I entered Ireland with a bit of a mishap as the immigration officer informed me the language I couldn't read was Irish - I had no idea. Riding into the city center by a bus that closely resembled the double deckers of London, but without the screen that read the stops. So getting off at the right stop was a bit of luck as I happened to notice the hostel's name on the building as the bus was about to pull away. Dublin is an easy weekend venture from London. It's a quirky city full of traditional Irish pubs, an old feel and a taste of nature even in the heart of the city. The river Liffey flows through the center and at night it is lit by an array of colorful lights from the different bridges that cross over it. The city is easily walkable with plenty to explore within a short distance.
The night life of Dublin is wild. Temple Bar is a popular tourist area, but by no means overrated. It is bustling with people and music, but definitely too expensive to stay for longer than a drink. One Irish Coffee alone was 9 euros. At a local pub nearby across the river a Guinness was only 4 euros as opposed to 7 in the Temple Bar area. The Cobblestone was an authentic peek into the pub life of locals with a band that included a fiddle and an accordion.
A simple train ride away can bring you into Howth, the greatest glimpse of what small town countryside of Ireland looks like from inside Dublin. Filled with small fish shops, fields and quiet. The hike overlooking the sea passes an old castle that allows you to see from the Island that vikings once stopped at years ago.
The famous Guinness brown bread and fish chowder from King Sitric hit the spot. They even gave you a cute meringue with your coffee and gave you blankets to warm up while you ate by the fire place. A short five minute walk down the road brings you to a trail along the gorgeous cliffs (nothing like the Cliff's of Moher, but a great view nonetheless).
The history and notoriety of the figures who've graced Dublin's streets are truly incredible. I was able to see where Oscar Wilde house was or the halls that Jonathan Swift and Bram Stoker walked. Trinity College's campus is free to visit and most notably the Old Library and the book of Kells (the gospel's in Latin).
Walking through Dublin without any agenda, I happened upon gorgeous old churches and plenty of buildings with this rustic vine covered feel that felt timeless. The museums in Dublin were also free. The National Galley of Dublin had a little bit of everything and it was held in a lovely space. Modern art, sculptures, classics, Irish art and European all filled it's bright rooms.
Near St. Patrick's Cathedral, the park called St. Stephen's Green held gorgeous swan's and was frozen over so the ducks and seagulls would walk around. It was a great size for a stroll with the National Gallery being a five minutes walk away.
The Kilkenny Cafe is also close distance. It's on the second floor with a lovely antique flair and string lights. I enjoyed a quiche, but there was a dessert, salad and hot bar to chose from. It would be a great spot to enjoy cream tea in the afternoon, but we had already stopped to have coffee at Caffe Noto after walking in the beautiful chapel of John's Lane on Thomas St. The churches are brilliant and many of them are free to walk into and appreciate.
Overall, I think Dublin is a great place for a weekend retreat before heading into the rest of Ireland or to escape the bustle of the megacity across the channel. The character of the cobbled streets and colorful lights fill the entire city with a warm presence even in the chilly temperatures. I definitely want to make it back to Ireland again.