Dublin: An escape with someone special this Autumn

IMG_2196If you’re looking to get away with someone special this autumn, then you would be well-placed to turn your eyes across the Irish Sea to Dublin.  Not only is it an affordable and easily-reached destination, but it also offers up a great mix of attractions, history, shopping and plenty of craic – that’s Irish for fun.  This October I travelled to the city with my girlfriend and was able to experience all the city had to offer first hand.

We began by getting our bearings through sightseeing in the compact, yet bustling city centre.  From here, all the sights were easily accessible with the famous Ha’penny Bridge connecting both sides of the River Liffey.  There was plenty of historical interest on offer, with a visit to Trinity College, Ireland’s oldest university, providing us with an opportunity to see the Book of Kells – an ancient illustrated Gospel book dating from the ninth century.  Here, we also visited the university library, with its beautiful Long Room containing tall bookcases holding antique volumes.  Continuing with the historic theme, we found Dublin’s Georgian-era General Post Office on O’Connell Street, which served as the headquarters of the rebels during the 1916 Easter Uprising against the British.  Today, visitors can find a grand interior as well as the An Post Museum, detailing the history of the Irish postal service.

Later, we took time to explore the shopping experience on offer in the city, which matches that of other European capital cities, and provides something for all tastes and budgets and ranging from high-end exclusive department stores, such as Brown Thomas, to tourist shops carrying Irish souvenirs, such as a classy leprechaun fridge magnet which I brought back for my house in Aber!

IMG_2189 (1)When thinking of Ireland, Guinness is bound to spring to mind, and no visit to Dublin would be complete without sampling some of the ‘black stuff’.  One of the best places to get to grips with the story behind the famous beverage is at the Guinness Storehouse at St. James’s Gate.  Here, exhibits focus on a variety of topics, ranging from the production process to those famous toucan adverts.  For us, the highlight of the visit was enjoying a complimentary cold pint complete with shamrock pattern while enjoying panoramic vistas of the city from the Gravity Bar, which is located on top of the storehouse.

Dublin boasts a great selection of quality restaurants, with most world cuisines represented.  Visitors should make sure to start their day with the Full Irish Breakfast at Bewley’s Café on Grafton Street.  Not only is the food tasty and authentic, but the coffee shop is decorated in a handsome 1920s Oriental style.  For lunches, the city’s Epicurean Food Hall is a good bet, with different fares, ranging from Japanese to Italian, and Mexican to Greek on offer.  There are plenty of places to dine in the evening, too.  Our favourites included O’Neill’s, which served Irish specialities including hearty stews and meat pies, as well as Green 19, a trendy bistro which is popular with the locals.

Nights out in Dublin are focussed on the Temple Bar area of the city, which features a great selection of pubs, including said famous pub.  We enjoyed a Saturday night here, soaking up the atmosphere by visiting a few taverns to sample Irish beers and great live music.  While the drinks aren’t the cheapest, hovering around the €5 (£4) mark for a pint, a night out here is a worthwhile and enjoyable experience which I would be keen to repeat.

IMG_2146 (1)Some of you may question how realistic a trip to Dublin is on a tight student budget.  However, it can be surprisingly affordable if you know where to look for the best deals.  I flew with Ryanair from Birmingham Airport, which is connected by direct train to Aber, and I paid just shy of £20 return for my flight.  Staying in budget hotels also helps to keep your costs down and means you have more left over to spend enjoying the city.  We checked in to the Ibis, which is located on a tram line into the city centre and paid £30 a night for our room.  Put simply, a break in the Irish capital needn’t break the bank.

For a great city break in a capital which boasts plenty to do without a hefty price tag Dublin is the ideal choice for any couple.