I love Dublin, one of the best things about the city is how easily accessible it is to some of the most beautiful parts of the country. Though there are some really great organised bus tours in Ireland, you don’t need them to enjoy some amazing day trips from Dublin.
The 11 best day trips from Dublin using public transport:
- The Phoenix Park
- Dun Laoghaire
There are plenty of great day trips that you can do while staying in Ireland’s capital. Here I want to talk about some of the best trips you can do from Dublin, just using public transport.
Public Transport Systems in Dublin
There are a variety of public transport systems in Dublin. The prices for return tickets range between €2 – €5. Please consult the websites for the transport services linked below as the fares in question change quite often.
I have judged all of these journeys as starting from the main gate of Trinity College at College Green in the centre of Dublin.
- Dublin Bus
- The Luas
- The DART
- Intercity Links – I will discuss options and prices where appropriate, but they will be more expensive.
If you want to pay for any of these services, you can pay using cash (only coins for Dublin Bus) or a “leap card”. These are easily obtainable at any newsagent or corner store in Ireland. (source)
This is my favourite place on the East coast of the island of Ireland, I always recommend that people check this place out. Howth is a peninsula just north of Dublin city, the cliffs along its coastline have some of the best views I know about near the city and you will be able to see all of Dublin and the surrounding counties from locations around the summit of Howth Hill.
While there you will also be able to explore the grounds of Howth Castle, which has been owned by the same family for the last 800 years. When you hike along the cliff paths, you will be able to see some of the best views on the East coast of Ireland. Also, Howth village has been a local fishing port for generations and the restaurants will all have seafood that was usually caught fresh that morning!
If you want to learn more about what to do here, you can read over my guide to Howth.
One of the best things about Howth is how close it is to Dublin city centre, you can easily get there in about half an hour.
Public transport links to Howth:
- DART: Take the DART line north to the final stop at Howth.
- Dublin Bus: take either the 31 or 31a routes to either Howth Village or Howth Summit.
This is another town along the coast that has been a popular destination among locals for generations. Located at the southern tip of Dublin’s suburbs, Bray is actually the largest town in county Wicklow. While here, you will have the opportunity to explore the seaside town itself and the surrounding area.
The town has some great hidden gems. The Harbour Bar in Bray was Lonely Planet’s “Best off the beaten track bar in the world” in 2010. There are many other great bars and restaurants in the town, but when you get there the mountains nearby dominate the views. Bray is right at the foothills of the Dublin and Wicklow mountains and has easy access to the hiking routes through them.
Public transport links to Bray:
- DART: You can take the DART line south from the city centre. Getting off at the Bray stop.
- Dublin Bus: Take the 145 route towards Ballywaltrim. Getting off at Castle Street, Bray.
The Phoenix Park
While this is not technically outside of Dublin, it might as well be! The Phoenix Park is the largest enclosed city park in the world, it’s 11km long wall contains many great experiences. You can see Dublin Zoo, the residences of the Irish Prime Minister, President and the US Ambassador, among many other great things.
The park itself is famously home to a herd of 300 wild deer that roam freely around. This place is so big, that there is a good chance you might not even see them when you’re here! But you will see some tree-lined boulevards and some great natural beauty right next to the city.
Public transport links to the Phoenix Park:
- Dublin Bus: Take the 37 bus towards Blanchardstown Shopping Centre. Getting off at the park
- The Luas: Take the red line west. Getting off at the museum stop.
- Walk! The entrance to the park is about 2km away from the city centre. Be aware, while the entrance is close, you might get tired with all of that walking around you will do while there. Plan ahead!
Going back to the coast you will find another beautiful little town just south of county Dublin. Greystones is located next to Bray, but has about half the population. The suburbs south of Dublin have traditionally been affluent and you can really see this element of the city’s society on display here.
When you wander around the streets of Greystones you will be able to find dozens of small, boutique stores and restaurants. One of the most popular of these places is the “Happy Pear”. This establishment was founded by a set of identical twin brothers who grew up locally and wanted to set up their own vegan restaurant.
Greystones is the perfect place for a romantic getaway. There are plenty of small B&Bs around the area and you will be able to explore some of county Wicklow’s outstanding natural beauty very easily.
Public transport links to Greystones:
- DART: Take the DART south from the city centre. It should be about 13 stops to get to the Greystones station.
- Dublin Bus: Though there are busses to this area, I would recommend that you stick to the DART services to avoid changing bus too often.
Staying on the coast, south of Dublin, we have the port town of Dún Laoghaire. Historically, there used to be a fierce rivalry between here and Howth. It all came to a head, when the King of England was to visit at the beginning of the 20th century and Dún Laoighre renamed itself “Kingstown”, in order to have the honour of being the first port of call for the monarch. This backfired when he landed in Howth first for about half an hour, before finally landing here.
The town changed names with independence, and today you will be able to wander the streets that are mentioned in the book “Ulysses” by James Joyce. The literary connections to the town are strong and it has associations to various other writers including Samuel Beckett, the main theater in town is still popular.
If you are lucky enough to experience the sunshine while here, one of the best things that you could do is to take a walk along the pier, stopping off at the famous “Teddy’s” ice-cream shop for a treat. This small shop is a local institution and you will probably find it busy, even when it rains!
Public transport routes to Dún Laoghaire:
- DART: Again, take the DART south (towards Bray). Getting off at the Dún Laoghaire stop.
- Dublin Bus: The 75 route will take you to Dún Laoghaire, I must warn you though this bus route is locally known as the “tour of the Southside (of Dublin)” and will take much more time.
Staying on the coast, but moving north, we will get to Malahide. This is one of the most scenic places on the coast of county Dublin and is considered a desirable place to both visit and live by locals. The area is steeped in history and evidence of human activity has been found dating back to the stone-age, with permanent settlement since the Viking period.
You can learn all about this in the local museum, which is lovingly maintained by various different community groups. The museum, and other amenities, are located in the demesne of Malahide Castle, one of the biggest local attractions. Every summer there will be countless concerts and festivals held here.
Public transport links to Malahide:
- DART: Take the DART from any station in Dublin city centre. Malahide willbe the northernmost stop on the line. Journey time is usually about 45 minutes.
This is the last little Dublin village that we will stop at in this guide, but arguably the best. Killiney is a small suburb of Dublin city that has been almost untouched by tourism, even when compared to some of the other small towns we mentioned previously. This affluent suburb has some of the most beautiful coastline anywhere in Ireland.
The area is often compared to the coastline around the Bay of Naples in Italy and the area is full of Italian street names as a result. Killiney park is a beautiful place for a stroll, and if the weather is good you should be able to see the Mourne Mountains in Northern Ireland and the Wicklow Mountains to the South.
Public Transport links to Killiney:
- DART: Take the DART south, towards Bray. Getting off at the Killiney Stop, roughly 12 stops away from the city centre.
- Dublin Bus: The 59 bus from Dún Laoghaire operates hourly. This service is not as reliable as the DART.
Moving to the opposite coast of Ireland, we find Galway. Visiting here is often the highlight of any visit to Ireland and it is easy to see why. Walking along the medieval streets of the “Latin Quarter” of town, you can always feel that there is a buzz about the place.
Galway is the 4th biggest city in the Republic of Ireland and there is plenty to do. normally I would recommend that you spend at least a full 24 hours here, but if you are looking to squeeze the most out of your stay, a quick trip over here is definitely possible. While you might not get to fully embrace the nightlife that the city is famous for, you will find buskers all over the streets. Galway is a bohemian melting pot and artists of all descriptions flock to the city.
As well as the bars, there are great coffee shops, art galleries and cool restaurants all over the place that are well worth visiting. If you’re interested, there are also a couple of really cool museums like the Hall of the Red Earl and the city’s museum, both are within a 5 minute walk of each other.
If you want to learn more about what to see in Galway, then you can read my guide to the city in 24 hours.
Public transport links to Galway:
- Irish Rail: This is a reliable service that operates from the main station in Galway (Ceantt) to Dublin’s Heuston Station. The issue with rail tickets to Galway is that they are expensive, with single adult tickets costing between €30-€40. However, there are very good student deals on offer.
- Coach Services: While there are many coach services that operate out of Galway, the one I use to travel between here and Dublin is GoBus. I feel that the offer the best value for money and have the most reliable service. Tickets are usually about €20 return for an adult. The coach journey is about 3.5 hours long.
Now that we have explored some of the best parts of Dublin and it’s coast, let’s go a little further inland. Not to be confused with Killiney, Kilkenny is one of the most beautiful towns in Ireland and is also one of the best preserved medieval towns on the island. If you want to explore some winding, narrow, cobblestoned streets, then you should definitely check out Kilkenny.
The town itself has been the centre of some of the most important events in Irish history and was a one point the capital of an Irish rebellion against British rule in the country. Today you will be able to explore its famous Abbey and castle among many other attractions along the Medieval Mile. This is essentially the main street of the town and its full of bars and restaurants and other great things for you to check out.
My favourite place to go here is the Smithwicks brewery. This is a traditional Irish red ale and it has been one of the most popular alcoholic drinks in Ireland since its foundation in 1710, that is 49 years before the establishment of the Guinness brewery in Dublin in 1759!
If you want to learn more about upcoming events in the city, or individual things to check out, have a look at my guide to Kilkenny.
Public transport links to Kilkenny (from Dublin):
- Irish Rail: If you want to get to Kilkenny, this is probably your best option, a same-day return ticket from Dublin costs about €15 (this may change) for an adult.. The journey is about an hour long.
- Coach Services: Tickets are about €18 for same day return for an adult and the journey is about 1.5 hrs long. I would recommend getting the train to Kilkenny, though you do have other options.
Cork is the second biggest city in the Republic of Ireland and is definitely worth a visit. There are plenty of things to check out here, so I normally recommend that people spend at least a full 24 hours. But, like in Galway, if you want to squeeze the most out of your stay in Ireland, then you can easily see a little of Cork on a day trip.
Cork is a city with a very strong sense of identity. If someone is from Cork, they are likely to say that they are from Cork first and Ireland second. Locals take pride in their rich heritage and the region around the city gave birth to some of Ireland’s greatest revolutionaries. This is where Cork’s moniker of the “rebel county” originates.
There are plenty of local museums for you to enjoy while on your visit and as the second biggest city in the country there are obviously plenty of bars and restaurants. But my favourite thing to do in Cork is wander around the grounds of the beautiful university. University College Cork (UCC) has a gorgeous campus and you are free to wander around on your visit!
Public transport links to Cork:
- Irish Rail: Like going to Galway, rail travel to Cork is expensive. Expect to pay upwards of €30 per adult ticket. However this journey will be quicker and more reliable than the coach service.
- Coach Services: Again, like Galway, there are plenty of companies that offer transport from Dublin to Cork. Fortunately, my favourites (GoBus) also have a Dublin to Cork route.
Belfast is the capital city of Northern Ireland and the second biggest city on the whole island, not to be confused with Cork. The fact that 6 counties in the northern part of Ireland are part of the United Kingdom can cause confusion among visitors. When you visit this part of the country, you will be able to see a city that has recovered from the brutal civil war that ended here just over 20 years ago.
This region has gone through a dramatic revitalization and today you will be able to explore the vibrant city and learn about its history. There are plenty of great walking tours that discuss the contentious local politics in the area from the perspectives of both sides. When you finish one of these tours, you will leave with a much better understanding of the conflict that went on here and how it ended.
But there are also some less dramatic ways to spend your time in this great city. If you want to see some beautiful greenery, the botanical gardens in Belfast are some of the oldest in the UK and are a great spot for any visit. There is also the Titanic Museum, which is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, built on the construction site of the famous ship.
If you want to fully experience this city, you should ideally spend a couple of days. For more information, you can consult my guide to Belfast.
Public transport links to Belfast:
- Rail Services: There are regular rail services from Dublin to Belfast and they are a little cheaper than the routes from Dublin to some of the other cities in Ireland.
- Coach Services: There are plenty of companies that offer routes from Dublin to Belfast. Journey time is approximately 2.5 hours.
Bonus Idea – Dublin’s Georgian Parks
Though this doesn’t really count as a day trip away from Dublin, there are plenty of locals who enjoy going to any of the Georgian parks dotted around the city. There are 5 old Georgian squares in Dublin, 2 north of the river Liffey and 3 south. They are regarded as some of the most beautiful parts of Dublin and each has a park that is open to the public to enjoy, though only during daylight hours.
The parks at St. Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square in particular are beautiful places to enjoy on a nice summer’s day in Dublin. In fact, if you are fortunate enough to experience some sunshine while you’re in Ireland, there is a good chance that you will see crowds of locals and visitors alike flocking to these parks to enjoy the scenery.
Public transport links to these parks:
- WALK! Seriously, it is actually quicker to walk to these parks from the centre of Dublin than it would be to get to them by any other means. You might get the quicker by cycling, but even then, not by much!
Where can I go on the DART? The DART line is a light rails system that operates along the coast of Dublin. Using the DART, you will be able to reach the centre of Dublin and most of the smaller towns and suburbs along the coast of counties Dublin and Wicklow.
Where is the best place to stay in Ireland for day trips? Staying in Dublin will offer you the most options for day trips as it has the best transport links on the island of Ireland. But other cities like Galway, Cork and Belfast are good alternatives.