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A First Timer’s Guide to Dublin

As we approach St. Patrick’s Day, I cannot think of anywhere I would rather be than Ireland. The country casts a spell with its culture, hospitality and greenery and I am itching to return. Most first time visitors to Ireland start in Dublin. An incredibly historic and literary city, Dublin could keep you occupied for weeks, although most visitors do not have much time to dedicate solely to Dublin. Here are some highlights of the Irish capital if you only have a few days.

See the Sights

There is no shortage of things to do in Dublin, and it boasts quite the variety of activities. I could have spent a week there and not seen it all; however, even with only a few days you can still see the highlights.

Guinness Storehouse:  It goes without saying that the Guinness Storehouse is the number one attraction in Dublin, and for good reason! As a self-guided museum, complete with Guinness tastings, it teaches you an incredible amount about the art of brewing and the history of Guinness. Do you know that Arthur Guinness signed a 9,000 year lease for £45 a year in 1759? The original lease is still on display at the storehouse. Your admission comes with a free pint of Guinness at the end and you can head to either the 6th floor or the Sky Bar to cash it in. Head to the Sky Bar! With a 360-degree view of Dublin, it is one of the best views of the city on a clear day.

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Trinity College and the Book of Kells: As a world-renowned academic institution, Trinity College is worth visiting for its history and architecture; however, another reason to visit is to see the Book of Kells. Located at Trinity College, you can while you are on campus. Yes, every guidebook will tell you to go here, and I am telling you too. The illuminated gospel manuscript is incredible to read about, with interesting facts about how the stories were passed down and an analysis of the symbols and colors used throughout the stories. When you are done taking in the gospels, make sure you marvel at the surroundings. The Old Library is one of the most magnificent places I have ever seen. Make sure you leave plenty of time to visit, you will most likely have to wait in line before you are allowed in.

Kilmainham Gaol: This was my favorite attraction in Dublin, and one that often flies under the radar for first time visitors. A former prison for housing Irish rebels, the museum now tells the story of the Irish struggle for independence. It is one of the largest unoccupied gaols (jails) in Europe, but is filled with tragic stories and events that are such an important part of Irish history. It can border on morbid at times, but the history is enthralling. For movie buffs, if you have seen the original “The Italian Job” or “Michael Collins,” both movies have scenes at Kilmainham Gaol. If you in Dublin on the weekend, these tours can sell out so make sure you buy your tickets early.

DSCN1571_2St. Patrick’s Cathedral: The historic cathedral speaks for itself. As the largest church in Ireland and named after the country’s patron saint, it is an impressive building to visit. There are memorials and burials for hundreds of people and the cathedral is still a place of worship. A small entrance fee is required to enter, but if you wish to attend one of the services, admission is free.

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Embrace the Culture

Irish people are some of the most hospitable you will ever meet. Part of the culture is embracing the stories of the Irish people, having a long pub lunch and listening to live music.

Temple Bar: Most visitors to Dublin have heard of Temple Bar as it still remains the cultural hot spot. The cobblestone streets help retain the area’s charm and offer plenty of places to eat, drink and listen to live music. The area also offers a variety of festivals and markets throughout the year. Gallagher’s Boxty House is a great place for Irish stews and O’Neill’s offers a cafeteria-style meal and is a good option for lunch. A genuine place to find live music is Stag’s Head. Take in the atmosphere and the music and embrace what it is to be in Dublin.

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How to Get Around

Similar to most big cities, car is not the most efficient way to get around Dublin as parking can be tricky. Tired and jetlagged from our international flight, we jumped on the Dublin City hop-on hop-off bus tour. The guides were funny, enthusiastic and knowledgeable and it was not only a great way to get the lay of the land, but it took us everywhere we needed to go. The reach of the tours is extensive and it provides the flexibility to get on and off as you please. There is a red and green bus, multiple different routes and over twenty stops destined to fit your timing and needs.

Where to Stay

There are ample places to stay in Dublin, but I can only recommend the one I stayed in, The Fitzwilliam Hotel. Centrally located across from St. Stephen’s Green, the beautiful boutique hotel was comfortable and the staff was amongst the friendliest I had ever encountered. Great restaurants, pubs and sights were in walking distance, and I would recommend it to anyone visiting Dublin.

What are some of your favorite places in Dublin? I know I missed a lot, but I plan on returning so leave some suggestions! 

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10 Comments Post a comment
  1. We didn’t experience as much of the culture as I would have liked but come nighttime, we were both so beat!

    Great things you listed-I didn’t make it to the Gaol and it’s still something I regret not doing especially being a big history nerd.

    Some other ideas would be
    -Jameson Distillery (totally different from Guinness, more traditional tour, but the tasting was really cool 🙂
    -Saint Michan’s Church (it’s on the North Side, the church is rather unimpressive but they have mummies in the crypt!)
    -I loved the walk we went on that was about the Easter Rebellion! So fascinating especially since Irish history isn’t really taught in American school curriculum. The guide was also phenomenal.
    -Just for something different, we took the DART out to Killiney to “hike” up Killiney Hill park-utterly gorgeous views at the top of the countryside and sea. Nothing else to do there but the view was worth it 🙂

    March 13, 2014
    • These are awesome suggestions, Julie! I’m particularly interested in the walk on the Easter Rebellion. That would be right up with my alley! I will definitely be trying these next time I’m in Dublin! I did not have enough time in the city and need to return!

      March 15, 2014
  2. I’m glad I’ve read this post. It’s good to know Dublin has more to offer than just a Guinness! 🙂 I didn’t know it’s such a historical place!

    March 13, 2014
    • Yes, Agness it is so much more than just Guinness! It such a historical and literary city. I did not have enough time to see everything, I would love to go back and explore more, especially the literary aspects!

      March 15, 2014
  3. Yep, it would be a great place to be on Monday! I was only there for about 6 hours before moving on inland and only saw the Guinness Storehouse and the pubs while there. Think I need to get back…

    March 14, 2014
    • There are so many interesting things to see, Richard. I was quite impressed! I was there for 2.5 days and barely scratched the surface. I would love to go back and see more of the attractions (and more of the pubs too!).

      March 15, 2014
  4. This is a great guide! Definitely bookmarking. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy travels 🙂

    March 21, 2014
    • Thanks, Lauren! Dublin is a great city and definitely worth more than the 2.5 days I planned for it. I cannot wait to go back and explore more!

      March 23, 2014
  5. Joanie #

    These are some great recommendations. The best way to see Dublin is the Hop–Off Hop-on tour. The bus will take you past the major sites. Get a good seat on top, enjoy the view, listen to the commentary, snap away and get off and on as many times as you like. My biggest regret was not getting to the James Joyce Tower and Museum.

    March 21, 2014
    • Yes, Joanie I agree! The hop-on hop-off bus in Dublin was one of the better ones that I have been on. I loved how it took you to all the big sites and made the transportation easy when you had just arrived in the city. I did not make it to the James Joyce Museum either, a big regret of mine as well. It will be first on the list of things to do on my return trip!

      March 23, 2014

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