Ireland was a country I wanted to visit for such a long time. I always loved Irish music and humour. And those forty shades of green were something I wanted to see for ages. So, when a few months ago Marijan and I learned we’re going to have a week for ourselves, we immediately booked flight tickets to Dublin. We’ve spent five days in Dublin, and you can read my travel diary from it, here.
Dublin Travel Diary: Five days in Dublin
We arrived in Dublin on Sunday evening, after a short, hour and a half long flight, from Amsterdam. After checking in at our hotel, we went for dinner to a cute little Italian restaurant close by. It was already quite late, so we went to bed early to have some energy for exploring the city the next day.
Ierland Toerisme helped in organising our trip, so when we came to our hotel room, there was a media pack already waiting for us. It was filled with entrance tickets, brochures and many useful information. I love when something like that is waiting for me in a hotel room. It feels so welcoming!
Some tips before your visit to Dublin
# – Get a Dublin pass – It was one of the most useful things we had during out trip. It has saved as a lot of time and money. We got a three days Dublin pass, which included free public transport, hop-on-hop-off bus and free entrance to many museums and attractions. You can check out the prices and get your Dublin pass on a link here!
# – Take a ride with Hop-On-Hop-Off bus – It’s one of the things I’m usually considering to be so touristy and am not really doing while travelling. However, Marijan was really into it, so we went for a ride. And it was one of the best things we did in Dublin. It’s a two-hour bus ride during which you can see most of Dublin’s attractions, and it will give you a better feel of the city. However, the best part of it was our driver. His name was Ken, and he was one of the funniest guys ever. We were laughing so much on his jokes and observations, and after it, I had a feeling like I really saw Dublin through the eyes of a local. A big recommendation for it!
# – Public transport in Dublin – Public transport is organised by buses in Dublin. Those (mostly) green double-deckers are giving a great charm to the city. Dublin is quite small, but going to some places like Guinness Storehouse or Kilmainham Gaol Jail would require you to take a bus. Especially if you’re planning to spend five days in Dublin like we did, using public transport from time to time could be handy.
# – Getting to the city from Dublin airport – There are buses in front of the airport building that will take you to the city centre. They are departing every few minutes, and it will take you between 30 – 60 minutes to get there. You can choose between a city bus no. 747 or the Airlink Express, which is the express service. Both are included in the Dublin Pass, so it’s good to get it prior to your arrival to Dublin.
Day one – Monday in Dublin
During our five days in Dublin, we stayed at the Holiday Inn Hotel at the O’Connelly Street. It has a great location right in the city centre, and we were so close to the General Post Office (one of my favourite places in Dublin). The hotel has a nice common area, restaurant and a bar on the ground floor. Our room was quite spacious and modern. And a great thing was that breakfast was included in the room price.
City walk with Una
After having breakfast (and learning what the Irish breakfast is), we went to the Trinity College where we had to meet our guide Una from the Angel Tours. Una took us on a private city walk and have told us about Dublin and Ireland. We’ve taken a walk down the O’Connelly Street till the Garden of Remembrance. She has also told us a lot about James Joyce and some places in Dublin he’s mentioning in Ulysses.
It was so nice having a local with us telling us about her country and everyday life in Dublin. We were also quite fascinated with our guide who was 78 years old lady but had a spirit of a 20-year-old. Such an inspiring person…
Lunch at Temple Bar
After spending the whole morning with Una, we needed some rest from walking and exploring hidden gems of Dublin.
We’ve taken a break and went for lunch to one of the pubs in Temple Bar. Although I heard some negative things about being a tourist trap, I actually quite liked it. The atmosphere there was charming and the fact there was live Irish music in every single pub there was something I really liked.
Later on, we’ve strolled around the city, trying to feel it’s spirit more. Dublin has some great examples of Medieval stone architecture (mostly churches), anyone is probably imagining when thinking of Ireland. Then, there is a historicist architecture of mostly old residential buildings in the city centre. And industrial, late 19th Century brick buildings, that reminded me of London and even Hamburg a bit. It’s a city where you can feel the high culture in combination with the working class and industry.
I wanted to explore more two Medieval buildings, I especially liked during our tour with Una, St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Christ Church Cathedral. They are quite close to each other and the architectural style is also similar. I loved the combination of stone architecture and colourful tiles on their floors. Also, little stories and legends in both of them. You can spend quite some time in them, by watching videos on their history, learning about some famous events happening there or about people that are buried inside them.
*TIP no. 1: Jonathan Swift, the author of the Gulliver’s Travels, was a dean of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in the first half of the 18th Century. You can see his epitaph in the cathedral today.
*TIP no. 2: On a street between two cathedrals there is a lovely little shop with work of Irish designers, called Jam Art Factory. Check it out for some cool souvenirs from Ireland.
Day two – Tuesday in Dublin
Trinity College & Book of Kells
One of the things I was mostly looking forward before our trip to Dublin, was visiting the Trinity College. Especially its library and seeing the Book of Kells. So, the next day, we went there first thing in the morning. There is something so magical in visiting universities. There’s so much knowledge at one place, and there’s always such a great vibe on them.
During the time we were in Dublin, the ‘Green Week’ was taking place. And we came to Trinity College just in time when a big gathering related to it started. Few weeks before, new research made by the University about climate change and negative impacts on Earth was released. So, they started with many initiatives on how to have more sustainable University and how to protect the nature of Ireland more.
Standing there and listening, the speakers felt so surreal to me. I felt like it was one of those historical moments we’ll be talking about in fifty years. You know how in the Young Indiana Jones series he’s always finding himself on some of those historical events. Well, I felt just the same at Trinity College that day.
We went to an old library of Trinity College afterwards and were stunned entirely with it. Despite being surrounded with a bunch of loud Italian students that were visiting it at the same time, it felt so peaceful and out of this world. I also loved seeing book restorers on their work, repairing some old books.
The exhibition about the Book of Kells was there, as well. It’s one of the most important Medieval books that survived until nowadays. The exhibition is explaining everything from how many people worked on it, pigments used and education during that time.
*TIP: Book of Kells ad Trinity College library are among the most visited places in Dublin. So, queues to get in could be really long. Be sure to get your ticket on line to avoid waiting for hours.
Tuesday was reserved for museums, so the next place we went to see was the Archaeology Museum. Located in a beautiful historical building, with some amazing floor mosaics again (it looks like having beautiful floors is a thing in Dublin). Museum has a great collection of Medieval Irish art and archaeology. I was especially interested in a collection of Irish gold (talking about some amazing jewellery here) and the Viking history of Dublin. Luckily, there was a huge exhibition about Vikings in Ireland on display. It’s interesting to see that combination of Celtic and Viking influences on Medieval Irish culture. Although the museum is a bit outdated with its setting, it was so worth seeing it.
*TIP: There’s no entrance fee for this museum. It’s free of charge for everyone!
Vegan lunch in Dublin
Maybe still under the influence of the speech, we heard at the Trinity College, or already a bit tired of pub food, we wanted to have a vegan lunch that day. We made a quick search to see what’s nearby and have found one of the restaurants we really liked – Le Pain Quotidien. And was that delicious! I really liked that raspberry lemonade, as well. I think I should visit it more often in Amsterdam, too.
Museum of Irish Writers
After Una told us about Ulysses and some Irish writers, I was really eager to learn more about them. I was also wondering why there are so many famous writers and poets from Ireland, and there are almost no famous Irish painters at all. OK, beside Francis Bacon. I hoped to find an answer at the Museum of Irish Writers.
Well, here is a spoiler: I haven’t found it there! But, I think I did at the Cliff of Moher the next day (so, keep on reading for it).
Museum has quite a nice overview of Irish writers and their work. It also has a beautiful book shop that could be a great place to buy a souvenir from Dublin.
I wanted to do precisely that. I read some of the Irish writers back in high school, but I wanted to buy myself a book I’ll be reading during the trip. I wanted to go with Ulysses, but after reading a few lines, I realised it’s too advanced for me. So, I went with another classic, Bram Stoker’s Dracula.
Whenever we’re travelling, Marijan and I always like to go to more residential areas trying to feel an everyday life in the city. We were quite fortunate because one of my good high school friends, Maja lives in Dublin, and we agreed on having dinner together. She promised to take us to a nice restaurant in her neighbourhood. We meet at the Grand Canal which is a modern area of Dublin. Bord Gáis Energy Theatre, an example of amazing modern architecture, is there, as well. Together with some tech companies like Google, Facebook etc. It looked completely different from the old Dublin we’ve seen earlier that day.
Day three – Wednesday at Cliff of Moher and Galway
Next day was reserved for a day trip outside Dublin. After doing some research prior to our trip, we liked the most a day trip to Cliff of Moher and Galway we’ve found at Get Your Guide website.
If I would do anything differently during our five days in Dublin, I would take two days to go on trips outside the city. Ireland is so beautiful, and it would be a shame not seeing that amazing nature during your visit. I think that we really did see those 40 shades of green and 50 shades of grey.
We first went to Cliff of Moher, and it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Nature was fascinating and frightening at the same time. It also had such a spiritual feel. It reminded me a lot on Stonehenge and the feeling I had there. It was really windy, and in a moment we would be in the middle of a cloud, while the other one the sun was shining. At one point, I was looking to the cliffs and huge waves crushing to them, and all of a sudden I heard the music. An old man was playing his accordion, and I could hear those beautiful lyrics:
The island, it is silent now
But the ghosts still haunt the waves…
Thousands are sailing
Across the western ocean
To a land of opportunity
That some of them will never see…
And I could almost see them. Boats with people leaving for a better life. And here, on these cliffs, those who already missed them, put their feelings into those beautiful words. Well, maybe that’s the reason for all those famous Irish writers…
It was such a magical moment I couldn’t stop my tears. I will always remember that day on Cliffs of Moher and that old man playing…
We continued our ride towards the small village of Doolin where we had lunch in a local pub. We then rode alongside the seashore, and although the road was so narrow, and at the moments it seemed like we wouldn’t manage to pass next to the cars coming from another direction, the scenery was amazing. It’s known as the Burren, and it’s a part of the national park and a protected landscape.
Finally, we came to Galway, the city I knew so well from all those traditional Irish songs. The cute little town was a place where I saw the most street musicians than anywhere else in the world. Literally, every fifty meters someone was playing or singing.
Well, after we’ve come back to Dublin, we ended up at a pizza place again (it looks like we were eating a lot of Italian food in Dublin). It was the Milano Restaurant in Temple Bar, which is a sub-brand of London’s Pizza Express, I love to go to when in England. It was nice and cosy, and the pizza was delicious!
Day four – Thursday in Dublin
Besides a trip to Cliff of Moher, this was probably my favourite day in Dublin. The weather was great, and we’ve spent it by exploring Irish history.
General Post Office
During our five days in Dublin, I have learned probably the most about the Irish fight for independence. We started our day by visiting General Post Office were the Irish Revolution in 1916 started. There is an amazing exhibition and a movie about it in the basement of the building.
After we’ve seen it, I’ve finally understood all the issues from Irish history and also the problems and differences there were between the south and the north. It’s also visible in the Irish flag. It’s said that a green colour symbolises the south of Ireland, orange the north and the white in the middle a peace between them. This exhibition is probably the most significant recommendation I have for anyone visiting Dublin.
*TIP: Get your entrance ticket on a link here!
EPIC Museum & CHQ Building
We’ve continued in a similar tone and have went to EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. It’s a great place to learn about the reasons for such a huge emigration from Ireland during the history. Being an immigrant myself, I could relate with so many stories there. It was also quite interesting to learn about some famous Irish emigrants, like Liam Neeson, or one of my favourite, Samuel O’Reilly, who invented the modern tattoo machine.
EPIC Museum is located at a lovely CHQ Building with many co-working spaces, tech offices and restaurants. We were there during the lunchtime, and I really liked it. Many people that are working there were having lunch at the same time as we did. It has such a great atmosphere with so many young people around. I almost felt like the new Facebook founder was sitting at the same restaurant. It’s really a cool and vibrant place.
*TIP: Get your ticket for the EPIC Museum on line before your visit (click on a link here).
Dublin is filled with public statues. One of the most intriguing for me was The Famine Memorial in front of the EPIC Museum. Designed by Irish sculptor Rowan Gillespie in 1997, the statues commemorate the Great Famine of the mid-19th Century. Approximately one million people died during that time in Ireland. And a million more emigrated from the country during it. It’s such a sad part of Irish history…
We’ve taken a walk next to the River Liffey in the afternoon. I’ve enjoyed so much seeing all those different architectural styles on our way. Once again, Dublin has it all, from the historicist 19th Century architecture to industrial brick warehouses until some very modern buildings.
One of the last things on that day was a visit to the famous Guinness Storehouse. I really liked the part of the exhibition about the Guinness commercials. The rest of the exhibition was dedicated to the way they’re producing the beer. So, if you’re not really interested in it, it could be a bit boring, I think. However, I definitely liked the roof-top bar where we had a pint of Guinness. There is a beautiful view of Dublin from there and that Guinness was one of the best I ever had.
*TIP: Queues to get into the Guinness Storehouse are really long! So, my advice is to definitely get your ticket on line in advance (here is the link)!
Dinner at the oldest pub in Dublin
Since it was our last evening in Dublin, we wanted to visit a few more pubs that night. We first went to infamous The Brazen Head and had a dinner there. It was founded back in 1198, and I think the oldest pub/restaurant I’ve ever been to. They are saying they’re the oldest pub in Ireland, and although there are some debates about that, it’s old enough for me. Tables are close to each other in it, so it’s also quite nice for meeting people around you.
Drinks in the coolest pub in Dublin
After a dinner there, we went to another, slightly different pub – The Porterhouse. It’s one of the rare pubs in Dublin that doesn’t serve Guinness, and the reason is in a range of craft beers they’re producing themselves. Some guys were playing music at one of the tables, and the atmosphere was really nice and friendly. I’m definitely recommending it for drinks while in Dublin.
Day five – Friday in Dublin
Our plane was departing in the afternoon, so we decided to spend the morning at the Kilmainham Gaol prison. We thought the best way to get there would be by taking a Hop-On-Hop-Off bus. Since Marijan wanted to ride on it since we came to Dublin (I know, I know… I also have thought I’ve left a four-year-old at home) we’ve decided to take it to get to the prison.
Green Dublin bus
Well, I’ve mentioned already at the beginning of the post how I’m usually not really thrilled with that kind of buses. But, since Marijan was insisting, we’ve taken a ride. And like the most excited kids, we set at the first row on the top floor.
When we were entering the bus, I’ve asked our driver is it possible to get out at the prison and he told me, with a completely serious look, that unfortunately, this is a ‘hop-on-stay-on’ kind of bus, and we can’t leave it before the end of the tour. He said that totally serious and I wasn’t even aware he was joking with me. So, I was like, ohh, that’s really a shame, but there’s nothing we could do now… Well, after some time I realised that’s a famous Irish humour. I’ll just say we loved our driver and his humour so much, we missed the prison and stayed on a bus until the end of the ride.
*TIP: We’ve missed the Kilmainham Gaol prison, but with what have I heard about it, it’s an amazing place. So, plan your last day better than us and try to visit it!
Lunch at a seafood bar
After the tour, we went to our last lunch in Dublin. This time we’ve find a real restaurant gem there – KLAW The Sea Food Cafe. It’s a small seafood restaurant with a very cool interior and some delicious food. I had a DELICIOUS crab pasta. A great place for lunch and probably the place where I had the best food in Dublin.
After it, we went to a hotel to pick up our bags and have gone to the airport. Five days in Dublin is enough time to get a feeling of a city and visit some of its major sights. If I could do it again, I would definitely add one more day of visiting the rest of Ireland.
It’s a beautiful country with such a great spirit, personality and people. If you’re planning your trip to Dublin, definitely include some sights where you can learn about its history, fight for independence and emigration. And, of course, don’t forget to read something written by one of the famous Irish writers before your trip.
*A big thanks to Ierland Toerisme for helping us organise our trip and providing us with media passes and some complementary entrance tickets while there.
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