Brett and I made Ireland our first international priority as a married couple. We both have Irish roots and both really wanted to visit the Emerald Isle.
Ireland did not disappoint at all! We left wishing we had more time to explore and vowed to return again soon.
Collectively, the Irish are about as welcoming as you will find anywhere. With more people of Irish descent living outside of Ireland than in the country itself, the Irish are very quick to say “Welcome Home” as soon as they discover you are even a tiny bit Irish. While neither of us have lived a day in Ireland in our lives, it did feel like we had come home.
We spent four days in Dublin and easily could have spent more time there. If you have been to Dublin, you know the city is very walkable and with a little help from the occasional bus or rail it’s very easy to get from place to place.
If you’re thinking about a few days in Dublin, here our my suggestions for a few locations to carve into your itinerary.
1. Dublin Literary Pub Crawl — This was our introduction to Dublin and I can’t imagine starting our trip any other way. The Literary Pub Crawl is part historical tour and part theatre performance. We met our guides at The Duke and joined a group of about 20 people in an upstairs room for a drink and the start of the evening. Over the next two hours, our guides took us through the streets near Trinity College, pausing to share stories and perform passages from works by Joyce, Beckett, Yeats and more. Along the way, we stopped at three additional pubs for a drink and conversations. This was definitely one of our favorite experiences in Dublin.
NOTE: This tour runs year round and in all sorts of weather, dress warmly in the winter and be prepared for rain.
2. The Book of Kells and The Long Room at Trinity College — The Book of Kells is on most “must see” lists for Dublin. It is one of the most famous medieval manuscripts and depicts the four gospels of the Bible. Whether you are religious or not, these are beautiful works of art that should not be missed.
Just passed the Book of Kells exhibit is the The Long Room. This might be one of my favorite places in Dublin. The Long Room is part of the oldest library in Dublin and contains 200,000 of the oldest books in the collection. While you can’t touch the books, just being in the same room with them is a bit awe inspiring.
Note: This exhibit is a timed entry ticket, so it is important to book at least a day or two in advance to get the time that works best.
3. Christ Church Cathedral — Another highlight of our time in Dublin was our guided tour at Christ Church. The Cathedral is nearly a thousand years old (2028, will be it’s official thousandth birthday). Brett and I tend to explore on our own, rather than hop onto guided tours, but every once in a while we take a chance and in this case, we won the lottery on tours. The guided tours at Christ Church are the only way to head up to the Belfry. (It is 84 steps up a rather small circular staircase, so if tight spaces make you a bit nervous, take that into account before heading on this portion of the guided tour). If you are lucky, your tour guide will take you across an outdoor bridge at the top of the cathedral and into the bell tower, where you just might get a chance to ring the cathedral’s bells! Our guide explained that Dublin has no laws governing when bells can be rung, so it is perfectly fine to ring them anytime during the day for any occasion! I’m not usually one who enjoys those spiral staircases or heights, but I’m so glad I pushed myself a bit to make it up to the top of this one. Ringing those bells was quite the experience!
NOTE: You can combine your visit to Christ Church with a visit to Dublinia, right next door. We wandered into Dublinia, a museum detailing the beginnings of Dublin. Well worth a visit, especially if you want to brush up on your medieval Irish history!
4. The Irish Whiskey Museum — It’s hard to visit Ireland and not at least try a bit of whiskey. Brett has always loved whiskey, but prior to our first trip to Ireland, I wasn’t really a big fan. It didn’t take long for Ireland to change my opinion!
Whiskey drinker or not, the Irish Whiskey museum showcases two thousand years of whiskey making history. The guided tour is a lively, interactive experience complete with a tasting at the end.
Brett and I are always looking for unique activities and we took advantage of the Whiskey Blending Experience, a ninety minute guided tour and tasting with the opportunity to blend your own whiskey to take with you. Mine was a little more traditional blend of Irish whiskies while Brett went heavy on the Connemara Whiskey, which has a smoke and peat taste to it.
5. The Hill of Tara — While not in Dublin, this is worth the day trip out into the Irish country side. Located in County Meath, legend says it was the inauguration site for the High Kings Of Ireland. At the top of the hill you’ll find The Lia Fáil, or The Destiny Stone, according to the stories, when the rightful High King of Ireland would step on the stone, the stone would roar with joy. Nearby you’ll also find monuments from the Neolithic to the Iron Age, including a passage tomb and burial mounds.
If you’re heading out to the Hill of Tara, you may want to also include stops at Trim Castle and Loughcrew Cairns. To make transportation easy, we booked a full day Celtic Boyne Valley Day Trip. I’m not always a fan of group tours, but this one was a model example of how these tours should be done. We were a group of about 15, our guide found the perfect combination of commentary and music during our drive and we never felt rushed at any stop during the day.
NOTE: There is a lot of walking on uneven ground and it can get windy on the hills. I definitely recommend sturdy walking shoes and a jacket.
6. Marsh Library — Built in the early eighteenth century, the March Library is perfect example of a late Renaissance, early Enlightenment library. This hidden gem is located adjacent to St. Patrick’s cathedral and doesn’t take long to explore. Like The Long Room, you are not allowed to touch the books, but you can get close enough to read the titles and marvel at the volumes on the shelves.
For added fun, currently the Marsh Library has a LEGO Scavenger Hunt available. You receive a pamphlet with clues to hidden LEGO figures throughout the collection. Brett and I had fun finding them as we went through the library. No photos are allowed until you reach the Selfie Corner at the back of the building. We took a few moments to take a few photos there, with the right angle, you can absolutely get some of the books into the photo.
NOTE: The Marsh Library is closed on Sundays and Tuesdays, If you are planning to include this in your Dublin itinerary, definitely check operating hours first.
Make sure to check out the next post to hear more about our experiences at Guinness, Jameson and so many other delicious places in Dublin.
If you’re dreaming of Dublin or already have a trip planned but want some help with the itinerary, please contact me. I love helping people create their ideal vacation experience.
Link Note: I do not receive payment for any links or endorsements in this article. They are all my personal suggestions.