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.
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.
St. 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.
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.
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!