The Complete Dublin Solo Travel Guide
Ireland was my first ever solo trip and I still think there are few better places for solo travel than Dublin. The Irish are famously friendly and the city has good craic (fun) as the Irish say. Like other major European cities, there is a thriving hostel scene and surprisingly good food (I promise it’s not just potatoes!) and plenty of free things to do. Here’s your complete Dublin solo traveller’s guide with everything you need to know for a great trip on your own.
Top 6 things to do in Dublin on your own
1 Join a pub crawl
When in Ireland, do as the Irish do. That means drinking a lot of Guinness. One of the most fun ways to get the full Irish experience is doing a pub crawl in the Temple Bar area. You’ll often find live music and Irish dancing (literally on the bar).
Nearly every hostel in Dublin offers a free/cheap pub tour, ask at reception or check their Facebook pages for details. Joining a group for an organised pub crawl is a great opportunity to make friends as a solo traveller and means you can enjoy the pub experience safely as the hostel will have an organiser that is responsible for making sure everyone gets home safe. If you aren’t staying at a hostel, you can book a paid tour.
2 Explore historic Dublin
Dublin is a city crammed full of history dating back to the Vikings. You can easily spend a few days exploring all the churches, museums and castles but here are my top picks:
- St Patrick’s Cathedral – The medieval church of St Patrick’s is the national cathedral of Ireland. The current building dates back to the 13th century but it is believed that St Patrick baptised people on the site in 450 AD. The inside is truly spectacular, filled with columns, mosaics and statues.
- Dublinia – built inside the old city of Dublin in Christchurch, Dublinia is a museum of Dublin that lets you explore the city’s heritage going back to the Viking days. It’s definitely touristy but I did walk away having learned a lot about Dublin and Ireland.
- Trinity University – one of the world’s oldest universities, Trinity’s grounds look much like a castle with a wide grassed quad surrounded by stone halls. The Trinity Library is world-famous, partly because it is home to the Book of Kells, a 9th century illuminated manuscript. Expect large queues in peak season.
- Dublin Castle – Once a medieval fortress, the Dublin Castle was rebuilt as viceregal headquarters back when England ruled over Ireland. The history of the castle Is not always peaceful but the apartments inside are immaculately restored and dripping in 17th-century adornment. It’s something of an Irish Versailles on a much smaller scale.
3 Follow the Dubline Trail
The Dubline Trail is a self-guided walking tour that takes in many of Dublin’s top cultural attractions. You will explore the different sections of the city from the fancy Georgian houses around Parnell Square to the Greek Revival General Post Office to the iconic Guinness Storehouse and the Liberties. It’s a lot of walking but you’ll hit many of the Dublin highlights and it’s a great way to get your bearings in the city. Start early and don’t forget to stop for tea or Irish coffee on the way.
4 Do a food tour to explore the foodie scene
Irish food is much more than potatoes and soda bread but sometimes you need an expert guide to get beyond the touristy restaurants. Sign up for a food tour to get a behind the scenes look at hidden cafes and local producers. I recommend Delicious Dublin Tours although Secret Food Tours are also good (I’ve tried their tours in other places) and there are plenty of options on Viator so you should easily be able to find a tour to fit your schedule.
If you ask, the guides are happy to provide recommendations for where to eat for the rest of your trip. It’s a good idea to do a food tour early in your Dublin visit o that you can make the most of the recommendations.
5 Shop on Grafton Street or the Powerscourt Centre
Grafton Street and the Powerscourt Centre are the two major shopping hubs in central Dublin. If you’re looking for a souvenir of your trip or gifts for friends/family then I would recommend Grafton Street as it has many souvenir stores and flagship Irish brands, alongside the international brands. The street is beautifully lit up around Christmas time with strings of fairy lights and themed window displays.
The Powerscourt Centre is set in an old townhouse and has an internal covered courtyard lined with cafes and shops. The stores there are more high-end but less touristy and fewer big chains.
6 Take a day trip out to the Wicklow Way
To escape the city and see some of Ireland’s famously green countryside, The Wicklow Way is the place to go. You can do a day trip from the city either on your own or with a tour company. I went with Wild Wicklow Tours, a family-run business that’s won plenty of awards. It was very much a standard bus tour, but the guide had a lot of personality.
On the Wicklow way, you will see the historic monastery at Glendalough, Sally’s Gap (the setting of movies like PS I Love You), the (rather touristy) fairy-tale-looking Fitzroy Castle Hotel and peaceful Dublin Bay.
Best Dublin hostels for solo travellers
Staying at a hostel is one of the best ways to make the most of your Dublin solo travel experience because you can meet other travellers and make the most of the free/cheap Dublin activities like pub crawls, that most hostels offer.
I stayed at the Times Hostel College Street which was fantastic for two reasons. First because of its location, right on the edge of Temple Bar and near Trinity University. It’s super central but not as noisy as the hostels actually in Temple Bar. Second, it has a pub next door which is convenient if it’s cold and snowy outside or if you aren’t keen to go further afield on your own. The rooms are clean, there’s free breakfast and they have daily events. There is a second Times Hostel on Camden Street which is nearer the parks and museums section of town if you are looking for somewhere quieter.
Another popular Dublin Hostel for solo travellers is Abbey Court Hostel. It’s on the other side of the river to Temple Bar but still very central and they have lots of cool common areas to hang out in and meet other travellers.
Abbey Court excepted, the best areas to stay in for convenience, safety and fun are between St Stephens Green and Temple Bar. Go closer to Temple Bar for more ‘party’ and nightlife options, and closer to the park or St Stephens Green for quieter and usually slightly cheaper options. You can find a whole range of hostels at good prices on Hostelworld.
Where to eat in Dublin as a solo traveller
There are not many things more quintessentially Irish than a pub meal and one of the best things about Irish pub culture is that in many places it’s acceptable to go to the pub and eat on your own. I would advise sticking to Temple Bar and surrounds as the suburban pubs can be very ‘local’ and solo female travellers may not feel as safe. When I stayed out by the airport the pub near the hotel was not super welcoming.
If you feel like being social, you can sit at the bar and one of the bartenders or fellow patrons is sure to strike up a conversation. Otherwise, grab a corner table and just take it all in.
Pub food is often very traditional, with lots of meat, stews, pies and chips or mashed potato. That’s not to say it isn’t worth trying. Irish stew with soda bread is delicious and warming, a must try especially if you’re visiting in winter. You can find all the ‘traditional Irish foods’ at most pubs and all the touristy restaurants around Temple Bar. Go at lunchtime for cheaper meals and less crowded restaurants.
I particularly loved the brunch scene in Dublin which is very easy to explore on your own. You can bring a book or grab a newspaper and take your time over coffee and a hearty Irish breakfast. Some good options are Brother Hubbard (Middle eastern flavours), Eathos (healthier) and The PepperPot Café (inside the beautiful Powerscourt Centre and known for its sandwiches).
Having morning or afternoon tea with a pot of Irish breakfast tea and a scone is also big in Dublin. It’s a good way to pause and regroup during your day which I find can be helpful as a solo traveller. For some of the best baked goods in the city, try Queen of Tarts.
Getting around Dublin solo
Dublin is a very walkable city so you can get to most of the main attractions on foot. Walking helps you see more of the city than you would otherwise, including lots of cute cobbled sides streets and historic statues. For solo female travellers, I would be cautious about walking at night on your own in Dublin. The Temple Bar area is safest because the thriving nightlife means there are people around at all hours.
For those further away attractions like Kilmainham Gaol, the public buses are the best option. You can pay cash or buy a chargeable card at the airport. There are also bikes for hire through the Dublin Bikes Scheme with lots of hubs around the city if you prefer not to deal with public transport.
Is Dublin safe for solo travellers?
Like most places, Dublin is usually very safe so long as you take some basic precautions. I felt completely safe in the central city during daylight hours but did experience some minor catcalling at night when passing pubs. I also heard from other (male) travellers that they had not felt welcome when going into pubs in suburban areas although nothing happened to them.
You definitely should not avoid going to Dublin out of concern for safety, but it’s smart to stick to the more touristy and busy areas when on your own. If you can tack onto a group, such as joining up with others from your hostel, then that makes a big difference.
If you haven’t been to Dublin, or are feeling the pull back, I hope this inspires you to book that Dublin solo travel holiday. Have a Guinness for me while you’re there!
If you’re planning a bigger Ireland trip, check out my review of the Ireland Contiki tour I did, even if Contiki isn’t your thing it will give you some itinerary ideas.