Dublin is mostly a walkable city and, though you can navigate it easily, there are always extra things to be seen from the road and from the experts. When I visited last week for a short break with my parents, I knew a bus tour would be on our agenda, but we wanted to get the best value for our Euro.
I chose Dublin Sightseeing’s Freedom Pass as it seemed like good value for money: €33 (or £24) provides three days’ unlimited hop-on hop-off bus travel on two sightseeing routes, plus public bus travel (the blue and yellow buses you see everywhere), a free Pat Liddy walking tour and free entry to the Little Museum of Dublin, alongside a range of attraction discounts. Not bad for the equivalent of €11 (£8) per day. But would it be useful in reality?
There are two other hop-on hop-off companies, City Sightseeing and Cityscape, vying for attention in Dublin. However, neither offers three days’ validity or public bus travel, and Cityscape’s tour stretches to 2.5 hours, which feels a bit too intense. In comparison, Dublin Sightseeing has two different routes which intersect at a couple of points.
The Original Tour (1 hour 45 minutes) covers places like the Teeling Whisky Company, Kilmainham Gaol and Phoenix Park, whilst the Docklands Tour (35 minutes) takes you to the Jeanie Johnston Tallship and Famine Museum, the famous U2 graffiti wall, and Oscar Wilde’s house on Pearse Street. Each Freedom Pass comes with a tiny fold-out map inside, so you’re never lost or short of sightseeing ideas! When you get on a bus you just scan your card on the reader, like a contactless debit card.
Most buses offer live commentary but there are multilingual options every half hour; we preferred the live version for the added anecdotes – “the speed cameras on this road used to belong to the English but they were faulty, so we got them” – and the odd Irish joke thrown in too.
Pat Liddy Walking Tour
We then joined a small group for the free walking tour, Dublin Highlights and Hidden Corners (normally €10), in O’Connell Street. Our guide, Gerry, was really enthusiastic and a natural storyteller, but he also gave us enough time to take photos and wander round before we moved onto the next place on his route. With very little overlap between Gerry’s information and the bus tour content, we were constantly getting new insight.
Of course, being on foot meant we could see much more of the city’s oldest quarters, and there were a lot of sights we’d have missed from inside the bus. Gerry showed us how the River Poddle flows into the River Liffey to form the original black pool, or ‘dubh linn’, that gave Dublin its name; he also took us to a brilliant Viking-inspired sculpture by Grace Weir, hidden on a side street of Temple Bar.
At two hours, the walking tour was just long enough before everyone got itchy feet (or exhausted feet) and needed to grab a coffee. If you’re taking the tour in winter, bring a Thermos along with you and wrap up warmer than normal. Even if we hadn’t taken this tour for free, I’d honestly consider it an essential for anyone visiting Dublin; there was so much covered in two hours but it was a well-paced and interesting agenda.
Other Perks of the Freedom Pass
- Free public bus travel is invaluable for sightseeing beyond the city centre – you can catch the bus to coastal areas like Howth, Dalkey or Malahide, or go northwards to Glasnevin Cemetery. It could also be handy if you happen to be visiting or staying with friends and relatives in the suburbs (note to self: get friends to move to Dublin so I can crash on their sofa).
- Grab a leaflet for Dublin Sightseeing and tear off the discount vouchers inside, which include €1 off entry to the Guinness Storehouse – normally €18. However, my parents couldn’t use it to pay for their tickets as seniors, as the discount is only valid on full-price entry.
- Free Airlink Express transport to and from the airport – normally €6 one way or €10 return. Buses have free Wi-Fi and are quite frequent (though we found there was a much longer wait when travelling from the airport!). The route map will tell you which stop you need to reach your hotel.
- Free entry to the Little Museum of Dublin (normally €7), set in a Georgian townhouse on St. Stephen’s Green. Relics include food packaging, U2 memorabilia, street signs, posters and vintage photos. After sightseeing, use your Little Museum ticket to get 10% off at Hatch & Sons Irish Kitchen next door.
Essentially, the Freedom Pass was well worth the money and paying €11 a day was a no-brainer. I should point out that my dad went for the 48 hour hop-on hop-off option instead, which covers both sightseeing bus routes, the walking tour and Little Museum entry, but the added bonuses of the Freedom Pass made this a much better option overall for anyone staying longer than two days in the city – not least because of the Airlink Express cost and the potential to travel further afield.
How would you spend three days in Dublin? Tweet me – @misspallen – or leave a comment below.
Disclaimer: The 72 hour Freedom Pass was kindly provided by Dublin Sightseeing for my trip, however I’d already intended to buy the pass, there were no editorial conditions imposed on my review, and all views are my own. The 48 hour option was something we chose to buy independently.
Visiting Notes: 72 hour Freedom Passes cost €33 for adults and €16 for under-14s. Alternatively, 48 hour hop-on hop-off tickets (without public bus travel and Airlink) cost €22 for adults, €20 for students/seniors and €10 for under-14s. Save money by buying online or at the airport.
The Highlights and Hidden Corners tour with Pat Liddy starts at 11am outside the Dublin Bus office in O’Connell Street, and finishes at 1pm outside Trinity College. Tours daily from 1st April-31st October; Mon/Weds/Fri/Sat from 1st November-31st March.