Dublin is an odd little city in that, whilst everything is on your doorstep, or at least within five minutes trot away, it’s very easy to find yourself with little to do other than hit the pub and whittle your time and hard earned money away on pints and pub crisps.
Now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing as I have been known to enjoy a tipple every now and again, but what to do if you want to knock a bit of enjoyment out of the city without feeling like a twat when you order a large latté in a pub normally used to serving beverages of a different kind? It’s something I’ve run into difficulty with now that I’ve tried to stay off the gargle for the lifetime that is November. (Ok, I’ve failed epically twice already but… The less said about that the better!) So here’s a list of things to think about when you’re sat in front of the telly trying to think of things to do.
1) Walk. And look up when you’re doing so. This city is an eccentric and eclectic mix of architectural styles spanning centuries. It’s easy to miss this when you’re bombing it to catch your bus or shuffling indifferently between pubs. Look up and take in the city! And who knows where the walk might take you; dotted around the city are hidden gems of parks, lovely for a walk around on a fresh winters morning, or, in better times, to chug back a sneaky can of cider on a warm summer’s day. Two highlights include Blessington Park (keep heading up O’Connell Street, pass the Garden of Remembrance and keep heading north, you eventually run into it!) and The Iveagh Gardens (between Harcourt Street and Earlsfort Terrace, just South of Stephens Green,) designed in the mid-1800’s feels a bit like walking into a scene from the Children of Narnia.
Another way of picking up some history of Dublin is by taking the 1916 Rising Tour, something I’d advise everyone to do, whether you’re from this Isle or not- Meets at 11.30am Monday to Saturday and 1pm on a Sunday outside the International Bar on Wicklow Street. The walk takes around 2 hours and costs €12 but it is definitely worth every penny. We’re lucky to have a deep history in this city, so why not research some spots yourself, bring a camera and a biro with you and take to the streets!
2) The Ghost Bus Tour! Dublin Bus runs several tours around the city, and these things aren’t just for tourists you know. (Details can all be found here) Best done on a cold dark November evening- a bit pricy at €25 or so but it is three hours of entertainment and you can be guaranteed that you’ll walk away knowing something new. The last time I did it, the narrator was really into it and the gang of AJHs (AH JAYSUS HOWYAs) down the back of it made the tour for me; “Jaysus, this really is scary, it smells like the flats!” Good to do with a group of mates.
Other alternatives are the Sea Safari that takes you on a speedboat trip around Dublin Bay (Don’t worry, they supply jump suits and life vests!) or the Viking Splash Tour. So what, you might be looked scornfully upon by the public as a ‘bleedin’ tourist’ but all are definitely good fun and give you a different perspective of the city.
3) Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone…. Again, something people take for granted and reserve for visitors to these shores and that is the Museums and historical spots. How many times have you been to Kilmainham Jail? Or to visit the Book of Kells? Yes these things are expensive at face value but compare prices with how many pints you’d get for the same money and it’s definitely worth it. The National Library of Ireland regularly hosts fantastic Exhibits and the National Museum in Collins Barracks is always worth a visit, as is the Chester Beatty Library in Dublin Castle, and all three are free.
4) Lights, camera, action… We’re lucky enough to have two decent arthouse cinemas in this city, namely the IFI in Temple Bar and the Lighthouse Cinema in Smithfield. Both are worth a visit and for different reasons- They both show pretty much the same schedule of movies but the IFI doubles as being a great place to eat, with cheap options on the menu and a more than decent café bar while the Lighthouse is just amazing to look at – A purpose built and architecturally awe-inspiring decor leave you reeling before you even get to see whatever Japanese Gorefest or Italian Softcore Indy flick you’re about to check out.
The IFI often do outdoor film screenings too, in Meeting House square. Odd but also a bit of fun – Last week they had the Original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – great film!
5) Do something different. Seomra Spraoi just off Mountjoy Square and The Exchange on Exchange Street in Temple Bar are two social spaces in the City Centre, run by volunteers and both regularly host gigs, workshops and film screenings. Active participation is enthusiastically promoted and both are always good places to spend an evening.
So that’s that really. It’s all about opening your eyes and looking at Dublin as though you are a wide-eyed and awe-betaken tourist. It’s a beautiful city, and as I said in another Blog in another time, I have a love/ hate relationship with this city. One that’s reciprocal and never ending but at the moment, our relationship is on a high. It’s hard not to love it when the sun is out but it can be rotten when the weather and your luck are against you. Stay out of the puke magnet that is Temple Bar and you’ll be fine and here’s to Dublin in the rare auld times…