Dublin is by far the largest city in Ireland, therefore it’s an “international city”. And just like many large cities in the world, it has lots of hustle and bustle and traffic … and it's expensive, especially compared to the rest of Ireland. Just like visiting New York City is not the same as visiting the US, visiting Dublin is not the same as visiting Ireland, but Dublin has lots of tourist sites that you can’t miss.
There are many books and websites that discuss ALL of the sights in Dublin, but this blog just focuses on my favorites. As the long time readers have learned, I tend to focus on History, Whiskey, and Food 😉
No matter what you do; you need to be prepared for Dublin, or you will end up seeing next to nothing, no matter how long your stay. This blog is both about my favorites, and how to be prepared. Here’s my list.
Gate to Dublin Castle
Dublin Castle is historically significant and has been the center of power in Ireland from current times back to the founding of Dublin. It is well worth the visit. I highly recommend the guided tour that is much more convenient now that guided tours can be pre-booked on-line.
The courtly elegance of the building has been preserved over the years and today the chambers are used mostly for State Entertainment.
Go here for more info.
Go here to reserve your tour.
The Castle has a tea room that is good for a coffee or snack. Across the street on Dame Street is The Queen of Tarts, a great place for coffee and a treat or for lunch.
Estimated time: 2.5-3.5 hours
Kilmainham Gaol (Jail)
This jail was in use for over a hundred years and historically it tracks the history of Ireland. Kilmainham is best known in Ireland as the place where the Heroes of the Easter Rising were executed.
Check here for more details about the Gaol.
The Gaol is a little out of the way. You can get there by walking(15-20 minutes from Dublin Castle), but I usually take a taxi and save my energy. Tickets to the Gaol regularly “sell out”, so it’s best to book your tickets on-line ahead of time. If you are visiting during July and August, it is best to book your tickets several months in advance.
Go here to book your tickets.
I would book your ticket for first thing in the morning or late afternoon. The Gaol also has an excellent museum that is often overlooked and a tea room for a snack or lunch. There is also a coffee shop/café across the street.
Estimated time: 2.5-3 hours
Glasnevin is for the real history buffs. The cemetery is designed in a style that overlaps cemetery and park function. This was the primary burial ground for Catholics during the period of the Penal Laws (Catholic Church was outlawed). The choices were to be buried in Glasnevin or a Protestant cemetery (if it was permitted). I am always surprised at the number of people buried on the grounds who were significant to Irish and, many times, US history.
For more info go here.
The tour is excellent and does not tend to sell out, but you can pre-book and save a few euros here.
The best tour for North Americans is a General History or a General History Combi tour that begins or ends about 2:30 pm. A reenactment of a famous Padraig Pearse speech (pic to the left) occurs at 2:30pm at the grave of O’ Donovan Rossa, close to the visitors center.
The tea room is pretty good and we have enjoyed many a lunch there. The Cemetery is a little out of the way, so I would take a taxi. The adventurous might consider taking a bus (not that hard and a little less expensive). If you don’t have a MyTaxi app for your phone, I would take a business card from the taxi driver and call the taxi company when you are ready to leave. You can flag down a taxi at the street, but it can sometimes take 5-10 minutes.
There is a nice diversion at the far end of the cemetery called The Grave Diggers Pub. This is a very old style pub with snugs (compartments where ladies drank away from the men 🙁 ) where the tradition says the grave diggers drank after their day of work.
Estimated Time: 2.5 hours minimum with transport.
This is my favorite distillery for a tour. It is one of two operating distilleries in Dublin (the other is Pearse-Lyons). At last count there are three distilleries offering tours: Teeling, Pearse-Lyons, and Jameson.
The tours at Teeling seem to be a little more personal, and they give the option of an “upgraded” tasting integrated with the regular tour.
Check here for more info about Teeling.
Go here to book your tour.
The Distillery is a 15-20 walk from Dublin Castle or a 5-10 minute walk from St Patrick’s Cathedral. The café is very nice and is a great place to grab a snack to get yourself ready for the tour and tasting.
Estimated Time: 2 hours
St. Patrick’s Cathedral & Christ Church
The architectures of St. Patrick’s and Christ Church are good examples of the church architecture approximately 100 to 150 years ago and are worth a stop. Admission is charged to the Cathedrals. Guided tours seem to be randomly available for a small additional fee (worth it) in St. Patrick’s Cathedral but they are regularly scheduled at Christ Church.
Sunday is not the best day to visit either as they are both working churches. If you are Roman Catholic and had plans to attend Mass, you need to be aware that both are now a member of the Church of Ireland (Episcopal).
St Patrick’s is famous for one of its past Deans, Jonathan Swift, the author of Gulliver’s Travels.
Christ Church is particularly interesting to fans of the show ,The Tudors, as many scenes were set in the church. The basement displays many mementoes of the show and it’s lead actor, Peter O’Toole, a very popular Irishmen.
On the guided tour your are taken to the Bell Tower and possibly given the opportunity to ring the church bell.
Go here for more Info on St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Go here to get your tickets on-line and get a small discount.
Go here for more info on Christ Church.
Go here to buy your tickets.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is 5-10 minutes from Teelings, a little over 10 minutes from Dublin Castle, and under 5 from Christ Church. Christ Church is a 5 minute walk from Dublin Castle.
I have not seen or experienced a tea-room at either location.
Estimated Time for St. Patrick’s Cathedral: 1-1.5 hours
Estimated Time Christ Church(with the bell tower): 1.5-2 hours
Here are my three favorite evening events. They tend to start relatively early (for Ireland) so you will have plenty of time afterwards to find a music pub for the evening. The Literary Pub Crawl and The Music Pub Crawl are very entertaining and show you around to several of the Pubs. BTW, it is not required to drink at each pub although a “glass” (half pint) of beer at each stop works for me. All three of these events tend to sell out, so it is advised that you purchase tickets in advance.
Literary Pub Crawl - Waiting for Gadot
Evening Events: Literary Pub Crawl
Very Entertaining! The actor/guides introduce you to the four Irish authors who won the Nobel prize for Literature and a many of the other colorful writers and artists in Irish history.
More info here.
Buy your tickets here.
Evening Events: Music Pub Crawl
This is a great introduction to Irish “Trad” music and its history. Several of the unique Irish musical instruments are demonstrated and some introduction to Irish dance. I prefer to do the music pub crawl stand-alone without the dinner.
More info here.
Buy your tickets here.
Evening Events: Food, Folklore, and Fairies
This is a good dinner of Irish food with entertainment between courses in an intimate venue. The entertainment is a very good introduction to the Irish culture. The dinner takes place in the Brazen Head Pub, the oldest pub in Dublin (and possibly Ireland).
More info here.
Buy your tickets here.
Parks: St Stephen’s Green
If you are blessed with a sunny day during your stay in Dublin, this park is a must see. The gardens are very well maintained, there is a good playground for kids to work off some energy, and plaques and statues dot the park with historical information. There are a series of signs and plagues that outline the significance of the park during the 1916 Easter Rising that I find fascinating. I particularly like to watch the families of swans that reside in the Park. If you are staying just South of the city centre, St Stephens Green, your paths into the historic sights can cut through the park.
Here is a little more info about the park.
I am going to suggest just one itinerary to see my favorite sights. I can imagine this being rushed through in a little less than 2 days, and I can also see it stretched to 3+ days. I can also imagine an additional 10 itineraries that have their pros and cons, especially if you have found another sight that has excited your curiosity.
10:00-Noon Dublin Castle
Noon – 12:30 Lunch
12:30 – 2:00 Christ Church
2:00-3:15 St Patrick’s Cathedral
4:00 – 5:30 Teelings Distillery
Evening Literary Pub Crawl
10:00-12:30 Kilmainham Gaol
12:30-14:30 Transport to Glasnevin and Lunch
14:30-16:00 Glasnevin Tour
16:00-??:?? Side trip to the Grave Diggers Pub … or back to town for shopping.
Evening Food, Folklore, and Fairies
This is a start. You can modify this itinerary with some of the other Dublin sights that attract your attention.
Remember these are MY favorites. Your interests may be different. For instance: There are several other parks in the city including the Garden of Remembrance and Phoenix Park. The sports fans may want to consider Croke Park and the GAA museum. There are several great museums in the city including the National Gallery of Ireland (with paintings by Jack B. Yeats; W.B. Yeats brother), and The Book of Kell's and .... Then there are the walking tours .....
You can see why I limited the list to my favorites, but listed enough to fully fill 2 or 3 days.
See You in the Pub!
Jet Lag Jack