Got Any Good London or Dublin Recommendations?

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My husband and I are very close to heading off for London and Dublin for a little while (a few days in each city), and would love any recommendations of “can’t miss” things to do, see, eat, etc. that you might have!  We are planning to be pretty low-key on this trip and not try to wear ourselves out doing everything there is to do, but I know many of you have tons of experience in these cities so I’d love to hear about it.  In fact, I just re-read some of the London suggestions from the comments in this post last year and have some of them on our list for this go ’round.

Our kiddo will be staying safely in the US while we are away, so this is an “adults only” trip.  We both were in London during the Olympics last year, and I had been to London before that, but this is the first time to Dublin (or Ireland for that matter) for both of us.  We have a few things planned, and a few reservations already made, but are still looking to add to the list.

So, if you have some suggestions to share, I’d love to hear them!  Hopefully some of these ideas can help others who might be planning similar trips as well.  Thanks in advance, and can’t wait to share the details about how our trip that was made possible by miles and points!

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  1. I am also off to London shortly (then Spain). Since this is my first trip I have no experience, but my friends have consistently mentioned the The English Bus tours of the countryside and the Hairy Goat photography tours. I also have to recommend Tophat at the theater. Kristen Beth Williams fresh off Broadway is the leading lady.

  2. We enjoyed a recent stay at the Hilton Conrad in Dublin. Close to cab stand and walking distance to shopping, dinner, etc. Cliffs of Moher-Castle tour using the train…..

  3. If you can get to the western coast of Ireland (near Galway), I would recommend spending a day on the Aran Islands. I had a great day there riding bikes all through the main island in May 2010.

    In Dublin, I recommend visiting Queen of Tarts near Temple Bar for some tea and dessert.

  4. Where are you staying in London? If you’re not looking for something fancy, I’d HIGHLY recommend the Mayfair Holiday Inn.
    I stayed there a month ago-It was cheap (25k/night)and you CANNOT beat that location.

    No point mentioning, Tower Bridge or the museums or London eye…BUT Something offbeat that I’d recommend is the Rain Room.
    It’s this amazing structure-Rainfall inside a room, except that the sensors right above you shut off when you’re underneath..and it feels like walking through the rain, without getting wet.

    Being movie buffs, we went to the Harry Potter studios in Watford ( about a 30 minute train ride away) and that was simply awesome. 😀

    There’s tons of other stuff, I’d recommend but seeing that you don’t want to do a LOT of sightseeing…these were the 2 things that I’d recommend above all.

  5. We visited Kilmainham Gaol and it was a great way to learn about the history of the uprisings in Dublin. We lucked out and did this first, which helped us establish a mental timeline when learning about other pieces of history. Dublin Castle was also interesting. It was one of the few castles we visited that allowed photos inside.

  6. One of our favorite places in Dublin is The Arlington bar/restaurant in Dublin’s City Center. You can hear live traditional Irish music, see some Celtic dancers and have a pub meal all for 30 Euro. Make reservations though.

  7. Tower of London is very expensive, but there has been a promotion of 1+1 free that has to do with British Rail (including one days passes in London) tickets – google and see if it is still live – if so it is a great deal (also good for other attractions). It is intended for UK residents but open to all.

  8. I enjoy strolling through nice neighborhoods in London like Belgravia or Mayfair. As you won’t have your child with you it might be a good time to visit the British Library. Not many tourists find it and like most museums it is free to enter. Stop into the Savoy or other great hotels and have a drink. It is worth finding the Grenadier Pub, tucked away in a quiet mews west of Buckiingham Palace, where the soldiers of the Duke of Wellington used to hang out. I’m never certain a trip to London is complete without a visit to Fortnum & Mason. Enjoy.

  9. I highly recommend the Alternative London Walking tour of the street art in East London.
    Take a look at the website for a glimpse of the contemporary street art that you will view on this tour. It is pay what you like, so good for all budgets. Although the tour does provide some insights into the history of this interesting area, it focuses primarily on the London of today, so is a good complement to all the historical touring of London. (By the way, this is also a great walking tour for older kids and teens as well.) If you like walking tours, London Walks also has a lot of reasonably priced tours of many parts of the city.

  10. Also- if you want to do some of the standard stuff- Buy one of these combination tickets.
    You’ll get great value from them…and in some places you get to skip the lines (Not that there’ll be any in the winter!)

  11. We love the London Walks. No reservations and great! Guides must pass stringent testing… Check the website. Also go all the way to the very top of St. Paul’s for a unique view of London And walk across the Thames on the Millennium Pedestrian Bridge. Evensong at St. Paul’s or Westminster — around 4 or 430 in the afternoon is charming– check website and que up early to get it.

  12. Gillray’s Steakhouse and Bar at Marriott County Hall London for a special night out. Fabulous food, gin martinis are incredible, views of Big Ben and Thames will leave lasting memories. Hubby and I stayed there over Thanksgiving…wonderful. Hotel room was generic Marriott…but the VIEW is still burned in my memory, as well as, retiring to the lights of Big Ben and waking to the sound of it’s chimes…

  13. Pub crawl with a history lesson, not a sloopy american bar crwal! highly recommend, dress warm if you go and you won’t be disappointed! Private tours available and maybe he can try to post the tour and get others to share minor expense. We did the original tour and had a blast and felt like we got a great history lesson and experienced the best pubs in London. Much better then siting in a glass ball for an hour. Eat befor you go.
    Remind everyone to take the tube to/from LHR, duel use of your underground day pass and just as fast as making your way to the expensave express train. Play it forward and hand the pass off to someone heading the opisite direction once you get to LHR, it will make someone’s day.

  14. Would definitely recommend going to the Borough Market – there are some amazing food stalls to see (get off at the London Bridge tube stop). When there you MUST have the world’s best grilled cheese sandwich – at a little cheese stall called Kappacasein. Make sure you take cash. It is only open on the weekend. My mouth is watering just typing this 🙂

    Have a great trip!

  15. The Tower of London is reduced to £6 for Adults at the moment, but not sure how the little one would enjoy it. Of course the Crown Jewels can be interesting.
    The Shard is costly at £25 per adult, but on a clear day you can see a long way.

  16. In Dublin, you should spend some time in St. Stephen’s Green, which is a park right in the middle of the city. It’s beautiful and very close to most of the main attractions.

  17. It’s hard to go wrong with anything in London – it’s such a great city (my world favorite by a longshot). The British Museum is well worth a day (or more), the Tower is a nice tour, the Tates are worth a visit as is the National Portrait Gallery.

  18. In London not sure where you are staying but in the city (if a clear day, central line St Pauls or Bank) fancy breakfast at coq D’Argent (great views of the city, rooftop gardens and less crowded at breakfast just business people -the entrance elevator a bit hidden at 1 Poultry) then , climb steps of St Paul’s for a great view then walk over Milennium bridge to Tate Modern. From there you can stroll Thames at your leisure up to Tower Bridge and over to Tower of London. this is a bit adventurous itinerary so you can split it up. take tube to Parliment/big Ben/London eye (get tix in advance to avoid the lines).
    in Soho where I usually stay (soho hotel or chalotte street part of firmdale chain -i forgo points!) my favorite chocolate is Paul Young chocolates and cupcakes at Hummingbird bakery both on Wardour street (closest tube is central line Tottenham).
    For interesting tours and pub walk I use
    Apps for London -def TimeOut and london tube

  19. @milesfromblighty – that’s a great price for the tower of london. I vene thought it was worth the usual exorbitant price they charge. Is that a winter price drop?
    MP – if you haven’t done the tower, definitely worth the 6 quid!

  20. Living in England I made it down to London a few times a month, I never miss Zilli Cafe. The celebrity chef has a few restaurants in SoHo, but my favorite was the ultra casual Zilli Cafe. Excellent Italian food in a great neighborhood, you won’t eat better for less than £10 in the city – I recommend the Lobster ravioli (£9.50). Since this is adults only you should also try Brick Lane. Really cool up and coming neighborhood on the east side of the city known for excellent Indian food and vintage clothing shops. There is also an epic bagel place open late (seems strange for London I know) with amazing pastrami and HOT mustard bagels – I would have never tried it unless it came recommended, now I have to stop every time I am in town. Also, when leaving LHR Heathrow the tube is ridiculously long and still £7.50, Heathrow Express gets you into Paddington for about £30 in 15 minutes! If you have time on your hands and want to save a little cash, Heathrow Connect is a nice middle ground, I used it often, £15 and 30 minutes to Paddington Station. NEVER take a cab from the airport!

  21. The best way to see any city is to find a good walking tour. My wife and I always seem to gravitate to the food walking tours and have had great success all over the world. A good one in Dublin is

    For Ireland, take an umbrella and even possibly a rain suit. This time of year it rains a LOT.

  22. If you’re a Harry Potter fan, I highly recommend the Warner Brother’s studio tour outside of London. You can take subway and above ground trains to get there. Expect to spend about 3 hours to really see everything. It is fantastic.

    Wicked, Phantom of the Opera, Les Miserables are all fantastic shows.

    A day excursion to Windsor Castle is WORTH IT! You can also get there via trains.

  23. I’m heading back in April. Harry Potter & the Shard are at the top of my list. Also added some places from previous comments. Thanks!

  24. If you want to do tea and not spend a huge amount for a formal tea the restaurant/cafe under St. Martin’s in the Field in Trafalgar Square has good tea items. Also if you like classical music St. Martin’s does a free lunch time concert almost everyday for approx 45 minutes. It can be a good place to rest and enjoy the music. I heard a piano soloist from China last time I was in London.

  25. We are in Dublin right now. I highly recommend the Irish singing/dancing show at the Arlington. It’s a great way to end your day in Dublin. We found all of the touristy spots well worth it and don’t miss Temple Bar. There are tons of places to listen to all kinds of music and its just alot of fun.

    In London don’t miss the tower of London, but before you go watch a couple episodes of The Tudors. It’ll give you a better idea of the times if you aren’t familiar with the time period.

  26. I see above are comments to go to one of the Markets, I especially liked the Borough market. But one of my favorite places is the V&A (Victoria and Albert) Museum- free to get into and tons of lovely art, sculptures, and other decorative arts.

  27. London Walks– do the Jack the Ripper tour. Very informative and fun.
    There is a TKTS booth in Leicester Square selling half price theater tickets.

  28. If you have some “Thank You” points, look at their rewards under events and use them there. You can book tours, pubs tours, bus rides to castles, ect…

  29. When are you going? In summer, if possible, one of the best things to do is see a play at the Globe Theatre. I saw Antony and Cleopatra last time there and it was great! You feel as if you’re transported to 16th century England and standing in the peanut gallery!

    Will be glad to hear your trip report when you get back! My parents and sister are going in August for the first time ever. She’s 15 but I’m sure they will all want a fairly low-key experience.

  30. I agree with a lot of the recommendations on this list. For Dublin, I tell everyone they can’t miss the Porterhouse in Temple Bar. It’s a 3-story bar with several in-house brews and live music every night. I was only there for a few days, but I went back every night because the music was so good. Different great groups every night.

  31. Spend the extra money for the tour offered at Westminster Abbey. Much more access to off limits areas. The history is fascinating. Take the Rick Steves tour of the Brittish Museum and drink your way back to your hotel stopping at various pubs. We took it slow and had a great time. The Waldorf Hilton is nicely located and has a great breakfast for diamonds.

  32. Personally, temple bar in dublin is a tourist trap. No real dubliners go there, and beer is $$$$. Stop by if you want, but local bars are much better, as dubliners there will love to talk to you. ABSOLUTE MUST, go to the cliffs of Mohr. Some of the best landscapes Ireland has to offer. Bus tousncan get you there and back in about 7 hours.

  33. Wow, thanks so much to everyone for taking the time to share some of your favorites! Some of these were already on our lists and some will be added. Woohoo!

  34. In London, the Cabinet War Rooms is a must! Super cool to see where churchill stood out.

    For a fun atmosphere and cheap food and eats, check out the London School of Economics’ campus. It’s very central (holburn stop – near british museum) and reminds me of NYU. It has adorable cobble stone streets and a few great pubs and dining areas that are very inexpensive and tasty.

    Also on Mondays there are free recitals at the london opera.

  35. My recommendation for London is the opentop bus tour – been in London a million times did it for first time last year and could not believe how good. Secondly make sure you do not leave without having formal afternoon tea – somewhere that you need a reservation.
    My recommendation for Dublin is make sure you have twice as many credit cards as you thought you would need, drink only Irish Coffee morning, noon and night.(I can make for you when you get back if you become addicted) It is the only way to drink Whisky in my opinion. And if you have time drive to the south of ireland and get some homemade bread.
    Lastly – remember Pants in the UK is underwear so you are going to get funny looks if you talk about your pants. A good friend of mine once asked a golf club in Ireland if Pants were needed!

  36. Another vote for Borough Market.
    One of the Ottolenghi cafes.
    If you happen to be there on a Saturday, grab a custard donut from St. John Bakery on Druid St.

  37. Whilst in Dublin, have a meal (and a pint) at The Hairy Lemon just north of the city center. They have a website ( where you can get the location details and whatnot. The Dublin Coddle is, hands down, one of the most awesome things I’ve ever eaten.

    Also, getting out of Dublin itself is a great idea. The Wicklow Heather (, which is located in County Wicklow up in the mountains, is a beautiful place. They have a fantastic restaurant and B&B.

  38. I LOVED LOVED LOVED the London Churchill…service was just beyond, even for Hyatt. I suggest Primark on Oxford Street (there are two) for super cheap souvenirs. Primark is basically a Target, but the ones on Oxford are “Posh”. I filled up my (also bought at Primark) suitcase for 50 pounds when BA stranded me in London with no clothes!

    Also, If you are looking for something truly unique to London…check out the Spice Girls musical. You have to be in the right demo (as in a huge Spice Girls fan), but I thought it was zig-a-zig-ah!

  39. I just returned from Dublin, Wales, & London on the 5th. I had 9 wonderful days cruising around and seeing the sights. For Dublin I’d recommend the 3 day freedom pass which you can get at the airport. The Freedom Ticket is valid for 72 consecutive hours on all of the following Dublin Bus Services:

    » Dublin Bus Tour – Hop On Hop Off (24 tourist stops)
    » Airlink – Airport Express Services
    » All Dublin Bus Commuter Services

    I stayed at a hostel overlooking the river liffey next to O’Connell st bridge, A fun easy city to navigate by foot if the weather permits.

    I did a couple tours with
    Cashel rock, Blarney & Cork
    Belfast, Carrick-a-rede rope bridge & Giants Causeway
    I found these to be enjoyable, affordable and not to crowded
    My other tour to one of the must sees was with
    Cliffs of Moher, Irish farm visit and a hike in The Burren, Galway

    Great tours and a way to see different parts of the island if you choose.

    I chose to make my way into London via Wales by using the ferry travelling across the Irish Sea (sail & rail package)

    I figured it would be a unique experience and better than flying on BA that happened to cancel my avios booked flight.

    Can’t wait to read about your adventures, Good Luck!

  40. Someone already mentioned it but Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin is an absolute MUST DO. I was reluctant to go but it was a friend’s pick for the trip so we went. Wow, it was absolutely incredible and the highlight of our trip. Very interesting and educational about the history of Ireland. Must make sure to take the bus or a cab instead of walking. It doesn’t look like a long walk but it really is.

  41. See Phantom of the Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre if you haven’t done this in your prior trips: . Sit in the Royal Circle if possible. The show was designed for that theatre, which makes it way better than any showing you might see in the U.S.

  42. Agree totally with Lynn #36 re St Martin’s in the Fields in Trafalgar Square–but would mention specifically their Jazz in the Crypt series. A remarkably inexpensive dinner is also available cafeteria-style in the crypt (with church-generous portions). The jazz is superb, and the inscriptions on the tombs (the floor) are fascinating to read. Enter down the glassed-in stairway beside the church, and buy your ticket at the desk. It’s open seating, so choose a table nearest the stage, as many have restricted views. PLUS all revenue supports the church’s charities, particularly feeding the homeless! The Vivaldi, Bach, etc classical concerts upstairs (by candlelight) are superb too! This is one of the best-kept “secrets” of London–and an unforgettable concert venue!

  43. My suggestions for Dublin are:
    Kilmainham Gaol – excellent & historical tour
    Westin Dublin – great central location & SPG plat suite upgrade; choose breakfast amenity!
    Trinity College/book of Kells
    Bus to/from the airport – stops right nr the Westin
    Church -Nice hip reasonably priced restaurant/bar
    Hop on/hop off bus for a day or two – Kil Gaol is on the bus route.
    Musical pub crawl – a bit touristy but fun & informative w local musicians @ local pubs

  44. When in Dublin we ordered fish and chips from “Leo Burdock’s” on 2 Werburgh St. It was established in 1913. I like places with history.
    There is no seating so we took it with us to picnic. One serving is big and delicious.
    After we went on the Guinness tour and sat up in the tasting room and relaxed with a couple beers. Enjoy your date time!!

  45. One thing I always enjoy doing in London is taking a boat up the Thames, . Relatively cheap and they go all the way to Greenwich. If you have any spare Avios and an Avios account, you can redeem them for Theatre tickets.

  46. In London, a river cruise from the Houses of Parliament downstream to Greenwich (Royal Observatory and the origin of longitude, and park) or upstream to Hampon Court Palace (Henry VIII’s), in both cases passing through a 1000 years of history. Also, St Paul’s Cathedral (Wren’s masterpiece), then a walk over the Millenium footbridge to the Tate Modern (gallery, with a great restaurant overlooking rather river).

  47. In Dublin, the Jameson tour is fantastic – make sure you volunteer for the “taste” test. Last year we stayed at the Westin in Dublin. Fantastic hotel – the castle was outside our window.

  48. I’m a Dubliner. Here are my recommendations:
    Pub – Stag’s Head. although central, it’s laneway location might be hard to find but worth it. It’s a real Dubliner’s pub.
    Sightseeing (City)- The book of Kells and the Long Room library in Trinity are unmissable. Google images of “Long Room Dublin”. Stunning.
    Sightseeing (Outside of city) – The megalithic wonder that is Knowth/ Newgrange is unforgettable (see knowth dot com) and not too far from the city
    Shopping – Grafton Street (enjoy the buskers and Dublin life go by on a saturday)
    Traditional Tea/Coffee – Bewley’s on Grafton Street
    Energetic Walk – Find the herd of deer in the Phoenix Park, one of the largest city parks in the world
    Food – Check out The Camden Kitchen, a small restaurant serving great modern Irish food at reasonable (for Dublin) prices.

  49. Take the train to Howthe and explore a few abbeys and hike along the coastal trails at sunset, through grassy cliffs and remnants of old fences high above the rocky shoreline. Then grab a seafood platter in one of the local restaurants before training it back to Dublin. That was the highlight of our trip to there in Dec.

  50. I’ve been to Dublin several times. I agree with the others that the Kilmainham Gaol is a top drawer attraction. All the Irish National Museums are good…3 of 4 are in Dublin. The National Photographic Archive in the Temple Bar area is one of my favorite attractions. You must to to Queen of Tarts for breakfast or lunch…most amazing pastries anywhere I have been. Finally, Brazen Head for dinner…the place has been there since the 700’s! Also, as another poster said, renting a car and hitting the countryside is also a good option.

  51. Dublin is a dump, unfortunately, with permanent rain. If you insist on going (!) the Westin is the place to stay and where I always go.

    It is low season in London so try to avoid paying full price for anything (try for discounted meals, for theatre or the official discount ticket booth in Leicester Square, google for tourist attraction discounts).

    Best redemptions per chain – May Fair (Carlson), Andaz (Hyatt, Churchill for location though), Doubletree Westminster (Hilton, location), Tower Bridge (Hilton, quality), IC Park Lane / CP The City / poss the new IC Westminster (Priority Club), probably County Hall for Marriott. None of the SPG options are great.

  52. I would definitely recommend visiting Greenwich and the Greenwich Meridian. There’s also a market called Greenwich Market within the vicinity, where there are often a lot of arts crafts, hand made artifacts, and unique trinkets for sale. It’s really known by locals. Camden Market I heard is also very nice too!

  53. I highly recommend Dublin City Bike Tours as a unique way to see the city. The two guides are fantastic.

    Don’t miss afternoon tea in London. If you haven’t already, check out Groupon in London as there are frequently good deals on tea. A couple of the more inexpensive places that are still great are The Orangerie near Kensington Palace and the many locations of Richoux throughout the city. For a splurge, Fortnum & Mason is hard to top.

  54. I found the London Eye to be expensive and boring. If you want a great view, walk to the top is St. Paul’s cathedral . One of my favorite things I did in London.

  55. Jameson Distillery tour is great in Dublin — volunteer to be a taster when they ask for volunteers at the beginning! and London Walks are a great way to get outside, learn something, and get a break if you’ve had a togetherness overload in London.

  56. Definitely checkout Knowth/Newgrange if you like old old Irish history. I was able to get a day trip out of Dublin to see the hill of Tara and Newgrange all on the same trip. If you’ve been to London, take the train out to Winchester, Salisbury or Bath and enjoy some of the sights.

  57. Get a “friends and family” railcard and take day trips to the rest of England. I live in Harrogate and there are many wonderful things to see outside of London. The Yorkshire Dales, the Lake District, the Minster in the walled city of York. I can’t remember if you took Little C with you to the Olympics but the London Zoo isn’t worth the price-much better zoo in Atlanta. In Dublin, the 1916 walking tour is kind of cool. If you decide to come to Harrogate I’ll treat you to high tea at Betty’s!

  58. I would recommend the Dublin hop on Hop off bus tour. Its gets you around to all the top attractions in Dublin. my favorites were the Guinness storehouse tour, the Jameson distillery and the Dublin Castle tour if its open ( often closed for State Business). Go for high tea in The Shelbourne hotel (A Marriott Renaissance Hotel), 27 St. Stephens Green. It’s expensive but an experience. Then walk to 2 good local pubs Doheny & Nesbitts or O’Donoghues. Shopping in Grafton St. is great, stop by Brown Thomas a fancy Dept Store. A coffee in Bewley’s oriental cafe on Grafton street. Hot chocolate in Butlers café, wicklow St. Pub lunch in O’Neill’s, Suffolk St. For night life try Dawson Street, like Café En Seine (local) or Temple Bar (It’s a tourist trap but fun) just follow the music in Temple bar. Best pubs, the Auld Dubliner, Oliver St. John Gogarty’s (music), Farrington’s and the Palace bar (my Fav). The Arlington hotel, Batchlor’s walk for an Irish music and dance show. Dinner at the Winding Stair restaurant, 40 Lr. Ormond Quay (near Temple Bar). Dublin is a city of great pub’s, some of my fav’s Southside city pubs are as follows, Keoghs, 9 S. Anne’s Street – Neary’s, 1 Chatham Street – McDaid’s , 3 Harry Street, – Mulligan’s, 8 Poolbeg Street. Dublin city center is very walk-able, but if needed there are lots of Taxi’s that will pick up anywhere just put your hand out. Look out for the Taxi’s yellow roof lights. Just to note tipping is NOT the same as the US. Locals don’t tip at the bar unless its table service, then a small trip only. Most Dubliners don’t tip Taxi drivers as they consider it expensive and not required. Tipping in restaurant used to be about 10% but it’s gone way down in the current recession in Ireland, so spare change is now the new norm. There is a new Hilton, Double Tree (Old Morrison) opening soon in Dublin, it’s in a great location just by Temple bar. The Conrad at Earlsfort Terrace is also a nice hotel and within walking distance of the Grafton Street shopping area. I am originally from Dublin, but now living in California for the last 6 years, but get to vacation there regularly. I hope you get good weather!

  59. I visited the Arlington on Batchelors Walk several years ago and it was great back then when Paul Moreland was playing the Guitar – he was a real great man and I enjoyed listening to his music then it all changed and he is no longer there. Get him back he was great with the crowd and involved all people and made them feel special! Why did you no longer require him?

    New Zealand

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