2 1/2 Days in Dublin, Ireland
Updated: Mar 8, 2020
As we flew into Dublin, we had a great overview of why Ireland is the Emerald Isle. The luscious green fields were especially striking after leaving from the parched brown lands of North Texas during a long, hot, dry summer. The rock-defined fields surrounding Dublin were amazing in all their shades of green.
We caught a cab from the airport to our hotel. Cabs are in front of both terminals with the drive taking about 20-30 minutes, depending on the traffic. A bus and Uber are also available if you prefer. Whether we use a taxi or Uber, we always try to strike up a conversation with our driver. This driver was wonderful and gave us great information about Dublin. In addition, he pointed out many of the sights for us, so we had a good basis for our afternoon walk.
We stayed at the Morgan Hotel in the Temple Bar area. (We never heard any noise at night, but we were warned by many people to make certain to request a back room unless you are a late-night person and don’t mind noise.) The hotel was in a great location to walk to sights.
We had 2 ½ days in Dublin before we joined an active tour with Vagabond Tours for a 12-day trip around Ireland. We hadn’t purchased tickets for our day arrival which was lucky because our flight was delayed. This delay didn’t stop us from walking parts of the Old Town on our own to catch our first glimpses of the city.
Our afternoon walk took us by Trinity College and onto Grafton Street, the shopping mecca of Dublin. Many of the stores are one with familiar names to any major city, but there were also some Irish brands that made shopping more fun. We popped into a coffee shop for a cheese and mushroom toastie (grilled cheese sandwich) and cappuccinos to warm us up before exploring further. Afterwards, we walked down Grafton to St. Stephens Green, a large beautiful park that has boats to rent for the small lake and many well-marked paths. While we were in the park mood, we visited Merrion Square which is only a few blocks from St. Stephens. Merrion Square is famous for its statue of Oscar Wilde who was actually born across the street from the park. (If you like picturesque doors, keep your eyes peeled in Dublin. The colorful doors are beautiful and picture perfect.)
Deciding we had ventured far enough on our first day, we headed back to the Temple Bar area. Temple Bar is located on Fleet Street, the same street as our hotel. We walked down to the famous place, but we didn’t make it further than the door. The bar was packed, mostly with Americans. Unfortunately, American tourists have taken over several of the bars in the area and are enjoying themselves loudly. (Yes, I know we are also American tourists, but I hope that we are not making spectacles of ourselves!)
We had dinner at the Boxty House on Fleet Street. (If you visit Dublin, make reservations. Most restaurants take them, and they fill up quickly.) I had fallen in love with boxties many years ago, so eating here was an easy decision for me. A boxty is basically a think potato pancake filled with delicious fillings. This restaurant didn’t disappoint. The boxties were excellent, the service great, and we made our first acquaintance with how hot Irish food is. Spice is not the culprit; the food is hot with heat. In addition, coffee and tea are served hotter than anywhere else we have been. I’m not complaining because the heat kept us warm on cold days, but be prepared before you take a big bite or a big sip! Partying went on late into the evening on Fleet Street, but jet lag and a wonderful dinner caught up with us so we went to bed early.
Day 1 (our first full day in Dublin)
The weather was damp, but rain held off. (In fact, we were very fortunate throughout our stay in Ireland. The majority of the rain occurred at night!) We had made advance reservations for a tour with Yellow Umbrella Walking Tours. We met our guide, Peter, at the spire on O’Connell Street. The spire, which is known as the Stiletto in the Ghetto and some other names that I can’t write here, can’t be missed since it is the tallest entity in the area. The tour was amazing! The tours are free, but visitors are encouraged to tip. We tipped based on the prices for other walking tours in Dublin. Peter shared history of Dublin and Ireland with us during the tour, which is absolutely necessary in understanding attitudes and ideas that exist even today.
Our tour started at the General Post Office which served as the headquarters of the Easter Rising of 1916 and from where the Proclamation of the Irish Republic was read. We proceeded down O’Connell Street and across the River Liffey to the Temple Bar area, by Trinity College, and to both St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Christ Church Cathedral. We did repeat some of the paths we had taken the day before, but the background that Peter provided gave us much more insight into the city and island.
On the tour we visited the outside of the Dublin Castle, which stands on the site of Viking ruins. The castle has been rebuilt, so the history of the building itself is small, but the complex is very interesting. The pond at the center is the site of the Vikings’ first settlement and the reason Dublin has its name. “Dublin” comes from the Irish that means “black pool” because its depth gave the pool a dark appearance.
Our next stop was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (It is unusual for a city to have two cathedrals, but both churches are part of the Church of Ireland with Christ Church serving as the diocesan cathedral and St. Patrick’s as the national cathedral.) St. Patrick is named after the saint of Ireland who drove the snakes out of the country. (Thank goodness!)
Our last stop was Christ Church Cathedral. It was a good place to leave our guide and, since it was lunch time, we picked up fish and chips at Leo Burdock's and had a picnic in the church grounds. (I would suggest eating at the Temple Bar location since they have dine-in available and they are very nice.) The church, like St. Patrick’s Cathedral, is beautiful and contains some fascinating pieces of history such as the grave of Jonathan Swift who, in addition to being the author of Gulliver’s Travels, was the dean of Christ Church. The crypt also contains the bones of a cat and rat which were found in an organ pipe. They were thought to have gotten stuck there during the rat’s race for life.
We had to make it across town to Trinity College for our Book of Kells tour. (In hindsight, I would have booked these differently to save a long walk, but I learn something everywhere I go!) Make sure to get tickets online before going to the Book of Kells since the lines are long.
We entered Trinity College through the comparatively small doorway and found ourselves in a beautiful university setting. We only had a wait a few minutes since we had timed tickets. (It was just enough time to watch the self-mowing mower and the magpie in the courtyard.) The exhibit about the Book of Kells was very interesting and explained how the monks created the magnificent work of art that reflected the magnitude of the Gospels. Once we entered the room where the Book of Kells was displayed we were slightly disappointed. Yes, it is amazing that the monks took so much work and time to make this book and that it has survived since the 800's, but you only get to see two pages on any day, and our day didn’t have a lot of art on the displayed pages. (You would have to return 340 days to see all the pages and, even then, you might miss some!)
The Long Room, which you enter after the Book of Kells exhibit, is wonderful. This library of Trinity University was the inspiration of the Hogwarts Library. The library still contains books, busts, and displays.
We wandered around Trinity University before heading to dinner at the Schoolhouse Hotel. We had a quiet dinner before heading back towards our hotel. Of course, we had to make a stop by a pub for a Guinness. Kennedy’s Pub, close to Merrion Square, was established in 1850. It was filled with locals watching games and was very welcoming.
We enjoyed another pretty day of sightseeing with our first item on the list being the Kilmainham Gaol. We took a leisurely stroll by the Liffey River to the jail. (The walk was just over 2.2 miles, but the day was perfect.) We had bought tickets for both the Gaol and the Guinness Storehouse a month in advance, so we were able to skip the lines again.
The jail was in use from 1796-1924. During that time, it held almost 500 children and thousands whose only crime was poverty that forced them to steal food. The tour is excellent and gives the history with emphasis on the Irish rebellion against British rule in 1798 and the Easter Rising in 1916. The guide led us through the oldest part of the goal to the newest which may look familiar since the Italian Job was filmed here. The goal is a sobering experience, but the tour brings history alive.
After Kilmainham Gaol, we needed a change of attitude, so we walked to the Guinness Storehouse where we faced huge crowds that were also discovering the history of Guinness and, to be honest, just drinking beer. The building is an impressive work that displays history, how beer is made, advertising efforts, and beer on its 7 floors. One of the highlights was the lease that Arthur Guinness had Dublin sign that gave him the land for 9,000 years at the same price! The advertising section was also very interesting. Like Coca-Cola, Guinness understands and uses advertising to its best advantage. There are also several cafes and restaurants in the building if you want food with your beer. The top floor is a bar that provides 360 degree views of the city. Everyone gets a free pint to drink as you walk around. We wished that we could have had samples of multiple products instead of a pint of just one, but…. Looking down through the atrium, which is shaped like the largest pint glass in the world, is quite an experience.
We walked back to our hotel via Brazen Head Pub, the oldest in pub in Ireland with references from 1653. (This building has been there since 1754.) We didn’t have a drink here because the crowds were so great, but, instead, we continued to the Dublin City Hall, a beautiful building with a great chronological history exhibit that put all the stories we heard into perspective. Our Yellow Umbrella Tour Guide had recommended a stop here and we were glad he did.
From City Hall we headed to an early dinner at a great seafood restaurant, Klaw. The hole-in-the-wall place was in happy hour mode when we arrived which meant they only served oysters on the half shell until 6:00. We enjoyed every bite of the oysters and stayed past 6:00 so we could sample other items on their menu.
We could have used one more full day in Dublin. We would love to see the EPIC—Irish Emigration Museum, Chester Beaty, and the National Museum of Ireland. In addition, we’d love to have more of the wonderful food!