Horse mermaid statue near body of water in Dublin

BIMM Cities / Freshers Guides

A Freshers Guide to Dublin

9th August 2023

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Ready to plan for your first few weeks in the Irish capital? BIMM Institute Dublin graduate Katie Fitzsimons has written a handy guide for exploring the best bits this city offers for new students.

The trouble I find with Dublin is that no matter how hard you work, you always play harder. Starting afresh in a new college is one thing, but arguably the most significant education you can expect to receive during your time in this city is learning what constitutes a good pint. And where to find one.

Enter me stage left (because my left is my good side), and voila: I present to you a comprehensive guide to the ins and outs of Dublin City. So, you want to know where you can fuel up on that magic espresso that’s going to keep the peepers open during your 9am lecture? Do you want to know where you can truly pig it out as a vegan? Where can you get your 7UP served in a fancy gin glass with summer fruit ‘cause you’re classy? Or where you can go for that emergency pee without having to fork over two whole euros to the security guard (who’s definitely judging you right now)?

Well, look no further, friends: Katie’s got you covered.

Start Your Day Right

They say coffee is the elixir of life and, luckily for us, Dublin is full of it! Every nook and cranny is decorated with latte art, so you needn’t worry about ever going thirsty.

I was never a morning person before I met Dublin. But I must say there’s nothing quite like the smell of freshly baked pastries and traffic pollutants in the morning. The only thing that could rival it? The aromatic embrace of that first-morning brew from Two Pups Coffee. Nestled right into the south corner of Francis Street, this little coffee house is a fan favourite amongst BIMM students for its delicious, vegan-friendly menu and dog-friendly vibes.

However, if you’re looking for something a little more budget-friendly, you will find The Ginger Cafe just across the street from BIMM Institute: a staple for all BIMM students. Serving as the common room’s understudy, you’re guaranteed to find all sorts in there: students, tutors, and even graduates who just weren’t ready to say goodbye. If you’re a commuter like me, you might be relieved to hear a mention of our old friend, O’Connell Street.

When I first started college, I didn’t trust myself to venture too far off the beaten track. Luckily, there are loads of quaint and quirky little spots to drop into along your merry way, like Póg, for instance, which is a hip and healthy café on Bachelor’s Walk, just across from O’Connell Bridge. Serving up fat stacks of their famous protein pancakes, you’re guaranteed to always be in for a treat, whether you’re feeling naughty or nice.

Food for Thought

If there’s one thing I know about, it’s food. And with such an astute aptitude for appetite, I feel it’s only fair that I impart three nuggets of wisdom regarding where’s good for grub when dining out in Dublin City.

Picture this: it’s late in the evening, and life is good. You’re hanging with your friends, you just crushed your LPW song, and the bees are safe. You want to celebrate, right? Well, whether you’re in the mood for some spicy cauliflower wings or an authentic Italian pizza, you can bet you’re going to be heading up George’s Street for the best meal of your life.

My favourite spots for sustenance have got to be PI and 777. They sit pretty much side by side, which is excellent for someone new to the city, trying to find their way around. However, unfortunately, it poses the moral dilemma of always having to choose one right in front of the other. I swear it’s nothing personal, you guys. Promise.

If your preference is a little more ‘whole food’ over ‘soul food’, then you’ve absolutely got to try The Fumbally. I promise it’s going to send that shiver down your spine without the added grease down your chin. Just a walk away from college, this little café is a great spot for kids looking to take lunch on the lighter side.

Temple Bar, Dublin

Party Rock is in the House Tonight

Are we goin’ out? Or are we goin’ out out? You see, some might say they’re just ‘popping out’ but it never really ends that way…

All pints are created equal, but some are more equal than others. If it’s a cosy little nook you want, then The Liberty Belle is what you’ll get. Renowned for its creamy Guinness, The Belle snuggles right into the antiquated neighbourhood of Francis Street and offers the familiar warmth of a home away from home.

The Fourth Corner, which also resides a mere stone’s throw away from the college, is a personal favourite for an after-school session. The bar has a wicked food menu and – if you time it right – an even wickeder (that’s not a word, I know) night of live music. Hosting weekly open mic sessions, The Fourth Corner is a great little space, whether you want to spend your night sharing drinks with friends or nervously rehearsing your extensive cover of Valerie in the acoustically sound bathrooms downstairs. It’s up to you.

I am not a ‘clubber’. I never was a ‘clubber’, and I never will be a ‘clubber’. That is unless The George is involved. In that case, okay, maybe I’m a bit of a ‘clubber’. But realistically, if you’ve had the luxury of spending a Thirsty Thursday with the one and only Miss Davina Devine, then you’d know I never stood a chance.

Farrier and Draper on South Williams Street is another cocktail bar that (with the right people) can be just the right place to dance your night away. With lavish furnishings and chandeliers aplenty, I love this spot for its character and design. Oh, and also their readiness to serve me a fizzy drink in a crystal chalice. Bougie, right?

Of course, Alfie’s and Pygmalion are right across the street from here if you’re looking to up the ante. But the one place I am hoping to get to before long is The Academy. I’ve been to gigs there a couple of times, but rumour has it, downstairs beneath the dancefloor, there lives an old Wii console spitting out Mario Kart tournaments to anyone sober enough to drive.

I must confess that some of the best nights out in Dublin have definitely been the BIMM End of Term and L&L gigs that are scattered throughout the year. Not only are they a great way to meet people with common interests in music, art, and bludgeoning politics, but they also introduce you to a whole new scene of ‘out’. Whether it’s Whelan’s, The Workman’s Club, Fibbers, Crowbar, or The Grand Social, where music goes, barstool prophets follow. And it is here, my friends, where the magic truly happens.

Anne Street, Dublin


What Are You Up To?

For all our sins, there are definitely worse ways to spend our time than roaming the set of Fair City five days a week. Dublin, as a place, has heart. It has soul and life – and at the crux of it all is music. Our culture, our communities; they’re all peddled by the arts that bind us together every single day. I couldn’t imagine a better place to study music than at BIMM Institute Dublin.

If you ever find yourself between classes and inspired to explore the treasure troves of what The Old Smoke offers, I have a few recommendations you might like to keep in mind.

You might think about taking a trip down to Smithfield to catch a movie at The Lighthouse Cinema. Or perhaps exploring the exhibits at The National Art Gallery might tickle your fancy. Maybe you’ll squeeze into The Music Café for a late-night jazz show or enjoy a one-act play at The Abbey Theatre.

The Winding Stair is one of Ireland’s oldest bookshops and is also known to host a mean slam poetry smackdown from time to time. As we all know, fortune favours the bold, and in my experience, the bold have these startling tendencies to book themselves in for impromptu piercings at The Ink Factory.

Personally, I much prefer an impromptu spending spree, burning money I don’t have on incense and crystals at Yellow Brick Road. If you are looking to do some shopping while in town, I highly recommend you check out all the small businesses in George’s Street Arcade and, while you’re at it, maybe pay a visit to the Weekend Markets in The Temple Bar. However, as we all know, the best things in life really come free to us, and sometimes the nicest way to spend an afternoon is people-watching in St. Patrick’s Park or picnicking in St. Stephen’s Green.

If your thirst for adventure still hasn’t been quenched, you can always take a spin out of those inner-city circles and venture a little further afield. Why not hop on a dart out to the seafront in Bray, or arm yourself with ice cream as you walk the pier at Dun Laoghaire? How about taking your camera out on a little day trip to The Botanic Gardens? Or go frolicking with the wild deer in Phoenix Park? Whatever you do, and whatever you see, I recommend above all else that you go out there and find some hidden gems of your own. That’s how true memories are made.

Ask anyone in the world, and they’ll tell you that it’s the people that make Dublin what it is. So get out there, get exploring, and find your Dublin.

Check out more about this amazing city on our Life in Dublin page.