As we mentioned in a previous post, we decided to come home to the USA for the holidays. We searched for airline tickets and saw that we were likely going to have a layover in Dublin! We had never visited Ireland before, so we made it a couple day layover and spent 3 nights in delightful Dublin!
Where We Stayed
We struggled to find an affordable accommodations in Dublin. The hostels were mostly booked, which surprised us after experiencing so much walking dead tourism in Turkey. We eventually settled on a private room in someone’s apartment through Airbnb (after experiencing our very first rejection on that site… what?!). We had a nice room with great working heat, which was important for December in Dublin. Our host was friendly enough, but it was a bit weird having to share a bathroom with a complete stranger. We definitely prefer having an entire apartment to ourselves.
What We Did
We managed to pack an amazing amount of stuff (and expense) into our two days.
Hop-On Hop-Off Bus – There are many buses of this sort in Dublin, at least 3 different companies that we saw. We ended up choosing the one that was cheapest and had the most informative website. We were quite happy with the Green Bus! The tickets we purchased were good for two days and they had two different routes. We ended up using them both days and did both routes! We haven’t done a lot of these buses, though we did use them in Johannesburg and Cape Town, because we typically prefer to walk or use public transit. Dublin is a walkable town, but given that we were there in the winter and it was very cold, this bus was the perfect option. We used it to reach the Guinness Storehouse and Kilmainham Gaol as well as to view Temple Bar, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, and Phoenix Park. Our second day, we used it to view some of the newer areas of Dublin, called the Docklands, though we didn’t get off at any of the stops. The live commentary provided on this second tour was quite funny as well!
Guinness Storehouse – Our first stop on our Hop-On Hop-Off bus tour was the Guinness Storehouse. We were expecting that this would be a bit like a brewery tour, but it turned out to be more of a museum. It described how to make beer but also spent a good amount of time on the history of Guinness. The Storehouse is 7 stories tall and in the shape of a Guinness glass – making it the tallest Guinness glass in the world. We enjoyed the museum displays, the explanation of how to correctly taste a Guinness, the class on how to poor our own perfect pint of Guinness, and finally sipping our Guinness at the Gravity Bar on the 7th floor with a 360 degree view of Dublin! The cost was quite high (18€ per person, OR 16.50€ if you book ahead online), but we did enjoy ourselves.
Kilmainham Gaol – Our second stop on the bus tour was the historic jail, Kilmainham Gaol. It opened as a prison in 1796 and didn’t close until 1924. Throughout its history, it held many criminals who had committed crimes ranging from small misdemeanors up to murders. However, it is most well-known for holding Irish revolutionaries who were fighting for independence from British rule. The most famous were those who planned and participated in the Easter Rising of 1916. General public opinion was actually against the Rising after it happened because of how much damage it did to Dublin, but when the leaders of the Rising were executed by the British at Kilmainham, many people began to support the Rising and helped push the country toward their larger violent rebellion, and eventual independence.
When you visit the jail, you will be required to take an organized tour through the site. The tours are filled on a first come first served basis, so we ended up having to wait about an hour and half to get on a tour. If you have the option to stop by in the morning, pick your tour, and then return later, that would be most convenient. However, if you end up having to wait, they do have a pretty interesting museum of the history of the jail that you can wander around in.
National Museum of Ireland – Archaeology – This was our third stop on our bus tour, though we ended up having to walk from the beginning of the bus tour on O’Connell St. The bus would have taken us there as it went round again, but we were going to have to wait for about 15 min. By this point we had only about an hour left before the museum closed, so instead of waiting, we took off walking! Most of the sites in Dublin are quite close to each other and we made it fairly quickly. The museum was large (and free!) and we truly wish that we had more time to explore it. The treasures that it is famous for are the Ardagh Chalice and the Tara Brooch. We managed to see the Tara Brooch, but our real interests were in finding the “bog bodies.” A friend that we had met in Greece had told us that the Dublin museum had a really interesting exhibit which showed several bodies that are thousands of years old that have been amazingly preserved in Ireland’s bogs. It was fascinating to read what the archaeologists were able to deduce about the death of each of this people. Things like skin, hair, and clothing were still preserved.
Literary Pub Crawl – This was a new adventure for us! Dublin has a very rich literary history- writers such as WB Yeats, Jonathan Swift, Oscar Wilde, and and James Joyce made Dublin their home. Neither of us knew much about any of these authors, nor had read anything by them. But, Della thought that maybe this would be the perfect way to learn more about them, especially as we were in Dublin… and it couldn’t hurt that beer was involved. We really enjoyed the pub crawl! We went to 4 different pubs throughout the evening. At each one, we enjoyed our guides. They made sure to tell us stories either about the history of Dublin or about one of the many authors that contributed to that history. They also sprinkled in several small performances, either scenes from different plays or books, or from letters from the authors. One of Della’s favorites was a performance of a letter that was written by Oscar Wilde about his visit to Leadville, CO. We also enjoyed the beer and were excited that we won the trivia contest at the end of the evening!
The Old Library and the Book of Kells – The historic Trinity College is located in Dublin. One of the interesting things to see on campus is their old library. The Long Room is a beautiful wooden room; the walls lined with two stories of old books. It definitely made us feel as if we were exploring Hogwarts or something! The library also houses the Book of Kells which is an ancient manuscript of 4 Gospels. It is impressive because it is intricately decorated and has been around since about 800 AD. We thought the Book of Kells was a bit overrated, but we really enjoyed the Long Room!
Free Walking Tour – We were quite excited to be back in the lands of Free Walking Tours! It is always nicer to do the walking tours on your first day in a new place because they give such nice overviews of history as well as a lay of the land. We did this on our second day due to scheduling issues, so we had seen a few of the sites and heard a bit of the history already, but we still enjoyed the tour immensely. We had a very good, animated tour guide, who made the tour quite fun. We started near the Dublin Castle where we heard about how the most exciting recent visitor was the Queen of England who hadn’t visited the country since Independence. There was a lot of fear about how the visit would go, but apparently it went really well! We then traveled to Christ Church Cathedral which is one of Dublin’s most iconic structures. It was built about 1000 AD by the Viking King who made a pilgrimage to Rome and then decided to convert to Christianity. Our guide told us a very sad story that right around the cathedral was a Viking city. The ruins were found in the early 1900s after the local government had purchased the land and planned to build government buildings in the area. The ruins they uncovered were apparently some of the best preserved Viking ruins in the world. Archaeologists fought to have the ruins preserved, but after a long court battle, the contractors and local government won and the ruins were destroyed and built over. Ultimately, only one building was constructed and now the local government has stated that it regrets that the ruins were destroyed. What a sad story! We then moved into the Temple Bar area where we heard about the history of arts in Dublin. They are very proud of being the home of U2 (which we now feel like we have a connection to based on the stories we heard about them in Sarajevo). Finally we headed to Trinity College and St. Stephen’s Green where we heard more about the Potato Famine and some of the current politics. Our guide also invited the group to join him for a meal in one of the pubs after the tour. We, and a few others, took him up on the offer and we enjoyed chatting with him about his life and some other information about Dublin. We found the tradition of the 12 Pubs of Christmas pretty interesting!
Where We Ate
Our first night in Dublin we were pretty tired from the long plane rides, so we took the easy way out and just got Chinese takeout from a place within a quick walk from our apartment.
On our second day, we had our first meal at a “real” Irish pub. We arrived early for the Literary Pub Crawl, so we just ate at the pub that the tour was starting from, called The Duke. Eric had an Irish stew with lamb, potatoes and carrots, and Della had bangers and mash (sausage and mashed potatoes).
As we mentioned before, after the Free Walking Tour we went with our guide to get a late lunch at a pub. We were pleasantly surprised that the pub we were led to was one of the same ones we had been to on the Literary Pub Crawl the previous night. The tour had special prices for some of the items, so we took advantage. This time Della got an Irish stew, and Eric got a “collar of bacon” which was basically slices of ham cut from a carving table.
We really enjoyed Dublin and wish we could have spent more time there. We also wish we could have explored more of Ireland. However, we experienced a lot of sticker shock about how expensive it was!