The first time I visited Ireland was in 2018 on my post-graduation trip. Dublin was our first stop and we stayed for four days, minus the one day we spent across the country at the Cliffs of Moher. Since both my friend and I were recent graduates at the time, and had yet to find real jobs, we planned our Europe trip on a budget. Keep reading to see how we spent our four days in Dublin, and kept to our strict budget along the way!
Where to stay
Keeping our budget in mind, we decided to book hostel accommodation in Dublin. Hostels are usually much cheaper than Airbnbs if you’re traveling in a smaller group. After some research, we decided on Abbey Court Hostel. With a great location in the middle of Dublin, Abbey Court was clean, safe and overall the perfect choice for young and budget-conscious travelers. The hostels serves a complimentary breakfast from 7:30-9:30 am. We were never up that early to enjoy it…but if you’re an early riser it’s great to have a free meal!
To get to the city center from the airport, just hop on the 700 bus to O’Connell Bridge. From there it’s a quick two minute walk to Abbey Court Hostel. The bus takes about a half hour and only costs €7, which is much cheaper than a taxi into the city.
The Guinness Storehouse and Gravity Bar
As Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction, the Guinness Storehouse is a must-see for first timers in Dublin. Tickets purchased day-of cost €25, but it’s easy to get a better deal if you buy them online beforehand. Purchase tickets ahead-of-time here!
Seven floors of interactive beer experiences all lead to the top level, The Gravity Bar. Redeem your free Guinness ticket at the top and experience beautiful, 360 degree views of Dublin (even though it’s nearly impossible to get a picture near the window).
Trinity College and The Book of Kells
While you’re in Dublin, why not pop over and see one of the oldest books in the world? The Book of Kells was written by four Christian monks around the year 800 AD. A €14 ticket (€11 for students) will grant you entrance to see the books and the museum surrounding them. You’ll also gain access to the Long Room, the main chamber of the Old Library built in the early 18th century. Click here to buy tickets!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
As the National Church of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is definitely worth a quick visit. Although we didn’t have the time to explore inside the 800 year-old cathedral, we spent a half hour taking pictures and walking the grounds around it. If you decide to go inside, admission to the church is pretty reasonable at only €7 (€6 for students), and you can buy tickets online here.
Shop at Penneys
For those looking to do some shopping in Dublin (on a budget of course), Penneys is the place to be. They sell tons of cute and affordable clothing, accessories and travel must-haves. There was a Penneys right next to our hostel and both of us left Dublin with suitcases a little more stuffed than when we arrived!
Explore Temple Bar
Confusingly enough, Temple Bar does not refer to one bar (although there is an actual bar with that name). Temple Bar actually refers to a young and fun area of Dublin!
Across the river from Abbey Court Hostel, Temple Bar is made up of streets full of fun bars and clubs playing live music! It’s a great place to hang out with a Guinness, listen to some Irish music and chat with locals and tourists alike. Temple Bar is filled with delicious restaurants as well as bars, although the menus tend to be a little pricier in such a touristy area.
Enjoy Dublin’s Colorful Doors
Dublin is famous for its colorful doors, but sometimes the best streets can be hard to find! We wandered around for hours searching, finally stumbling upon the colorful doors on Lesson Street. This Tiffany blue door was our personal favorite and strolling around to see all the different colors is a great way to spend an afternoon in Dublin. Just try not to annoy the locals who actually live there!
…and its Umbrella Street
While wandering around trying to find colorful doors (and getting a bit lost), we stumbled onto Anne’s Lane and this hidden treasure. Although you can find umbrella streets all over Europe, it can be fun to take a few cute pictures and get out of the sun for a second!
Book a Pub Crawl
Booking a pub crawl is my personal favorite thing to do in every city! If you sign up for a crawl at the beginning of your trip, it’s a great way to meet fellow travelers to hang out with for the rest of your stay (especially for solo-travelers). We ended up booking a pub crawl on Get Your Guide for only €12 each.
Starting at Bad Bob’s in Temple Bar, our amazing guide, Michael, led us to five of Dublin’s best bars in five hours! We had an amazing time and met lots of fellow travelers. I would definitely recommend this pub crawl for anyone looking to have fun in Dublin on a budget!
Take a Day-Trip to the Cliffs of Moher
Although not officially in Dublin, you can’t visit Ireland without seeing the beautiful Cliffs of Moher! The cliffs are actually pretty far from Dublin, around four hours each way, so we decided to book a day-trip to simplify our travel time. Wild Rover Day Tours is next door to Abbey Court Hostel and offers a great Cliffs of Moher Day Trip. For €41 (€39 for students), you’ll get a bus transfer to and from the Cliffs of Moher (eight hours total), entrance to the Cliffs of Moher, a short stop in Doolin village for lunch and a tour guide to provide interesting facts about Ireland throughout the bus ride. Our guide Sean was wonderful and well-educated on Irish history. The tour itself was very well done and we would definitely book with Gray Line Tours again!
…if you get hungry in Doolin, stop for a bite to eat at The Ivy Cottage!
On our way back from the Cliffs, our tour group stopped in Doolin village for a bite to eat. We snagged a spot on the Ivy Cottage’s outdoor patio and ordered chicken and pulled pork paninis. Both were very tasty and it was a great way to end a fantastic day!
Take a Day-Trip to Galway
If you have extra time in Dublin, consider taking a trip to the charming town of Galway. Many tours to the Cliffs of Moher will also include a stop in Galway, as it’s only an hour and a half drive away. I visited Galway for the first time on a Cliffs of Moher day-trip with Bus2alps in November of 2018. Although it would have been fun to spend a night there, and I hear the nightlife is fantastic, a few hours is plenty of time to enjoy the highlights.
…If you get hungry in Galway, stop by The King’s Head for some hearty and traditional Irish cuisine!*
*My friend swears this was the best sandwich she ever ate in her life.
If you’re visiting during November or December, make sure to check out the Galway Christmas Markets.
Don’t leave Galway without buying yourself a Claddagh Ring!
Claddagh rings represent love, friendship and loyalty and are traditionally passed down from mother to daughter. Find a large and decently affordable selection at Claddagh Jewellers on Mainguard Street!
Tip: If you wear the ring with the heart facing in, it means that someone has your heart (you’re in a relationship). If you wear the ring with the heart facing out, it symbolizes that you’re looking for love (you’re single).
Where to Eat
If you’re going to spend your time in Dublin… you should spend your time eating in Dublin. Although there is no shortage of hearty and traditional restaurants, these were our budget-friendly favorites throughout our trip!
The Brazen Head
Opened in the 12th century, The Brazen Head is the oldest put in Dublin and full of Irish charm! It’s the perfect spot for a long, leisurely lunch or a hearty Irish dinner. The best part about The Brazen Head is one particular item on their appetizer menu…the fried wedge of brie.
O’Neills Pub & Kitchen
One of Dublin’s oldest pubs at 300 years-old, O’Neills has a wide selection of delicious and traditional Irish food. Two different counters serve enormous sandwiches, piping-hot soups or huge portions of hearty Irish classics! Our sandwiches were piled full of brie, turkey, avocado and cranberry sauce (the O’Neills Thanksgiving special).
Directly next to Abbey Court Hostel, Arlington Hotel has great service, tasty food and reasonable prices. We stopped by for a quick snack and to kill some time before we could check into the hostel. We enjoyed the Irish mixed plate with eggs, tomatoes, sausage, pork, mushrooms, black pudding and fries!
Arlington Hotel was also the site of our first Guinness in Ireland! *wipes tear from eye* A truly momentous occasion.
Fitzgerald’s is where we ate our first full Irish meal in Dublin…complete with a couple rounds of Guinness of course. We chatted with the friendly bartender as he served us Irish stew with soda bread, a Cajun chicken burger, and round after round of frosty Guinness.
Trinity Bar Venue
After enjoying our 15th Guinness in a row, we headed over to Trinity Bar to try some of Dublin’s other local brews. I enjoyed a delicious Hop House 13, while my friend opted for a crisp Orchard Thieves Cider. We were both a little hesitant at the sound of Guinness Pie, but after ordering it we were both pleasantly surprised (and very full!).
Gallagher’s Boxty House
Gallagher’s Boxty House is listed online as one of the best restaurants in Dublin. After reading 5-star review after 5-star review, we decided to try it out ourselves. The food was amazing, definitely some of the best we had in the city. However, I wouldn’t exactly call their menu “budget friendly”, and we ended up grabbing pizza afterwards because the portions were too small for the price.
We were also disappointed to learn that they didn’t serve tap beer…which, for a Wisconsin girl, is nothing short of blasphemous.
On our last night in Dublin, we decided to try and find a traditional Irish dessert. (We had been frequenting the donut place next to our hostel). Woollen Mills restaurant was right across the river from Temple Bar, so we stopped in to taste some of their whiskey caramel bread pudding. Although bread pudding is not my go-to dessert (I’m a chocolate sundae girl myself), we both enjoyed trying more of the local cuisine and it was a perfect way to end a great vacation in Dublin.
If you’re planning on visiting more cities than Dublin, check out my related guides to Europe’s most-popular destinations! Like… The Ultimate Interlaken Itinerary, A Weekend in Paris and Czech-in’ Out Prague.
Thanks for reading and I hope you all enjoy Dublin as much as we did! If you like what you see, follow my blog and my adventures on Instagram @madisonsfootsteps.
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