If you’re looking for a great place to study abroad, then you absolutely have to choose Dublin. It’s one of the greatest cities in Europe, if I do say so myself. There’s so much rich history and culture, and everyone in Dublin is so kind! It’s crazy.
Believe it or not, but I initially chose to study abroad in Dublin because my best friend wanted to go there. I had always wanted to study abroad in London, but Dublin seemed like a safer choice. It’s smaller and the school that I’d be able to study abroad at there had more interesting classes. It’s also a lot more affordable to study abroad in Dublin than it is in London.
I suggest you look into studying abroad in Dublin because it really is such a historically rich city. There’s history around almost every corner. It’s also a lot more of a foodie city than you might initially think.
I also only ever met kind people in Dublin. I joined the club lacrosse team at University College Dublin (UCD) where I studied abroad, and everyone was just so nice. It’s funny because it’s really not like that back home in the USA, especially in the northeast.
Everyone at home is always busy or stressed out. I think that’s because everyone in Dublin works to live while back home everyone lives to work. It really is a cultural difference, but their way of life makes so much more sense to me.
Transportation in Ireland is super easy to use and you’ll also find that it’s actually a lot more reliable and clean than it is in other cities.
Student Leap Card
If you’re a student studying abroad in Dublin (or anywhere in Ireland, for that matter), you 100% need to invest in a Student Leap Card. It’s the transportation card that will work on the bus, luas, and the Irish Rail. Trust me, you will use it so many times.
To get your leap card, you have to show your student ID and pay a fee of €10. This is just an initial fee to get the card printed. You’ll also need to have a headshot of yourself that you can put on the image. When you go to get your card, you’ll also have to fill out an application. The whole process takes about 10 minutes.
You should be able to get one through your school. I easily was able to get one printed right at University College Dublin during Fresher’s Week. Sometimes, you can also get one printed at another university in the city as long as you show your student ID card for the school you’re studying abroad at.
Another way to get your card is by purchasing it online.
Here’s the real reason while you’ll want it though – the card automatically caps off at €5 a day and €20 a week. That means you’ll never pay more than either of those prices a day or a week if you regularly use your card. This can save you a lot of money in the long run, and it works all over Ireland.
The Dublin bus will probably be your best friend. I found myself riding it almost every other day to get downtown. Yes, there are times that you’ll get stuck in traffic, but to be honest, that’s only during rush hour.
It’s a very quick and easy way to get to and from downtown. If you go to University College Dublin (UCD) like I did, then you’ll definitely live on the 39A bus. It goes right to UCD’s own stop straight to downtown.
A nice thing about the bus is that it will also bring you to surrounding areas of Dublin, making it super easy to take a day trip to a suburb like Howth or Bray.
The Luas is Dublin’s light rail system. Think of it like a tram!
I never used it much because there isn’t a stop near UCD and it mainly only is set up in the downtown area. However, it is a lot quicker than the bus, so you might find yourself using it every now and then.
Trains in Ireland are super clean and offer some pretty amazing views. They’re also super comfortable. If you ever book a trip and plan on using the Irish Rail, then you 100% want to reserve your tickets ahead of time. Your Student Leap Card will save you money.
Dublin International Airport
One nice thing about Dublin is that it actually has its own international airport! This makes it super easy to fly around Europe and jet-set off to other countries and cities.
The budget airline RyanAir is also from Ireland, so you’ll always be able to find some good, cheap rates. I recommend checking out Skyscanner to try to find the cheapest rates before you fly. Keep in mind that sometimes these are super early in the morning. I personally found that it was worth it to travel early in the morning to save money! It also gave me that whole first day to explore whatever city I was flying to.
Best places to eat
Of course, there are tons of great places to eat in Dublin, but these are just some of my favorites that I constantly frequented!
Queen of Tarts
Queen of Tarts is hands-down my #1 favorite place to eat in Dublin. It’s the cutest little place to get breakfast, brunch, lunch, or even just a cup of coffee or tea. They have top-notch budget-friendly prices and also have the best chai tea I’ve ever had in the whole world.
Okay, I know that Nando’s is a chain all around the UK, but it’s so delicious. You have to try it at least once. Their chicken is amazing and I’m obsessed with their Perinaise. I still order it from Amazon monthly and get it shipped to me since we can’t really buy it anywhere in the US.
Quay’s was my go-to pub in Dublin. It was right in the Temple Bar area, but wasn’t as touristy as the Temple Bar Pub. It was also always a lot less busy. If you ever eat here, you 100% have to order the cajun chicken sandwich. You just have to.
Temple Bar Pub
I’m sorry, but this really wouldn’t be a complete list without having the Temple Bar Pub on here. I know it’s touristy, but I think you have to experience it at least once. I suggest going during lunch time, because it’s way less busy than it is at night. They also have an extensive sandwich menu and so many amazing beverages.
Best day trips from the city
Dublin serves as the perfect home base for trips around Ireland! This is because all of the train lines meet right in Dublin city.
Galway is the arts and culture city of Ireland! It makes for a perfect day trip from Dublin and it’s only about 2.5 hours from Dublin. You could get there by car or bus. While you’re there, be sure to stop by the 2 castles that are still standing in the secret. If you can’t find them, here’s a tip: one of them was converted into a Costa Coffee and the other is a bank!
Cliffs of Moher
The Cliffs of Moher are the top touristy destination in all of Ireland, and it’s for good reason. The cliffs are so beautiful and they really make you appreciate nature and the natural beauty of Ireland itself. Countless movies were filmed here too, like The Princess Bride and parts of the Harry Potter series. You can easily visit the Cliffs of Moher from Dublin. The easiest way to visit the Cliffs of Moher is to book a day trip with a tour like Paddywagon Tours or Finn McCools tours.
Killarney was my favorite town that I visited in Ireland. It’s on Ireland’s west coast and it feels like the quintessential Ireland town. While you’re in the area, you have to be sure to go to Muckross House and Torc Waterfall. They were two of my favorite sights in the area!
Bray is a lovely little coastal town just south of Dublin. There’s a beautiful cliff walk here from Greystones to Bray, or you could do it the opposite way. It provides lovely views of the coast and it feels a lot safer than the Howth Cliff Walk. There’s a fence between you and the coast the whole time, so if you don’t like heights, then you’ll be perfectly fine.
Howth is kind of similar to Bray. It’s just north of Dublin and is also a coastal town, but I loved it even more than Howth. There’s so much to do there. You can take in the views at Howth Harbor, explore Howth Market, or do the Howth Cliff Walk. I recommend all 3! Here’s a complete guide to taking a day trip to Howth from Dublin.
Co. Cork is where the famous Blarney Castle is! If you plan on kissing the Blarney Stone, you’ll have to visit Cork. Cork is actually the second-biggest city in the whole country and it honestly feels a lot like Dublin. You can easily get there in about 2.5 hours by using the Irish Rail.
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Did you know you could even take a day trip to another country? Located at the northern tip of Ireland is Northern Ireland, which is a completely different country than the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is actually part of the UK. You can easily take a day trip to Belfast and back. Fun fact: Belfast is where the Titanic was built!
what to do in the city
Of course, there are countless things to do in Dublin, but this is a list of some of my favorite things that I did while in the city.
Explore St. STephen’s Green
St. Stephen’s Green is the gorgeous central public park in Dublin. You can’t help but see it if you’re ever near Stephen’s Green Shopping Center or Grafton Street. It’s a very peaceful park and there’s an abundance of little park benches that you could sit and read a book or eat on.
Walk Along Grafton Street
I think almost everyone knows about Grafton Street now because of Ed Sheeran! It’s the main shopping street in Dublin. However, I don’t necessarily suggest going there to go shopping, but rather to listen to all of the live music.
There are almost always street performers at a few key spots along the street. You’ll love just standing and listening to them, I promise! They’re always so talented.
Have A Pint at Temple Bar
Visit the Guinness Storehouse
Though the Guinness Storehouse is probably seen as one of the most touristic places in Dublin, it’s actually worth visiting. I put off visiting until my last week in the city because I was trying to refrain from doing tourist things, but I actually enjoyed it so much. Remember to purchase your tickets ahead of time.
If you’re interested in learning more about my experience and what it’s like to go, check out my post on the Ultimate Guide to the Guinness Storehouse.
Shop at Stephen’s Green Shopping Center
Stephen’s Green Shopping Center is honestly the most beautiful shopping center that I’ve ever been to. The inside is all pastel green and white and there’s a giant clock. Sure, it’s just a shopping center, but whenever I needed something I went out of my way to see if I could get it at one of the shops here.
Where to Get the Best Birds-Eye View of Dublin
I think in order to put a city in perspective, you really need to see it from above. In fact, I have a history of seeing cities that I’ve visited from above!
I’ll let you in on a little secret: the best view of Dublin is actually from the Gravity Bar at the top of the Guinness Storehouse. To get the view, you do have to purchase tickets to the Guinness Storehouse experience, but you get a free pint at the top in the Gravity Bar with your panoramic view of the city!
WHat IT’s Like to Study Abroad at University College Dublin
To be honest, I went to a really small school in Boston, so I was up for a change when I enrolled at UCD.
University College Dublin is actually a huge school – there’s over 25,000 students. The experience there was unbelievably great though. I loved all of my professors and found the large class sizes to be a big change from my normal size of classes at home. I’m used to classes with 8-14 people, while at UCD I usually had over 50!
The amount of time spent in class is also a huge difference as an American. I’m used to having at least 3-4 hours of class time for each of my classes, but it’s so different at UCD. I was enrolled in 6 classes and only had a total of 9 hours of class a week. Attendance was mandatory for some of the classes but not the others.
Oftentimes, the entire grade for a course is solely based on a mid-term and a final or an essay. One of my classes was literally 100% based on just one single essay at the end. That was a huge change for me, but I found that I enjoyed it more. I didn’t have to worry about a bunch of little homework assignments that wouldn’t have mattered much in the long run.
Keep in mind that grading is a lot tougher in Ireland. I had some Irish friends at UCD tell me that they were used to getting 70’s on papers and exams a lot, and that it was a good grade to get. The grading scale is a bit different, so anything from an 80 to a 100 is actually an A, and a 60 to an 80 is a B, and this continues on. All I had to get in a class to pass was a 40, which was crazy for me! In American university, we need at least a 70 to pass.
If you also study abroad at UCD, I recommend that you join at least 1 club. I am a dual-sport varsity DIII athlete at home, and I play both field hockey and lacrosse. I studied abroad in the spring and therefore missed my junior season of collegiate lax, so I decided to join the club lax team. It was the best decision of my life! Everyone is so fun to play with and you get to travel with the team to different locations around Ireland.
Joining a club while you’re abroad gives you an automatic way to make friends in the country you’re studying abroad in. The Irish are so welcoming, so they’ll definitely want to be your friend and learn more about you!
There are an abundance of places around the city that you can get a student discount at. I recommend always showing your Student ID when you go somewhere. You never know, you might get a student discount this way.
Using Your Student Leap Card
The Student Leap Card actually also gives you some automatic discounts. They change from year to year, so just check on the back of your card to see a full list of all the places you can get discounts at!