“When I die Dublin will be written in my heart” -James Joyce
I should preface this post by saying I was an English major in university. That’s probably pretty obvious for the upcoming posts about my adventures, but you should know this fact going in. I’m quite biased about what sights you should see visiting the British Isles due to my nerdy classic literature loving…and hence why I’ll try to have quotes from authors of each city/area I visited as the heading to my posts. Regardless, here are my thoughts on Dublin.
So as someone who usually rushes from place to place while traveling, I decided that I was going to try to be better and give myself two full days in Dublin, plus a night when I arrived. So three nights, two days. I hoped it would be enough.
It’s never enough.
Admittedly I was spoiled early in life when my father took me to live in France for a semester. I forget that I cannot possibly hope to see everything in a few day’s time. But I do my best.
I’d used Inspirock to create a day to day plan. So for my first day the plan was to do a 3 hour walking tour, go to Dublin Castle, go to the Chester Beatty Library, go to Trinity College, and finish off with a walk in Merrion Square.
Not quite how things went exactly. Because travel can’t fit a perfect little formulaic plan. Things happen. It’s the reason I normally avoid booking too many things, because otherwise a schedule can fall apart under stress very quickly.
The walking tour started at 10 AM after a breakfast at the hostel. It was with Sandeman’s New Europe, my favorite company. I have grown to love them because they really do put in a lot of time and effort into making a good walking tour due to the fact that they run on a tips only basis. I’ve yet to have a Sandeman’s tour I don’t like, and I’ve done their tours in Berlin, Amsterdam, Hamburg, and now Dublin.
Our guide led us around the city and told us more about the history and the culture and the sights. We started with the castle and then worked our way down to the old national library.
However, when we finished I’d decided I didn’t want to go to the castle after all. It’s the good thing about such tours, they sometimes give you a better scope of the city and what you might want to, or not want to do.
The castle is mostly reconstruction, so I decided it wasn’t really top priority to me. Besides, we’d moved further away from it so it wasn’t a great place to start. So I thought I’d head to the archeology museum instead, only to see it was closed on Mondays. Yay.
I peeked in the National Library, which had a free exhibition on William Butler Yeats. Overall quite fun. It was interesting to see original copies of poems I’d had to read for class.
The library itself required you to check bags and such and the librarians all seemed quite grumpy and mean so I decided to skip it. So it was off to Trinity College instead.
I didn’t feel like I needed a full tour of the place. As much as I love Wilde and Swift and other people who attended this university ages before, I felt that another tour might be excessive. So I settled for going to see the library and the famous Book of Kells, an ancient copy of the gospels with beautiful illumination.
It was a bit of a wait to get in, but the weather wasn’t too bad, so I didn’t mind. It might have been nice to have booked a ticket, but I think it took me less than 20 minutes to get in, so really not too bad in the long run.
The books themselves were beautiful. They sadly don’t allow pictures (which makes sense), so I cannot show you them. But look them up and see for yourself. They’re quite lovely and impressive.
However, the most impressive thing is the Long Room, or the actual library. It is a beautiful collection you’ve probably seen used in photos of gorgeous libraries… or maybe in its resemblance in Star Wars Attack of the Clones (the actual library was supposed to be used in the films but they weren’t allowed…so I guess they took photos and digitally recreated it… Trinity sued and won…of course).
Regardless photos in the long room were allowed, thank heavens. Because it is absolutely stunning. If you love books and libraries then you need to see this. It’s a must.
Well to continue on in my nerdiness I headed over to the Chester Beatty Library. A free collection of beautiful works originally from a private collection. They had a nice variety, all quite beautiful and rare. I was quite in awe looking at all of them, but unfortunately, again, photos weren’t allowed, except on the roof where you had a nice view!
Regardless, this is a must, especially since it is free. If you’re in Dublin for a few days and love books, check it out!
I headed to Christ Church Cathedral next. It’s not as big as Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, but it’s the older of the two, so I thought it might be fun to see.
They charge to get in, but it’s not exorbitant, and you get to see the crypt too which is quite large.
They also had things up for lent, like a reflective prayer walk that I enjoyed.
But my favorite thing to see was the mummified cat and rat. Both had gotten stuck in an organ pipe and died in it. As the organ wasn’t used for a while during some rougher periods in the church, no one noticed. So yes, they basically mummified until they were pulled out the next time people wanted to use the organ.
It’s a fascinating story and the bodies were morbid but interesting.
I walked over to Saint Patrick’s Cathedral as well and took photos of the outside. Honestly, I hate when cathedrals charge, as I generally don’t spend a lot of time in them and have seen a lot of others that might have been more impressive, and therefore it isn’t worth it if I have to pay. But I understand that sometimes it’s needed for general upkeep and the like. Hey, support conservation of historical places, right?
After that I walked back over to my hostel for a break and a phone recharge.
And then I set out for dinner.
My tour guide recommended a few places, but one of them also had good trip advisor reviews and was considered authentic Irish cuisine. So I figured it might be fun to try.
I showed up fairly early, and as a person by myself it was easy to get a table. But I was glad I arrived when I did, as not twenty minutes later they were asking people if they had reservations and had to turn some people away. So good luck on my part. Definitely an advantage of solo travel alongside just having good planning in arriving early (or you can do late too…that often works…though not in Spain…then it’s just insanely late).
I started with vegetable soup to treat myself, and then had a boxty, a traditional Irish potato pancake with slices of beef cooked in whiskey and a creamy mushroom sauce.
Oh my word the dish was delicious. The sauce was so amazing, and the beef was cooked to perfection. The pancake was fine with the rest, but I didn’t know if it was all that special by itself.
Paired those off with the restaurants own craft beer and then had baileys cheesecake for dessert to be extra indulgent. And that was quite amazing too.
If you’re looking for a good Irish place definitely try Boxty House. It’s super delicious, not badly priced, and also in a great location right near Temple Bar.
Alongside all that I also decided I wanted to walk over to Merrion Square and get a picture with Oscar Wilde. He’s one of my favorite writers and a very brilliant man, and it seemed like a fun idea.
I had to run to get there before the park closed, but I made it and I got my picture. Also stopped by his house, which is sadly no longer open to the public. But got a commemorative photo of my own taking.
Then back to the hostel. Sadly arrived too late to use the steam room (has only a 3 hour window which is unfortunate) but regardless I had a fantastic first day in Dublin.