Many times I heard from people that Dublin was a good city to visit, but the best of Ireland was yet to be seen in its countryside.
That is true in a way; however, Dublin should not be forgotten. Any visitor that comes to Ireland should spend at least two days experiencing the city’s historical sights, numerous restaurants and of course... Its great pubs!
The Illuminated Book and the Former Gaol
Founded by the Viking’s, Dublin is the Capital City of the Republic of Ireland with a population of 1.3 million and it is split into two parts (north and south) by the Liffey River.
Most of the city’s highlights are easily accessed by foot throughout the old town. For those interested in history, the Book of Kells is a must. The 1200 year old gospel manuscript is Ireland’s most highly decorated and prominent example of medieval illumination.
The book is located inside of the Old Library in Trinity College and even if you are not that interested in seeing it, the library itself is worth a visit – it is constructed of wood from top to bottom and extends over 200 feet in length displaying around 200,000 antiquarian books.
Kilmainham Gaol, located in the southwest of town – best reached by cab or bus - is a former prison that took in prisoners from all walks of life during its 130 years of operation.
For history tour aficionados, the prison’s superb guided tour will take you into the heart of the jail, detailing its role during the revolution that shaped Dublin as a city.
Tip: Since visitors must queue to enter the prison and lines can get quite long, we arrived right before it opened and took their first tour.
Correctly Pouring a Guinness and The Iconic Temple Bar
Even though it can be extremely touristy, one cannot go to Dublin for the first time and not spend at least some time in the Guinness Storehouse.
Coming out of the airport, our taxi driver told us that “there is not a deal that is made in Dublin that does not involve Guinness”. I do not know if this is true, but once you walk around the city, you will definitely tell that Guinness is a major influence.
Once in, you can go straight to the Gravity Bar for your free pint and sweeping views of the city, but first, I highly recommend that you stop at the Guinness Academy to learn how to “correctly” pour your own and enjoy it on the spot.
We received a Guinness Academic Certificate of Achievement upon completion!
Tip: If you have the Dublin Pass you can skip Guinness's usual busy regular line. We entered directly through a separate line with the card.
Temple bar is one of the most iconic areas of Dublin and the place that most people associate with the city. Even though, I am not a nightlife enthusiast – which is when the area is at its busiest – we strolled through its narrow cobblestone streets and enjoyed a taste of classic Dublin.
Besides being famous at night, Temple Bar is also an essential spot for lunch with its pubs and restaurants opening their doors during lunchtime.
Additional spots that we went and you might enjoy:
Consider a guided tour to the Undercroft of the Dublin Castle. The tour will take you to the castle’s underground featuring part of its 10th century Viking defensive walls, 13th century Norman Powder Tower and the vanished River Poddle, re-routed to be the castle’s moat.
A stroll through The National Museum of Ireland – Archeology. It is free… check their Bog Bodies Exhibition!
Christ Church Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Dublin and a visit to its large crypt is a highlight since its highly atmospheric quarters showcases a small exhibition of historical monuments.
Streets, Districts and Lots of Shopping
If you have not heard of Grafton Street you will quickly learn about it once you start exploring Dublin. It is the main pedestrian shopping thoroughfare of the city.
Besides being bottlenecked with pedestrians, one aspect that called our attention is its numerous connecting streets - we purposefully got lost inside alleys, covered malls and other pathways scattered around this area.
Restaurants, antiquing and shopping…stop by these great spots located in the nearby Creative Quarter:
Powerscourt Townhouse Center: A large Georgian building that has been converted into boutiques, restaurants, coffee shops and antiques stores. It is an interesting place since it has been fashioned to allow its restaurants and stores to utilize every area of the building, including its verandas.
George’s Street Arcade: A red-brick Victorian indoor market packed with stalls that sell all sorts of knickknacks you can imagine. Clothing, jewelry, antiques, vinyl records, little cafés… you can find it all there.
Fade Street and Wicklow Street: These are two streets around the Creative Quarter that are lined with a great selection of eateries.
If shopping is your thing, you will find great prices and deals north of the Liffey.
From the busy O’Connell Street head to the pedestrian Henry Street. Many of the buildings on this lengthy street are historical and converted into modern commercial shops that sometimes are hidden out of view – you really have to go inside to realize how extensive some of these malls can be.
KEEP IN MIND
The Wrap up: Dublin should be awarded at least two days of your time if you want to truly appreciate the city with ease. It was a great start for out two week trip around Ireland since it gave us an introduction to the culture and history of the country.
The Food: We did not come to Dublin for its food; however, we were pleasantly surprised not only by its variety of choices and prices, but also by its quality. While the city’s famous Temple Bar, is a great spot for lunch, if you want to find less expensive meals try the north side of town across the river, where rent, hotels and food are cheaper than its southern, more tourist-centered counterpart.
The Restaurants in Temple Bar: Gallagher's Boxty House - Try their Stew Platter which comes with three different types of stews (Irish, Guinness and spicy coddle). Elephant & Castle - Try their sharing dishes…which are huge and their baby back ribs with a Molasses-Geiger sauce.
The Café: Queen of Tarts. This café and patisserie shop is located right across from the City Hall and sells an assortment of pies, sweets and cakes. Try their Bailey’s Cheesecake… it is fantastic!
The Ice-cream Shop: Murphy’s ice-cream on Wicklow Street. Try their Sea Salt or Brown Bread flavor. Oh… they are also located in Dingle and in Killarney, if you happen to venture out to the west.
The Dublin Pass: The pass gives free entry to attractions and museums, covers public transportation during its validity period and allows for fast track into some sights. Buying the Dublin Pass really depends on how many sights and which ones you want to go. That is because some of the city’s most famous attractions are already free to enter.
- Want to see the full trip and plan your next? Check out our Ireland Two Week Itinerary!