Port of Dublin
Imagine Dublin and visions of Guinness, Leopold Bloom, and hearty breakfast plates piled high with Irish bacon and farm-fresh eggs might spring to mind, backed by a U2 soundtrack. Dublin is all that, and so much more; in fact, Ireland's largest city (and capital for more than a thousand years) is currently enjoying its status as one of the hottest, most livable cities not just in Europe, but in the world.
Set on Ireland's central east coast along the banks of the Liffey River, where so many literary greats were born (James Joyce, yes, but also Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett, to name a few), Dublin now shows off trendy coffee houses, foodie-friendly restaurants and smart boutiques filled with Burberry-clad shoppers. However, there's still much to see from days gone by in this historical city.
The city center is bisected by the River Liffey, which makes a good orientation point for visitors. The Royal Canal forms a skirt through the northern half, and the Grand Canal does the same through the southern half, which is where most of the major sights are found. Within the south portion, aim for the triangle between O'Connell Bridge, St. Stephen's Green, and Christchurch Cathedral, where you'll find Trinity College, Grafton Street (for shopping), Temple Bar (for hot nightlife), and Dublin Castle.
The city's upscale neighborhoods and the majority of hotels, restaurants, shops and sights lie south of the river. The main shopping thoroughfare is Grafton Street, but you'll find the more exclusive shops along the side streets. Dublin's most beautiful squares -- St. Stephen's Green, Merrion Square and Fitzwilliam Square -- are within 10 minutes' walking distance of Grafton Street. Temple Bar lies along the Liffey near Ha'penny Bridge. North of the river is working-class Dublin, but also Dublin's most important theaters, the Gate and the Abbey. There is also a pocket of fine Georgian townhouses on and around North Great George's Street.
Dublin has a mild, temperate climate, and though showers can come up suddenly at any time of the year, they usually pass just as quickly. Average temperatures in summer range from 16 to 20 degrees Celsius (60 to 67 degrees Fahrenheit) and in winter from 4 to 7 degrees Celsius (39 to 44 degrees Fahrenheit).
Dublin is packed with cultural and historic sites, restaurants, pubs, lively public spaces and friendly faces
Depending on where your ship docks, reaching the city center could be a trek
Dublin is one of Europe's most lauded cities, and with diversions for every taste, it lives up to its reputation
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Where You're Docked
North Wall Quay Extension: Smaller ships can dock on the River Liffey at North Wall Quay Extension, near the East Link Bridge; it's less than a 10-minute taxi ride into Dublin's center. There's not much when you disembark, as the area is mostly industrial, so your best bet is to board one of the shuttle buses most cruise lines arrange for a trip into town or, alternatively, take a cab into town. If you want to walk to the city center, it's about a two-mile walk along the river.
Alexandra Quay: Larger ships can dock at Alexandra Quay, near the mouth of the River Liffey. There is city bus service near the terminal, as well as taxis, and the nearest tram stop is about a mile away. Some cruise lines provide a shuttle service, but double-check to make sure a taxi isn't cheaper. Walking isn't advised due to heavy traffic in the area. Dublin Port Company has plans to redevelop the Alexandra Basin to include two cruise ship berths and to accommodate larger ships than can currently be served.
Dun Laoghaire: Some lines choose to dock in a completely different area. Dun Laoghaire, a suburb about seven miles south of the city center. This historic port is just over 200 yards from shops and other services. There's also a Dublin rapid transit system (DART) station located near the pier; from there, it's about 20 minutes to the city center. Taxis are available, too; the drive is also about 20 minutes. This port is closer to attractions like County Wicklow and the mountains, which is ideal if you enjoy the countryside.
Services are lacking at both Alexandra Quay and North Wall Quay Extension, which are both are essentially industrial ports.
North Wall: At North Wall, you're docked near the architecturally interesting Convention Center Dublin (CCD), which offers free Wi-Fi. You're within walking distance of the lovely Georgian-style 1791 Customs House (Custom House Quay), which is illuminated at night. (Be warned, though, that the area is a hangout for homeless people.) The Jeanie Johnston Tall Ship and Famine Museum (353 01 473 0111) is also nearby. Tours last approximately 50 minutes (times vary by season), taking you aboard the ship, an authentic replica of a vessel that made 16 trips to the U.S. transporting emmigrants during the potato famine. Mannequins and personal belongings of travelers give visitors a real sense of life aboard the ship.
Alexandra Quay: Near Alexandra Quay, you'll find the ferry terminal (Terminal 2), which has toilets and pay phones, but little else.
Dun Laoghaire: This terminal has the most services. At the port, there's a ferry terminal with drinks, snacks, free Wi-Fi and pay phones. But it's just a short walk to the center of this affluent suburb, where you'll find restaurants, shops and banks with ATMs. The nearest banks are Ulster Bank (Dun Laoghaire Shopping Centre, George's Street Upper), AIB Bank (George's Street Upper) and Bank of Ireland (George's Street Upper).
Good to Know
When you pay with a credit card, you may be asked if you want to pay in euros or dollars. Always opt for euros. Otherwise, you'll be socked with a "convenience fee" for converting your payment to dollars, and the exchange rate won't be favorable either. Known as Direct Currency Conversion (DCC), this practice is prevalent in Ireland, and will usually cost you at least 3% more that if you pay in euros. Check the receipt every time you pay with a credit card, and demand that the charge be cancelled and re-run in euros if it appears in dollars. We also recommend getting a credit card that doesn't add a charge to foreign transactions.
By Taxi: Taxis are usually plentiful. Some Dublin taxi companies operate a 24-hour radio-call service, among them Co-Op (353 01 677 7777) and VIP Taxis (353 01 478 3333). Calling for a cab will add an extra fee.
By Bus: Dublin has a large bus network, and you can purchase short-distance fares or Rambler day passes. Fares depend on the number of stages you travel; most trips within the City Centre are between one and three stages. You can't buy tickets from the driver; they must be purchased at outlets displaying the black-and-yellow Dublin Transit sign. You can also save by purchasing a Leap Card, which requires a refundable deposit with a minimum balance (usually 5 euros for each).
By Tram: The tram network, called Luas, has two stops that are convenient if you're docked at North Wall. The Mayor Square and Spencer Dock stops are located at the rear of the CCD building.
By Rapid Transit System: From Dun Laoghaire, the DART system gets you into central Dublin in approximately 20 minutes. The line runs primarily along the coast, and you can also use the Leap Card to pay your fare.
By Air: Dublin Airport is a 25-minute drive from Alexandra Quay and North Wall Quay. Most cruise lines offer airport transfers, or shore excursions combined with transfers. There's also an Airlink bus that stops outside the CCD (usually best for ships docked at North Wall) and 3Arena (best for ships at Alexandra Quay).
On Foot: Once you get to the city center, most attractions are within walking distance. There are also plenty of walking tours that cover literary sights, pubs, food and history, and more.
Currency & Best Way to Get Money
The national currency in the Republic of Ireland is the euro. Currency exchange can be made in most banks and post offices, as well as some hotels and travel agencies. Traveler's checks should be exchanged at banks or exchange offices, as very few businesses will accept them; ATMs and credit cards have made them nearly obsolete. For the best exchange rate, use ATMs, which are found almost everywhere. Check www.xe.com for the latest currency exchange information.
Note: Many European ATMs display only numerals on the keypad. For pin codes that include letters, commit to memory or jot down the translation to numbers.
If you're visiting from outside the European Union, you can get back the Value Added Tax (VAT) you paid on certain items, which can be as much as 17.36%. You will need to carry your passport with you and fill out a form at the time of purchase. Present the forms to Customs at your final departure from the European Union, but keep in mind the agents will most likely ask to see the purchased goods as well. Mail the forms, and once it all works through the system, you'll get your refund. There's also a program operated by Global Blue, which gives you a refund on the spot when you leave the EU, but they take a cut for the convenience and you have to shop at a store displaying the Global Blue Tax-Free Shopping logo.
English is the primary language in Ireland. Irish, also referred to as Gaelic or Gaelic Irish, is the ancient Celtic language of the country, spoken by about five percent of the population, particularly in the western counties.
Food and Drink
Traditional Irish cuisine is hearty, homey and filling -- think Irish stew, made with the famous local stout. Potatoes frequently make an appearance, and might be mashed with cabbage or kale in a dish called colcannon, or with scallions in a dish known as champ. Potatoes even top shepherd's pie, a savory blend of meat and vegetables. Irish soda bread is delicious, usually baked fresh and served warm. And Irish dairy products are particularly good, so slather on the butter! The Irish also take pride in their cheeses; you'll find this reasonably priced fare in both restaurants and pubs.
Should you be overnighting ashore in Dublin, you'll likely encounter the famed Irish breakfast. This includes sausage, Irish bacon (which is rather like ham), black pudding (blood sausage with oatmeal), white pudding (pork and oatmeal sausage), baked beans, grilled tomato, eggs, potatoes, soda bread and maybe even cheese. Needless to say, once you've polished off all that, you may not need lunch -- or dinner, for that matter.
Chefs are creating modern takes on Irish food as well, drawing from an abundance of local ingredients such as fresh seafood. British celebrity chefs including Gordon Ramsey have opened outposts in Ireland, but there are also local stars on the scene. In Dublin, Oliver Dunne of Bon Appetit (Malahide Village, North County Dublin; 353 01 845 0314) and Derry Clarke of L'Ecrivain (109A Lower Baggot Street; 353 01 661 1919) are two Michelin-starred chefs at the top of their game. Perhaps the queen of Irish chefs is Rachel Allen, a TV celebrity, author and teacher at the renowned Ballymaloe Cookery School (353 21 464 6785) in County Cork.
Epicurian Food Hall: This bustling, budget-friendly spot offers an international array of food-court style eateries, including Irish fish and chips, Japanese hand-rolls and Turkish kebabs. Along with Italian, Brazilian, Greek and even Mexican food, there's also free Wi-Fi. (1 Liffey Street Lower at Abbey Street; 353 01 283 6077; open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
The Pig's Ear: The perfect example of Irish seasonal cuisine, this restaurant was created by TV chef Stephen McAllister. It's located in a Georgian building overlooking the Trinity playing fields, but the feel is casual. Look for dishes like Earl Grey-cured salmon and maple-glazed pig belly with toasted oats. Reservations recommended. (4 Nassau Street; 353 01 670 3865; open Monday through Saturday from noon to 2:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
One Pico: Imaginative Continental cuisine and fixed-price menus make this a great choice for an upscale (but not stuffy) lunch. Don't miss the passion-fruit souffle, prepared to order and served warm. Reservations required. (5 Moleworth Place; 353 01 6760 300; open Monday through Saturday from noon to 2:45 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m., Sundays from noon to 8 p.m.)
Bad Ass Cafe: This quirky institution in Temple Bar offers everything from burgers to pizza -- and it's actually pretty good. Live music many evenings adds to the atmosphere. (9 - 11 Crown Alley; 353 01 675 3005; open Sunday through Thursday from 10 a.m. to late; Friday and Saturday, 8 a.m. to late)
Thorntons: Ranked as one of the Top 50 Restaurants of the World, the eponymous domain of acclaimed chef Kevin Thornton offers modern Irish cuisine, including his riffs on classics such as bacon and cabbage terrine with pea sorbet and thyme sauce. Reservations required. (Fitzwilliam Hotel, St. Stephen's Green; 353 01 478 7008; open Thursday through Saturday from 12.30 p.m. to 2 p.m., and Tuesday through Saturday from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m.)
Peploe's Wine Bistro: Sure, wine's the name of the game there, but there's also an eclectic menu that ranges from wild Irish venison to monkfish pie to fritto misto. For a great value, dine before 6:15 p.m. on the three-course, fixed-price menu. (16 St. Stephen's Green; 353 01 676 3144; open Monday through Saturday from noon to 11 p.m., and Sunday until 10 p.m.)
Chapter One: Located in the basement of the Writers Museum, and well worth a splurge, this Michelin-starred restaurant effortlessly blends modern design with historic architecture. Equally artful dishes like Achill Island black faced lamb, roast salt marsh duck breast, and wood pigeon terrine with smoked quince demonstrate chef Ross Lewis' commitment to local ingredients. Reservations essential. (Writers Museum, 18 - 19 Parnell Square; 353 01 873 2266; open Tuesday through Friday from 12:30 p.m. to 2:00 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m.)
Stock up on fine Irish linens, especially the ones from Bottom Drawer, which is nestled sweetly inside the Brown Thomas department store (88-95 Grafton Street). Hand-knit woolen anything can be found practically anywhere, but we love the soft-as-butter hand-loomed cashmere knits from hot Irish designer Lainey Keogh, also available at Brown Thomas and several other shops in Dublin.
Tip: If you've got your heart set on a traditional Irish fisherman's sweater, shop carefully. Many that you'll find in souvenir shops are imported or machine-made. If it seems like an unbelievable bargain, don't believe it.
Skip the mixed drinks and tip a pint of tar-colored Guinness Stout or sip some Irish whiskey. Guinness doesn't taste as strong as you might think, and there's a real art to serving it properly. Watch as a bartender tips and fills the glass partway, then lets it rest so the head subsides, before finally topping it with just the right amount of creamy foam. As for the whiskey, you won't taste the "peaty" characteristics of Scotch, but you'll discover that brands like Jameson are smooth and dangerously easy to drink. If you must mix it, go for an Irish coffee. Invented in County Limerick, this drink combines hot coffee, Irish whiskey and sugar, topped off with thick cream.