I recently blogged about the Freedom Pass from Dublin Sightseeing, but my city break also involved another sightseeing card (yes, I like to spread my favours): the Dublin Pass, which gives tourists free entry to 33 leading attractions.
Adult prices vary from €39 (£29) for one day or €61 (£45) for six days’ access. My three day option cost €71 (£52), which worked out at €23.66 (£17.33) per day, and I was determined to see as much as possible during that time.
So what sealed the deal? As with my Freedom Pass experience, the convenience factor is one big incentive: carrying less cash saves time. With the Dublin Pass you get a free one-way Aircoach transfer, and you can skip the line at some of the city’s most popular sights. To get your attraction tickets, the staff scan your pass using a mobile app. Here’s my verdict…
The range of included attractions is pretty wide, so it’s an opportunity to try some sights you might otherwise have ignored. You don’t need to be a die-hard whisky drinker to enjoy a distillery tour; you don’t need to be religious to marvel at St Patrick’s Cathedral. The Aviva Stadium and Croke Park are great places to learn about Irish sport, even if you’re not an avid sports fan. Further afield, there are two coastal castles to explore, though sadly I didn’t have time to cover these.
I really enjoyed the Horrible Histories-esque atmosphere of Dublinia, a museum that hones in on all aspects of the Viking and medieval periods of Dublin life, including trade links, spoken languages, living conditions and health – right down to sanitation and the horror of the Black Death. I’ve always been interested in history, so this was a no-brainer for me, but it could honestly engage anyone who walked through the door.
Though it’s very child-friendly, Dublinia can appeal to adults too, especially as the top floor (‘History Hunters’) is all about archaeology and the skills and politics involved in local digs. What happens when planned building work accidentally reveals hidden treasure from hundreds of years ago? You have to visit to find out… And, when you leave, you get to walk across the enclosed bridge, lined with stained glass windows, leading to Christ Church Cathedral.
With the three day pass, your best bet is to start local, then broaden your horizons later as you get to know more of the city. Some of the farthest sights, like the excellent Guinness Storehouse, Dublin Zoo and Glasnevin Cemetery, are open seven days a week; you can also catch the DART out to historic Dalkey and Malahide. Just bear in mind some attractions are closed on one or two days of the week (generally Sundays or Mondays). Whatever the day, you’ll find enough to keep you occupied.
Another big consideration is timing – just as I found during this summer’s trip to Copenhagen, many of Dublin’s museums and galleries close quite early, making it important to forward plan a little so you don’t miss out. I’d definitely recommend sacrificing a few lie-ins to get the most out of your sightseeing experience. Yes, it won’t be as spontaneous as you’d perhaps like, but it means you won’t trek to a museum only to find it closed ages ago. These are my top time-maximising tips:
- Christ Church Cathedral’s opening and closing hours vary seasonally, but from Monday-Saturday it opens at 9am. St. Patrick’s Cathedral opens every day at 9am.
- Dublin City Gallery (The Hugh Lane) is open Tuesday-Sunday, but the longest opening hours are Tuesday-Thursday, from 10am-6pm. I found it very relaxing at 10am on a Tuesday!
- The Old Jameson Distillery is open daily from 9am Monday-Saturday and 10am on Sunday, then closes at 6pm. The last tour is 5:15pm, though later tours are possible in summer.
- National Wax Museum Plus is a good early evening option, open until 7pm daily with last admission at 6:15pm.
Value for Money
Don’t forget the pass is live from the day you activate it. Rather than being measured in 24 hour time periods, it’s measured in calendar days, so start using it on a morning and not at 5pm, or you’ll be cheating yourself out of a full day’s validity. I chose to activate mine on a Monday morning, because most of the attractions I visited on the Sunday I arrived were free, or not covered by the scheme (such as The Book of Kells at Trinity College).
Whilst I did find the Dublin Pass really handy, I think families would get maximum value from the list of included attractions. Most of my favourite places weren’t expensive – for example, entry to Kilmainham Gaol was only £4 – so I wasn’t making huge savings all the time, whereas the pricier options tended to be the most child-friendly and interactive. Of course, the queue-jumping perks are impressive whatever your age, but tired parents and kids would be even more grateful to skip the lines. It’s worth remembering that many of us would probably pay for the convenience of queue-jumping, so this adds more overall value, but I didn’t manage to see as many eligible sites as I wanted, purely because of their conflicting or limited opening times.
For anyone who used the pass several years ago, bear in mind the current package no longer includes hop-on hop-off bus travel (there was a bit of confusion amongst some online reviewers). However, inner city sights are mostly walkable and you can also use the Luas tram system or the local buses very cheaply too. If you’d still like a hop-on hop-off experience, read my review of Dublin Sightseeing.
I loved the concept of the Dublin Pass and found it easy to use; the time-saving benefits made a difference, especially at the Guinness Storehouse, and the added extras like museum cafe discounts were a nice bonus. Whilst I almost managed to make the pass pay for itself over three days (an affordable €23.66 or £17.33 per day), it would have been hard to do this in a shorter time frame.
I don’t think this is a problem with the scheme – all that’s needed are longer opening hours at the museums and experiences, especially because these aren’t the kind of places you can rush through in 10 minutes, and I wanted to do them all justice. If there were more attractions open from 9am, or until 7pm, I’m sure the tourists would come in droves, all brandishing the pass in their hands. And I’d be first in line.
Disclaimer: I was provided with a three day Dublin Pass for the purposes of this review, however no editorial conditions were imposed and, as ever, my views are my own.
Adult pass prices range from €39 for one day to €105 for six days’ access; child prices range from €21 for one day to €54 for six days’ access.