We first visited Ireland in 2011 for our six-year wedding anniversary and loved Dublin so much that we moved there 6 months later. We spent 2 and a half years working on the Emerald island, giving us the opportunity to see a lot of the country.
Shelbourne Hotel is Dublin’s most historic upscale hotel, where several US Presidents and many foreign dignitaries have stayed in the past. They have a nice cocktail lounge, cafe and restaurant. In the afternoon, stop in for high tea and enjoy a lovely view of St Stephen’s Green.
O’Callahan is a small chain of centrally located, comfortable hotels with good breakfasts.
ABC House Dublin is a little outside the city center, but offers reasonable comfort for those that don’t want to spend a lot to sleep. We spent a week here while searching for our apartment when we first moved to Dublin.
Generator Hostel is conveniently located right next to the Jameson Distillery (!) and is part of a reputable chain of hostels in Europe. Generator Hostels are known for being clean and having a fun atmosphere.
Dublin: days 1 and 2
if you only have a week, 2 days in Dublin are enough to see many of the highlights. For convenience, you may want to consider a hop on, hop off bus tour that’ll take you to many of the big attractions at your leisure. The Guinness Storehouse, next to the Guinness factory is a must for some, and has one of the best views of Dublin from the 7th floor Gravity Bar.
A stroll through St Stephen’s Green and Merrion Square parks is lovely, especially when the weather is good. And a pub crawl in Temple Bar, is of course, great ‘craic’ (Irish for great times). Skip drinking Guinness in Temple Bar (a local tip) and save that for neighbourhood Irish pubs. You should also have a walk around Trinity College, conveniently located in the center of Dublin. It’s the country’s oldest and most prestigious university, with a beautiful campus.
6 of the very best attractions in Dublin:
Dublin Castle was the seat of the United Kingdom’s government until it was handed back to the Irish. One hour is enough to see the beautiful state rooms, including the impressive room where the President of Ireland’s inauguration takes place.
National Gallery of Ireland It’s free to enter the National Gallery, which is home to an impressive collection. Look out for the very famous and compelling Caravaggio’s ‘Taking of the Christ.’
Chester Beatty Library This is another free museum featuring one of the best private book collections in the world. You’ll find great exhibits on the Middle East, North Africa and Asia.
Natural History Museum A third free museum that houses an impressive and extensive zoological collection that has changed little in over a century.
National Museum of Ireland- Archeology A fantastic museum with a huge collection of artefacts on pre-historic Ireland as the well as the Viking and Medieval periods.
Kilmanhaim Jail A jail turned museum, it once housed many Irish political prisoners who fought for the nation’s freedom. It offers an important and moving history lesson.
Where to eat and drink
The Brazen Head is Ireland’s oldest pub dating back to 1198. Irish literary giants like James Joyce and Jonathan Swift have visited over the centuries, as well as the revolutionary Michael Collins. He was the leader in liberating Ireland from British rule. Brazen Head oozes centuries of history and is a great place to watch live traditional Irish music, though a bit touristy.
O’Neill’s is a fun Irish pub that offers a fantastic carvery, fish and chips, a good beer selection and nightly live music.
Lotts is a fun, and less touristy pub where you can try an interesting local favorite, a plate of Dublin Coddle, or the delicious lamb shank.
For the perfect pint of Guinness in another historic pub, you’ll love O’Donoghues. It has Guinness and live Irish music 7 nights a week.
Cafe en Seine is a restaurant and bar that transforms into one of the most popular nightclubs at night. This is an establishment that even my 85-year-old father enjoyed!
The Bank on College Green is an impressive venue for cocktails, where they also serve excellent food.
Car rentals in Ireland
You don’t need a car if you’re just visiting Dublin. It’s a small city and a car will be more hassle than it’s worth within the city limits. You can walk, use the hop on hop off bus, catch public transport and use taxis and Uber.
Prices quoted are generally for stick shift vehicles (so you’ll have to do everything on the opposite side). Automatic cars aren’t very common in Ireland, and if you want one, you may have to pay as much as €40 ($43 US) per day extra.
Half day trips outside Dublin by public transport
The towns of Bray and Howth are both accessible via the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit) commuter rail. You can reach the Wicklow Mountains via bus to enjoy a great view of Dublin and the surrounding coast. Glendalough is also fantastic for a day trip and Saint Kevin’s Bus can take you there to enjoy the picturesque lakes and historic medieval ruins at your leisure.
Galway and the Cliffs of Moher
Galway is like a smaller version of Dublin with fewer museums, though still with some wonderfully authentic Irish pubs and eateries. It’s great for walking and for spending the night before heading to the most visited place in Ireland, the dramatic Cliffs of Moher. The Cliffs of Moher attracts over 1 million visitors annually and during our time in Ireland we visited twice.
Dingle and the ‘Ring of Kerry’
At this point, you may want to slow down a bit to enjoy your vacation, and the town of Dingle is the perfect place to do this. While County Clare is phenomenal, County Kerry also has so much to take in on the ‘Ring of Kerry’ drive and more. Dingle is one of the best and most laid back Irish towns — perfect for unwinding when you return from exploring the seaside and landscape.
Many Irish roads, particularly on the ‘Ring of Kerry’ are very narrow and some people are intimidated about driving on the left side of the road. If you’re not a confident driver, you should book a tour so someone else does the hard part and you just enjoy the view out the window and at stops.
Lakes of Killarney and Cork
Killarney is a lovely Irish town that rests between two beautiful lakes. Drive here for an afternoon stroll and explore the lakes and beautiful waterfalls nearby. You could spend a night either here or in Cork.
Cork is Ireland’s second largest city and the culinary capital of the country. A must visit in Cork is the English Market. Here, you’ll find many treats to buy in Ireland’s best market. Just outside Cork is another of Ireland’s most popular attractions, Blarney Castle, where you can kiss the famous Blarney Stone!
Copper Coast and Kilkenny Castle
If you want a gorgeous and unspoiled drive, you’ll love the Copper Coast, mainly because you won’t meet many other people. Stop here on your way to Kilkenny. It’s a hidden gem that many Irish people aren’t even aware of.
Other noteworthy places you may want to visit include Belfast, the Carrick-a-Rede rope bridge and Giants Causeway in Northern Ireland. You can substitute days 6 and 7 to include these sights on your visit.