A Day in Dublin is hardly enough time. We only spent two insanely short days in Ireland, before whisking off to England, but it wasn’t before we attempted to absorb as much as we could during our small time in this lovely country.
While Dublin is the largest city in Ireland and more than 1,000 years old, most of its highlights are located within the city center, so geography is definitely on your side when you only have a limited amount of time to visit.
This city a walker’s dream due to its small size and accessibility. I highly recommend walking before attempting to rent a car due to the multitude of one-way streets and confusing street signage. I would save that rental car for the countryside as taxis, buses, bikes, and trains are much more practical if walking is an issue because you are likely to spend more time cursing the GPS and driving local motorists insane, than getting to your destination. The one downside to traveling on foot, however, is you may not see as much as you would like in one day, so you must factor in the time it takes to make it from one destination to the other.
So with only a full day in Dublin, how did we spend our day? Let’s see.
We landed in Dublin around 4 am which was almost an hour ahead of schedule. We took a cab to our hotel which luckily had a room available and we were able to check in early, catch a nap, and shower. By 8 am, we were ready to kick start our day. After a quick Breakfast at Il Fuoco which is an Italian café that happens to serve a lovely Irish breakfast, we scoured the streets for umbrellas as it was raining much harder than we expected and our raincoats simply were not cutting it. After our brief detour, we made it to our first stop which was none other than the stunning Trinity College.
Trinity College is Ireland’s oldest and certainly most famous university. It is the home to the Book of Kells which is a ninth century illuminated text of the Gospel written in Latin as well as the Old Library which was the highlight of the visit for me. The tour is usually 30 minutes long and provides an audio guide. Be prepared to get there early or risk a long wait to get in, however, it is entirely worth it in my opinion. The Library is breathtaking in its own right.
By now the rain had cleared, so we meandered our way to two of Dublin’s beautiful cathedrals: St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ’s Church Cathedral. Christ’s Church Cathedral pictured above was established in 1028 and is one of the most popular church’s in Dublin. Located below the church is a medieval crypt which houses Ireland’s first Magna Carta along with many other relics and even a mummified “Cat and Rat” that are affectionately known as Tom and Jerry.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral, named after Ireland’s patron saint, is said to be the site where St. Patrick baptized converts to Christianity at a well during the fifth century. It is the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland and is also the tallest cathedral in the country. The cathedral is also the burial site for Johnathan Swift who was the author of Gulliver’s Travels if a literary connection sparks your interest.
Next, we headed over to the pub next door to Christ’s Church Cathedral known as The Bull and Castle for lunch. I know, a pub after church? When in Ireland, right? You cannot go to Dublin without sampling the Guinness, so we had a pint with our fish and chips. I have to say while having a pint in Ireland is almost a requirement, I honestly didn’t care for it. I’m not much of a beer drinker, to begin with, so having something stout like that was just not my favorite. Sorry to every Irelander who reads this, but this American just couldn’t handle it.
After Lunch as we were passing back by the cathedrals, we noticed a building that seemed to be connected to Christ Church Cathedral. It was Dublinia, an interactive museum that provides a hands-on learning experience about Viking and medieval Dublin. While many travelers shy away from obvious tourist traps, it was a very interesting exhibit that ended with a 96 step climb up St. Michael’s Tower for spectacular views of the city- just take a look at the title picture. This would be excellent for families who want to instill a bit a history in their vacation.
We took a ten-minute stroll east and found our way in one of the most popular areas of Dublin, Temple Bar. Temple Bar is located along the south side of the River Liffey. We spent our time wandering in and out of shops, finding trinkets for family and listening to the music that poured out of doors of pubs. We popped into Temple Bar Pub, one of the most famous pubs in Ireland for a bit, but when it became too stuffy and full of people, we found a great restaurant less than 100 meters away.
Quays Irish Restaurant was also filled with people, and a bit short on tablespace, which to me is always indicative of great food. With Dublin being so close to the coast, fresh seafood is everywhere. Sure, you may think of potatoes when you think of Ireland, but this country offers so much more and I strongly encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and try something completely new.
We ended our day walking through Grafton street and St. Stephen’s Green on our way back. It felt good to slow down and take in the beauty of the city before returning to our hotel. While our day was more centered around history, Dublin is also the epicenter for culinary culture, arts, and entertainment in Ireland. Other great sites to visit include the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, Malahide Castle, Dublin Writers Museum and so much more.
Bonus tip: We spent our day on foot around the city, so we didn’t see quite as much as we could, had we toured by cab or taxi, but I still feel it was an excellent introduction to Dublin. You get a better sense of the community and I love the nostalgia of stumbling upon new experiences. If you want to get more bang for your buck, however, the hop on/hop off buses can get you just about anywhere in the city and allow you to possibly see a few more sites within the day.
I honestly can’t wait to return to this city and plan to dedicate more than just one short day to explore the next time I see it.