Ah, the Emerald Isle! Americans stamp their passports here more than any other country. Why? Because there is simply nothing like the charm and friendliness of Ireland. The Irish are famous for their hospitality and “come join us” attitude. It’s this amazing spirit that allows for so many opportunities to learn and enjoy. The nation’s capital, Dublin, is full of amazing sites and experiences. But, what is actually worth it? We’re here to tell you what to get to fast, what to pass on, and what to see instead. So, pull up a chair, pour yourself a drink, and let’s get to the craic!
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Guiness and Jameson’s
The storehouse experience is literally the most visited tourist attraction in the country. Spoiler alert: they do not make beer here. They also do not make whiskey on Bow St. when you visit Jameson’s Distillery. I know!!!!! I’m sure the beer and whiskey enthusiasts would love it but if that is not your cup of tea, consider whether your time is worth it.
- Verdict: Pass on Ireland’s, number one tourist draw. Instead hit up the Smithwick’s tour in Kilkenny and the Jameson’s distillery in Cork.
Book of Kells at Trinity College
The story of this illuminated manuscript is one of legends. From the age of Saints and Scholars, monks toiled over the pages to create this work of art which is now beautifully enshrined in the grand library at Trinity College. The setting is gorgeous the exhibit is first class. But if you don’t know why monks coloring pages in a bible is important, is this for you?
- Verdict: Pass if it’s not your thing. Go if you are enamored by art that was created with love under such dire circumstances. Above all, know the story.
St. Patrick’s and Christ Church
Religion can be a touchy topic in Ireland. While troubles were certainly centered in Belfast for years, make no mistake, Dublin was the original epicenter of uprising. What’s this got to do with churches? Many Irish Americans go to pay their respects to their Catholic ancestors who left Erin’s green shores on coffin ships during the famine. These are not their churches. In fact, they are not Catholic churches at all! Don’t get me wrong, they are stunning. However, their architecture is easily found and centered in places like London. Is it worth your precious time?
- Verdict: Pass, unless churches and their architecture are your thing. For those of you looking honor your Catholic roots, check in at Our Lady of Knock Basilica or Croagh Patrick in the west.
Speaking of your Irish roots, so many visitors strive to understand the journey of there to here. In fact, the umber one reason people visit Ireland is to trace their roots! Dublin has heard you all and EPIC is certainly the place for you. This modern immigration museum traces the history of the Irish population throughout the world and strives to connect you to your heritage and culture.
- Verdict: A must! If you are looking for a place to start understanding your roots, this is stop number one. Leave with the name of a town in a county and set out to find your people.
What 1776 is to Americans is what 1916 is to the Irish. It was here at the main general post office that 16 brave men started taking action towards British independence. In short, the story of a free Ireland starts here with the Easter Rising.
- Verdict: A must! To go here is to understand Ireland. There are no substitutes for this impactful piece of history.
Once you finish at the GPO, head towards Kilmainham. The jail that housed those 16 men until they were all executed by the British authorities. The story is powerful and the building is an interesting mix of tragedy and splendor. you may even recognize some of the areas from famous movies.
- Verdict: Top of my list! If you see nothing else in Dublin, see this! History buffs, proud patriots, architecture hounds, and movie maniacs will all connect.
Temple Bar Pub Crawls
If there is one word that should be central to your travels in Ireland, it should be storytelling. And while pub crawls in the US tend to be full of uncontrollable debauchery, this is not the case in Ireland. Yes, you’ll have a drink, yes, you’ll go from pub to pub, but that’s where the similarities end. Pub crawls showcase, music, storytelling, dance, literature, history and more. They are a super fun way to get your bearings on the town and enjoy all aspects of culture.
- Verdict: Certainly! Isn’t this why you came to Ireland anyway? Find a pub crawl to match your interests. If you can think it up, it probably exists!
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The castle on Dame St. is a conference center, an administrative government building and a tourist attraction. With ornate English state rooms, there is a bit to see with the required tour guides. At 700 years old, there’s no doubt the castle has tons of stories and I’m all for that!
- Verdict: Pass, Ireland is full of lots of castles, is this really the one you want to see? Wait for Kilkenny Castle and Blarney Castle. Then stay the night at a private castle found in many places including Air B and B. Better yet, try out fancy schmancy Ashford Castle from the Guinness Family.
O’Connell and Grafton Streets
The two major streets of Dublin, each has quite a distinct purpose. Look towards O’Connell Street to give you a sense of history and Grafton Street to get your shop on. You are bound to wind up here for a bevy of reasons, just enjoy!
- Verdict: Sure! You’ll enjoy both in equal measure.
Croke Park and Aviva Stadium
It’s time to get your sport on! Choose a stripy scarf and join in the team spirit. It really doesn’t matter what side you root for, just enjoy the fun like a temporary local. If there is no game scheduled, take advantage of the stadium tours which wind up being far more interesting than first meets the eye.
- Verdict: Have some fun! Cheer along with modern Ireland.
Arlington Hotel’s Celtic Nights
Kitchy? Yup. Full of tourists? Uh-huh. So-so dinner? True. Go anyway! This is a great, old school first night stop. Get a table close to the stage so your mashed potatoes clatter in time to the dancer’s feet.
- Verdict: Yes, only if you have a sense of humor and you’re looking to unwind a little. It’s a great stop to help get rid of your jet lag. Otherwise pass for one of the more serious options above.
St. Michan’s Church
I love Irish humor. And this might have been one of the funniest stops I’ve ever made. St. Michan’s is an active church with a little bit of a skeleton in the closet. Each day, visitors can take a look down in the crypt at the amazingly preserved residents. What makes it so much fun? The guy taking you on the tour has a great Scooby-doo quality that just can’t be ignored.
- Verdict: Enjoy the storytelling with no crowds then hit the pub afterwards to reflect on the surreal experience! It’s a quick stop to fit in.
Viking Boat Tour
Dublin, above all else, is a working city. With the River Liffey running through it to create north and south banks, getting out on the water may seem like a fun time. but make no mistake, the banks are not filled with charming sites or historical buildings. Instead, you get a great look at the back side of the studio space U2 use to record some music.
- Verdict: Pass. The WWII duck boats are unique but it’s not worth the time to make the splash.
There’s no doubt that Ireland is connected to the grumpy little fellows along with fairies and banshees. This lo tech stop will have the kids finding that ever important storytelling aspect of Irish culture. Make no mistake though, Americans link leprechauns to the Irish far more than the Irish do! (The same goes for green beer and 4 leaf clovers.)
- Verdict: Take the kids, pass with the teens, get a pint with the adults.
When all is said and done…
Dublin is a dynamic springboard to a country full of unbelievable things! Northern Ireland, The Wild Atlantic Way, and Southern Counties await you. Be sure to balance your time and not put all of your eggs in one Dublin basket. Enjoy with balance. Dublin can be enjoyed in about 3 to 4 days.
Use these apps to hear stories about all of the different public art throughout town. Try, also, the 1916 historical walking tour.