The capital of Ireland, Dublin has a special place in my heart. Not only was it the first location of my first independent trip to Europe (accompanied by my best friend), but after six trips there, it is a city where I always want to keep returning. Ireland has completely stolen my heart, and Dublin is one of the reasons why. Wondering how to spend a weekend in Dublin? Look no further!
Getting There: Getting into Dublin is fairly easy. Dublin Airport is one of the cheaper European airports to fly into for Americans (I typically save ~$100-200 by flying into Dublin instead of London, for example), and as the base of budget airline Ryanair, it is connected to a wide variety of cities across Europe with cheap flights. If you’re coming into the city by airport, the Airlink Bus #747 (6€ one-way or 10€ return) takes you from the airport terminals to several different stops throughout the city center. If you’re coming by rail, Dublin has two train stations (connected by the Luas tram): Connolly Station and Heuston Station. The coach station Busáras has services throughout Ireland, mainly through the big national coach company Bus Eireann. Dublin is a small and compact city, and almost all the big locations in the city center are easily within walking distance.
Dublin has lots to offer, and a weekend is only enough to really see the main sites! Here are my best picks for what to do in Dublin:
In terms of landmarks, you can’t miss the Spire, the O’Connell statue, and the Ha’penny Bridge as you meander through the city center. Grafton Street is great for shopping and is usually filled with street performers. St. Stephen’s Green and Phoenix Park (don’t miss the giant obelisk, the Wellington Monument!) are wonderful parks.
My favorite park is definitely Merrion Square. It’s cuter, quieter, and quainter than its larger cousin, St. Stephen’s Green, and also has a statue of Oscar Wilde. For the literary fans, his house is located at the corner of the park. If the weather’s nice, pack yourself a boozy picnic and enjoy!
Trinity College is a must-see, either on a guided tour with a student or on your own. Make sure you pay for the Book of Kells tour—while the book and exhibition are cool, the showstopper is really getting to see the Great Library on your way out.
Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are both beautiful, old cathedrals and both worth a visit. If you don’t want to pay admission fees, visit during an Evensong service or another regular service! Dublin Castle was established in 1204 by King John, and today is an interesting mixture of old castle and present-day modernity.
Kilmainham Gaol provides a fascinating, in-depth, and personal insight to the struggles of the Irish as they fought for their independence. It is definitely worth the long walk there!
You just can’t come to Ireland and not notice the national pastime of the Irish: drinking. The Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s biggest tourist attraction. Even if you don’t like beer, it’s still fun to see Arthur Guinness’ 9000-year lease and learn the history of the company that’s synonymous with dark beer around the world. During the tour, make sure you stop to pour your own pint, and enjoy the view from the Skyline Bar—complimentary pint in hand!
If you’re a whiskey drinker, welcome to Dublin and welcome to the good life! The Jameson Distillery is, of course, home to the finest whiskey in the world courtesy of the love of my life, Mr. John Jameson. The tour of the old building gives a look into both the production of whiskey, and a history of the Jameson brand. It also includes a comparison between Irish, Scotch, and American whiskeys, as well as a free drink at the end!
The Irish Whiskey Museum is a new addition to Dublin’s boozy museum circuit, opening in the last couple of years. It gives an excellent overview of the history of whiskey in Ireland, as well as a tasting session with different Irish whiskies. The extra 3€ is worth it for an extra (and delicious) Irish whiskey during your tasting and a souvenir glass.
When it comes to drinking, anywhere in Temple Bar will give you a fun night out—just be prepared that, especially at the Temple Bar, drinks will be shockingly pricey.
One of my absolute favorite things to do in Ireland: live music at the pub. I love Irish music and could sit and listen all night every night. One of my favorite places in Dublin is The Celt, a great pub that does live music every night (located off of Lower Gardiner Street and Talbot Street). I’ve been going here for 5 years, every time I find myself in Dublin. Music starts around 9:00 or 9:30pm every night, but try to get there a bit early if you want to snag good seats. While there might be a fair amount of tourists, the music is always great! (And their food is delicious.) There are a million other pubs in Dublin that offer live music (especially on the weekends), so do your best to find a music session at least once.
The Turkish Kebab House (on Parnell St.) has doner kebabs for 3.50€. Cheapest kebabs in Dublin!!
There’s plenty more to see in Dublin if you have the time: there’s lots of museums near Merrion Square including the National Gallery of Ireland (free), National Museum of Ireland: Archaeology (free), and the National Museum of Ireland: Natural History (free). Also be sure to check out Ireland’s Parliament, Leinster House in the area. Other museums around the city include the Dublin Writer’s Museum, the National Leprechaun Museum, and EPIC Ireland: the Journey of a People, a new museum on the Irish diaspora.
If you’re lucky enough to have even more time… get out of Dublin and see the Irish countryside!
The small fishing village Howth is easily reached from Dublin either by the city bus (33/A) or by DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) train and is worth a few hours—the cliffside walk has wonderful views of both Howth and the sea. There are tons of tour companies that operate day trips to nearby cities and areas all around Ireland, so there will be plenty to choose from.
I also really enjoyed my Paddywagon tour to the Cliffs of Moher (even though the weather was so bad I almost got blown off the cliff).
The Basics: Dublin is the capital of Ireland, and has a population of about 530,000, and an urban population of about 1,273,000. Ireland is a member of the EU and uses the Euro, but is not in the Schengen zone. As the Ryanair headquarters, Dublin’s airport is exceptionally well connected across Europe (Aer Lingus is another good option for budget European flights). As Ireland is an island, it has the most connections with its neighboring island, Great Britain—ferries run frequently to Birkenhead (England) and Holyhead (Wales). Northern Ireland (and the capital, Belfast) is part of the United Kingdom and not the Republic of Ireland.
Getting Around: Everything in city center Dublin is within walking distance, although the Guinness Storehouse, Kilmainham Gaol, and Phoenix Park are all a bit of a trek. There is a good city bus system, as well as the Luas tram with two lines (red and green). Construction on a new tram line servicing the city center is well underway!
Where I Stayed: I’m 90% sure my favorite hostel in Dublin has closed, so I’m on the hunt for a new regular. I recently stayed at Kinlay House Hostel, which was a good price, good location (close to Temple Bar), and a huge kitchen and common room. You have to pay (2€) to leave your stuff during the day, which I really didn’t like. But security was good, and my private room (double ensuite) was clean and cozy. I’d stay here again, but I’m hoping to find someplace I like better. If you’re looking for a hotel, I’ve also stayed at the Ripley Court Hotel, which was all around excellent (especially their full Irish breakfast!).
Dublin is a wonderful weekend getaway: there’s lots to do, lots to drink, and the Irish people are some of the friendliest in the world. It is one place you can’t miss on a trip to the Emerald Isle!
Have you visited Dublin? What did you think?