Whether you are planning to visit Dublin to partake in the St. Patrick’s Day festivities or pass through during a quieter time, it makes a great city for a quick weekend visit offering lots to see and do. Regardless of the time of year, a weekend trip to Dublin is worth adding to any itinerary. Here are the top experiences to have while visiting the Fair City over a weekend.
Let’s Get Tripping!
1. Drink a pint at an Irish Pub in Temple Bar
You will not have a problem finding a pub to wet your whistle while you are in Dublin. With over 1,000 pubs, it is no surprise that wherever you are in this city, you’ll stumble upon one. Grab a pint of Guinness (or for you lightweights, you can order a ½ pint), find a seat, and start up a conversation with the patrons next to you. Before long, you’ll have a good buzz and 3 new Facebook friends.
Pubs don’t start serving until 10:30AM. If you want a drink before that, you’ll have to seek out one of the few remaining early houses of Dublin. They are the only pubs in Dublin permitted to serve alcohol in the early morning hours.
There’s no better place to get a good Irish pub experience than in Temple Bar. As a tourist, you’ll eventually find yourself in the Temple Bar area as you make your way around the city. Temple Bar sits on the south bank of the River Liffey in central Dublin. You know you have arrived to Temple Bar when you see a bunch of pubs located along cobblestone streets similar to many old city centers in Europe.
The pubs in Temple Bar are almost always crowded, mostly with tourists. During the afternoon hours, these pubs are always packed as tourists gather to have a few pints and listen to live Irish music.
2. Learn about Ireland’s most famous stout at the Guinness Storehouse.
Just a 20 minute walk from Temple Bar, you’ll find the Guinness Storehouse. Here is where you go to learn about this popular stout born and brewed in Dublin. The self-guided tour takes you through several floors, and you can add on experiences like the “Pour Your Own Pint” where you can learn how to pour the perfect pint of Guinness.
At the end of the tour, you will go to the rooftop bar, Gravity, where you’ll receive a complimentary pint of Guinness to sip as you enjoy the 360° views of Dublin. There’s a large gift shop here where you’ll find all kinds of Guinness items including candy bars, t-shirts, bar items, and beer. There is also a cafe and a full service restaurant onsite. Allow at least 1 ½ hours to tour the museum and closer to 2 ½ hours if you plan to do “Pour the Perfect Pint” experience.
3. Enjoy an Irish coffee and tour at the Old Jameson Distillery
The Jameson Distillery offers a guided tour where you’ll learn about the basics of whiskey distilling, what distinguishes Jameson from the others, and a whiskey tasting. At the end of the tour, you’ll also be offered a complimentary whiskey drink, either a glass of Jameson or a Jameson cocktail.
This tour is not very long, but you may have to wait 30 minutes to an hour for the next available tour if you don’t make an advance reservation. However, that time is well spent sitting in the main bar area where you can enjoy an Irish Coffee. It was one of the best I’ve had in Ireland (but still not better than my Aunt Patricia’s!). The Distillery also has a cafe onsite as well as decent size gift shop where you can find some exclusive items like bottling your own bottle of Jameson Select Reserve Cask Strength ($110/bottle). Allow 1.5 hours for the tour and to enjoy your drink afterwards.
4. Stroll across Ha’penny Bridge
This pedestrian bridge connects the Northside with the Southside of central Dublin over the River Liffey. A white, cast-iron bridge, it was built with an ornate design in 1816. It is named for the toll, a halfpenny, which was charged to cross it. Prior to the bridge being constructed, residents of Dublin had to cross the river by ferry.
Visit the Ha’penny Bridge around sunset for some beautiful pictures. You can find the bridge right outside the Temple Bar section of town, west of the O’Connell Street Bridge by Merchant’s Arch.
5. Visit the stately Trinity College’s Old Library and the Book of Kells Exhibition
Trinity College, Ireland’s equivalent of an Ivy League university, is easy to visit because of its location close to Grafton Street, Merrion Square and Temple Bar.
The main attraction here is the Old Library with its tall wooden bookshelves housing thousands and thousands of books along with the Book of Kells, an ornate manuscript of Gospels decorated by Celtic monks in the ninth century.
6. Visit a castle right in the heart of the city
No visit to Ireland is complete without seeing a castle. If Dublin is your only stop in Ireland, then check out the Dublin Castle. Although the castle is now a large government complex, visitors are free to explore the grounds, the Chapel Royal, the Chester Beatty Library, the Garda Museum and the Revenue Museum. If you want to tour the State Apartments, you will have to buy a ticket for a guided tour at the Apartments located in the Upper Castle Yard.
7. Check out the famous statues
If you visit Merrion Square to see the beautiful red brick townhouses surrounding this fine Georgian garden square, be sure to stop by #1 Merrion Square to see the Oscar Wilde statue. The statue shows Oscar reclining on a huge granite stone, appearing to not have a care in the world, just watching it go by. In reality, he’s actually positioned in a way that has him watching his old family home at #1 Merrion Square, on the north side of the Square. There are two pillars that flank the statue that contain Oscar’s thoughts, opinions, and witticisms on art and life.
Next up is the Molly Malone statue. No need to go out of your way to see this statue featuring Dublin’s favorite bronzed bosom, as you’ll pass it as you make your way between Grafton Street and Temple Bar. Located on the corner of Grafton and Suffolk Streets, this bronze statue of Molly Malone commemorates the beautiful young woman featured in the local ballad, “Cockles and Mussels”. As the song goes, Molly plied her trade as a fishmonger through the streets where her statue now rests. The song is an unofficial anthem of Dublin.
8. Shop for Irish Souvenirs
It is very easy to do some souvenir shopping in Dublin, thanks to Grafton Street. Grafton Street is conveniently located on the Southside of the River Liffey in central Dublin running from Saint Stephen’s Green in the south, to College Green in the north (close to Temple Bar). It is a main pedestrian artery that you will more than likely encounter whether you are doing a little bit of sightseeing or simply on your way to a pub making it convenient to pick up an Irish souvenir.
The shops along Grafton are pretty much the same international shops you’d find on any popular shopping street. You’ll find a few local businesses such as the flagship store of Thomas Brown, Ireland’s high-end retailer, but most are mainstream stores from both the US and Europe (e.g., Disney, Topshop).
At the south end of Grafton Street, you’ll find the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre. It’s a beautiful wrought iron Victorian shopping arcade home to even more well-known brands.
9. Learn about Irish Whiskey at the Irish Whiskey Museum
Have you ever wondered what the difference really is between whiskey and scotch, or why whiskey is sometime spelled without an “e” as in whisky? A visit to the Irish Whiskey Museum will teach you about Irish Whiskey in general. You’ll be whisked through different rooms on this informative and entertainment tour. Afterwards, you’ll be able to taste several different whiskeys.
10. Indulge in some traditional Irish food.
Whether it’s a quick bite from a fish and chips stand or a sit down dinner, it’s easy to find traditional Irish food throughout Dublin in most of the pubs and restaurants in the city center. For fish and chips, many famous people and tourists alike frequent Leo Burdock’s, which has been serving up this classic quick meal since 1913. There are two locations conveniently located right in the tourist areas with one in Temple bar, and the other across from the Christchurch.
For a sit down meal, consider a visit to the conveniently located Gallagher’s Boxty House. Right in the heart of Temple Bar, you’ll find a charming restaurant with plenty of seating for groups either upstairs or downstairs, as well as counter seating for solo travelers looking for a comfortable place to grab a bite to eat. The Boxty House has been serving up this classic Dublin dish, the boxty, for over 25 years. I highly recommend the smoked ham boxty (so flavorful and delicious) or you can opt for traditional corned beef and cabbage with or without the boxty! If you stop by, tell them the Tripping Blonde sent you. I promise, you will not be disappointed!
Know Before You Go:
It’s very easy to have all these experiences while visiting Dublin because everything is conveniently located in the walkable center of Dublin. Dublin’s city center is divided by the River Liffey. The south side is where all the tourist sites are with an exception for the Old Jameson Distillery, which you’ll find on the north side of the river. I recommend staying at a hotel within the city center, nothing south of St. Stephen’s Green on the south side, and preferably not too far into the north side, which can be a little seedy at night. Check out my interactive Google Map to see where everything is located. Here’s a preview.
For more information, visit Tourism Ireland.
Disclaimer: My visit was hosted by Tourism Ireland and their partners, but all opinions are my own.
Have you been to Dublin? What was your favorite experience? Share in the comments below!