what to do with 36 hours in
What Dublin lacks in size compared to its European city counterparts it makes up with an irresistible allure that is sure to steal your heart right from the intercostal bones that encase it.
Dublin is a stone's throw away from London and, if timed just right, you can fly out after work on a Friday afternoon and snag yourself a sneaky 36 hours escape from reality. Well, that is, if the airlines are playing nice and departing from their respective runways on time. In our case, our airline was not being the team player that we had hoped for and our flight was unfortunately delayed around two hours. This meant we ended up flying out much closer to midnight then we originally anticipated. Though our situation wasn't quiet like Cinderella's and our plane (thankfully) didn't transform into a pumpkin when the clock struck midnight, our late arrival did unfortunately have a knock on effect that made us feel very tired for the next day of exploring.
If you're flying out late on a Friday night like us, then I would recommend staying in a hotel that's closer to the airport. We stayed at The Holiday Inn Express Dublin Airport. The hotel is a ten minute drive from the airport, offers easy check-in, comfy beds, and a buffet breakast in the morning. I felt bad for the people who, at 12:30 in the morning with their eyes hanging out of their heads, were trying to navigate public transport or catching an overpriced taxi to the city. I feel like its moments like these that really make or break any kind of relationship. If there had been divorce papers available at the airport, then I think this married couple would have seriously considered filing them. The husband, who had booked a hotel that was nearly two hours away via public transport, was feeling the full wrath of his wife's fury at the idea of an night of no sleep and then having to deal with the in-laws for the weekend.
Originally the epicentre of British power for over 700 years, Dublin Castle is a remarkable building sitting in the middle of the city. The building is made of exquisite grey stone and has been well preserved for all these years. It’s not your usual castle but it is spectacular nonetheless!
St. Patrick's Cathedral
Next on our Dublin bucket list was St. Patrick’s Cathedral. The cathedral, founded in 1911, was named after the patron saint of Ireland. It’s Ireland’s largest cathedral and is a beautifully crafted church that’s seen many historical events in itself. You can pay to go in the cathedral but we opted to walk around the outside to marvel at the architecture instead.
Walk across the Ha’ Penny Bridge
The Ha’penny Bridge is a quainter sight than others and a quick stop on any day. The bridge was originally a pedestrian toll-bridge and the funds from which were used to pay off its construction. It’s well worth a visit, not just for its history, but also because of its interesting structure and design.
Trinity College Library
This is where you’ll find the infamous Book of Kells, a 9th century manuscript that documents the four Gospels of the life of Jesus Christ. The Book of Kells is Ireland’s greatest cultural treasure and the world’s most famous medieval manuscript. Admittedly, I only became obsessed with seeing this place having only seen the library on Instagram and sheer resemblance to the library in the Harry Potter series but, after seeing the line that stretched on for a mile, we decided to people watch for a little bit and wander onto our next bucketlist item. A little advice if you're thinking of going to the State College Library yourself: 1) book tickets well in advance, and 2) arrive early to avoid crowds! Find information on opening times and prices here.
Explore the Guinness Storehouse
Arguably one of Dublin’s most popular attractions is the Guinness Storehouse. Here you can immerse yourself in seven floors of Guinness-filled fun and explore the story of Ireland’s most iconic beverage.
Your admission ticket provides you with a guided tour where you’ll learn all about the history of Guinness and be provided with loads of opportunities to sample a bit of Guinness for yourself. You also get access to the 360-degree panoramic bar at the top of the storehouse (it’s more like 270-degrees due to some walls … and you must be fast to snag a seat too!)
Nonetheless, it’s a really cool experience to do when in Dublin! You can even buy a box of miniature chocolate Guinness pints to take home with you (and share if you're feeling generous). Here’s the website to find out more information about opening times and prices.
Grab a pint from Temple Bar
Yeah, I know it’s overcrowded and overpriced, but a visit to Temple Bar is a must on any Dublin bucket list. You can’t go to Dublin and not have a pint in the city’s most famous pub area at least once. Plus, they almost always have live music playing at some stage during the night (and especially on weekends). Acoustic covers of old school hits that make everyone reminiscent of sing star karaoke were playing when we were there! It was unreal!
* Also, little rookie me thought that Temple Bar was just one place when it's actually a whole bunch of bars you can visit!
Listen to some traditional music
The Irish love to dance around to folk tunes almost as much as they like to down alcoholic beverages! After the Temple Bar we ventured to a placed called the Ha’Penny Bridge Inn for a quick pint of our own and to soak up some of this well-known and very endeared music. The Ha'Penny Bridge Inn is a cosy little set up that spans itself over a few floors. Each floor offers something a little different - the first is much like your traditional pub feel where people are set up around the bar and having a good chinwag, whereas the second floor is designed in a way that facilitates the delivery of entertainment.
Dublin also has a plethora of other pubs if you’re looking for somewhere different or where you can grab some tucker. Ireland’s oldest pub, the Brazen Head, dates all the way back to 1198. From what I have been told, its menu is famed for its traditional stews of beef and Guinness, and there’s often traditional and contemporary acts who come as an entertaining side to the delicious main dishes.
Howth Trail Walk
The picturesque village of Howth and its surrounding peninsula is just a short 30-minute drive from Dublin. Howth is home to a pier lined with cosy cafés and restaurants serving great local fare and a beautiful trail walk that snakes along the dramatic coastline. It's serves as perfect opportunity to escape the buzz of Dublin for a wee while and grab some fresh air!
Explore Kilmainham Gaol’s dark history
Kilmainham Gaol has housed many nationalist prisoners that fought for Ireland's independence. Like Trinity College Library, the Kilmainham Gaol is a popular tourist spot and you should definitely book tickets online (unlike us who, as a result of not booking tickets, unfortunately didn't get the chance to visit).
So, as you can see, a weekend in Dublin is very do-able if you plan properly and stay quite centrally! If you're looking to adventure more around Ireland, then you should check out my post where I wrote on our whirlwind week long Irish roadtrip here!