I first visited Dublin with a few friends in February 2012 and instantly fell in love with the city. We stayed at a cool hostel named Jacob’s Inn (great location btw) and had a blast participating in pub crawls and making new friends along the way. Fast forward 4 years and I’ve found myself on the Emerald Isle once more. This time around I was traveling with family, so we made sure to take advantage of the historic scene (and not so much the bar scene, lol); I got to see some new attractions and learned a lot about Dublin on this trip. May is a good time to visit Ireland – the weather wasn’t too cold and we got lucky with barely any rain – if you’re hoping for warmer weather plan your visit during summer (June/July/August).
1. Guinness Storehouse
No trip to Dublin is complete without a visit to the Guinness Storehouse! Make sure to reserve your ticket ahead of time to skip the line at the entrance. Your entrance fee includes a free pint of Guinness, which you can redeem at several different locations throughout the storehouse; a word to the wise – use your ticket at the Guinness Academy (because who doesn’t want a certificate saying they can pour the perfect pint?) and then take your glass in the elevator up to the Gravity Bar, where you can sip on your beer and enjoy panoramic views of the city. There’s a lot to see at this attraction – plan to give yourself several hours to take it all in!
2. Kilmainham Gaol – Prison & Museum
The prison is within walking distance of the Guinness Storehouse so plan to visit these two attractions on the same day. It’s probably best to visit the prison first in the morning (because when you purchase your tickets you have to reserve a specific time) and then head to the storehouse afterwards. Kilmainham Gaol is best known as the site where the leaders of the rebellions of 1798, 1803, 1848, 1867 and 1916 were imprisoned…and many times executed. 2016 marks the 100th anniversary of the 1916 Easter Rising, an event that triggered a series of events eventually leading to the creation of the modern-day Republic of Ireland. The museum is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike – I would recommend purchasing your tickets ahead of time to be safe; the day we visited the museum all of the tours were booked so only people with prepaid tickets were admitted. You may also be surprised by the amount of movies that have been filmed at the prison; the museum opened the location for filming to help generate funds for restoration costs. Some of the most famous films include The Italian Job, In the Name of the Father, Michael Collins, The Adventures of the Young Indiana Jones, and more!
3. Trinity College – Campus
Trinity is one of the seven ancient universities of Britain and Ireland – as well as the oldest university in Ireland. The campus is full of beautiful buildings and sculptures to admire and it’s open to the public so definitely stroll across the grounds and enjoy the sights!
4. Trinity College Library – The Book of Kells
Trinity College Library is one of the world’s great research libraries because it holds the largest collection of manuscripts and printed books in Ireland. Within the library’s treasury you’ll find several Irish medieval gospel manuscripts, the most famous being the Book of Kells. The book is believed to have been produced in the 9th century and is considered one of Ireland’s most precious medieval artifacts; it’s one of the finest surviving illuminated manuscripts to have been produced in medieval Europe. Apart from the beautiful books the Long Room is pretty spectacular in itself; it houses around 200,000 of the library’s oldest books along with a 15th century Irish harp and an original copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. You will definitely want to take some photos of the Long Room – it looks like something out of a Harry Potter movie! You can purchase your entrance ticket at the library; there’s usually a line but it moves quickly – they offer student and senior discounts too.
5. Temple Bar
You definitely need to check out Temple Bar while you’re in the city; it’s popular with locals and tourists alike and is known as Dublin’s cultural quarter. You’ll find live music, tons of pubs, shops, restaurants and a fun atmosphere for a night out on the town. Make sure to get a picture outside the Temple Bar Pub and eat a burger at Bunsen too (Bunsen is next door to the pub).
6. Molly Malone
You’ve probably heard the song “Molly Malone” (also known as “Cockles and Mussels” or “In Dublin’s Fair City”); the song tells of a young Irish woman in the 17th century named Molly who is a fishmonger by day and prostitute by night. The song became the unofficial anthem of Dublin City and although it seems experts still haven’t been able to confirm if Molly was a real person or not, June 13th is Molly Malone Day. You can see Molly for yourself on Grafton Street near Trinity College.
7. Silicon Docks
Our Airbnb rental was in the heart of an area known as Silicon Docks. The nickname is a reference to California’s Silicon Valley (the “Docks” part of the name comes from the Grand Canal Dock in Dublin) because you’ll find the European HQs of Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Airbnb as well as several other tech startups in this neighborhood. If you’re into the tech startup scene it’s a cool area to see, plus the neighborhood is beautiful to walk around at night! There’s lots of interesting architecture and some fabulous bars and restaurants too.
8. Day trip outside Dublin
There are a couple of day trips you can do from Dublin; an easy one to organize on your own is Howth. Howth is a coastal town in the outer suburbs of Dublin and is also home to one of the oldest occupied buildings in Ireland, Howth Castle. It’s just a 30 minute train ride (via DART) from the city center. You should definitely hike to Baily Lighthouse – people say it’s one of Ireland’s most photographed lighthouses on the eastern coastline – probably because it’s easy to get to, but also because of its scenic surroundings 😉 You’ll also find beautiful green landscapes and gorgeous cliffs on the trail to Baily Lighthouse. Another popular day trip are the Cliffs of Moher; I haven’t done this trip myself but it must be good because so many people talk about it!
Looking for something off-the-beaten-path? Check out my post on Castlerea, Ireland!