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There is a never ending list of where you could stay in Dublin. Instead of recommending a specific place (because we didn’t stay anywhere amazing), I’d rather recommend an area. We stayed in the Iveagh Gardens/St. Stephen’s Green area and that put us in walking distance of almost everything we wanted to see and put us near all major public transportation options. (Be warned that we are walkers, so we consider thirty minutes to still be walkable.)
The Dublin Pass essentially gets you free entry to a set list of attractions within the city over whatever time period you purchase. We bought the two day pass, which also included a free day of using the Hop On/Hop Off Bus (see below). Before purchasing, do some (basic) math and figure out how many of the attractions you want to see. If the admission amount is either equal or greater than the cost of the pass, you should buy! Because we had the pass, we actually ended up visiting more places than we’d originally planned. All in all, saved forty to fifty Euros.
I know these things sound like cheesy, family tourist traps, but this bus was a lifesaver. It got us easily to and from Glasnevin Cemetery (see below) and was included in the cost of our Dublin Pass. The drivers are nice, the loops are frequent and I can’t imagine there is a major attraction in the city that isn’t close to one of their stops. It also gave us an efficient way to see all the parts of the city, even if it was through a bus window.
Close to Temple Bar, but not quite in the neighborhood, Lemon Jelly is the perfect place if you want a traditional Irish breakfast option plus a fancy coffee. Even with their coffee selections, the prices are good and the vibe inside feels young and fresh.
If you’re headed down by St. Patrick’s and Christ Church, RoCo is a small and unassuming gem for breakfast. Their food is somehow both inexpensive and homemade, plus they even have diary substitutes! I highly recommend the porridge made with soy milk!
Located by O’Connell Street, the James Joyce Center, and the Dublin Writers Museum, 147 Deli is just as busy as it is delicious, so don’t come here in a hurry. While their menu may not have a huge selection of sandwiches, they do all their options very well. I had pulled pork and have never had a sandwich quite like that before.
I know, pizza in Ireland?! But Milano’s has great pizza! Temple Bar seems to constantly be busy, so we were looking for a reprieve from the lines outside every other restaurant. While certainly busy, we were seated right away and enjoyed our dinner. (Apparently this place is a chain restaurant, which we didn’t know when we chose it. Regardless, it was still good and is not a chain that we have in the USA.)
When websites claim that Elephant and Castle has some of the best wings you’ll ever eat – they aren’t lying. They also come in huge portions so order your own knowingly. With a full menu besides wings, this place was very busy when we were there, so make a reservation and come back.
While this seems like a tourist trap right in the middle of Grafton Street area, it isn’t. We went because of the Captain America name (Alex is a huge Avengers fan), but we surprisingly found cheap(ish) drinks and a cool vibe. Right in the downtown, but because it’s a little inconspicuous and you have to go up the stairs, you’re out of the fray
Located seemingly right on the edge of the Temple Bar neighborhood, Merchant’s Arch is a bar that never seems to end. Go all the way up to the top floor if you want to sit down and also enjoy the beautiful staircase and décor. Drinks are not cheap, but you’re in Temple Bar – what do you expect?
As this museum is billed as the story of Irish Emigration, I was originally a little skeptical. However, this place is amazing. The technology used in the exhibits alone is a reason to go. Learn about Irish history, both in Ireland and around the world.
While this is a replica of the Jeanie Johnston, a boat used to transport people during the famine, Alex and I agreed this was our favorite museum. It is heavy subject matter, but interesting and conducted knowing that the JJ never lost a single passenger on her 15+ voyages. If you can get Paul as your tour guide, he’s the best
Originally assumed it was going to be a lame tourist trap, but the Jameson company seems to have worked hard to make it a worthwhile stop. (Apparently I did a lot of assuming on this trip…) A sign proclaims it’s one of the best distillery tours and, with the technology and hands on exhibit functions, they might be right. (Note – they no longer produce whiskey in this building, so if you were hoping to see Jameson in action, you need to head down to Cork County.)
When they say ‘experience’ they aren’t kidding. I was expecting a museum with some memorabilia, but this place is full of artifacts plus functioning recording studios. See more photos of U2 than you’ve ever wanted (they have a whole room), but also get the chance to jam on some instruments
We were expecting more from the church of Ireland’s patron saint, but we are also spoiled. The National Cathedral in Washington D.C. has the advantage of 100 more years of technology advances and some more rounds of fundraising. However, you can’t come to Ireland and not see a church, so it might as well be St. Patrick’s.
Although it was once a castle, this is now home to government functions. We did the self-guided tours and while some of the rooms are very beautiful, there wasn’t much else to it. Maybe do the guided tour if you have time as they bring you to a more extensive amount of rooms
Listed as a main attraction, this cemetery is huge and the history is pretty vast. We went on the Dead Interesting Tour, which was difficult for us as we have little background knowledge into normal Irish history. The tour guide was undoubtedly well-versed and energetic, but we just couldn’t follow some of the lesser known historical tangents. If you, like us, need some brushing up on Irish history, maybe take the general history tour? We didn’t have time to stay, but I imagine it would be a better experience. Also make sure to climb O’Connell’s tower while you’re there.
I have a lot of feelings on the Guinness Storehouse and most are not positive. I’m working on a full post, but the core is that it is an obvious tourist trap. Call me old fashioned, but I wish there was a real tour guide and self-guided. There also was confusion about what free drinks came with the price of admission. In the end, there was too much fluff, not enough information. I much preferred Jameson.
Located right off Parenell Square, the Dublin Writer’s Museum could probably use a little updating, however they do have some great artifacts and information. The audio tour is free and definitely enhances the experience as there are a lot of text heavy panels. One way to experience the museum is to listen to every second of the audio guide. Another is to walk through and only select the ones that you’re interested in hearing about. While I did listen to the entire guide, I may have been better off picking and choosing. I do not have any sort of background in Irish literature, so I left the museum with a mushy brain full of fuzzy information as opposed to clearly knowing what I’d learned. Either way, you won’t find a more definitive guide to Irish writers in Dublin, that’s for sure.
Located right next to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, there is no excuse not to experience Marsh’s Library, one of the oldest libraries in Ireland. Come to take in the smell of old books and remind yourself of the magic of libraries. While we were there they had an exhibit called ‘Sole Survivors’, which highlighted books it the library’s collection that are the only copy still in existence in the entire world. I also appreciated their ‘selfie’ corner which is the one spot where photographs are allowed. As you can see, I opted out of using their costumes or other props and just wanted to stare lovingly at the books.
The James Joyce Center is a somewhat sparsely curated museum, but I would say that their video exhibits on the top floor are worth watching. The house itself is also gorgeous with an awe-inspiring staircase. If you’re not that into Joyce, you could probably just stick with the Dublin Writer’s Museum and skip the Center. However, I am a stickler and needed to see the entirety of literary Dublin. Make sure you walk to their outdoor patio where they have the original door from the location that apparently inspired Leopold Bloom’s home in Ulysses.
Apparently a location in Ulysses, Sweny’s is now seemingly a shrine to the author? (I’ve never read it and don’t know that much about Joyce – if you can’t tell…) Open, but with a locked door and note that said “Be Back Soon”, we were only able to peer in at the Joycean materials inside. I would’ve been interested to talk to the person behind the glass case and learn more about the site, but it just didn’t work out.
While Joyce takes up a lot of Dublin’s attention, Wilde was also a famous Irish writer. His childhood home is now part of American College and I’m a little unsure as to whether or not it is open for visitors. (We were not able to go in.) Right around the corner from Sweny’s and across from the childhood home is a statue of Wilde leaning jauntily against a rock in quite a dapper outfit. Go and get your picture taken in honor of another great Dublin writer.
An old copy of the four gospels of the New Testament, the Book of Kells is housed on the campus of Trinity College. The explainer exhibit preceding the actual book is very thorough and I love that the panels are larger than life, which help to accommodate lots of simultaneous readers at this very popular exhibit. After seeing the actual book, visitors also get to walk through the Long Room, which is part of the old Trinity College Library that looks like something out of a Beauty and the Beast. (Or something out of Renaissance Europe – whatever analogy works better for you.) The current room has over 200,000 of the oldest volumes in the College’s collection guarded by busts of famous men connected to the institution.
Note on Kells Tickets – Buying tickets in advance is the same price as in person and it means you get to jump the line and go right in. Why more people don’t do this is puzzling to me. There was probably a queue 20-30 people long and all we had to do was show the email confirmation and we were immediately let in.
Special Mention – While the EPIC Museum is not specifically literary focused, they do have an amazing room dedicated to Irish writers and other creatives. Certain books pull from the shelves that queues a snippet from the audiobook recording to fill the room. Plus, they have an interactive screen in the middle that responds to you pretending to turn the pages.
Have you been to Dublin? Do you have favorites that need to be added to the list?