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A Family Guide to Exploring Dublin
From pints to parks, there's plenty of fun for families in Ireland's capital city.
Dublin is one of Europe's most walkable cities.(Getty Images)
About a six-hour flight from the East Coast, Dublin makes a great family-friendly destination with its friendly people, walkable streets and central location to explore the rest of the country.
Families can fly there entirely on miles by booking with Aer Lingus, the national airline of Ireland, which offers flights for 26,000 miles per person during their “off peak” dates that run two-thirds of the year. These include January through March, the end of April through mid-June and September 11 through December 15.
Dublin is also a great starting point for exploring other major European cities, to which you can fly on British Airways or Aer Lingus using miles or on discount airlines like Ryanair.
A must-do in Dublin is the Guinness Storehouse, which has become the country’s most-visited attraction. Guinness beer, the dark brew made in Ireland and once thought to be a panacea, is the pride of the Irish, and the Storehouse reveals the beer in all its glory. You’ll learn its history, how it’s made, how to pour a pint and, most importantly, how to drink it properly. (Hint: Don’t drink the foam!)
The capstone to the tour is a stop at the Gravity Bar located on the highest level with floor-to-ceiling glass walls that offer 360-degree views of Dublin. Kids are welcome on this tour, and stopping for lunch at the 1837 Bar & Brasserie is a great way to break up the day with a meal of beef stew and a pint, of course.
A History Lesson
Dublin offers plenty of fantastic architecture, including some historic buildings like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, one of the only remaining medieval structures in the city. Jonathan Swift, author of “Gulliver’s Travels,” is laid to rest there along with hundreds of others. Visitors should also stop at the beautiful Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin’s oldest building, which is also within the city's historic center.
Step onto the campus of Trinity College, one of the oldest colleges in Western Europe, for a peek at the Book of Kells, housed in the college’s library. The book is an elaborately handwritten and illustrated manuscript of the four gospels in Latin dating to 800 AD. Check library hours to be sure you don't arrive too late for a look.
For a quick overview of the city, consider a Dublin hop-on, hop-off tour, which takes you to all the key sites and lets you to get off to explore and then catch the bus again when you’re ready to head to the next stop. It's very helpful when traveling with little ones who may tire of walking quickly.
While Dublin is prone to rainy gray days, if the sun happens to emerge, a trip to one of Dublin’s incredibly green parks is in order. Catherine Reilly, managing director of Brendan Vacations, a Dublin company that helps visitors plan vacations in Ireland and Scotland, recommends visiting Phoenix Park.
One of the largest urban parks in Europe at more than 1,700 acres, Phoenix Park offers biking and walking paths, its own herd of deer, the president of Ireland’s residence and the fourth-oldest zoo in the world. “Make friends with the local deer, go biking, a long walk or even visit the Dublin Zoo,” says Reilly.
Another lovely Dublin park where the locals head on a sunny day is St. Stephen’s Green. Located on the edge of Dublin’s prime shopping district Grafton Street, the park is filled with flowers, ponds, bridges and waterfalls along with many a couple in love and features lunchtime concerts during the summer months.
Shopping and Entertainment
A visit to Dublin would not be complete without a stroll down Grafton Street, a public thoroughfare closed to traffic and dotted with stores, including the Ireland’s own Brown Thomas department store, as well as historic buildings, cafes and hotels. You may just happen upon a local musician performing some classic Irish tunes as you meander about in search of a souvenir.
To entertain the whole family, Reilly recommends taking in “Celtic Nights,” a traditional Irish show located in Dublin’s historic City Centre that includes dinner to experience local fare, music and dancing. Running seven nights a week, the show incorporates the audience and features world championship Irish dancers.
Dublin is also known for its Temple Bar district, which is filled with pubs and is the hotspot for the city’s nightlife. You may want to skip a visit with the kids at night, but it’s a fun stroll during the day. For great fish and chips, Reilly recommends Beshoff's, SMS Cervi on Drury Street, and Leo Burdock restaurants.
[See: 9 Ways to Travel Better.]
Dublin offers a variety of accommodations for families, including some within the City Centre and others in more upscale suburbs. The lovely InterContinental Dublin makes a luxurious stay for families in the outskirts of town in Ballsbridge, which offers its own village complete with pubs and restaurants. The hotel offers the comforts of America, including an American-style breakfast, an indoor pool and easy access by city bus, Uber or taxi to the City Centre.
For families who want to stay in the heart of the action, consider the Holiday Inn Express Dublin City Centre. The property includes breakfast with your stay, modern decor, free Wi-Fi and a cafe open until 10 p.m. each day.
Comfortable hotels close to the airport include the Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport and the Maldron Hotel Dublin Airport, which offers spacious rooms and a kids club.
About En Route
Practical advice on the art of traveling smarter with tips, tricks and intel from En Route's panel of experts.
Contributors have experience in areas ranging from family travel, adventure travel, experiential travel and budget travel to hotels, cruises and travel rewards and include Amy Whitley, Claire Volkman, Holly Johnson, Marsha Dubrow, Lyn Mettler, Sery Kim, Kyle McCarthy, Erica Lamberg, Jess Moss, Sheryl Nance-Nash, Sherry Laskin, Katie Jackson, Erin Gifford, Roger Sands, Steve Larese, Gwen Pratesi, Erin Block, Dave Parfitt, Kacey Mya, Kimberly Wilson, Susan Portnoy, Donna Tabbert Long and Kitty Bean Yancey.
Edited by Liz Weiss.
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