If you’ve never been lost in Dublin, I highly recommend it.
I have this thing about not wanting to look like a tourist (although I might have blown my cover by taking a few hundred pictures) so I try not to walk around with my face in a map. Where’s the fun in that anyway? I’m a big fan of free walking tours, but I tend to shun organized bus tours. I’d rather get to know an area on my own terms.
In true rambling fashion, I simply wandered around until I (mostly by accident) bumped into the things I wanted to see. 6 hours, 2 pints of Guinness and 3 blisters later, I was hooked on this energetic little city.
Dublin is a charming composite of colorful history and modern technology that somehow achieves a symbiotic balance. If you wander too far off the beaten path, the people are quite friendly and willing to point you in the right direction.
Start at the spire. If you’re staying a bit further out of the city, as I am, just hop on a bus and get off when tons of other people do. From there, make your way south across the river.
Enjoy the quaint little shops that line the river.
It’s fairly hard not to bump into Trinity College, so go ahead and explore a bit.
Trinity College has been to home to the famous Book of Kells since the mid 19th century. The book was written by Colombian monks on Iona, an island off the west coast of Scotland. In 806, following a Viking raid on the island, the monks took refuge in a new monastery at Kells, County Meath.
While the book itself is….pretty much what you expect from a really, really old book, the Old Library is almost worth the €9 charge to get in. Think Harry Potter meets Game of Thrones. You could almost expect to see dusty old wizards studying in the halls of the library. The walls are lined with fascinating art and stories of viking feuds, political family marriages, betrayals and a high king hero, Brian Boru.
If you prefer to enjoy history and really, really old books for free, meander south to the less-frequented National Museum of Ireland. The archaeology does not disappoint.
If shopping is your thing, you can check out the Stephen’s Green Shopping Center up Grafton Street. I’m not a shopper but I did check out the street performers. One interesting character was dressed up like Spiderman, but I’m not entirely convinced he was a performer, as he just stood there smoking a cigarette.
I did take a lap around St. Stephen’s Green, which had quite a European feel, complete with teenagers lying about on the grass, sharing picnics.
No self-made walking tour would be complete without a stop at Dublin Castle. The castle has a dark and interesting history of holding prisoners accused of treason or heresy, many of whom were either tortured to death or escaped.
Take your pick of gorgeous churches along High Street.
Keep walking west and follow the signs to the Guinness Storehouse.
The actual tour is slightly pricey (€16.50) but if you book online you save 10% and get to skip to the front of the line. I, of course, being part of an imaginary tour, did not have the foresight to do this.
I met this handsome gentleman wearing a leprechaun cap right outside the storehouse. He was getting plenty of pats and treats, so I didn’t feel too bad for him.
At the end of Dublin tour, it’s absolutely required to head over to the Temple Bar area. Yes, it’s touristy, gimmicky, and devoid of actual Irish people, but it’s still worth stopping by for a pint. I tried not to like Temple Bar, I really did, but it won me over with its charm and creativity.
I did meet two lovely Dutch girls and wader off the beaten path to The Celt, a more authentic low-key pub with a mixture of Dubliners and backpackers.
Later that night I went out to Kehoe’s with a group of rowdy Irish boys where we drank too many pints and discussed tragic matters of the heart. If you’re looking for a place to hang out and get to know some new Irish friends, this is a great little spot.
All in all, Dublin is a fairly small city and you don’t need more than a day or two to explore it. Hop off a bus and spend a few glorious hours getting lost in this charming city before heading out to the country.