A visit to the Emerald Isle wouldn’t be complete without a stop in Dublin. Although small in size, it’s big in character and there’s a lot going on, so here’s our guide to what not to miss on a trip to this buzzing capital city.
The Emerald Isle, a land of rugged coastlines, resplendent greenery, breathtaking vales and pastures, ancient folklore, silver-tongued locals with pleasant lilts and a warm and welcoming character, leprechauns, Guinness, shamrocks and a literary and cultural heritage to boot. Ok, so the leprechauns and their pots of gold may be more mythic folklore, but everything else about this small island is true. Ireland captures the imagination of many visitors with its incredible scenery, lyrical soul and warm and friendly nature, and a trip there will leave you wanting more.
So you’ve got a day in Dublin on your Irish tour – lucky you! The capital of the Republic of Ireland is abuzz with character and has a big reputation that draws million of visitors each year. It may be famous for its Guinness and lively Temple Bar, but what’s most magical about this city is its incredible wealth of literary and cultural heritage.
The Georgian period has characterised most of the city’s architecture, with its wide streets and handsome houses, and a stroll around the city will bring its history to life; don’t miss Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral to learn more about the city’s past, while a visit to Trinity College will inspire every visitor, and a wander over the iconic Ha’penny Bridge is a Dublin must.
Dublin Airport is the best airport to fly to for a visit to the city, and is the busiest airport in Ireland. An international airport, it operates 24 hours a day, every day of the year except Christmas Day, and serves more than 180 destinations and 25 million passengers annually. Passengers travelling between the USA and Ireland can undertake all US immigration, customs and agriculture inspections at Dublin Airport prior to departure with the US Preclearance facility at Terminal 2.
The airport is located 10 kilometres from Dublin city centre, within the suburb of Fingal, Collinstown, and is easily accessible with an airport transfer. Shared shuttles on Jayride.com start from just €33 while private airport transfers start from €37. So hop in your airport transfer and get exploring this fun city!
8.30am Fill your boots to start your day
You’ve got a full day of exploring ahead of you, so kick-start your morning with a dose of caffeine and a delicious breakfast. The cafe 3fe is known for its great coffee, but the Grand Canal Street location also serves up a mean breakfast and brunch that won’t break the bank. Try the Pig Me Up or orange bircher washed down with a fresh brew.
9.30am See the ‘Doors of Dublin’
After you feel set for the morning, take a short stroll to Merrion Square. Not only is this considered one of the finest remaining squares in the city, but you’ll also get an introduction to the ‘Doors of Dublin’. Though Dublin has a rich history that dates back to the 9th century, it’s the Georgian period that has provided some of the finest, and most colourful, architecture of the city. Grand squares, wide streets, fine houses, colourful doors; you’ll find Georgian influences all across the city. The colourful doors that characterise so many of the houses have become known as the ‘Doors of Dublin’, and like many Irish tales there are various stories as to why so many colourful doors exist, ranging from famous writers painting their doors so drunk friends wouldn’t get confused, or wives painting doors so their drunk husbands wouldn’t mistake another door for their own. Whatever the true tale, the ‘Doors of Dublin’ are a famous sight of the city, and certainly worth a few pictures. Continue down Fitzwilliam Street if you’d like to see more.
10am History, libraries, and Medieval manuscripts
This is a city of huge literary significance; not only has it been home to some of the world’s most renowned writers, but it was named the fourth ever UNESCO City of Literature in 2010. Nowhere is this literary heritage more evident than in Ireland’s most prestigious university, Trinity College. Founded in 1592 and just a short walk from Merrion Square and the thriving centre of the southside of Dublin, Trinity College is home to the country’s largest library. The main chamber of the Old Library is known as the Long Room Library, and is famous for its barrel-vaulted roof and housing more than 200,000 of the Library’s oldest books. It is one of the most impressive libraries in the world, and is home to the Book of Kells, an ornately decorated religious manuscript dating from the 9th century, which is one of the world’s most famous medieval manuscripts. Tours of the college are available, and tickets for the Book of Kells exhibition are available online.
11.30am Walk along Dublin’s famous high street
Keeping in theme with the rich history of this city, from Trinity College make your way to Grafton Street. This famous Dublin street is often described as the hustling and bustling heart of the city with its plentiful cafés, restaurants, hotels, ornate and historic shop fronts, and many street entertainers. Head towards the end of Grafton Street at the corner of Suffolk Street to see the famous Molly Malone statue which plays homage to the lady behind the well-known Irish ballad Molly Malone (or Cockles and Mussels). If you feel like a mid-morning pick-me-up, don’t miss the iconic Dublin institution Bewley’s for a coffee and a cake.
From Grafton Street, carry on your historical tour of the city with a visit to Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral and St Patrick’s Cathedral, all within walking distance from Grafton Street. Dublin Castle is at the heart of Irish history and was originally built in the 13th century. For centuries the Castle served as the headquarters of English and British administration in Ireland, and in 1922 was handed over to the new Irish government after the Irish independence. The Castle is open seven days a week and tickets can be purchased online. While you’re over this side of the city, be sure to check out Dublin’s two medieval cathedrals. St Patrick’s Cathedral was founded in 1191 AD and is the largest church in Ireland, while Christ Church Cathedral was founded in 1030 AD and is Dublin’s oldest building.
1.30pm Ha’penny Bridge and a well-deserved lunch stop
Dublin’s iconic Ha’penny Bridge (named so due to the half-penny crossing charge in force until 1919) is one of Dublin’s best-loved landmarks. The elliptical arch bridge was built in 1816 and is Dublin’s oldest pedestrian crossing over the river Liffey, as well as the first iron bridge in Ireland. Stroll across the bridge to the northside of the city, and stop for some lunch at one of the many cafés in the area (Brother Hubbard North gets our vote for a tasty lunch pitstop!).
3pm Explore the literary heritage of Dublin
The wealth of literary giants who hail from these fine shores is overwhelming. From Oscar Wilde and Bram Stoker, to Jonathan Swift, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, W.B. Yeats and award-winning contemporary writers of the likes of Maeve Binchy and Roddy Doyle to name just a few, have all called Dublin home. With four Nobel Laureates in Literature, it’s easy to see why references to this incredible heritage are everywhere throughout the city, from the names of the city’s bridges to the statues and plaques dotted throughout Dublin’s fair city. Head over to the Dublin Writers Museum to explore 300 hundred years of the city’s literature with exhibitions and displays of books, letters and personal items of the incredible writers who have lived here.
5pm Taste Ireland’s famous tipple
It goes without saying that Ireland is synonymous with the Black Stuff; Guinness is the country’s most famous beer, and a visit to the Guinness Storehouse is a must. Located in the heart of the St James’s Gate Brewery, a site that has been home to the Guinness brewery since 1759, the birthplace of the Irish stout remains firmly top of the list of visitor experiences in Dublin. On a tour of the Storehouse you’ll discover how the famous beer is made, enjoy multisensory tasting experiences and learn about the history behind the brand, ending your trip at the Gravity Bar to enjoy 360-degree views of the city with a well-deserved drink in hand.
7.30pm Finish your night in Temple Bar
End your day of touring Ireland’s buzzing capital with a night in the lively Temple Bar. This area is often touted as the cultural and nightlife centre of Dublin, with many pubs, bars, cafés and restaurants. Try popular pubs such as The Temple Bar, The Foggy Dew, The Stag’s Head and The Palace Bar, and enjoy the live music, soak up the atmosphere and sip on the nation’s tipple, before finishing off with dinner in one of the many restaurants in the area.