Happy Tuesday! Back AGAIN (this will be my last post this week as we’re heading to Michigan with a big group of friends tomorrow–more to come next week though!) It’s time to hit publish on my Ireland guides! First, we’re tackling Dublin, then next week, I’ll share everything to do in Killarney!
If you’re planning a trip to Dublin, HOORAY! This is a great spot for you to start your trip planning! I think the word that first comes to mind when thinking of Dublin is–”fun”–it’s just a very fun place to be. The people are fun, the pubs are fun, the restaurants are fun–everyone you meet is just fun. It’s an easy place to have a good time and an ideal location to kick off your Ireland adventure. This past trip was my third time in the city, so the reccos you see here are a compilation of those trips in addition to lots of great recommendations from readers–fellow US travelers and also a few locals! Let’s jump in!
First, getting to Dublin:
We flew direct from Chicago on Aer Lingus, and had no complaints! They often have the most reasonable fares round trip to Dublin. They’re also a Star Alliance partner so I was able to earn United points which was a plus!
To carry on or check bags to Dublin?
I would highly recommend carrying on bags to Ireland for a couple of reasons. One, it’s easy–you don’t need a wide range of clothing in Ireland. Everything is very casual. Perhaps most importantly–checking baggage to Europe is a fiasco at the time of me writing this post–people are losing their luggage for days, even weeks–and it’s not worth the risk just to have more clothes that you don’t need in the first place. (See my “what to pack for Ireland” post right over here!)
A quick note on carry on bag weight limits: European airlines often have different standards in terms of what’s accepted as carry-on luggage. (They tend to be much more stringent). If you fly Aer Lingus, you’ll notice on the website website that they seem to have pretty stringent carry on requirements in terms of weight, but this is the second time I’ve flown Aer Lingus now and they have not enforced this at least on my flights. (My carry on was well over the 22 pound weight limit!) I point this out because I received this question a lot–so, rest assured, I don’t think you need to worry too much about carrying on if you fly Aer Lingus or a major US airline.
If you do need to check a bag, I’d recommend buying some air tags to keep in them so you can keep track of where your luggage is, and also make sure you’re packing some essentials in your carry on bag in the event your luggage gets lost.
How many nights do you need in Dublin?
I think it really depends on where else you want to visit and what kind of destinations you love! If you love an urban destination, I would say two nights/two days is ideal for first timers. If you’re just doing a quick getaway and only want to stay in Dublin–I think you could easily find enough to do here for 3 nights! However, if you’re not much of a city person and have more interest in packing in as much as you can, you can get away with one night in Dublin for sure. (To make the most of your time, I’d fly in on a redeye, land, and get on a train or drive to wherever your first destination will be, then do your Dublin stay on the way out of town.)
This was my third time back to Dublin (Neal’s second time) and we were there for three nights, and Neal and I both agreed we wish we’d stayed an extra night in Killarney and done two nights in Dublin instead since we had already done a lot of the stuff there is to do in Dublin on our previous trips. (So instead of 3 nights in Killarney, 3 nights in Dublin, we’d have done 4 nights Killarney, 2 in Dublin).
This isn’t because there isn’t enough to do in Dublin–there’s SO much to do! But because we already live in a city, we would’ve rather spent more time in the countryside since that’s so different than the life we’re used to! I think it’s a preference thing for sure.
Do you need to rent a car?
Definitely not for Dublin–if you plan to rent a car later in your trip, don’t do so until you leave Dublin as I wouldn’t want to deal with driving/parking in the city. In terms of driving or taking the train/bus to your remaining destinations, you definitely don’t HAVE to–and that’s a personal preference. Neal and I both aren’t super keen on the idea of driving a foreign vehicle (often hard to get an automatic car) on the wrong side of the road, on super windy tiny roads we aren’t familiar with. Some other people love driving and wouldn’t consider that to be harrowing! For us though, we’ve always opted for the train/ubers/cabs/etc, and it’s never been a problem.
The one time I think we’d want a car is if we wanted to spend the majority of our time outside Killarney–driving to Dingle for a day trip, etc. Yes, scary windy roads, but unless you do some kind of guided tour (which I’d absolutely recommend if you’ve never been there before), you kind of need a car if you want to do your own thing if you want to venture out into the countryside on our own. Again, if it’s your first time, I would say no car needed unless you’re really into driving.
Other locations to tack into your Ireland itinerary?
As you can probably tell by now, I highly recommend adding Killarney to your list–it’s by far our favorite destination we’ve been to in Ireland. Maybe we’re biased because of our family ties there, but we think it’s pretty hard to beat. Not only is the town itself really charming, but what surrounds Killarney is really the biggest draw, and it’s a great location for plenty of day trips.
We’ve also been to Galway (near the Cliffs of Moher) which is such a charming seaside town and there’s also tons to do within driving distance from Galway (although we didn’t do that personally so can’t comment on that!) Cork is another spot I really want to get to and it’s become known as a huge culinary hot spot!
Stay tuned for my Killarney guide coming next–but right now, let’s talk about Dublin!
What to know about flying OUT of Dublin:
Alright, last little “housekeeping” announcement before we get to the fun stuff.
Passengers flying out of Dublin to the United States actually go through customs (Pre-clearance) in DUBLIN–not in the US. This means you will go through security twice–once is Dublin airport security, the other is customs TSA security. Even if you have global entry/TSA precheck you do not get to skip to the head of the customs security line. (Although once through security, you get to fast pass to the Global Entry machine and then Global Entry exit, which could save you some time, but it didn’t save us time as the long line was for security and not after we got to the Global Entry machines). All of this to say is that you need to budget more time than you normally would. Currently the Dublin airport website advises arriving 3 hours early for your US-bound flight if you have carry-on luggage, or 4 hours early if you have checked luggage. We got there three hours early and had plenty of time–I think we had about 40 minutes to kill even before boarding. Just don’t try to cut it too close!
Another important thing to know is that there is relatively nothing to eat or do once you get past customs and into the international gate areas, (the one restaurant we saw was so overcrowded it would’ve been impossible to get a table). So if you plan to eat the airport, eat after you go through security #1 and before you go through customs security #2. Or just plan to eat before you leave for the airport!
Once you’re past the first security, check the gate monitors–it will tell you when to proceed through customs and to your gate.
Okay, now on to the way more fun things!
Things to do/see in Dublin:
*All my personal favorite recommendations have an asterisk 😉
*Hop on/off Dublin bus: OKAY hear me out, I do not typically advocate for things like double decker bus tours. I hate anything touristy. BUT, seeing as Dublin doesn’t have a big inner city train/subway, and the city bus is the main means of public transportation anyway, this actually is a REALLY efficient way to see all the attractions at a very low price. They hit every cool sight/museum/area in the city. Plus, the drivers of the busses give you an audio tour while riding the bus from one stop to the other, and they’re very funny and charming–so it’s really a treat of an experience. This is the bus company I’ve booked in the past and it was fantastic. If you plan to see several museums/attractions, just TRUST, okay? 😆
Walking Food Tour: We are a big fan of Secret Food tours and did our third one in Dublin after having such great experiences in Barcelona and Rome. I will say the food itself on the tour did not remotely compare to the other two (then again it’s hard to compare meat and potatoes and brown bread to tapas and pasta). However, I think it’s still a really fun and great way to get an introduction to the city if you’ve never been, see it through a locals perspective, get local recommendations, and meet some fun people. We adored our guide, Anne!
*Little Museum of Dublin: We went here last time we were in Dublin on a local’s recommendation and it was so great and quirky and fun. Located in a beautiful 18th century Georgian row house–you’ll learn a ton about Dublin’s social, cultural and political history over the last century. FYI, the tours often sell out far in advance so book this ASAP!
*Trinity college library: The most beautiful library, you’ll feel like you’re in Harry Potter! Home to the famous and ancient Book of Kells. (But the library is the star, let’s be real).
Marsh’s Library: We sadly didn’t make it here, but it’s adjacent to St. Patrick’s Church and was the first public library in Ireland dating back to the 1700’s! It’s lesser-known than Trinity’s Library but still supposed to be very cool Harry Potter vibes.
Day trip to Howth: A small cliffside town just outside of Dublin! Beautiful views and lots to do! Easy to take the DART train.
Cliff walk: So many people raved about the cliff walk! I read that part of it is closed due to landslides, but it looks like a portion of it is still open and a nice thing to do to get out of the city. You can apparently get the best seafood here!
EPIC museum: The Irish Emigration museum was highly recommended by many! (Update: We did this and it felt like walking through a high school text book and would 10/10 not recommend. 😆 Unsure of the hype on this one–maybe it’s because we opted out of the audio headset?)
*GPO (Easter Rising) Museum: LOVED this museum. Absolutely worth your time and IMO essential in understanding the most important aspects of Ireland’s history. Super cool and interesting–I think getting the audio guide is an absolute must. It’s inside the beautiful historic post office which was a key location in the Easter Rising.
*Kilmainham Gaol (Jail): Another absolute MUST visit and imperative to understanding Dublin’s history and culture. Where many Irish revolutionaries were held and executed, including those who lead the Easter rising. *I would recommend doing the GPO museum first so you have better context when you go here!
Leprechaun museum: supposedly a crowd-pleaser with kids!
*Guinness storehouse: Touristy? Of course! But it’s hard not to have fun here. It’s worth the visit, especially for the bar at the end of the tour with the panoramic views of the city!
Cocktail class at the Jameson distillery: Many of you recommended this one!
Irish Whiskey Museum: one reader said it was worth it just to drink in the tasting room (if lucky, they also have live music!)
Swim at the Forty Foot: If you’re extra daring, this is where the locals go to swim and jump off the rocks into the ocean!
Walk/Bike around St. Stephen’s Green or Phoenix Park: Two of Dublin’s most beautiful public parks do not disappoint.
Whenever you can, cut through St. Stephen’s Green as you’re walking around–it’s such a beautiful park!
Highly recommend a visit to the GPO museum which is in the beautiful historic post office!
Dublin restaurants + pubs:
There are SO MANY great pubs, obviously they needed their own section! While Temple Bar is the most well-known area for nightlife (not to mention, is very aesthetically charming) some will tell you to avoid it because it’s considered very touristy. (It’s also known for getting quite sloppy at night, but I definitely don’t feel like it’s too rowdy during the day!)
For what it’s worth–my opinion as a visitor–I think you MUST go to Temple Bar while in Dublin and I’ve always had tons of fun there. It’s not just a tourist hotspot–it’s full of history, too and some of the most amazing restaurants in Dublin. (If you aren’t looking for drunken debauchery and lots of hen/stag parties though, you may not want to stay too late in the night and seek another area for a nightcap!) Another (local approved) area to check out though is Camden Street, which is also full of amazing pubs and restaurants and a great area for a pub crawl.
One of the best things I can recommend is to just walk everywhere–explore the city on foot, and stop into a local pub for a pint every so often.
The Ginger Man was a very fun vibe–we ate dinner here one night and the food was great too!
Gogarty’s–which is considered both an institution and yes, admittedly, full of tourists (as is all of Temple Bar), BUT has always been one of my favorites! It’s impossible to have a bad time here and they have awesome live music at all hours of the day and night!
The bar at the Palace pub–such a cool spot!
The stained glass ceiling in the back room at the Palace.
Here’s a list of pubs to put on your radar! I’m not going to include notes for each of these unless they were included in the submission, but almost all of these are recommendations from locals! Important to note that a lot of pubs have really great food, too, if you’re looking for a comforting Irish meal! If you’ve never been to Dublin before, I’d recommend grabbing dinner at a pub at least one night–it’s a must!
- *The Palace: Super old and historic, we came here on our food tour for a pint! The stained glass ceiling is amazing–you can still see the “ladies room” where ladies used to drink (because they weren’t allowed to drink in public 🤯) it’s now used as a storage closet, it’s so tiny– you’ll have to ask them to open it– but still cool!
- Trinity college bar: considered a hidden gem pub on campus–overlooks the fields!
- *Oliver St. John Gogarty’s: OK I added this one. 😆 Touristy? Yes. But my personal favorite. One look at the bright yellow and green facade and you can’t help but smile. They always have live great live music! (I’m sorry to my Irish readers, I’m sure you’ll yell at me for this one.)
- Piper’s Corner
- Old Storehouse: Has live music!
- Porterhouse Brew Co: Irish craft brewery with two locations in Dublin
- O’Neal’s Pub
- *Toners: A VERY old historic pub (we loved this spot!) with great live music according to locals. (Granted they didn’t have live music when we were there!)
- Bowe’s lounge
- The Globe
- Stags Head: Very popular recco from locals. They have a comedy show on Sundays and Mondays
- *Brazen Head: Claims to be the oldest pub in Dublin!
- Hogan’s: Many locals said this is their go-to spot.
- The Cobblestone: awesome dive spot for live music
- The Hairy Lemon: one reader said their bangers and mash is a must.
- *The Ginger Man: This spot was right next to our hotel and was so much fun and a great vibe. They had good food too! (I liked my chicken curry!)
Eating and Drinking–Not pubs:
The cozy quirky interior at Irish Potato Cake Co
Irish Potato Cakes!
*Spitalfields: Our favorite meal of the entire trip. DO NOT MISS SPITALFIELDS if you can help it. Everything was absolutely fantastic. Try to snag one of the two booths in the bar so you can watch them cooking through the open kitchen. Get whatever your server recommends, but whatever you do, do NOT miss their homemade short rib Parker house rolls! They also made an excellent martini which was a nice change up from several days of drinking pints.
*Piglet Wine Bar: A very cute intimate wine bar with a simple but delicious menu and fantastic wine. We both got pastas! I didn’t take one photo because we made friends with the couple next to us and talked the entire time, but we loved it and shut the place down!
*Sophie’s at the Dean Hotel: A beautiful trendy restaurant with amazing panoramic views. (The hotel looked awesome too!) We went for brunch/lunch and highly recommend.
*Irish Potato Company: A cute quirky spot on the river that specializes in Irish potato cakes! We went here on our food tour and it was so cute. Sit outside for great people watching!
*Vintage Cocktail Club: (Make a reso!) Loved this swanky, romantic spot last time we were in Dublin.
Port House: Three locations in Dublin. A great spot for tapas and wine!
Brunsen: great burger place in Dublin for a quick meal.
Lenox Street Grocer: A great spot to pick up a bottle of wine, coffee, provisions for your Air BnB!
Fade St. Social: Chef-run restaurant and bar focusing on local ingredients.
Lemon crepe and coffee co: One reader said this was the best breakfast she had in Dublin!
The Shelburne: Have a drink at one of this historic high-end hotel’s beautiful bars, afternoon tea or a meal in their lounge
Drop Dead Twice: A BYO Cocktail Lounge!
Boxty house: A very popular recco from locals and visitors alike–Boxty is like a savory Irish crepe! This is a great spot to go if you want to try some Irish food, but you don’t want pub fare!
Cellar bar at the Merrion Hotel: A cool hotel bar in an 18th century wine cellar! 50 wines available by the glass! (SO bummed we didn’t make it here!)
Mae: Modern Irish Cuisine, female chef-owned and operated! One reader said she recently ate here and it was incredible! If you want a high-end foodie experience, this looks really cool.
777: Mexican for when you’re sick of Irish food!
Mr. Fox: For a higher-end dinner. Pre-fixe seasonal menu.
Pickle: readers rave about this Indian spot, and some say it rivals Dishoom in London–which, IMO is maybe the greatest compliment ever.
FX Buckley’s: an iconic steakhouse (there are several, it looks like) if you’re in the mood for a fancy steak dinner!
*Elephant & Castle: Amazing wings (for when you’re sick of traditional Irish fare) and the only place we could find a decent salad in all of Ireland. 😆 It also happens to be across from my fave Gogartys, so you can head there for a pint and some live music after lunch or dinner!
*Murphy’s Ice Cream: They have locations all over Ireland (in Killarney as well!) and some of the best ice cream I’ve had in a long time–I LOVED their Dingle Sea Salt flavor, but their other famous flavor is the Irish Brown Bread ice cream. (I preferred the sea salt though!)
Sophies rooftop has an amazing view and great brunch!
When you’re sick of Irish food, Elephant & Castle has amazing wings and salad!
Murphy’s ice cream is to die for–my favorite was the Dingle Sea Salt!
Where to stay in Dublin:
This answer might vary depending on who you ask!
I would say in terms of area, anywhere that is close to St. Stephen’s Green, Trinity, or Temple Bar (the latter only if you’re looking to party) is going to be a good bet in terms of a central location–but it depends on what you’re looking for! I don’t think you can go wrong searching for Air BnB’s or hotels in these areas.
We stayed at The Alex Hotel, which I would probably rate an 8/10. It was a very aesthetically cute boutique hotel and I absolutely loved the decor– however, there were a few minor things (although I should note–none of this is uncommon as far as European hotels go because the buildings are always so old)–we had a lot of issues with the outlets working, they didn’t have hair conditioner anywhere to be found (only an issue because I never travel with it), the AC didn’t go lower than about 75 degrees (to be fair, it’s uncommon to even find somewhere with AC in Ireland, so I can’t really complain here) and there were a couple stains on the carpet and the throw blanket that made me question how often those things were cleaned.
Again, I’m being REALLY nit-picky, and overall if you can get a decent price, I’d definitely say it’s worth staying at. If you’re looking to treat yourself with a five star experience though and want a splurge, look into the Merrion or the Shelburne.
Our room at the Alex Hotel
Shopping in Dublin:
Drury st: The CUTEST little strip of local shops. Grab a coffee and take your time making your way through all of them. The standout favorite was Irish Design Shop!
*Irish design shop: a small woman-owned shop that stocks goods from some of irelands best makers! (I was stalking their website and it looks so awesome!)
*Barn: The cutest kid/baby store I’ve ever seen. I wanted to take everything home but settled for some Maileg mice for June! ♥️
*Jacadi: Not Irish in the slightest, but it’s an adorable French kids boutique that they don’t have in Chicago so I went in and snagged a cute outfit for June. I know many of you will also want to know there is a Jacadi in Dublin. 😂
*Oliver Bonas: Apparently a very popular chain in the UK (but I’d never seen it before!) They have the cutest colorful, fun clothing and housewares.
Penney’s: Ireland’s department store. (Looks like it was bought by Primark, so it may be similar if you’ve been to a Primark!)
*Aran Sweater Market: Where to stocked up on Irish sweaters for us and June! They’ll ship back to the states for you for free with purchase of $100 or more, so you don’t have to leave room in your suitcase! (We meant to go to Quill’s in Killarney but didn’t make it, so went here instead!)
Highly recommend a stop into Irish Design Shop!
Stopped into Aran Sweater Market to stock up on sweaters! They ship to the US free with $100+
I hope this was helpful! Overall–you cannot have a bad time in Dublin! I hope you love Ireland as much as we do. Enjoy your trip, and don’t forget to tag me if you head to any of these spots–it always makes my day to see! If you have more questions about planning your Dublin trip, feel free to message me over on Instagram!