Dublin is the main stop when anyone travels to Ireland. Often people will only visit Dublin, and we quickly came to understand why, as there is so much to do there! You can walk around the city for hours and stumble upon amazing churches, fun exciting pubs and iconic landmarks. Our major highlights were the Jameson distillery and Guinness factory tours, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Temple Bar district. The atmosphere in this city is electric, everybody seems to be having a great time and the locals jump at the chance to show off their wonderful city. Spending a few days in Dublin is a must if you end up travelling to this lovely green country.
How to Get There
Most people start their Ireland trip in Dublin, as it is the major airport in the country. We managed to get some pretty cheap tickets by flying from Toronto to Dublin through Iceland on WOW! airlines, so that might be a good place to start when looking for deals on flights. Travelling around the island, it only takes about 2 hours between Dublin and Belfast, 3 hours between Dublin and Cork, and just under 3 hours between Dublin and Galway. Everything is pretty close in Ireland and Northern Ireland, which allows you to cut down on travel time and increase the amount of time you spend exploring!
What to Do
- Guinness Storehouse Tour – This is at the top of everybody’s wish list when they visit Dublin. Guinness is the most famous stout, and potentially the most well known beer in the world, and it all started in Dublin. The tour is self guided, and takes up to two hours. Make sure to set aside a good amount of time to see it, and enjoy yourself! Don’t worry, there’s plenty of beer and food to sustain yourself throughout the tour. The tour starts with explaining the process of creating this fine brew, and also explains the history of the famous Guinness Storehouse. The next floors touch on the background behind the different types of Guinness, their dramatic and quirky flair in advertising, and much more. The interactive parts of the tour include a tasting room (free and includes a free Guinness taster, though there can sometimes be a wait), and a pouring lesson (you either need to pay for your beer, or use your free drink ticket here to participate). Note that you can only purchase beers at the gravity bar at the top with a ticket, so if you want to pour your own Guinness and have one at the top, you need to pay for the pouring lesson. You can also purchase food and beer on the fifth floor, where we enjoyed some amazing fish and chips. The gravity bar at the top provides the best views in the whole city, which is perfect the enjoy with a smooth Guinness. The cost for the tour at the door is 20 pounds or 18 pounds for students, or you can pay 14 pounds online for entrance before 9:45am, and 16 pounds for entry before 10:45am. The Storehouse is open from 9:30am-7pm, with last entry at 5pm. All tickets include a free Guinness!
- Temple Bar District – This district lies along the south banks of the River Liffey, and is constantly alive and bumping. It’s namesake, the Temple Bar, drew in dozens of other pubs, and together they took over and created the famous entertainment district. The streets are literally lined with pubs, playing live music and filled with people having a good time. Make sure to visit the original Temple Bar though, we have more info on that below in Nightlife.
- Christchurch Cathedral – The original Dublin cathedral is a sight to behold from the outside and within. Though we only stuck our heads in briefly as we didn’t have the time or the pounds to pay to look inside, the stone church was beautiful. We personally preferred St. Patrick’s Cathedral below, but if you’re an architecture or church guru, make sure to check out both. The price for entry is 6.50 pounds, or 5 pounds for students.
- St. Patrick’s Cathedral – Yes, St. Patrick is a real person, not just a reason to drink a lot on March 17th. This cathedral is a giant building with amazing architecture that towers over the city. Inside you can walk around freely and read the descriptive plaques explaining the different relics and areas of the church, or simply enjoy the beauty and greatness of the stone building. The cathedral is still active, and we saw and heard choir boys practicing. Outside of the cathedral is a park, where gravestones and St. Patrick’s well were found, the very well where he baptized new members of Christianity. This lead the Archbishop to declare St. Patrick’s church a cathedral, even though Dublin already had a cathedral at the time (two cathedrals was unprecedented in medieval times). Make sure to check out this historic landmark, dedicated to the man who brought Christianity to Ireland. It’s 6.50 pounds or 5.50 pounds for students to enter the cathedral, which is open from 9:30am-5pm.
- Jameson Distillery Bow St. Experience Tour – We weren’t sure what to expect from this guided tour through the old Jameson Distillery, but we were not disappointed. The tour takes about 40 mins, and walks you through the history of the distillery, how the famous whiskey is made, and ends with a taste test. The tour was completely redone in March of 2017, and they nailed it. The renovated story room uses props and projectors to draw you in, and the brewing process is highlighted with visual aids, storytelling and a mini lab where you can touch, smell and taste ingredients. The comparative tasting room at the end pits Jameson against two other well known whiskeys (we won’t ruin the surprise) and you make the call on which is the best. The tour price includes the taste test as well as a complimentary drink (straight whiskey or mixed with gingerale) in the amazing J.J.’s Bar. We did this tour directly after our Guinness tour, and needless to say we were feeling pretty good by the end of it. The cost is 18 pounds or 15 for students, and the tours are open from 10am-5:30pm on weekdays and Sunday, and open until 7pm on Fridays and Saturdays.
- Ha’Penny Bridge – This is a beautiful cast iron pedestrian bridge that spans River Liffey, just north of the Temple Bar District. It’s name derives from the fact that it used to be a toll bridge that replaced a ferry, and you had to pay a ha’penny to cross. This bridge has been around since 1816, so make sure to check it out while it’s still standing!
- Spire of Dublin – Literally a large metal spire sticking up in the middle of Dublin. It’s the tallest object around, and can be seen from pretty much anywhere. The main draw to this area is the shopping on O’Connell St. and Mary St., the latter being a pedestrian street. A great place to explore if you have some time one afternoon.
- Trinity College and Book of Kells – Trinity College was under a lot of construction when we visited, but it was still breathtakingly beautiful. The grandeur of the old buildings was amazing; it was hard to imagine students actually attending school there. We went to check out the Book of Kells, a latin manuscript Gospel book dating back to 800 AD. Although it wasn’t the most exciting attraction, the Long Room upstairs in the same building was pretty cool to see. This room houses over 200,000 of the Trinity College Libraries oldest books. The library had to expand in 1850 because the library was given permission to obtain a free copy of every book published in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The library is spectacular, and on top of the thousands of books, contains busts of famous men who supported the college and the Brian Boru Harp, the oldest of its kind dating back to the 15th century, and also the inspiration for the famous Guinness logo. Entry is 13 euros, or 10 euros for students.
- Grafton St. – Another famous walking street in Dublin, this one is catered more to tourists. The street is (unsurprisingly) lined with pubs and shops, and street performers are on every corner ready to entertain. We tried to walk up this street whenever it made sense on our travels, and discovered something new every time.
- St. Stephen’s Green Park – A lovely park near our apartment, we walked through here every time we walked into town. It would be an amazing place to have a picnic, to go for a run or just to rest and people watch.
What to Eat
- Brazen Head – This is Ireland’s oldest pub, established in 1198. The unique pub is partially outdoors, with a bunch of different rooms and bars to explore. There are also more dining room style areas upstairs, and on the top floor there’s Irish Storytelling while you have your dinner (reserve a table beforehand).The dinner comes in massive portions, and the Irish stew was amazing. The pub is an iconic Dublin landmark, and lives up to expectations.
- Bull and Castle – A pub near the Christchurch Cathedral, we stopped here to have a pint and some pub snacks over lunch. The wings were really good (though it might just have seemed that way since we were jetlagged, and starving after being sick on the flight over). It’s a fun spot to stop for a drink and snack while making your way around the city.
- Temple Bar – Another iconic Dublin landmark, this pub had a whole district named after it. Though most pubs in the area say “Temple Bar” somewhere on their walls,the real one is hard to miss. It’s painted bright red, and has red flags on the outside. It’s also flanked by a Temple Bar gift shop, proving that it’s legit. In classic old Irish pub fashion, it consists of a bunch of rooms and bars all connected together. In the middle of the building there’s an outdoor smoking patio, and the main room morphs into a live music stage at night. We were lucky enough to be invited to a table right in the front by two Americans, and enjoyed front row seats to the show all night. You can’t say you’ve experienced Dublin nightlife until you’ve spent an evening at Temple Bar.
- O’Donoghue’s – This pub has an awesome heated outdoor alleyway, where most of the stools are falling apart and most of the tables are barrels. It had an authentic Irish feel to it, and was mostly occupied by locals drinking pints of Guinness. If you want to avoid tourists for a night and relax with some pints, here’s the place to do it.
- Bernard Shaw – We didn’t manage to make it here on a night they were open, but Bernard Shaw looks like a pretty crazy place. The outside back lot (aka the Eatyard) is open from noon till late Thursday till Sunday, and apparently the place gets crazy. Tons of drunk food is available, and people have a great time drinking and eating to their hearts content. It’s a little ways out of the main city center, but easily walkable.
- Random Nightclub – We were told nothing stays open after 1am or so in Dublin, but when the pubs in the Temple Bar district shut down, we were told about a nightclub that runs all night. We didn’t actively search for it, but on our way home literally stumbled upon it, resulting in some pretty crazy times. We’ll expand on this further in our blog at a later date, so stay tuned!