Dublin is the capital of Ireland, located on the Eastern Coast of the country. This city boasts many amazing attractions! I spent a solo weekend in Dublin in the fall of 2016. These are my highlights of this charming city:
I started my weekend in Dublin by going on a Free Walking Tour, exploring the south side of the city. This worked out especially well for me because I had zero game plan when I arrived. The tour starts near the Dublin Spire, then continues to Trinity College, Temple Bar, Dublin Castle, and ends at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Spire of Dublin
The Spire is in the middle of O’Connell Street, north of the River Liffey. It’s pretty hard to miss! The Spire is in the place where Nelson’s Pillar stood until 1966, when it was destroyed by a bomb by former IRA members.
O’Connell Street is a great place to stroll. Some refer to is as the spinal cord of the city – running north and south through the center of Dublin.
Ha’Penny bridge is a pedestrian bridge built in 1816 crossing the River Liffey. My walking tour guide seemed to believe it wasn’t very sturdy, and that was enough for me to be too scared to cross it myself! You can get a good view of the bridge from the bridges on either side – O’Connell Bridge or the Millennium Bridge. It is called the Ha’Penny bridge because when William Walsh built it, he could charge everyone who crossed a halfpenny.
If you walk south from the Spire, past the River Liffey you will find Trinity College (also known as the College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity of Queen Elizabeth near Dublin… such a long name!). The campus is just across the street from the Irish Whiskey museum, and is definitely worth a visit.
If you have the time, you must visit the library of Trinity College!! The library began with the college in 1592. In 1801, the library was given legal deposit rights – meaning any publisher in Ireland must deposit all of their publications in the library for free. It is the only library in the UK with these rights!
One of the most famous contents of this library is the Book of Kells – written in a monastery around 800 AD. Two of the volumes are on public display in the library.
Often referred to as the cultural capital of Dublin, Temple Bar is not to be skipped! Temple Bar is a neighborhood south of the Liffey. The charming cobblestone streets offer plenty of bars and pubs to visit – don’t fall for the tourist trap and go to the single bar claiming the neighborhood name.
Historically, this area used to be quite unsafe. Due to the low cost of rent in the area, it ended up being a hub for Irish bohemian life and eventually a trendy neighborhood. In addition to pubs, the neighborhood has galleries and theatres. The area is bustling both day and night!
Dublin Castle was the seat of British power in Ireland for 700 years. There are still some remains from the 13th century, but the current structure is from the 1700s. The space is now used by the government for events.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
St. Patrick’s Cathedral is built on the site where Saint Patrick is said to have baptized locals in the 5th century. Founded in 1191, it is the tallest and largest church in Ireland. It was quite controversial at the time of its construction because there was no precedence for a city of its size to have two cathedrals. St. Patrick’s Cathedral is not the seat for the Archbishop of Dublin, but it has been designated as the national cathedral of Ireland since the 1870s. Tourists can enter for a small fee.
On the walking tour, I ended up befriending several other travelers. At the end of the tour, our fabulous (and very Irish) guide Richie recommended a great place for a sit down lunch down the road from St. Patrick’s – The Hairy Lemon. Walking in, we ran into another group from our walking tour so we all sat together for lunch! It was rather entertaining. Lots of different nationalities and lots to talk about!
St. Stephen's Green
St. Stephen’s Green is a beautiful public park in Dublin, right off of Grafton Street. It is Dublin’s largest Georgian garden square, taking up 22 acres! My favorite part was the small lake, but the entire garden is worth a stroll through! The garden is a great place for a picnic during warmer seasons.
The Molly Malone Statue is very close to the tourist office. The statue was built in 1988 for the Dublin Millennium celebrations. “Molly Malone” is the unofficial anthem of Dublin, a song about a beautiful young lady selling fish from a cart in Dublin. You will notice that the breasts of Molly Malone are much shinier than the rest of her body – rumor has it touching them brings good luck!
Nightlife is a huge part of experiencing Dublin! Since I was traveling solo, I went on the Dublin Pub Tour with beer and whiskey tasting. The beer and whiskey tour isn’t free, but I think it was worth the price! It’s very much a social tour rather than a structured tour. You visit a local craft brewery, whiskey distillery, and then finish in a pub where I guarantee the tour group is the ONLY sign of tourists in a three block radius.
I enjoyed each part of the pub tour, but the highlight was definitely visiting the quaint local bar at the end. Locals came and went, playing music together in the front room of the bar. Some of the music was original pieces, and others traditional Irish ballads.
Day Trips from Dublin
Finally, there are several easy day trips from Dublin if you are staying for a couple of days. I took a day tour to Malahide Castle & Gardens and the village Howth. The Cliffs of Moher are also a popular destination, and not that far from Dublin!