My first stop in Ireland was Dublin! You have no idea how excited I was to finally arrive in Ireland, because for a long time Ireland was on my list of places to go before I die. I can’t remember why exactly, but I had always been curious about Ireland and I enjoy a bunch of Irish music. Because I was so excited I did a lot of research beforehand to ensure I made the most of my time there. I had a nice list of options and a general plan of places I wanted to go.
Even though I had a small map with me at all times I do have to admit that my not-so-great sense of direction got the better of me many times when trying to find my way through Dublin’s streets. The travel book map of the city I had made the streets looked simple enough to navigate, but there were so many times that I walked passed a street thinking it was an alley because of how narrow it was. So, if you’re like me, I advise that you assume that everything is a street, because the street names were, at times, hard to spot. It’s not a fail-safe strategy but once I started doing this I got lost a little less often.
To start we hit a bunch of the major tourist spots, especially those walking distance from our hostel. Our first stop was Dublin Castle and the interior had some really beautiful architecture, which was a nice surprise. Even though there were lots of other tour groups when we were there it never felt very crowded, because the rooms and hallways were so open and spacious. Be aware that they don’t want you to take in backpacks so I suggest traveling light for this, but if needed they provided lockers for you to put your things in a safe place.
Another must-stop for us was the Trinity College Library. I love architecture and history, so wanted to make sure we stopped here. This library also has the Book of Kells on display, but you need to be patient with the crowds to be able to get up close to see it. The architecture of the library interior was just beautiful, and had that comforting old book smell, which I enjoy. Also, they had a surprise art exhibition, which made me so happy! Ever since I discovered the Cartoon Saloon animation studio through am employee recommendation at my hometown video rental store I have been a huge fan of their work. I hadn’t realized it but right when we were visiting they happened to have collaborated with the library for a selection of illustrations, “Emperor of the Irish: Brian Boru and the Battle of Clontarf.” Upon seeing the work I knew it had to be by artists from Cartoon Saloon, and looking into it I found out I was right!
Through my research I also found that there are various cathedrals with beautiful architecture sprinkled throughout the city. We stopped in the St Patrick’s Cathedral and wandered around the the exterior and gardens of the Christ Church Cathedral. I would of liked to have also explored the interior’s of other cathedrals but each one had an entry fee, so we had to be cautious of our budget choosing which to go in and which not. But even if you can’t afford to go inside the exterior architecture can be worth seeing in person. For instance I was particularly curious to see Christ Church Cathedral, because I read that it had a mix of architectural styles of Norman to early English Gothic. Just looking at the exterior was interesting and it was really beautiful, especially with the atmosphere the foggy weather created around it. Next time I’m in Dublin, however, I really want to see the interior as well.
As one can imagine the pub and drinking scene in Dublin is bustling! Downtown there was a huge area that was just bar after bar after bar, and there was no shortage of live music inside or on the streets of that area as well. We had a lot of fun bar hoping in the area, and it was surprising at just how many other Americans we ran into along the way. We had selected a few bars we wanted to see and then stopped in various bars that looked interesting along the way. A bar, the Brazen Head, that was made sure to stop in was a little out of that main area but was described as the oldest bar in Dublin. We didn’t stay long but while there we tried our first official Irish Guinness, and, as a non-beer drinker, I was pleasantly surprised by how nice the flavor was. It was nothing like the Guinness I tried back in the US, it was much smoother. So even if you’re like me and don’t enjoy beer I suggest that you at least ask for a taste, because the waitress was very nice about giving us a taster-glass of Guinness along with our pints of cider.
The other spot I had a lot of fun in was The Workman’s Club. In my tour book it was described simply as a former men’s only social club or something, but when I got there I found out they had regular live rock shows. I love me a good punk, metal, or rock show, so I had a lot of fun hanging-out there. I went a bit early and I was on my own so when I started to feel a bit drunk I left as to not get myself into any trouble. I was walking across town back to the hostel and I’m not yet accustomed to roaming around on my own in new countries. But the music was good and the crowd was fun, so I suggest anyone who likes rock shows to check it out.
Two big attractions that we stopped by were the Guinness Storehouse and Jameson Distillery. Neither my sister nor I are much of Guinness drinkers, so we wanted to just get up to the bar that had good views of Dublin. We heard you could go without going on the tour, but after asking staff there we found that wasn’t true, which was disappointing. The Jameson Distillery was also a disappointment, because the one in Dublin is no longer in use. The tour just took you around a museum-type instillation, which wasn’t even that pig. If had realized this earlier I would have used the tour fee on something else.
In addition to an abundance of pubs and bars I found that there were all sorts of parks sprinkled around the city, so made that part of my daytime exploring. Each park we well-kept and relaxing. In one I even found a group of students rehearsing a Shakespearean play. Most of the parks were easy to find, but one, Iveagh Gardens, seemed to almost be hidden like a secret garden or something. I must have walked passed the entrance a couple times, because once I did find the entrance I realized that is was a small walled entrance hidden in one of the side streets I had been wandering around. Parks can be a good way to relax a bit, taking a break from the sightseeing and tours.
I’m a city girl and I love how many cities are connected to some large body of water. Dublin has River Liffey flowing through it and there are various bridges, all designed differently, spaced throughout for both pedestrians and motorists to cross. Our hostel was by Butt Bridge, but it was relaxing to stroll down the river and see the other bridges, such as the O’Connell Bridge, Millennium Bridge and Ha’ Penny Bridge. There was even an old-looking boat docked in the river.
Just off the river was a shopping area where you could also find the Spire of Dublin. I didn’t buy much while in Dublin but it was fun to window shop and listen to the street performers. This is also the area where we had Fish and Chips at a place that was recommended to us, Beshoff. It was full of people and it was fun to sit by the window and watch all the crowds passing by, wearing team colors for a sports event that was going on that afternoon.
I also couldn’t go to Ireland and not have an ‘Irish Breakfast.’ Looking through reviews etc online I found Hatch & Sons, which had nothing but good reviews of their breakfast. It was a quaint little place just off St Stephen’s Green Park. Everything down to even the butter was delicious! If you’re in the area I highly suggest this spot for breakfast.
We found some of the Bed & Breakfasts in Dublin post some of their rooms as hostel accommodation, which made for a comfortable and convenient stay. I was also surprised to find that Dublin felt a bit smaller than I had expected, but it was still a lot of fun! So, overall I really enjoyed my time in Dublin and look forward to visiting again someday.