I just can’t stay away from Ireland! There’s no denying that Ireland is my favorite place to visit. When planning out our trip, it was so hard to pick a place to go in Ireland because I want to go everywhere, but I only had time for showing Kevin the highlights, so of course we started with Dublin, Ireland’s capital city. Here’s our one-day itinerary:
Arriving in Dublin
I’ll start by saying — we messed up our Dublin planning. Our flight from Cardiff to Dublin landed at about 2:30 p.m., and yet somehow we booked our tickets for the Book of Kells for 10:30 a.m. without even noticing how off our time was, and we had planned on going to the National Museum of Ireland that afternoon too. That obviously didn’t work out, but we salvaged some of our plan.
Our flight landed in Dublin right on time, so we took a cab to our hotel, threw our stuff in our room, and booked it to Trinity College and the Book of Kells (the hotel receptionist even comment on how quickly we were in and out — we’ve got things to do!)
The Book of Kells and Trinity College
We made it just in time to see the Book of Kells. The exhibit closes at 5 p.m. with last entry at 4:45 and we got there at about 4:40.
Since we had bought tickets online, we didn’t need to stand in the long line of last-minute ticket buyers. We went right in to the exhibit and headed straight for the book, leaning over it in low lighting with a crowd of people.
The Book of Kells is an elaborately illustrated manuscript of the New Testament written in Latin and decorated with religious symbols that fill up much of the blank spaces on many pages.
After viewing the Book of Kells, we moved on to the Long Room of the Old Library, the stately room holding the library’s oldest and rarest books. The gallery is decorated with dark wooden bookshelves, marble busts of famous writers and poets, and spiral staircases leading to the upper floor. This library is a book lover’s dream!
In all, we only needed 15 minutes to see the Book of Kells and the Long Room, so that’s a good thing to know if you’re short on time in Dublin! But we definitely could have spent more time there looking through the exhibit prior to going into the Book of Kells room and spending more time looking at the display cases in the Long Room.
After that, Kevin bought a new hat from the gift shop and he proudly showed it off as we walked around Trinity College. Ireland’s oldest university, Trinity College is walled off from the hustle and bustle of Dublin City Centre and is a quiet retreat of stone paths, green common space, and studious learning.
The Book of Kells is open in May through September M-Sat 8:30 a.m. — 5 p.m., Sun 9:30 a.m. — 5 p.m.; October through April M-Sat 9:30 a.m. — 5 p.m.; Sun 12 p.m. — 4:30 p.m. Tickets are €11 — €14, usually depending on what time you book for. They would like you to stick to your booked time, but obviously they aren’t sticklers for it if you have a mix-up. And the Trinity College campus is open all the time.
Since it was late in the day and was past the time when anything would be open, I spend the rest of the evening giving Kevin a walking tour of Dublin. Even though we couldn’t go into some of these places, I think Kevin was still satisfied that he saw what he came to see.
First up was Dublin Castle, the former seat of the UK government in Ireland until 1922 and the current meeting place for official State visits. We went into the Upper Court Yard to take pictures of the castle’s iconic clock tower. Then we went around to the Dublin Castle Gardens, which has become my favorite spot for taking pictures of Dublin Castle. The gardens are believed to be the original site of dubh linn, the “black pool” where the Vikings harbored their ships and from which Dublin gets its name.
If you can make it in time for a tour, the inside of Dublin Castle is definitely worth a visit. The castle is open daily from 9:45 a.m. — 5:45 p.m. with last admission 30 minutes before closing. Self-guided tours are €7 and guided tours are €10.
St Patrick’s Cathedral
It’s a short walk from Dublin Castle to St Patrick’s Cathedral. St Patrick’s Cathedral is the largest cathedral in Ireland and is one of the few buildings left from medieval Dublin.
You can get great views of the cathedral from St Patrick’s Park on the north side of the church. This is the area where it is believed St Patrick baptized the first Irish Christians from the River Poddle that runs underneath here. Walking around here and St Patrick’s Close, you can see the cathedral’s graveyard.
Inside, you can take guided or self-guided tours of the cathedral and learn about Ireland’s religious history. St Patrick’s Cathedral is open March through October M-F 9:30 a.m. — 5 p.m., Sat-Sun 9 a.m. — 6 p.m.; and November through February M-F 9:30 a.m. — 5 p.m., Sat 9 a.m. — 5 p.m., Sun 9 a.m. — 2:30 p.m. Tickets are €7.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral is Dublin’s oldest building, founded in 1030. While I didn’t get to take Kevin into this cathedral, the inside is really where it’s at. Besides its really beautiful architecture, Christ Church Cathedral has the largest medieval crypt in Ireland, which is the earliest surviving structure in Dublin, and is the home of “the cat and the rat”, a mummified pair literally caught in an eternal game of cat and mouse, found stuck behind the church organ.
Christ Church Cathedral is open April through September M-Sat 9:30 a.m. — 7 p.m., Sun 12:30 p.m. — 7 p.m.; November through February M-Sat 9:30 a.m. — 5 p.m., Sun 12:30 p.m. — 2:30 p.m.; and March and October M-Sat 9:30 a.m. — 6 p.m., Sun 12:30 p.m. — 6 p.m.
For dinner, we headed to Temple Bar, an entertainment district on the south bank of the River Liffey. The district is lined with bars, clubs, pubs, and restaurants, and at night the streets are packed with people out having a good time. You’ll know you’re in the right area when you find the red walled Temple Bar Pub, the poster-pub for the Temple Bar district.
Ha’penny Bridge is a pedestrian bridge that goes over the River Liffey, which I made sure to take on our way back to our hotel. The white cast iron bridge was built in 1816. It used to cost a ha’penny (halfpenny) toll to cross the bridge, a toll that was charged for 100 years. It’s free to cross now though, unless you want to be like Kevin and toss a penny into the river like this is some sort of wishing well (he only did it for our first crossing though because “we already paid our toll”).
A trip to Dublin wouldn’t be complete without a stopping by to see the Erection in the Intersection — that’s the cute nickname Dubliners have given to the Spire, the world’s tallest piece of public art. The Spire stands 120 meters (398 feet) high in the center of O’Connell Street, Dublin’s main thoroughfare. You can read about more of Dublin’s funny nicknames for statues here — it’s totally worth it, I promise!
Need more Dublin sightseeing? Here’s 8 more things to do in Dublin.
What’s your favorite thing to do in Dublin? Let me know in the comments!