LAY OF THE LAND
Dublin lies midway along the east coast of Ireland, overlooking the horseshoe sweep of Dublin Bay and bounded by the sea to the east and the Dublin Mountains to the west. Dublin's city center is split by the River Liffey into distinct north and south sides. The south side is home to Trinity College, Grafton Street, boutique malls, and all of the capital's five-star hotels. The north side is a grittier, no-nonsense affair—though it still throws up gems like Chapter One, the James Joyce Center, and Croke Park. Other need-to-know districts in the city center (usually defined as the area encircled by Dublin's canals) include touristy Temple Bar, the developing Docklands district, Dublin's Old City (encompassing Christ Church Cathedral and the medieval core), the Georgian areas around Merrion and Fitzwilliam squares, and, if your thirst hasn't been slaked by 2 a.m., the late-night wine bars of Leeson Street.
WHEN TO GO
It's no secret that the Emerald Isle got that way from rainfall. Showers are a threat in Dublin at any time of year, but don't let that put a damper on your plans—a bit of rain never stopped a Dubliner (and certainly not a bit of drizzle). What's more, the upside is a mild, temperate climate with winter temperatures rarely dropping much below 40° F. Summer is Dublin's peak tourist season, but the city can be very pleasant in late spring or early fall, too—without the added crowds. Christmas in Dublin is very jolly, though the most festive season (well, day) is probably June 16, Bloomsday. The anniversary of Leopold Bloom's daylong (but 700-plus-page!) Dublin perambulation in James Joyce's Ulysses is unique to the Irish capital. Participants often dress up in costume and reenact passages from the book—such as downing red wine and Gorgonzola sandwiches at Davy Byrnes Pub or eating offal (yes, really) in Sandycove.
HOW TO GET THERE
Dublin Airport (DUB) is roughly six miles north of downtown. Aer Lingus flies direct from several cities in the United States; American Airlines flies direct from Chicago; Continental from Newark; United Airlines from Washington and Boston; US Airways from Philadelphia; and Delta from Atlanta, New York City (JFK), and Boston.
A taxi to the city center costs €25 to €35 ($33–$46), depending on the time of day and traffic. Several city bus lines also leave from the terminal building (www.dublinbus.ie), and Aircoach (www.aircoach.ie) departs every 15 minutes from 5 am until midnight (and hourly thereafter) to the southern suburbs of Ballsbridge and Leopardstown, making stops convenient to many hotels en route.
Dublin has its share of traffic issues, and despite an explosion of bus and cycle lanes, journey times remain unreliable—especially during rush hour. The city center is relatively compact, so if at all possible, walk.
Taxis are plentiful, and availability is signaled by an illuminated yellow roof sign. The base rate during the day is €4.10; at night, it's €4.45; and tipping is usually around 10 percent (though not essential). Public transport is improving, but remains a hodgepodge affair that does not always link up logically. Dublin Bus operates the bus routes (www.dublinbus.ie; €1.15–€4.50 per journey). The DART suburban train hugs the coast from Howth to Greystones (www.irishrail.ie; €1.65–€4.20 per journey), and two light rail lines run from Connolly Station to Tallaght and St. Stephen's Green to Sandyford (www.luas.ie; €1.50–€2.50 per journey). Discount day and weekly tickets are available for all, and bus and DART have additional three-day options.
Another transport option for tourists is Dublin Bus's open-topped (umbrellas, ahoy!) tour bus (353-1-873-4222; dublinsightseeing.ie). The hop-on, hop-off tour can be joined at any of 23 stops—located near attractions like Trinity College, Leinster House, and Dublin Castle. Buses run every 10 minutes from 9:30 am, every 15 minutes from 3 pm to 5 pm, and every 30 minutes from 5 pm to 6:30 pm. Tickets cost €15/€6 (adult/child).
Dublin's official tourist office Web site provides up-to-date information on events around the city. It also gives details on how to buy a discount Dublin Pass, which covers airport transfer to Dublin, admission to over 30 attractions, and savings at 25 different restaurants, shops, and other venues.
Dublin Tourism Centre
Tel: 353 1 605 7700