30 Sep 3 Days in Dublin
13 months ago, we packed everything into two suitcases apiece and moved across the pond from Austin, Texas to Dublin, Ireland. It all started the summer prior when Aidan (whose dad is from Co. Mayo) applied for his Irish passport and we took a trip there to visit their family.
Ireland is kind of like the guy or gal next door you never expected to fall madly in love with until one day, you’re sitting on the bleachers together after all the football players and cheerleaders went home. It’s a country I admittedly never prioritized visiting before meeting Aidan, but that little island blew me away with its natural beauty, its culture, and its people.
I’d been thinking about going to graduate school for a while, which sucks up two years of your life and all your money in the States. When we returned from our trip, a lightbulb went off. Isn’t school a hell of a lot cheaper in Europe, and oftentimes better? I found a one-year marketing master’s program at the University College Dublin at half the price of anything in the States, applied, and received an acceptance letter within two weeks that allowed me only two weeks to decide.
We stayed up late that night hashing out the pros and cons. Aside from the stressful logistics of moving abroad, there was no real reason why we shouldn’t take the leap. We kept talking ourselves out of it and dancing back around to a resounding “why the hell not?” So we hosted a boozy yard sale in our apartment and sold everything, went home to the east coast for a couple of weeks, and gladly kissed Trump’s America goodbye.
Just over a year later, I’m sitting back in my family’s home in Vermont feeling like none of this ever really happened. We made wonderful friends through my graduate program, explored the perimeter of Ireland almost in its entirety (and drove straight across the country many a time), hosted more friends and family than we can count on our collective fingers, and hopped on Ryanair flights to amazing cities all over Europe.
It was the kind of year many people dream of and most people never get to have. With that kind of pressure, there’s bound to be regrets, but we did our best to balance acclimating, traveling, and hosting.
Dublin is a great city with so much to offer. The types of hipster bars and eateries we’d grown accustomed to in Austin are popping up by the minute, and the music scene is arguably the best in the world. Lively trad sessions are contained within even the most unassuming of pubs, and there are so many on every block that you’d be wise to follow your heart instead of your phone from time to time.
Dublin also has fabulous museums, many of which are free, the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery, surprisingly good food (you can expect to gain one kg per day), great theatre and nightlife. Still, if you can visit Ireland for more than a few days we encourage you to spend two or three nights in Dublin and then drive out to see the countryside. Check out our itineraries on the Ring of Kerry, Galway and Doolin, and Northern Ireland before planning your Ireland trip!
Based on our glorious year of eating and drinking way too much, here’s my best stab at three perfect days in Dublin:
When to go: If good weather matters to you and you don’t mind bigger crowds, May – September is your window. (July and August are the busiest and the best weather-wise.)
If you want to spend all your time in old man pubs, don’t care if it’s light outside, and would prefer more empty seats and cheaper flights, then g’wan over in the winter. Some of our friends flew Norwegian from Boston/TF Green in December for just over $200 roundtrip.
Where to stay: Anywhere between the Temple Bar area and St. Stephen’s Green has you right in the center of town. Just north of the river between O’Connell Street and Connolly Station will be cheaper and still super walkable to everything. To the south, the Portobello neighborhood down through Rathmines is the Brooklyn of Dublin if you don’t mind being a bit farther from the city center and want to chill like the locals.
Day 1 (any kind of day weather-wise): Downtown walking tour, Archeology museum, Rathmines or traditional Irish pub crawl
Get situated where you’re staying, nap if needed, and let the exploring commence. The sights to include on this walking tour are listed from north to south, but can be done in either order:
Walk along the River Liffey and check out all of the beautiful pedestrian bridges.
Cross the river at the Ha’penny Bridge and walk through Temple Bar. Note: Temple Bar is both a bar and an area of town. It’s worth popping into the bar itself for one drink if the music sounds good, and there’s an outdoor patio in the warm months, or you can snap a pic of the adorable facade and call it a day.
Next, walk around the spectacular Trinity College grounds. You can pay a fee to walk through their Beauty & The Beast-esque library and view the Book of Kells.
Walk down to Dame Street and wander around this gorgeous street as much as you’d like, swinging through the beautiful George’s Arcade for coffee, snacks, and souvenirs:
Then make your way down to Dublin Castle. You can take a tour of the castle’s interior or just check it out from the outside.
Spend a couple of hours in the National Museum of Archeology next. It’s free, full of ancient treasures like badass Viking weaponry, and has actual human bodies that were naturally preserved for centuries in the Irish bogs. The National Gallery is also nearby and is also free! Note: These museums close at 5 pm.
Continue south and stroll through St. Stephen’s Green, a beautiful public park once owned by the Guinness family. Just beside the park is Grafton Street, a famous shopping street lined with buskers and street performers.
Just south of St. Stephen’s Green, walk through the fairytale Iveagh Gardens. If you’re the picnicking type, order a spread of the finest local foods at Fallon & Byrne just off Grafton Street to bring into these parks with you.
From here you can continue south to hit a few hip bars in Rathmines, including The Bernard Shaw, Two Fifty Square, and The Blackbird, and/or create your own pub crawl from the pubs listed at the end of this post to drink your way back up north. O’Donoghues is our all-time favorite and a great place to start if you’re near St. Stephen’s, but if you can go there on a Sunday during the day instead you’ll witness an incredible trad session:
Day 2 (your best day weather-wise): Howth day trip
Howth is a beautiful coastal town north of Dublin. We recommend this trip no matter what, but especially if you won’t have another opportunity to tour Ireland’s rugged and majestic coastal landscape. You can take the Dart straight to Howth (the last stop on the line) and walk through the sweet little town. Then head up the hill hugging the water—you can usually follow a hoard of people if you don’t know where you’re going—for a gorgeous walk along the sea.
The full cliff walk is actually an eight-mile loop, though we never hiked the whole thing. The miniature loop most people choose only takes a couple of hours. Be on the lookout for seals!
Back in town, reward yourself with a 99 at Ann’s. For either lunch or dinner, depending on when you make the trip, there are fantastic seafood restaurants in Howth. The Brass Monkey is tops, boasting one of the best seafood chowders we had all year (and we had many):
If seafood isn’t your thing, The Dog House nestled just behind the Howth Dart station is an eclectic spot with comfy living room furniture serving wine (or you can bring in your own beer), a tea menu, appetizers, and brick oven pizzas:
You can spend as few as 4-5 hours in Howth, or spend the whole day doing the full hike, renting paddle boards, and having drinks along the water. Either way, once you’re back in Dublin you can pop into one or five of the pubs on the list at the end of this post, or discover your own.
Day 3 (your worst day weather-wise): Kilmainham Gaol, Guinness Storehouse, Jameson Distillery
Grab breakfast at one of the many great spots on our restaurant list below, then head to Kilmainham Gaol for a tour. You need to book these tours of the old jail in advance. This is our favorite history/museum experience in Dublin.
We recommend starting at the jail since it’s pretty heavy, then you can lighten the mood at the Guinness Storehouse. No need to book in advance there; you can waltz in anytime, ascend the pint-shaped museum at your leisure, and enjoy your pint included with the ticket in the gravity bar on top.
If you’re a Jameson fan, why not visit the Jamo Distillery next? These tickets also don’t need to be booked in advance. If you’re all toured out, head to Dublin’s oldest bar The Brazen Head nearby. They’ve got good pub food, or if you’d like something more upscale in the area, L. Mulligan Grocer is divine (and requires making a rezzie in advance).
Staying on the west side of town in the Smithfield neighborhood, end your Dublin trip with traditional Irish music in a fine establishment that locals have loved for many years, The Cobblestone.
Below are our lists of Dublin’s very best for you to reference on-the-go. Feel free to comment with any questions or for additional recs! Sláinte!
The Pubs You Mustn’t Miss:
O’Donoghue’s (both locations are good, but the one on Merrion Row is best)
The Long Hall
The Best Eats:
Brother Hubbard $$
Exchequer $$ (If you will be in town on a Sunday with 3-6 people, make a reservation at least a week in advance here for the Sunday roast. Get the beef. This easily makes the Top 5 Best Meals We’ve Ever Had.)
Fallon & Byrne $$$
L. Mulligan Grocer $$$
Market Bar $
Murphy’s Ice Cream $
Queen of Tarts $
San Lorenzo’s $$
The Winding Stair $$$
Woolen Mills $$
More Pubs We Love:
Bernard Shaw (best outdoor spot for chillin’ when the weather’s good)
Brazen Head (oldest bar in Dublin)
Cassidy’s (hipster haven with board games)
Gingerman (don’t miss this place around any holiday)
Mary’s Bar & Hardware Shop
No Name Bar
Palace Bar (traditional music on Tuesday nights)
P Macs (another hipster haven with board games, also has awesome food)
Toner’s (great indoor and outdoor areas)
Two Fifty Square (awesome cafe, food, and bar)
The Celt (traditional music nightly)
The George (great gay bar, the best place for dancing)
Bray coastal day trip
Dun Laoghaire coastal day trip
Howth coastal day trip
Little Museum of Dublin
National Museum – Archeology
Trinity College Library / Book of Kells
PSA: Do not go to the Leprechaun Museum. Just trust us on this.