The third largest island in Europe and the 20th largest in the world, Ireland has a significant cultural influence in literature, music, and sports such as horse racing. Tourists make their way to the island yearly to visit World Heritage Sites, castles, cathedrals, and lush open fields that make the country popular.
Covering the entirety of what Ireland has to offer in one post would be remarkably difficult, so I’m going to start with Dublin in this post and discuss some of the day trips possible from the capital city in a later post. Dublin is the most touristed city in Ireland as well as the largest, and it’s a great location to visit on its own or to use as a starting point for a massive Irish adventure. Here are the best things to do while in Dublin.
1. Dublin Castle
From 1204 until 1922, the Dublin Castle served as the British government’s administration in Ireland. The castle was victim to a fire in 1864 that caused damaged to a great deal of the building, but parts of it survived and can still be explored by tourists interested in Viking history. Two of the towers: the Bermingham Tower and the Record Tower, are still in existence. Today, the buildings that make up the castle are open to the public except for during certain state functions.
2. St. Patrick’s Cathedral
Named the national cathedral of the Church of Ireland, St. Patrick’s Cathedral was founded in 1191. Its choir, which was established in 1432, is known all over the world, and it still performs every day during the school year. St. Patrick’s is the largest cathedral in the country, and tourists can visit throughout the day via guided tour or on their own using a mobile app. This cathedral was used 1,500 years ago as a place for Saint Patrick to baptize Christian converts.
3. Guinness Storehouse
This seven floor attraction opened in 2000 and is housed in St. James’s Gate Breweries’ former fermentation plant, which was constructed in 1902. It contains a glass atrium shaped like a pint of Guinness, and at its base, it is home to a copy of the 9,000-year lease signed by Arthur Guinness. Some notable attractions in the Guinness Storehouse include the 5th floor’s Brewery Bar—an eatery that serves Irish cuisine that uses Guinness in many of the dishes, and the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor, which offers amazing views of Dublin as well as a free pint of Guinness.
4. Kilmainham Gaol
This prison was in operation from 1796 to 1924, and it’s known for formerly detaining leaders of many rebellions, some of which were executed there. It housed famous names such as Henry Joy McCracken and Robert Emmett alongside ordinary individuals that committed crimes ranging from petty theft to rape and murder. None of the prisoners were segregated, and as many as five people were sometimes kept in a single cell. Public hangings were held outside the prison until 1820, and in 1891, a small hanging cell was built on the first floor for more private executions.
Kilmainham Gaol was decommissioned by the government due to the poor conditions in which prisoners were forced to live in. Several restoration attempts were performed until the final one in 1971, which made the prison suitable for opening as a tourist attraction. Today, it serves as a museum with guided tours, and it is one of the largest unoccupied prisons in Europe.
5. Dublin Writer’s Museum
Situated in an 18th century mansion, the Dublin Writer’s Museum opened in 1991 to celebrate the history of literature in Dublin. It provides information on writers who have contributed to literature on an international level as well as locally and in Ireland alone. Visitors can view a first edition copy of Bran Stoker’s Dracula, an 1804 edition of Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, and a replica of The Book of Kells. It also features portraits by artists including Harry Kernoff, Patrick Swift, and more. In the lower level, a Michelin Star restaurant—Chapter One—offers a place for tourists to stop and eat.
6. Trinity College Dublin
Ireland’s oldest surviving university, Trinity College was founded by Queen Elizabeth I in 1592. Many students attend this college to learn Law, Literature, and Humanities, and it is currently considered one of the most elite academic institutions in Europe. It features Georgian architecture, which often earns it rankings as the most beautiful campus in the world. The Library of Trinity College includes the original Book of Kells as well as a copy of the 1916 Proclamation of the Irish Republic. For these reasons, the campus is widely visited, and the library receives more than half a million visitors each year.
7. National Museum of Ireland
The National Museum of Ireland features four branches: Archeology, Decorative Arts and History, and Natural History in Dublin, as well as a Country Life branch near Castlebar.
The Archeology branch contains objects from the medieval and Viking periods as well as prehistoric pieces. Visitors can see Bronze Age jewelry, displays from Egypt, Cyprus, Rome, and treasures from the church.
The Decorative Arts and History branch is located in the former Collins military barracks. It houses the Great Seal of the Irish Free State as well as furniture, weapons, and a Chinese vase from 1300 AD.
The Natural History Museum is known as the Dead Zoo by locals because it’s home to specimens of animals from around the world. Country Life, the most recently opened section, is focused on life from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century.
8. Temple Bar
Known as the cultural corner of Dublin, Temple Bar is a world famous nightlife destination. It was named after Sir William Temple, who built a house for his family there in the 1600s. The area, located on the south bank of the River Liffey, offers restaurants, nightclubs, and bars—most notably the Temple Bar Pub that has been open since 1840. It has two renovated squares, Meetinghouse Square and Temple Bar Square, the former being named after the nearby Quaker Meeting House where movies are screened outside in the summer.
Where to Stay:
Because there is a lot to see in Dublin, there is also not only one good place to stay during your trip. I decided to list a few hotels in the city center area, giving you a good jump-off point to explore more.
The first hotel I'm going to recommend is the Clayton Hotel, a 4-star hotel with great reviews and an awesome location. It has a restaurant for diner's to enjoy, and it has a bar for adult patrons. For budget travelers, there is a Holiday Inn within a 17-minute walk to Dublin Castle. If you're looking for a unique experience, the Clontarf Castle Hotel is a beautiful choice, and it has 111 rooms spread throughout four floors.
Dublin, Ireland is a city rich with history and culture, making it a great choice for travelers who like to fully submerge themselves in the regions they’re traveling to. Fans of literature, Viking history, and a good pint of whiskey can find plenty of things to do while in Dublin. Have you visited any of these places? If so, please leave a comment and tell me what you thought!
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