I feel like there’s a weird pressure on Irish Americans to be obsessed with Ireland, but I have to admit that I never was. Culturally, I always felt closer to the English, and I can mostly thank literature for that. But my grandma visited the “Old Country” several times and it was so important to her to have a connection with Ireland.
Somewhere in a family album we have a photo of my great-grandfather as a baby, but dressed like a girl for the casual reason “so a fairy didn’t steal him in the night.” That points to three important facts: 1) my great-great grandmother must have been mad or just hella superstitious; 2) Disney lied and fairies are not delightful, but mean and dangerous; and 3) even irrational superstitions are trained with misogyny, because not even a fairy would want a girl.
To cut to the chase, it felt weird to visit Ireland without being able to tell my grandma about it so I put it off. But then an insanely cheap ticket from Leeds to Dublin appeared online. It seemed to be a sign that it was time, even if I could only go for a night.
Planning a Dublin City Break
SEE / DO:
There’s so much to see in Dublin that it’s impossible to do it all in a quick one night trip so you really have to prioritise attractions. For example, I don’t think you’d have time to do Dublin Castle and Trinity College both, so I opted for Trinity this trip and walked around the outside of Dublin Castle and the Irish Houses of Parliament, but can save it for another adventure. I’ll blog more about Trinity College and seeing the Old Library and the Book of Kells exhibit another day, but it was the highlight of my time in Dublin. I 100% recommend going
You should also walk over – and take pictures of – Ha’penny Bridge, which is one of Dublin’s most photographed tourist attractions. It’s a cast-iron pedestrian bridge from 1816. It’s also mandatory to take a photo of the famous Molly Malone statue as a tourist. (It’s located quite close to Grafton Street). As you can see from my photos of Molly below, people rub her breasts for good luck so the statue has become quite obviously discoloured across the bosoms. You need to have a wander through the Temple Bar area of Dublin. It’s filled with lots of famous pubs and cultural institutions (like the photography centre). It’s overrun with tourists and a bit of a cliche thing to do but still worthwhile. I’ll have an entire post on the area next week.
Dublin also has more than its fair share of beautiful cathedrals. It has St Patricks Cathedral (€6.50) and also Christchurch Cathedral (€6.50). Despite assumptions that tourists might make, Christchurch is actually much more impressive than St Patrick’s Cathedral. I also highly recommend walking through St Stephen’s Green, which is a beautiful city park but was also a major location in the Easter Rising of 1916. In the same thematic vein, you can also swing by and see the General Post Office on the other side of the river from Trinity University on O’Connell Street, which is one of Dublin’s most famous buildings and was headquarters for the Irish republicans during the Easter Rising. It was almost completely destroyed by the English and the building wasn’t repaired for some years later, until after the establishment of the Irish Free State. It’s now a symbol of Irish nationalism and you can see the Proclamation of the Irish Republic inside on display.
I was yet again, on an extremely tight budget for this trip. I didn’t manage to keep it quite as cheap as the jaunt to Poland, but I still managed to spend under £50 (excluding flight). For accommodation I stayed at Avalon House (55 Aungier Street), which is a youth hostel fairly close to Grafton Street in the centre of town. Again, I opted for a single room. (No shared dorms for me). My room was very small, and the bathroom was shared with the hall, but I always felt super safe and it had some of the cleanest bed linen that I’d ever seen in a hostel. Plus towels came provided with the room, which rarely ever happens in a hostel. The hostel is one of the largest that I’ve stayed in but it had a super cool vibe. The staff was really nice and helpful, and the hostel itself is next to a beautiful Carmelite monastery. Plus there is a Tesco the next block over for buying snacks and food. The private room was under €30.
Dublin airport is quite easy to get to. In fact, it might be the easiest airport that I’ve ever traveled to from a large metropolitan area (much easier than any of London’s airports). City buses leave frequently from the centre of town and take around 45 minutes to get to the airport (leave more time for heavy traffic before and after work). Your other option besides a taxi, is to take the express coach (bus) to the airport. Taking the Express service makes the transfer time closer to the 25 minute mark from city centre to the airport. There’s both the Air Express and the Air Coach. They cost €12 roundtrip so a bit more than the city bus, but it’s absolutely worth it if you are limited on time in Dublin.
I recommend going to Keogh’s Cafe (1 Trinity Street) or Brick Alley Cafe (25 Essex Street). Both are in the city centre, not very far from either Trinity University or Temple Bar. I had a lovely breakfast and an even lovelier coffee at Brick Alley Cafe after I went to Trinity Library. I also recommend stopping into McDaids pub (3 Harry Street) for a drink. McDaids is one of the most recognisable pubs in Dublin. It was once a city morgue, then a converted chapel and now still shows the physical signs of its Victorian past. It’s also the setting for the opening scene in James Joyce’s “Grace”.
Entrance to Trinity.
Molly Malone statue.
Memorial outside the General Post Office.
St Patrick’s Cathedral.
Entrance to St Stephen’s Green.
Spire of Dublin
It’s a lot to do for a one night city break, and I managed to squeeze it all in, though I was run off my feet and needed a holiday from my holiday by the time I got home.
Have you visited Dublin before? What are your top recommendations?