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Dublin: budget mini-guide

Dublin: budget mini-guide

I’m off to Dublin soon, but I’ve heard it has become a pretty pricey place. How can we ‘do Dublin’ without breaking the bank?

Emma, Scotland

Dear Emma,

Dublin is a city of pubs, walks and fun, and it’s perfect for a budget break. Here’s my guide to a weekend trip to the city that won’t break the bank.

What to do

The city spans both banks of the River Liffey, which makes a pretty walk on a spring or summer weekend. Wander over O’Connell Bridge, an elegant granite bridge lit by lanterns at night, and for contrast head to the new Samuel Beckett Bridge, a striking cable-stayed bridge that opened in late 2009.

For further picturesque ambling, visit the Georgian area of Dublin and Trinity College, Ireland’s top university. There’s a good guide to the Georgian district on the VisitDublin website. Highlights include Merrion Square and Henrietta Street. If you visit Trinity College head to the library and the Old Book of Kells exhibition, which costs €9 to enter. There are campus tours mid-May to late September for €10 that detail the history of the college and its alumni, and offer an introduction to the library, lasting 30 minutes.

On Yer Bike!

London isn’t the only city to recently launch a cycle hire scheme. DublinBikes cost €2 for a three-day ticket and the first half hour is free, after that it’s €1.50 for up to two hours.

Free Museums

There are also a few excellent free museums in Dublin – the National Museum of Ireland on Kildare Street, the Natural History Museum on Merrion Square and the Hugh Lane Gallery at Parnell Square, which features a reconstruction of artist Francis Bacon’s studio.

Dublin Pubs

You might have missed Dublin’s St Patrick’s Festival in mid-March, but there are plenty of opportunities to sample the city’s black gold, other known as Guinness.

Pubs remain the heart of Dublin’s nightlife, and one of the longest-standing is The Stag’s Head in Dame Court, which offers live music on Sunday evenings or there’s The Palace, a characterful Victorian pub on two levels on Fleet Street.

The Guinness Storehouse at St James’s Gate may lack the atmosphere of the pubs on Temple Bar, but offers the best view of the city from its Gravity Bar. You’ll find yourself in this rooftop bar at the end of a tour through the production, history and famous advertising campaigns of Dublin’s most famous export. Entry costs €13.50 per adult, and is well worth it for that pint-with-a-view.

Where to eat

As for where to chow down, Ireland’s other famous gastronomic treat is seafood, more specifically: oysters. If you’re in the city on a Saturday, head to the St Martin Shellfish stall at Temple Bar’s Saturday market.

It’s usually in Meeting House Square, but the square is closed while a retractable roof is fitted, so it has moved to Cow’s Lane, East Essex Street and Curved Street until the end of 2011. The stall is worth seeking out though, serving up half a dozen Atlantic oysters with Irish soda bread and white wine for €9.50.

For a delicious home-made breakfast, brunch, lunch or afternoon tea, try the Queen of Tarts on Cows Lane. The soup and soda bread are legendary, and the Irish oatmeal and buttermilk pancakes make a delicious weekend breakfast.

Another one of my personal favourites for lunch in Dublin is Avoca, which has two cafes in Dublin. The Suffolk Street one is part of a seven-floor mini department store offering clothes, homeware and gifts as well as the cafe. The fresh daily tarts, cakes, bread and soup are good value and delicious.

Where to stay

There are a host of hotels and B&Bs in Dublin that will fit your budget without seeing you check into one of the city’s many backpacker hostels. My first suggestion is The Schoolhouse Hotel in Ballsbridge, just outside town.

This traditional-style four-star costs from €90 a night and serves a generous Irish breakfast. For a touch of Georgian history a bit closer to the city centre, Clifden House is a 15-bedroom hotel in Gardiner Place. It costs from €60 a night and had a communal lounge and renowned breakfast.

If you fancy the social side of a hostel, try Avalon House on Aungier Street, which starts at €27 a night. It has free wi-fi and breakfast, games room, and organised city tours and nights out.

Get there

You can find cheap flights to Dublin from most major city airports in the UK.

Answer by Ginny Light – TimesOnline travel editor

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