This article is part of our Trip Report, A Summer Holiday in Ireland & Scotland.
The countryside of Ireland is amazing, and as this Trip Report has covered already, some of its sights are spectacular. I could wander about the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland for days. Dublin, though, is just a big city. There are some cool things to do and see, for sure, and I’ll cover them here. But if I were planning a week-to-ten-day trip to Ireland, I wouldn’t spend more than a day in Dublin. And now that I’ve been to Dublin, I wouldn’t spend any more time there at all, save perhaps for a night to catch a plane out of Dublin airport on my way home.
For one day, here are 5 classic things to do and see in Dublin … (1) Go tour the Guinness brewery (or the Jameson distillery if you prefer whisky); (2) swing by St. Patrick’s Cathedral if you have time; (3) walk through Trinity College and see the Book of Kells; (4) have dinner and drinks in the Temple Bar area and listen to some Irish music (and if you can, have drinks at one of our all-time favorite bars, The Bank on College Green, which we like so much I’ll write about it separately!); and (5) go shopping on Grafton Street. Really, that’s all you need. Spend the rest of your vacation time in Ireland out and about, exploring the Irish countryside and the smaller towns.
Our Time in Dublin
As I’ve alluded to in other articles in this Trip Report, we were in Dublin twice during this vacation. We were first there for one night, arriving in time for dinner and leaving the next morning to catch a flight to Edinburgh. On that part of our trip, we literally only had time to walk around the Temple Bar area and grab some dinner at one of the restaurants there, with a side of some lively Irish music.
Our second stay in Dublin covered two nights and one day. We arrived in the evening, and we had one full day to sightsee and explore before we left early the next morning to fly home. In fairness to Dublin, we were pretty tired by this visit, the last day of our trip after covering a lot of ground and seeing some spectacular sights in Edinburgh and all over the Irish island. During the morning and early afternoon we milled about the cobbled streets of the Temple Bar area, we went to Trinity College, and we shopped. By mid-afternoon, our girls were dead tired and headed back to the hotel for a nap. They were so tired that they didn’t leave the hotel until the next morning to catch our flight home. Philly and I soldiered on. We relaxed with a drink in the basement bar (the Mint Bar) at the Westin Dublin, we moved on to The Bank on College Green to watch the Euro 2016 soccer match between Ireland and Sweden with the locals, and then we took a long walk along the banks of the River Liffey past the Custom House, with a stop at a Chinese restaurant for dinner on our way back.
Philly & I had also spent three days in Dublin back in early September 2012, when we were there for the Notre Dame vs Navy football game. I’ll also draw on our experience back then for this article.
5 Classic Things to Do and See in Dublin
Here are our tips on 5 classic things to do and see in Dublin:
(1) Tour the Guinness Storehouse
Probably the quintessential activity for an American tourist in Dublin is to take a tour of the Guinness Storehouse. Philly & I took the tour on our visit to Dublin in 2012. Although we’re not big beer drinkers, we enjoyed the tour, even if we may have underappreciated the samples of Guinness’ finest brews.
The tour itself was interesting, as a guide led us through the seven stories of the Storehouse. The guide and exhibits take you through the history of Guinness and their processes for brewing the signature Guinness stout as well as its other stouts, lagers and ales. The exhibits are good and engaging, but the highlight for many visitors will be the tasting room at the end of the tour. My recollection is that the tour took about an hour and a half.
Of course, the Guinness Storehouse includes a “Retail Experience” where you can purchase most any Guinness-branded merchandise you can think of. They don’t miss much when it comes to selling you some goodies.
The Guinness Storehouse is open every day except for December 24 through 26. Hours are 9:30 am to 7:00 pm (last admission 5:00 pm) for most of the year, with expanded hours of 9:00 am to 8:00 pm (last admission 6:00 pm) during July and August. As of June 2018, walk-up tickets are 25 Euros per person. Discounts are available if you purchase tickets online in advance, up to 30% (from 19.50 Euros) depending on the day and time slot.
If you’re thinking about walking to the Guinness Storehouse from the center activity around Trinity College and Temple Bar, be aware that it’s a long and not-very-exciting walk. Google Maps estimates the walk from Trinity College to Guinness at about 30 minutes and about 1.3 miles (2.1 km). And there’s not a whole lot to see along the way. We plotted our walking route to take us by St. Patrick’s Cathedral on the way back, but otherwise there wasn’t much to see. Even for active travelers like us who walk a lot, you might consider a cab or rideshare to Guinness.
(2) Visit St. Patrick’s Cathedral
As I mentioned, we swung by St. Patrick’s Cathedral on our walk back from the Guinness Storehouse. Unfortunately for us, we arrived too late to go in, so we really didn’t get to visit. The best we could do was get a picture from the outside.
You, dear Middle Age Miles reader, will do better than we did. You will know the hours in advance, and you will get to enjoy the beautiful gothic cathedral of the patron saint of Ireland, the National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland. Here are the hours as of June 2018:
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is west-southwest of the Trinity College / Temple Bar area. It’s a 15-20 minute walk, and it’s a little less than a mile.
(3) See Trinity College and The Book of Kells
Perhaps only second to the Guinness Storehouse among tourist attractions in Dublin is The Book of Kells, located at Trinity College. (Or perhaps first, I’m not quite sure!) We haven’t actually seen it; the wait was far too long and frankly, it wasn’t clear to us whether it would be worth it.
The Book of Kells contains the four Gospels, written in Latin on vellum (prepared calfskin) and exquisitely decorated. Scholars seem unsure of the exact date when it was written and illustrated, but Trinity College says it was roughly the year 800. Trinity College says that the Book of Kells is “Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript.” I’ll direct you to the official Trinity College website for a more in-depth explanation of why the Book of Kells is famous and other details.
Tickets to the Book of Kells exhibit may be purchased online through the Trinity College website. Opening hours and ticket prices are shown here:
When we were at Trinity College on a weekday in mid-June 2016, walk-up tickets were available, but the wait time was an hour and a half.
Aside from the Book of Kells, Trinity College is quite famous in and of itself. It was founded in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I as one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland, and it is generally considered to be the most prestigious university in Ireland as well as one of the finest universities in Europe and the world. We love visiting college campuses, so it was fun to just walk around the courtyards of Trinity and admire the buildings and surroundings. So even if you don’t go for the Book of Kells exhibit, take some time to enjoy the campus.
(4) Have Dinner & Drinks in the Temple Bar Area
The Temple Bar area is party central in Dublin. By day, it’s a charming spot, with narrow cobblestone streets, limited vehicle traffic (except when you get up to College Green/Dame Street), lots of shops, and even more restaurants and pubs.
Here is a general outline of the Temple Bar area:
And here is a closer-up map of the Temple Bar area so you can see in details of the many shops, restaurants and pubs:
We don’t really have a specific recommendation for any of the various restaurants and pubs in the Temple Bar area – just pick one that has some good Irish music playing, go in, kick back, and enjoy. (That said, we do highly recommend drinks at The Bank on College Green, which I’ll talk about in a separate article.) And if you want to party into the wee hours of the morning, Temple Bar will be there for you. Good times. (Hopefully.)
Is the Temple Bar area touristy and maybe a little cheesy? Yes and yes. But is it also fun, lively and entertaining? Yes, yes and yes! If you’re in Dublin, you have to go.
(5) Go Shopping on Grafton Street
For the shoppers in your group, the place to go in Dublin is Grafton Street. Start from the main (west) entrance to Trinity College, make your way down Grafton Street, and end up at Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. You should find all the shopping your heart desires, from basic souvenir shops to sporting goods to high-end luxury brands.
Here’s a map of the route:
And here are some of the places you’ll encounter along the way:
- Aran Sweater Market
- Molton Brown
- Massimo Dutti
- JD Sports
- The Disney Store
- United Colours of Benetton
It’s not Rodeo Drive, but your shoppers will have a good time. I picked up an Irish national team rugby jersey. But the shirt I really wanted was the “new” Irish soccer jersey. That one hadn’t been officially released yet, so I had to wait until I got home and order it online a few weeks later. I’m still telling everyone I got it in Ireland. Shhhhhh!
Other Things to Do in Dublin
We haven’t gotten to do any of these, but you might also consider these bonus suggestions:
- A tour of the Jameson whiskey distillery – I’ve heard a lot of people say they enjoyed this. It seems like a good alternative to the Guinness Storehouse tour – or if you like your drinks enough, a good addition!
- A visit to St. Stephen’s Green – St. Stephen’s Green is Dublin’s flagship city park, 22 acres of greenery in the heart of the city.
- Visits to the National Musuem of Ireland – Natural History and/or the National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology. These are both conveniently located near the heart of other tourist attractions in Dublin, basically between Trinity College and St Stephen’s Green.
Have you enjoyed any of these classic Dublin attractions? What other tips do you have for Middle Age Miles readers in Dublin? Let us know in the comments!