Whether it’s a stop at the Guinness Factory, a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral or an afternoon in St. Stephen’s Green, Dublin immediately welcomes you with open arms and a cheery Irish grin, and will leave you wanting to come back for more. Trust me. I can’t stop going …
Dublin has a special place in my heart. I studied abroad in Ireland during college, and it was that magical, Irish summer when I fully discovered my inner explorer. I experienced Dublin top to bottom, left and right, with sober eyes and Guinness goggles, and fell in love over and over and … you get the picture.
Studying abroad in Dublin was the first time I visited Ireland, and given the fact two years later I traveled to the country twice in the same summer, you could say Ireland had me at hello.
All right, all right, so enough with my mushy love affair for Dublin. Let’s get to the good stuff.
St. Stephen’s Green
Whenever I visit a new city, I love checking out the parks. People from all walks of life and cultures visit the city parks — locals and tourists alike — and you have nearly endless opportunities for exploration.
St. Stephen’s Green in Dublin is no different. This 22-acre park has winding paths, ponds, statues, music, fountains and plenty of tree-shaded benches. The next best part? You’re steps from Grafton Street, an adorable cobblestone shopping street in the heart of downtown Dublin.
OK, so I have “Wanderbrew” on my blog’s menu bar … I think you get the fact I like beer. But I promise you, the Guinness Factory is more than just a place to drink beer. It’s a full, seven-story museum that takes you through the history of the world famous brand, the science behind the secret Guinness formula and the iconic advertising that helped the brand take off.
The bonus? You end the tour with 360-degree views of the city and the chance to finally get your hands on the perfect pint. My goodness, my Guinness!
Trinity College Library
If you love reading (check), old books (check, check), and history (check, check, check), then you’ll love the Trinity College Library. Unfortunately it’s not a freebie — you have to pay to get in — but it’s worth it to see Ireland’s largest library, the library’s Long Room which houses 200,000+ ancient books, and the famous 9th century gospel manuscripts, The Book of Kells.
If you make the trip to Trinity College Library, go beyond the books and wander around the picturesque campus. Its cobblestone streets and old buildings will take you back in time to the mid-to-late 1700s, when the world-renowned campus was built.
If the colorful façade doesn’t draw you in, the history of Ireland will! Dublin Castle is a must-visit for any travelers; it was built in the 13th century and served roles including military fortress, treasury, prison and the seat of the English Administration in Ireland. It is now used for State receptions and inaugurations. Visits require a guide (can be booked on site), and the average tour time is 45 minutes.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Whether you’re Catholic or not, a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral will make every Dublin itinerary complete. The Cathedral has interesting architecture and an interesting story, along with a peaceful grassy area for lounging and enjoying the architecture and views. We probably spent no more than 30 minutes exploring inside the cathedral, but I spent at least an hour relaxing in the park next door.
Old Jameson Distillery
Even if you don’t like whiskey, the Old Jameson Distillery is a great nod to Ireland’s traditional whiskey culture. The country is known for its strong whiskey, and when visiting with fans of the liquor (not me, I just can’t do it…) they loved the tour and even more so loved the tasting room at the end. I’d always go Guinness Factory over Jameson, but if you’re looking for a fun way to fill your days, Jameson is a good stop.
Live Music in Temple Bar
Now, this will probably get me a lot of groans from the local community, but I just loved the Temple Bar area! It’s overly touristy – like, a lot – but there’s also live Irish music and dancing in almost every bar (not to mention Irish beers on tap) so I still think it’s worth a visit – preferably at night. My favorite bar over here is the Quays, but you really won’t go wrong anywhere.
If you have time for a day trip, head out to the Wicklow Mountains for a day. This is where Hilary Swank went hiking in PS I Love You (oh, what a movie) and it’s just as beautiful as the movie makes it out to be – if not more. The best way to get out here would either be car or tour bus (we did a group trip for our university). Of course, while you’re out here in the wilderness you must get out of the car! Here are five walks to do in Wicklow, but be careful about going off path because your feet will sink deep into the muddy bogs.
If you want to splurge…
Stay at the Radisson Blu St. Helens Hotel. While this is outside the city center, it’s a quick and easy bus ride into city – and an incredibly magical place to enjoy your mornings and evenings. The Radisson Blu St. Helens Hotel has elaborate gardens and is surrounded by forests and University College Dublin (where I studied!). If you stay here, please, please try the salmon Caeser salad. While it sounds pretty lame, this salad is top notch and the salmon in Ireland is deee-licious.
Know before you go
Dublin is the capital city of Ireland (thank you, Captain Obvious), but don’t go expecting to get that small-town Irish feeling. While it has its own charms – and as I’ve noted, there are many – you won’t get the traditional Ireland experience that you would in say, Galway or Cork. It’s absolutely still worth seeing, but I’d recommend taking the train or bus out to the southern or western coasts to get the full effect of the Emerald Isle.