Now that some semblance of normalcy is returning thanks to the efforts of our health care workers and everyone that’s done their part in getting the COVID-19 pandemic under control, travel is once again becoming possible and safe. We suggest you wear a mask, socially distance, and consider getting a COVID vaccine as soon as you can (if you haven’t already), and follow all the rules and regulations of traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic.
If you’re one of the 32.3 million Americans who can trace their ancestry back to Ireland, there are many ways you can reconnect with your heritage. You could take part in St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, try the cuisine, or read the works of one of the country’s world-class authors. If you’ve got a strong case of wanderlust, you could also visit the Emerald Isle yourself!
When it comes to planning a trip to Ireland, the first place many look to stay is the largest city and capital, Dublin. Let’s take a closer look at what this city has to offer!
Why Dublin is Perfect for Seniors
There are many reasons why Dublin is an excellent destination for seniors looking to travel. Like many world-class cities, Dublin has blended its unique history with many of the comforts and cravings of its modern present. The city has an up-and-coming food scene, plenty of museums, a fun nightlife, and fun activities for the whole family. Of course, no overview of Dublin would be complete without mentioning the pubs, where you can rub elbows with locals and travelers alike.
Thinking about the best way to get around Dublin? Surprisingly, Dublin is easy to get around. Compared to other European capitals, it’s not a huge city — you can walk from Kilmainham Gaol on the far western side of the city’s center to Dublin port, in the east, in about an hour and a half. Most of the main tourism sites are located very centrally, meaning a short 30-minute walk can take you from the Guinness Storehouse to Trinity College. We’ll talk more about these sites, and others, later.
Walking doesn’t need to be your only way of getting around, either. Dublin also has a robust public transit system, with both buses and tram lines (called the Luas) that can take you where you want to go quickly and affordably. This can save your tired feet after a long day of exploring the many things to do in Dublin.
Where to Stay
It was tough to choose our favorite Dublin accommodations. We’ve tried to focus on a mix of historic and central options so you can find the one you like best!
O’Connell Street is the biggest and most central street in Dublin and runs north from the River Liffey. From here, you can walk to nearly every central Dublin attraction and easily access a wide range of public transportation options. You can also find a good selection of hotels and vacation rentals that run from affordable to luxury. It’s right across the O’Connell Bridge from Trinity College, Grafton Street, and the Temple Bar district, to give you an idea of how central the area is. You can look for hotels and nearby restaurants in this area by drawing a box on Capel Street to the West, Amiens Street to the East, Rotunda Hospital to the North, and the River Liffey to the South.
Merrion Square is very central to a lot of the famous must-see sites like St. Stephen’s Green and Trinity College, but far enough from the boisterous and touristy Temple Bar. Much like O’Connell Street, the Merrion Square area also has a large assortment of hotels, though the average price of this area is a bit higher than O’Connell Street. That said, you’re in one of more beautiful sections of Dublin, close to large, green parks like Merrion Square and St. Stephen’s Green and the gorgeous Trinity College.
Lying just to the west of the Temple Bar district is an area of the city called the Liberties. This is one of the oldest sections of Dublin, where you can see evidence of Dublin’s medieval past. The Liberties is also rich in traditional pubs including the Brazen Head (reputed to be Ireland’s oldest pub), numerous distilleries, and the Guinness Storehouse. This gives you a lot of dining and activity options near where you’re staying. Speaking of that, most of the hotels are on the eastern side of the neighborhood, on the border between the Liberties and the Temple Bar. Most of the hotels in the Liberties are well-priced chain hotels, so you know what you’re getting.
What to See
Luckily, it’s hard to not find things to do in Dublin. Even walking the streets is a good way to spend a day. If you’re looking for more specific ideas, you may want to try one of these.
Taste the Best of Ireland
When you think of the two exports Ireland is most known for, Irish whiskey and beer probably come to mind, and specifically beverages branded as Jameson and Guinness. In Dublin, you can visit their homes. On the Guinness Storehouse tour, you can learn how Guinness is made, the history and marketing of the beer, and how to pour a proper pint. No tour of the Storehouse would be complete without a free pint at the Gravity Bar, located at the top of the building boasting a 360° view of the city. As for Jameson Whiskey, you can get a tour at Jameson Distillery Bow Street. You can also visit the highly rated Irish Whiskey Museum on Grafton Street. There are a handful of other places that are also worth checking out. Just be sure to eat something and drink water between stops.
Go on an Irish Pub Crawl
A Dublin pub is one of the most reliable places you can go for a good pint and/or a hearty meal. Everyone’s got their own opinions about which pubs are the best in Dublin, but you can’t beat asking a local or wandering the city until you hear live music playing! You can pick out a few and spend a few hours just relaxing in them with a pint or go with a professionally guided pub crawl. We’ll leave you the same advice more than a few helpful Dubliners gave us: avoid the Temple Bar district. Get a photo outside the famous bar itself, but there are better, more authentic bars outside that area. If the pint costs over six euro, you’re likely in a tourist trap!
Discover Irish History
Ireland has an incredibly rich history that’s still celebrated in Dublin to this day. Whether you’re visiting the famous Old Library at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells or the Kilmainham Gaol Museum, where Irish revolutionaries were jailed and executed (especially during the 1916 Easter Rising), the city is enveloped in its long history of struggle, reinvention, and triumph. You won’t want to miss the churches of Dublin, especially St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral, if you’re a fan of history, art, and medieval architecture.
Speaking of medieval architecture, Dublin Castle and the surrounding complex were the seat of English power on the island until 1922, when it was returned to the new Irish government. It remains a popular tourist attraction to this day. Going even further back into Ireland’s history is the Dublinia museum, which is dedicated to Dublin’s Viking and medieval history. And you shouldn’t miss out on the Molly Malone statue, the subject of Dublin’s unofficial anthem. These are only a few of the historical landmarks in Dublin, but they’re all worthwhile stops on any history tour.
What to Eat
The food scene in Dublin, and Ireland in general, has been improving rapidly from its hearty, but not life-changing, pub food reputation in recent years. That doesn’t mean Ireland has left the shepherd’s pie in the past, however. The pub food is still affordable, unassuming, and amazingly delicious. If you’re a picky eater, or visiting with a picky eater, you’ll have no problem finding delicious classic Irish fare like fish and chips or beef stew.
What’s the best way to find a great place to eat dinner in Dublin? Well, you can research your options online, but the best way to find a fantastic place to eat, drink, or relax is to talk to a local. Don’t be shy, if you’re talking to a Dubliner, they’ll usually be happy to share some of their favorite places to eat. You may even discover a hidden gem or make a new friend!
Day Tours of Ireland for Seniors from Dublin
Depending on how long you’ll be staying in Dublin, it also makes for an excellent hub to explore the rest of the island. Cork, Galway, and Belfast in South, West, and Northern Ireland, respectively, are all within three hours. While each of those cities are each worth a blog post themselves, there are a few specifics destinations that make great day trips from Dublin.
The Cliffs of Moher & Howth
On the Western coast of County Clare, towering over the waves, are the Cliffs of Moher. These sea cliffs offer breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean and a trail path for a lovely walk during the day. The Cliff trail runs about nine miles, but there are several stops to make it a shorter journey. The Cliffs are about three hours away from Dublin, and many tour companies offer day trips with transportation included.
For a closer alternative, try Howth, a small fishing village that’s a short 30- to 40-minute train ride from Dublin. The short hill trail has equally beautiful views from the Eastern coast of Ireland. If you do walk the Howth cliff trail, be sure to stop at the Howth Literary Hub (Google calls it the Cliff Stop), a small coffee shop and vintage store right by the start of the trail.
If you’re fairly active and enjoy the outdoors then the Wicklow Mountains National Park is calling your name. Nestled roughly an hour south of Dublin, the island’s longest continuous mountain chain is rich in natural beauty and wildlife. There are few better ways to spend a beautiful day in Ireland than hiking one of the many trails that twist through the national park. Just make sure you follow all health and safety guidelines and research the trail before heading out. While you’re there, don’t miss out on Glendalough, the beautiful glacial valley rich in activities, natural beauty, and heritage.
The Historic Sites of County Meath
If you’re interested in Ireland’s fascinating history, look no further than County Meath. Less than an hour’s drive from Dublin, you can find some of the best historical sites in all of Ireland. Not only can you see some beautiful castles, such as Trim Castle, but also some of the most ancient places in all of Ireland (if not the world). The Hill of Tara and the Hill of Uisneach were the ancient political and spiritual centers of Ireland. Nearby, you can stop at the even older Loughcrew Cairns — though be warned, the beautiful view comes with a steep walk uphill — and Newgrange. Both are ancient graves that can be dated by to the 4th millennium BCE, making them older than the Pyramids, the Parthenon, and Stonehenge by over a thousand years. Like the Cliffs of Moher, you can likely find a tour that takes you to all these sites, but you can also drive yourself, if you’re feeling adventurous.