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Dublin is a city that hardly needs introduction. A hubbub of energy and culture, it is a city that’s both refreshing and authentic. There are so many things to do, from museums to theatre, but seeing where the cobblestone streets take you is one of the best.
Dublin is unique. It doesn’t have the hustle and grime of a city like London or New York, nor does it have the smell of Paris. It also is not nearly as large as most European capitals, making it easily walkable. The people there are notoriously friendly and they don’t shove you out of the way as they pass by. Sound good so far? We haven’t even mentioned yet how Dublin is overflowing with history and culture. It’s a great first stop on your journey through Ireland.
When is the best time of year to visit?
Since Dublin is a city, you could visit at any time of year and have a good time. However, if you plan on traveling outside of Dublin afterwards (have you seen our itinerary for County Wicklow, less than an hour outside of Dublin?) you might want to avoid the rainiest seasons. Winter tends to be rainy with less daylight and hours at tourist destinations tend to be cut short.
What to bring for the weather?
Go for layers at any time of year. Bring a warm layer (top and bottom), a real rain coat, sunglasses, comfortable walking shoes, sunscreen, and an umbrella.
Where to Stay?
We suggest staying in the center of everything in the Temple Bar area. While it can be rowdy and noisy, you will have the city at your fingertips.
When Matthew and I stayed in Dublin on our honeymoon, we arrived to find out our reservation was lost and the hotel we had booked was sold out. The agency we booked through had gone out of business and they refunded us without letting us know. Thanks to a little Irish hospitality, the front desk woman got on the phone and called the hotel down the street, Handel’s Hotel. They were extremely kind and booked us at a discounted price that ended up costing less than our original reservation. Crisis averted. We ended up having a very nice stay.
If you are worried about the noise, pay special attention to reviews as you search for hotels. You could always stay on the other side of the River Liffey, nearby but at a slight distance, to make sure you get a good night’s rest.
What to Do?
There are so many choices when it comes to Dublin. We’ve assembled a complete 3-day itinerary below that has you pick and choose the things that appeal to you most. However, there are a few things you should not miss.
A trip to Dublin would not be complete without listening to live music in Temple Bar. Music is an iconic part of this Irish city. If you are willing but want to avoid the tourist traps, ask a local where they like to go for live music.
Next, don’t miss the Trinity College Library. If off the bat the word “library” is repelling you, reconsider. This is no ordinary library. This is one of the most famous libraries in the world and it was established in 1592. It is the permanent home to the Brian Boru Harp (you know, that Irish national symbol emblazoned on on your Guinness can), as well as a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic and the Book of Kells, a handwritten copy of the gospels dating back to 800 CE.
If I were to tell you not to miss one more thing, it would be the National Museum of Ireland - Archeology. For various reasons, a significant one being superstition, many of Ireland’s ancient sites long went untouched, only to have been excavated within the last hundred years. That means many of them are wonderfully preserved, as well as the artifacts found with them. More recent excavations of Ireland’s bogs have also uncovered mummified human remains dating back thousands of years. All of this and more can be found at the National Museum.
Where to Eat?
Dublin being the hip city that it is, it is now home to many trendy restaurants. We could hardly have eaten at them all, but there are a few from our trip that stand out. For breakfast we thoroughly enjoyed Queen of Tarts, an eclectic café originating in Dublin that specializes in breakfast and baked goods. It’s popular, so there can be a wait. If so, try their other location just a block away. If you visit the Guinness Storehouse, a journey up to the Gravity Bar is not to be missed. It may be busy, depending on when you are there, but the view over Dublin makes it all worthwhile. For dinner, we had a nice meal at Porterhouse Temple Bar. Porterhouse also is Dublin’s first brew pub (meaning, they brew and serve their own beer) and they host live music.
You Should Know . . .
Language: English and Irish (one of the gaelic languages); expect to see signs fully or partly in Irish
Tipping: 10-15% only in restaurants, but check first for a service charge
Driving: Driving a car in Dublin can be stressful and annoying, not to mention the parking. I would recommend taking a shuttle into Dublin from the airport instead. While in the city, walk or take a ride-share. If you plan to rent a car and drive through Ireland after your visit to Dublin, rent it on your way out of town. You can either take a shuttle back to the airport or use one of the car rental agencies in the city.
Make it romantic
We call ourselves Make a Date of It because romance can be instilled into almost any activity. While travel can be stressful, it can also bring couples close together and inspire cherished memories. Here are a few tips to up the romance on your trip to Dublin:
Tip #1: Have a conversation
Every activity we suggest ties into Ireland’s history. You won’t appreciate Dublin unless you understand how it got to be as it is today. As you visit Abbey Theatre, consider how many famous playwrights originated in Ireland. As you explore the National Museum of Archeology, consider how different and similar Dublin was hundreds of years ago when the Vikings ruled. As you walk the halls of Kilmainham Gaol, consider the revolutionaries who fought for freedom from behind bars. Now here comes the romantic part: talk about it! Have a conversation about what you learn and how your view of the city changes because of it.
Tip #2: Take a romantic stroll
Dublin is a very walkable city. Not only that, but many of the activities we suggest involve walking. So why not hold hands while you amble through St. Stephen’s Green or Merrion Square? Why not look affectionately into your partner’s eyes as you check out the street art on Love Lane? All it takes is a little intentionality.
Tip #3: Enjoy the nightlife
At night, Dublin lights up. Enjoy the live music that blares from every other pub. Enjoy the old-fashioned lights across ha’penny bridge. Enjoy taking life slowly as you sip a beer and discuss your trip. Abandon your phones for a while and enjoy the atmosphere around you—it’s worth it.
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Day 1: Get the Lay of the Land
Start your day off right with a hearty breakfast, then spend your first few hours getting acquainted with Dublin on a Free Walking Tour. How is it free, you ask? The guides are paid in tips (we recommend 10-20 euro per person), so be sure to have cash on you. Every walking tour we have ever been on has been more than worth it, even in the rain.
Assuming your walking tour ends at St. Patrick's Cathedral, stop in to check it out before lunch nearby.
After your walking tour, take a tour of either the Guinness Storehouse or Jameson Distillery depending on if you are more of a beer or whisky drinker. Book in advance.
Don't drink? Go to historic Dublin Castle instead. Also book in advance.
To finish your day, eat dinner in Temple Bar. On your way there, take a short cut through Love Lane, an alleyway decorated for romantics. After dinner, head over to Dublin's famous (although touristy) Temple Bar for live music and another drink.
Day 2: Go Back in Time
Start your day with breakfast and a visit to Trinity College Library Museum where you will see the long room of the old library and the historic Book of Kells.
Then, walk south and grab lunch. Keep going, then take an hour-long guided tour of the Little Museum of Dublin, a favorite amongst tourists and locals alike. Book in advance, as space fills up quickly.
Afterwards walk through St. Stephen’s Green, a busy yet peaceful park in the middle of the city. Take a bit of time to explore different pathways and water features.
After this you may need a rest, so grab a drink at the Horseshoe Bar, which has an interesting history itself.
Your next destination is the National Museum of Ireland - Archeology where you will see pieces of history dating back thousands of years, including their renowned “bog bodies”—the naturally mummified bodies of people who fell into bogs long ago.
After emerging from the museum, take some time to unwind in Merrion Square, a small oasis in the city across from Oscar Wilde's past home.
You will be tired after a long day, so get dinner at one of Dublin’s many hip restaurants before heading to bed. Or hit the pubs for live music again. You are in Dublin!
Day 3: Choose Your Own Adventure
After breakfast, choose to go to one of these three popular Dublin sites: the EPIC Irish Emigration Museum, the Glasnevin Cemetery, or the Kilmainham Gaol. Each will take you a bit farther out of central Dublin, so plan accordingly. Be sure to book in advance so you do not miss out once you arrive.
Eat lunch, then take the afternoon to wander Dublin's best shopping street, Grafton Street. See the street performers, pop into the pubs and shops, people-watch.
Finish your afternoon at Christ Church Cathedral, another architectural beauty, and don’t miss out on its crypt. Otherwise take a romantic venture to Whitefriar Street Church, home of the relics of St. Valentine. Then go back to your hotel and get ready to go to the theatre.
Dublin has plenty of great early-bird dining options at nearby restaurants. Try one of them before going to a show at Abbey Theatre, or one of the other theatres in town.
Grab a drink after the show, or head back to your hotel. Enjoy your last evening in Dublin.