Do you believe in love at first sight??
In life in general, I don’t really. But in travel, that’s a different story. There are places that just grab you by the throat and seep into your pores to become a part of you. It doesn’t really have anything to do with the amount of time you spend there…could be a day, a week, or a month. But once you leave, it has carved out a little permanent residence in your heart and the back of your mind.
Ireland overall did that for me, and Dublin was a big part of that. My visits to this gorgeous city full of craic (fun, energy, liveliness) have been super short each time, but I was hooked and could go back time after time. And you’d be shocked how much you can see and do in only a day or two here—Dublin is a perfect day or weekend trip!
A little about Dublin
Dublin is a fascinating city with over a millennium of history and multiple major cultural groups conquering as well as melding together. Dublin was founded by Danish Vikings in 841. The Vikings slowly converted to Christianity, and the Irishmen and Vikings continued to battle over the years. The Normans entered the picture in the late 1100s and a Norman lord and his army crushed both the Vikings and the native Irish. The English king were worried that they were getting too powerful, so got involved and subsequent centuries were under British rule.
In more recent memory, Ireland is known for a couple of things, including the potato famine in the 1840s that led 2 million people to flee the country and 1 million to starve to death. Dublin was the focal point of the Easter Uprising in 1916, where the Irish pushed back against British rule and tried to create an independent republic. It wasn’t successful at the time, and was followed by years of civil war and fighting, but today the Republic of Ireland is its own independent country.
Dublin is a city of energy and youth, with a history of poets and rebels. It wears its centuries well, and is SO much fun. The people are welcoming and interesting, and you’ll absolutely love it.
Read more from our awesome Irish roadtrip!
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My tips for making the most of your visit
Here are a few things to think about overall. I’ll share specific itinerary thoughts below.
- It goes without saying, but get an early start to the day. Dublin shines in the morning!
- Eat! Fish & chips, steak & Guinness pie, scones, beer…stop and grab a snack every chance you get!
- Walk everywhere. So much of Dublin is just getting a feel for the city, and in our experience it was a super walkable city. From Temple Bar to O’Connell Street to St. Patrick’s Cathedral and all the places between, exploring the nooks and crannies of the city was my favorite part.
- Only do tours like Guinness or Jameson if you’re dying to. They’re fun and if you’re a fan, worth it (also a good way to avoid bad weather for a bit). Consider other smaller ones like Teeling, or even taking a day trip out to a working distillery like Slane.
- Find a whiskey shop that offers a tasting or samples, and take them up on it. My dad and I loved that, and the shop sold airplane-size bottles of a lot of the Irish whiskeys (including largely unknown ones) so I grabbed a few as a gift for one of my co-workers.
- If you’re a museum die-hard (I am emphatically NOT), there are a couple of must-sees in Dublin, including the Book of Kells, so do some research on that.
2 days in Dublin: structuring your itinerary
Get your walking shoes on, because you’re going to be covering some ground! Dublin is a super walkable city, and the main sights and areas you’ll want to visit are in a fairly compact area. This helps if you only have one or two days in Dublin.
If you have 1 day in Dublin:
- In my opinion this is a walking day with lots of brief stops rather than structured “visits”. That’s more my style anyway, but is well suited to Dublin.
- You can easily hit the highlights with a day—places like Christ Church Cathedral and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, walking up and down the river, Temple Bar area, Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, O’Connell Street, and more.
- Based on your interests, if you want to do something that takes a bit longer, I’d go with the Book of Kells and library at Trinity College. A couple other top picks for a longer tour would be Kilmainham Gaol or getting a walking tour at Trinity College.
- If you really want to visit either Guinness or Jameson, I’d recommend choosing one or the other vs. both if you only have one day (or try out Teeling for a smaller, more intimate overview of whiskey distilling).
If you have 2 days in Dublin:
- You can add on a second distillery/brewery visit if you want.
- With an extra day, you can slow things down and spend a bit more time enjoying each place you visit. Also, it gives you more of a buffer if the weather isn’t cooperating (so if it’s rainy, you may get a second chance to see things).
- Look for a place you could experience traditional pub music in the evening of your first day.
Where to stay in Dublin
The one time I stayed overnight in Dublin, we stayed at Buswells Hotel and were quite happy with it (though it was a number of years ago). It was clean, good value and great location.
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What to do with 2 days in Dublin
Here is a long list (in no particular order) of sights to see, places to walk by, and more!
Walk up and down the River Liffey
While you’ll definitely have some specific things you want to see, Dublin is a perfect city for just wandering around, stopping in at shops, taking pictures of the bright colors and (if you get super lucky) enjoying a bright blue sky.
Dublin sits on the River Liffey, so there are tons of bridges with different history and architectural styles. Below I show one famous bridge (Ha’Penny) and my personal favorite one (Grattan). Beyond that, if you have time try to get over and see the Samuel Beckett Bridge. It’s designed so it looks like a Celtic harp (the national symbol of Ireland). I haven’t had a chance to see it but it’s supposed to be cool.
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I’m going to talk about Ha’Penny, the most famous bridge in Dublin, but first *this one* is actually my favorite bridge. This is Grattan Bridge, originally built in 1676. What I love so much about this bridge is that I’m charmed by the little things—decorative touches on lampposts like these seahorses this fun sea green color.
Even though it’s a driving bridge, it has wide, prettily-landscaped paths for pedestrians and some seating. It’s right in the thick of things, so make sure to get across it at some point on your wanderings!
Back in old-timey times, the only way to get across the Liffey was by a terrifying-sounding, overcrowded, and often doomed ferry that slogged back and forth. Then in 1816 this pretty cast iron bridge opened to anyone who could pay a ha’penny (a half penny, what the ferry cost), and made the ferry redundant. The colloquially-called Ha’Penny Bridge remained the only pedestrian bridge in Dublin for almost two centuries.
I wouldn’t go out of your way to see it, but it’s super central and easy to catch in the course of your wanderings…on one side you’ve got O’Connell Street and on the other Temple Bar, so a walk across isn’t a hardship.
Pro tip: on the north side of Ha’Penny, swing by The Winding Stair bookshop, one of the oldest independent bookshops in Dublin. It’s charming and worth a few minutes. I got a copy of Harry Potter in Gaelic that I love.
Meander through Trinity College
This never gets old, and on a nice day it’s one of my favorite places in Dublin—simply BEAUTIFUL! Founded in 1592, this college is one of the centers of how the modern literary world (in the West) developed…authors like Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, Samuel Beckett, and others trace their roots here.
The college is home to the Book of Kells as well as a stunning library that I still haven’t seen and am dying to. The Book of Kells is a beautifully-decorated vellum copy of the four gospels in Latin from around 800 AD. It’s illustrated with vivid colors and pictures, and the best surviving example of Celtic art.
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I’ve only hung out in this open square, and taken about a billion pics, but there’s a lot more you can do here if you have the time and inclination. Students lead walking tours of the campus for those interested (I think it costs €10, but that may have changed).
In particular, consider visiting the library and Book of Kells. Visits are self-guided, with displays to help you better understand the history. There aren’t reservations, so in the summer months there can be a pretty decent line so make sure to plan for extra time. Check the official website to make sure it’s open and on display (sometimes it’s not), and learn more about costs and opening times.
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St. Stephen’s Green
This serene, beautiful public park dates back to Victorian times. It has tons of walking paths, a duck pond, lots of statues…spend a half hour meandering through the paths and stepping away from the city’s bustle. Unless it’s pouring, of course 🙂
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St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Of course you can’t spend even 1 or 2 days in Dublin without a trip to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Founded on the spot where it’s believed St. Patrick baptized the first Irish believers into Christianity, it’s been a part of Dublin life for over 800 years. It’s a great example of medieval architecture, dating back to the early 13th century, though the first church on this spot was built in the 5th century.
I loved that there weren’t tons of people milling around so I could get beautiful pictures, with the fountain and bright flowers popping against the lines of the cathedral. I haven’t been inside (I’m not super into the inside of cathedrals), but there’s lots to see as well as choir performances, events, and more. Check the official website for hours and more details.
Christ Church Cathedral
So while St. Patrick’s is really cool, I think that Christ Church Cathedral is even cooler. This style of architecture is one I particularly love…look at the top of that tower, those little jaggedy edges (crenelations?).
It’s Dublin’s oldest building, dating all the way back to 1030 AD (though initially established by Norsemen as a Viking church and not brought into the Irish church until 1152). Although to be fair, the original structure was wooden and burned down in the Norman invasion, so this stone structure was built in 1171.
Enjoy the details and whimsy
As I mentioned at the outset, a lot of the things to “see” in Dublin are all about wandering the city. Yes, there are a few historic sites that are critical, but Dublin is all about VIBE. Rather like Lisbon, some of my favorite things about Dublin are just the details…I’m obsessed with the different shapes and sizes and styles of buildings, the bright colors, the quirky little details that beg you to notice them.
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Don’t forget to look up…there are so many fun details above you.
See how different all these buildings are?? But they all mesh together so well. I AM CHARMED.
O’Connell Street & the General Post Office
From a more modern historic standpoint, one can’t-miss is O’Connell Square and the General Post Office. In addition to it being a beautiful building and the last great Georgian building constructed here, the General Post Office was the headquarters for the uprising’s leaders during the Easter Rising of 1916.
It was damaged quite a bit during and you can still see bullet holes in some of the columns. I also loved the Spire of Dublin, it was super fun to photograph. With one day O’Connell Street may or may not make the cut based on your level of interest, but if you have two days in Dublin it’s a must.
Walk around Temple Bar
I never spend much time in the Temple Bar area, but you definitely have to do at least a stroll through it. Named after a famous bar there of the same name (make sure to swing by!), this is synonymous with tourist antics in Dublin.
It’s not as crazy during the day, but at night transforms into drunken tourist (and hen/stag party) chaos. Not for me, but for many people it’s a must in Dublin. Just don’t think you’re getting the “authentic Irish pub” experience here.
Swing by and say hi to Molly Malone
One of the most recognizable symbols of Dublin, you can’t visit without stopping by to say hi to the statue of Molly Malone. A fishmonger and working girl, she died of cholera in one of the many epidemics that swept Dublin regularly, and was later immortalized in song. Her statue is affectionately called “The Tart with the Cart”, and is now located on Suffolk Street.
Snap a quick pic, but I beg of you, don’t be one of those MANY tourists who grab her boob for a photo op…it’s not a good look, guys. And I wouldn’t go out of your way to hit this unless it’s on your route.
Tour Guinness Storehouse
So Guinness is definitely a different experience from Jameson (more on that below). It’s a self-guided tour, and is a little…like Disneyland? That’s not a bad thing, just quite the sensory overload and it’s absolutely massive. This site has been the home to Guinness since 1759 (when their founder signed a 9,000 year lease…dude did not have commitment issues). It’s now a seven-story experience dedicated to the history of the making of Guinness.
I bought my ticket ahead of time (official website here) and queued for my tour time. I sped through it—both because I’m fairly impatient, but also because I work in the alcohol industry and at a certain point, you can only learn about barley, distillation, etc. so many times 🙂 I did buy a couple souvenirs, and then made my way up to the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor for my free pint and the view. The view is great but it was crowded and so not really my vibe, but glad I stopped in.
Even if you don’t do the Guinness tour, there are a number of things around the brewery (and around the city) that will make fun, vibrant photos.
AND, Guinness has opened a new experimental brewpub taproom called Open Gate Brewery just a few minutes’ walk from the storehouse. I’ve heard it’s super cool but they weren’t open the last time I was there…they’re only open certain days so check the website ahead of time.
Take a tour of Jameson
I’d made a reservation at Jameson for a tour, and storm clouds were threatening and sprinkles had started as I made it to the distillery. I lucked out because it poured while I was in there, and didn’t rain on me the rest of the time. I hadn’t even brought a jacket on this trip (a day trip from out in the country), which was ballsy!
Jameson is the most well-known Irish whiskey in the world, and they offer tours at the location where they were founded in Dublin. It’s no longer a working distillery (they’ve moved to much larger operations outside the city), but the tour is pretty decent and informational, and they do a nice job incorporating technology into the experience.
It’s about a 40-minute tour and then there’s a short tasting. You can hang out at the lovely bar area afterward if you’re inclined and order more interesting drinks. You can learn more about the tour, times, costs, etc. at the official website. Personally I don’t think it’s a must-do if you only have one or two days in Dublin, but is certainly fun.
I don’t have any pics of this, but if you’re open to something that’s rich in history (but admittedly a bit of a downer), Kilmainham Gaol has a ton to offer. Dating back to the late 1700s, it housed many Irish revolutionaries, including those who led the 1916 Easter Rising.
Many rebels and criminals (including children) were imprisoned and executed by the British for more than a century…I’m by no means an expert (especially since I haven’t had a chance to take the tour), so you can read up on some of the specifics here.
Where to eat in Dublin
I haven’t spent more than a couple days here, so this is just a place to start. With 2 days in Dublin I’d recommend looking for a mixture of great traditional Irish and pub food, and finding some of the newer evolving Irish cuisine that’s put Dublin on the map for foodies.
My favorite stop on my most recent trip was Gallagher’s Boxty House, which I heard about from the Netflix show “Somebody Feed Phil“. I swung by their home in Temple Bar to see if it lived up to the hype. I had the boxty sampler platter, which includes dumplings (like gnocchi), bread, and fries. The fries were BOMB, and I could have eaten a couple orders of them alone.
I enjoyed one of their Jack Smyth stout beers with my snack, and later came back for a couple gin & tonics from their surprisingly interesting gin menu. Overall I totally recommend a stop here—delish!
One super interesting and delicious place to consider is Brother Hubbard. It came recommended from a couple places, including a work colleague and “Somebody Feed Phil“. It’s a great example of the interesting food scene that’s developed in Dublin, absolutely delicious food with a Middle Eastern/Mediterranean flair.
I started my morning here one day (though had already eaten breakfast so had to really stuff myself). I had a chocolate babka roll and Turkish eggs menemen topped with amazing whipped feta and olive yogurt, and was mad I couldn’t make myself eat more.
Another great breakfast or snack spot is the adorable Queen of Tarts bakery in Temple Bar. I fortified myself with a blueberry scone with jam and a cappuccino (the first of many!) before hitting the pavement on my first visit.
As you’re pounding the pavement, a stop at Murphy’s is a must. Originally from Dingle, they have a few shops sprinkled throughout Ireland, and their ice cream flavors are fascinating and awesome. I had the Dingle sea salt as well as the brown bread. I’d totally recommend both. I’ve heard there’s a Dingle gin flavor and was bummed it wasn’t on the menu when I visited…
But this is only the tip of the iceberg where the Dublin food scene is concerned. There’s tons of great traditional food, and a lot of fun pubs as well.
What are some less-known things to do with one or two days in Dublin that we missed? Let me know what to catch next time!
Other whirlwind city explorations:
- Less Than 24 Hours in Buenos Aires
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- How to Spend 24 Hours in Lisbon
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