I could not believe how friendly and happy every single person I met in Dublin was. Granted I live in Manhattan, where the bar is set low for pleasantries, but Dublin took it to a whole new level. From my car service attendant who happily greeted me at the airport, to my B&B owner that whisked me to the restaurant for coffee the moment I arrived, everyone was great! I felt like the people who I encountered were eager to have conversations and share tips about their city. I had no issues at all wandering the streets solo.
Yes, The Westin, Intercontinental and other large scale chains have hotels in Dublin, but I recommended finding a local accommodation. Dublin is a small and special city, so staying in a more authentic environment made the trip even better. Per a colleague's recommendation, I stayed at a B&B called Number 31 (http://www.number31.ie/). It claims to have the best breakfast in Ireland on their website, and I believe it may be true! Beyond the vast cold breakfast spread of various yogurts, cereals and breads (including the best Irish brown bread of the trip!), a choice of about five hot breakfast entrees were made to order every morning. While this is my pick, there are many other B&B options which will give a feel for the local charm as well.
Traditional pubs were everywhere, and always offered a good time. I went to The Ginger Man after work with colleagues where I had my first local Guinness (which actually does taste better in Ireland, as they say) and pretty awesome fish & chips.
Even though I had limited personal time to explore in Dublin, I did not feel that I missed out on much. All major sites were within walking distance, and I was easily able to get around. In one day, I visited Grafton Street, St. Patrick's Cathedral, Christ Church, Dublin Castle and the Guinness Storehouse, where I ended the day with a cold Guinness on the rooftop bar. Everyone who visits gets a free pint while enjoying 360-degree views of the Dublin landscape. While you can fit a lot in a day, I recommend leaving a few hours to explore the Guinness Storehouse as there is much inside to see and do!
Right outside the city are the gorgeous and sweeping valleys that Ireland is known for which are easily accessible through tour companies. The closest place to explore for a day trip is Glendalough (http://www.glendalough.ie/) which has a rich history as it was an early monastic settlement. During my tour day it rained, so I didn't get to see much green, but there was a ton of history and it was still beautiful to see the more rural side of Ireland. The Cliffs of Moher is another famous countryside area, but it's about three hours by car from Dublin, so not ideal for a day trip... but there's always next time!
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