Dublin is a pleasant enough city while short of remarkable. If you are into bar-hopping, it may be the place to be. Major sights or magnificent public spaces are, unfortunately, in short supply to sustain interest for any protracted duration of time.
The city center is fairly compact, with the Grafton Street pedestrian shopping district being its focal point. This area is continuously bustling, while just a few blocks in almost any direction would take you to considerably sleepier neighborhoods. The most famous concentration of pubs is in Temple Bar ♥ (this is the widely-used name of the entire locale on the bank of River Liffey, although there is also a headliner bar that carries the same name itself); it gets crazily busy on most nights.
The architecture is dominated by the four-story, flat-façade brownstones, which are fairly muted in their uniformity. Pedestrian central streets inject some variety into that. There are a few attractive churches (which reputedly are rather unembellished on the interior), but also a fair share of plain modern boxes.
Strolling through Trinity College ♥ and around Dublin Castle ♥ would offer the most eye-catching highlights, while Christ Church Cathedral is the most outwardly impressive church.
St Stephen’s Green ♥ is a beautiful central park, with a pond, lots of greenery, and a dozen or so memorials to famous Irishmen. Merrion Square Park looks far less manicured and far more conducive to reflections in solitude. Its fences serve as display cases for dozens of painters who offer their creations for sale on weekends. The fun monument to Oscar Wilde is found in one corner of the park.
Among attractions that would merit a look on another visit are: the Book of Kells, the National Museum, St Patrick’s Cathedral, the Guinness Experience.
As far as eating out is concerned, whether you reserve a table in advance based on online ratings or just pick a restaurant at random, it is hard to have a truly disappointing meal in Dublin. Worthy of specific recommendations are: Locks (on Windsor Terrace in Portobello), with a modern take on Irish staples in a stylish setting; Hugo’s (on Merrion Row not far from the corner of St Stephen’s Green), with a varied international menu in a setting resembling an old-fashioned posh club.
Ireland being a comparatively small country, you can reach practically every destination on the island on a day trip. Even the Giant’s Causeway ♥♥♥, an incredible natural UNESCO World Heritage site at the northernmost tip of Ireland (in Northern Ireland) is within possibility, even though the drive is over three hours one way.
Of places closer to Dublin, the peninsula suburb of Howth, 10 miles northeast of the center, is a charming community, hosting a number of good seafood eateries. Even more charming is the coast-side Malahide ♥♥, 10 miles north of the city. There is an impressive castle and gardens ♥, a pretty coastal drive in both directions and an atmospheric town center.
Glendalough ♥♥, about 30 miles south of the city in the Wicklow Mountains National Park, is centered on a ruined monastic village. The monastery and its round tower are a popular attraction in itself, but there are also miles of walking trails of varying difficulty around the hills and lakes.
UNESCO World Heritage sites of Brú na Bóinne are also within easy driving distance from Dublin. Archaeological sites frequently leave a lot to the imagination, but the mound at Newgrange ♥♥ is mind-blowing, considering its origin and purpose.