Ireland was always a country that I’d desperately wanted to visit. It still is … I can’t wait to go back someday. I’m in awe of how green and magical the Irish landscape looks in photos. And I always appreciate a good pub and a perfectly poured pint of Guinness. When we decided to visit Dublin for a few days after Scotland, I couldn’t wait to start planning. And while we didn’t manage to leave the city during our stay to see the green landscapes I’ve always longed to run through, my first taste of Dublin, and Ireland, definitely left me wanting to see more in this incredibly charming country.
We arrived at our hotel, the Albany House, in the early evening. We were hungry and thirsty and after strolling the streets around our hotel and St. Stephen’s Green (a beautiful, Victorian park and gardens in the middle of Dublin), we stumbled upon Ely Wine Bar, which satisfied us on both fronts. In all honesty, we needed a night enjoying wine after our time in Scotland, so this spot was a welcome change, while still allowing us to enjoy seasonal and local Irish food.
We got a good night sleep, and woke up refreshed for our first of only two full days in Dublin. And we were going to make the most of it if it killed us. We’d booked a free walking tour with Sandeman’s New Europe for the morning, so after wandering quickly through Temple Bar and grabbing a coffee, we met up with our group to see the sights with a tour guide that could enthusiastically talk to major landmarks and provide information and history surrounding each one. I love a good walking tour … I find participating in one is always a great way to start out an adventure in a new city. In addition to the information they provide, the guides always give great insights on where to go and where to eat in the city too. Just be sure if you do participate in a free walking tour that you always tip your guide generously. Anything but is just bad manners.
With our guide, we saw Dublin Castle, the Temple Bar area, Christ Church Cathedral, learned the history around the rising fame of Irish-born band, U2, strolled through Trinity College campus and more, all while receiving a pretty solid Irish history lesson. All in all we saw and learned a lot on our 3-hour walk … including our guide sharing with us a hilarious nickname for The Spire Monument of Dublin … The Stiffy by the Liffey. A pretty clever nickname if you ask me!
After the tour, we were chilly and hungry, and sought out a cozy Irish seafood lunch at Klaw in Temple Bar. We had Irish mussels, fresh oysters, warm, creamy seafood chowder and beer. *drooling at the thought.* Afterwards, we did the quintessential and completely necessary thing that all visitors to Dublin must do… we drank beer at Temple Bar Pub in Temple Bar. So much of what I read before visiting Dublin mentioned to steer clear of Temple Bar because it’s busy and kitschy, but I wholeheartedly disagree. We went in the afternoon to avoid crowds, found a cosy spot, drank Guinness after Guinness, listened to a great band play Irish favourites and LOVED every second of it. To cap the night off we walked through Dublin to Ireland’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head Pub. It was everything we wanted that night … old, full of character … cosy … good food and beer … and that’s about all I can remember. Ha.
Despite our late night, we got up early on our second day because I was desperate to see The Old Library at Trinity College and more specifically, the Long Room. Visiting the Old Library is a top attraction in Dublin. The main chamber of the Old Library makes up the Long Room, which houses the library’s oldest books (approximately 200,000!!!) and is by far one of the most impressive libraries in the world. Many visitors also flock to the Old Library at Trinity College to see the Book of Kells, which is a 9th-century gospel manuscript (she’s an oldie!) famous throughout the world. You can see both the Long Room and the Book of Kells with the purchase of a ticket … it’s kind of a package deal. You can purchase tickets online in advance or in person upon your arrival. Word to the wise though, for this specific experience, I recommend booking your tickets in advance. It’s not always everyone’s ideal to schedule attractions like this, but in doing so you’ll avoid long standby lines (unless you’re willing to arrive early for opening and even then you can’t be sure how busy it’ll be) and with an online ticket you can select a specific desired visit time so you enter the exhibition much more efficiently. Standing inside the Long Room is still an experience I think about often and was a true highlight during our visit to Dublin. Not to mention it’s an epic photo opportunity! It’s a must-do for literary and non-literary lovers alike!
Afterwards, we walked back through the Temple Bar area and stopped at a narrow pub called the Palace Bar for a couple of pints before continuing on to a burger spot called Bunsen for no-fuss, totally scrumptious burgers and fries. We had to fill our stomachs for our afternoon tour of the Guinness Storehouse … another must-do for anyone and everyone visiting Dublin. The Guinness Storehouse Brewery is located a little of the beaten tourist track in Dublin, but since the historical centre is quite compact, it really didn’t take much additional effort to walk there, which is what we did. Like the Old Library at Trinity College, the Guinness Storehouse is an extremely popular experience in Dublin. The best way to go about it is to book your tickets online in advance. This way, you’re sure of a spot in the afternoon/evening (prime Guinness-drinking time) and will experience minimal wait to enter. You can book additional guided tours and private tastings as well, but we opted for a basic access ticket, which allows you to self-guide through the 7-floors of Guinness fun that finishes high up at the Gravity Bar. Located at the top of the Guinness Storehouse, Gravity Bar offers beautiful panoramic skyline views of Dublin while you sip the delicious black stuff. And bonus … your first pint of Guinness at Gravity Bar (or any of the other bars/restaurants at the brewery) is included in your ticket price. Sláinte!
To cap our last afternoon and evening in Dublin, we wandered through the old city, strolled across Ha’penny Bridge (a beautiful pedestrian bridge that stretches over the Liffey) and took in the sights along the river. We made our way back towards our hotel, through St. Stephen’s Green to Foley’s Bar for a couple pints before a late dinner, which we enjoyed very much at Etto.
Our two days in Dublin were jam-packed, but we learned, drank, ate and saw a lot. We visited in early December and the city was lit up all lovely for the holidays and it was truly a magical time to explore. We loved the area we stayed in, around St.Stephen’s Green, which is outside of the main Dublin centre but close enough to be walking distance to all the sights and experiences. We took taxi’s/Uber’s too and from our accommodations and the airport which was easy and efficient.
The wonderful thing about our visit to Dublin is looking back I wouldn’t change a thing … it was perfect. If you have more time, I cannot stress how necessary it is to wander the cobblestone streets and just get lost. Find a pub, have a pint, and move onto the next. The live music scene in the city is spectacular as well so certainly try to seek that out. You could also make time for the National Museum of Ireland, the Glasnevin Cemetery Museum, the Little Museum of Dublin, the Kilmainham Gaol Museum, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, take a tour of the Old Jameson Distillery, shop along Grafton Street or simply track down and enjoy a dram or two in an Irish Whiskey bar.
Happy travelling! xo Shay