Dublin or Edinburgh: Which City to Visit?


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Are you looking for a city break in the wilds of Scotland or the charming Emerald Isle but can’t decide whether Dublin or Edinburgh is the right choice for you? Well, you’re not alone. Both the Irish and the Scottish capital cities are dynamic, historic and have their own distinct energies that it can seem impossible to have to choose between the two.

However, sometimes we don’t have the luxury of visiting two major cities in one trip and you need to figure out where might suit you more. And while I’ve already written a broad and detailed guide to deciding whether Scotland or Ireland is the best place for you, I haven’t dived deep into their respective capital cities.

Both Edinburgh and Dublin are unique cities that have something different to offer everyone. And while there is certainly no city that is “better” than the other, they are also both suited for different things. So depending on what you’re after, you might find that, say, Edinburgh vs Dublin is a better choice for you.

So if you’re struggling to choose between Dublin or Edinburgh for your next city break destination, I’m here to help make that decision a little bit easier!

Dublin

The capital of the Republic of Ireland is one of Europe’s most dynamic and interesting cities. Packed to the brim with fascinating cultural and historic sites and boasting a unique and lively culture all its own, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this amazing metropolis.

Accessability

One of the first aspects we need to discuss in the great Dublin or Edinburgh debate is the accessibility of the two cities; both in terms of how to get to the city itself and the ease of getting around once you’re there. And the good news is that both cities can be quite accessible but in different ways.

Dublin has its own international airport that receives quite a bit more traffic than Edinburgh’s so it can generally be an easier place to fly into depending on where you are coming from. The airport is not far at all from the city centre and it is easy to get there either on an airport bus (costing between €7-11 depending on the option you choose) or even a taxi relatively quickly.

Taking the bus in Dublin is a great way to lower your costs
Taking the bus in Dublin is a great way to lower your costs

Once you are in Dublin, you will find that, like most European cities, it is incredibly easy to navigate on foot. However, the Irish capital is also quite large and it isn’t always practical to get everywhere solely relying on your own two feet. The good news is that there is a great public transit system in Dublin that makes getting from point A to B easy and affordable. In fact, there is no real need to rely on taxis (or a rental car) if you’re only visiting Dublin.

One of the things that can make a choice between Dublin vs Edinburgh is that Dublin is a relatively flat city when compared to the Scottish capital. So if you have mobility issues or simply hate trudging up hills while sightseeing (no judgements here), then Dublin might be a better option for you.

Affordability

The next area of consideration when trying to decide between Dublin or Edinburgh to visit is the affordability of the city. When it comes right down to it, neither city is by any means the most affordable in Europe (not by a long shot), however, there may be some areas where they may be more or less expensive than others.

Dublin is an expensive city — there’s really no way to get around that. Everything from food to accommodation can be very pricey in the Irish capital and it has one of the highest costs of living in Europe. While most prices in both Edinburgh and Dublin are about on par, one area where you’ll likely spend more in Dublin is on accommodation.

Trinity College in Dublin
Trinity College in Dublin

Accommodation prices in Dublin are expensive. Even the mainstay of the budget traveller, a hostel dorm, will start at about €20-25 per night and that’s for the largest dorm available. A mid-range hotel will land closer to about €70 per night and on the higher end, expect to pay in excess of €100 per night.

Food and drink prices can also be high but are roughly on par with those in Edinburgh so they shouldn’t necessarily be a determining factor when trying to choose between one or the other.

All in all, if you’re trying to choose between Dublin or Edinburgh and price is a major factor for you, Dublin may be slightly more expensive but the difference is really minimal. Both cities are on the pricey side and aren’t ideal for those on a super tight budget (however, there are always ways to save money).

General Post Office is a must see on your first 2 days in Dublin
General Post Office in Dublin

Things to do in Dublin

Now that we’ve addressed the important logistical aspects concerning the Dublin vs Edinburgh question, let’s discuss all of the fantastic things to do in the Irish capital to see if this tips the scale in its favour. As the capital of the Republic of Ireland and a major, historic and metropolitan city, Dublin has a LOT to offer visitors and there are countless things to do here even if you’re only visiting Dublin for two or three days.

Of course, no visit to the city would be complete with heading to the Guinness Storehouse where you can see how this iconic stout is made and enjoy a pint of your own with a fantastic view.

Or you can take in the beauty of the historic Trinity College and the Book of Kells. You can also take the time to learn about the city’s interesting history by touring Dublin Castle and its gardens.

Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle

Dublin also has a fantastic nightlife and pub culture that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention. Of course, there is the iconic Temple Bar district where you can drink an expensive pint in a perfect setting. You also could venture a bit further from the beaten tourist trail and enjoy a more locally-focused pub that will have a more authentic vibe and definitely cheaper prices (still plan to pay at least €5 for a pint).

All in all, Dublin is a massive city with a number of interesting tourist sites and a range of cool things to do. It has a busy and metropolitan vibe to it and if you’re looking to visit a large and dynamic city on your holiday, then Dublin might be a great choice for you!

Where to Stay in Dublin

If it’s Dublin that’s won your heart in this great debate between the Scottish and Irish capitals, then you’re going to need to find a place to rest your head in the city. There are countless wonderful options to choose from in Ireland’s capital ranging from budget-friendly lodging to luxe hotels. If you’re wondering where to stay in Dublin, check out these great suggestions:

Jacob’s Inn – An excellent choice if you’re travelling solo or on a tight budget is this centrally located hostel. They have a range of both dorm beds and private rooms to choose from and fantastic common areas that help to meet other like-minded travellers. Click here to check their availability

Hotel 7 – This small boutique hotel located in the centre of the Irish capital is an excellent choice for those with a bit of a higher budget visiting Dublin. Located within easy reach of the city’s top sites, they have a number of plush rooms on offer and there is even an option to include breakfast each morning. Click here to check their availability

Kilronan House – If you’re looking for a classic bed and breakfast stay in Dublin, then this is a great option for you. They have a range of comfortable rooms available and also have a great breakfast available each morning. Their central location is also perfect for exploring the Irish capital. Click here to check their availability

Private Rental — If you fancy some privacy then your own apartment such as this great city-centre flat is a great choice. Click here to see the best private rentals in Dublin.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more hotels in Dublin

Ha'penny Bridge in Dublin
Ha’penny Bridge in Dublin

Edinburgh

The capital of Scotland is the second-most visited place in the UK and is known for its iconic Fringe Festival and Military Tattoo in August and its imposing castle that’s a defining part of its skyline. If you can decide between Edinburgh or Dublin to visit, here is what the Scottish capital has to offer:

Accessability

Like we already did with Dublin, one of the most important things to discuss when trying to decide between Edinburgh vs Dublin for a city-break destination is accessibility. And the good news is, it’s very easy to reach Edinburgh.

The Scottish capital is home to its own international airport that serves a number of destinations, however, it isn’t quite as high-traffic as Dublin’s and you may find fewer flight options depending on where you’re coming from. You can, however, easily arrive in Edinburgh via train from London or any other number of UK cities, which isn’t as applicable in the Irish capital.

Edinburgh’s airport is located a short distance from the city centre and there are affordable buses that can take you from the airport to Waverly Station (the city’s main train station) in about 25 minutes for the low cost of £4.50.

View from Calton Hill
View from Calton Hill in Edinburgh

Waverly is conveniently located in the centre so it is entirely possible to walk to a number of places from there. Otherwise, there are countless buses that you can hop on to reach your final destination.

Much like in Dublin, Edinburgh has an extensive public transport system that is easy to navigate and straightforward to use. Combine this with a relatively compact city centre and you very likely won’t have to jump in a taxi at all when you’re in the Scottish capital.

In fact, Edinburgh’s main sites and attractions in both the old and new towns are quite easy to reach on foot as the city is very compact. This can be a pro if you want to spend less time travelling from point A to B and it also gives Edinburgh a more “small town” feel than Dublin, despite the fact that they are both large cities.

It is worth noting, however, that Edinburgh is a very hilly city and it can be tricky to rely on walking everywhere if you have mobility issues or aren’t at the peak of fitness. It is simply something to keep in mind when visiting the city.

All in all, both Dublin and Edinburgh are easy to get to and get around, however, Dublin may have a few more options when it comes to international flights.

Affordability

Another important thing to consider when choosing between Edinburgh or Dublin is the affordability of either city, however, as I mentioned in the Dublin section, this can be hard to compare when the prices both are so similar.

The one area where the prices in Edinburgh may be more affordable than those of Dublin is accommodation, and even then the difference can be minimal and it really just depends on what kind of place you choose to stay in, where the accommodation is located and what time of year it is.

Iconic Edinburgh Castle.
Iconic Edinburgh Castle.

For instance, if you’re looking to visit Edinburgh in August during the height of the Fringe Festival and the Military Tattoo, then you’re likely going to be paying quite a bit more for the equivalent accommodation type in Dublin.

All in all, prices in both Dublin and Edinburgh for tourists are about comparable (read: expensive) and neither city should really tip the scale if finances are your top consideration when choosing between the two.

Things to do in Edinburgh

Now let’s get to the fun part: what is there to do in Edinburgh? Well, as it turns out, a whole lot – enough to occupy at least two days in Edinburgh, if not more. There is a reason that this city is so popular to visit and it extends well past the Royal Mile and Edinburgh Castle.

Top tourist sites in Edinburgh do include those two areas, along with places like Greyfriar’s Kirkyard, Victoria Street and the Palace of Holyroodhouse. Active visitors might delight in a hike up the iconic Arthur’s Seat from beautiful views over the city, or they may enjoy Calton Hill a little bit further afield.

For those who like a good pub culture, don’t think that Dublin holds a monopoly! While you’re likely not going to get an expertly poured Guinness at each and every one of Edinburgh’s public houses, you can opt to sample some fine single malt Scotch whisky not far from its birthplace.

Winding Victoria Street in Edinburgh
Winding Victoria Street in Edinburgh

And, of course, Edinburgh is a great place to visit for its comedy scene! Though most famous for the Fringe Festival, there are lots of great comedy clubs to enjoy local comedians throughout the year. It’s a great affordable entertainment option and you will be supporting local artists, as well!

All in all, Edinburgh has heaps to offer visitors and a charming, small-town vibe in which to enjoy it all in.

Where to Stay in Edinburgh

If you’ve decided that Edinburgh is, indeed, the city for you then you certainly need to find a great place to stay in the Scottish capital. Because of its popularity, there are countless accommodation options available that will suit all travel styles. If you’re wondering where to stay in Edinburgh, then have a look at these top options:

Castle Rock Hostel — If it’s a hostel you’re after — whether so solo, on a tight budget or simply want a social atmosphere — then this is an excellent choice. Situated next to Edinburgh Castle, they have a number of both dorm beds and private rooms available along with great common areas and shared spaces. Click here to see availability

Cityroomz Edinburgh — If you’d rather stay in a hotel over a hostel, then this is a fantastic choice for you. Located in the centre of Edinburgh. they have a myriad of great rooms available and a perfect location for exploring the Scottish capital. Click here to see their availability

Apex Waterloo Place Hotel — If you’re interested in living in the lap of luxury during your stay in Edinburgh, then this is an excellent choice for you. There are countless luxe rooms available, numerous plush amenities and even an on-site restaurant should you not want to leave this hotel! It’s central location also means that all of the top sites of the city are within easy reach. Click here to see their availability

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Edinburgh hotels!

Edinburgh Skyline
The beautiful city of Edinburgh

Dublin or Edinburgh: The Verdict

So should you visit Dublin or Edinburgh? It can be a tough question to answer as both cities have a lot to offer and are very much worth visiting in their own right.

However, if you’re after a big, metropolitan city vibe with lots of cool enclaves and diverse neighbourhoods (but still a tonne of history), then Dublin should be a good choice for you. Its high-traffic international airport and ease of navigation also make the Irish capital a good option.

On the other hand, if you’re looking for a picture-perfect city with a compact old town and a charming, village-like feel, then look no further than Edinburgh. The Scottish capital is absolutely beautiful and packed with so many interesting things that a visit here is never a bad idea.

If you're deciding between Dublin or Belfast, visiting Temple Bar might be a swaying factor
Iconic Temple Bar in Dublin

Whether you decide to visit Dublin or Edinburgh on your next city break, there is no bad option! Both cities have a lot to offer visitors and each has its own unique vibe that makes exploring them an absolute treat!

When travelling in Edinburgh or Dublin, it’s always a good idea to make sure you have a travel insurance policy so you’re covered for any unfortunate events! We like WorldNomads and always use them for our trips – click here to get a quote from WorldNomads 

Are you wondering whether to visit Edinburgh or Dublin? Have you been to either city? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When she’s not dreaming of far-away lands, Maggie enjoys drinking copious amounts of coffee, Harry Potter, and coaxing stray cats into her home.

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