In a city famous for strong whiskey, pints of black stout and late pub nights it can be overwhelming to find a Dublin itinerary that involves nothing of the above. Admittedly, this is a selfish itinerary as I’ve never liked beer (or whiskey) and so this is basically a shout out to all my fellow anti-beer people. HELLO. Ramble aside, visits to Guinness (stout) or Jameson (whiskey) often dominate Dublin itineraries and surely I can’t be the only one who’d rather have afternoon tea. Turns out, you can do more in Dublin than drink beer (hallelujah and that was only a tiny bit of sarcasm)! Let me walk you through the great things you can do during 3 days in Dublin, including museums, cathedrals, hipster neighbourhoods, day trips and afternoon tea on a bumpy bus.
How To Travel from Dublin Airport to the City Centre
If you want a reasonably convenient option without spending a fortune; the Airlink bus. Unfortunately Dublin airport doesn’t have a train station so your choice is either bus or taxi. I chose the Airlink as it stops in multiple central locations and only costs 12 euros for a return ticket with 1 month validity. Remember to validate the ticket on the yellow machine as you enter the bus.
As you exit the airport, do a U-turn at the bottom of the stairs to find the bus stop (I almost joined a bus tour…). At the bus stop, just buy a ticket from the small stand operated by an Airlink employee. Unlike the rest of Dublin’s buses, Airlink can give you change back; a big bonus when you’ve only just stepped onto Irish tarmac.
Airlink offers two separate routes; 747 and 757 that operate between 4.45 am and 00.30 am. The end station for 747 is Heuston Rail Station and for 757 it’s Camden Street. 747 departs every 10 to 20 minutes and the 757 every 30 to 40 minutes depending on time of day. For a full list of stops and timetables, check out the Airlink website here. The journey should take about 35 – 45 minutes, although it can be difficult to predict due to traffic.
In terms of luggage; Airlink has shelving on the lower floor where you can store your bag. Just note that you can’t bring bags upstairs, so if you really want a seat you might have to leave your bag on the lower floor.
Where To Stay in Dublin
Ironically, considering the introduction to this post, I stayed behind the pub-lined Dame Lane and yes, it was loud during the weekend as beer lovers filled the streets. I stayed at Central Hotel on Exchequer Street and picked it because of its location at the edge of the Creative Quarter. I booked a single room, as I was travelling solo, which was located on the 4th floor.
Apart from the noise (although to be honest, after living in Manchester student halls I can sleep through anything) it was an ok hotel. It’s definitely more of a budget hotel and you shouldn’t expect a luxurious boutique hotel experience. However, the location is great, it’s clean and the receptionists are really friendly. You have Trinity College a few minutes up the road, the Creative Quarter on your doorstep and a multitude of restaurants within 5 minutes walking distance. All in all, it suited a solo traveller looking for a hotel room, rather than a hostel bed.
If you want to splurge a bit more, why not check out the below hotels on booking.com?
Brooks Hotel – the beds look huge, the interior looks welcoming and it’s right in the middle of the Creative Quarter. What’s not to like? Oh, maybe the 8.9 review score, I guess that could be better.
Academy Plaza Hotel – if you want to stay north of the river, Academy Plaza is conveniently located next to O’Connell Street (a major thoroughfare in Dublin).
The Fleet – I love the vintage look of the bar area and the hotel is in Temple Bar, so you’re close to a lot of the main sights.
The Dean – a boutique hotel located by St Stephen’s Green. Their cool ModPod rooms look really snug and come with a fully stocked SMEG fridge (if you’ve never heard of SMEG, they do beautiful retro kitchen appliances…yes, beautiful fridges).
Also, can I just add that there are rooms available at a freaking castle outside of Dublin?! Check out Ledville Castle. How cool is that??
Where To Eat in Dublin
I was overwhelmed by the amount of incredible looking restaurants in Dublin and it’s obvious that the city is a great foodie destination. These are some of the places I tried during my 3 days in Dublin and would recommend:
- Kaph – a trendy breakfast spot in the Creative Quarter. The blueberry muffins are good enough to give me an extra muffin top.
- Duck – a hole in the wall restaurant in the Creative Quarter. They’ve got a simple but tasty menu of Hong Kong style BBQ meats at an affordable price.
- The Yarn, Pizza + Booze – no worries, there are plenty of cocktails to avoid beer drinking. The highlight though is the pizzas and the cozy atmosphere in this loft restaurant. Try one of the specials, like the lasagne pizza or nduja sausage with green chili and mozzarella.
Right, let’s get stuck into the actual Dublin itinerary! The first day will be a mixed bag of history and the trendy Creative Quarter.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
Opening hours: varies depending on day and season; check St Patrick’s Cathedral’s website
Address: St Patrick’s Close, Wood Quay, Dublin 8
Entrance: 8 euros (adults)
Start the day with a visit to St Patrick’s Cathedral that was completed in 1260 (although the site has seen religious activity since 450). There are several fascinating facts about the cathedral and you should join the complimentary guided tour to learn more.
A couple of the interesting highlights:
- Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels, was a Dean here and you can see his gravestone in the cathedral. His servant, Alex McGee, is the only commoner with a memorial in the cathedral.
- The Guinness family (forefathers of that black stout) have reserved seats at the front of the cathedral after they funded a cathedral restoration in the 1860.
- “Chance Your Arm” is a saying that refers to a feud between two medieval families; Butler and Fitzgerald. They shook hands through a small opening in a door to settle their fighting and you can see that door in the cathedral.
- The current beautiful tiled floor was part of the renovation in 1860. However, you can still see some of the original 1260 flooring in the baptistery on your left as you enter the cathedral.
As an alternative to St Patrick’s Cathedral you could visit Christ Church Cathedral, which is an older medieval cathedral.
Opening hours: Weekdays (closed Tuesdays) 9.30 to 17.00. Saturday 10.00 – 17.00
Address: St Patrick’s Close, Wood Quay, Dublin 8
Entrance: 5 euros (adults).
A hop and a skip away from St Patrick’s Cathedral is Marsh’s Library. It feels like you’re stepping through the wardrobe in Narnia as you walk through the door in the stone wall and continue up a stone staircase. The small library is beautifully framed by foliage and only requires a short visit.
Marsh’s Library was founded in the early 18th century and was the first public library in Ireland. Most of it remains unchanged and the whole building has that romantic old library feeling that I love (surely I’m not the only one??). I like to imagine people walking down the same corridors 300 years ago and looking through the books by candlelight.
The library volunteers give you a short introduction and then you can have a wander around, don’t miss the reading cages towards the back!
St Stephen’s Green
Stephen’s Green’s shopping centre has the prettiest architecture out of the places I’ve seen in Dublin. Although the shops aren’t overly exciting the shopping centre is worth a visit for the gorgeous glass ceiling and clock alone.
Outside of the shopping centre you’ll find St Stephen’s Green, which is a Victorian public park. It gets busy on a sunny day, but is gorgeous nonetheless.
Finish the day by channeling your inner hipster and heading over to the Creative Quarter. The Creative Quarter runs between South William Street and George’s Street and from Lower Stephen’s Street to Exchequer Street. It’s not a huge area but contains plenty of independent businesses and eateries, so definitely worth a visit. The “hipster” neighbourhood of any city usually ends up being my favourite and the Creative Quarter didn’t disappoint. Maybe I should just grow a beard and embrace my inner hipster.
Browse the shops, have a coffee and simply immerse yourself in the independent spirit of the area. Some of the highlights include the design store Industry & Co (with a resident café), independent boutique Om Diva (an incredible retail environment) and John Fisher selling prints of his illustrations in George’s Street Arcade.
Right, day one completed! Onto the second day of your 3 days in Dublin. The second day is also a mixed bag (it’s nice to keep days varied) with some tragic history, a bumpy bus ride and a well-known attraction.
Address: North Dock, Dublin (close to the EPIC museum)
The Great Famine hit Ireland from 1845 to 1849 and lead to the death of 1 million people along with the emigration of almost 2 million. The Famine Monument will only take a couple of minutes of your time but is a harrowing reminder of the hardships the Irish population went through.
Opening hours: all days 10.00 – 18.45 (last entry 17.00)
Address: CHQ Custom House Quay, Dublin 1
Entrance: 15 euros (adults)
For more information about Irish emigration, the next stop on your Dublin itinerary will be the EPIC Museum (The Irish Emigration Museum). It’s an incredibly well-designed museum experience that takes you through 20 rooms with interactive exhibitions. Each exhibition details a different facet of Irish emigration and the museum covers the why, how and where of Irish emigration. I definitely think it’s worth the admission cost!
Vintage Tea Tour
Address: meet at the EPIC museum (past the ticket office and by the door on the right)
Entrance: 47.50 euros (you need to pre-book tickets online)
Ok, this might not technically be a Dublin must-see but I really enjoyed it so it gets a place in the itinerary.
If afternoon tea, vintage buses and retro everything is your jam (get it?) then you’ll love the Vintage Tea Tour. You travel on-board a converted doubledecker bus (ours was called Kitty) whilst staff dressed in check waistcoats serve you afternoon tea and tell you a few things about Dublin. It’s more about afternoon tea than a guided tour but they still shout out a few highlights whilst jazz plays in the background. The interior is super-cute with bunting, floral plates and specially designed travel mugs that you get to keep.
And frankly, I loved it. From desperately trying to drink tea whilst the old bus went over speed bumps, to the ridiculously tasty scones, to the illustrated leaflet, to the friendly and funny staff, the list goes on. Sure, some people will argue that it’s expensive (is it though?!) but hey, more cake for the rest of us.
Opening hours: May – Sept: Mon – Sat 8.30 – 17.00, Sun 9.30 – 17.00. Oct – April: Mon – Sat 9.30 – 17.00, Sun 12.00 – 16.30
Address: College Green, Dublin 2
Entrance: 11 – 14 euros (adults)
Let’s face it, Trinity College with its Book of Kells and the Long Room is the symbol of Dublin tourism. Whilst I didn’t go on my last trip, I have been before and think it’s worth the visit (just be prepared for the crowds).
The Book of Kells is a beautiful piece of art and it’s staggering to think that it dates from the 9th century. It depicts the 4 Gospels of the life of Jesus and the pages on display change so you can see different sections on return visits. The Long Room, in turn, is home to 200,000 of Trinity College’s oldest books. I adore this room and think it’s a stunning library (we’ve already established my love for old libraries so I might be biased). Once you’ve seen the exhibition and library, take a moment to relax in Trinity College’s courtyard; it’s great for people watching.
Day 3 already! For the last day, I will give you two options; you can either take a day trip to Dun Laoghaire and finish the day with a visit to the National Gallery, or you can take a guided tour of the former prison Kilmainham Gaol and visit Dublin Castle. Decisions, decisions.
Day Trip to Dun Laoghaire
Dun Laoghaire is a lovely seaside town outside of Dublin that’s famous for its pier. You can easily get here by train or bus and I strongly recommend that you visit in the warmer season, ideally on a Sunday for the weekly food market. I’ve written a post dedicated to Dun Laoghaire so if you think this will float your boat (killing it with the sayings in this post) head over to my Dun Laoghaire post here.
Howth and Malahide Castle are another two popular day trips. However, I haven’t tried them so could unfortunately not say whether they are good or not. I would love to visit Malahide though.
National Gallery of Ireland
Opening hours: Sun – Mon 11.00 – 17.30, Thurs 9.15 – 20.30, all other weekdays 9.15 – 17.30
Address: Merrion Square West, Dublin 2
Entrance: Free for permanent exhibitions, temporary exhibitions might carry a charge
If you travel from Dun Laoghaire by bus you can get off next to the National Gallery of Ireland. I went for the first time on my last visit and really enjoyed the whole experience.
For starters, the building and layout are striking and complement the art really well. My favourite part was the bold use of wall colours that provide great contrasts between rooms. The modern ceiling and look of the courtyard is also impressive.
So we’ve established that the building is great, but the same applies to the art. Two(ish) floors are dedicated to Irish artists including Jack Butler Yeats, who has a characteristic style of bold brushstrokes and more feeling than detail (not that I’m an art expert but those were my thoughts). Another cool section was the modern portraits, including one of Graham Norton. If you don’t know Graham Norton, he’s the best talk show host on British telly. Full stop.
Finally, the top floor is dedicated to European Art, including famous names such as Rembrandt and Vermeer.
Opening hours: all days of the week. Oct – March 9.30 – 17.30. April, May and Sept 9.00 – 18.00. June – Aug 9.00 – 19.00.
Address: Inchicore Rd, Kilmainham, Dublin 8. 3.5 km from Dublin city centre. Travel by bus 69 or 79 from Aston Quay, Dublin 2 or 13 or 40 from O’Connell St, Dublin 1, or College Green Dublin 2.
Entrance: 8 euros (adults). Admission by guided tour only and you need to book tickets online before your visit. Book tickets through Kilmainham Gaol website
I didn’t visit Kilmainham Gaol on my last trip but it remains my strongest memory from my first visit to Dublin over 10 years ago. Kilmainham Gaol was Dublin’s county prison from 1796 to 1924. Some of its famous inmates were the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916.
What makes the visit so interesting are the engaging guides who really make history come alive. They tell stories about everyone from common folk who stole a loaf of bread to the famous rebellion leaders. The prison housed a lot more prisoners than it was ever designed for and you can only begin to imagine the awful conditions inside.
Kilmainham Gaol is a bit out of the way but is a really good day trip if you’re interested in history. I would strongly recommend it.
Opening hours: open all days of the week 9.45 – 17.45
Address: Dame St, Dublin 2
Entrance: free to enter outside grounds, 8 euros (adults) self-guided tours (State Apartments and exhibitions only), 12 euros (adults) guided tours (additional access to Medieval Section and Chapel Royal).
Dublin Castle has been around since the early 13th century when it was built on the site of a former Viking settlement. Since then it has been a hub for English, British and Irish governments. Nowadays, it remains an Irish government building. Make sure you don’t miss the garden behind the castle as well as the brightly coloured buildings and medieval tower.
You can also visit Chester Beatty Library, which has been called the best museum in Ireland by Lonely Planet. It’s dedicated to understanding world cultures and showcases manuscripts, rare books and other items from places as diverse as Egypt, China and Iran. Personally I preferred other museums, such as EPIC, but that of course depends on your interests.
And guess what? That sums up this 3 days in Dublin itinerary! Hopefully you’ve found some inspiration for a trip to Dublin (even if you’re not into beer). For more city trip suggestions, check out my weekend in Manchester, free things to do in Chester and 24 hours in Edinburgh posts.
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