market. Photo: William Murphy
Start your day in the historic neighborhood of Temple Bar. While some people visit the tourist-heavy pubs of this cobbled quarter at night, it has more to offer during the day. Saturdays are home to the Temple Bar Market, a great place to eat local on the cheap. Sample fresh oysters, sweet or savory crepes, artisanal coffee, and my favorite, the Paddy Jack sandwich (fresh carved lamb piled high with greens on thick-sliced olive bread).
With your stomach full, explore Temple Bar. The Gallery of Photography is located right next door to the market and offers free entry. Book lovers might want to wander through Temple Bar to the Gutter Bookshop. People more interested in art and design should visit the outdoor Cow’s Lane Designer Mart, open each Saturday until 5pm. Recently nicknamed Dublin’s cultural quarter, Temple Bar also has several art galleries featuring a range of work by Irish artists.
Take some time walking along Dublin’s prettiest Georgian streets to your dinner. Go through the manicured walkways of Merrion Square and continue along to the Grand Canal. Stroll along the canal that has inspired some of Dublin’s best writers and poets before grabbing a table at Paulie’s Pizza. This affordable, tiny restaurant is a local favorite and serves affordable Neapolitan style pies. Rub elbows with locals at Slattery’s pub next door with an after dinner pint.
The National Gallery of Ireland is free to visit. Photo: Dahon
Kick off your day by delving into local history. Take the bus to Kilmainham, home to a fascinating attraction called Kilmainham Gaol. This former-prison turned museum has played a significant role in the history of Ireland, particularly of Irish Independence. Take a guided tour that includes a short video to learn a bit about Ireland’s turbulent political past.
Back in the city center, stop into Avoca for a quick lunch. This Irish store is famous not only for its colorful gifts and housewares, but for its food hall down in the basement level. Get an introduction to hearty Irish food such as seafood chowder served with a side of fresh-baked brown soda bread.
From here, choose between a variety of free city center attractions such as the National Gallery of Ireland (paintings by Jack B. Yeats are particularly impressive) the National Library of Ireland (check out the interactive W.B. Yeats exhibit) or the Museum of Natural History. Those visitors with a few extra euro in their pocket might want to splurge on the entry fee to the Book of Kells and incredible Long Room Library at Trinity College.
Finish your perfect weekend in Dublin with one final meal. Since 1913, Leo Burdock’s has been serving traditional fish and chips to locals and visitors alike. While the fish and chips are no longer served in yesterday’s newspaper, this chip shop offers a piece of Dublin history and an affordable meal at the same time.
Where to stay
For suggestions on where to stay for your weekend jaunt, visit our guide to the best budget hotels in Dublin. Our editors have visited, inspected and reviewed the best central and cheap sleeps in town.
About the author: Jessica Colley writes about Dublin for EuroCheapo. Read her posts in our Dublin blog.