Quite spontaneously we decided to spend the Easter weekend differently this year. Quick search for cheap flights and we booked to go to Dublin for a weekend. We reserved one day for Dublin and the second one for exploring the Northern Ireland.
Flights to Dublin can be very cheap but the accommodation isn't. We opted for a small apartment in the Victorian building just outside the Dublin town centre via Airbnb. This was our best Airbnb experience so far and cheaper than hotels or even hostels (if compared to a private room). The host even gave us a lift to the airport!
Dublin airport has good transport links to the city centre. The budget option is to use the public transport. Bus 16 or 41 leave from the stand 14 just outside the airport and will take you to the city centre just for €3.30. You will need exact money as change is not given on the bus.
What can you see in Dublin just in one day? Actually, quite a bit but you won't see everything and will need to make compromises. This is how we spend 24 hours in Dublin:
Trinity College ◊The Book of Kells ◊ The Long Room (10am start)
We have started our tour of Dublin with visiting the Trinity College, which is the most famous and oldest surviving Ireland's university. I was the most interested to see the exhibition of the Book of Kells and the Long Room. The Book of Kells is a lavishly decorated copy in Latin of four Gospels of the New testament and also contains other various prefatory texts and tables. It is thought to be produced early in the 9th century and was sent to Dublin around 1653. The lavish decorations of the book are beyond compare considering the age of the book! The authors even used yellow arsenic sulphide (health hazard!) to get the vibrant yellow colour.
The Long Room is the main chamber of the Old Library. It one of the most impressive library rooms I have seen! It houses around 200,000 of the Library's oldest books. Interestingly, the order of books is based on their weight and size. The biggest and heaviest books are placed at the bottom shelves. Another very interesting fact is that the library is entitled to a copy of every book published on two islands (Ireland and Britain). Every book, can you imagine! Every year the library needs additional 2km of shelving for books. The title 'Long room' fits its measurements: 63.7metres long, 12.2 metres wide, and 14.2 metres high. Apparently, it is longer than the library in Cambridge by 35 centimetres!
Get the student-led guided tour of the Trinity College. The ticket price is €14 and includes 30min tour with some funny commentary and fast track entry to the Book of Kells and the Long Room. You can buy tickets on the spot (cash or card) and the tours run frequently. The ticket price without the guided tour is €13 (online) or €14 (on the day) but you will need to join a standard queue, which is long...
Grafton Street ◊ St Stephen's Green Park
From the Trinity College follow the Grafton Street towards the St Stephen's Green Park. The red-brick street is one of the main shopping streets in Dublin city centre. St Stephen's Green park is probably the best known public park in Ireland. The square shaped park is lovely for a stroll and short escape from the bustling city centre.
St Patrick's Cathedral ◊ Christ Church Cathedral
After the walk in the park and an 'attack' from pigeons we went to see two Cathedrals in Dublin. St Patrick's Cathedral is named after the Ireland's patron saint and has been founded in 1911. Due to limited time, we decided not to go inside and just admired the exterior of the building from the St Patrick's park. St Patrick's Cathedral (National Cathedral of the Church of Ireland) is the tallest and largest church in Ireland.
A short walk from here, we reached the Christ Church Cathedral. It is very unusual two have cathedrals in one city.The Christ Church Cathedral is older than the St Patrick's, estimated to be founded around 1028. It was designated as the Cathedral of Dublin and and Glendalough after the disestablishment of the church of Ireland.
Dublin City Hall
Short walk and we were at the Dublin City Hall, previously known as the Royal Exchange. It is a grand example of the Georgian architecture. The impressive entrance is in the style of a rotunda. After spending time in the Rotunda Hall, go one floor down to the city vaults. There we saw two exhibitions. One was a great and brief exhibition showcasing the history of the city. The second one told the story of Jacob's Biscuits company, which was founded in Ireland. I am sure you have tried Jacob's cream crackers or the fig rolls, probably the oldest lines of biscuits in the company's history.
The entry is free, so it is definitely worth a visit even if a short one.
Dublin Castle ◊ Chester Beatty Library
After lunch in the city centre we headed to the Dublin Castle, which is just next to the City Hall. It does not look like the usual castle that you may expect to see. It more like a palace. We skipped the inside tour of the castle and instead spent time in the courtyard and the Dublin Linn gardens (behind the castle). The gardens are designed as a helicopter landing pad, with a pattern of six interlocking brick pathways that have been inspired by Celtic design.
From the gardens you can access the Chester Beatty Library. The library pleasantly surprised me as it had a brilliant exhibition on the history of different religions with ancient manuscripts. During our visit, there was also a display of Miniature Masterpiece:The Coëtivy Hours (Books of hours). It is a collection of prayers intended for private use, and many were illuminated. The lavish miniature details are very impressive!
The visit to exhibitions is free and worth the visit. I wished we had more than just an hour to spend there but we needed to head to the Guinness storehouse.
The Guinness Storehouse (4pm)
The Guinness Storehouse tells a story of 250 years of the most famous Irish beer, Guinness. Guinness brewery was founded here in 1759 and the building has 9,000 year lease . The storehouse has 7 floors and a gravity bar. Each floor has different interactive activities and interesting exhibitions starting from basic ingredients for the beer to tasting experiences. With your ticket you get a free pint of beer. The ticket could be used in the Gravity bar, which offers 360° views of the city, or in bars on fifth and second floors. Actually, you get more free beer during the experience than just the one pint.There is quite a bit of tasting! We thought that 1.5h would be enough, but it took us 2h and we could had easily spent another half or an hour there!
Book your tickets online and get there at least 15minutes before your allocated time because queues are massive!
Temple Bar area (evening)
After tasting guinness and other beers at the Guinness Storehouse we headed back to the city centre (around 20mins walk) to meet some friends in the Temple bar area. Bars in Dublin are a great 'craick' (fun) with live music but incredibly busy. Getting inside the famous Temple bar in the evening and on the weekend and getting a seat is an impossible mission (we actually visited the Temple bar during the day to avoid the crowds). There are plenty other bars in the area that you may want to try. We had good food and time at the Old Storehouse pub but it also got very busy after 7pm.
If you a cocktail fan, try the Vintage Cocktail Club (VCC) place. It is very unusual as you need to ring the bell and wait for a waitress to let you in. It is very cosy and beautiful vintage inspired place, which serves cocktails based on important dates in the history of cocktails. It is recommended to book a table as it get very busy but we were lucky to get a table without a booking.
It was a great day packed with sights to see, food and drinks! Through our wonders we also crossed the Ha'penny bridge to the O'Connell street and saw the Spire of Dublin. If we had a second day, we would have visited National Gallery, National Museum, and Dublin's Writers Museum. As I said earlier, with 24 hours in hand you would need to make compromises. The second day we spent on the tour seeing the highlights of the Northern Ireland coast.