Happy hump day, peeps. I am seriously excited for today’s post because writing it has brought back so many memories from the week that I spent in Dublin two summers ago. So without further ado, here are all of the things I would do with three days in Dublin if someone would just pay for me to get over to Ireland again. (Shout out to student study abroad grants!)
I would recommend beginning your whirlwind trip south of the River Liffey. If you get to Trinity College Dublin early enough, the line to see the Book of Kells is manageable, and it really is worth the wait.
For those of you who aren’t familiar, the Book of Kells is one of the oldest illuminated manuscripts, which basically means monks handwrote the Biblical text and incorporated beautiful designs and pictures on every page. It’s really an amazing sight. Then you can walk through an exhibit that explains the meanings of some of the pictograms and explore Trinity College’s gorgeous library.
From there, it’s a quick stroll to Grafton Street, a bustling pedestrian walk that features scores of stores, from upscale clothing retailers to kitschy places to buy Irish souvenirs. Take the time to walk around and get a feel for Dublin, and then make a pit stop for lunch.
LUNCH: Bewley’s Café – Bewley’s is a great cafe for breakfast, lunch, even a coffee break. When I was last in Dublin, they had a theatre upstairs that put on truly fantastic one act plays. I would highly recommend it, especially since the price of admission includes soup and Irish brown bread for lunch!
Walk all the way to the end of Grafton Street, and you’ll pretty much run into St Stephen’s Green, one of Dublin’s beautiful green spaces. In Hyde Park fashion, you can find busts and monuments to some of the country’s most important authors, including William Butler Yates and James Joyce. Pack a lunch, take a book, and join what feels like a majority of Dubliners on a sunny afternoon.
Once you’ve had your fill of the outdoors, it’s just another short walk to where some of Dublin’s best museums are housed. As an Irish lit enthusiast, I had to experience the W.B. Yeats exhibit at the National Library, but I would also suggest the National Museum of Ireland, which is broken into four different buildings: Archaeology, Decorative Arts & History, Country Life, and Natural History.
The Archaeology Museum’s exhibit on bog bodies, corpses that were naturally preserved by Ireland’s extensive boys, are haunting but also fascinating. There are also tons of animals housed in the Natural History museum, which could be fun for kids.
DINNER: At this point, it’s probably time for dinner, so stop into a pub and fill up because you’re going on a pub crawl tonight! Dublin culture really centers around the pub and good beer, so it’s only right that you experience a bit of both while you’re there.
I would highly recommend the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl – you visit great pubs and places, and the tour guides/actors are genuinely funny.
Today, you’ll spend most of your time in the western part of the city. First stop, Kilmainham Gaol.
A former prison turned museum, this massive building is most famous as the place where the leaders of the Easter Rising of 1916 spent their final days. It’s a very poignant place, and one of the most important monuments to Irish independence and what it cost those who fought for it. The tour that we took of this building was extensive, and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in Irish history.
LUNCH: Guinness Storehouse – I must admit that during all of my time in Ireland, I never made it to St. James’s Gate. I did have a few pints of Guinness though, and it truly is better in Ireland than back across the pond. Take the tour and then stop into Gilroy’s for some lunch.
Besides Guinness and the famine, Ireland is probably most known for being predominantly Catholic. Therefore, the fact that Dublin has two gorgeous churches is no surprise. Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral are actually very close together, and I believe that they are both worth a visit during your three days in Dublin.
In Christ Church (pictured above), you don’t want to miss the crypt underneath. There’s a whole exhibit downstairs about the HBO series “The Tudors,” which was filmed extensively around Ireland. (I’ve been to two of their filming locations so far!) There’s also a mummified cat and rat pair that you have to see to believe.
St. Patrick’s (pictured below) also has a ton of history to offer and an outdoor park area with a wall dedicated to some of Ireland’s most famous authors.
DINNER: While I wouldn’t suggest eating dinner in Temple Bar for anyone on a budget (unless it’s market day), this more touristy area of the city is actually pretty fun to visit at night. If you’ve never had a Snakebite, the best of the beer cocktails, this is the perfect place to try one and take ridiculously attractive pictures like this one!
There’s so much to do in Dublin, but if you want to get a feel for the surrounding area there’s no better way than taking the DART out to the Sandymount stop. I went primarily to visit the James Joyce Tower and Museum, which is housed in one of the Martello towers that dot Ireland’s coast.
For anyone in the know about Joyce and his classic (but patience-trying) novel Ulysses, the first chapter took place in that very tower. They even have it set up like it would have been according to Joyce’s words. Whether you’re a lit junkie or not, the coast is beautiful, and it gives you just the slightest hint of what lies outside of Dublin because I’ve lived in two very different Irelands during my trips.
LUNCH/SNACK: Murphy’s Ice Cream – No, this isn’t technically lunch, but with flavors like brown bread and orange marmalade, you can definitely convince yourself that it is. When I spent a month abroad on the Dingle peninsula, there was a Murphy’s, so finding it in Dublin made my trip. Absolutely fantastic ice cream! You will not be disappointed.
Isn’t it about time we crossed over to the north side of the River Liffey? One of the most iconic landmarks in Dublin in the GPO, or General Post Office. It’s where the bulk of the Easter Rising took place and today stands as a symbol for Irish independence.
It’s a real, working post office now, which seems odd given its significance, and they also have a cute little museum about the Irish postal system and its history. I bought stamps here and sent mail to my peeps back home. I think Sarah was the only one who got how cool it was for me to post from the GPO!
There are also some cool museums north of the Liffey, including the Dublin Writers Museum, so just take some time to explore. St. Mary’s Pro Cathedral is another beautiful church, and surprisingly it’s the only remaining Catholic congregation in the city! (I bet you thought St. Patrick’s and Christ Church were, too, didn’t you?)
DINNER: I’ll tell you what my thesis advisor told me before I went on this trip: get some Chinese food north of the Liffey. That’s right, Ireland has had its own influx of immigrants in recent years, and I have to say the Chinese food that I had was fantastic. You’re welcome.
And finally, you cannot spend three days in Dublin without seeing a play! The theatre scene is such a pervasive part of the culture. I’d suggest anything showing in the Abbey Theatre or the Gate Theatre. All the history at the Abbey and then the beautiful architecture inside the Gate? You really can’t go wrong. Plus you’ll get this gorgeous view crossing back over the River Liffey!
Things You Should Know:
- Dublin is perfect for tourists because it is definitely a walking city. For times you need to get out further (to Phoenix Park or out to the coast), there is the DART railway and a pretty cheap bus system as well. I believe there is one of the touristy pick-up and drop-off bus companies as well, but I don’t know much regarding it.
- I love Dublin because Dublin loves its writers. If you’re also a literature enthusiast, there are so many other things to do that I didn’t touch on in this post.
- To this day, Ireland is closely tied to its history, so do yourself a favor and read up on it before traveling to Dublin. Your experiences and all of the sights will mean even more to you when you know the basics about how Dublin was founded, what it was like under English rule, and the difficult road the country took to get where it is today.
I know I’ve said this before, but I would visit Ireland every single year if I had the chance. Also if the U.S. government ever decided to kick me out of the country indefinitely, you could find me splitting my time between Dingle and Dublin. (If you can’t tell, I’m a big fan of this city.) I hope if you ever get a chance to visit this little slice of heaven, you’ll be able to use some of my suggestions!