Dublin is an odd city. London-lite, Little London, but a weekend in Dublin is worth anyone’s time. I stand by the fact that you cannot appreciate Ireland without heading outside the city, Dublin does have its own special charm.
While a weekend in Dublin is short, you’ll be able to get into the flow of things quickly with the friendly and welcoming Irish people around every corner. Keep reading to find everywhere to go, eat, and sleep on your weekend in Dublin!
Where to Go on A Weekend in Dublin
Ireland is dotted with castles. Just about every town seems to have one! But the one in the center of Dublin is something a little different.
Dublin Castle essentially stands for the 700 years of British Rule in Ireland, going back to the 13th century in its history. I love the way that the Irish react to all hints of Britishness – by simply overwriting it with Irishness. A long hall inside the castle displays all the presidents of Ireland.
It’s a small intro to the independence movement as well as being a beautiful building to look at. Listen in on some of the tours going by to learn about the missing Irish Crown Jewels…
Do A Pub Crawl
You can’t go to Dublin and not experience the pubs! If you are doing a drinking tour run by an official company (such as the Literary Pub Crawl) try to get it on a weekday if you can. The weekends can mean the pubs are all very full – and most of them are not very large.
While in non-Covid times you might be able to stand outside even if the pub is full, it’s not the greatest. None of this, however, should stop you from going on a pub crawl even by yourself.
Ireland is surprisingly safe, I felt very comfortable being alone in Dublin at night. Still, if you’re nervous, try to stay in a hostel where someone might organize a pub crawl for everyone. Either way, you’ve got to get out there and try some Guinness, whisky, or cider (with a side of potato chips!).
Jeanie Johnston Tallship
One thing many people understand about Ireland is that there was a terrible famine. This famine resulted in many people emigrating from Ireland to other lands, particularly to the Americas.
To do this, they had to board ships – like the Jeanie Johnston. I find interactive exhibits (especially the Titanic Museum in Cobh) to be much more engaging. Actually witnessing what people would have experienced in the process of trying to get to America is fascinating and well worth the visit.
I will say, if you just so happen to be leaving for Ireland from Boston, there’s a pretty cool ship experience there too. If you can go to Ellis Island at some point before or after your trip, there’s another interactive exhibit about what the Irish immigrants would have gone through once they got off their boat.
Oscar Wilde House
Oscar Wilde is one of the most illustrious – and hilarious – people to ever come out of Ireland. Educated right at Trinity College, his home is still standing for you to visit.
Unfortunately, it is only accessible via tours and those tours are not always regular. Sometimes they only happen one day a week! Hard to plan a weekend in Dublin around that.
However, if you do get to go to one of the tours, you are sure to get a great in-depth insight into his early life and what might have influenced his seminal works. Their blog is also very interesting!
St. Patrick’s Cathedral
This one is interesting. While you will definitely find it on every list of things to do in Dublin, it still retains a sense of local charm. Not necessarily inside (which is beautiful) but outside, in the gardens adjacent. In the evenings, people spending a weekend in Dublin can enjoy watching Dubliners bring their dogs to frolic and play with the cathedral in the background.
Flowers bloom almost year round here, it’s a great way to spend the last few daylight hours before heading off to dinner and drinks.
Trinity College + The Book of Kells
You simply cannot go to Dublin without at least checking in on Trinity College. After all, it seems to take up half the city at times.
While the ticket price to see the Book of Kells is quite steep at 18euros, it gets you access to the Long Library (pictured below) and other important relics. The Book of Kells is one of the most beautiful pieces of art I have ever seen – don’t let anyone hog your time in front of the glass, though!
National Gallery + Museums
Dublin’s Museums are particularly nice. Having been to many, I found their National Galley to be a fantastic introduction to the Irish art scene. Did you know that William Yeats, the poet, is related to Jack Yeats, the artist? Apparently the whole family was a nucleus of talent!
It is a bit confusion to get around, though. Keep your map otherwise you’ll find yourself missing the exhibits on the upstairs floors.
The National Gallery isn’t the only very interesting museum on offer. The Archaeology museum is great for those who won’t have the change to go the more far-flung sites like Skellig Michael or Carrowmore.
One museum not to miss if you’re looking for objects from Ireland and beyond, is the Chester Beatty. What a fantastic museum. They have an incredible collection of illuminated manuscripts from around the world. Take what you saw at the Book of Kells and compare! They also have an impressive collection of Asian art. This is the museum that I would come back to again.
Be aware that the hours for almost every attraction in Dublin are, well, weird. You won’t have the change to get in early before the crowds, some museums don’t open until 1PM!
Whiskey or Beer Tasting on a Weekend in Dublin
The Irish know about alchohol. Some might say they know a bit too much! If anyone were to rival Koreans in drinking, I think it might be the Irish. At times it felt like everyone was already hammered by 8PM!
So join in on the fun by first figuring out what you like. There are tons of different options for tastings – the most popular, of course, is the Jamison Whiskey or Guinness Factory tours. However, I have also heard good things about the International Whiskey Museum. There, you’d be able to sample all different brands of whiskey.
And don’t let yourself be limited by thinking you don’t like beer. It turns out I don’t like IPAs (which I didn’t even know was a category – I thought it meant Independent-something-or-other!) but I do like stouts. And Guinness tastes like a freshly baked loaf of bread mmmmm.
Just look at me! Discovering I like Guinness on a weekend in Dublin!
Get Out of Dublin
One of the biggest mistakes I think people make is thinking that Dublin is the end all and be all of Ireland. While it may be hard to squeeze everything into a weekend, taking a short half-day trip is worth it. Just look at the views you get from the train!
There are actually several options depending on the type of person you are:
The Hiking Type
If you love beautiful seaside views and getting out into nature on your trips, Howth is a good choice. Just 30 minutes away from Dublin, you can take one of the 5 or so trails. Each has an enchanting name “the Bog of Frogs” “the Black Linn Loop.”
There’s also a castle and beautiful harbor to round out the trip. If you have more time, check out Ireland’s Eye, a small island. You can reach it via ferry from Howth easily and relax on a tour around the island after your hike. Alternatively, look around to find one that will allow you to land on the island and continue the hiking!
The History Type
Do you relish the opportunity of seeing a famous UNESCO site that people make literal pilgrimages to see during the solstice? Then Newgrange and the Hill of Tara are for you!
You probably don’t even need me to tell you, but you can find many bus tours that won’t take up your whole day. It is difficult to see either site with public transport, so a tour or renting a car is the best way to go. Be sure to check ahead if you want to go inside the passage tomb at Newgrange, there are frequently special rules and times.
The Shopping/Cute Town Type
Kilkenny is just an hour away by train and fulfills what many people are looking for in a quick daytrip – the cuter side of Ireland. While I would still classify this town as a cute it won’t have the charm of, say, Dingle. Dingle is just a little more authentic feeling and adorable.
Kilkenny is set on the river, with a beautiful castle to explore, and some adorable shops. It’s also a great place to say in if you want to experience luxury. Nearby to Kilkenny town are estates such as the Mount Juliet and Lyrath, where you can experience things like spas, horseback, archery, and falconry.
Check out the falconry 😀
Where to Eat on a Weekend in Dublin
Of course, to keep yourself energized for seeing all of these amazing things you have to eat! On a weekend in Dublin, it’s not difficult to find tons of places to eat around every corner. In Ireland, the top eats are definitely the daily vegetable puree soups and the seafood chowders – so good! For the more exotic, look for blood pudding and steak and kidney pie.
My favorite meal was at the popular Bewley’s Grafton Street, where my love of vegetable puree soups began. Also brown bread, a ubiquitous accompaniment with any soup in Ireland.
Joy of Cha is a cute cafe that has a good tea selection and several nice lunch options such as quiche, and an assortment of pastries.
When it comes to alcohol, Celtic Whiskey Shop has a great assortment. In particular, their mini whiskeys make fantastic souvenirs. In regards to pubs, as long as they have potato chips to accompany your Guinness you’re good to go!
And while it is a chain, I have to shout out Butler’s hot chocolate. Truly some of the best hot chocolate that I haven’t made myself!
Where to Sleep on a Weekend in Dublin
Dublin is expensive – more expensive than any other European capital besides London. So finding a place that’s semi-reasonably priced can be a little difficult. My recommendation is to avoid weekends in Dublin wholesale – the pubs will be overly full and the prices for hostels and hotels increases even further.
This is also the place to use hotel points, if you have them, as it can save you a lot of money. Once you leave Dublin the prices will still be expensive compared to the rest of Europe, but more reasonable.
For hotels, the Marriott has good deals on points, although it is located a bit further away from much of the action. The rooms, and especially the shower, were great. Laundry? Not so much (you’ll be sharing with the staff and they might steal your dryer and you’ll be left praying they air-dry by checkout).
For hostels, Jacobs Inn Hostel is fantastic value for a hostel with pod-style beds, personal lighting, and electronic in-room lockers. The pub downstairs is actually pretty great and we spent several evenings in just enjoying the space. Be aware that they do charge you for locker use prior to check-in time, but since it is frequently too full you can kinda just shove your bags in a corner if you’re not worried about theft
Weekend in Dublin Not Enough?
If you decide to extend your Ireland vacation beyond the weekend, check out my 2-Week Ireland itinerary! Dublin, in my opinion, is not at all a good representation of the true Ireland. Most capital cities are a poor idea – although they can be amazing in their own right.
But seeing places like the sights outside of Sligo, the incredible national parks, or any of the stunning vistas brought to you by places like Dingle. If you have the chance, you should definitely have more than a weekend in Dublin!