Save, Spring, Splurge: Dublin, Ireland

by  Teresa Bitler | Updated on Apr 26, 2023
River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland
River Liffey in Dublin, Ireland / SAKhanPhotography/iStock

Dublin is one of Europe's most popular destinations. Every year, millions of travelers visit the city to raise a pint in the pubs, admire the colorful Georgian houses, and catch a glimpse of priceless treasures, including the Book of Kells. However, like many great European cities, Dublin can be costly. However, first-time visitors can find it tricky to determine which attractions, properties, and eateries are worth the splurge. To help you navigate your way around the city, we've compiled an expert-approved Dublin travel guide


Dublin / Leonid Andronov/iStock

Stay at the Buswells Hotel, which was formerly a women's college. The property offers sensibly-priced elegance (think chandeliers and Victorian furnishings in the lobby and stylish décor in the well-appointed rooms). While the rooms are on the smaller side (about 200 square feet), you won't be spending too much time in your room — besides, there's an entire city to explore!  

In terms of activities, start at the National Museum of Ireland — Archaeology, which is located mere steps from the property. The free museum boasts an abundance of Celtic and medieval treasures, including the Tara Brooch and the Ardagh Chalice. It also features an impressive Viking collection, as well as a display of bog bodies (human corpses that have been mummified). 

The National Gallery of Ireland is also nearby — plus, it's free to enter. Here, you can admire magnificent works by Pablo Picasso, Rembrandt, and Claude Monet. The museum also features an array of work from Irish artists such as Jack B. Yeats, the brother of poet William Butler Yeats. 

If you prefer exploring the outdoors over strolling through museums, hop in an Uber and make your way towards Phoenix Park, Europe's largest inner-city park. It's also home to an enormous herd of deer. (Fun fact: About 200 deer are born in Phoenix Park annually.) We recommend arriving at the park early on Saturday mornings to score a free tour of Aras an Uachtaráin, the official residence of the President of Ireland.

Across the street, head to the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts & History (free admission), where you'll find a mix of furniture, jewelry, ceramics, and other works — as well as a variety of exhibits, including one on the 1916 Easter Rising

After exploring the city, you're bound to be hungry. When you hear your stomach growling, head to The Pieman Café, where you can fill up on single-serving savory pies (think: Steak & Stout, Feta & Sweet Potato, and Chicken & Mushroom) and sausage rolls (including flavors like Fennel & Chilli, Leek & Sage, and more). 


Dublin / jamegaw/iStock

The upscale Davenport Hotel is among the best places to stay in DublinEach room here is outfitted with modern amenities like SmartTVs, USB charging ports, and free wifi.

In terms of activities, we recommend purchasing a ticket to view the world-famous Book of Kells, which is housed on the Trinity College campus. The ninth-century-era artifact is one of the world's most famous medieval manuscripts, and it features a beautifully decorated copy of the four Gospels. And while the manuscript is impressive, there's still more to see here. As you explore the rest of the exhibit, check out the famed Long Room — one of the most impressive libraries in the world.

From the campus, walk to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. Even if you don't have Irish ancestors, you'll enjoy this interactive and fully-digital museum, which showcases the contributions of the nation's emigrants. Allow plenty of time to play around with the touch-screens exhibits, watch the videos, and stamp your museum "passport" at designated stations.

If you're a true crime junkie, stop by Kilmainham Gaol (free admission), an old jail. Throughout the 100-plus years it operated, the infamous prison housed everyone from hardened criminals accused of murder and rape to the leaders of the Easter Rising  as well as ordinary men, women, and children arrested for petty theft. Tours sell out quickly, which is why booking in advance is essential. 

Also, learn more about Dublin's history at The Little Museum of DublinThe engaging, entertaining staff lead each group through the museum while telling stories of Ireland's capital through photographs and memorabilia. 

Finish the day (or break for lunch) at Temple Bar, a pub within a neighborhood that is also called Temple Bar. Although it's a bit touristy, the pub is a must-visit for first-timers. Additionally, the pub plays music all day, beginning at 1 p.m. You can also find a wide selection of sandwiches, seafood, and platters — all of which pair well with perfectly poured pints of Guinness. Come early in the evening for dinner before a night of pub-hopping. 


Dublin / Lukas Bischoff/iStock

The Merrion Hotel is one of Ireland's most luxurious properties, with its fine art collection, period gardens, and Georgian architecture. While a stay here doesn't come cheap, it may be worth the splurge if you want to be treated like royalty. You can also enhance your experience with an art-inspired afternoon tea reservation, which includes a selection of delectable creations (including savory sandwiches, scones, bread, and pastries) inspired by 19th- and 20th-century fine art. 

Additionally, a trip to Dublin wouldn't be complete without a tour of the Jameson Distillery. The 40-minute tour includes a comparative tasting and a complimentary drink. Alternatively, visit Maturation Warehouse, which offers a variety of tours and experiences, including a 90-minute whiskey-blending class and a cocktail-making class.

The Guinness Storehouse offers similar experiences for a fraction of the price. Don't miss your chance to check out the building's seventh-floor bar, which offers panoramic city views. There's also the option to purchase more add-ons, such as engraved pint glasses or a "Stoutie," which is your own image on the head of a Guinness.  

For dinner, reserve a table at Shanahan's on the Green to savor Ireland's incredible beef. The steaks are all certified Irish Angus beef and are cooked in a broiler and seared to perfection. Eat in the main restaurant or at the Oval Office Bar, which commemorates U.S. Presidents who have Irish ancestry. (Fun fact: The bar also serves a special single malt exclusively created for the restaurant). 

Want to take that trip for free — and score some valuable miles for your next excursion? Check out our top pick travel credit cards for the best welcome bonuses, perks, and plenty of cash back.

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