Do you dream of sipping Irish coffee, warmed by the heat of a wood stove, all while watching the world go by?
Or maybe you dream of enjoying a pint or two of the “black stuff” while enjoying live Celtic music in a pub?
Maybe your dream is to finally see the Cliffs of Moher?
Or the Blarney Castle?
Or even the P.S. I love you bridge?
If one or all of those sound like your jam then get cozy and continue reading! I mean, get real cozy because you have 4400 words of Irish goodness comin’ right at ya!
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Tips for traveling to Ireland
One of my favorite hobbies is vacation planning. Sometimes I think I like the planning better than the actual vacation! Is that crazy? Do you feel the same way?
I swear in another life, before the internet, I was a travel agent. Planning my trip to Ireland was definitely one of my favorites. I enjoyed it so much because Ireland is fairly small and I knew that I would be able to accomplish *most* things on my wishlist and wouldn’t leave grumpy because I left half the country untouched.
Related: How to plan your perfect trip
Flights are always the first thing I search for. If able, try to keep dates as flexible as possible in order to get the cheapest and most direct flights. Actually, the best time to travel to Ireland is going to be during the shoulder seasons. I visited Ireland in September and it was so perfect – the weather was great, there weren’t too many people around, and the flights were cheap!
Second on the to-do list are your accommodations. I highly recommend Airbnb because what better way to really feel like a local than staying in your own home!? One of my favorite things to do in a new country is to go grocery shopping and then carry my bounty back to my rented home. Not looking like a tourist? Check.
Also, if you sign up through my link to Airbnb you’ll get a $40 credit for your first stay!
Getting back to Dublin, I started browsing apartments about 5-6 months in advance and eventually found the PERFECT place. The apartment I found was a cute little one bedroom with a kitchen, bathroom, and nice sized living room. It also came with free wifi, a dishwasher, television, and a washing machine. It is very centrally located and maybe a 5-minute walk to the Temple Bar district, which is where loads of cool stuff happens. I was a little worried that the apartment might be too loud being right in the heart of the city, but it was absolutely perfect. Temple Bar district would be an excellent place to stay on your first trip to Ireland.
I was not renting a car (do not rent a car in Dublin) so I wanted everything to be within a few minutes walking distance. Lugging groceries back to the apartment in the pouring rain did not sound like an enjoyable activity to me. And fun fact, it only rained for about 15 minutes when I was there!
Day Zero: Arrival Day
Céad míle fáilte, you’ve arrived! Let’s get this party started, shall we?
My flight situation to Ireland was a little bit different than coming directly from the States. I was tagging Ireland on after a Germany trip so I landed in Dublin at 6:00 pm. If you’re coming from the States you’ll likely land in the morning. If that is the case, make adjustments as needed.
I recommend reserving transportation from the airport to your apartment/hotel using the Dublin Bus. A roundtrip ticket costs about 12 Euros and there are tons of stops. You can buy the tickets online, which is what I did. I prefer to have transportation hammered out before arriving in the country.
Alternatively, you can pick up bus tickets at the airport. If you choose to do this, you can purchase them from the Bus and Travel information desk in the arrivals hall. Trying to find the bus was pretty tricky, I thought, so I’d suggest asking for some guidance when you’re ready to leave the airport.
When you’re searching for an apartment make it easier on yourself and rent something that is near the bus stop. The airport bus will take you from the airport, obviously, through town all the way to the Heuston stop. Most likely, if you’re staying in the center of the action, you’ll get off near O’Connell St or the College Green & Temple Bar stop, which are towards the end of the bus route.
Do check with your Airbnb host or the hotel before arriving and they should be able to give you the closest stop to get off at. And then ask for directions from the bus stop to the apartment/hotel. After you check in to your Airbnb or hotel I recommend heading out and exploring the Temple Bar district!
There are two different types of reactions when it comes to this area – people either:
Love it and spend hours wandering around during the daytime. When nightfalls have a drink or three or seven in one of the many pubs while listening to live music.
Have a drink and meal (preferably during the day), grumble about the prices, call it quits, and never return.
Sad to say that I was in the latter group, haha! When did I get old and grumpy?
By the time I made it to Temple Bar District it was quite busy and starting to get a bit obnoxious and that isn’t really my scene. I do recommend going to the actual Temple Bar because it is a neat place and one of those “must dos”, especially if you suffer from FOMO like yours truly.
Just beware that it is touristy and you’ll find many more local Irish pubs as you explore Dublin in the coming days. If you want to do some wandering around, there are true Irish pubs right in the district so try your hand and find one that’s cute.
Temple Bar is located at 47/48 Temple Bar, Dublin. They are open Monday-Wednesday 10:30 am – 1:30 am, Thursday-Saturday 10 am – 2 am, and Sunday 11:30 am – 1 am.
What’s the deal with Temple Bar?
The Temple Bar District is known as the bohemian quarter where you’ll find restaurants, cafes, shops, hotels etc. It is pretty close to Trinity college so I felt that it was the young, hip place to hang out. Like anywhere in the world after dark – watch your belongings and don’t get too intoxicated. Have dinner and a drink, spend some time listening to live music, and then wander around the area for a bit before heading back to your place for the night.
Day One: Dublin, Ireland
The first full day to explore Dublin!
For breakfast, I recommend one of my favorite places, O’Neill’s Pub & Kitchen. I went here for breakfast more than I care to admit, haha! O’Neill’s is located right in the heart of the city, very close to Trinity College, Temple Bar District, and the famous Molly Malone statue. Having breakfast here will put you in a great location to explore the city for a few hours.
What I love so much about O’Neill’s, besides the great food, is the layout and decor. It is the quintessential Irish pub- dark brown wood, leather couches and stools, fireplaces, a huge bar, hundreds of nooks and crannies with hidden tables, an upstairs seating area, and a great atmosphere.
O’Neill’s is the perfect place to hide out in a corner and plan your day or to nurse your hangover from one too many Guinness’. Or if you like, sit at the bar and make new friends.
O’Neill’s Ham & Eggs…one of my favorite breakfasts of my life. No lie. I refuse to admit to y’all how many times I went to O’Neill’s for breakfast. It may
or may not have been every day. So much for renting an Airbnb with a kitchen and thinking I was *actually* going to cook meals for myself. Facepalm.
O’Neill’s is located at 2 Suffolk St. They are open Monday-Thursday 8 am – 11:30 pm, Friday/Saturday – 8 am – 12 am, and Sunday from 8 am – 11 pm.
After breakfast, make your way over to Ireland’s world famous shopping street, Grafton Street.
There are all sorts of stores on Grafton from high-end fancy designer shops down to tchotchke souvenir shops. If shopping isn’t your thing, feel free to hang out in one of the many pubs or cafes. Or walk the street and watch the performers. Dublin is full of buskers and some of them are REALLY GOOD! My very favorite was Meg LaGrande – I follow her on social media and she is still playing frequently in Dublin!
Wander the length of this street and you’ll find yourself in St. Stephen’s Green which is a beautiful 22-acre Victorian park. Afterward, make your way back to Trinity College for an afternoon historical highlights walking tour.
This tour lasts about 2.5 hours and takes you all over Dublin, by foot, to show you really neat spots of history and a “behind the scenes” look into Dublin. Ticket cost: 12 Euros. The tour runs year round, in summer (May-October) it operates daily at 11 am and 3 pm. In the spring and fall (April & October) it runs daily at 11 am. During the winter it runs Friday-Sunday at 11 am. If you need, you can give them a call at +353 (0)87 6889412.
On this tour you will see:
- Trinity College
- House of Lords/Old Parliament
- Temple Bar
- Four Courts
- Christchurch Cathedral
- City Hall
- Dublin Castle
- Grafton Street
- Mansion House
- St. Stephen’s Green
Day Two: Blarney Day Trip
One of the best things about using Dublin as a home base is
A: you don’t have to rent a car
B: you can take easy day trips to see other parts of Ireland
I was traveling Ireland alone and was absolutely not interested in renting a car and driving around the country for my first visit. I thought it would be best to plant myself in Dublin and take day trips out to the various sites I wanted to see. Yes, driving on your own would allow more opportunity to see certain off the beaten path destinations. But, I didn’t mind being chauffeured in a bus and not having to worry about remembering to drive on the
wrong opposite side of the road!
So, Blarney Castle!
Freaking Blarney Castle, man. It is indescribable. I knew I would like it, but I didn’t have any clue as to HOW much I would LOVE it. And not only the castle, BUT THE GARDENS!
Please, Please, Please – do not miss a trip to Blarney.
I recommend this tour from Viator. It *is* a very long day, about 12-13 hours round trip from Dublin, but it is a lot of fun. You’ll also get to visit the Rock of Cashel (incredible) and independently explore Cork. Pick up is around 6:30 a.m. from somewhere in central Dublin. The Molly Malone statue next to your new favorite restaurant, O’Neill’s, is a popular spot for tour bus pickups. As is Trinity College which is right around the corner.
The Rock of Cashel dates back to the 1100s with a Romanesque chapel and a Gothic cathedral. It sits on a huge plot of land, with all sorts of buildings to explore and grave sites to walk past.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who likes burial grounds. So wander around a bit…
…and take in the incredible views of the Tipperary countryside.
From the Rock of Cashel, you’ll head down to Blarney. Make sure you have on sturdy, grippy shoes. The stairs at the castle are no joke – they are a tiny, winding spiral staircase that can be totally discombobulating.
See… that is NOT a one-way staircase, either.
So worth it.
The grounds of the castle are gorgeous, too. Do yourself a favor and spend some time exploring- lots of great photo opportunities.
When you’re ready, head up to the top to kiss the Blarney Stone, but maybe don’t actually kiss it cause you know, germs. I had heard about the Blarney Stone and how it gives the gift of eloquence, but I had no idea the acrobatics that went into kissing it.
To get to the Blarney Stone you climb winding staircase after winding staircase, wait in a super long line, lay on a mat, some man will hold your waist as you backbend UPSIDE DOWN over an opening a good 60-70 feet off the ground. Totally not for the faint of heart. All I could think was “Oh dear God, don’t drop me”
Like any good kiss, don’t open your eyes. Except for this time, it’s not because it’s good…this time it’s because it’s positively terrifying. While your heart rate returns to a normal range, enjoy the beautiful views.
Then, don’t miss the “it’ll cure you or kill you” poison garden. The poison garden is hidden (not really – there are signs for it) in the Blarney grounds and full of poisonous plants that were once used as remedies in various products. You’ll find things like nightshade, opium, and cannabis in the cage-like structures…
…and creepy faces.
Don’t do drugs, kids.
After Blarney, you’ll head down to Cork.
Day Three: Cliffs of Moher
This is another don’t miss trip in Ireland. I also booked this tour through Viator and had a wonderful time. Just like the Blarney tour you’ll depart from a meeting point in central Dublin and be out for the next 12-13 hours.
The Cliffs of Moher trip includes
- Cliffs of Moher – obvi
- The Burren National park
- The city of Doolin
- The city of Galway
“She played the fiddle in an Irish band, but she fell in love with an English man…”
The Cliffs of Moher are stunning. Like, I can’t even right now haha. This is quintessential Ireland. This is the Ireland you’ve probably had in your mind. And it’s finallyyyyyy here!
Happy Irish cows. They really sell Kerrygold butter in Ireland, too.
Can y’all see the black spots on that picture above? That is one of like 4 million gnats that were flying around! I may be exaggerating by about a hundred or so, but seriously. There were SO many of them!
The cliffs are stunning…and massive…702 feet massive. If it’s a clear day, you may be able to see the Aran Islands – which would also be a great trip, but too far for one day. You’ll have a couple hours to explore here so take your time. The weather can be a bit dodgy. When I was there it was quite chilly so bring a jacket, beanie, and a scarf. There is a big interactive center as well so go warm up and browse the gift shop.
After leaving the Cliffs you’ll head over to the Burren National Park which is a large, rocky limestone pavement area that was bought for nature conservation. In fact, Burren means a rocky place. Those Irish are smart with their names. There isn’t much going on here, but it is quite pretty. Find somewhere to sit and watch the waves crash into the shore.
Looks like the moon, no?
From the Burren, you’ll head over to Galway.
Day Four: Wicklow and Glendalough
Today is the last day of day trips! I don’t know about you, but I was getting pretty tired of sitting on coach buses by this point. This trip to Wicklow and Glendalough is the shortest and maybe the most memorable? I’ll be honest in saying one of the only reasons I wanted to visit Wicklow was the for the P.S. I love you bridge. Amiright ladies?
Like the past two days, your pick up point will be somewhere in central Dublin. From there you’ll head out of the city along the coast.
The first stop is this LOVELY little shop called Avoca Handweavers. I knew the second I walked into this shop I should have brought a larger suitcase and a lot more money.
Cheese and charcuterie? Two of my favorite things!
From Avoca, you’ll keep heading over towards Wicklow, finally stopping at the bridge!
Ahhhhh my heart! I’m not much of a television or movie watcher, but that movie is one of my favorites.
Keep driving through Wicklow to the Guinness Lake…or it’s proper name – Lough Tay.
The lake sits on private property and a section of the coastline is part of the Guinness estate. If you watch the t.v. show the Vikings – part of it was filmed on this lake.
You’ll stop somewhere for lunch and the afternoon is spent exploring Glendalough. This 6th-12th-century monastic city is where. its. at.
Stop and ponder this – that arch was built CENTURIES ago and is still standing. How on earth did they do this!?
This is the cathedral of St. Peter and St. Paul dating back to the 10th-12th centuries.
And the round tower. Cool story about this – the tower stands over 100 feet above ground and was used as a place of refuge for the monks when the monastery was under attack. You can’t see it from this photo, but the entrance to the tower is about 10-11 feet off the ground and only accessible by ladder.
The stop at the monastic city was unexpected for me, I didn’t really look up the itineraries when I was selecting a tour. Like I said, all I cared about was the bridge!
But, that being said – this city was incredible and certainly one of my favorite parts in all of Ireland!
I mean, for real….look at this place.
The Monastic city is the last stop of the day and you’ll catch your return ride back home to Dublin. The next few days are spent in Dublin, so you can sleep in a bit now!
Days Five – Nine: Dublin, Ireland
So, back to Dublin. You’ve explored a few other areas around the country, but haven’t really seen much of the place you’re calling home. That all changes now! Dublin is full of great activities, museums, pubs, cafes, shopping, etc. It would be wise to purchase some hop on hop off bus tickets to take you around the city. Most places are close to one another, but Guinness storehouse and Kilmainham Goal are a bit too far to walk.
If you purchase the hop on hop off Dublin Pass then you also have free or discounted access to several of the main attractions in Dublin. Even if most of the attractions are nearby and fairly easy to walk to it is really nice to have the bus when you don’t want to walk anymore and to see the city from a different angle.
Some of the things I recommend are:
Dublina Viking Museum:
The Dublina Viking museum – the attractions and sets a little childish, but the information is very interesting. It’s a fun way to waste an hour or two. Or a great place to entertain your kids if they’re tagging along. One of the only photos and video I have of the museum is of this man on a toilet, grunting:
Am I five? Probably.
The cost to enter is 10 euros. The museum is open daily from 10 am – 6:30 pm March-September (last entry at 5:30) and 10 am – 5:30 pm October – February (last entry at 4:30 pm). They are closed from December 24th-26th, however. Dublina is located at Christchurch Cathedral at the intersection of St. Michael’s Hill, Patrick St, and High St in the city center. If you need to call for any reason, their number is +353 1 6794611.
Christchurch Cathedral – I really loved this cathedral.
You can take a self-guided or guided tour. If you’re on the guided tour you are allowed to climb the 86 stairs up to the tower and maybe ring the bells over the city! And for fun, make sure you check out the mummified cat and rat. They were both stuck in an organ pipe and mummified in the 1800s.
Head down to the basement to view all sorts of cool relics and artifacts. Also, some costumes from the t.v. show Tudors.
You have to buy tickets to enter the church, which is kinda dumb, but whatever. The cathedral doesn’t receive state aid so that is why they charge an entrance fee. The self-guided tour is 7 euros and the tour guided tour is 11 euros, children and seniors get a couple euro discount. Opening times vary for the day of the week and season of the year, but typical hours are 9:30 am – at least 5 pm, except on Sundays which are 12:30 pm – 2:30 pm and 4:30 pm – 6 pm. If you need to call the phone number is +353 1 677 8099.
St. Michan’s Crypts:
Mummies! If you like this sort of stuff it’s worth the visit out to the church. Under the church lie 6 tombs (only 2 are open for viewing) where you can come face to face with mummies that are hundreds of years old.
The reason that these bodies are so well preserved is unknown – some people think it is because of the limestone, others think it is the methane gas. Whatever it is, it is degrading the wooden coffins but perfectly preserving the bodies.
There are four bodies – two of which are women and the other two likely being men. One of the men is known as the crusader and stood over 6 feet tall, which was a giant back in the day. To fit into the coffin his legs were BROKEN and folded up alongside him.
Uhhhh…I don’t care if he’s dead, don’t do that. The other one is known as the thief and he is missing a hand – rumor has it he lost his hand as punishment for stealing, obviously.
The cost to enter is a couple euro. The church is located on aptly named, Church St. If you put it into your phone you’ll have no problem finding it. Also, the bus drivers should be able to help you get off at the right stop. It’s a little bit of an unassuming church, but there are enough signs that it’s not hard to find. If you do need help, give them a call at +353 1 872 4154
Trinity College and the Book of Kells:
You walked through part of the school on the walking tour of Dublin, but go back and visit the library and see the Book of Kells.
The library is beautiful and I totally recommend that. The Book of Kells is just okay – it’s VERY small, under a tremendous amount of glass, and so full of people you hardly have any time to view it. I still say you should do it because FOMO, but don’t be shocked if you’re disappointed.
The total cost to enter is about 10 euros. Hours vary depending on the season, but during the summer they are open from 8:30 am – 5:00 pm, except Sunday when they open at 12 pm. During the winter they are open from 9:30 am – 5 pm and on Sundays 12:00 pm – 4:30 pm. The library is obviously located at Trinity College, which you should be familiar with by now since it’s pretty much city center. If you need to call their number is +353 1 896 1000.
The National Museum of Ireland:
Want some more creepy bodies? Check out the bog bodies in the museum! The museum is a fun place to spend several hours – there are loads upon loads of cool things to see and learn about.
The bog bodies don’t even look real, right?
You’ll have access to archeology, decorative arts, natural history, folklore and so much more. The museum is great because it’s FREEEEEEE. You have access to all four sites of the National Museum. They are open Tuesday – Saturday from 10 am – 5 pm and Sunday from 2 pm – 5 pm. It is closed on Monday, so plan ahead.
I almost skipped the goal because it is pretty far out on the bus and tough to get tickets for, but DON’T SKIP IT! A visit out here is totally worth it.
Tickets are timed entry and will sell out a couple days ahead of time, so you must plan accordingly. Admission cost is about 8 euro and you’re asked to arrive about 15 minutes prior to your tour time. The gaol is located at 8 Inchicore Road in Dublin and their number is +353 1 453 5984.
You can take a short ride from Dublin out to the cute little village of Howth. Walk the pier, watch for sea lions, and have lunch in one of the cute cafes.
Walk along the river Liffey:
Those are just a handful of things to keep you busy in Dublin.
I didn’t make it to the Guinness storehouse or up to Northern Ireland and the Giant’s Causeway – definitely will do on my next trip. I’d also really enjoy taking a couple days and going out to the Aran Islands.
There you have it! An easy way to spend 8-9 days in Ireland using Dublin as your home base.
Has anyone else been to Ireland?
What would you add to the list?
Comment below and let me know!
*Fun fact – ALL of these photos were taken WITH MY IPHONE! Like a total moron, I forgot my camera charger at home. I thought about buying a new camera once I arrived in Dublin, but decided I’d challenge myself and see what I could do with just the phone. Just goes to show you, taking good photos comes down to creativity and the eye – not just the tools.
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