Having mentioned that the departure was from Brussels, I feel obliged to add an important piece of information, which will be expanded upon in a later summary.
Brussels is served by two airports, Brussels-Zaventem (BRU) and Brussels-Charleroi (CRL). If the first one is easily accessible by train from the different stations of the city, the second one is really less accessible and to go there is much more expensive. Indeed, by public transport, you must count nearly two hours of travel and approximately 19€ per person because of the various zones to cross.
This means that just getting to the airport is almost twice the price of a plane ticket in some cases. The other option is to go to the Midi station (Bruxelles-Midi) and take a shuttle bus costing between 5€ and 14€. This adds significantly to the cost of the “discount” airfare. Fortunately for us, the shuttle was 5€!
Travel to Dublin
Once we arrived in Dublin, passports stamped, we headed to the bus area outside of terminal 2. We then bought a ticket for the 747 bus (yes, like in Montreal!) which goes downtoen and proved to be ultra convenient in our case, stopping one street corner away from our hotel.
Please note that there are different bus companies that run between the airport and the city, but the different shuttles do not all take the same route.
To avoid having to buy the ticket again, we opted for the return ticket at a cost of 12€. The trips are fast, about 30 minutes depending on the traffic and they are very frequent, between 10 minutes and 30 minutes depending on the period.
In the end, in terms of transport for shuttles and flights, our trip from Brussels to Dublin cost us a total of 35€ per person (round trip)!
The Moxy Hotel
As announced in my first post, we are two students who wish to travel at low cost, without depriving ourselves either. As we plan to pay in Marriott Bonvoy points for most, if not all, of our nights in Australia in April 2020 and had several short stays for work and study over the next few months, we triggered the “Road to Platinum” status challenge with Marriott Bonvoy.
To do so, you only need to spend 16 nights during a 3-month period and the status is granted. Since Platinum status allows for many upgrades and, most importantly, access to complimentary breakfasts, we determined that based on hotel costs, we were willing to pay up to $30 more to stay at a Marriot hotel to accumulate the nights to unlock our platinum status.
With this in mind, we chose the Moxy Dublin City Hotel. It is ideally located in the heart of Dublin and therefore within walking distance of the city’s main tourist attractions, without being on a major street. Tucked away on a quiet street, it allowed us to enjoy all the attractions of a central location, without the crowds usually associated with such a place!
The welcome at the Moxy is always (in our experience) accompanied by a welcome Moxycocktail, which makes the arrival very pleasant. The hotel is nicely decorated and there are many board games and books of all kinds at our disposal. The hotel’s reception area has a bar where you can have a drink. Hungry stomachs can also use the focaccia service to calm their cravings. On the evening of our arrival, we enjoyed the welcome cocktail while playing a game of chess.
To our surprise, the room, located on the 2nd floor, was very large (which contrasts with other Moxy’s we have visited which are very minimalist in terms of space) and equipped with a modern and state of the art decor (motion sensor under the bed for light, glass bedside tables with integrated lights, large television offering the possibility to connect electronic devices such as tablets, phones, etc).
The bathroom was the most negative point of the room. The door did not open fully, although it had the necessary clearance to do so, which restricted and hindered movement within the small room. Despite this, it was very clean and the products provided were of good quality.
We opted for the least expensive room, the one with a queen size bed, but as the pictures show, it was still a very nice size, with a small armchair and a large entrance, plus some hangers.
Discovering the city
For us, one of the best ways to experience a city is to walk it. Dublin has a very good public transport system, but as the weather was quite mild, we did not use it, preferring to walk everywhere!
Our first day started with breakfast at One Society Daytime Brunch & Pizza, a small restaurant (and I stress small, as the space is quite limited) located about a 10-minute walk from the hotel. Brunch is served all day long in a variety of sweet and savoury combinations to suit all appetites. The portions are really generous and it’s simply delicious!
The second morning we went to the Queen of Tarts, famous establishment offering, it seems, the best scones of the city… We tested and… can confirm! The scones are delicious, as are the pies and cinnamon buns… Be careful though, the place is very, very small, but if there is no more room, there is a second address a few minutes walk away.
After visiting Jeanie Johnston’s, our stomachs caught up with us just as we magically came across a donut shop, Off Beat Donut Co. To be perfectly honest, I think they were the best donuts I’ve ever had in my life! However, as we wandered around town, we realized that this was a small gourmet donut chain, but that there are several others! Donuts are definitely popular in Dublin! We also tried the ones offered at Rolling Donut, but didn’t enjoy them as much. Off Beat’s donuts are decadent, fresh and original.
Irish Emigration and Famine
Our first visit was to the EPIC Museum which is about the Irish emigration. To get there, we took the path along River Liffey. Along the way, many historic buildings stand out, including the 18th-century Custom House. Afterwards, we passed the memorial to the victims of the great famine. Inaugurated in 1999 by Jean Chrétien, the monument takes the form of a few frightened, thin and modestly dressed people fleeing their homeland. Its corollary is in Toronto and symbolizes the arrival of migrants in the Canadian homeland. One of the statues is not represented in order to underline the sad fate of many victims of the great crossing who did not survive.
Nearby we could see the mast of a boat that caught our attention. So we headed to the Jeanie Johnston, a famous famine ship built in Quebec City in 1847, which was used as a crossing vessel by many Irishmen fleeing the famine. We visited it for about an hour. Interestingly, one of the families visiting at the time were descendants of one of the passengers who had once made the crossing to America. The ship is itself a replica, as the original eventually sank to the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean, though it never claimed a single victim. In short, a nice visit for the curious!
One of the most famous areas, especially for party people, is Temple Bar, which is home to many Irish pubs, bars, nightclubs, restaurants and more!
The facades of the buildings are of unparalleled beauty and, at the beginning of the holiday season, were richly decorated. The atmosphere is resolutely festive, end of year celebrations or not. People go in and out of bars, laugh, and drink merrily!
At the end of Temple Bar, when the name of the street changes to “Essex”, the scenery suddenly changes, the atmosphere is no longer the same and you can discover little wonders such as artists’ collectives and small cafés like the Joy of Chá. In this part of the city, we discovered the relationship between the Irish and the Vikings, as several guided tours and visits to places related to the Viking presence begin.
Christ Church Cathedral
All this leads us to the doors of Christ Church Cathedral, the oldest cathedral in Dublin (and probably one of the oldest buildings in the city). The cathedral itself is beautiful and the gardens surrounding it are also very nice. Although it is possible to visit the crypt, we were not able to do so during our visit as it was closed for an event.
The construction of the castle began in the 12th century and many additions were made over time. Its visual appearance is peculiar, marked by a disparate architecture carried out over several eras.
Today the castle is mainly used as government offices and its main rooms, such as St Patrick’s Hall, are used for state functions, the inauguration of the Irish President, or official banquets.
We opted for the guided tour which gave us access to the foundations of the castle as well as the royal chapel, otherwise inaccessible.
Trinity College Dublin
On our second day, we ventured to Trinity College. The campus is impressively beautiful and we were not at all surprised that a film shoot was taking place there at the same time! In addition to wandering around the campus, you can visit the Long Room in the University Library. To do so, you have to buy a ticket for the Book of Kells exhibition, which is not cheap (14€). Fortunately (or unfortunately) for us, the real Book of Kells was not on display when we visited and the ticket price was considerably reduced.
The book collection in this magnificent library is absolutely impressive and inspiring. Busts of the world’s great thinkers and Irish influencers adorn each of the aisles. In short, it is a visit worth the detour and certainly worth taking the time to appreciate.
St. George's Street Arcarde
Another Dublin staple, the George’s Street Arcarde, is definitely a foodie’s delight. Home to many small shops, you can walk around while tasting all kinds of delicacies: delicious fudges, falafels, nuts of all kinds and so on!
In order to taste a little bit of everything, we avoided eating beforehand and above all, we shared everything to be sure to try as much as possible! The falafels at Umi Falafels are absolutely delicious and what can I say about the fudge at Man of Aran… It’s impossible to ask for advice, we’ll make you try everything and the choice will be even harder to make!
Guided tour, 1916 Rebellion and Kilmainham Gaol
For those interested in history and/or politics, the walking tour entitled 1916 Rebellion Walking Tour Dublin is in our opinion one of the best tours of its kind. The guide, an eccentric historian named Lorcan Collins, first greets us at his usual meeting place, the International Bar, to give us some background information on the rebellion that led to the formation of the Republic of Ireland as a country. Throughout the guided tour, he knows how to communicate his knowledge incredibly well, using touches of humour, criticism and seriousness at the right moments. The tour ends right next to the Moxy, perfect for those who want to go back to the room after that good two hours of walking and learning!
Kilmainham Gaol prison, where many Irish leaders were detained and executed, is now a museum dedicated to the rebellions that took place from 1798 to the Civil War of 1922-23. This is a visit that is well worth the detour and almost unmissable if you enjoyed the historical guided tour on the 1916 rebellion.
Cocktail parties in speakeasy mode
One guilty pleasure we share is a love of speakeasies, bars with a clandestine feel, where only the “real” regulars can venture. We visited two during our trip, the first one is the Vintage Cocktail Club and the second one is the Blind Pig.
For the first one, there is no sign on the door, other than the letters VCC. To enter, you must ring the bell. The atmosphere is cosy: velvet upholstered seats, fireplace, everything is there. The cocktail card is impressive!
The second, the Blind Pig, is located in the basement of an Italian restaurant (Pacino’s) and you have to press a lever (that you must discover with the help of the staff) to open the secret door leading to the bar. The card is less extensive, but more oriented towards discovery and local experience. Many local drinks are featured, including Irish whiskey. We both loved our overall experience, as well as the delicious cocktails.
Irish dinner with music
For our last evening, we hesitated between two dining activities, namely to take part in a typical meal in an Irish family or to attend a musical dinner… Not being able to move easily outside the city, we finally opted for the musical dinner at Celtic Nights.
This is an experience where a group of 4 musicians and 4 dancers liven up the evening (more towards the end of the meal) to the lively rhythms of Irish folklore. The menu consists of “typical” dishes. The atmosphere is festive in this cabaret, provided you like the genre. There is a lot of interaction between the audience and the lead singer.
In all honesty, I think it’s impossible not to want to tap your foot and sing along with everyone else “My Bonnie lies over the ocean… My Bonnie lies over the sea… My Bonnie lies over the ocean… Oh bring back my Bonnie to me”. We all have a bit of a sailor’s streak, don’t we?
A city between modernity and history
Dublin is a city where history and modernity are beautifully blended. It is common to see old buildings reclaimed and integrated into new construction. This mixture of style and history gives the city a special image.
With River Liffey in its center, Dublin has 23 bridges linking the north and the south. Amongst Dublin’s most famous bridges is the Ha’penny, a pedestrian bridge named after the fact that you had to pay half a penny to cross it. Another famous bridge is the Samuel Beckett Bridge which looks like Ireland’s iconic instrument, the harp.
Throughout our stay, we tried not to take the same bridge twice, in order to see as much as possible!
Dublin essentials nap
Before we finish, here is a small map we compiled with the places we visited during our stay (mentioned or not). You can copy it and have it with you on your phone when you visit!