There are few places that combine history, great food and drink, amazing (pub) culture and the friendliest people, but Dublin does just that! We spent a weekend in Dublin and this is our Long Weekend Travel Guide to Dublin.
You really should be spending more than a weekend in Ireland, something we realised when we left, but if you only have a few days and you feel slightly overwhelmed on what to do when in Dublin, I’ve put together the perfect list for the traveller in you.
Before we start, here are a few tips to get you going:
- Dublin Pass: This will set you back about £50 and you can either buy it at a tourist agency in Dublin or online. We bought it online which was super quick and activated it on our phones. You get the Hop-On-Hop-Off Bus map, free access to most of the top attractions in Dublin, tips on things to do and visit, discounts at pubs and restaurants and the best of all, you get to skip the ques at all the attractions. You can buy it online here.
- Take reusable coffee cups: Just like in the UK, if you have a reusable coffee cup you get a discount on your coffee. What traveller doesn’t want to save a few pence here and there.
- Book all your tickets online the night before: This way you skip the ques, are guaranteed of your spot to get in, and you can keep better track of what your spending.
- Dublin Airport is Really Confusing: It’s built in a sort of spiral shape which means a lot of walking. Make sure you get there with enough time to spare.
How to Get There
We came from the British mainland, from London to be exact, which ended up being an adventure on its own. Neither me, nor the husband are huge fans of flying, so we decided to take the long way around from London, namely the train and the ferry.
Virgin Trains & Stena Ferry Partnership
We pre-booked our trip on the Virgin Train from London Euston to Holyhead where we then got on the Stena Ferry to Dublin.
If you want to take the Virgin train I would really suggest pre-booking your tickets. The train fills up quickly and some cars are reserved only for pre-booked tickets. Please don’t be that person who needs to be asked to leave a seat you didn’t pay for.
It’s a 3 hour train trip, but it doesn’t feel that long and you go through the beautiful Welsh countryside, and even along the sea for part of the way. It’s comfy with lots of leg room and you can take anything you want onboard (no plane food and decanting toiletries).
Once you get to Hollyhead the train literally stops at the ferry docks. Just follow the stream of people and the boards (in English and Welsh if you can read it), to the ticket checking station. A small bus then drives you right onto the ferry and you simply walk up the stairs and hello comfy travelling.
The Virgin Trains partner with both the Stena Ferries and the Irish Ferries. The trips cost exactly the same and have the same route as well, so it really just depends on which one you get space. We opted for the Stena Ferry and it was such a great experience.
If you want you can book into a cabin as soon as you get onto the ferry, which is a nice option for a family maybe or if you want some privacy. If you get on nice and early, like we did, you can find a nice couch stop or lounge chair on either the 6th or 7th floors by the window. Even on a cloudy day, it’s a pretty nice view.
There are lots of entertainment options, from kids puppet shows to movies, to an arcade and a couple of restaurants with very reasonably priced food.
The only complaint I have is that everything on the ferry was disposable, which doesn’t sit too well with this eco-warrior. Now that you know though it gives you the opportunity to prepare and take your reusable options along.
Arriving in Dublin
The docking part of the ferry trip does take a while and if you didn’t drive on with your car and are a walk on passengers like we were, you will be the last to leave the ferry. Stay in your seat, or move to the front of the ferry and chill a bit longer and you watch the cars and buses drive out. Don’t even try to get off sooner, you simply can’t cause your minibus won’t be there. So, wait for the announcement and then make your way down to the loading bay.
Getting into Dublin
The port and the city centre are a little way from each other. It might not look very far on Google Maps but it’s a pretty desolate industrial area and you don’t want to be walking there.
You have two options to get into town.
- Take the busses waiting at the port saying “City Centre”. They are a few Euro and go straight into the city, but only to one point.
- If you want to go to a more specific point, take a Taxi (taxi app???)
Eating (and Drinking) in Dublin
Dublin is definitely the pub capital of the world. With over 800 pubs, compared to their 400 churches, they definitely have their priorities right, as one of the Hop-On-Hop-Off bus drivers said.
Like most European cities, Dublin takes a while to wake up in the morning over the weekend, but there are a few really nice options for breakfast.
I’d recommend KC Peaches for a great selection of wholefood breakfast selections. There are 4 cafes in Dublin and they all have wonderfully inviting interiors. All of their meals are made from naturally and locally sourced products with no colourings and preservatives added, and you can taste it! A great way to stay healthy when travelling.
The Temple Bar has the largest selection of sandwiches in all of Ireland. With close to 100 different options of their menu, you’re sure to find something you like. The Temple Bar itself is also a must-visit spot in Dublin and has a museum like feel when you walk through. If you’re not too keen on braving the crowds for a Guinness in the evening, a lunchtime visit is the perfect way to do it.
Naturally pub food is an option in abundance, but a word of warning, as soon as the sun starts dipping, the pubs fill up quickly and after a day of exploring you might want somewhere to sit where you can actually see your food. I’d suggest Great Burger Kitchen (GBK). There’s one right next to The Temple Bar so it’s still in the heart of all the fun. Their burgers are huge, and the veggie option is absolutely delicious. Two other “must-trys” is their rosemary fries and milkshakes, which come straight from the mixing jug. The staff are super friendly and the food great, perfect way to end off any day.
Dublin is not a very big city and you can really see almost everything there is to see in a day and a half, making it perfect for a weekend visit. There are a few stops I would recommend during your visit.
In some cities these are dreadful, but in others, like Dublin, they really are the best way to see the city. Using your Dublin Pass (read more above) you can get 24 hour use of both the red and blue lines. If you can, try always get on the blue line, the commentary is live and they are the best! Each is unique and adds a bit of Irish flavour to every ride. You’ll be laughing all the way through.
If there’s one place you visit in Dublin, it has to be the Guinness Storehouse! It’s free with the Dublin Pass (and you skip the ques) and is a great experience. The 7 story interactive story museum tells the story of Guinness and at the end you get to pour your own Guinness and have it as well in the 360° rooftop bar. There are three restaurants in the Storehouse as well and you can buy anything Guinness memorabilia related you want there. The tour takes about 2 hours but it’s totally worth it.
Jameson Whiskey Distillery
There are a lot of whiskey distilleries in Dublin, and new ones keep on popping up. If you’re not a bit whiskey drinker (like me), or if you’re a purist (like the husband) then opt for the Jameson Distillery. A distillery tour and tasting is free with the Dublin Pass. The tasting room is the perfect place to hide away and sip your whiskey for a bit and you can even get a whiskey connoisseur certificate.
A fun, interactive way to discover the history of Dublin. It’s the perfect place to take both children and adults alike. The tour is set over 3 floors and starts in the time of the Vikings, through to the middle ages and finally to modern day Dublin. Unlike many other history museums, this one is fun which videos and activities on each floor. If you’re up to it, climb the stairs to the tower and get a beautiful view of the city. Another great free attraction with your Dublin Pass.
Christ Church Cathedral
The oldest surviving structure in Dublin, this beautiful Gothic building is one of the two churches to visit in Dublin. From beautiful stained glass windows to exquisitely patterned floor tiles, it’s a wonderful experience. Once again, free to visit with your Dublin Pass.
Saint Patrick’s Cathedral
The bigger of the two churches in Dublin, this is the church of the patron Saint Patrick (as in the one celebrated on St Patrick’s Day). The church is said to be founded on the ground where Saint Patrick’s well was and where he started converting and baptising the people of Ireland for the first time. The most famous Dean of the church was Jonathan Swift, author of the ever popular, Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was buried in the church and is said to have written the novel with no intent of it being a children’s story, but rather a social commentary on the times, in fact, he actually hated children.
Trinity College & the Book of Kells
This is the one attraction I’d really recommend (whether you’re a book nerd like me or not) that is not included in the Dublin Pass. The Book of Kells is an illuminated manuscript from the 9th century of the four gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. Perfectly preserved, it could be one of the most important books in the world.
Despite its beautify and worth, I think the real attraction lies in the Old Library just above the Book of Kells. It was like something from Game of Thrones (or in this case actually really Star Wars as the Jedi Library was based on this one). With high ceilings, dark, tall bookshelves and busts of famous Irish scholars, it took my breath away. You really feel swept away to a world gone by. It’ll set you back about £10, which might seem a lot for a library, but it’s something you do once and it stays with you. I’d recommend buying tickets online as only a certain number of people are allowed in per session and the tickets sell out pretty quickly.
A Half Day Outside Dublin
After more than a day and a half you have basically seen and done everything there is to see and do in Dublin, so why not take a Half Day Trip outside the city. I’d suggest this one:
Malahide Castle and Coastline
The same Hop-On-Hop-Off service offers a half day tour to Malahide Castle and the coastal town of Howth. You can book online and it’ll be about £25 per person which includes your castle tour entrance.
Malahide is a beautiful medieval castle was the family seat of the Talbot family for 800 years until the 1980s when it was sold to the state by the family. The castle’s beautiful gardens are perfect for a morning walk after the castle tour, which is fascinating and includes a ghost and beautiful antique furniture (which my heart loved of course).
I’d heard a rumour that the Malahide Castle café had the best scones in the country, so we had to go investigate. I can say with all positivity that a visit to the castle JUST for the scones is completely worth it! Whether you go for traditional or summer berries, the warm scones, jam and cream are a definite highlight on the trip for me.
Coastline & Howth Village
Make sure you get a spot at the top of the bus. It might be a bit cold, but the view is worth it. The route takes you along the Irish coastline, a beautiful estuary and quaint little seaside towns.
Howth is a seaside fishing village and true to its nature the bus stops right on the docks where fishermen and seagulls alike are cleaning the nets. Go for a stroll along the docs and see the local seals pop up and get some of the freshest fish and chips (or for us it was calamari) wrapped in newspaper and sit at the end of the pier looking out over the ocean. It’s the perfect lunch spot.
The bus then winds back to Dublin along the coast again and is back in the city by 14:00, in time for you to catch your plane back home. It really is the perfect way to see a bit of the Irish countryside when you only have a long weekend in Dublin.