I’m not much of a city girl. Okay, that may be a lie given that I live in Toronto. But when I travel, I always fall for the small towns and off-the-beaten-path destinations over the cities. In fact, there are some countries I’ve been to where I absolutely hated their capital city but loved the rest of their country. However, Dublin was pretty hard not to fall head over heels for.
Located on Ireland’s east coast, the country’s capital, Dublin is home to close to 1.5 million people which is relatively small when you compare it to cities like London that boasts a population almost seven times the size of Dublin’s. Dublin is rich with history like most of the United Kingdom and Europe but also is one of the friendliest cities you’ll come across. As you stroll in and out of the local pubs, walk the pedestrian-only streets of Temple Bar or are visiting the beautiful sites the city has to offer, you’ll notice that there is a sense of calmness in this city that you don’t often feel.
When ending my week long road trip through Ireland earlier this month, we landed in Dublin to finish off our trip. I didn’t know what to expect from Dublin but it really did blow me away (having our first day of sun in a week while there probably also helped). I’ve put together a combination of some of my favourite things (and other peoples) to create this one day sample itinerary to help you plan your visit.
Beer with breakfast
There is said to be hundreds of pubs in all of Dublin and it’s to no surprise that the Irish love their beer. So why not start your day off with a cold pint with your traditional Irish breakfast? Slatterys Bar & Early House is centrally located on Capel Street and is famous for opening at 7am six days a week (with the exclusion of Sunday) and serving pints from sunrise to well beyond sunset. Despite the close to 1,000 pubs in Dublin only around 15 can consider themselves “early houses” like Slatterys. These places have special licenses which date back to 1927 that allows them to open from Monday to Saturday at 7am and serve alcohol versus the more typical license where pubs can start serving at 10:30am. Bars like this catered to dock workers, market traders, fisherman, etc. but today the visitors range from locals and people like you and I. Slatterys was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations show in 2010 where Anthony enjoyed the traditional Irish breakfast with a pint of beer. So go have a breakfast for champions at Slatterys just because you can.
Whiskey and beer
After breakfast head to either the Old Jameson Distillery or Guinness Storehouse for a tour. If you want, you could easily fit these both into one day depending on your interest. In my day and a half in Dublin I did both of these tours and if I was going to recommend one over the other I’d choose the Jameson Distillery. This may come to a surprise for many people since although Irish whiskey is popular, Guinness can definitely be seen and found everywhere in Ireland, including their branding plastered on the side of every second building. However, personally I felt they tried a little too hard to make the brewery into an attraction and lost the authentic feel and 250 years of history. The brewery is seven floors high and you bring yourself on a self-guided “tour” through it all including a floor where you can wait in line for a short guided tasting, another floor that takes you through the different advertising through the decades (my personal fav) and you’ll end at the top floor where you can enjoy panoramic views and your “free” Guinness that comes with your admission (tickets cost €14 for adults). But seeing you are in the homeland of Guinness, I wouldn’t blame you if you still wanted to visit the brewery anyway.
Alternatively there is the Old Jameson Distillery tour that you can do for €18.00. This tour is guided and you can buy tickets in 15 minute increments and the tour lasts around 40 minutes. I’m not usually someone that prefers a guided tour over self-guided but this tour was so great that it literally flew by. Our guide took us through different rooms in the distillery which is no longer making alcohol (their new distillery is located in Midleton, Cork) but we learned all about the history of Jameson and how the famous Irish beverage enjoyed internationally is made. The tour includes one free drink at the start or end of your tour (straight Jameson or mixed drinks are available) and sampling within your tour. The production value of this tour was fantastic. It was educational but still fun and interactive. Also the limit of 30 people per tour made it less busy and stressful than the Guinness Brewery experience.
Anyway, pick and choose what you’d prefer or do them both. Allocate around 2 hours for the Guinness experience and around 1 hour for Jameson.
Lunch with a huge beer selection
Porterhouse is relatively new in terms of pubs in Dublin with an arrival to the Temple Bar scene only in 1996. However, the pub fits right in as it doesn’t boast a modern, chic decor or anything you would be more likely to see in newer restaurants and bars. In fact, I was shocked to know it only opened in 1996. The walls are lined with old bottles and cans making it super cool to see all the different designs, shapes and sizes of some of the most well known (and lesser known) beers. Porterhouse also serves as a brewery and only serves their own in-house brews on tap. However, they have a multi-page list of bottled and canned beers divided by country that they serve too. The food menu also has a variety of classic favourites which makes it a great place for lunch. Check out the cool kiln bar on the upper level!
See the sites
As you’re reading this itinerary you’re probably wondering what else there is to do in Dublin besides drink and eat. First I want to say that even if you aren’t a drinker, all these pubs and restaurants on this list are fun for you too! But anyway, back to seeing the sites.
Make your way to see the two famous cathedrals in the city, Christ Church and St. Patrick’s which are both walking distance from each other, in fact, the whole city is basically walkable. Christ Church was founded around 1028 and is absolutely stunning. It is open daily (hours here) and has an entry fee of €6.50 (for adults) however, if you visit and attend one of their services, you don’t have to pay. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is also beautiful in its own way and was founded in 1191. It has a fantastic green area out front that many people enjoy picnics or ice cream at. Tickets to enter start at €6.50. Even if you’re not a fan of going inside, seeing both of these from outside (like I did) is equally worth it.
Next head to Dublin Castle. Of all the castles I saw in Ireland, I wouldn’t say this was the most impressive but it’s worth it to at least take a stroll by. The castle has been around for over 800 years and adds some medieval history to the Dublin skyline. The castle is also open to the public if you want to enter it on a daily basis and you have the option between a guided tour (70 minutes) or self-guided tour starting at €7.00 (note that you can see more of the castle on a guided tour).
If you aren’t exhausted of history at this point, one of the popular attractions to visit is Trinity College old library and the famous Book of Kells. We decided to skip this based on the long line (if you buy tickets online in advance you can skip this) and also based on the hefty €13 entry free. However, for some people this is a CANNOT miss site.
Aside from the above, there are obviously several other sites you can see. Pick and choose what you like the best because everything appeals to people differently. One thing I wish we had time to go to but we didn’t was Kilmainham Gaol, a former prison in Dublin that is now converted to an interesting museum. Given our time constraints though and the fact this wasn’t located in walking distance for us, we opted to skip it for some of the other things on this list.
Stuff your belly at O’Neills
Hungry yet? Our Airbnb host had recommended that we get some grub at O’Neills Bar in Dublin. Located centrally on Suffolk Street, O’Neill’s is a large, multi-floor pub which opened in 1713 (that’s approximately twice the age of Canada). What makes O’Neills especially good for food is their buffet style Carvery which serves up all your favourite Irish dishes and then some. Basically you grab a tray and stand in line as you pick off their menu filled with delicious cuts of meat and all the sides you can imagine. You can also order off their made-to-order menu where you’ll find classics like fish and chips. I’m not much of a “buffet” person but this puts a new meaning behind the term and you definitely won’t leave hungry or unsatisfied. For my giant serving of fish and chips and a pint of beer it cost around $22 USD.
You can’t visit any city or town in Ireland without visiting many of their pubs. Each pub is so full of history that you won’t want to go to just one. Spend your night pub crawling and finding your favourite. Live music happens in a lot of them so it’s easy to walk down the street and pick one that has music playing. Another thing to keep in mind that the pubs located in the Temple Bar area will jack their prices for drinks at night given it’s a touristy spot, so you may want to visit these in daylight.
Some that we visited and would recommend are:
- Stags Head (live music Friday & Saturday and events on other nights)
- The Brazen Head (Ireland’s oldest pub, live music every night and a must-do)
- The Long Hall (One of the oldest pubs in Dublin)
- Temple Bar (Three music sessions daily from 2pm until closing time seven days a week)
- The Auld Dubliner (Live music daily with full schedule here)
- Fitzsimons (Irish dancing and music Friday-Sunday at 3:30pm)
At this point you’re probably ready for bed. This is a jam packed agenda for a day but given the fact that Dublin is easily walkable, you’ll be able to cover a lot of ground in a short amount of time.
If you have something you loved in Dublin that isn’t listed here, share below in the comments!