Dublin is one of those cities that is on almost everyone’s bucket list. It was never high on my list, but I knew it was somewhere I wanted to go, especially with it’s close proximity to England. I’m past the age where drinking in bars or pubs is what I want out of a trip, and I’m usually in bed by 10:30, so I can’t commit to the nightlife. But, I knew I wanted to explore Dublin, and have at least one pint of Guinness (at an appropriate hour). I’ve actually been to Dublin twice at this point, and I didn’t really love it the first time. I left thinking “why is everyone so obsessed with this place?” The second time, I enjoyed it much more. Honestly, the only reason I went the 2nd time is because we were flying back to the states from Dublin because it was so much cheaper than flying out of Heathrow.
There is enough to keep you busy in Dublin for 2-3 days. I will say, if you have the time, consider leaving Dublin to see other places in Ireland (or even head up to Belfast and the Giant’s Causeway). Do NOT spend your entire trip to Ireland in Dublin. There is so much to see in Ireland, and I’ve barely scratched the surface! While Dublin has the allure of the big city, get outside and see the rolling hills and the beautiful cliffs and coastlines. (And make sure you read my post about Galway and the Cliffs of Moher). You can also enjoy Dublin by wandering around the shops and pubs. I’m going to share some of the most popular attractions in Dublin!
5) Trinity College and the Book of Kells
Visiting Trinity College and seeing the Book of Kells is on almost every Dublin must do list! When we visited, it was April and FREEZING. We went in the morning, and arrived around 9:00. We paid for a campus tour and then went in to the library. Trinity College, or it’s official name, The College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth, is famous for it’s Old Library with ancient books and artifacts. It’s a common tourist attraction, and worth a visit if you have time. Trinity College was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592 and is synonomous with the University of Dublin. It was modeled after Cambridge University and Oxford University. The Library is famous because it is the largest library in Ireland, but it is also considered a “legal library”. This means it is legally entitled to a copy of every book ever published in the United Kingdom and Ireland. So essentially it is a college library that also holds copies of 50 Shades of Grey and Harry Potter. The library is gorgeous with its wooden interior, and almost impossible to get pictures of due to the crowds. The tours happen daily and make for a crowded experience. Honestly, if I were a student there I would be annoyed at the crowds. It feels like the purpose of the library is lost when you add in all these visitors. That said, I enjoyed it and I’m glad I went. Seeing the ancient books was really interesting, but unfortunately no pictures are allowed in those rooms. The library houses the Book of Kells, which is ancient illustrated manuscript of the Gospel written in Latin. It’s definitely the highlight of the library visit and pretty impressive, though other exhibits in there are interesting as well.
4) Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is not only beautiful, but full of history, and definitely a tour worth taking! It doesn’t resemble a typical castle on a hill with multiple towers and a courtyard in the middle. It almost seems a little out of place in the middle of a busy city, which makes it all the more interesting. To be honest, we went inside with the intention of getting out of the wind and rain, and were plenty surprised at the beauty the place holds. For centuries, Dublin Castle served as the headquarters of the English administration in Ireland. It was built in the 13th century on the site of a Viking Settlement. It served as the residence of the British Monarch’s Irish representative. On January 16, 1922, Dublin Castle was handed over to the government of the newly formed independent Irish state. Dublin Castle currently serves as a government complex. You can take a tour of the gorgeous and lavish state rooms. The rooms you get to see are incredibly beautiful and regal. The castle is open 7 days a week, and tickets are 12 Euros, and can be purchased online in advance, although some walk in tickets are available the day of. For more information check out the website: https:// walkinwww.dublincastle.ie/.
3) Jameson Distillery
I’m honestly not a big whiskey drinker, but when in Rome…. I was hesitant to go on the Jameson tour because I’m not that interested in whiskey but it was really interesting, and in such an eclectic space; I loved it and it exceeded my expectations. They have multiple types of tours, so select the best option for you. We did the Bow Street Experience, which shares the history of the distillery along with the history of whiskey in Dublin. The tour came with a tasting and a drink at the bar after the tour ended (may I recommend Jameson with ginger and lime). The Jameson Distillery on Bow Street was founded in 1780 by John Jameson. His distillery survived American Prohibition, and remains one of the most famous whiskeys in the world. To officially be called Irish Whiskey, there are strict standards, similar to vineyards in Italy. It must spend a minimum of 3 years maturing on the island of Ireland to be considered Irish Whiskey. Jameson prides itself on using locally sourced barley and products. During the tasting, we tried different ages of whiskey and also compared whiskey to Scotch (which I did not like). This is a definite must for visiting Dublin, and enjoying a drink or two in the bar afterwards is also fun!
2) Kilmainham Gaol Museum
It may seem a little odd to tour a jail on vacation, but this tour came highly recommended from a family friend, and I’m glad I went. I learned a lot about the history between Ireland and England, Ireland and Northern Ireland, and the different wars and uprisings that took place. I’m still fuzzy on the details, and it’s not something covered in American education, but it was quite intriguing and the jail tour covered a lot, and there is also a museum with more information (though we were pressed for time and couldn’t stay as long as we’d have liked). Kilmainham Gaol opened in 1796 and served as holding place for prisoners awaiting transportation to prison colonies in Australia. During the Irish Famine from 1845-1850, the prison was overcrowded and conditions were terrible, with many of the prisoners being women and children charged with begging for food, a punishable crime at the time. In the 1880s it became an all male prison until it closed in 1910 and was given to the British military. Kilmainham became a military detention center. If you take the guided tour, you will learn about it’s role during the Irish fight for Independence fought between the British Army and the Irish Republican Army. In 1916, the Easter Rising took place where the Irish Rebels took over key places in Dublin. It lasted for 6 days before they surrendered to the British and later were sent to Kilmainham where they awaited death. While it seems a bit morbid to tour an old gaol where many died, it was really interesting. It is necessary to book online ahead of time and tickets are 8 euros for adults. The Gaol is not walking distance from city center, but you can take a city bus and then walk. Parts of the tour are in the old building which is musty and moldy. If you have allergies you may want to be warned.
1) Guinness Storehouse Brewery
This almost seems likea no-brainer, I mean, it’s Ireland after all. The land of beer and the home of Guinness. If you’ve been following my blog, or know me IRL, you know I love Guinness! (Well, all stouts and porters, to be honest). So of course this was a must do for me, especially since you can have a beer at the glass enclosed rooftop bar, with views of Dublin. Visiting the Guinness Brewery is not only a must do, but it’s also essential to book ahead of time to avoid missing out. And if you’re anything like me, you’ll need as much time in the gift shop (helllllo Guinness chocolate, socks, Christmas ornaments, tshirts, etc) as you will touring the Brewery. The tour is self lead, and consists of 7 floors sharing everything from the history of Guinness, about the family, how the beer is made, and even the famous advertising. Arthur Guinness began brewing beer at St. James Gate in 1759. In May of 1969, he exported beer for the first time – to England. In 1799, he stopped brewing ales to focus on porters. When he died, the business was passed on to his son. By the turn of the 20th century, Guinness was not only international, but also the largest brewery in the world. The first advertising campaign began in 1929, resulting in some of the icon posters and adverts we know of today. Guinness Stout is sold in 150 countries around the world. Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, I will stop rambling and let my pictures tell the story of the tour.
Places to Eat
One restaurant we enjoyed in Dublin was called MV Cill Airne, which is on a boat in the river. It has a nice ambiance, and the food was tasty. We actually discovered this place because my Mom’s friend told her about it. Her cousins own the restaurant, and she eats there every time she visits Dublin. Since it came recommended from a family friend, we decided to try it, and it ended up being a nice evening out. We were there on a random Tuesday night, so it wasn’t very crowded, but I imagine booking is essential on weekends and summer.
Another place we really enjoyed was the Brazen Head, which is officially the oldest pub in Ireland. It dates back to 1198! This place was adorable – a true pub feel with a cute garden courtyard. Service was speedy and good, and the food was delicious. And of course the Guinness was tasty. We were in a rush as we needed a quick lunch before heading to the airport, otherwise we would have stayed longer for dessert and to enjoy the pub. I’d definitely come back here if back in Dublin. I’m sure because it’s “the oldest pub in Ireland” this makes it a tourist trap, but it still felt like a traditional pub.
If you’re not in the mood for Irish food or pub food, or just feel like trying something different, go to the Admiral. The Admiral is a Russian/Eastern European restaurant and the food is amazing. It’s a lot of comfort food! We ate here both times we went to Dublin, because we enjoyed it so much. The have diffferent variations of stuffed dumplings and pierogies, stuffed cabbage, and braised meats. You won’t be disappointed.
I feel like I need to mention the Temple Bar because it is such a Dublin icon and it’s adorable. They serve food, but we didn’t eat there. It’s definitely worth having a pint in and checking out though.
Dublin is definitely a fun city, with lots to do. There is something there for everyone, and it’s a great springboard for seeing other parts of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Some other things to check out are ChristChurch Cathedral (they have a mummified rat in the basement), St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Hapenny Bridge, and local bakeries. When we went to Dublin, it was during Lent and I had given up sweets. My husband and mother stopped at nearly every bakery we passed, it seemed like. They had donuts, cakes, chocolates, pastries, you name it. Finally, I couldn’t take it anymore. I bought a loaf of Guinness bread since it couldn’t have sweets. And you know what? That thing was the most delicious package of carbs I’d ever tasted. I carried that loaf of bread around like a baby. I wish I knew what bakery it was from (all I know is it was on our way from the bus stop to Kilmainham Gaol) because I’ve never found anything so amazing again. So in reality, that loaf of Guinness bread should be #1 on my top 5 list for Dublin, but I don’t know where I got it. I hope you find some when you’re there! It’s life changing, for real!
What are your favorite things to do in Dublin?