A Weekend Guide to Dublin for First-Timers

Whatever your plans are in Ireland, you’ll most likely start (or end) your trip in beautiful Dublin. And though many people visit Ireland for its gorgeous landscapes and small villages, Dublin is a fun city that deserves at least a day or two of your time.

On our recent trip to Ireland, we flew into Dublin on Saturday afternoon and spent two nights in the city before starting our road trip Monday morning. Even though our visit to Dublin was brief and we spent most of it in a jet-lagged fog, we thoroughly enjoyed our time in the historic city.

What to Do

Dublin

Dublin is smaller and more walkable than many other European capitals, such as Paris and Rome. But don’t let that fool you. There’s a lot to see in Dublin!

Here is our list of the best things to do in Dublin:

Explore St. Patrick’s Cathedral

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

Completed in 1191 on the site of a previous church, St Patrick’s Cathedral is considered the “National Cathedral of Ireland.” Like many ancient buildings, the Cathedral has undergone a tumultuous history, including a brief stint as a stable for Oliver Cromwell’s horse.

Today, St. Patrick’s Cathedral is an impressive medieval cathedral worth visiting. As an unashamed book nerd, I was excited to discover that Jonathan Swift was once the Cathedral’s dean.

Admission: €3 for adults; children are free.

St Patrick’s Close, Wood Quay, Dublin 8, Ireland

Visit Trinity College

The Long Room

The most prestigious university in the nation, Trinity College is Ireland’s equivalent of Oxford or Harvard. Queen Elizabeth I founded the college in 1592, and it counts some literary heavyweights among its alumni, including Oscar Wilde and Samuel Beckett.

The school’s biggest tourist draw is its famous Book of Kells, a medieval book of the Gospels dating to AD 800. Though the Book of Kells impressed us, our favorite part of our visit to Trinity College was exploring the Long Room, a library containing first edition books by Dickens, Austen, and other world-class authors.

A library attendant told us members of the public are allowed to read the books if they apply for library membership (though books must remain on the premises). I would drop dead of bliss if I could get my hands on a first edition Dickens novel, so that may be something to look into next time!

Admission to the Long Room: €10 for adults; €9 for students; children are free.

College Green, Dublin 2, Ireland

Relax in St. Stephen’s Green

Saint Stephen's Green

When your feet are throbbing and you’re ready for a break, St. Stephen’s Green, a lovely urban park, is the best place to kick back and relax.

Since we visited in chilly February, we took in the sights at a brisk walk so our toes didn’t freeze (but we still enjoyed it).

St Stephen’s Green, Dublin 2, Ireland

Shop on Grafton Street

Grafton Street

For retail therapy, head to Grafton Street. A pedestrian-only shopping thoroughfare, Grafton Street is always bustling with activity.

Of course, if you’ve read many of our posts you know we can be cheap responsibly frugal. But even though Sam and I didn’t plan to purchase anything, we enjoyed listening to the street musicians who perform there.

Cross the Ha’penny Bridge

Ha' Penny Bridge

Sam and I love beautiful bridges, and Dublin has them in abundance. The most iconic is the pedestrian-only Ha’penny Bridge, built in 1816, which spans the River Liffy. It was nicknamed “ha’penny” for the toll pedestrians used to pay to cross. Lucky for us, that toll has long-since been abolished.

Bachelors Walk, North City, Dublin, Ireland

Mail a postcard at the General Post Office

General Post Office

Though touring post offices is usually as high on my “must-do activities lists” for holidays as visiting the laundromat and dry cleaner, I made an exception for Dublin’s General Post Office. Not only is it an impressive work of Georgian architecture, but it holds a significant place in Irish history as well. During the Easter Rising of 1916, the General Post Office was the headquarters for the rising’s leaders. Though I wouldn’t recommend spending a whole afternoon there, it is worth a look.

Sam and I typically send home a postcard on any trip we take, so we figured the General Post Office was as good of place as any to post it!

O’Connell St Lower, North City, Dublin 1, Ireland

 Eat in a local pub

Temple Bar

No trip to Dublin would be complete without stopping in an Irish pub! Not only is the atmosphere lively, but pub food is typically delicious and affordable. The most famous pub in Dublin is the Temple Bar. We didn’t go inside, but I loved the bright red exterior. Though “touristy,” the surrounding area is worth exploring.

47-48 Temple Bar, Dublin 2, Ireland

 Listen to live Music

Vicar Street

Whether in a pub, on Grafton Street, or at a concert venue, listening to live Irish music is a requirement when visiting Dublin.

Sam’s favorite singer, Glen Hansard, happened to be performing at Vicar Street while we were in town. A true Dubliner, Glen Hansard got his start by busking on Grafton Street. We loved attending his show, especially since most of the other people there were locals.

Where to Stay

Baggot Court Town House

Staying in a central location is ideal in Dublin.

We chose Baggot Court Townhouse, a small guesthouse near St. Stephen’s Green. Our room was comfortable and the location was great. Even though we had a car available, we didn’t need it since everything we wanted to visit was close enough to walk (which was a relief since I’d rather go cage-free scuba diving with sharks than drive through Dublin).

The only downside to the Baggot Court Townhouse was that breakfast cost extra, whereas it was included in the room price for most of the other places we stayed.

92 Baggot Street Lower, Grand Canal Dock, Dublin 2, DO2 KV77, Ireland

Getting Around

Trinity College

Dublin is a compact city, and most of the main sights are located within walking distance of each other. If you choose a central hotel, you’ll likely do most of your transportation on foot.

If you’re unable to walk, taking the bus is the most economical option. Fares within the city are typically no more than a euro or two. And unlike other places in Europe, you can purchase your ticket on the bus. Exact change is preferable. Click here for more info on navigating Dublin’s bus system.

For sheer convenience, a taxi is a good, albeit significantly less economical, option. We took a taxi from our hotel to the concert. For the 15-minute drive, our cost was roughly €9 each way (we rounded up to the nearest euro). Since we were exhausted and traveling late at night, we decided the extra expense was justified. But the cost of taking taxis can add up quickly.

Dublin

We thoroughly enjoyed our brief visit to Dublin, and there are many places we didn’t have time to visit (such as the Dublin Writer’s Museum), which we hope to see next time we’re in the city.

What are your favorite things to do in Dublin?


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A Weekend Guide to Dublin

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