If you have only 2 days in Dublin, spend time exploring Dublin’s must-visit attractions including the Dublin Castle, Trinity College and the historic Book of Kells, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Christ Church Cathedral, etc. Visit an Irish pub and drink Guinness. This comprehensive 2 Days in Dublin itinerary includes all the main attractions of the Irish capital and guarantees a great time!
Living in the US and particularly Chicago, our connection with Ireland has long been limited to drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s Day! I had read quite a bit about the Emerald Isle and it’s rolling green hills and Dublin, it’s charming, magical capital. So when our guest contributor Lindsey wished to write about her home city of Dublin – we were as happy as a clam! Here’s exactly what you need to know, see, and do to make the most of Dublin – as recommended by a local. Enjoy.
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“The truth is that I am in love with Dublin. I think it is the most beautiful town that I have ever seen, mountains at the back and the sea in front, and long roads winding through decaying suburbs and beautiful woods.”
– George A. Moore, the Irish novelist
While almost everyone will fall in love with Dublin, the city is a dream come true for those who love books and everything whiskey! The Irish capital is romantic: cobbled alleys lined with classic pubs, medieval fairytale castles, breathtaking cathedrals, and a literary connection that goes back in time.
Dublin gets its name from Dubh Linn which in Irish means dark pool – because of the occurrence of a dark tidal pool where River Poodle merged with River Liffey, near Dublin Castle.
History of Dublin
Monasteries, castles, Vikings, Nobel laureates, ancient manuscripts, gleaming wooden pubs, and lost glory – Dublin’s history is as fairytale-esque as the city itself. Dublin originated as Gaelic and Viking settlements along the River Liffey. The Vikings ruled the walled city of Dublin and Ireland for over 300 years before their defeat to the Irish in the 12th century.
Dublin was then ruled by the English in Medieval times and became the capital city of the Kingdom of Ireland. This period contributed a lot of medieval architecture that still stands – Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin Castle, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, etc. During the 18th and 19th century, Dublin was rebuilt in the Georgian style of architecture. You can see this style in the large O’Connell Street, Parnell Square, etc.
With time, tensions arose between the ruling English and native Irish and Ireland was merged with Great Britain to contain the rebellion in 1801. Dublin lost its power and status to London. The next century was marked by the Battle for Independence, the Irish Civil War, and the establishment of the Republic of Ireland. Dublin suffered financially and economically in these years and many historic buildings were damaged.
Fortunately, the end of the 20th century has brought on a construction and conservation boom resulting in a more vibrant, cultural destination of Dublin.
Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature and has cultural sights at every corner. The city has a strong connection with great writers and Nobel prize winners including Yeats, James Joyce, and George Bernard Shaw. You will find bookstores and book festivals, literary plaques in the most unexpected of places, streets named after writers, and even literary museums.
The most magnificent sight is off course the Long Room in Trinity College. This magnificent library was the inspiration for the Hogwarts library in the Harry Potter book series. For more information on all of Dublin’s literary sights, read here and here.
When to visit Dublin
Summer from June to August is the best time to visit Dublin because of the warm temperatures. However, this is also the most crowded time of the year and you will find higher rates and longer wait times for attractions. Another popular time is St. Patrick’s Day on March 17th, when visitors around the world come to witness the legendary St. Patrick’s Day celebrations.
If you happen to visit during the spring or fall, you will find fewer crowds, better deals on accommodations, and not too severe weather. Winter in Dublin is also a good time if you don’t mind the chilly temperatures which average around 30F. I’d suggest layering up and bringing a warm coat if visiting during winter. Plus, you can always rely on the Irish whiskey to keep you warm!
How to get to Dublin
Dublin Airport is well connected to most cities in Europe, the United States, and Canada. You might need a connecting flight if flying from Asia or Africa but the journey is quite easy. If you live nearby, you can even drive down to Dublin.
Psst.. Did you know that the famous Ring of Kerry road trip and Killarney National Park is just a few hours drive from Dublin? This famous drive through southwestern Ireland is full of dramatic landscapes.
Or for a detailed weeklong Ireland itinerary including Cliffs of Moher, read here. You may also like this Ireland packing list.
How to get around Dublin
From the airport, you can take a bus to the city or hire a cab or rideshare including uber. The bus is the most convenient and cheapest way unless you have a big group or lots of luggage. For attractions within the city, the best option is the DART (Dublin Area Rapid Transit).
Where to stay in Dublin
The best place to stay in Dublin is the city center. You will be located close to the major attractions and can easily walk around. You can easily find good accommodations in the Medieval quarter near the Dublin castle or near St. Stephen’s Green and the museums.
Dublin Pass – Should you get it?
The Dublin Pass is a really great way to explore Dublin’s major attractions. While the National Museum of Ireland locations is free, the rest of the highlights including both the medieval cathedrals and the Dublin Castle need tickets to visit and are included in the Dublin Pass. The pass is definitely worth the money and the only major attraction you will need to buy tickets for (not included in the Dublin Pass) is the Book of Kells exhibit.
2 Days in Dublin Itinerary
This ‘2 Days in Dublin’ itinerary follows my favorite places to visit. You can always change the order in which you visit attractions but you will find my suggestions factor in crowd levels, best times to see each attraction, as well as walkability.
Day 1 – Trinity College, St. Stephen’s Green, Temple Bar
Start your day by visiting the world-famous Trinity College and it’s two best-known gems, the Long Room in the Old Library and the Book of Kells. Check out the Irish Whiskey Museum and walk across the iconic Ha’penny Bridge. End your day with a Dublin river cruise or exploring the area of Temple Bar.
Established in 1592 by Queen Elizabeth I, Ireland’s Trinity College is both prestigious and elite, on par with Oxford and Cambridge. While Trinity College and even it’s library consists of a number of historic buildings, the most famous among them is the Long Room and the historic Book of Kells.
Trinity College campus is also great to wander through and explore – student guides can take you around for a guided tour of the college and its historic buildings. The tour is worth the time and cost and I recommend tipping the student guides. The combined student tour + Book of Kells exhibit ticket is quite cheap and can be purchased before the tour itself.
On the campus, you can watch cricket being played on the grounds and the ‘Sphere within sphere’ sculpture adjacent to the Old Library.
The Long Room in the Old Library
With a name like that, you would expect a slightly claustrophobic long bare room stacked with dusty piles of books and having a musty smell. However, the Long Room is a feast for the eyes.
The Long Room is the main chamber of the Trinity College’s oldest library building, which was designed by famous Irish architect Thomas Burgh. This 18th-century wonder is over 200 ft long and houses over 200,000 ancient books and manuscripts. It has a vaulted barrel ceiling, wrought-iron spiral staircases, rolling library ladders and gleaming oak-paneled shelves filled with books from the top to the bottom.
Needless to say, it smells glorious and is bibliophile heaven! An interesting feature of the library is its set of 14 marble busts of philosophers, writers, and intellectuals.
We recommend spending an hour or two in the library. It is open 7 days a week, though the Sunday hours may be limited depending on when you go. Also, go on a weekday early morning if you can to avoid the crowds. You can book the ticket online. The same ticket gets you into the Long Room and Book of Kells (see below).
Book of Kells
The ancient Book of Kells exhibition in Trinity College is the #1 bucket list activity in Ireland. This treasure from the medieval times is an illuminated Latin manuscript created by Celtic Monks in the 9th century and contains 4 gospels of the New Testament.
The Book of Kells is considered to be the oldest surviving book in the world. The Book of Kells was kept in the Irish monastery, Abbey of Kells, for many centuries and is supposed to have been created there.
The Book of Kells is stunningly calligraphed and illustrated with elaborate Christian icons, animals, and mythological creatures. The manuscript has 680 pages (including both front and back sides) and is bound into 4 volumes.
The Book of Kells exhibition is well arranged and displays 2 of the 4 volumes at any time. The volumes are open for visitors to see and the pages are turned every two months to show samples of both illustrations and written text pages. You can also view the digitized version here.
St. Stephen’s Green and the museums
Next visit St. Stephen’s Green and the museums next to it. This area has a lot of museums, here is an introduction to some of the most popular ones. The National Gallery of Ireland is by far the most famous. This free museum has over 2000 paintings and artworks including paintings by Rembrandt and Turner.
The Little Museum of Dublin showcases Irish life in the 20th century. The museum is housed in a beautiful Georgian house. You will see historical artifacts including bicycles, telephone, photographs, posters, newspapers, etc on a guided tour. An area is dedicated to the U2 band. Entry to the museum is included in the Dublin Pass.
Alternatively, you can visit the National Museum of Ireland. Entry to the museum is free and the museum has a total of 4 sites, 2 of which are located near Stephen’s Green. National Museum of Ireland – Archeology has Viking artifacts, tools, weapons, etc and id fascinating to see.
National Museum of Ireland – Natural History has collections about animals native to Ireland as well as mammals of the world. Children in particular love this museum.
The National Library of Ireland is also located here. The library has many exhibitions which you can see here and is worth a visit. At the center of it all is Leinster House, the seat of the Parliament.
Behind the National Gallery, you will find Merrion Square. It has Oscar Wilde’s statue and just opposite to it is Oscar Wilde’s house! We suggest picking one or two attractions in the area and seeing them thoroughly, based on your interest. Also, see the typical Georgian architecture evident in the brick townhomes in the area.
We guess by now you are tired and hungry – step inside the magnificent Stephen’s Green Shopping Center for some ice-cream, to shop, and to admire its unique architecture. Didn’t I tell you, Dublin is fairytale-like? St. Stephen’s Green Shopping center is three-storied and has many brands, restaurants, and cafes.
Afterward, spend some time on Stephen’s Green, Dublin’s premier city park. The park looks beautiful in all seasons and has fountains, children’s play area, beautiful flowers in spring, birds, ducks, and even swans. The park can be packed with tourists, families, and office-going Dubliners during lunchtime but is still big enough to accommodate everyone.
You can walk around the path that goes around the garden and enjoy the views and the greenery. Stephen’s Green is also historic and associated with significant events including the Irish easter rising, the Civil war, and the independence movement. Plaques around the park have a lot of information about these events.
Irish Whiskey Museum
To understand Ireland’s legendary relation with whiskey, stop at the Irish Whiskey Museum. On the guided tour of the museum, you will learn about the origins of Irish whiskey through the ages. You will learn about the whiskey-making process and its different stages including fermentation, distillation, and aging. The guides discuss the importance of whiskey for the Irish economy and its cultural associations.
Also available to see are lots of memorabilia. The tour ends with a selection of whiskey tastings. At the gift shop, you can purchase additional whiskey, souvenirs, glasses, etc. The tours are family-friendly and even kids are welcome on the tour, however, I would suggest bringing only older kids as that will let you enjoy the tour without distraction.
Molly Malone Statue
Before you visit the Irish Whiskey Museum, take a look at Ireland’s famous Molly Malone Statue on Grafton Street. Molly Malone is a fictional fishmonger girl who sold her wares on the streets of Dublin. The tale of Molly Malone is narrated in the Irish folk song “Molly Malone”.
Trust Dublin to get a statue and even celebrate Molly Malone Day for a fictional character! Don’t you just love this city and how it takes literary endeavors very, very seriously?!
After relaxing at Stephen’s Green, take the pedestrian Ha’penny Bridge across the River Liffey. This is one of Dublin’s most iconic bridges and a must tourist activity.
The elliptical arch bridge was originally built in 1816 to replace the ferry that carried Dubliners across the river banks. The pedestrians who wished to cross via the bridge were charged the same price as the ferry: half a penny! Hence, the name of the bridge. While the official name is Liffey Bridge, it is known as the Ha’penny Bridge worldwide.
Ha’penny bridge was carefully refurbished in the early 21st century and has become one of Dublin’s most famous city symbols. The bridge has beautiful cast-iron arches, railings, and lampposts and looks beautiful in photos. You will love the detailing of the bridge and the views of Dublin from the river.
After seeing the Ha’penny bridge you have a couple of options. You can either walk back to the city center from the Millenium Bridge and take photos of Ha’penny bridge from Millenium Bridge or you can take a stroll across the Liffey Boardwalk.
Two other great options, which we discuss in detail here are a cruise down the River Liffey from Bachelor’s Walk or exploring the area of Temple Bar. If you don’t mind late-night hours, you can do the cruise followed by Temple Bar as well.
River Liffey Cruise
A cruise down the River Liffey at sunset is the best way to explore Dublin from the water. The cruises are about 45 minutes long and conducted in the popular red boats that you see in the river. The tour guides are great and make the tours lively and informative with Dublin’s history and local anecdotes.
You will get to know about the various bridges on the river, see the 18th-century Custom House, pass by the Jeanie Johnston tall ship and visit the Docklands. You will pass under the Ha’penny bridge, O’Connell bridge, Butt bridge, etc. The ride is relaxing and the cruise is worth the money.
During the day, Temple Bar is Dublin’s cultural quarter while after dark, this area is the epicenter of Dublin’s nightlife. Consequently, this is the city’s most popular tourist area and a must when in Dublin. I would suggest reaching here a couple of hours before sunset so you can enjoy the cultural attractions and then stay up and enjoy for as long as you want.
The National Photographic Archive of the National Library of Dublin is located in the Temple Bar area and has an interesting exhibit on the Irish poet, Seamus Heaney. Also present in the area are the Irish Film Institute, Irish Stock Exchange, and many art galleries, theatres, etc. On weekends, a book market is held in the Temple Bar Square. Many other events and festivals also take place in Temple Bar throughout the year.
Temple Bar nightlife is legendary – this is the best place in Dublin to drink as much Irish whiskey and beer as you can! You will find tourist hotspots, authentic Irish pubs where locals meet, speakeasy-style bars, live music venues, restaurants, and cafes.
See the most popular Temple Bar Pub or experience the sights and smells of the oldest pub in Ireland, The Brazen Head. Embrace Dublin’s Viking past at The Norseman and take photos in the super Instagrammable Palace Bar.
The neighborhood is vibrant and bohemian; Temple Bar is a great way to end the first day of your 2 Day Ireland Itinerary.
Day 2 – Medieval Quarter, Kilmainham, Liberties – Guinness Storehouse
Start your day exploring Dublin’s Medieval Quarter which is the oldest part of the city and has beautiful Medieval architecture. Visit the Dublin Castle, Christ Church Cathedral, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral. See Dublin’s old city walls from the Vikings age. Next, see Kilmainham and the Liberties district.
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
St. Patrick is the most popular patron saint of Ireland and Dublin’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral is Ireland’s largest church. It was built between the 12th and 13th century and is a lovely building. The original building was damaged and rebuilt several times. It has gorgeous stained glass windows and intricate woodwork. The cathedral also has several art pieces and other historical relics for viewing.
Of literary interest is the tomb of Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. Swift was the dean at the cathedral and hence is buried there. Entry to the cathedral is ticketed; if you have the Dublin Pass you can get in for free. I suggest spending half an hour looking around the cathedral and its interior. The adjacent St. Patrick’s Park is a lovely green space to take a stroll and relax.
Dublin Castle is located off Dame Street and is the city’s most dramatic medieval building. It was the seat of the British administration in Ireland till 1922. The castle has also been the royal residence before the English rule and you’ll be fascinated to know that the River Poddle runs underneath the castle grounds.
You can view the castle and its gorgeous rooms on a guided tour – the tour also takes you down to see the castle foundations. Some of the rooms contain priceless artwork and special exhibitions. The Dublin Pass includes admission to the Castle.
You will need a little over half an hour to see the castle on your own, consider an hour if you are taking the guided tour. Also inside the Dublin Castle, you will find the Garda Museum and the Revenue Museum, both of which are worth a visit.
Around the castle, you will find the Dubh Linn or black pool gardens after which the city is named.
Chester Beatty Library
The Chester Beatty Library is located adjacent to the Dublin Castle and contains manuscripts and artwork containing including ancient books in various languages, miniature paintings, drawings, Islamic and Asian art, artifacts, etc. The collection belonged to Sir Alfred Chester Beatty who made a fortune in mining.
He left his vast collection to the Republic of Ireland upon his death. Entry to the museum is free. The museum building is also worth wondering – I especially love the atrium and both the front garden and the rooftop garden located on the 4th floor. The rooftop garden has a great vantage point over the Dubh Linn (dark pool) gardens by the Castle.
Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral, along with St. Patrick’s Cathedral, together are the two medieval cathedrals of Old Dublin. The Christ Church Cathedral is two centuries older than the St Patrick’s Cathedral and is one of Dublin’s oldest buildings. On the ticketed tour, you will be able to see the magnificent architecture, historical artifacts, and walk up to the Bell Tower – you may even get to ring the bell!
Visit the museum of Dublinia in the old town to learn more about Dublin’s Viking and Medieval history in a fun setting. This museum is located inside the Christ Church Cathedral Synod building. The museum has three levels – each dealing with a different historical period.
The museum conducts reenactments, scaled replicas of medieval streets and a variety of artifacts including boats, shields, skeletons, etc. Dublinia museum is especially popular with kids and families.
Old Dublin City Wall
In ancient times Dublin was a fortified city and a city wall with gates existed around the Dublin Castle. While the city has grown beyond the old boundaries today and the wall has all but vanished – parts of it can still be seen in different areas of the city.
The most visited section is by far the one in Medieval Quarter. The wall while quite small is a great reminder of ancient times. You can see it around St. Audoen’s Church, which is a 12th-century Polish church. Here you will also find the only remaining Dublin City Gate, St. Audoen’s Gate – a beautiful heritage archway.
Kilmainham Gaol is Dublin’s notorious 19th-century jail that can be viewed by tour. I’d recommend booking the tickets in advance as it does get sold out, especially in the summer season.
The tour will take you back in time when the Easter Rising of 1916 occurred and the political prisoners were jailed and executed inside Kilmainham. The tour narrates details of the prisoner’s harrowing conditions: including how they were force-fed and kept in freezing temperatures. The jail has been very well preserved.
While the Kilmainham Gaol tour is filled with bits of dark history and not for babies and preschoolers – it is age-appropriate for older children including teens and preteens.
Irish Museum of Modern Art
After seeing Kilmainham Gaol, walk across to the Irish Museum of Modern Art. This national museum is housed in the Old Royal Hospital Building and contains modern and contemporary art pieces.
While it is small compared to the National Gallery, it also holds many temporary exhibitions and you will always find something worthy of interest whenever you visit. Some parts of the museum are free while others require an entry fee.
The Royal Hospital Building itself is historic and you will find information about it and its rooms as you walk the grounds. Even if you don’t go inside the museum, the tranquil walk through the grounds is quite welcome after the emotionally intensive Kilmainham Gaol tour.
No visit to Dublin is complete without a tour of the St. James Gate Brewery of Guinness. Guinness is iconic in Ireland and also the country’s biggest export. The facility is seven-story high and the self-guided tour takes you behind the scenes on all seven stories. It should take you a little over an hour to see everything.
It is popularly said that Guinness tastes better in Ireland and there is no better way to experience it than after the tour at the 7th-floor Gravity Bar with stunning views over the city. The Dublin pass includes entry to the Guinness Storehouse.
The Old Jameson Distillery
After the beer, its whiskey time! You can tour the Old Jameson Distillery on guided tours and learn everything you need to know about the fermentation, distillation, and aging process. The Bow-street distillery is quite a state of the art and interesting experience for whiskey patrons.
The informative and fun tour ends with a free drink – win-win! Purchase tickets online for discounts. You can also just go the bar without paying for the tour.
Either you can end the day at the brewery or distillery or hit Temple Bar area again for the perfect end to your 2 Days in Dublin itinerary.
Other Things to See
If you have more time or want to create a more custom itinerary, then here are some other popular places to visit in Dublin.
For those with Irish heritage, visit EPIC The Irish Emigration Museum. This museum is dedicated to stories of Irish emigrants the world over and is fascinating. It is also interesting for non-Irish and a great place to learn about Irish history and culture.
Just across from the museum in front of the Hilton Garden Inn, you can tour the tall ship, Jeanie Johnston. This ship carried emigrants across the Atlantic to the United States during the Irish Famine of 19th century. You can tour the deck as well as climb below the deck on guided tours. Both these attractions are included in the Dublin Pass.
Other museums to see include the National Museum of Ireland – Decorative Arts and History located in the former Collins Barrack. It has a great collection of flags, maps, weapons, costumes, furniture, etc.
Another unique museum is the National Leprechaun Museum of Ireland. Here you can learn all about the legends, myths, and folktales of Ireland including leprechauns and giants. This is a favorite with the kids and in the gift shop, you can buy books of Irish Fairy and Folk Tales.
We hope that you liked the 2 Day Dublin itinerary. Did we miss out on anything? What was your favorite part of visiting Dublin? Let us know in the comments.