Dublin — a city brimming with history, culture, and a vibrant atmosphere — continues to captivate visitors from around the globe. Those of us who live here become immersed in the rich tapestry of Irish life. People flock to Dublin for many reasons, drawn by its legendary pub culture, literary heritage, and welcoming locals.
However, as with any popular destination, there are some common mistakes that tourists often make during their visit. To ensure you make the most of your time here, these are 11 mistakes worth avoiding in Dublin, allowing you to experience the true essence of Ireland and create memories that will last a lifetime.
1. Not Venturing Outside Of The City Center
Many tourists tend to stick to the city center and miss out on exploring some of the charming neighborhoods outside of the main tourist areas, such as Smithfield (aka Dublin 7) where the Jameson Distillery Bow Street tours take place. Or go further afield north to Skerries or south to Dalkey via DART for a step back in time that is easily handled afoot.
Skerries, best known perhaps for the iconic windmills and watermill, remains notable for the legend that St. Patrick first stepped foot on this part of Ireland. Now, it’s not clear on which of his visits this happened, but on the beach by the Martello Tower, you can carefully shuffle down the slick rocks to make out the outline of his giant footprint. For thrill-seekers, this is also the place to go windsurfing and kayaking. If the currents allow, you can visit two or three of the outlying islands.
Dalkey, home of the late author Maeve Binchy and summertime home to George Bernard Shaw, remains of historic interest. The excellent visitor center hosts a tour that takes you back in time to Henry VIII, featuring interactions with professional actors who won’t break character. Check out the graveyard behind and marvel at how short the doorway is (there’s a reason for that). Once you’ve spotted each of the markers for the original castles, take lunch and stroll down to Coliemore Harbor. From there, you can motor over to Dalkey Island and participate in a cliff walk, or settle on a bench to watch the world go by while several lads jump off the sea wall into the chilly water below.
2. Focusing Only On The Big Attractions
While Dublin has plenty of famous attractions like the Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Castle, and Trinity College, tourists should also consider visiting lesser-known sights like the Glasnevin Cemetery or Marsh’s Library. These hidden gems provide unique insights into Dublin’s history and culture.
On your trip to Glasnevin Cemetery — a place steeped in history and the final resting place of many notable Irish figures — attend the guided tours that provide fascinating insights into Dublin’s past and the stories of those buried there. Purchase a ticket to climb the O’Connell Tower for great panoramic views of the city. Connected to the botanical garden, it’s easy to spend a day here.
For lunch or just a nice break for a pint, stop at John Kavanagh’s The Gravediggers, located just outside the walled cemetery (to the right if you’re facing the main entrance). Founded in 1833, and still in the Kavanagh family, it’s said that gravediggers would knock on the wall when they were coming around for a pint. I’ve checked; there’s no actual window between the cemetery and the bar at this time.
Marsh’s Library, Ireland’s oldest public library, is another hidden gem where visitors can peruse ancient manuscripts and immerse themselves in a world of literary history. By exploring these lesser-known sights, tourists can gain a deeper appreciation for Dublin’s cultural heritage and discover intriguing stories often overlooked by guidebooks.
3. Not Trying Local Food
Dublin has a vibrant food scene, but many tourists stick to familiar chain restaurants and miss out on local favorites like fish and chips from Leo Burdock or a hearty Irish breakfast from The Woollen Mills. Exploring Dublin’s food scene immerses visitors in the city’s culture and allows them to indulge in mouthwatering flavors. For fine dining with an Art Deco vibe, check out The Ivy on Dawson’s Street. For my favorite high tea in town, attend “Art Tea” at the five-star Merrion Hotel.
4. Not Dressing For The Weather
Dublin’s unpredictable weather catches many tourists off guard. Even during the summer months, rain showers and chilly winds can make an appearance. To stay comfortable and enjoy the city to the fullest, it’s important to pack layers as well as waterproof gear. Don a light sweater, carry a waterproof jacket, and have an umbrella handy. This way, you can embrace Dublin’s charm regardless of the weather conditions; whether you’re strolling along the cobbled streets of Temple Bar or exploring the lush landscapes of Phoenix Park.
As one of my favorite tour guides Tommy Graham likes to say, “Ireland, where many are cold, but few are frozen.”
5. Overlooking The City’s History And Culture
Dublin brims with history and a vibrant cultural scene, as you would expect from a 1,500-year-old city. You probably already have Dublin Castle on your must-see list while you’re in town. Make time to visit Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison turned museum where visitors can learn about Ireland’s struggle for independence and the lives of those imprisoned within its walls.
For a taste of Dublin’s theatrical heritage, catch a show at the renowned Abbey Theatre, known for its rich history and groundbreaking performances. Or head to the Gaiety Theatre where Riverdance spends its summer season. Exploring Dublin’s historical sites and immersing oneself in its cultural offerings provides a deeper understanding of the city’s identity and leaves a lasting impression.
When considering religion, be sure to visit both Christ Church Cathedral (check out the crypts!) and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, originally Catholic but now the Christian Church of Ireland. When St. Patrick’s was built, it was outside the walls of the original Dublin City. Now, the cathedrals remain just blocks apart, an easy walk on a sunny day. To visit the Catholic cathedral, you’ll have to cross the River Liffey and visit the ProCathedral in Dublin 1, a lovely but comparatively somber religious center.
6. Not Interacting With Locals
Dubliners are famously friendly and outgoing, so tourists should try to strike up conversations with locals to get recommendations for hidden gems or off-the-beaten-path attractions. Engaging with the locals can provide valuable insights into the city’s best-kept secrets and create memorable connections.
7. Assuming All Pubs Are The Same
While Dublin is known for its pub culture, not all pubs are created equal. Tourists should seek out pubs that offer live music or have a cozy, welcoming atmosphere to get the full Dublin pub experience. Local recommendations can lead to discovering authentic Irish music sessions and enjoying the lively pub ambiance. You’ll visit Temple Bar in Dublin 2 for the most expensive pint in town. Then, check out a local hole in the wall or one of the sports bars, like The Living Room or the Church Café, Late Bar & Restaurant in Dublin 1 for a fun night out with Irish dancers and live music.
Wherever you land for the night — or for part of the night if you participate in one of the pub crawls — engage with the locals over a pint of Guinness, listen to their stories, and immerse yourself in the warmth and camaraderie that Dublin’s pubs are famous for.
8. Renting A Car In Dublin
When exploring Dublin itself, relying on public transportation or taxis is usually the best option. Dublin has an extensive bus, tram, and train network, making it easy to navigate around major attractions and neighborhoods. Driving a car in Dublin City can be challenging due to traffic congestion and limited parking spaces. You won’t find Uber or Lyft here, but download the Free Now app before you go to call for a taxi from anywhere in town.
If venturing outside Dublin, however, renting a car with the appropriate insurance coverage and knowing how to drive a manual transmission (stick shift) can save money. Automatic cars tend to be more expensive even before you purchase insurance. This allows you the flexibility to explore the stunning landscapes of Ireland at your own pace.
9. Underestimating The Time Needed To Explore Dublin
Dublin offers a multitude of attractions, museums, and cultural events. Many tourists make the mistake of not allocating enough time to explore the city fully. It’s recommended to plan for an extended stay to truly immerse oneself in Dublin’s vibrant atmosphere and take part in various activities.
10. Not Familiarizing Themselves With Local Customs
Dublin has its unique customs and social etiquette. Tourists should take the time to learn some basic phrases in Irish Gaelic, understand pub etiquette (such as ordering drinks at the bar), and respect local traditions. Demonstrating cultural awareness and appreciation enhances the overall travel experience.
11. Not Learning The Gaelic Games
Whether watching on TV, attending in the local stadiums, or participating via the Gaelic Games Experience, learning more about soccer (yes, it’s called “football” here), rugby, hurling, and Gaelic football provides great insight into the social experience of being Irish. The Gaelic Games and GAA, for example, have remained a social backbone while both politics and religion have disappointed the Irish people.
By being aware of these common mistakes, American tourists can enhance their experience in Dublin and gain a deeper appreciation for the city’s unique charm and culture.