Tiny Books and Viking Hats - Dublin
Updated: Sep 19, 2019
Dublin was our first stop on the tour of Ireland (for the overall trip itinerary see here). Naturally, we were super excited to see everything that we could in the short amount of time we had there, and we walked an obscene amount. It’s a pretty interesting place, with plenty of neighborhoods to explore and all kinds of history to take in.
That said, Dublin was probably my least favorite part of Ireland – not because it isn’t magical, but because the rest of Ireland is even more so. It’s a major city – similar to going to Chicago or New York in the states. It has its tourist attractions and must-sees, but to really get to know the country, you have to leave. Basically what I’m saying is that I loved Dublin, but I wouldn’t recommend spending more than 3-4 days there. I would, however, live there if I could.
Hotel: Hotels and Air BnBs were actually pretty pricy in town while we were there. We later learned part of the problem was that we chose to go on the weekend of the Dublin Marathon, so things were pretty booked up.
We stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn Dublin Custom House. It was actually a fantastic hotel – the staff was incredibly polite, the rooms were spotless, and the breakfast was excellent. It was also one of the only hotels in the city that accommodated 3 people to a room. The only negative is that it was a bit of a walk to get to the tourist part of the city. It was, however, only one mile from a late-night McDonalds.
*One note – we had originally booked an AirBnB and a couple of months before we were supposed to go, the owner emailed me to inform me that he’d been double booked because his place was listed on multiple websites. When I asked him to cancel our reservation so that AirBnB knew it wasn’t my fault, he refused. It was a big mess, and by the time it finally got resolved, there was nothing left on AirBnB that was in our price range. I pointed this out to AirBnB, but they pretty much didn’t help. They did give me a credit of $50, but that didn’t go very far when one night at what they had left on the website was $400-$500.
Getting Around: For more information on specifics on having a car, see my blog on Driving Ireland. In the city itself, remember there is NO UBER. I'd highly recommend walking. We were on the streets pretty much all hours of the day, and we never felt unsafe. I will say stay in groups. One of my friends is a local and mentioned no girl should be out alone, but that's pretty standard for a city situation.
If you do take a cab, I'd say make sure you have cash. They don't all take cards.
What we did:
Trinity College and the Book of Kells – This is a must-see in Dublin. The campus itself, especially the main quad, is stunning – perfect old architecture that you’d expect from one of the oldest universities in the world. The other big thing that people go to the campus to see is the Book of Kells and the library. One of the things I’d absolutely recommend is going on the student-led tour. If you enter the campus from the main gate (via google maps) it’ll take you right past their stand. You can buy the ticket for the tour in the gift shop, and the best part is that it includes a ticket to the Book of Kells. This means less of a wait when you get to the library at the end of the tour. The tour itself is well worth it. The student guides are great and knowledgeable and you’ll learn way more about the university itself than if you were to wander around yourself. I think it was only about a 30 minute tour too, so super easy. The book of Kells itself is actually a bit of a let-down. It’s tiny and encased in glass. The library, on the other hand, is stunning. And packed. Probably recommend going early if you want a picture without 100 other people in it.
Dublin Castle: This was a fun one to tour. The rooms are very similar to what you'd see at Kensington Palace in London. Didn't take us more than a couple of hours maximum. The gardens at the end once you reach the cafe are clearly a spot for locals to hang out in the sunshine.
Guinness Storehouse: The other major cliche thing to check off in Dublin. The place was absolutely packed, so you can expect to wait in a few lines. We aren't fans of Guinness the beer, but this was still a cool things to experience. Plus their rooftop tap room has amazing views of the city. It is a ways out of town, but I think we walked it in probably 35-40 minutes.
Dublin Viking Duck Tour: Decided to to this a bit last minute because we had some spare time. It was actually super funny. The guides were great - they make it super fun and you learn a lot about the city. The one thing I'd say is that most Duck Boat tours you go on around the world spend a lot more time in actual water. We basically took the boat out onto a quarry where they show you a studio where U2 records and then came back.
St. Stephen's Green: this is a super quaint park that you can stroll through. Locals tend to hang out here and have picnics or just drink with friends on the grass haha. It's also the starting point of the Duck Boat Tour, so we wandered around for a while before our tour started.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral: This is another quick stop on the tour. It's a beautiful cathedral and worth the entrance fee to check it out. Probably a 30 minute stop maximum. There's another green space right outside the cathedral that you can hang out in. I think there were some flowers in the area too that were popular with the photographers.
Temple Bar Neighborhood: This is the tourist neighborhood of Dublin. A lot of people think Temple Bar is a specific bar, but it's actually an entire neighborhood of windy cobblestone streets packed with bars and restaurants. You can find live entertainment pretty much everywhere, and a lot of places have Irish Dancers. See below for more info.
What we Missed:
Kilmainham Gaol – This is the number one attraction on Trip Advisor, and everyone I talk to that’s been has loved it. We went to buy tickets online the day we got there, only to find they were completely sold out, even on weekdays. Make absolutely sure that you buy tickets to this in advance of your trip.
Croke Park – they have a tour of the national stadium. This was recommended to me by a local, but we didn’t have time.
Where we ate/drank:
Elephant & Castle – This is a chain restaurant, but oh man was their food good. It’s right in the heart of the Temple Bar neighborhood so it’s definitely busy, but I’d highly recommend it if you can get a reservation. they only take them in person, so go earlier in the day and make a reservation and come back after a full day of running around. Definitely try the wings - we were skeptical about them being the best in the world, but they were pretty darn good.
Fire – We made reservations here based on a recommendation from a co-worker. They have amazing cocktails, and the building architecture is super unique. I think it used to be a train station or something, and the atmosphere is amazing. The food, however, is extremely overpriced and the service wasn't great. We got the expensive steaks, and they were not impressive. Completely lacking in flavor – even the sauce was underwhelming. I’d definitely say go check it out for drinks and/or dessert, but don’t bother eating dinner here. See below for pictures of the steak and birthday dessert.
FX Buckleys – we weren’t actually able to get a reservation at any of the locations in Dublin, but it was recommended by a co-worker and the fact that they were completely sold out tells me that this is a better spot than Fire.
Other restaurant recommendations from my coworkers that live there include Bunsen Burger, Musashi Sushi, The Fish Shop, and Leo Burdocks.
Drinking – Spent most of our time in Temple Bar. It was my birthday weekend and we only had the one night out, so we just took the easy option. It was a lot of fun, but it’s definitely the touristy area. We met people from all over the world, and the guitarist was playing American country music haha. Take from that what you will.
Here’s the list I got as recommendations for drinking and nightlife:
O’Donoghue’s Bar – Merrion Row – old traditional bar always draws a good crowd, especially from Thursday through to the weekend.
Hogan’s – Georges Street
Sophie’s Bar – Harcourt St – Nice rooftop bar and restaurant
Capitol Bar – Georges Street (cocktail bar)
The Hairy Lemon – Drury Street
37 Dawson Street – Dawson Street – Across from Fire Restaurant – nice nightclub in an amazing looking building.
Peruke & Periwig – Dawson Street – fancy cocktails – good for a visit pre-dinner in Fire Restaurant.
The Black Door – Harcourt Street - Over 28 years old Nightclub with live piano playing current and older music – opens until 5:30am ish.
Dtwo – Harcourt Street - Another option if the queue is too big to the black door.
Copper Face Jacks – Harcourt street – wouldn’t really recommend this but if you (bit more of a college / early 20s crowd) want to see a traditional messy Irish nightclub feel free to give it a go.
General Tips and Tricks:
Look into buying a Heritage Card – this is a good way to get entry into a lot of the historic places all over Ireland. You can get a great deal if you’re a student too.
One other place just outside of Dublin to visit is called Powerscourt Gardens and Waterfall. See below in the link for Waterford and Blarney for details on that.
For the continuation of our trip, see the following:
The Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula
Limerick, Galway and the coast