Free Lions guide to Dublin

Aviva Stadium Eddie Wong

Welcome to Dublin, the capital and largest city of the Republic of Ireland. One of our shorter away trips, the city is in the province of Leinster on the east coast of the country and has a population of 1.1 million. It was briefly the second biggest city of the British Empire before the Act of Union in 1800.

Dublin began life as two separate settlements, ‘Dubh Linn’ (which literally means ‘black pool’ referring to the Poddle stream meeting the River Liffey to form a deep pool at Dublin Castle) and ‘Atha Cliath’. Consequently the modern gaelic name of the city is now ‘Baile Ath Cliath’ - ‘the town of the ford of the hurdles’. This is related to the four main city routes that converge at a crossing place made of hurdles of saplings straddling the Liffey.

The Vikings were the first settlers of Dublin and old remnants of their settlement has been found at Wood Quay in Dublin city centre.

Dublin is widely regarded as a ‘young’ city, with roughly 50% of its residents under the age of 25. It also claims to have produced many notable names in the world of literature, including Bram Stoker, Seamus Heaney, WB Yeats, Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw and Samuel Beckett.

The Stadium

The Aviva Stadium has a capacity of 51,700, and is home to both the national football and rugby union teams. It is Ireland’s only Uefa category 4/elite stadium.

Formerly known as Lansdowne Road, the original ground was in existence from 1872. Before it was closed in 2006 to make way for the new stadium, it was the oldest rugby stadium worldwide and the oldest sports stadium in Europe. Development began on the new stadium in 2007 and it was reopened in May 2010 at a cost of €410 million, including €191m of government funding.

Three of the four sides – the South, East and West stands – have four levels of seating for spectators. The second and third tier are for premium ticket holders and corporate boxes respectively, with the top and bottom tiers providing the majority of spectating facilities. The North Stand has one level of seating.

As is the Irish way, there are impressive eating and drinking facilities in the stadium. There are 60 kiosks/bars, 660 metres of serving counters in bars and concessionaries and 1,000 kegs with the potential to serve 90,000 pints.

There are 230 spaces for wheelchairs throughout the stadium.  

Getting to the ground

The Aviva Stadium is in the Ballsbridge area of Dublin. There are several public transport options, perhaps the easiest of which is the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) to Lansdowne Road Station. From the city centre, take the DART southbound from either Pearse Station on Westland Row, Tara St Station or Connolly Station, the latter of which links to the city’s tram system (LUAS).

It is also possible to take the bus – routes 4, 7 and 8 go to Ballsbridge from O’Connell Street and O’Connell Bridge.

You can access handy maps of the Dublin public transport that serves the ground on the official Aviva Stadium website.

If you’re feeling energetic you can walk from the pleasant St Stephen’s Green to the stadium, which is just over a mile. Walk up Merrion Row, Baggott St Lower, Baggott Street Upper and cross the Grand Canal at Baggott Street Bridge. Then go straight on down Pembroke Road and cross at the junction of Northumberland Road and Merrion Road where the Ballsbridge Inn is situated.

Things to see and do

Should you wish to partake in some culture, Dublin’s rich literary history is immortalised at the Dublin Writers Museum (18 Parnell Square North, +353 (0)1 872-2077, writersmuseum.com). Situated in a mansion in the north of the city centre, the museum opened in 1991 and its collection features Dublin’s literary celebrities from the last 300 years. It is open Monday to Saturday 10am-4.45pm and Sunday 11am-4.45pm.

Of course, a large proportion of Dublin’s attractions is based around food and drink – and if you want to combined the literature with a few pints, you could try the Dublin Pub Crawl (+353 1670 5602, dublinpubcrawl.com) which costs €12 and starts at 7.30pm every evening at the Duke Pub (9 Duke Street).

If you’re a whiskey fan, you can visit the Old Jameson Distillery (Bow Street, +353 (1) 807 2355, jamesonwhiskey.com). As well as reliving the history of John Jameson and Son, you can find out how the whisky is made. Should you survive this wealth of information, you will be rewarded with a signature Jameson drink. Selected volunteers are also asked to participate in a tutored whisky comparison and earn a certificate to acknowledge this hard work. There is also a restaurant and bar on site. The distillery is located in the Smithfield area of the city. Tickets are €15 per adult, and it is open 10am-6pm Monday to Saturday and 11am to 6pm on Sunday.

If that’s not enough whiskey for you, there’s also the Irish Whiskey Museum (119 Grafton Street,  +353 1 525 0970, irishwhiskeymuseum.ie) situated opposite Trinity College. The museum is independent from drinks companies and offers a tasting to each paying visitor. Tour tickets are €15 per adult, and the museum is open seven days a week between 9am and 7pm.

Unsurprisingly, as well as whiskey, Guinness is another main attraction in Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse (James Street, 353 1 408 4800, guinness-storehouse.com) is in the Liberties area of the city and is listed on Google as an ‘immersive brand experience and rooftop bar’. Adult tickets can be booked in advance for €16.20 each (€18 on the door) and include a pint of Guinness. While this ‘experience’ does not include a tour of the brewery, you can begin your self-guided tour at the bottom of the world’s biggest pint glass, find out about how the drink is made and learn how to pour a perfect pint. The ‘rooftop bar’ offers impressive views across the city.

Although the Aviva Stadium is the home of the football and rugby union teams, it is Croke Park (St Joseph’s Avenue, +353 (0)1 819 2323, crokepark.ie) that is arguable the pride of Dublin. Home to the Gaelic games, it also hosted rugby and football matches while the Aviva Stadium was being built and has a capacity of 82,300 – the largest stadium not normally used for football in Europe. There is a museum open between 9.30am-5pm Monday to Saturday and 10.30-5pm on Sunday. Tours also take place on non-matchdays. A ticket for the tour and access to the museum costs €12.50 per adult.

There are also various bus and walking tours available if you wish to see the main city attractions in one day:

-          Hop on, Hop off bus tour

-          Dublin, Differently

-          Dublin Viking tours – Street West, Temple Bar; +353 1679 6040

-          Tour Dublin

Eating and drinking

There are a huge amount of places to eat and drink in Dublin, catering for all tastes. Finding a pub should be no problem, and the most popular area to head to for tourists is Temple Bar (though as a result it is not the cheapest, and most of the locals stay away). The Storehouse on Crown Alley is a popular establishment.

The area that is south of the River Liffey in the city centre is generally easier to navigate than north. Highlights include Bowes (31 Fleet Street), which is known for serving one of the best pints of Guinness in the city, Palace Bar (21 Fleet Street) which gets popular when there is live sport on the TV, The Long Hall (51 South Great George's St) and Toner’s (139 Baggot Street Lower) both get particularly busy on Friday and Saturday nights and – if you fancy a squeeze – The Dawson Lounge (25 Dawson Street) might well be the smallest pub you ever go to. The Brazen Head (20 Bridge Street Lower) is Ireland’s oldest pub, O’Donahue’s (15 Merrion Row) is the place to go if you’d like to see traditional live music, and L Mulligan Grocer (18 Stoneybatter) has a fine selection of craft beers if you get bored of standard lager and Guinness.

As for food, the city has plenty of options for all tastes and budgets, and restaurants are not difficult to find. However, if you want to have traditional Irish fare – you could try O’Neill’s (not the chain, 2 Suffolk Street) which isn’t far from Temple Bar. You will notice Mexican food is particularly popular in the city, and you could try Pablo Picante for huge burritos and quesadillas. On Saturdays, the Meeting House Square Market in Temple Bar serves up a range of food from around the world. 

Thanks to Eddie Wong for the image used in this blog, reproduced here under CC license.